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Bouena Garfinkle

Bouena describes how she smuggled Jewish children from Greece through Turkey into Israel.

Bouena (Tova) Garfinkle (née Sarfaddy) was born November 18, 1918 to Mosche and Simla Sarfaddy in Salonika, Greece. She was one of six children from a well-established Sephardic Orthodox Jewish family. She studied French, Greek, and Ladino with her grandmother, and remembers playing with both Jewish and non-Jewish children. Because she was from a high-society family, Bouena was presented as a Debutante at age 18. Both her parents died before the war started.

When the war started, Bouena volunteered with the Red Cross mixing and delivering powdered milk for children in schools. During this time, she also recorded many verses of poetry, proverbs, and songs about the war in Ladino. She was supposed to marry, but her fiancé was murdered on their wedding day because Bouena made an enemy of Vital Hasson- an extremely powerful Jewish Collaborator who notified the Nazi’s that her fiancé had escaped his labor camp. Bouena was then imprisoned but escaped with the help of a prison guard and Greek Partisans.

Bouena joined the Partisans in Greece under the name Marie Sarafamidou where she was assigned various missions that took her all over Greece and the Mediterranean. One of these missions was smuggling Jewish children to British Mandate Palestine (Israel) through Turkey and Syria. In June 1945, Bouena was assigned to work as a dietician in a DP camp in Sidirokastro. In the camp she also worked helping people find underground routes to Israel. She met her future husband Max Garfinkle while working in this camp.

Upon returning to her hometown Bouena learned that her brother, one of her sisters, grandmother, and aunts had died in Auschwitz. In 1946 Bouena married Max and they moved from Greece to Israel, New York, and finally Montreal. Their son Elial was born in 1949, and Max became a teacher. Bouena briefly worked in a factory, then helped to open a Hebrew summer camp in Montreal, and repaired lace for a wealthy customer. She also worked on her poetry in Montreal, which was published as a memoir in 2013 by Renée Levine Melammed; An Ode to Salonika: The Ladino Verses of Bouena Sarfatty.

Bouena Garfinkle died in 1997, and her full testimony is part of the Canadian Collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. It is preserved in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive and accessible through the Ekstein Library.

Bouena Garfinkle

The boat to cross from Greece… the Germans found out.