Lucky again and again (Elsa Hellinger)

A survivor from Michalovce

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‘They used to say my mother was smarter than ten solicitors,’ says Elsa Hellinger, the eldest daughter of a loving family of eight from Michalovce, Czechoslovakia. Her mother schooled Elsa in ethics, charity and business, and sent her two oldest girls away just one day before all the Jewish girls in the town were deported. Elsa’s parents and two siblings were murdered.

Elsa and her sister Margaret survived on false papers and sheer luck. Two other brothers also survived, the youngest because Elsa risked her life to smuggle him out of an orphanage shortly before the Nazis took all the children away.

Elsa met her husband, John, in Budapest during the war. Afterwards they fled to Paris from Prague via Vienna, before migrating to Melbourne, where they raised their two children and were blessed with four grandchildren. Elsa counts them among the many reasons she calls herself so lucky.