March 10, 1943

by Betty Leon


It was a day that I cannot forget, it is etched so deeply in my mind, and my whole family has heard it so many times that almost each one of them knows it by heart.

It did not start as a regular day.  We were in Shoumen, quite a big city with a big Jewish community, in the house of my paternal grandmother, who lived in the Jewish quarter in Shoumen.  My mother had a cold and thought staying in bed till she feels better.

Suddenly there were loud bangs on the entrance door and shouting from all over the place.  When the door was opened, a police officer burst in with a revolver in his hands and demanded we prepare ourselves and go out with him.  He did not pay any attention to my mother’s pleas to let her be at home as she does not feel well.  He shouted at us and demanded that the family of Farhiev, as he called us, leave with him immediately.  Not having any alternative, mother dressed promptly and we followed him – my father, Sabetai Farhi, mother Allegretta and me little Betty.  I could not understand what is happening, why and how.  I was surprised that father took with him his first aid bag but did not dare to ask why.  It later transpired that this policeman was somebody sent from Sofia to organize the deportation and wanted to send some policemen of the local police force to take us out of the house and bring us to the police quarters.  As none of the policemen agreed to do so, he thought he has to do with a big bandit and for this reason came in with a revolver in his hand.  He did not know that all policemen were friends of my father and none of them agreed to do what he wanted.

We reached the big yard of the police station in which there were a lot of people.  A redheaded  woman called Malvina fainted and my father went to give her first aid.   In the meantime I found my aunt, sister of my father, whom I adored and asked her, full of curiosity what is happening, and what were we doing there.  She told me that we were to travel by train and me, being only 5 and a half years old, started to jump from joy.  My joy even increased when she added that we were going to Poland – oh what a joy – to travel by train and so far away………..

People were worried, shouting a lot and there was a tremendous noise.

Near lunchtime the women were called to the main office and their jewels were returned and they were freed to go home with their kids.  My hero mother refused to take her jewels and go home till father was also released and this happened a short while thereafter and we all took the way home.  Cannot forget that we were welcome by my uncle who was standing at the door and cried, from relief apparently.

Since then, this has been etched in my memory and later on I learned the exact date of this happening, as at my early age I had no idea of dates, even if historical.

.In the meantime I got me my own family to which I told and retold this story on each March 10.  Even these days, when we approach March 10 everything is coming back to me and I cannot forget.  Perhaps in the meantime I did forget a detail or two but the main things remain as they were.  I did not have any idea then how and by whom we were saved and this was not so important to me.  The main thing was that we were saved and continued our lives.

During the years my father thought us to love and honor Bulgaria and its people exactly because of this event and he managed to express his love in publicist writings in newspapers that were published in Bulgarian in our country and by founding the league for friendship Israel-Bulgaria whose chairman he was till his sudden demise in 1961.

Betty Leon
March 2010

PS On était a la police pour etre deporté et on nous a laisse libres de retourner chez nous, c’est tout ! Après mon père a été aux travaux de forcat et ma mere qui était pharmacienne – a été mobilisee dans le civil dans un autre ville.