As the remaining survivors of the Holocaust age and enter their final years, their histories are too often lost. That is why we bring you weekly stories of Gentiles who helped Jews during this dark chapter of not only the 20th century, but in all of history. This week, Cyla Koplowitz Zakheim recalls how a Christian couple, Ignat and Sofya Yermolovich (named Righteous Among the Nations in 1995), saved her and others from an infamous Nazi massacre:
The farmers Ignat and Sofya Yermolovich, both in their late 30s, lived with their daughter Tonya in the town of Mir, Nowogródek District (today Grodna District). Between the two World Wars, many Jewish families lived in the town and the Yermoloviches were friendly with some of them. In the early morning of November 9, 1941, the day of a large-scale Aktion in Mir, the Yermoloviches welcomed six Jewish friends into the shelter of their granary. These were Cyla Kopelowicz, Efraim and David Sinder, Laike and Hinde Monicker, and Hinde’s young daughter. When the Germans started conducting house-to-house searches, they checked the granary but the hidden Jews were not discovered. A few days later, they returned to Mir. Not long after the Aktion, the surviving Jews were concentrated in a ghetto established in the local castle in Mir. On August 10, 1942, three days prior to the ghetto liquidation, a group of approximately 300 Jews fled to the forest. Twenty-year-old Cyla Kopelowicz (later Zakheim) was among the escapees. She lost the others and after wandering for three days, without food and water, she turned to the Yermoloviches for help. Ignat and Sofya hid Cyla in their field and provided her with food, some clothes and boots. The following day, Cyla left for the forest again and was lucky to find and join the Bielski family camp. After the war, Cyla traveled to South Africa where she had relatives. She maintained contact with the Yermoloviches for many years thereafter.