Back in my schooldays, my friend Chaya and I often spent entire Sunday afternoons at the Jewish nursing home in Milan, Italy, where we lived.

We made many friends there, like the elderly gentleman who spoke to us in Yiddish with a twinkle in his eye. He entertained us with a litany of jokes each time we visited. We only understood about half, but we enjoyed his company nonetheless. A young Israeli was often at his side, volunteering during his free time. He would feed our friend while we kept him company.

I was thirteen at the time and I remember the Italian nurses, always busy running to and fro, but making sure to be gentle with the elderly residents. There was a small dining room where the more self-sufficient residents could have dinner and watch television. One of the residents – a little old man - was always looking out for a particular woman, instructing the nurses to put more food on her plate.

At the time, we came to know most of the residents. We knew their history, their quirks and even some of their families. But years have gone by, I moved away, and sadly I have forgotten most of them.

Signora Vinograd though, I cannot forget.

She had a private room, which I now realize was a privilege she must have paid for. Entering that room was like leaving the nursing home. Expensive area rugs covered the floor, and the room was littered with collectible trinkets and sheets of music. A round wooden table was covered with hard-cover books about Hitler, the Warsaw ghetto and Auschwitz. I wondered why she had them. Did she read them? Did she buy them so that visitors would be able to know what she had been through without her having to say a word?

She never spoke to us about her past, but we knew that she had been in a ghetto in Poland and survived a concentration camp. We only knew because she had told my friend's mother, who had given us the bare details so that we could understand what lay behind Signora Vinograd's piercing eyes and nervous gestures.

Signora Vinograd was tall and wiry, and we were always slightly scared of her. One wrong word could easily anger her. She took education very seriously, often quizzing us on our studies.

On one occasion we brought along a third friend, Z, who had a distinctively Slavic look and was not as thin as we were. Signora Vinograd hugged her tightly and stared at her for a while with tears in her eyes. She said Z reminded her of her own home in Poland, back in the good days before the war started. She instructed us to eat bread, lots of bread. “You don’t know what it means to be hungry,” she said. “Bread is important.”

Before I graduated, I returned to the home to interview two Holocaust survivors for an assignment. I didn’t even try to speak to Signora Vinograd about her experiences; I knew she would refuse.

But I knew, with the absolute certainty of a teenager, that hers would have been the most interesting story of all.