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Sami's life story is remarkable. He was born on December 21, 1939 in Czernovitz, Bukovina, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire belonging to Romania. Later, it became part of former Soviet Union and today it is in Ukraine. From 1941 through 1944, he was with his parents in the Ukraine at Mogilev-Podolsky, a labor camp in an area called Transnistria. The camp was liberated by the Red Army and his family was deported by the Romanians, not by the Germans. He grew up in Transylvania, in a small town called Reghin. He did not know the language. In 1961, the whole family (his sister was born in 1946) emigrated to Israel. He served in the Israeli Air Force, not as a pilot. In 1968, without knowing the language and no money, alone, Sami came to the United States. He lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he married, divorced and eventually, in 1983 returned to Israel. However, in 1988, he returned to the United States, choosing New York City as his final home.

Being too young to work, per his parents, Sami was subjected to Nazi medical experimentation in his early years, but has no recollection of those years. However, he has felt and still feels the side effects every single day of his life.

After the medical experiments, life was very difficult in the camp. The starvation and the bitter cold Russian winter created survival problems. Struggling to take care of his family, Sami's father gave away his winter coat for a loaf of bread. At one point he was dying of starvation and his life was saved by a German woman.

This German woman lived on a farm near the camp and brought food to the SS and Ukrainian guards. Fortunately, she saw Sami and recognized he was dying of starvation - physical signs are big head, swollen stomach, swollen feet. She decided to give him milk, risking her entire family's lives. Eventually, when color began to return to his cheeks, she would pinch him (in Yiddish, we called it a knip), and say: "Those are my rosy cheeks!". This German woman enabled Sami to survive and eventually, the whole family returned to Romania. Not knowing her name, years later, it was a very happy sight to see at the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Va'Shem a stone/marker and a tree honoring the unknown ones.

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Bette Keesing-Sparago
Director of Speakers Bureau