Eight Decades Later and Half a World Away, Greek Holocaust Survivor Finds Way to Pay Back Family Who Saved Her

Angela Kanaras, left, and her son, Vasilios Kanaras, with Josephine Velelli Becker. Photo: Family.

July 17, 2022

Recently, 86-year-old Josephine Velelli Becker found a small way to pay back the Michalos family who saved her and her family from the Nazis during the Holocaust in Greece, The Washington Post reported.

When Germany occupied Greece in 1943, Elias Michalos, at great personal risk, offered to shelter the Velelli family — from the city of Patras — in the tiny mountain village of Michaleika.

“Without them, my family wouldn’t have survived the war,” Velelli Becker was quoted as saying.

Josephine Velelli Becker, age 6, seated behind an unnamed young girl, with Greek soldiers before the Nazi occupation during World War II. Photo: Family.


Following the war, both families immigrated to the United States, settling near Baltimore, Maryland, and stayed in touch over the years.

Numerous times, Elias Michalos declined offers from Emmanuel Velelli — Josephine Velelli Becker’s father — to compensate him for selfless bravery.

Members of the Velelli and Michalos families in 1956, after they both moved to the United States. Photo: Family.


Both Elias Michalos and Emmanuel Velelli have since passed away, but nearly 80 years after World War II ended, however, Josephine Velelli Becker finally found a way to “pay it forward.”

The Crabby Greek restaurant in Towson — run by Michalos’ grandson, Vasilios Kanaras — went out of business due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Velelli Becker learned of the situation, helped by the rest of her family, gathered more than $10,000 to give to Kanaras for him to open a new restaurant, the New Southern Kitchen in Cockeysville.

“Their whole family just started pouring money in,” Kanaras said. “I didn’t have to worry.”

“I was overwhelmed,” Angela Kanaras — Vasilios Kanaras’ mother — said. “I couldn’t believe that they would do that.”

Around 60,000 Greek Jews perished in the Holocaust, more than 3/4 the country’s pre-World War II Jewish population.

“All of these years, they’ve always said that if it wasn’t for my family, they wouldn’t be here,” she added. “Now, if it wasn’t for them, my son wouldn’t have a business. So, it all came around.”