Erini Kypreou, later Erini Varanga Kanelopoulos, was born on Milos Island in the Cyclades, located between mainland Greece and Crete. Her father was the island physician. At a young age, she married a merchant sea captain and moved to Alexandria, Egypt. She had a daughter Anna. In 1909, when Erini was seven months pregnant with her second daughter Pipina, her husband, 33, died of a heart attack in Constantinople, Turkey. Erini returned to Greece and Pipina was born there. On the advice of her two elder brothers, Erini put Pipina in the care of her married sister Marika Mavraki and placed Anna with nuns on the island of Siros. She then joined her brothers Anthony and Mimikos in Vienna, Austria. Anthony was completing his engineering studies and Mimikos was beginning medical training. Erini enrolled in school to become a midwife. Upon completion of her training, she returned to Athens and joined a gynecology and obstetrics practice where she worked with Dr. Stamoulis. When Anna was five, Erini and her two daughters moved in with her sister in Piraeus. Mimikos eventually replaced his father as the island physician on Milos. Anthony relocated to Lavrion and was chief engineer in the metallurgical mines.
Erini later moved back to Athens and became a well-known midwife. Among the babies she delivered were two sons born to Rebecca and Simos Kamhi. The family was Jewish and Simos had a textile importing business. The two families became friends, and Anna's two daughters often played with the Samhi's two boys. In September 1939, World War II began when Germany invaded Poland. In 1940, Greece went to war with Italy. Germany supported their ally Italy, and Greece was occupied by German troops. Jewish families became the targets of German persecution and they began deportations to Auschwitz concentration camp. Erini advised the Kamhi family to go into hiding to avoid being captured. She took them into her home, where her youngest daughter also lived, and hid them in the storage area of the house. The Germans seized the Kamhi home. Anna and Pipina joined the resistance movement, serving with Lella Karagiani. Working together, they smuggled the Kamhi family onto a British vessel, possibly a submarine, bound for Egypt from Anavissos, a coastal suburb of Athens. They managed to get to Palestine, where they stayed until the end of World War II.
Before leaving, Rebecca Kamhi pleaded with Erini to rescue her sister, Tilda, her family, and their elderly mother from their home in Thessaloniki, in northern Greece. Erini went to Thessaloniki via fishing boat to find the family and arrange for their safe transport to her home in Athens. She hid the family there, until she learned that the Germans had begun to observe her activities. To ensure their safety, she split the family up: one child and the grandmother were placed with a friend; Tilda was moved to Anna’s home; and Tilda’s husband and son were taken to Peloponisos, a village in southern Greece. Soon after, Erini was questioned by German soldiers. When she refused to answer her interrogators, she was severely beaten. The Germans raided the home of Anna’s former husband, where her young daughters Katie and Irene lived. But they could not tell the German where Anna was, as they had seen her only twice in two years. Erini also smuggled Jewish children on donkeys up through Thessaloniki. The children would pose as hers when they went through German checkpoints. Tilda, her mother, and grandmother were reunited before the war’s end. There was a family crisis when Tilda’s husband and son returned, as Tilda had fallen in love with a married Greek man. Rebecca was able to help the family reconcile and they then moved to Thessaloniki.
The war ended with Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945. Simos and his family reuturned to Greece. The Kamhis' sold their home on Agathepoleos Street and moved to Psychiko, where Simos reopened his business, now with his two sons. They maintained their friendship with Erini and her daughters. Erini died in 1974.