MyHeritage on Prime Time News: The Secret of Erikoussa

MyHeritage on Prime Time News: The Secret of Erikoussa

MyHeritage was recently featured on Israel’s leading prime time TV news show which covered the story of how the inhabitants of Erikoussa, a small Greek island, had risked their lives in WWII to save a Jewish tailor’s family from the Nazis.

The video below (with English subtitles) shows the remarkable story of the island, the genealogical discoveries made by MyHeritage and an emotional interview with Abraham, whose mother was among those saved on Erikoussa.

When the Nazis invaded Corfu, most of the Jewish citizens were sent to Auschwitz, but a tailor named Savvas managed to escape with his three daughters and another girl named Rosa, to the nearby island of Erikoussa. Savvas had customers and acquaintances there, but what was incredible was that the entire island joined forces – at risk of death – and gave refuge to Savvas and his girls, and kept their presence secret from the Nazis for the duration of the war.

Emmy-award winning writer Yvette Manessis Corporon, published her book “When the Cypress Whispers“, inspired by memories of her grandmother, a resident of Erikoussa.

Yvette’s grandmother had told her about Savvas fleeing to Erikoussa when the Nazis came to Corfu and how she was good friends with one of the girls. The story seemed incomplete, and after some initial searching without much luck, Yvette reached out to MyHeritage to help find the descendants of the saved family.

Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage began digging into this mysterious story. There were a few known details such as the given names – Savvas, his three daughters, Spera, Julia and Nina, and Rosa, whose connection to Savvas and his daughters remains to be established. Gilad started searching for Nina in records, and found one who arrived in Israel from Greece after the war. Her father’s name was Savvas and the mother’s name was Shoshana.

The next step was looking for Spera. If, like Nina, she had also immigrated to Israel, she could have changed her first name. Gilad assumed that the name Spera comes from Esperanza meaning “hope”, and began looking into the Hebrew version, Tikva. He searched for all women named Tikva who came to Israel from Greece after the Holocaust, and found a Tikva Levi, with an address on the same street as Nina.  A document listed Tikva’s father as Savvas. The pieces of the puzzle began to fit together.

Gilad found Tikva’s granddaughter in the US who confirmed the details about the story and gave information about Rosa’s family living in Israel: Avraham and Peretz Hassid.

The Hassid brothers were never allowed to ask their mother about the war, their mother’s background was never discussed, so for them it was very emotional to discover this incredible and moving story about their roots and how an entire island that had saved their family.

Ynet, one of Israel’s largest news websites covered a detailed version of this remarkable story and the emotional reaction of the sons to learning about their family history. In June, the families will reunite on the island for the first time since the war to attend a special ceremony in which the islanders’ bravery will be recognized, and an award presented to Erikoussa.  Yvette is also working on a documentary of the full story.

We’re happy to be part of bringing these families together and to show the heroism of the islanders and will keep you updated on the blog about the upcoming reunion and any other revelations.


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  • Linda

    May 11, 2015

    What a wonderful story. Will a book be forthcoming?

  • Pamela

    August 4, 2016

    So heart warming. A story that should be shared