Aram and Felicia Taschdjian
When her sister-in-law asked her to help Valentin Skidelsky, whom she had met in a student association, Felicia Taschdjian never imagined that this would end in three years of illegality and danger. What began with providing moral support and connections, turned into giving temporary shelter for a fortnight, and finally became the hiding – day after day for three years – of a persecuted Jew.
Velentin Skidelsky was born in 1901 in Tiflis, Georgia. He was a historian and resided in Vienna where he published a book about the Russian Revolution in 1938. Following the Anschluss – the incorporation of Austria into Germany – he was conscripted by the Nazis authorities to do forced labor. He also had to leave his flat and move to another flat, in which Jews were crowded together. In April 1942 he was taken, with all the occupants of that flat, and put on a train to a concentration camp in the east. Skidelsky managed to escape from the deportation train and got in touch with Felicia Taschdjian, whom he knew before the war. Her sister-in-law had met Skidelsky in an Armenian-Russian Student Association in Vienna and when she moved to Italy, introduced Skidelsky to her brother and sister-in-law.
Felicia Taschdjian arranged for Skidelsky to be smuggled out of the country into Hungary, which was still relatively safe for Jews. Until his departure, Felicia Taschdjian and her husband Aram – a humanitarian and a member of the Freemasons - hid Skidelsky in their home. What was planned as a temporary refuge became a permanent arrangement. Skidelsky felt unfit for the dangerous journey to Hungary and instead he remained in hiding at the apartment of the Taschdjian couple in Vienna until the end of the war.
Hiding a Jew was a crime that could have led to deportation to a concentration camp. In this case the couple took an even greater risk since they had an eight-year-old daughter and there was great fear that she might tell her friends about the man living in their apartment. Fortunately the little girl abided by her parents’ warning and she obligingly kept the secret.
The family shared with Skidelsky their meager food and clothing during a period of rationing and scarcity. One evening, the head of the local Nazi branch came to the apartment to check a complaint about inadequate blackout measures. Skidelsky was sitting in the living room, but luckily the Nazi thought that he was a guest, and did not inquire about his identity.
After the war Skidelsky remained in Austria, married and had three children. He remained in contact with his rescuers. Aram Taschdjian passed away in 1976.
On December 25, 1992, Yad Vashem recognized Aram and Felicia Taschdjian as Righteous Among the Nations.
Yad Vashem would like to thank Ilja Egmont Georg Skidelsky for providing additional materials and background for this story.