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Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021: Holocaust survivors who built /changed Europe – Yvette Anavi

In December 2020, just a few days before her 101st birthday, Yvette Anavi (maiden name Kalo), a Holocaust survivor from Bulgaria and inspiring writer, passed away.

Born in Plovdiv, an ancient city which had a large Jewish community, Yvette studied French literature in college in Strasbourg in 1938. It was a turbulent time, and after WWII began she had to return to Bulgaria. Nazi soldiers were placed in the building of her college in Strasbourg; some of her fellow students were sent to concentration camps.

Yvette continued her studies at Sofia University and graduated in 1943, even though most Jews were banned from universities. While the ‘Law for the Protection of the Nation’ in Bulgaria did not allow for Bulgarian Jews to obtain university degrees, Yvette was already a French student and managed to persuade her Bulgarian professors to accept her.

As a Jew from Plovdiv, she was under threat of expulsion. In 1943, on the night that Jews in Plovdiv were supposed to be deported to concentration camps, the main Christian Orthodox priest of the city, Patriarch Kiril, said that if Jews are to be sent to deaths, he would be going with them. Yvette Anavi survived the Holocaust. During her life she wrote several books about Sephardic cuisine, culture, and language and contributed immensely to preserving Balkan Sephardic traditions.

Photo © Moni Frances