WHEN Chana Achiezer was asked how she felt to reach her century last month, her answer was simple: “I forgot already!”
Born in Eastern Poland in 1920, the humorous 100-year-old celebrated from the COVID-19 confines of Emmy Monash – but that did not mar the occasion.
Three generations of party-hat wearing family members rallied outside the window of Gandel House, while Chana was joined by her fellow Emmy resident friends and staff on the other side of the glass. Streamers and balloons set the festive tone while Rabbi Yonatan Sadoff of Kehilat Nitzan bestowed a special birthday blessing. Everyone sang a hearty happy birthday over cake with Chana joining in for the hip, hip hooray, shared son David Zyngier.
“It was gorgeous that the great-grandchildren all made cards and we slid them under the door to her,” he told The AJN. Gifts were also later collected, disinfected and presented.
While Chana delighted in the celebrations, she said, she “couldn’t enjoy the party really because I couldn’t hug and kiss my wonderful family”.
Despite the constraints, David relayed his mother’s joy at receiving greetings from Queen Elizabeth, the Prime Minister, Governor-General and the Premier.
“But for her, the most important letter that she received was from the Holocaust Centre,” added David.
Chana was 19 years old when the war erupted. She survived Majdanek and Auschwitz, death marches, malaria and a near close encounter with the infamous Dr Mengele.
Following the war, Chana and husband Max settled in Melbourne, opening a milk bar in Gardenvale, before taking on Max’s Delicatessen on Glenhuntly Road.
Just prior to the Yom Kippur War, Chana made aliyah and remained in Israel until the mid-1990s, when the joy of grandchildren lured her back to Australia.
She still speaks three languages, enjoys her classical and Yiddish music, and regularly reigns victorious at a game of Rummikub against David.
So, what is her tip for 100 years?
Chana teases, “That is my secret, and I’m not telling.”