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Three Ceremonies Honoring Ukrainians as Righteous Among the Nations

18 November 2001

On Sunday, November 18th, 2001, Yad Vashem held three ceremonies honoring Ukrainians as Righteous Among the Nations.  Participating in the ceremonies were Chairman of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous, Justice Yaacov Maltz, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Mr. Avner Shalev, Director of the Department for the Righteous Among the Nations, Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, and the families of the Righteous and survivors.

The first ceremony was held in honor of the late Valentina Varnavina, who endangered herself to save the life of the young Jewish boy Yefim “Fima” Shtraim.  In July 1941, Valentina Varnavina met young mother Bluma Shtraim on a train fleeing eastwards with her two sons, Ilya aged nine and Yefim aged three.  The boys’ father had been drafted to the front, and the family were trying to escape their hometown of Zhitomir (Ukraine). During the journey the train was bombed, and Bluma killed. Valentina vowed to save the boys and grabbed them from the wreckage. In the chaos, Ilya was separated from his brother, and Valentina and Yefim returned to Zhitomir where she renamed him Valik. She presented him as her nephew to conceal his Jewish identity, and hid him in her house until liberation by the Soviet Army in 1943. After the liberation, Yefim was reunited with his brother, and in 1946, their father returned to reclaim his two sons. Yefim moved to Israel in the 1990’s, when he requested that Valentina be posthumously honored by Yad Vashem as Righeous Among the Nations. 

The second ceremony was held in honor of Valentina Maximeniuk and her daughter Tamara Bromberg, who risked their lives to save two Jewish families, the Yarmolinskys and the Ashkenazis, and another Jewess, Katia Kanyevska, in Odessa.  Tamara’s father was killed by the Germans immediately after the occupation of Odessa in October 1941, but this did not stop Tamara and her mother from endangering themselves to help Jews who had been incarcerated. The two of them made their way into ghettos and camps several times, and brought the abovementioned families food, clothes and medicines.  This sometimes involved traveling by train or walking many kilometers, and several times, they even had to bribe the guards. Valentina died in Odessa about 20 years ago. Tamara married a Jew, and they immigrated to Israel in the 1990’s.

In the third ceremony, the title of Righteous Among the Nations was awarded to Michal and Maria Radukhivski and their son Michal, who jeopardized their lives to save two Jewish boys, cousins Joseph and Shlomo Adler, the sole survivors of their family. While the Adler family was interned in a labor camp, Michal managed to bring them food. After the rest of the family was murdered in one of the Aktions, Joseph and Shlomo fled to the Radukhivskis, who hid them in one of their farm buildings by constructing a double wall. The entrance to the hiding place was via the roof, using a ladder. It should be noted that Maria’s brother was a collaborator with the Nazis, and had no idea that his sister was hiding Jews in her house. The two cousins remained hidden for almost a year, and after the war, Ukrainian hooligans murdered Michal, the father, for having helped Jews.