Melpomeni Dina (born Axiopoulos) was just in her teens when her brothers and her sisters hid, fed and protected a Jewish family for nearly two years at the height of the Nazi occupation of Greece.
At the beginning of November, in what is probably one of the last of such encounter between rescuer and rescued, Melpomeni, now aged 92, met with two still-living members of the Mordechai family as well as 40 of the descendants of their families at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Jerusalem.
Siblings Sarah Yanai and Yossi Mor greeted their rescuer who was bound to a wheelchair and each descendant of the family, child and grandchild, lined up to greet the woman to whom they owe their existence.
According to Associated Press, an emotional Ms Dina said that she could now “die quietly.”
Seventy-five years ago, the Mordechais and Ms Dina lived in Veria, northern Greece. The family owned a thriving business. Melpomeni’s eldest sister, Evlambia worked as a housemaid to the family.
When Italy invaded Greece in 1940, the father, Mentes Mordechai, left to serve in the Greek army fighting in Albania. He returned to Veria after the German occupation when the family’s fortunes had taken a turn for the worse.
By this stage, Evlambia was working as a helper and concierge at a school close the Mordechai family home.
When the arrests and deportations of Jewish families began in Thessaloniki in March 1943, Evlambia’s brother, Nikos Axiopoulos, organised false documents for the Mordechais. A carpenter by profession, Nikos built a wooden ceiling in the attic of an abandoned Turkish mosque where his family lived. It was in this attic that the Jewish family of seven was sheltered for the next year.
The Axiopoulos family shared their meager food rations with the Mordechais. As living conditions worsened, the Greek familiy helped to hide their wards separately and organised their eventual reunion in a new hiding place in the mountains in Vermio.
The Mordechai family stayed safely in the mountains until the end of the war.
The Yad Vashem recognised seven members of the Greek family as Righteous Among the Nations for their role in protecting the Mordechai family.