Finding Love and Shelter

Finding Love and Shelter

Credit:(Photo: Yad Vashem)

Fedora Kontush Vagun

Life: 1921-2002

Why you should know her: Fedora Kontush was a Ukrainian Gentile who sheltered a young Jewish man during the Holocaust.

Fedora Kontush grew up with her parents and five brothers in the Ukrainian village of Zavadovka. When World War II began, Fedora’s two older brothers went to fight with the Soviet Army. Fedora went to work at a dairy factory. It was while doing this job that she met a young man named Stepan who was not from the area and who tried to make a living doing odd jobs.

Fedora and Stepan became close and soon the young man admitted that he was Jewish and that his real name was Binyamin Vagun. Earlier in the war, he had been in the Soviet Army, had been captured by the Nazis, and had escaped. Since then, he had been able to pass himself off as a Ukrainian named Stepan, because of his fluency in the language. However, Binyamin had no papers, so if he were ever stopped he would be deported and killed. Fedora stayed close with her friend and the two joined the anti-Nazi underground.

In early 1943, the worst happened. Binyamin was arrested on suspicion of being part of the underground. Since he had no papers, he was taken by the Gestapo for interrogation. However, Fedora helped her friend escape, and took him to her parents’ home, where the family hid the Jewish young man until liberation. Once Ukraine was free of the Nazis, Binyamin returned to fight against the Germans.

After the war in Europe ended, Binyamin Vagun and Fedora Kontush were married. Because of her bravery in helping save this young man’s life, Fedora Kontush was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1997.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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