Fedora Vagun (Kontush)

Ukraine

Rescuer with her husband, the survivor, late 1940'sRescuer with her husband, the survivor, late 1940's

During the war, Fedora Kontush (later Vagun) lived with her parents and 3 younger brothers in the village of Zavadovka in the county of Volodarka, district of Kiev. Her two elder brothers were in the Red Army. From 1942 Fedora worked in a milk-products factory in the county capital, where she met a boy from outside the area doing odd jobs who introduced himself as Stepan.
Over time, Fedora and Stepan became friendly and one day Stepan admitted to Fedora that he was a Jew and that his real name was Binyamin Vagun. Early on in the war he had enlisted in the Red Army, was taken captive by the Germans, and escaped. Since then, he had been living under the name Stepan and due to his fluency in Ukrainian he had not aroused the suspicions of the authorities. However, he still lived each day in fear because he had no identity papers and so every routine document check could have tragic consequences for him. Stepan’s revelation did not deter Fedora from remaining friendly with him and furthermore she went out of her way to help raise his spirits. At one point, the two of them joined an anti-fascist underground group that was active in Volodarka. In early 1943 Vagun was arrested on suspicion of being connected to the partisans and when it emerged that he had no papers, he was taken to the Gestapo for interrogation. Fedora then helped Vagun to escape and she took him to her parents’ home in the village of Zavadovka and told them openly that Vagun was Jewish and that they had to hide him. Vagun stayed there until the liberation by the Red Army on December 31, 1943. Throughout this time, Fedora continued to take care of him, with the support of the rest of her family.

After the liberation Vagun returned to the army and fought until the end of the war.

In July 1945 he married Fedora. On February 3, 1997, Yad Vashem recognized Fedora Vagun (nee Kontush) as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

This online story was made possible with the support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.