When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, ten-year-old Grigoriy Elper, of Minsk, was at a summer camp near the city. Although his parents managed to get out of the city, the attempt to evacuate the summer camp failed, and Grigoriy was interned in the Minsk ghetto together with his grandparents. In the fall of 1941, Grigoriy met Yevgeniya Yemelyanova, a Belorusian doctor who often furtively entered the ghetto to bring food to her Jewish friend, an acquaintance of Grigoriy’s grandmother. When Yevgeniya first saw Grigoriy, she noticed that he closely resembled her only son of the same age, who had disappeared in the confusion that marked the first days of the war. The likeness aroused her affection for the child, and she proposed his grandmother to hand Grigoriy over to her.
Shortly after the first Aktion in the ghetto, the boy moved to Yevgeniya’s home. She rescued the child at great risk to her own life, because over a long period, two German officers were billeted in her home. Nonetheless, thanks to the support Yevgeniya received from her parents, she succeeded in overcoming all the difficulties, and cared for Grigoriy with the true devotion of a mother until the end of the occupation. Even after Minsk was liberated and Grigoriy’s father found his son safe and sound, it was still hard for Yevgeniya to take leave of the child and he continued to live with her for another two months, until her own son was found.
On July 1, 1992, Yad Vashem recognized Yevgeniya Yemelyanova as Righteous Among the Nations.