Of Rescue and Romance

Stand for Israel  |  September 18, 2023

Zinaida Zevina and Yefim Buldov, a story of romance and rescue during the Holocaust
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

This week’s Hero of the Holocaust is a love story—a story of romantic love, but also of a greater love.

Even before WWII came to the city of Minsk, Belarus, a Jewish woman there named Zinaida Zevina had already experienced much hardship. Zinaida’s husband died, leaving his widow to care for their two small children all by herself.

The young mother found a job in an office. There, she met and befriended another office worker—and a widower and father of two children, himself—named Yefim Buldov. After a long friendship, the Christian man and Jewish woman fell in love, and planned to marry. And then war arrived.

When Yefim was conscripted into the Red Army in 1941, his two children were sent to an orphanage. Yefim was captured by the Germans and placed in a POW camp. But Zinaida and her children—14-year-old Nadezhda and 7-year-old Vladimir—faced an even worse fate, as the Nazis imprisoned them in the ghetto along with the rest of the city’s Jews.

A year later, Yefim finally escaped from the Nazi POW camp and made his way back to Minsk. After scouring the war-torn city, he at last found his children, 13-year-old Gennadij and 9-year-old Lilia. The Nazis detained Gennadij, sending the boy to a labor camp. But Yefim was able to protect his daughter, hiding her in an empty apartment shared by many other refugees. Then Yefim went on a mission to find his true love, Zinaida.

Yefim and Zinaida at last made contact—the mother and her children starving inside the ghetto—and desperately made an escape plan. One night in March of 1943, Zinaida, Nadezhda, and Vladimir crawled under the ghetto’s wire fence and fled, arriving at the apartment where Yefim and Lilia were hiding.

Together, the families hid for the rest of the war—Zinaida and her children surviving, unlike the rest of Minsk’s Jews, who were murdered that fall. After the war, Gennadij was released from the labor camp where he’d been held, and the families were at last together. For his actions in saving not only the love of his life, but her Jewish family, Yefim Buldov was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2000.