Finding Love and Shelter

Stand for Israel  |  February 13, 2023

Benyamin and Fedora with their daughter after WWII and the Holocaust
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

A Ukrainian Christian, Fedora Kontush sheltered a young Jewish man during the Holocaust, a man who she would marry after the war.

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 captured by the Nazis, but had escaped. Since then, the young Jewish man 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, and in early 1943, their worst fears were realized. 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 and raised a family together. And because of her bravery in helping save this young man’s life, Fedora Kontush Vagun was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1997.