Mariya Podolyan and her mother – Sofya Shapapolova
Mariya Podolyan lived in the city of Kirovograd with her younger sister Valya. Valya had a school friend called Mariya Tishkovskaya, a Jewish girl whose family lived in the same building as the Podolyan sisters. When the war broke out and the Germans were approaching Kirovograd, Podolyan sent her younger sister to relatives in a village. On August 4, 1941, the Germans invaded Kirovograd and, on September 30, they ordered all the Jews to gather at a specific assembly point.
That night, an unknown policeman came to Podolyan’s home and told her that her sister was at the local police station and that she should come and collect her. Podolyan went to the police station with Valya’s identity papers, but found Tishkovskaya there instead. When Tishkovskaya’s family had been sent to the death pits, she had claimed to be Ukrainian and that she was there by mistake. She gave the police Podolyan’s name and address, as if they were sisters, and Podolyan, who caught on immediately, gave Tishkovskaya Valya’s papers and took her home, as if she was her sibling. Tishkovskaya stayed with Podolyan for a few days before they began to suspect that their neighbors might inform on them and Podolyan decided to move Tishkovskaya to a safer place. Hidden in her cart under a haystack, Podolyan took Tishkovskaya to the town of Dniprodzerzhinsk, where her mother, Sofya Shapovalova, lived. Shapovalova knew Tishkovskaya and her family and she was horrified when she heard about the fate that had befallen them and the Jews of Kirovograd. Shapovalova’s neighbors knew that she had two daughters and she simply pretended that Tishkovskaya was Valya.
However, Tishkovskaya’s non-Ukrainian identity was discovered and someone reported her to the police. Tishkovskaya and her “mother” were brought in for interrogation and they insisted that they were mother and daughter and that they both had pure Ukrainian blood flowing through their veins. They were soon released and Tishkovskaya stayed with Shapovalova until Kirovograd was liberated on January 8, 1944, and she returned home and reverted to using her real name. Tishkovskaya maintained a warm friendship with Shapovalova and Podolyan for many years thereafter and she never ceased referring to them as her “mother” and “sister.”
On May 14, 1996, Yad Vashem recognized Mariya Podolyan and her mother, Sofya Shapovalova, as Righteous Among the Nations.