Righteous Among the Nations – Angelo Chalikias
The name Angelo, meaning “angel,” is the perfect name to describe Angelo Chalikias. “It was like he was sent from heaven,” said Rivka Marom, whose father, Niso Moustaki, was harboured by Angelo Chalikias during the Holocaust.
The events that led to the rescue of Niso began months earlier with the plight that faced Niso and his family on June 7, 1944. On that day, the German and Greek police ordered the Moustaki family, together with the other Jews living on the Greek island of Corfu, to gather in the football field.
Until that time, Niso led a privileged, affluent, and happy life; he played sports, swam, and enjoyed the collegiality of many friends. Other than Niso’s eldest brother, Shlomo, who took refuge with a non-Jewish family with his wife and child, the entire Moustaki family—Niso’s father, Mordechai; his stepmother, Rosa; his brother Shalom, Shalom’s wife, and their child; as well as his three sisters, Patina, Rivka, and Esther—gathered in the football field for a fate unknown. The swell of music filled the field, lulling the Jews into thinking that perhaps they were gathered to hear a concert. However, just two days later, the SS and police, with the assistance from Wehrmacht units, instigated the deportation of 1,850 Corfu Jews to Auschwitz. The plan was set in motion with the transfer of the Moustaki family and the other Jews of Corfu to the island’s Old Fort.
The Moustaki family was then brought to the Corfu port to board a ship that would take them to the island of Lefkas, south of Corfu. As Niso overlooked the railing of the ship, he considered jumping into the water to escape, but the chances of being hit by another passing ship were too great. The family arrived in Lefkas, where they were detained in a closed compound without food or water for several days.
Nazi guards patrolled the area, assuming a particular formation: walking toward one another and then turning about face and walking apart; this repeated again and again. Niso told his father that he was planning an escape, and his father, who by then understood the peril that the family faced, gave Niso his blessings, saying that at least one of them might survive.
Niso saw his chance. When the guards turned back to back and began to walk away from one another, Niso assumed a calm demeanour and simply walked out of the port, all the while thinking, “They are going to shoot me now.”
The Germans soon noticed that Niso was missing and immediately began to hunt him down. Niso heard the sirens wailing and began to run. He hid in a store for several days, slept in vineyards, and joined a partisan group for a short time.
Thus, when Niso, in great need of a shave, entered a barbershop in the village of Spanokori, a man approached him and introduced himself as Angelo Chalikias. Angelo recognized Niso, as his father had made trips to Corfu to buy soap from Niso’s father.
Not knowing if he could trust Angelo, Niso left the shop, but was soon stopped by a Nazi collaborator, who tried to arrest him. Angelo then re-appeared, claiming that Niso was under his responsibility and whisked him away.
For the next couple of months, Niso enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Chalikias family, which consisted of Angelo; his father, Dimitri; his mother, Olga; and his four sisters, Efphimia, Mavreta, Cliansi, and Adriana. The family refused Niso’s offer to work in exchange for food and board.
Dressed as a peasant, Niso tried to blend into the locale. It was an easy place to “disappear” if need be, as the Chalikias house looked back onto rolling hills and a vineyard, filled with hanging trees that could provide cover.
A short while later, Angelo told Niso that, despite German surveillance, a boat owner from Lefkas intended to sail to Corfu. He asked Niso if he wanted him to take a letter to his former home. Niso decided that, rather than send a letter, he would like to return to the island. Angelo tried to convince him not to embark on the dangerous trip, but when Niso remained unconvinced, Angelo gave him his own identification papers, replacing his photo with that of Niso’s.
On the appointed day, Angelo and Niso pretended to go fishing as they made their way to the port. Niso hid in the port until it was dark and then got on the barge. His eyes filling with tears, Angelo refused to leave until he was sure that Niso safely got away.
Niso stayed in Corfu until liberation. After the war, he immigrated to Israel and settled in Kibbutz Ein Harod, where he married Malka Amram and had three daughters, Rivka, Lea, and Vered. Other than his brother Shlomo, his entire family was murdered in Auschwitz.
Angelo continued his resistance activities in Greece until the end of the war. He married Filomeni in 1949, and a son, Dimitrios, was born a year later in Salonika. Seeking a better life for his family, Angelo immigrated to Ottawa, Canada, in 1957. Two years later, Filomeni and Dimitrios joined Angelo in Montreal, and a daughter, Olga, was born in 1963.
In 1957, Niso wrote letters to the Jewish community in Ottawa. In one, he wrote, “[A]fter he [Angelo Chalikias] heard my plight, through his own free and good will … took upon himself to hide me. … [H]e endangered both his own life and that of his family. If I am alive today in Israel … it is only due to Mr. Chalikias.” These letters were found by Angelo’s family after his passing in 2012 at the age of 92 and were sent to Yad Vashem.
Although Niso has passed away, Yad Vashem’s Department of the Righteous Among the Nations traced his family and found Niso Moustaki’s testimony that described how Angelo Chalikias had helped to rescue him.
On 19 February 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Angelo Chalikias as a Righteous Among the Nations.