The Tkuma Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies in Dnipropetrovsk contains a number of materials concerning “Righteous among the Nations”.
This honorary title is given to the people of different nations who rescued Jews during WWII, from 1939 to 1945. The procedure is monitored by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, a special committee established at the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.
Among the materials at Tkuma is the tremendous heroic story of Lidia Kotliarevska, who rescued Jews during the Nazi occupation of Dnipropetrovsk.
Lidia Kotliarevska had been involved in an underground organization and had worked as a nurse in German hospital.
She carried out her underground activity jointly with Boris Sondak, a Ukrainian Jew who she hid in her flat. Sondak was responsible for blowing up a bridge on the Dnipro River to halt the progress of the Nazis. In 1942 he and his comrades were arrested and executed.
During the Dnipropetrovsk occupation she also sheltered a Jewish family, Tatiana Rabovskaya and her sons Viktor and Nikolay. The older son cared for his younger brother and Lidia’s young daughter Aleksandra.
In November 2002 Yad Vashem notified Lidia Kotliarevska that she had received the honorary title of Righteous among the Nations for helping the Jewish nation during WWII.
Delivering the documents to the future Holocaust History Museum, Lidia Kotliarevska revealed a family history of saving Jews.
In 1912 her grandparents, Emeljan and Tatiana Khodosenko, rescued a Jewish family, the Leikins, from pogroms that were happening in Ekaterinoslav.
She said: “In 1912 my grandparents lived on Torgovaya Street in the same neighbourhood as a large Jewish family by the name of Leikins. When the pogroms began, Sara Leikina rushed into my grandmother’s house and begged for shelter for her family. My grandmother hid them in the cellar located under the kitchen. The Leikins family hid in the Khodosenko house until the pogroms ended and Black-Hundreds left the streets.”
The Black Hundreds was an early 20th century ultra-nationalist movement in Russia noted for extreme russocentric doctrines, xenophobia, rabid anti-semitism and incitement to pogroms.
The story didn’t end there. Lydia continued:
In December of 1941, an old man came to our house on Karl Marks Street. He was scared and trembling. When I gave him a cup of tea he broke down crying. He said to my mother in a low voice: “Elichka, your mother rescued my family when the Black-Hundreds were committing pogroms. The day before, police officers took away our documents and forbade us to go out.”
Lidia clearly recalls this visit. Unfortunately, nobody knows what happened to the man and his family.
Since she was living in occupied territory during World War 2, Lidia Kotliarevska set the task to rescue people, and did her best to fulfill it. But she suffered irreplaceable losses which will not be forgotten till the end of her life.
Her husband, Aleksandr Kotliarevskiy, was killed early in the war. Her father-in-law, Andrei Verivskiy, who had participated in an underground city organization, was hung by Nazis. Her mother, Elena, was tortured by the Gestapo when the Nazis learnt what Lidia was doing. After being tortured she was thrown into a ditch, but survived. Lidia’s school friend Esfir Padkina was gunned down together with her parents during a mass killing of Jews on October 13th and 14th, 1941 in the Botanical Garden … the same place her brother-in-underground, Boris Sondak, was later exterminated.
In spite of her horrible experience Lidia Kotliarevska does not bury her bitter memories. She keeps them alive to honour those who survived as well as those who perished.
You can find a photo of Lidia along with this brief biography at the Tkuma Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies website .
– Narrated by Volodymyr Valkov
Faina Petryakova Scientific Center
for Judaica and Jewish Art