A big event which is part of the club’s campaign to tackle antisemitism took place at Stamford Bridge with Mala Tribich MBE, a Holocaust survivor, discussing her experiences in front of a gathering of our supporters.
The campaign, which is supported by the club’s owner Roman Abramovich, aims to raise awareness of antisemitism and educate our players, staff, fans and the wider community with its ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ message.
In January, 88-year-old Harry Spiro BEM, who is also a survivor of the Holocaust, visited Cobham and shared his own incredible story with the players and coaching staff, who were enthralled by his testimony.
The latest talk, organised by the Chelsea Foundation in association with the Holocaust Educational Trust, provided an opportunity for some of our supporters to listen to the memories of Mala, 87, with the audience made up of members of the Fans’ Forum and some of our various supporter groups.
Chairman Bruce Buck, who was one of those in attendance, spoke about the importance of the event and, in a wider context, the campaign as a whole.
‘This was another one in a long line of events that we’re going to do, and continue to do, in order to try to tackle antisemitism,’ said Buck. ‘It’s not going to go away overnight but we hope with a variety of educational events, visits to concentration camps and things like that, hopefully we can make a little bit of an impact and have a geometric result.
‘I think it’s important for everybody to hear these stories. I’ve heard two now, this one and also the story of Harry Spiro who came to the training ground and spoke to the players. These people have a real impact when they talk in person. Many of us can listen to their stories and that’s good.’
Mala’s story was a captivating one. She was only eight when the Nazis invaded Poland and from that point, up until her liberation by British forces in 1945, she suffered greatly, including becoming a slave labourer aged just 12 and narrowly avoiding the massacre of the children in her town in 1943.
Following the invasion, Mala’s family were forced to move into the Piotrków ghetto, the first of its kind in Poland, where they were deprived of the most basic human rights, living in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions.
For their own safety, it was decided Mala, who described life around that time as ‘impossible and quite tragic’, and her cousin Idzia should move to city of Czestochowa, where they lived in the care of a couple named ‘Maciejewski’. However, after telling the adults she was able to go and stay with some friends of her parents, Idzia was never seen again.
Shortly after Mala’s return to the Piotrków ghetto there were further round-ups, one of which led to the murders of both her mother and eight-year-old sister.
After being separated from her father and brother, Mala then spent time in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she was liberated by the British Army. After being sent to live in Sweden she was astounded to receive a letter from her brother, Ben, who she believed had been killed. Ben, who was living in England, was the only other member of her family to survive.
In March 1947, Mala came to England to be reunited with Ben and was offered an office job after learning English and attending secretarial college. She later married Maurice and gained a degree in sociology from the University of London while her two children were growing up.
Mala explained why the talk was so beneficial, both for herself and those in attendance.
‘I was pleased that the fans were so interested and wanted to hear about it,’ she said. ‘A lot of them came up to me afterwards and extended the discussion further. They told me their own stories, and in one case somebody had a father who was actually one of the liberators, which I often come across. I found the people here really interesting and very nice.
‘Chelsea’s campaign is important on so many levels because antisemitism leads to hatred and discord among people and within communities.
‘On a personal level I don’t experience it so much but I know it’s out there and it’s just not acceptable.’
Iain Rodger, a member of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, paid tribute to Mala.
‘I thought it was incredibly moving,’ he said. ‘To actually meet a survivor of the Holocaust, who was full of life, full of vibrancy and full of stories was incredible. She absolutely brought it to life, it’s such a harrowing tale but it’s still remembered and passed on from generation to generation. She’s an inspirational woman.
‘Sadly these issues haven’t gone away and when you hear such a personal testimony it makes you want to focus on these things and learn from them.
Click here to read more about Chelsea’s campaign to tackle antisemitism.