From the letter of Zvi Yanai and Yehudit Eldar to Yad Vashem, 16 September 1992
Ida Brunelli, born in Monselice, a small town in the north of Italy, was 15 years old when my parents employed her in 1935 as live-in maid and baby-sitter, because their artistic work (singing and dancing) made them absent from home in the evening. From the day she arrived she became an inseparable part of the household and family, and we, the children, were bound to her by love. In 1940, after the outbreak of the war, my father left for Hungary to explore the possibilities of returning the country he and my mother had left in 1930. Soon after he was enlisted in the Hungarian army, and sometimes later he was hospitalized due to health complications resulting from his being wounded in World War I. His hospitalization interfered with his plans and left him stranded there, while we were left in Italy. The correspondence with our father ceased in 1942. Since then we haven't heard from him, and until this very day we don't know how and where he died.
My mother found temporary work as an interpreter, while Ida kept taking care of us (two girls and a boy) with unlimited devotion. In 1943 my mother fell ill with Angina Pectoris, and never regained her health. She died in 1944. Before her death she revealed our Jewish origin to Ida. The money she left – only several thousand Lire – was hardly sufficient for the living expenses for several days.
Despite her young age, her lack of education and professional skills, Ida took upon herself the responsibility for the survival of the three children in her care. Encountering enormous hardship she brought us to her mother's home in Monselice. After several months her mother had no more patience for us and she began to harass her daughter because of the three additional mouths that had to be fed, and threatened to throw us out on the street. Despite the threats and harassment and the difficulties of supporting us, Ida refused to abandon us. She turned to the mayor to ask for help, and revealed our origin to him. Fortunately, the mayor's wife was Jewish, and so he didn't denounce us and arranged for us to be accepted in orphanages. During the entire period Ida kept in constant touch with us, and fulfilled the motherly role she had undertaken with love, responsibility and devotion.
At the end of the war and with the help of the mayor, Ida contacted the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade who were stationed in Italy, and they took us to their unit. Although formally Ida had fulfilled her part, she refused to leave us. Ida moved to us from one camp to the other until we were brought to Rome, where the paperwork for our legal immigration was arranged. In June 1945 we sailed on the ship Meteora from Naples to the Land of Israel.
Ida's devotion has to be evaluated not only against the backdrop of her young age, her poverty, the difficult wartime situation and her lack of experience, but also in view of the personal sacrifice and the risks of adopting three Jewish children in a Fascist country. She married late in life. Her husband was a manual worker at the Fiat factory in Torino, and due to her advanced age she was unable to have children. She and her husband lived of his modest income in a small one-room apartment, where she continued to live after his death.
For many years we corresponded with Ida and also visited her. But with time and the language barrier the contact loosened in the past decade. It didn't enter our mind that her noble and humane deed deserved to be recognized by the State of Israel, especially since the term of “Righteous Among the Nations” was always connected in our minds to Poles, Dutch and citizens of the countries that were under German occupation, while Italy – at least in the first years of the war – was Germany's ally. During one of our visits to Ida about ten years ago, she showed us an old newspaper article telling the story of a young Italian girl that saved Jewish children during the war, and a letter of thanks from the Chief Rabbi of Rome. We thought that we detected a slight disappointment that she had not received any recognition beyond this symbolic gesture….
We are greatly distressed that we did not act until the present day to pay tribute to this good, simple and noble woman. But better late than never, especially since as far as Ida is concerned, the "never" is not very far. [Ida Lenti was 72 years old when the letter was written to Yad Vashem]. We believe that some recognition – symbolic, ceremonial or financial – will make her very happy. As far as we are concerned, knowing that acting humanly in those times is being rewarded by the State, will be a satisfaction and a lesson for us, as citizens of this country.