Losing someone you love is tragic, but as Marlene Leddick knows, they live on in your thoughts and memories. Marlene, 78, is of Jewish descent, and was born in Paris, France a year before the Nazi invasion. As soon as her father learned that the Nazis were on their way, he quickly changed the identities and nationalities of his family to Tunisian and joined the French Resistance. Marlene, her parents, and her two sisters fled to Tunisia as the Nazi troops entered France, and her father became involved in The Underground. Unfortunately, Marlene’s father was killed, leaving her mother as the sole provider for her three daughters. She worked constantly and tirelessly, and Marlene’s eldest sister Yvette was left in charge of her sisters. Yvette was 14 years older than Marlene and soon became a second mother to her. They looked out for one another and formed an incredibly strong bond.
While in Tunisia, Marlene and her family were forced to hide underground for months with barely enough food to survive. She has vivid memories of the horrifying sights and can still hear piercing sirens ringing in her ears. The memories haunt her, but she is soothed by the memories of Yvette lovingly comforting her. After the war ended, Marlene returned to Paris with her family, but quickly realized that it was no longer home. Everything they owned had been destroyed and the Nazis had killed most of their loved ones.
When Marlene was 15 she immigrated to Florida with her mom and sister. There, they were reunited with Yvette, who had moved earlier, and together the family started over again. Unfortunately, 21 years ago, Yvette was diagnosed with cancer. Marlene was devastated, but remained committed to Yvette’s care and traveled to New York every weekend to be by her beloved sister’s side. Six months after Yvette’s diagnosis, she passed away while tightly holding Marlene’s hand. Per Yvette’s wishes, her remains were sent to Tzfat, Israel to be laid to rest.
Marlene was able to visit Yvette’s grave 20 years ago, but was determined to visit her grave one last time. Wish of a Lifetime was honored to help Marlene reunite with her sister. In November 2015, Marlene and her son, Steve, traveled to Tzfat, Israel. While visiting, Marlene washed Yvette’s grave, lit a candle, and spoke traditional Jewish prayers. Marlene felt her sister there with her and said, “saying thank you does not even begin to describe how I feel inside. This was more than a wish, this was a dream.”
Photos courtesy of Ben Kelmer