Righteous Gentiles: The Krivoruka Family

Submitted by Florence Rodman Klevit

                                                                            Righteous Gentile Family of Shtetl Janów

At enormous risk to their own lives, during the Holocaust “Righteous Gentiles” managed to hide, protect and save the lives of many Jews throughout Eastern Europe.  These Jews would have otherwise met certain death by the Nazis.  The history of our family’s ancestral shtetl would not be complete without the story of one such heroic Gentile family.

While researching our family roots, I found and was able to have translated a history of our home shtetl from the Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume II, Pinkas Hakehillot for Yanov (Dolina/Ukraine).  There I found specific mention of Vladik Krivoruka, a poor Ukrainian farmer who saved 13 Jews from Yanov.  At a family gathering in the late 1970’s I was privileged to meet Ruth (Rachela) Charlap Ryles (formerly Pohoryles). I vividly recall her telling me the details of how Julka Krivoruka, the incredibly courageous 11 year old son of Vladik, enabled Ruth and her husband Norman (Namush) Ryles (formerly Pohoryles) to escape death by the Nazis.  That story is preserved in a 30 page family history entitled “A Thousand Miracles.”  It was written in March 1995 as a junior high school class project by Jonathan Goldstein, the grandson of Ruth Ryles.  Jonathan is the son of Dr. Charles and Sharon Goldstein of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.

 One of the “miracles” in Jonathan’s family history is about the bunker built in the basement of a “good Christian’s home.”   It was there that Ruth and Norman were hiding and protected during the war by the Krivoruka family.

 Jonathan Writes:        

 “At all times someone was in the attic [of the house] looking out through the roof for the Nazis.  An eleven year old boy took a special liking to Ruth and saw to it that all of her needs were taken care of. 

“One night the Jew on lookout was taking a smoke-break in the middle of a snowy night.  He assumed that the Nazis would not come on such a night, but the Nazis had many tricks up their sleeves.  Norman woke up and saw that there was no one on the lookout for the Nazis, so he quickly looked out the window.  He saw the Nazis approaching the house.  Norman woke everyone up and got them safely to the bunker. An old man was ready to give up life and refused to go, so Norman carried him to the bunker.  If he did not go the Nazis would have killed the righteous Gentiles as well as all the Jews upon finding him.  The bunker was covered by a box, and then potatoes were poured over it so there was no trace. 

“Apparently the Nazis lost a gun in the snow and spent a long time trying to find it, which gave the Jews time to hide.  Once they found it, they came in and searched the house.  Everything looked normal, but they were suspicious. They questioned everyone in the family.  They were especially hard on the 11 year old, but he looked them straight in the eye with a gun to his head and said that there were no Jews there.  The Nazis turned him around and threatened to shoot him, and he still said that there were no Jews there.  They asked him where the bunker was, and he asked what a bunker was.  Frustrated, a Nazi shot into the air and had the entire house searched thoroughly.  Then they gave up.  This was the last encounter with the Nazis.

“On March 19, 1944 the Russians came through Yanov, and it was the happiest day of every Jew’s life—[that is for] all those who were still alive in Yanov.  The same hardships as the first time the Russians had control came back, but it was wonderful.”   

Sharon Goldstein, Jonathan’s mother, told me that after her parents arrived in the United States they remained in regular and generous contact with the Krivoruka family.  In 1984 Ruth, then a widow, travelled to Russia to meet with Vladik’s son, Julka, and his wife Maria.  The attached photo was taken in Moscow’s Red Square during that visit. In addition to JULKA and MARIA KRIVORUKA the others in the photo are Ruth Charap (Pohoryles) Ryles and members of her family who also managed to survive the war years. 

On our Janow/Yanov website there is a travelogue of cousin Regina Kornblau Korngut’s visit to Yanov on October 6, 2003 which includes the following touching report (written by daughter Carol Korngut Herman) of Reggie and Carol’s meeting with widow Maria:

 “Monday, October 6, 2003 – [Our guide, Alex Dunai] helped us find Maria [Krivoruka], who was embarrassed to see us in her home, but insisted upon spending time with us on the road outside.  She confirmed the whole story of her husband’s family hiding the Jews, and told us also of the wonderful reunion 15 (sic.)  years earlier in Moscow when her husband and Ruth saw each other again after all those years.  She was very proud of her husband and was only sad that his name was never included in the Israeli memorial that was erected to honor all of the Christians who helped save Jews in Eastern Europe.  Apparently, the final paper work never came from Ruth in America, or got lost somewhere – maybe there is still a way for someone to straighten that out.  In any event, she was so thrilled to see us, and gave us her address as well as her daughter’s address in case Sharon Goldstein, Ruth’s daughter, wants to write to her.  Maria wished us well.  


Additional comments from Florence Rodman Klevit:  Ruth and Norman (Namush) Pohoryles [later changed to Ryles], now both deceased, were Yanov friends of our family.   They were 2 of the 13 Jews who were protected and saved during the Holocaust in the home of a righteous Gentile, Vladik Krivoruka, a poor Ukrainian farmer. 

In June of 1984 Ruth, then a widow, travelled to Russia to meet with Vladik's son, Julka, and his wife, Maria.  The photo below was taken in Moscow's Red Square during that visit.


Reading from left to right: Julka Krivoruka, Yevgeniya Vaysman, Ruth Charap (Pohoryles) Ryles, Juliya Shapiro Morton, Maria Krivoruka, Lyuda Shapiro




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