20 July 2005
A ceremony posthumously honoring five Righteous Among the Nations will take place at Yad Vashem tomorrow, July 21, 2005 at 11:30 a.m. The awards will be bestowed upon Yevgenia Morozova (Belarus), Stoicheva Stanka (Bulgaria), Feodor Melnik (Ukraine), and Steponas and Viktorija Zrelskis (Lithuania) and received by their next of kin.
The ceremony will be conducted in Hebrew and Russian, and will take place in the presence of some of the survivors, Sofa Kremen Grinshtein and Medi Hillel, and their families, as well as children or grandchildren of the rescuers. It will take place in the Education Center in the Valley of Communities, followed by the unveiling of the Righteous’ names in the Garden of the Righteous.
After the Germans occupied Minsk on June 24, 1941, Faina Levina and her children Misha, Sofia and Galina were transferred together with many Jews to the ghetto which was established in the city in August 1941. Faina was a professional opera singer and knew pianist Yevgenia Morozova before the war. After the ghetto was established Faina received food and clothing from Yevgenia, who occasionally would also host Faina’s daughters Sofia and Galina at her house. During the aktion in March 1942, Faina and her son Misha were killed, however Sofia and Galina escaped to Yevgenia’s house and hid there for a few weeks.
Yevgenia obtained forged documents for the two sisters (aged 10 and 15) and moved them to an orphanage in the city where she visited them and pretended they were her relatives. Once the sisters were stopped in the street by a policeman who suspected they were Jewish. They asked the policeman to go to Yevgenia’s house, and she convinced him that they were her cousins, and that they were not Jewish at all. This was especially dangerous since Sofia and Galina’s father had been a well known pediatrician in Minsk before the war and there was a strong possibility that the policeman could have been former patient. After liberation, the sisters maintained contact with Yevgenia and her children, and in the 1970’s they immigrated to the USA, where they still live today. Yevgenia’s son Michail Morozov will receive her award.
In Spring 1941 when Bulgaria was annexed to Nazi Germany, Bulgaria introduced discriminatory legislation against the Jews, including the “law of national protection” which designated new places where Jews were allowed to live in Bulgaria. Following the new law in the summer of 1942, Leah Farchi and her husband Jack were transferred from Sofia to the city of Pleven, and Jack was sent to forced labor. Leah, who was pregnant, was left alone and she decided to flee to the city of Gergoviste, where her father lived with his wife and children. Stanka Stoicheva was the landlord of the apartment where Leah’s father stayed, and she agreed to hide Leah in her house until after she gave birth. Stanka even made an improvised hiding place for Leah in an old stable in the courtyard, and cared for all her needs. This was particularly dangerous since Leah did not have an official permit to be in that area. At one point during the pregnancy, Leah’s life was in danger, but it wasn’t possible for her to go to hospital without the proper permit. Stanka, who was a midwife by profession took it upon herself to help Leah give birth with the basic means at her disposal, and thus she saved both the lives of Leah and the baby, Medi. After the birth, Leah and Medi remained in Stanka’s house and took care of all their needs. Anelia Andieva will receive her grandmother’s award.
When the city of Bar in Vinnitsa, East Ukraine, was conquered on July 16, Sofa Kremen and her parents were sent with the local Jews to the ghetto in the city. During the first aktion on 19 August 1942, the only ones who survived were professionals and their families. Sofa’s parents were killed in this aktion, but her uncle who was a professional worker claimed she was his daughter and managed to save her. In the beginning of October 1942, Sofa heard that a man by the name of Feodor Melnik was looking for survivors of the Kremen family, and when she met him he revealed that he knew her father and therefore wanted to help her. Melnik hid Sofa in the attic of his work place and after a few days he smuggled her to a village in Transnistria where his parents were living. Sofa remained in his parents’ house the whole night, and from there they moved her to the ghetto in Shargorod, which was under Romanian control. Sofa remained there until liberation in March 1944. Immediately after liberation Melnik was drafted into the Red Army and fell in battle in 1945. Later Sofa testified that Melnik also aided a Jewish family by the name of Krasnyanski. Melnik’s daughter Ludmila will receive his award.
Steponas and Viktorija Zrelskis
When Kovno, Lithuania was occupied by the Germans on June 23, 1941, Isaak and Pesia Katz were sent to the Kovno ghetto. In August 1943, the couple managed to escape from the ghetto to the house of family friends: Steponas and Viktorija Zrelskis, who lived with their three young children in the village of Tauralauskis in the region of Lapes.
The Zrelskis couple hid Isaak and Pesia in a bunker that they built especially for them under their granary. They padded the bunker with straw and put a wooden bed in it. The couple stayed in the bunker until liberation in August 1944, then they returned to Kovno where they remained until their immigration to Germany in 1971. Even after moving to Germany, the couple kept in touch with the Zrelskis family, visited their house often and helped them financially. The Zrelskis’ granddaughter Rita Skrockiene will receive her late grandparents’ award.
More information about the Righteous Among the Nations program is available here.