Ukrainian Jews Commemorate Holocaust Victims

Friday, June 25, 2004

DONETSK, Ukraine - Sixty-three years after World War Two spread to involve the Soviet Union, members of the Donetsk Jewish community gathered near the "Wailing Wall", which was erected in the village of Zatishye one year ago. There, local Jews paid tribute to those who were killed by Nazis simply for being Jewish.

Here lie entire Jewish families, including 22 members of the Temnik family, nine from the Kaplanov family, five from the Permanov family, as well as many other women, elderly and children, who were brutally executed during the occupation by the Nazis.

Today, there are no Jews living in Zatishye, but the memory of those who lived and died here still remains. The memorial ceremony, held to commemorate the day that Hitler's troops invaded Soviet territory in 1941, began with a sad poem by Donetsk poet Marina Zakharovich.

Also attending the ceremony was the Head of the local Department on Internal Affairs, who spoke to participants in the gathering. In his speech, he emphasized the inhumane nature of what had happened here during the war.

Ivan Samoilenko, a Jewish World War Two veteran and the Secretary of the editorial staff for the "Book of Memory in Volnovakhsky Region", spoke about some of the devastating evidences cited by his colleagues, who witnessed the shooting and death of 73 Jews who were not able to escape, as well as other evil deeds performed by the Nazis.

Nearby, there is also evidence of the mass execution of dozens of Jews, found in a mass grave in the village of Volnovakh, their houses and farms having been razed to the ground at that time. The Nazis destroyed even the most holy places - cemeteries - to erase any indication that Jews had ever lived here.

The rain that fell during the rally symbolized the tears for the victims of Zatishye. "Our brothers and sisters, killed just for being Jews, are lying in this grave", said Donetsk Jewish community Chairman Yehuda Kelerman. "Thankfully, the ideology of humanism triumphed over Nazi ideology".

Yehuda Kelerman then said a prayer in memory of the sixmillion Jewish victims to the Holocaust. Community members and member of the 'Ukraine Israel Society', as well as an extraordinarily large number of local youth joined him.

The Jewish elders, who took part in the gathering, included natives of Zatishye. Having managed to escape the Nazis, they were very glad to see their native land once again after these horrifying events. Many came to commemorate their relatives lying in the mass grave at Zatishye.

One of the old women, Marfa Tzygankova, came up to the Wailing Wall, saying through her tears, "I remember everything". She was subsequently named as one of the Righteous of the World, having saved two Jewish girls - Liza and Olga Izraelit - by hiding them in her cellar. The woman didn't even know about the existence of the title of the 'Righteous of the World' until they honored her efforts.

Now, the two girls live in Donetsk and looking forward to once again meeting the woman who saved them so many years ago.