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News and Opinion

Profiles in Courage
Holocaust Rescuer Vira Vertepna Stochanska.

-- The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous

Romanivka, Ukraine. 1942 --- When the Germans occupied Tarnopol, Poland (now Ukraine) in 1941, Bronia Felberbaum and her parents, Sophie and Jacob, were taken to the ghetto in Velyki Birky. Jacob knew many Christian families in Velyki Birky and was able to make contact with Helen Balyk. Helen promised to hide the family on her parents' farm, provided the Felberbaums were able to get there.

One day the Gestapo officer for whom Bronia's mother worked as a maid told her the ghetto would be liquidated that night. He allowed the entire family to spend the evening at his home. The next day, the Germans burned the ghetto to the ground, killing everyone inside. Those who tried to escape were shot.

After hiding for several days in different barns, the Felberbaums reached the farm of Helen's parents, Franciska and Josef Balyk. The Balyks hid and cared for the Felberbaums. Josef built a hiding place next to the stable. The Balyks' daughter, Lucia, and granddaughter, Vira, would bring food to the family each day. It was not easy for the Balyks to obtain food, but they never let the Felberbaums go hungry.

After liberation, Bronia's family moved back to Tarnopol, which became part of Ukraine. Immediately after liberation the borders were open but Jacob refused to leave the Balyks. They had become family.

Following Jacob's death in 1958, Bronia and her mother left Ukraine as part of the repatriation agreement with Poland. In 1960, they came to the United States. Franciska and Josef Balyk died years ago.

As Bronia wrote to Yad Vashem, "While my parents have died, I am forever grateful to these kind, noble people, who risked everything they had to take in three Jewish strangers, when no one else would."

Lucia passed away in July 1998. Vira is in her 70s and lives in Romanivka in the same house where her family hid the Felberbaums.

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