Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the perilous danger that many civilians are facing, Yad Vashem staff have opened their hearts to those seeking shelter in Israel. Several employees have volunteered to host Ukrainian refugees – often complete strangers – providing them with a safe, warm and friendly environment to temporarily call home. The kindness has snowballed, and several of their friends have offered to host refugees as well, with Yad Vashem passing on their details to the relevant authorities. Care has been given to every detail, including dietary and medical needs. Many more staff members have donated food, clothing, money and other much needed supplies.
What makes their acts even more moving is that several of the refugees who have arrived are descendants of individuals recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. These special families have already been assisted by Yad Vashem in partnership with other organizations to navigate the application process and find shelter in Israel.
Thirty-four-year-old Miroslava Katruk is one of the recipients of Yad Vashem’s rescue initiative. This past September, Yad Vashem posthumously honored her great-grandmother Yelena Grinchik as Righteous Among the Nations for rescuing the Jewish Warmflash family in the village of Tsibulovka in southern Ukraine. Now the tables have turned, and Miroslova and her two children, five-year-old Alexander and three-year-old Anastasia, have been rescued from mortal danger in war-torn Ukraine, with the help of Yad Vashem and are now temporarily living in a hotel in Netanya. “The children do not fully understand what is occurring," says Miroslova. "It was very difficult for them when their world was turned upside down by the war. Perhaps now that we are in a safe place, we can rest for a while. I hope the hostilities will end quickly, and that we will return to our family and lives very soon.”
Alla Misiuk and her daughter Liza also arrived in Israel with the assistance of Yad Vashem and are now graciously being hosted by Katya Gusarov, a veteran researcher in Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations Department. At only twelve years old, the emotional scars of Liza's recent experience are already clear. “I may look the same on the outside," she notes, "but my character has changed. I'm ready for war at all times.”
Alla and Liza finding shelter in Israel is especially meaningful as during the Holocaust, Alla’s great-grandparents, Ivan and Tatiana Peremot sheltered Viktor Rudnik, a young Jewish Red Army soldier who escaped from a POW camp, while German soldiers were actually staying in their home. The couple was honored as Righteous Among the Nations in 1998. Katya and Alla were previously in contact when Alla was pursuing research about her family. Once Katya heard that Alla and her daughter were in danger and looking for a way to escape Ukraine, she decided to offer shelter in Israel.
“I invited them out of empathy for a woman and girl who escaped a bombed-out city, leaving behind their husband and father," explains Katya, echoing what so many Righteous individuals related about their motivations behind their wartime rescue activities. "I thought the best thing I could do for them was to welcome them to my home, and that is what I did.”