Olena Kovalshina

In the twilight, Miroshka takes me to Olenka’s gravesite, where I pay my respects and speak to Olenka in her grave, explaining my decision to have her honored in Jerusalem.

Providing help to people in need should not be an unusual impulse. Yet what made Olenka’s acts exceptional is that she risked recriminations from her neighbors and the authorities for showing any kindness to Jews. If the Germans had known what she was doing, she might have been arrested, tortured or worse. Her home could have been ransacked or burned.

For me, this has always been one of the bitter parts of my story—that the acts of people like Olenka and Nicolai were exceptional, while most other locals accepted or actively participated in the persecution of the Jews.