I was born in Lvov in 1941, and my name is apparently Anna Finkelstein. Shortly after the occupation of Lvov by the Nazis, my parents smuggled me out of the ghetto. They took me to a Christian family that hid me in its home for the duration of the war.
I was a baby, and I therefore don’t remember my biological parents. I have few memories of the Christian family, the only family I had as a child and my only opportunity to experience maternal love.
At the end of the war a Jewish couple arrived, presenting themselves as my real parents. In an instant, I was taken from the familiar and beloved to the unknown. I was torn away from the woman who raised me and always watched over me, from the woman I loved and was a mother to me in all respects. I will never forget that day. Only later did I discover that the couple were not my real parents.
After living in Brussels for a few years, my adoptive parents separated and I immigrated to Israel with my mother at the age of nine. She abandoned me in the immigrants’ camp in Netanya and I was sent to Kibbutz Afek. I wandered around the kibbutz with no identity or sense of belonging, until a woman by the name of Sarah Avivi adopted me and became a loving mother to me – the third in number.
Sarah Avivi took it upon herself to research my roots, and to look for relatives who may have remained alive. Thus it was that at age 16, I discovered my birth date – April 10th 1941, and the names of my parents: Bronia Finkelstein née Katz and Avraham Zvi Finkelstein, both born in Lvov. They were murdered in the ghetto. That’s the sum total of the information we found. After high school, I left the kibbutz and moved to Jerusalem, where I live to this day. I graduated from Hadassah nursing school, I married David, and we had three children, Gilad, Yiftach and Tal.
For many years, I didn’t tell anyone about my past, because I didn’t think there was anything to tell. I also didn’t really try to find relatives. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never know who my parents were, or how they’d had the courage to hand their baby over to strangers. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never know who the man and woman were who raised me in my first years, and thanks to whom I’m alive.
There are many like me: child survivors who owe their lives to unknown non-Jewish rescuers deserving of eternal gratitude.
I was lucky enough to return to the Jewish people, because Jews came to reclaim me after the war. But there are children who survived and no one came to bring them back to the Jewish fold. We’ll never know what happened to them.
My story is characterized by the yearning for a sense of belonging. It’s also a story of optimism, heroism and survival. Happily, I am here with my family – my children and grandchildren, the future generations.
I am here tonight with other Holocaust survivors. We built our lives anew, we raised families, we took part in the struggle to establish the State of Israel and contributed to its development. We pursued careers, built full, rich lives and became interwoven in the fabric of Israeli society.
Two unknown women gave me life: My Jewish mother, and my non-Jewish rescuer. My family and I are the result of a remarkable act of love, sacrifice and kindness. I feel truly blessed to be standing here today, at this ceremony, in this city, in the State of Israel.