How Munich widow broke news to her children

By Jenni Frazer, August 9, 2012

Ilana Romano, widow of the weightlifter Yosef Romano, spoke in Hebrew of the agony of her loss in 1972.

She said: "We are gathered again in anxiety and agony to mark the 40th anniversary of the cruel tragedy at the Olympic village in Munich.

"This is the 10th Olympiad since 1972.

"On the night of September 5, a knock on my door informed me that my husband Yosef had been cruelly murdered at the Olympic Village.

"On September 7, after the funerals and the horrible sights, which are still burnt in my memory, I gathered together my little daughters, then aged 6, 4, and a year and half, to tell them what had happened in Munich and the fate of their father.

"I will never forget that moment when I hugged them, and I could see their lips trembling and their eyes welling up and one question in their mouth: Mom, will dad never come back?

"I answered, in tears: Correct.

"In that moment I promised my daughters, that the memory of their father and his friends will never be forgotten.

"Despite the difficulties, in the last 40 years, I did not break my promise. Indeed, the story of the murder of our loved ones is being told around the world and yet, our task is to continue to tell the story of what happened in Munich 1972, for the next generations.

"All of us, the families of the victims, have devoted ourselves to reminding the world of this tragedy.
For us, it is an open wound that never heals.

"The terrorists abused the Olympic platform and turned it into a sport arena of Olympic terror.
This was the opening salvo for international terrorism.
The dream of 11 athletes was severed, through no fault of their own, and they became the dead sons of the Olympic movement!

"The first rule of Ankie and I, only 26 years old at time of the tragedy, was to survive and to raise our young children who were left without their fathers.
"This is an unbearable burden. It is hard to describe what a lifelong burden it is.

"Unfortunately, this was not the only concern. We also had to fight for the obvious, to keep upholding the memory of our loved ones and preserving their heritage in the history of the Olympic movement.

"All we have asked, for the last 40 years, from the International Olympic Committee, is just to hold one minute of silence in honor and remembrance of the dead sons of the Olympic movement.

"Our beloved ones were athletes whose participation in the Munich Olympics was ended when they returned in coffins, with a sound of silence.

"The terrorists murdered the Olympic ideal and used the stage to spread terror around the world. At our last meeting with you last week, IOC President, we asked you if it had happened to any other nation would you have kept quiet? Your answer was: "a very difficult question."

"We were hurt and offended; one could feel the discrimination in the air.

"You got angry at us, because the civilized world was on our side and condemned your decision not to allow a moment of silence. You knew that we have cracked the walls of the Olympic Committee because of the other voices supporting us. As an attempt to clear your conscience, you said you might organize a memorial service in Lausanne.

"Let me remind you that the 11 victims were murdered in the Olympic Village in Munich, while billions of viewers and thousands of athletes from around the world saw what took place on Olympic land. On the same Olympic land we should remember them!

"How can it be that specifically you, who shared with us your memories as a young athlete in Munich 1972, that decided not to leave the Olympics, but to stay on at the Games and defeat terrorism - today, submitted to terror!
"You, Jacques Rogge, will be written down in the pages of history as a former athlete, who became a president, and violated the Olympic Charter calls for brotherhood, friendship and peace.

"Our requests to commemorate the victims have been rejected for 40 years for the following reasons:
That it is not yet the time; fear of political involvement; worst of all, that it was not registered in the protocol. Was it written in the protocol that our dear ones would return in coffins?

"Your way is the way of ignoring and denial.
Unfortunately, terrorism has become known to all and now also the Arab world suffers the brutal violence of terrorism.

"Remember, the very last breaths of our loved ones were taken under the five Olympic rings which are still bleeding.

"And you - the Israeli Olympic Committee, our partners in passing the legacy and memory of our loved ones, you
continue to produce and represent the best Olympic athletes in Israel which for us, the families, is a vivid, living and breathing memorial monument – Thank you.

"You the athletes move and inspire us time and again
Looking at you in the uniform of the Israeli delegation, Is a tremendous thrill for us.
We are looking at you as if we are looking for hope and we believe in you - our next generation.

"Go from strength to strength; fulfil your dreams and the dreams of the people of Israel.
Thanks to the Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, for his co-operation, to Minister Limor Livnat, for her
"courageous act and to all the members of the Israeli Knesset.

"A big thanks to the Jewish community, the Israeli Embassy in London and to all who arranged and took part in this moving evening. Thanks to the entire civilised world that supported the struggle and moved us deeply. We will remember and never forget!!!

Last updated: 10:54am, August 9 2012