100-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor From Florida Throws First Pitch For Tampa Bay Rays
Helen Kahan had never thrown a baseball when she learned she would be throwing the ceremonial pitch.
Holocaust survivor Helen Kahan celebrated her 100th birthday by throwing out the first pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays last week. The centenarian took the mound at Tropicana Field before the hometown team faced off against the New York Yankees on Friday evening.
Kahan was given the honor to mark a partnership between the Rays and The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, where she has volunteered for years.
As she prepared to throw a baseball for the first time in her life at 100 years old, Kahan told ABC Action News that she feels great.
"First of all, I'm alive and I'm here," she said.
Born in Romania in 1923, Kahan was 21 years old when she and her entire family were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. She was transferred to Bergen-Belsen, then Lippstadt before being sent on a death march. Kahan escaped the Nazis in Oschatz, Germany, where she was liberated by Soviet forces. She spent the following year in various hospitals and nursing homes before making her way back to Romania in the hopes of reuniting with her family. Sadly, her parents and most of her family members were killed.
"I lost a lot of people that were my relatives, including my parents. My sisters, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, everybody was killed in the Holocaust," Kahan told ABC Action News.
Kahan later married and emigrated to the United States with her husband and two children in 1967. She has lived in Seminole since 1986 and has more than a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Many of them traveled across the country to be present at Tropicana Field on Friday.
Kahan told Spectrum News that she practiced her pitch before her big league debut.
“The more I do, I practice here, the more I’m better,” she said. “I’m not so old. I did not have time to do it (throw a pitch), but now I’m doing it. And they’re very good players. And I love them."
Kahan acknowledged that her story is sad, but it is also one of perseverance and hope.
“My secret to living long? “My God,” she told Spectrum News.
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