The Righteous Gentile Who Married the Jew She Saved in the Holocaust

Orna Shurani, who was born a Christian in Hungary and died a Jew in Israel, was the last of three sisters with a remarkable story.

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Malvina (center), Orna (right) and Olga Csizmadia.
Malvina (center), Orna (right) and Olga Csizmadia.Credit: Courtesy of the family
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Olga, Malvina and Irén (Orna) Csizmadia were three sisters who tied their fates to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. During the Holocaust they saved 30 Jews in Hungary, and after the war they all married Jewish men and immigrated to Israel. Last month, Orna Shurani, the youngest and last of the sisters to survive, died in Nahariya at the age of 89.

The remarkable story of the Csizmadia sisters began in 1944. A camp with 210 slave-labor Jewish prisoners was set up near their home in the northern Hungarian town of Sátoraljaújhely, near the Slovak border. The sisters, who were Christian, came to the aid of these prisoners, encouraged by their widowed mother Maria. Among other things they smuggled in food and letters, giving them their house as a safe place where they could meet their families. When circumstances allowed, they assisted several Jews in escaping the camp, hiding some of them in their house and other hiding places. Yad Vashem has recognized them as saving the lives of 29 Jews.

One of the Jews they saved, Ladislav (Naftali) Shurani, told Maria, the sisters’ mother: “She will be my wife,” pointing at her daughter Irén. “She was only 14 and a half then and he was 10 years older, but he returned later and took her away,” said her daughter Tzipi this week. Irén converted and became Orna, after which she married Shurani. In 1949 they immigrated to Israel with a son born in Europe. In Israel they migrated between Haifa, Tel Aviv, Safed, Acre, Tiberias and Nahariya. Their daughter Tzipi was born in Israel.

After they immigrated, Orna encouraged her mother and sisters to come to Israel as well. Olga also converted and married one of the Jews the family had saved, Carol Fischer. The third sister, Malvina, married an Israeli.

Over the years the three sisters and their mother, who were living in Israel, were recognized as Righteous Gentiles. Tzipi says that her mother was obliged to undergo another conversion in Israel, after the rabbinate refused to recognize the one she did in Europe. Maria, the sisters’ mother, didn’t manage to complete the process.

In 1956 the Shuranis opened a small hotel in Nahariya. Ladislav later worked as a chef on a ship. He died in 2002. In 2006 Olga died, with Malvina dying in 2010.

During the Second Lebanon War, Orna’s house was hit by a Katyusha rocket, after which she suffered a cerebral stroke from which she never recovered. She was assisted by the ATZUM non-profit organization which helps 20 Righteous Gentiles living in Israel. Orna left behind two children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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