As a Mother

Stand for Israel  |  September 12, 2022

Ludviga Pukas with rescued Jewish children from Ukraine
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

Ludviga Pukas was a Christian woman in Ukraine who raised two Jewish children as her own, saving them from death during the Holocaust.

In 1937, Ludviga Pukas began working as a housekeeper for Frima Sternik, a Ukrainian Jew who was a high school teacher and single mother of two young children, four-year-old Eldina and one-year-old Gennadiy. When Ludviga gave birth to her own daughter three years later, she continued to live with the Sternik family.

In 1941, the Nazis burned Frima’s house to the ground. Without registration papers, Frima registered her Jewish children as Ludviga’s, in the chance that this might save them from certain death at the hand of the Germans.

Frima moved into the local ghetto, where the Nazis held the Jews. When the ghetto was to be liquidated at the end of 1942, with the occupants being deported to extermination camps, Ludviga sent Frima to hide at her brother’s home. Sadly, Frima was caught by the Nazis during her escape and murdered.

The Gestapo searched Ludviga’s home, finding one Jewish woman she was also hiding. The woman convinced the Nazis that Ludviga had no idea of her religious identity. The Nazis had no idea that two of the three children living in the home were also Jews, and young Eldina and Gennadiy were saved.

After the war, the Sternik children made contact with their aunts who had survived the Holocaust, but continued to live with Ludviga until they finished school. Until the dear woman who had saved their lives died of old age in 1984, Eldina and Gennadiy considered her their mother. For her selfless actions and the love she showed these two children and other Jewish people, Yad Vashem named Ludviga Pukas named Righteous Among the Nations.

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