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01.12.2014
We recently wrote about the fascinating Secret of Ereikoussa, where the residents of a small Greek island risked their lives to save a Jewish tailor’s family from the Nazis during WWII. In November 2013, Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and author Yvette Manessis Corporon contacted MyHeritage to ask for help in finding the descendants of the Jewish tailor - Savvas from Corfu, Greece - who had been hidden on Ereikoussa during the war.
MyHeritage accepted the challenge and embarked on a genealogical journey to uncover the mysteries of this long-kept secret.
The day before the ceremony, the families arrived in Corfu, to meet each other for the first time.
With not a dry eye in the room, the families viewed photo albums together and shared memories. Later that day, the group toured the old Jewish quarter in Corfu where they visited the synagogue and a special monument dedicated to those who had perished in the Holocaust. Just a few days before the visit, MyHeritage discovered that during a recent cleaning of the Corfu Jewish cemetery, Savvas Israel's gravestone was found.
After the reunion, tour, and cemetery visit, the group went to eat dinner and swap stories. When they arrived at the island, a group of children and other islanders dressed in traditional costumes, welcomed them. Some 150 people attended the official ceremony on the island, including the deputy mayor of Corfu and the mayor of Ereikoussa. Among the speakers were Danny Rainer (International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation) and Marcia Ikonomopolous (president, Association of Friends of Greek Jewry), who presented an award to the community for their heroic efforts during the war.
Yvette spoke and expressed her happiness that the reunion was finally taking place, something she had hoped would happen ever since she first heard the name Savvas.
MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet spoke about the challenges faced during his search for Savvas' descendants, and elaborated on the importance of sharing these amazing rescue stories to avoid their being lost. He showed the family tree built by MyHeritage's researchers of Savvas and 147 family members.
Gilad also addressed the relationship between Rosa and Savvas' family which was also recently uncovered.
After presenting the family tree, Maayan Hassid, Rosa's granddaughter, gave a tearful address, filled with memories of her grandmother and the life she led after arriving in Israel. The ceremony concluded with a musical performance in Greek and Hebrew by opera singer Lina Orfanos.


After lunch, the group visited Yvette's grandmother's home and the priest's home where Savvas' family was hidden. The group was in for another surprise, when Yvette showed Savvas' relatives the room where he worked, and his sewing machine.
While in Corfu, MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet met with Nella Pantazi of the GSA-Archives of Corfu who had helped MyHeritage with providing sources on the Corfu Jewish community.
Some seventy-one years after Savvas' death, the journey which began with only a handful of names, has led to a growing family tree, and the forgotten history of Corfu's Jewish community being brought to life. Lovely warm story how some people can risk their lives to help and save lives others can take lives in the name of their cause.
To the many unknowns heroes who saved so many lives, I thank you and respect you because without them I probably would not be here today. What a touching story, especially as now many Greek people despite their hard times are helping Mediterranean boat people.
They are so fortunate to have Myhertiage Foundation, their resources and such wonderful people to help them, I know it meant so much to have many of their unanswered questions completed. A search of 5 names resulting in a very large gathering of 5 generations all because of kindness by Greek people not afraid of consequences if found. It once again points out that we are in the Christian sense all 'Brothers and Sisters', and if the peoples of the world , AND THE POLTCIANS would only take this attitude to heart, WE all would be living in a much safety and therefore happier world !!. A really moving and very important story about a brave island community that saved the lives of Jews. She had written a book inspired by her grandmother’s memories of the island, and the story of Savvas was an important part. Starting with just five first names (Savvas, his three daughters Spera, Julia and Nina, and another child - Rosa) we were successful in locating descendants of the family in the U.S. The group stood by the grave and paid their respects to the man who's connections with the island helped his family survive the war, and recited a memorial prayer. They took a long bus ride through the Corfu countryside to the port, and then boarded a boat for the 40-minute ride to Ereikoussa. The Hassid brothers always believed that Nina, Spera and Julia, the 3 daughters of Savvas, were their mother Rosa's aunts. Based on birth certificates and other research, the connection was via Zacharias Osmo, the grandfather of Spera, Nina and Julia, and the great-grandfather of Rosa.


Other descendants - including Rosa's sons Peretz and Avraham - thanked Yvette and MyHeritage for their work and enormous efforts in uncovering the island's secret and discovering their family's history. We were happy to see that the archives had used MyHeritage to build the family tree of the founding fathers of Corfu. We are happy to have been able to help Yvette find the descendants, to help them learn about their amazing history, and to participate in this special reunion.
At the beginning of the 1900s he moved to Trieste, Italy along with other family members, where there was a large Jewish quarter. It actually moved me to tears that you could uncover such a secret after all these years and trace the family. I and my sister have been reseaching our paternal family for years and only recently found another brother from a first marriage we never knew about. For Yvette, the story was incomplete and she wanted to discover what happened to the family after the war. The last time these families had eaten together was over 70 years ago, and under very different circumstances. The tree is displayed in the main building of the Archives, and the MyHeritage logo appears at the bottom. One day I hope to go to Corfu just to see where he lived and expand my research of my family tree. THEIR SURNAME WAS CHANGED COMPLETELY FROM .CAHAIGNES, OVER 50 TIMES UNTIL WE ENDED UP AS, KEYNES, IN OR AROUND 1300.
In Greece, however, it was customary to refer to relatives as uncles and aunts even if the family was more distant. He passed away on the Island in 1944, and was buried outside the cemetery gate, but at some point his remains were removed and buried elsewhere. Through researching the family history, it became clear that they were related, but were not aunts.




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