Sophia Aferiat

Sophia Aferiat (Spiewak)

Thursday, March 26th, 1936 - Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
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Sophia Aferiat, child survivor of the Holocaust, beauty salon proprietor, proud mother and grandmother, passed away peacefully in her West Hartford home on Tuesday March 3, 2020.
Sophia is survived by her son Daniel Aferiat, daughter-in-law Nancy and grandson Josh, who reside in New York City and spend time in Fire Island, a beach community that Sophia loved to visit. Sophia had good luck, especially at the slot machines, despite the bad luck that she endured in her early life. She always attributed her good fortune to G-d. She had vehement faith, but she made a point of the fact that she would never ask G-d for money. That was not right. When it came to money, she worked hard and saved. She pinched pennies and made ends meet as a single mother and an immigrant. She enjoyed the beach, dancing, reading, the Weather Channel, giving life advice and being with family. She was open with telling her Holocaust story because she understood the importance of remembering what happened and warning future generations.
Sophia was born 1936 in Smolniki, Poland. She was the sixth of seven children to Hannah and Hershal Spiewak. Her father was a successful businessman and property owner, and her mother was a homemaker and a healer. Sophia’s father and all but one of her siblings perished at the hands of the Nazis. All had been separated and hidden in different homes, meeting various ugly fates. Sophia experienced every atrocity of the war at that time. She was hidden in a barn, left alone for weeks at a time. She spent time in the Krakow Ghetto, the Monte Lupe prison and eventually the concentration camp Plaushov. Sophia (or Zosha, as she was affectionately known at the time) and her mother narrowly escaped being shot, as they survived by denying their Jewish identity. Sophia had blonde hair and big beautiful blue eyes, so that was a saving grace.
Because Sophia was a child survivor, her memories of the war were always disjointed and fragmented, but equally traumatic and disturbing nonetheless. She once recalled that the adult survivors looked at child survivors with derision, as if to say: “You were just a child- you don’t even understand.” But in many ways the child survivors understood it worse. After the war, it took many months or years before Sophia could speak. There were no words to describe her experience.
Sophia and her mother were liberated from Plaushov but remained in Poland and recovered the house they owned in Krakow. There were very few surviving Jews after the war. Sophia’s mother wanted her to have a Jewish family so she immigrated to Israel on her own at the age of 21. She had to face the probability that she would never see her mother alive again, which proved true.
On the boat to Israel, she met and married Rafael Aferiat, a French Jewish man from Algeria. He was a paratrooper in the Israeli army and had been recruited as a teenager to be an undercover Mossad agent in Algeria during that country’s revolution, bringing Jews to safety in Israel. They came together from these war-torn experiences and had their son Daniel, who was born in 1959 on kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, a beautiful kibbutz on the beach. They stayed married for close to five years and eventually moved to Dimona in the desert where her husband continued to work for the government and later got remarried.
Sophia moved with Dan to Connecticut in the United States in 1967 and stayed with surviving distant relatives. She had to learn a new language for a second time and as a single mom. She got her license to be a hairdresser. She worked at G. Fox & Company for many years.
Sophia found a way to afford to move from Hartford to West Hartford when Dan was entering high school, because of the great reputation of Hall High School. Dan is currently a psychotherapist in private practice for individuals and couples. He attended Boston University for his B.A. and Columbia University for graduate school.
In the early 1980s, fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning her own business, Sophia opened a beauty salon with a good friend who was of Lebanese-Arab descent. Their successful hair salon was called Jewrab, a combination of her Jewishness and his Arab background. The business was successful for many years and was in West Hartford Center. After retiring from her work, she maintained her relationships with her old clients who would come to visit her as they were a significant part of her social network.
In 2005, her grandson and light of her life was born. Joshua was her central focus. He represented life from the turmoil, terror and despair, of the losses of the Holocaust. Visiting her grandson in New York was her job. She would load up bags of gifts onto the Peter Pan Bus, as she had never learned to drive. The great joy she felt in making him chicken soup and buying him new pajamas filled her with so much joy. Her only concern was that he should not forget her. She worried she would not live long enough to be embedded in his memory. She wanted to make sure he would have a Bar Mitzvah. It was revenge against Hitler. She won. She lived two years longer than his Bar Mitzvah. Powerful unique memorialization of the time on this planet when irrationality and death reigned. She lived her life wanting others to know the truth in the hopes that mankind would not repeat its worst nature.
Services will be held on Sunday, March 8 at 3pm at Sheehan-Hilborn-Breen Funeral Home, 1084 New Britain Ave., West Hartford, CT.
Shiva has already taken place in New York City. Please share her story with others to honor her memory and the memories of millions of others. Sophia was concerned in recent years that, as the youngest of survivors start to pass, it will become a challenge to keep the memory alive. The words that she mustered with her last breath, when it was difficult to get out words at all, were a simple dementia-induced statement and plea:
“I am just human being.” Online condolences may be made at
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Service Details

  • Service

    Sunday, March 8th, 2020 | 3:00pm
    Sunday, March 8th, 2020 3:00pm
    Sheehan-Hilborn-Breen Funeral Home
    1084 New Britain Avenue
    West Hartford, CT 06110
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Michele Merin-Campbell

Posted at 05:03pm
Danny ,
Sorry to learn of your moms death , it’s so hard to loose those we love . She was a loving and dedicated mother to you always making sure you came first . It was fun having you as my little brother when you both lived with our family arriving from Israel . Especially since neither of you spoke any English and we didn’t speak Hebrew or Polish Somehow we managed to communicate !
I hope the memories help you in this sad time .
Love ,
Michele and family


Posted at 08:32pm
I’m so sorry for your loss. May the God of all comfort help you during this difficult time. (2 Corinthians 1:3,4 & Psalms 83:18). Jesus prayed for God’s Kingdom to come because He knew it would be able to solve all mankind’s problems even death. (Revelation 21:4,5 & Daniel 2:44).


Posted at 11:10am
Hello. I am sad to hear Sophia Aferiat passed. May her family have strength and blessings. She was a dear patient of mine (I did eye surgeries on her(! We always talked (usually 30 minutes) about life, her son and grandson. We talked about the Holocaust so that memory will always live on. I loved her accent and it was a pleasure caring for her. She always showed appreciation. She often made me laugh. She will be missed. Don Salzberg MD

Nancy Bernstein

Posted at 12:42pm
I just read the obituary of Sophia in the Hartford Courant, and am very moved by the generosity of her family in sharing this with us. The world is indeed a better place if we can all take a moment to honor her memory, and everything she survived and accomplished. Blessings to her son, daughter-in-law and grandson. I am posting her story on my bulletin board at my office so others can read of her life. We are all just human beings.

Nancy Bernstein

Thomas Gugliotti

Posted at 07:54am
I did not have the privilege to know Sophia, and I am not acquainted with anyone in her family. Nevertheless, I cannot help but thank her family for sharing the wonderful story of Sophia's life. Her story, like others who have had to take the path she did, is a treasure that all should be aware of. She was no doubt a remarkable woman, whose faith and decency carried her through experiences that no one should ever have had to endure, and yet she made a beautiful life for herself and her family. Her story, her perseverance and achievements on her life's journey are an inspiration to all - even those, or especially those - who did not even have the joy of knowing her.
Tom Gugliotti

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