Grandpa Mike's Speech to Amy on the Occasion of her Bat Mitzvah - Ocober 27, 2012

My beloved granddaughter Amy is beautiful and intelligent. Her personality reminds me more of my mother than anyone else. I believe that the people we loved, remain alive in our hearts, as long as we remember them and tell their stories. I will tell you one such story.

My mother and her sister were students in a Greek private school. Thanks to anti-Semitism, they were expelled. My grandfather asked, “Where do the Greek aristocrats send their daughters to school?” The answer was, “To the Catholic convent in the island of Corfu”. And so this is where his daughters then went. The instruction there was in Greek, Italian and French.

Many years passed. My mother was married and had two children. The war came. The Italians were defeated after a brilliant counterattack by the Greek-Jewish colonel Mordechai Frizis. Germany eventually conquered Greece. But thanks to this very important delay, the Germans were defeated in front of Moscow by fresh Siberian troops, in subfreezing weather, while they were still dressed in summer uniforms. This was the beginning of Germany’s defeat in the Second World War.

In Greece, my father came back from the Italian front and my family found itself in a crowded bus - without seats, a former military ambulance- on the way to Agrinion. The bus broke down on a mountain road. In the evening, we saw a big column of cars approaching. It was the invading Italian Army. My mother was a beautiful 34 year old woman. She suddenly yelled “Aspeta Seniore.” - “Stop Sir”- and the entire column came to an abrupt stop. She literally stopped an entire army on its tracks. An Italian officer talked with her. When she said that she was Mrs. Esther Matsa, the startled young man immediately called his commander general Mazza who was bivouacked for the night a few miles back. The General ordered him to facilitate the movement of the stranded Greeks and take my family to him. General Mazza had a long conversation with my father Leon Matsas and both men understood that they were distant relatives. The Jews of Italy were expelled in 1540. But many Jews preferred to remain in Italy by converting to Christianity. The bold initiative of my mother helped all the people.

And now, dear Amy, don’t think I forgot about you! I know, you have the courage to do what your great grandmother did, but I am sure you will not have to stop an invading Mexican or Canadian Army. I am also sure you have all you need to face life, in this beautiful country of ours, no matter whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. I leave you with all my love and best wishes.

I thank you. Grandpa Mike