An Orphan and Holocaust Hero

Olga Chirun, orphan from Belarus who saved Jews during Holocaust

Credit:Yad Vashem

Raised in a poor Christian farming family in Belarus, 16-year-old Olga Chirun found herself an orphan as the Nazis invaded at the beginning of WWII. She also found herself responsible for her 6-year-old brother. But none of this kept young Olga from doing the right thing.

One day, a Jewish woman named Raisa Polevaya came to Olga’s front door. Raisa’s husband had been killed fighting the Nazis and in her arms the woman held her baby daughter, Nelli. Raisa had already spent time in a Nazi prison, because her husband had resisted. But the Nazis had yet to discover her Jewish identity before the mother escaped.

Olga, struggling to survive and raise her orphaned little brother on the meager farm, took in the mother and daughter without a second thought, this despite the dangers it posed to the two orphans. All of their neighbors knew Jews hid on the Chirun farm. And only 500 yards from the farm, Nazi guards patrolled the nearby railroad tracks. Whenever the Nazis carried out searches of the farm, Olga took Raisa and Nelli away to hide.

The years of constant hiding brought the Jews and orphaned gentiles closer together. Olga and Raisa raised the two younger children on the farm until the war ended, and remained close friends for decades afterwards. In 1997, Yad Vashem named Olga Chirun, this brave orphan girl who risked her own life to save God’s children, Righteous Among the Nations.

Tags: Advocates and Allies History Holocaust Olga Chirun Yad Vashem

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