At the tender age of nine, he made sure that the rabbi's festive table on the island where he was born and grew up, in Zakynthos, would never be empty, and the lonely priest would feel through this symbolic gesture of offering the warmth that the holy days require. Later, growing up, giving became a part of her daily life and until old age she made sure that none of those in need around her were left alone. Just as she took care of her dead co-religionists in the Israelite Community of Athens by sewing, with extra care and voluntarily, the "mortazes", the last sacred garment with which the deceased is dressed before burial, according to the rules of Judaism.

"The woman who sewed the mortise is gone," wrote the secretary general of the Central Israelite Council in his personal diary, on social media Victor Eliezer saying goodbye to "a great lady of Greek Jewry, Rahmani - Roula Kostis", with respect and simple and frugal words, "with the same simplicity and frugality that she herself chose to live her life".

With the help of Mr. Eliezer, the Athenian/Macedonian News Agency is unraveling the "message" of this woman's life, whose contribution will remain indelibly etched in the memory and soul of all those who were lucky enough to know her.

"Roula was born in 1929, in Zakynthos. Her maiden name was Gani. He was a member of the Jewish community of Zakynthos who were saved from the Holocaust. Her whole family was extremely traditional, dedicated to support and solidarity," the general secretary of KISE tells APE-MBE and remembers that even at an advanced age he did not hesitate to take public transport to get to one end of her Athens to the other, so as to support those who were in some kind of need.

The deadly earthquake of 1953 in Zakynthos and the settlement in Athens

Young Roula and her family lived on the beautiful island of Zakynthos until the fateful morning of August 12, 1953, when the deadly passage of Enceladus from the Ionian Sea literally leveled the cities of Argostoli, Lixouri and Zakynthos, leaving behind hundreds of dead. , thousands injured and even more people on the street. And as if that wasn't enough, the devastating fire that followed reduced to ashes the last hopes of the people who managed to survive the deadly earthquake. Most of them left the earthquake-stricken Ionian islands, among them the family of Roula, who settled in Athens.

"The family was forced to move to Athens after previously selling the plot of their house in Zakynthos. Specifically, they moved to Petralona and there they started a new life", explains Mr. Eliezer and as she had revealed in an interview, it was in 1954 when she decided to learn an art through ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training - Organization for Reintegration through Education).

"At that time, Jews from all over the world learned various arts at the local ORT branches. In such a branch of this organization, in Athens, Roula learned the art of tailoring and since then she started working in her home as a tailor" points out Mr. Eliezer.

Caring for the dead and hand-stitched mortise

Later, the young Roula married Errikos Kostis, who was also devoted to the service of religion. “He was a caliph, knew much of the law of the Jewish religion and Jewish tradition, and was a cantor. He also chanted on Saturdays and on major holidays both in the synagogue of Athens and later in the synagogue of Chalkida", points out the general secretary of KISE, demonstrating the dedication of the Kostis couple to the Jewish tradition. A commitment that is also reflected in the fact that from 1970 until 2017 - when her strength began to leave her - Roula Kosti sewed the mortise in the traditional way without any remuneration, voluntarily, for all the dead of the community, such as says Mr. Eliezer.

"It is a garment that is the same for everyone, without any difference and its particularity is that it does not include knots or pockets. It is a simple garment, the same for everyone, because in this last abode we are all considered equal." When, however, she felt that her strength was leaving her, she called out to another woman who was indicated by the Community in order to give her the patterns and show her how these clothes are sewn and although today these are also done on machines, "the peculiarity is that Rula sewed them by hand, just as religion dictates. He observed the religious law not only according to the Spirit but also according to the Letter" emphasizes Mr. Eliezer. In fact, Rula Kosti was not limited only to sewing the "mortaza" but also participated in the great "Mitzvah", the sacred duty of caring for the dead, cleaning up to the last garment, while she often visited her sick fellow human beings, responding to a another sacred duty, according to the Jewish religion, "Bikur Holim".

Nostalgia for Zakynthos and "Rahamanoula's bugarinas"

Life and the disastrous Enceladus may have forced Rahamani - Roula Kostis to leave her beautiful island, but her nostalgia for it seems to have never left her. Her daughter, Vicky, through a touching text entitled "Rahamanoula's Bugarini" on the blog, shares with the reader verses - memories of her mother's childhood as well as a photo of her youth on a black and white background, such as and her grandparents.

"Rahamanoula - my mother, remembers with nostalgia family moments from those times and sighs with smells from her Zakynthian bougainvilleas. Bobbins of colorful threads that tie her to her life in pre-earthquake Zakynthos until 1953, the verses that have firmly nested inside her, while none of her ancestors had ever attempted to embroider with them on paper. Simply, this weakness towards her adored parents, whose elopement she wishes had never happened or that if it had happened, then she would have managed to escape with them, leads her step by step to reach the highest, peculiarly invulnerable, definitely superhuman due to a lot of love, power of oral memory" is mentioned - among other things - in the relevant text, which is accompanied by verses, such as the final one: "Happiness, mama and Rahmanoula honey/ May your army be filled with a wheel/ and holy what's to come"...

SOURCE: APE, 3.1.2024, by Sofia Papadopoulou

*photo is from the blog