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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Honors Russia's 'Righteous Among Nations'

MTIsraeli Ambassador Arkady Mil-Man speaking with camp survivor Anatoly Vanukevich at the ceremony in the House of Writers.
Taisiya Lukashenko helped to save Rebecca Moiseyeva's life a long time ago, and although Moiseyeva is now dead, Lukashenko's deed has not been forgotten.

For 11 months in 1941 and 1942, Lukashenko, a now sprightly old woman in her 80s, put Moiseyeva up in her house in the village of Piskarikha not far from Smolensk.

Called in by the Gestapo a number of times for questioning, she lied about her guest.

"The Gestapo called me in but I said she was Russian," Lukashenko said.

The bravery of Lukashenko and 18 others was honored Monday night when they were awarded the title "Righteous Among the Nations," given to those who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.

Israeli Ambassador Arkady Mil-Man gave out medals and diplomas at a ceremony at the House of Writers in the center of Moscow.

"There is not one among us -- including me -- who did not lose somebody," the ambassador said, speaking below a velvet purple banner hung above the stage with the words "Remember" in Russia and Hebrew and the figure 6,000,000.

On the other side of the stage hung a similar banner with the phrase "Every Person Has a Name," also written in both languages. Lighted candles, in honor of the Jews that died during the Holocaust, lined the front of the stage.

"They are not Jews," Mil-Man said of those being honored at the ceremony. "But they saved people every day. They risked their lives. ... All Jews will remember their action.

"What international organizations couldn't do, ordinary people could," the ambassador said.

All those present had stories similar to Lukashenko's to tell.

Nikolai Gerasimchik, 88, saved Isaac and Polina Emmet and their daughter Lyuba by hiding them for 18 months. When necessary they would hide them in a hole covered with hay. They remained undiscovered even when German troops temporarily used the home as a headquarters.

Maria Gladkikh hid Zoya Slutskaya and her mother Yelizaveta for two years.

"She gave me us a roof over our heads," said Slutskaya, who now lives in the United States, in testimony provided by the Israeli Embassy.

When Gladkikh's neighbors warned her what the Germans would do if they found out, she said, "Let them kill me first so that I don't see their suffering," according to the testimony.

With many of those who saved people either dead or too sick to make the trip to Moscow, their medals were accepted by tearful relatives.

More than a dozen Jews who had survived concentration camps were also among the audience. They included Anatoly Vanukevich, a veteran of three camps, who spoke from the stage to urge people never to forget what had happened to Jews during the war.

"I didn't have a name for three years. I just had a number," Vanukevich said. He said he weighed only 15 kilograms and 350 grams when he was freed by U.S. forces in 1945, when he was 15 years old. "The past is impossible to forget. It's impossible."

The title of Righteous Among Nations is awarded by Yad Vashem, which was set up in 1953 to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

It runs a vast museum complex in Jerusalem, and since 1963 has chosen 19,000 people who risked their lives to save Jews and whose names are now inscribed on the Avenue of the Righteous in Jerusalem.