THERE was a double celebration across the generations last Sunday as Melbourne Holocaust survivor, Rita Kaufman celebrated her 101st birthday together with her great-granddaughter Zoe, from Sydney, who was celebrating her first birthday.
After a year of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, Rita’s granddaughter Lisa was insistent that the pair enjoy their birthdays together, flying down to Melbourne with her husband Jonathan, his parents and their daughter Zoe.
Rita, finally able to spend time with her three children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, was thrilled to be surrounded by family and tuck into a cake made by her son Leon.
Having grown up as one of nine children in Lodz, Poland, Rita’s life was shattered in 1939. She and her brother Harry fled to Russia where Harry was conscripted, while she spent years evading authorities and working in manual labour.
After the war Harry and Rita reunited and moved to Melbourne where they looked out for each other for 70 years until Harry’s death in his 90s.
Rita never saw her parents and six of her siblings again. All but one, Joseph, had perished during the Holocaust.
After a stint in palliative care in recent years, Rita, who lives in Gary Smorgon House, is back on her feet and has been described by her granddaughter Lisa as “a tough woman” and “bulletproof”.