Helen Granek OAM (Treyvish, Class of 1952) visited the School last week with her two sons Michael and Ronnie (who resides in London).

Ronnie had travelled back to Melbourne to share in the family celebrations for Helen’s 90th birthday on March 10. As a result, Helen and her sons had a special preview of the Honour Boards that will be officially unveiled on 1 June that recognise the 38 Korovians who have received Australian Honours.

Helen was born in Poland in 1934 and following the Nazi occupation in 1939 she, along with her parents, were taken to the Bialystoker ghetto where she was able to survive with her parents for two years until the ghetto was liquidated on the 16th of August 1943. Unfortunately, that was the last time she saw them. Her uncle, who was a doctor, and her aunt, a nurse took her under their wing and together they spent the rest of the war in two work camps from where they were liberated in January 1945. Helen, together with her aunt and uncle, was sponsored by relatives to come to Australia and arrived in 1946.

Fortuitously, the person who was teaching them English was a friend of Miss Dixon, Principal of Korowa from 1930 to 1949. Following an interview with Miss Dixon, Helen commenced at Korowa in May 1947 in Year 7 (Remove 7). She spent six happy years at the School and matriculated in 1952 and went on to gain a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne. Helen reflected on her years at Korowa where she said that she was fully accepted, her religion respected, made lifelong friends and where she learnt about Australian social mores. She even selected a football team to support – Carlton!

More than 60 years ago, Helen helped to found WIZO Nirim, an innovative group for Jewish women that provided fun-based educational meet ups designed to build connections in the Jewish community which still functions today, and of which she eventually became the Group President.

Helen received an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2022 for service to the Jewish community, and to women.

Helen has lived a long and productive life and is proud of her family that now includes four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She says with pride that she is Australian. Helen reminds us of the diverse experiences of our alumni and her life is both an example of service to others, and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of early adversity.