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40 years of active presence

Friday, December 1, 2023


    When Thessaloniki was bombed in 1941, the family of Yvette Beza decided to move to the village of Vyzitsa, on Mt. Pelion, where they would be safer.

    They lived quietly there for a time, while their father, Mois, traveled back and forth from Thessaloniki on business. One day though, he did not return: he was taken hostage by the Germans and incarcerated in the Eptapyrghion prison.

    The family immediately returned to Thessaloniki. The intervention of their mother, Sarina, at the Kommandatur, back up by letters from German industrialists, attesting that Mois Beza was one of their good customers, brought results. After ninety-three days of incarceration their father was released. Back from his journey, he brought some small presents; For Sabetai, Yvette’s brother, whom they called Mimis, he brought “a handmade snake, made by the long-term convicts with his name “Mimis Bezas 1941” inscribed on it”; For Yvette, he brought “a purse of the same origin, inscribed “Vivi Beza, 1941”they used to call her Vivi when she was young.

    Little Yvette was at the time in the second year of Elementary school. She still remembers the first day she went to school wearing the yellow Star of David on her clothes, in compliance with the German order. “I think I wore it without being impressed. But I had a schoolmate and friend, Mario Karasso, who was ashamed to enter the classroom and his big black eyes were filled with tears […] “Don’t be ashamed, my child, it’s not a shame to be Jewish their good teacher told him as she sat him at his desk. Then she went on with the lesson as if nothing had happened”.

    During the carnival, a neighbor took her secretly out of the ghetto and dressed her up to play with other children. A passing German soldier took a photograph and gave one copy to each child.

    A first attempt to escape to the Italian-occupied city of Lamia failed. A few days later, friend knocked on their door: “Come quickly with me”, he told them, “In the morning they’ll take you”.

    We went into the night, all fearful […] I can still feel the beating of my heart. “For fifteen days they stayed hidden in Thessaloniki with false IDs and Christian names.

    But they had to leave town. From this moment started their Odyssey that would last for two years: they went to Kozani, Larissa, Athens, Ioannina, Dorres in Albania, and then, by ship, to Italy. From there, a big steamer carried them, together with thousands of soldiers, to Egypt. “We arrived in Alexandria and from there they took us to a refuge camp in the desert, at the “Sources of Moses” […] We stayed in tents. Since there was no danger of Germans now, we used our real names again”.

    They lived in the desert for eight months before they were able to return to liberated Greece.

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