Bravery and courage are not qualities to trivialize or scoff at, especially in the sinister and trying times of war. For Yvette Manessi Corporon, the stories she learned about her Greek grandmother while growing up were the stuff of movies–but they were also true, in all their beauty and terror.
Her grandmother, who couldn’t read, helped save a Jewish tailor and his family from the Nazis during World War II.
The tailor’s name was Savvas Israel. He had three daughters and was also caring for a young orphan named Rosa, and all of them survived.
Seven years ago, Manessis Corporon, a producer at Extra wanted to find out about her family history and the people that her grandma helped shelter.
Corporon, 48 and a mom of two, told People:, “I never knew the entire story, I knew that my grandmother risked everything to save them, and when my father was a little boy, he remembers the Nazis ransacked our house, saying, ‘Where are the Jews? Where are the Jews?’”
She wrote about what she found in her new memoir, Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil, which came out yesterday. The book focuses on the villagers of Erikousa, her grandmother’s hometown.
About 2,000 Jews who were living on the island of Corfu were rounded up by the Nazis and killed in death camps.
Yet, the tailor was one of the few who survived.
Corporon found Savvas’s descendants by using the site MyHeritage.com–and soon found the step-granddaughter of one of Savvas’s daughters, a TV executive living in California, as well as Rosa’s two sons who currently live in Israel.
Corporon explained how surreal the whole experience was for her:
“The first time I met them over Skype, they held up that photo to the camera, and I said, ‘That’s him, that’s Savvas,’ and they finally understood who this man in the portrait was and why he was so important.
They were in shock — absolutely shocked. I show up on Skype with this incredible story about an entire island who risked their lives to save their mother.”
Corporon and Savvas’ descendants met on Corfu in 2015 and then traveled together to Erikousa. Since they’ve connected, they have spent the Jewish holidays together, with Corporon saying how they “are family.”