Why you should know her: A single mother and house cleaner from Athens, Greece, she sheltered and saved Jews during the Nazi occupation of her country.
While raising her daughter, Agapi, near Athens, Greece, Sofia Kritikou worked as a house cleaner in the Grecian capital. In September of 1943, the Nazis invaded the city and began to persecute Greece’s Jews.
The next spring, a rumor spread that food would be distributed at Athens’ central synagogue. Eighteen-year-old Herman “Tsvi” Kazansky’s mother and two aunts went to get rations, and never returned. The family learned that those who arrived at the synagogue were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
Following the women’s disappearance, Tsvi’s father David took the family – including Tsvi, 16-year-old Liana, and eight-year-old Gina – into hiding. Each of the Kazanskys had false identity cards with Greek Orthodox names.
After finding temporary shelter with friends, David looked for a permanent place to stay. David’s business partner in a sewing shop mentioned the mother of his goddaughter. And that is how the Kazansky family came to stay with hard-working and impoverished Sofia and her eight-year-old daughter, Agapi.
Sofia lived a good distance from Athens, but faithfully walked to work each day. Despite her own hardships, the kindly woman never hesitated to help the Kazansky family. Even when learning of their Jewish identities – and the punishment of death she faced for sheltering them – Sofia’s care never wavered. The family stayed hidden in Sofia’s home until the war ended. Tsvi left to join the resistance, but would sneak back to visit his father and sisters.
After the war, Tsvi and his sister Gina made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. Back in Athens to visit his rescuers in 1964, he fell in love with Agapi. She converted to Judaism, changing her name to Ruth, and the two were married, returning to Israel. Sofia also moved to the Holy Land, living with her daughter and son-in-law. It was there that she would pass away in 1995, at the old age of 100.
Three years later, Yad Vashem would recognize this wonderful woman of valor as Righteous Among the Nations.Tags: Advocates and Allies