In the 1930s, Aleksander Kramarovskiy taught Mathematics in an orphanage on the outskirts of Moscow. He became especially attached to one of his students, Riva Reznikova, who excelled in her studies but was badly harassed by the other students because she was Jewish.
Riva, born in Gomel (Belorussia) in 1925, lost her mother when she was five years old, and was consequently sent to live with an uncle in Moscow. Since the uncle’s apartment was very crowded, he placed her in an orphanage. Kramarovskiy felt sorry for the young girl, who suffered from the antisemitic atmosphere, and wanted to adopt her, but his wife refused.
When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, the entire orphanage – staff and students – was evacuated to the region of the Don River, where they were put to work in the fields, replacing the men who had been drafted for military service. In 1942 the area was occupied by the Germans, and the murder of the Jews began.
Since everybody knew Riva was Jewish, Kramarovskiy felt it was too dangerous to stay, fearing that someone would denounce his protégé. The two secretly left the group and began wandering from place to place. Kramarovskiy gave Riva a wooden cross to wear around her neck, and told people she was his daughter, Margarita.
In the winter of 1942-3 they reached Novocherkassk in the Rostov district, and were taken with other locals for forced labor in Germany.
When the war ended, they were near the German-Austrian border, in a camp with many liberated forced laborers, awaiting their return to the Soviet Union. Soldiers in the Jewish Brigade, (volunteers from Eretz Israel who had joined the British Army) had arrived in the region and were going from place to place trying to find Jewish survivors. Riva, who for years had concealed her Jewish identity, did not want to come forward, but Kramarovskiy convinced her that she would have a better future if she did not return to the Soviet Union. Riva told her story to the Jewish soldiers, but refused to go with them unless her “father” joined her.
Riva and Kramarovskiy reached Israel in 1946. When Riva got married, Kramarovskiy lived with her and her family. In 1961 he was offered a job with a Russian-speaking journal in the United States and left Israel. He died in 1964.
On August 2, 2011, Yad Vashem recognized Aleksander Kramarovskiy as Righteous Among the Nations.