Family of Holocaust survivor repay the Greeks who saved her

Nearly 60,000 Greek Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

85-year-old Josephine Velelli Becker shared with The Washington Post how her family were spared – a miracle owed to a fervent anti-Nazi and Greek patriot named Elias Michalos.

Elias and his wife Kathryn were leaders in the small mountain village of Michaleika.

“Without them, my family wouldn’t have survived the war,” Josephine said.

Josephine’s father, Emmanuel Velelli, had done business with Elias Michalos and the two had become friends.

In 1941 when Germany occupied Greece, Michalos took in Emanuel, as well as Emanuel’s parents, three brothers, wife Emily and two young daughters – Josephine and Regina.

The Michalos family hid the Jewish family in a small two-room cottage they maintained for workers at their winery.

For more than a year, Josephine and her eight family members spent each night sleeping fearfully on the floor. Despite having no running water or bathroom, they were filled with gratitude for their Greek friends, knowing Elias and Kathryn had put themselves and their family in grave danger to protect them.

After the war ended, both families immigrated to Baltimore, where they remain today.

“We have been friends for 80 years,” said Elias and Kathryn’s daughter, Angela Kanaras, who spoke of her relationship with the Velelli family.

Over the years, the two families have celebrated countless Thanksgivings together and attended each other’s milestone events – never missing a christening, bar mitzvah or wedding.

Read the article in The Greek Herald.