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Her Teacher and 'Father'

Aleksander Kramarovskiy (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Aleksander Kramarovskiy

Life: 1900-1964

Why you should know him: A Russian schoolteacher, Aleksander Kramarovskiy posed as the father of one of his Jewish pupils, saving her life during the Holocaust.

A young Russian schoolteacher in the 1930, Aleksander Kramarovskiy taught math at an orphanage outside Moscow. One of his favorite students, Riva Reznikova, was excellent at mathematics, but was harassed by the other children because of her Jewish faith. Riva's mother died when she was five, and her uncle in Moscow was not able to care for the small girl, so he placed her in the orphanage. Mr. Kramarovskiy felt bad for Riva, and wanted to adopt her, but his wife would not allow it.

When the Nazis attacked in 1941, all of the staff and students of the orphanage were forced to flee - and then forced to work in the fields. The next year, the Nazis began to murder the Jews.

Everyone knew Riva was Jewish, and Aleksander realized her life was in danger. He left with the girl, wandering from place to place. Riva wore a wooden cross around her neck, and Aleksander told people she was his daughter, Margarita.

During the winter of 1942-1943, the two were taken to a forced labor camp, where they remained for the rest of the war. When the laborers were liberated, they were to be sent back to the Soviet Union. But soldiers from the Jewish Brigade arrived and offered to send Riva to the Holy Land. The girl did not want to go, but Aleksander told her she would have a better future in Israel. Riva refused to go unless her "father" could accompany her.

Riva and Aleksander made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1946. Riva got married and started a family of her own, with her teacher living with them. In 1961, Aleksander took a job in the United States, where he died in 1964. In 2011, he was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for the bravery and selflessness he showed in saving the life of his student and "daughter."

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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