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A Note to a Christian Family

Andrey and Anastasiya Cheremukha and their family (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Andrey and Anastasiya Cheremukha

The humble Baptist family on the small Ukrainian farm was surprised to receive a note from Haya Tessler, a member of a Jewish grain merchant family they knew. It was September of 1942, and Andrey and Anastasiya Cheremukha read the letter requesting their help.

Haya Tessler was writing to the Cheremukha family looking for a way to escape the ghetto in which she was living. Many of her relatives had not even been that fortunate. Haya's parents and husband had been murdered by the Nazis that May, and now the Germans planned on killing the few Jews who remained in the area. Haya, her 13-year-old brother Israel, and her 9-year-old nephew Mordecai needed a way out of the ghetto. Fortunately, the Cheremukha family was ready to help.

One night, Anastasiya and her oldest son Valentin drove the family's horse-drawn cart to the ghetto in Mezhirich. There they found Haya and the two boys in hiding. Disguising the three Jews as Ukrainian peasants, the Cheremukhas squirreled them away to their farm.

A small hiding place had already been prepared beneath the farmhouse floor, near the woodstove. And for nine months, the three young Jews stayed in this hole in the ground, only coming out at night to stretch their cramped arms and legs. While they hid, Haya and the boys knitted goods, which the Cheremukhas then traded for food. But even in the subterranean spot, the Jews were not safe. Fearing discovery from the ever-vigilant Nazis, they were moved to one of the family's granaries out in a field. And after a while in the granary, Haya and her young relatives left the farm and joined the anti-German partisans who hid in the forest.

In January of 1944, Andrey Cheremukha joined the partisans in their fight against the nationalists. On December 3 of that year, he was killed. His family was forced to flee. The three Tessler family members also fled, immigrating to Canada. In the 1960s, Mordecai made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. And in 1990, when Yad Vashem recognized Andrey, Anastasiya, and their son as Righteous Among the Nations, Mordecai hosted the surviving member of the family who saved his life, Valentin, at his home in the Holy Land.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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