Diario Judío México - “Cuando la vi, todo el mundo estaba girando alrededor de mí.”
A más de 70 años después de que Sigi y Hanka Siegreich pusieron sus ojos el uno en el otro en un campo nazi de trabajo, la pareja aún sienten entre sí débiles las rodillas.
Eva Sigi y Hanka pasaron el Año Nuevo de 1944 encerrados en un campo de trabajo en Czestochowa, Polonia. Unos 18 días después, el campo fue liberado por el Ejército Rojo. Al día siguiente, se casaron.
Acabas de saber una historia sobre las victorias de amor!
It was New Year’s Eve in 1944 when a young man and woman locked eyes and fell instantly in love – from inside the cold walls of the Czestochowa camp in German-occupied Poland.
Men and women were banned from speaking at the slave-labour camp – but the guards had allowed them to spend time together in the female barracks the night Sigi and Hanka Siegreich fell madly in love.
‘When our eyes met I was struck by lightning,’ Sigi told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I just knew right then that she was the one,’ he said. ‘I still get the same feeling when I look at her now. Always, she is beautiful.’
Sigi said he didn’t go to the barracks looking for anything romantic because he was a ‘skeleton’ after living in the camp for years.
Before the boys were taken back to the their own barracks Sigi kissed Hanka on the cheek – a promise that he would see her again.
Seventeen days later the love-struck teenagers were married – hours after the camp was liberated by the Red Army.
The couple has spent less than two hours together in person before they eloped in front of friends they had made in the camp.
They went on to have two daughters – their eldest Evelyne was the first baby to be born to Holocaust survivors in Czestochowa – just a year after the pair were married.
For fifty years the story of how Sigi and Hanka met was kept a secret from their family.
‘We grew up surrounded by so much love and we knew they had met in the war but we were definitely surprised by the circumstances,’ Evelyne said.
They were too traumatized by their time in the camp to want to share their fear with the people they loved.
‘Mum still cries in her sleep every night – and dad always has terrible nightmares.
‘He was gifted with a photographic memory but it is a blessing and a curse because he can remember the horrors so clearly.’
Their family and friends were never told how they came to fall in love, until it was revealed at their 50th wedding anniversary, pictured
Sigi spoke about the love he had for his wife and how every time he sees her is like the first time he spotted her brown eyes from across the room
Men and women were banned from speaking at the camp – but the guards had allowed them to spend time together (stock image)
But in a speech meant for his beloved wife Sigi spoke of the first time he saw Hanka’s ‘beautiful brown eyes peering from the top of a bunk’ on New Year’s Eve.
The moment their eyes locked was a shimmer of hope in their life of intense fear among the inhumane conditions of the camp.
‘We knew they had some kind of dark secret somewhere, we saw how much they loved us and each other but knew it was strange that we didn’t have grandparents, it was just the four of us.
‘We asked them why we didn’t have other but they just never wanted to talk about it and would just say they were lost in the war.’
The intense love they found that night in the bunkers is still burning just as strong.
‘He still looks at mum the same way,’ Evelyne said.
‘He will ring me in the morning and say ”look at your mum, she is so beautiful, there is not a drop of makeup on her skin and look how beautiful she is”.’
Sigi and Hanka were ‘everything’ to each other from the moment they married.
‘They lost their families and had to rely on each other for everything,’ Evelyne said.
Sigi says he and his wife have moved through their life together as one.
‘She is a part of my makeup, like my arm she will always be a part of me.’
Sigi is now 92, his wife is 91 and they are much more open about their life inside the slave-labour camp and what they lost in the war.
When fighting broke out Hanka was just 14 – she and her 12-year-old sister were captured and thrown on a train to the camp.
They would never see the rest of their family again. Sigi, who came from an extremely wealthy family was 15 when he was separated from his family.
As a well-to-do boy he had never had to fend for himself or even polish his own shoes.
His sister managed to escape before fighting started. But others weren’t so lucky and 169 of his family members were ‘exterminated’ including his parents and grandparents.
Sigi managed to stay alive through a series of ‘miracles’ and endeavoured to sabotage the enemy when they forced him to work in the munitions factory by ‘making the bullets too small’.
By the time the enemy caught on to this trick Sigi had met Hanka. He went into hiding and she risked her life to bring him pieces of bread and a blanket to help him keep warm.
In those short seventeen days she even lost her tooth trying to protect him, she had been crying because she was worried about him but was caught so told guards she had a toothache.
The couple have now been together for 72 years and are parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
They raised their children in Israel after the war before migrating to Melbourne, Australia in 1971 where their family continues to grow.
When they die they will be buried side-by-side in plots marked with a message for their lost families.
The message invites the souls ‘exterminated’ in the Holocaust to ‘rest with them’.