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Guernica Author Sidney J. Zoltak Remembers His Stay in the Jewish Sciesopoli, 70 Years Afterwards

sidney zoltakmy silent pledge

The end of this September marks the 70th anniversary of the Jewish Sciesopoli, a colony of 800 orphaned children and teenagers who stayed in a house in Selvino, Italy shortly after the Holocaust. While living together in the house, these children learned how to enjoy life after the devastating effects of the Shoah. The Sciesopoli house became a center for orphaned Jewish youth after 1948 and continued until 1984, also operating as a public school and an infirmary. The city of Selvino maintains close ties with the Jewish community who sought refuge there, and has been twinned with the kibbutz Rosh Hanikrà and the kibbutz Tze’elim in the Neghev, where many of these children eventually settled.

Guernica author Sidney J. Zoltak recounts his experiences as a resident of the Sciesopoli house in an article entitled La Casa Di Sciesopoli ‘The House’, which is adapted from a chapter in his memoir My Silent Pledge: A Journey of Struggle, Survival and Remembrance. In his article, Zoltak describes his move from a DP transit camp in Padua to the house for children in Selvino, describing various people associated with the house including the benevolent “Uncle Moshe” and the compassionate Professor Gorini who supervised the house. Zoltak provides an account of the finer workings of the house, even describing his daily routines and the various staff members employed there. He also emphasizes his own remove from the situation of many of the house’s residents, who were orphaned by the Holocaust whereas Zoltak’s parents were still living, recollecting an anecdote where a boy confessed to Zoltak that he hated him after seeing his mother visit. The article concludes by acknowledging the medal of “The Righteous among the nations” given by The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority in 1976 to Professor Gorini’s wife Anna-Maria on behalf of her husband.

My Silent Pledge: A Journey of Struggle, Survival and Remembrance tells Sidney J. Zoltak’s story of surviving the Holocaust and his emigration to Canada. His memoir tells of how his family endured throughout, beginning with the loss of their home, to their life of hiding, and eventually to the generosity they would encounter in Italy. My Silent Pledge has been called “a moving and memorable eyewitness memoir” by Irwin Cotler, achieved through what Bernie M. Farber, ex-CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, describes as “luck, guile and courage…[that] gives us a small bitter taste of evil mixed with the sweetness of redemption”.

Sidney J. Zoltak was born in Poland and was eight years old at the outbreak of World War II. He lived for two years in Italy as a refugee and eventually resettled in Montreal with his mother where he worked as an insurance agent while also maintaining active membership in the Jewish community. He is co-president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants and a board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

An event organized by Sidney J. Zoltak commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Sciesopoli house will be taking place in Selvino from September 25th to the 29th. Please click this link to find out about ways you can help with the event’s organization or make a donation.

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