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Yad Vashem to Posthumously Honor Yelena Grinchik from Ukraine as Righteous Among the Nations

29 September 2021

Tomorrow, 30 September 2021, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, will host a ceremony honoring the late Yelena Grinchik from Ukraine as Righteous Among the Nations.

Honored attendees will include Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel H.E. Mr. Yevgen Korniychuk; Chairman of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan; Galina Grinchik, granddaughter of Yelena Grinchik; and Bruria Lev, daughter of the late Holocaust survivor Yokhanan Warmflash, one of the Jews rescued by Grinchik. The ceremony will commence in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:00, led by Righteous Among the Nations Department Director Dr. Joel Zisenwine in Hebrew and the Department's Katya Gusarov in Russian. Following a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, which will include  rekindling of the eternal flame by Galina Grinchik, the delegation will proceed to the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. There, Dani Dayan and Dr. Joel Zisenwine will present Galina Grinchik with the certificate and medal honoring the selfless actions of her grandmother, and Yelena’s name will be unveiled on the Wall of Honor.

Media interested in covering this event should contact simmy.allen@yadvashem.org.il, and arrive on Thursday by 10:30 with a valid GPO card at the Hall of Remembrance.


The Rescue Story

Born and raised in the village of Tsibulovka in southern Ukraine, Yelena Grinchik was 28 years old when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Like most other residents of the village, Grinchik worked in the local kolkhoz and was paid in agricultural products, which she used to support her two daughters, Yevgeniya and Tatyana, and her visually impaired mother, Olyta.

At the end of the fall of 1941, the Germans and their Romanian allies established a concentration camp in Tsibulovka for Jews deported from Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. The native Jews of the town had already been murdered. Over 2,400 men, women and children were incarcerated in the camp. In the winter of 1941/1942, a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp. There were no doctors or medications in the camp, and prisoners froze in the harsh winds. Ultimately, over 2,000 prisoners died in the epidemic.

Reiza Warmflash and her son Yakov were among those who caught typhus. They and their family had been marched to the camp from their hometown of Zastavna, Bukovina. After their father perished from hypothermia, Yokhanan and Shmuel, Reiza's two other sons, managed to sneak their mother and brother out of the camp. Reiza and Yakov were hidden in a local farmer’s barn to protect them from the elements. The barn owner silently agreed, but eventually changed his mind and ordered them to leave. His neighbor, Yelena Grinchik, came to the Warmflashes' aid, and allowed them into her home.

Despite barely making ends meet to provide for her own family, Yelena fed Reiza, Yakov and Shmuel – who had meanwhile joined his mother and brother – with food mostly consisting of grains and vegetables that she and Shmuel begged off of other villagers. The warm food and shelter were crucial to Yakov and Reiza’s recovery. After his employer dismissed him, Yokhanan also joined his family members in Grinchik's home. His feet were badly frostbitten, but Grinchik managed to cure him through her knowledge of folk medicine combined with the help of her Russian stove. She performed all of these life-saving actions knowing that she risked severe and possibly lethal punishment if she were to have been caught.

In the spring 1942, the Jewish family returned to the camp and remained there, performing harsh labor, for two years until their liberation by Soviet forces in March 1944. They then returned to their hometown. Yokhanan and Yakov were conscripted into the Red Army, where Yakov was killed at the age of 21. In 1947, Reiza, Shmuel and Yokhanan immigrated to the Land of Israel. Almost 70 years later, descendants of the Warmflash survivors travelled to the village of Tsibulovka and met with Yelena's granddaughter, Galina.

On 30 May 2018, Yad Vashem recognized Yelena Grinchik as Righteous Among the Nations.

To date, Yad Vashem has recognized some 27,900 individuals from over 50 countries as Righteous Among the Nations.