Dear Stephen, James, Eddie and the entire Smith family,
I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of your wonderful mother/wife/ grandmother. I can do no better than to reiterate the many accolades she has received since her passing. Indeed there are not sufficient superlatives to describe the kind of woman she was: amazing, caring, remarkable, warm, loving, compassionate, extraordinary, generous, and truly unique.
I came to know Marina and the Smith family in 1997, when I visited Beth Shalom for the first time, shortly after the opening. I was drawn there because my mother was a Holocaust refugee who had lost many members of her family during that dreadful period in human history. Living locally at that period, I was able to visit many more times. Most importantly, I was introduced to Victoria Ancona Vincent, one of the Holocaust survivors who contributed to the Centre’s educational programme, with whom I developed a close but all too brief friendship.
As has been described by many others, I always received a warm welcome from Marina and her two amazing sons, and came to appreciate the incredible work they were doing in the field of Holocaust education. Like so many others, I was privileged to be invited to her ‘famous afternoon tea.’ Marina had a remarkable capacity to make everyone she encountered feel very special.
It is in reading these tributes (and yes, I have read them all) that I have learned for the first time, to my shame, of the extraordinary work Marina did for decades even before the opening of Beth Shalom. What is clear from these tributes is the time, energy, care and compassion she devoted, and continued to devote, to thousands of individuals, making each and every one of them feel special and loved, some of these relationships going back almost 50 years.
It is in this context of all the exceptional and life-long work Marina did to make the world a better place (needed now more than ever) that I realise just how privileged I am to have known her.
May she rest in eternal peace and may her legacy live on forever.
My sincere condolences to the entire Smith family and my thanks to them for having shared Marina with us.
Susan Soyinka and family.