Iosip Kogan was born in Starokonstantinov, Volhynia, in 1920. After graduating from high school he wanted to study at the pedagogical institute, but because of the outbreak of the Second World War, he was drafted into the Red Army. By June 1941, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, he had risen to the rank of an officer and was stationed in Moscow. His unit was to be deployed at the front and Iosip and his soldiers were waiting for their train at the railway station of Moscow. While waiting, Iosip began a conversation with another officer, a military physician of Armenian origin by the name of Harutyun Khachatryan. This accidental meeting was to be crucial to Iosip’s survival.
Khachatryan thought at first that Iosip too was Armenian, but Iosip told him that he was Jewish. The two parted, not knowing that their paths would soon cross again.
The train carrying Iosip and his soldiers was bombed and by the time his unit reached Velikiye Luki (in Russia), battles were raging in the area. Kogan was wounded on August 22, 1941, and after lying for two days in the battlefield, was taken prisoner by the Germans. His leg was badly wounded and infected, and his condition soon deteriorated making him unable to move. It was in this desperate situation that Dr. Khachatryan, who was in the same POW camp, found him. The doctor not only treated his wounds, but seeing that the Germans were separating the Jewish POWs from the others, took Iosip’s papers and changed his name to Michail Markosyan. He even taught Iosip some basic words in Armenian, thus saving him from being killed with the other Jews. Khachatryan continued to care for Iosip, providing food and protection when they were moved from one camp to another. In March 1942, they were moved to Borisov (today Barysaw in Belarus) where Iosip and Khachatryan joined a resistance cell in the camp that was headed by one of Khachatryan’s acquaintances. In August 1942, when the Armenian prisoners were taken to another camp, Khachatryan made sure that Iosip was included in the group. The Germans wanted to recruit the Armenians to fight with them against the Soviets, and had all prisoners undergo a medical examination. Fearing that the physicians would realize that Iosip was circumcised, Khachatryan arranged for Iosip to change places with another prisoner, thus saving his life once again.
In February 1943, rumors spread in the camp that a Jew was hiding among the prisoners. Not wanting to take the risk of being discovered, Iosip escaped and managed to join a partisan group. In August 1944 the area was liberated and Iosip and his comrades joined the Red Army. By the time the war ended, Iosip’s unit had reached Prague.
In the years after the war, Iosip never forgot his rescuer and wrote down the story of his survival, but he was able to find the good doctor only shortly before Khachatryan’s death. In 2012 Kogan’s memoir was sent to Yad Vashem, and on April 2, 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Harutyun Khachatryan as Righteous Among the Nations. On February 4, 2014, a ceremony in his honor was held in Yerevan, and Israel’s ambassador to Armenia, Shmuel Meirom, gave the medal and certificate of honor to Khachatryan’s granddaughter, Anna Khachatryan, a famous Armenian singer.