Elena was born in Pisa, Italy in 1924. Elena was from a Jewish family. She had two sisters and a brother. After attending public school in Pisa, Elena and her family moved to Rome when she was 14 years old where she finished her education at home and then went to sewing school. In Rome, she and her sister went on to work at women’s clothing boutiques. They also started their own sewing business when Elena was 17 years old. Interestingly, Elena’s family members were part of the Fascist party before 1938 due to the party’s claims of progressivism.
In late 1943 Elena and her family, with hardly any money, were forced by the Nazis to abandon their home. Elena hid with various friends after a convent refused to take her. Eventually Elena had to live on the streets due to advances from one of her protectors, an important fascist figure. Elena’s uncles were killed by the Nazis after imprisoning them. Before her maternal grandmother (also jailed by the Nazis) was taken to Auschwitz, Elena heard her say to her captors, “I am proud of my race.”
In September 1945, after the Americans helped liberate Italy, Elena met an American soldier named Aaron Rosner at a temple service. They married in February 1946 and moved to the United States. They had three children together, and he passed away years later. Her second husband was Dr. Louis Fink.