24 May 2022
Tomorrow, 25 May 2022, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, will host a ceremony posthumously honoring Kondratiy and Anna Lakotko of Belarus as Righteous Among the Nations. The couple risked their lives to save six Jews during WWII. Their youngest son, Panteley Lakotko, will attend the ceremony and accept the medal and certificate on behalf of his late parents. Also, in attendance will be Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan; Belorussian Ambassador to Israel H.E. Mr. Evgeny Vorobyev; Natalia Luksha, the daughter of Panteley Lakotko and granddaughter of the Righteous Among the Nations; Orit Tatarsky, the granddaughter of survivor Kalman Kotzer, who was rescued by the Lakotkos; members of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations; and relatives and friends of the survivors’ families. Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan and Dr. Joel Zisenwine, Director of Yad Vashem's Department of the Righteous Among the Nations, will present the medal and certificate to Panteley Lakotko on behalf of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
A memorial ceremony will be held in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:00, followed by the awarding of the medal and certificate and the unveiling of Kondratiy and Anna Lakotkos’ names on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance. Addresses will be given by Ambassador Vorobyev, Dani Dayan, Panteley Lakotko and Orit Tatarsky.
The ceremony will be conducted in Hebrew with simultaneous translation into Russian. Media interested in covering the event must RSVP in advance to the Communications Division and arrive at the Hall of Remembrance with a valid GPO Card by 11:00.
The Rescue Story
Kondratiy and Anna Lakotko knew each other from childhood: Both were born and raised in the same village of Papkov-Lug, Belarus, and both came from farming families and were used to hard physical labor. Kondratiy was uneducated, while Anna had finished four years of the local parish school. As a couple, they worked on their own land; after the annexation of Eastern Poland by the USSR, the Lakotkos had no choice but to join a collective farm (kolkhoz).
In July 1942, two young Jewish men, cousins Kalman and Shimon Kotzer, were introduced to Kondratiy by a neighbor, Foma Borok. They had been hiding in forests and fields after escaping from the ghetto in Miory on the eve of its liquidation. The escapees related that there were more Jews living in the forest; some of them had even built an improvised camp on an island in the forest swamps. In order to survive, however, they needed help with food and other necessities from their non-Jewish neighbors. The Lakotkos were among the few who agreed to share their supplies with the forest-dwelling refugees.
Around the same time, the Lakotkos also hid four Jews – Icchak Aron and his sister Gitl, and their cousins Shmuel and Reizl Engel – in their stables. One day, a group of Germans and local police were spotted approaching the Lakotkos' farm. Seeing that there was no time for the Jews to flee, Kondratiy took an axe, ready to fight for the lives of his wards. Luckily, the group passed by without entering the farm's premises.
As winter drew in, the cold and rain forced the Jews out of the forest in search of a warmer hideout. After being rejected by the local partisans, Kalman and Shimon came to the Lakotkos. Kondratiy and Anna received them warmly, and placed the Kotzer cousins in a cellar where potatoes, cabbages and beet were stored. Thanks to a small sum of money the Kotzers had managed to keep, the Lakotkos could buy flour to bake bread, which kept the Lakotkos, their two young sons, and all the Jews hiding at the farm, alive through the winter.
In 1943, the Kotzer cousins, as well as the Arons and the Engels, joined the partisan unit led by Vasiliy Sazykin, and fought the Germans until the area was liberated by the Soviet army in the summer of 1944. After the war, the Arons, Engels and Kotzers moved to Israel and the United States. Long after the generation of the rescuers and the survivors passed away, Kalman Kotzer's daughter, Bluma Reich, managed to find the Lakotkos' youngest son, Panteley Lakotko, and invited him to visit her in Israel.
On 17 December 2019, Yad Vashem recognized Kondratiy and Anna Lakotko as Righteous Among the Nations.
To date, Yad Vashem has recognized some 29,000 Righteous Among the Nations from over 50 nations worldwide. For more information about the Righteous Among the Nations program, click here.
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Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was established in 1953.
Located in Jerusalem, it is dedicated to Holocaust remembrance, documentation, research and education.