World Jewish News
Zelensky tells Netanyahu about Ukrainian Jews saved during World War II
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several stories about Ukrainians who saved Jews during World War II, and about his own family that suffered from the Holocaust.
"I have some important stories that I would like to tell you, three stories about the Holocaust, about the Second World War," Zelensky said before starting a meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday.
The first story was about the Crimean Tatar Said Arifova, who saved 88 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine.
"They are not Jews. They are Karaites. She gave such testimonies under threat of execution to SS men about her neighbor, Volya Polyakova, and her father, Mordechai Zengin. The family of Moses Hovaylo, his wife and a small child, she hid in a village, near Bakhchisarai. She - the head of the kindergarten in the Nazi-occupied Crimea, hid the nationality of her students, said they were Crimean Tatars, gave them Tatar names, taught them the Crimean Tatar language and customs. The children received false documents and medical certificates. She is a Muslim woman by religion. She saved 88 Jews. Her name was Saide Arifova," Zelensky said.
The second story was told by the President of Ukraine to the Israeli Prime Minister about the priest of the Greek Catholic Church Оmelyan Kovch.
"His prison number is 2399. He, like the rest of the concentration camp inmates, was kept in terrible conditions. Up to 700 prisoners lived in the 14th barracks of the third sector of the camp. He refused early release," he said.
"'If I am not here, who will help these people overcome all their suffering? They will go to eternity with their sins, in deep gloom accompanying them to hell," he wrote in a letter to his six children who were waiting for him at home. He is a Ukrainian priest of the Greek Catholic Church. He saved the Jews by giving more 600 of them baptismal certificates. He was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp for this.
Zelensky emphasized the stories show that nationality, religion, age, gender, place of birth lose their meaning when "there is a good heart that moves you and total evil, against which you resist."
The president of Ukraine also told Netanyahu another story of his own family.
"Another story is about a family with four brothers. Three of them, as well as their parents and families, were victims of the Holocaust. They were shot by German invaders who invaded Ukraine. The fourth brother survived. He was at the front then. He returned alive. He went through World War II, contributing to the victory over Nazism and the hateful ideology. Two years after the war he had a son. And after 31 years he had a grandson. After 40 years, the grandson became president. Today he stands in front of you," Zelensky said.
Netanyahu thanked Zelensky for these stories and noted that they are very moving.
"These stories are about how non-Jews saved Jews, especially about your own family, about the struggle for life, for the sake of the future," Netanyahu said.