Return to the village of the jewish refugees

First visit

74 years after the people of a small Greek village, led by the local priest, hid her and her family from the Nazis, Rivka Jakobi returned to meet the descendants of her rescuers.

On June 7th 2017, Rivka arrived in Kryoneri, which she knew by “Matsani” back in 1943. She came back to the village accompanied by her husband, Benny, her youngest daughter Rina and Rina’s friend Ila, who videotaped both visits.
Rivka and her family arrived early morning by the upper fountain of the village, which she seemed to remember clearly despite the few changes. They were welcomed by the president of the Municipal Department of Kryoneri, Mr Raftopoulos and Panos Poulos, head of the “Filoxenia” organisation.

During her two days in Kryoneri, Rivka visited familiar places, such as the house she and her family lived in during the occupation. The descendants of Athanasios Dimpoulos (the man to hide Rivka’s family in his home), warmly welcomed everyone inside. Naturally, the house had since been renovated but Rivka was able to recount small details and even point out the window through which she watched the Germans set fire to a warehouse full of food and supplies.

Another place Rivka was glad to visit, was the chapel of the Rapsomati Monastery. Along with the Karamanos Cave, it was also another hiding place for her family whenever the Germans came.

In the afternoon, Rivka met up with her former classmates and old friends from the village. They spent an entire afternoon talking about her time in Kryoneri and all kinds of memories. Many even brought old photographs and everyone seemed to remember something. They all had dinner together at Diporto in the evening.

Finally, on her second day in the village, Rivka met some volunteers from the “Filoxenia” organisation and told them her story, from the moment she fled Athens all the way to when she moved to Israel. Every single youngster listened intently and by the end they decided to take on the task to open up the path to the Karamanos Cave. Rivka came back in September with her entire family (70+ people) and was finally able to visit that cave again.

Second visit

After her first visit on June 7th 2017, Rivka Jakobi came back with her ten children and dozens of grandchildren on September 6th 2017, for a ceremony.

In the morning at 10.30, the members of the Kamhi and Jakobi families from Israel, (more than 70 people in two coaches and a van), 4 relatives from Athens and the head of the “Filoxenia” organization Mr. Panos Poulos met at the Kryoneri Observatory with the president of the Municipal Department of Kryoneri Mr. Costas Raftopoulos. Together they went to the nearby church of Rapsomati, which is one of the places where the men of the village and the Jewish family hid whenever Germans came to the village. There, Mr. Poulos, Mr. Raftopoulos and Mrs. Rivka Kamhi-Jakobi spoke about what had happened in that area, but also in general about the efforts of the village to hide the Jewish family.

Then they went to the “Karamanos Cave” whose damaged access path was cleaned by the group of volunteers of “Filoxenia” with the instructions of Mr. Poulos, where again Mr. Poulos and Mrs. Rivka Kamhi-Jakobi spoke about the specific area and her experiences from the events of that time. Ms. Ravit Kamhi, daughter of Yechiel Kamhi, also spoke.

Before noon, everyone went to the church of the village, which during the Occupation functioned as a school (single class with teacher Father Athanasoulis). There, the pastor of the church, Panagiotis Theodorou, warmly welcomed the members of the Kamhi and Jakobi families and Mrs. Kamhi-Jakobi spoke about her experiences from the teachings of Father Athanasoulis with her 8 year old brother Yechiel. She recounted the time where other students said to him (as an “usual insult”) “Jew!” and how the priest scolded them, and punished them to sit fasting in the corner!

Then they all went to the house of Mr. Dimitris Dimopoulos, where his father Athanasios hid the Kamhi family and were welcomed with great emotion and cordiality. Mr. Dimopoulos was a classmate of the children (Rivka and Yechiel) at school.

Early in the afternoon, everyone from Rivka Kamhi-Jakobi’s family was given lunch.

Finally, at 18.30, the inauguration ceremony of the amphitheater took place, which was reconstructed at the expense of the Yechiel Kamhi family (Yechiel passed away on March 10, 2017) and Rivka and Benny Jakobi, as a donation of gratitude to the village. Present were the priests (of Kryoneri and the neighboring village) municipal councilors etc.

The event was opened and spoken with warm words by the president of the Municipal Department of Kryoneri Mr. Raftopoulos and the Mayor of Sykionia (Kiato etc. to which Kryoneri belongs) Mr. Spyros Stamatopoulos.

Immediately after, I read the text of the KISE message, which made a very good impression.

Then the granddaughter of Father Athanasoulis, in a very moving atmosphere, sang the famous “Song of Songs: how beautiful is my love” (from the “ballad of Mauthausen” by I. Kampanelis-music by M. Theodorakis).

Then spoke Avraham (Avi) Jakobi, Rivka’s eldest son, who recounted the rescue story and expressed the family’s warm thanks.

Panos Poulos also briefly mentioned the chronicle of the opening of the path by the volunteers of “Filoxenia”.

Rivka spoke, referring to the act of salvation by quoting a verse from the Torah, describing it as an effort of the Good – typically saying that God did not create all good people in a blissful society but allowed them to create and to gain goodness. This is what the people of Macani did in those difficult times at the risk of their lives.

Then, honorary diplomas were given to the families of the grandchildren of Father Athanasoulis and Dimopoulos (in whose house the Kamhi family had hidden).

The Mayor thanked him, and then the commemorative plaque was presented and its text was read.

It was read by the President of Dim. Council Mr. Raftopoulos, who along with the Municipality, thanked the Kamhi and Jakobi families for the donation.

The ceremony closed with the National Anthem of Israel, played by seven-year-old Ori, Avi’s little son with a trumpet, and sung by the whole family, while the entire amphitheater stood in reverence.

In general, the whole event (visits to the places of that time, and the opening ceremony) took place in an emotionally charged atmosphere, which was very human and moving. Both the June 6 and September 6 visits have been videotaped by a professional filmmaker and when the various shots are edited into a single documentary, it will be released in Israel and here. Also, a small book has been written in Hebrew with the history and other memories of the family from those years, which will be translated into Greek and published.

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