Lives Lost: Virus silences angelic voice of WWII evacuee

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In this picture taken, April 26, 2020, a family album photograph showing Hannelore Fischer Cruz singing is placed on her piano at the house where she used to live in Braga, northern Portugal. Born amid the ruins of wartime Vienna, Hannelore Fischer was sent as a small child to Portugal where her flamboyant manner and outstanding soprano voice would later help her build a life far from her place of birth. She died of COVID-19 on March 25, 2020, after four days on a ventilator at Braga's hospital. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

LISBON – After Adolf Hitler annexed his native Austria and Allied bombs laid waste to Vienna, Hannelore Cruz traveled to Portugal without her parents as a refugee from hunger, cold and postwar deprivation. She arrived with a group of other children when she was 5 years old.

A Portuguese family raised her and she later married. Eventually, she could only speak a few words of German. She told people she was born in Vienna, but only went back to Austria a couple of times to visit.

Cruz, despite becoming completely Portuguese herself, nonetheless stood out in the country that adopted her, according to the oldest of her five grandchildren.

Her grandson lovingly describes her flamboyant style and vanity. His face lights up when he recalls an outstanding singing voice that “lent magic” to the weddings and church recitals where she performed.

“She had an angelic voice, an angelic voice,” José Miguel Cruz da Costa, 35, said of his grandmother. “It was an extraordinary thing.”

Cruz died of COVID-19 complications on March 25 at a hospital in the city of Braga. She was 76.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of stories remembering people who have died from coronavirus around the world.