Friends and family gathered Thursday afternoon at in Great Neck to remember Pepe Ast Chouake, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor.
in Great Neck on Monday after being pinned underneath her car as it rolled backwards, according to Nassau County Police.
Speakers at Chouake's funeral told of her harrowing childhood in Eastern Poland on the run from the occupying Russian communists, and then the Nazis.
Her son, Benjamin Chouake, who is president of the pro-Israel political action committee NORPAC, quoted from Chouake's memoir, "Pepe's Tears: Surviving The Impossible."
In it, she recounts her childhood near the village of Pobocz on a 200-employee farm that was taken away from her family by the occupying forces.
Chouake's father, a rabbinical scholar, was imprisoned by the Russians and after paying a bribe for his release, lived in hiding in a bunker on their former property. When the Nazis invaded Poland, her family hid over a dozen Jewish refugees from the neighboring town of Sassow in the farm house's basement. Of his three children Ms. Chouake was the one her father called upon to lead the Sassow refugees to the nearby forest.
"She said she was young, but she was fast," Benjamin Chouake recounted of his mother during her eulogy. "She rarely spoke about her experience to her children—she did not want to scare us," he added, explaining that much of what her learned about her past, he first read in her memoir.
When Pepe Chouake and her mother eventually were parted from the rest of their family and forced to find different hiding spots, Pepe would be the one to go out and forage for food.
She was able to evade the Nazis for the remainder of the war.
Pepe's sister, Betty, survived by pretending to be a non-Jewish maid in the home of an acquaintance. Betty Chouake was present at the funeral. The two sisters were the only members of their family to survive the war.
"This time, [God] must have wanted her bad enough to take her without giving me a chance to stand in between," said Benjamin Chouake, who, also a doctor, had nursed his mother through a decades-old heart condition. "I would never have given her up."
Pepe Chouake resided in Little Neck, where she was a successful real estate agent. She is survived by her son, Benjamin, daughter, Shoshana, grandchildren and sister, Betty Ast.
Shiva is being sat at her son's home at 245 Hutchinson Road in, Englewood, until Aug. 22. A local shiva will also be observed at Shoshana's home, at 58-28 263rd Street, in Little Neck. Be in touch with Avi@NORPAC.net or call 201-788-5133 for more information.