Fanya Bass was hidden by Mariya Blyschik’s family. The time has arrived to return the lifesaving favor.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
An Israeli grandchild of a Holocaust survivor has repaid a debt she had keenly felt for decades by pushing the rescue from Ukraine of two granddaughters of the woman who saved her grandmother’s life during the Holocaust.
In a Channel 13 interview last week, Sharon Bass Maor described how she and her siblings grew up on the stories of how her grandmother, Fanya Bass, survived the Holocaust.
Bass was taken into the homes of various righteous Christian families after escaping the liquidation of her Ukrainian town’s ghetto in August 1942. One of them was a Baptist preacher named Konon Kaluta, who influenced many in his congregation to save Jews from the Nazis. Bass was hidden by Kaluta’s family for around a year before the danger became too great and she had to move on.
“My grandparents thought it was very important…that all the stories get passed on, that we should always remember” what happened, she said. “One of the messages and wishes of my grandmother was that we would take care of this family with anything they need.”
Fanya kept in touch with the Kalutas over the years. Fanya’s children continued the connection with Kolon’s children, Mariya Blyshchik and Anna Chugai, who helped in their parents’ life-saving efforts.
The close relationship between the families continued even in the next generation. Maor became close to Mariya’s granddaughters, cousins Alona and Lesia, who lived in Israel off and on for several years after Fanya succeeded in having Kolon and his family recognized in 1995 as Righteous Gentiles.
The official recognition by Yad Vashem is awarded to gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust purely out of altruism, receiving no pay for their efforts.
‘She’s my sister’
With Alona sitting next to her in the studio, Maor told her interviewers, “Our relationship with them is so strong that they’re also at home when they’re with us,” adding at one point, “She’s my sister.”
When Alona and Lesia began hearing the sounds of nearby shelling and constant air raid warnings in their hometown in northern Ukraine during the first week of the Russian invasion, they immediately turned to their Israeli “family” for help.
Maor leaped into action. She eventually got in touch with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, whom she acknowledged for granting permission for the their emergency entrance to Israel nine days ago.
Now, she said, she is asking that their status be regulated, as they shouldn’t be treated just as “incoming workers or border jumpers.”
This is a case, Maor said, of people who have “a special connection to the Jewish people. They love Israel, they want to be here, because, really, it’s impossible to know if there will be anything left for them to go back to after this war.”
When asked if she would like to stay, Chugai said yes, mentioning how warm all Israelis are, not just Maor and her family.
“The moral/ethical debt I feel is an eternal one,” Maor said about those who saved her grandmother’s life.
“We want to go to my grandmother’s grave and tell her that the mission was successful, that the debt has been paid,” she said, notwithstanding her worry about other family members who are still in Ukraine.