In Israel, Zelensky tells circle of relatives’s Holocaust story – Jan. 24, 2020


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hardly ever talks about his Jewish heritage. 

However because the world commemorated the seventy fifth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau demise camp, Zelensky shared some household historical past as he spoke in regards to the braveness of individuals of various ethnicities and religions in the course of the Holocaust.

At a briefing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 24 in Jerusalem, on the sidelines of commemoration occasions, Zelensky advised the story of 4 brothers. 

“Three of them and their dad and mom and households have been shot useless by Nazi occupants who invaded Ukraine,” Zelensky stated. “The fourth brother was preventing on the entrance. He survived World Struggle II, contributing to the victory over Nazism and its inhumane ideology.

“Two years after the warfare, he had a son, and in 31 years, he had a grandson. In 40 extra years, that grandson turned president and he’s standing earlier than you at this time, Mr. Prime Minister.” 

Beforehand, in an interview with the Occasions of Israel printed on Jan. 19, the Ukrainian president advised a barely totally different model of the household story. 

“On my father’s aspect, my grandfather and his three brothers have been all on the entrance [in the Red Army] in World Struggle II and solely he returned,” he advised the Occasions of Israel. 

Zelensky stated his grandmother lived in Kryvyi Rih, now an industrial metropolis in central Ukraine the place the president was born and raised. In the course of the Nazi occupation, she was evacuated to Almaty in Kazakhstan. She studied there to develop into a instructor. After the warfare, she returned to Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky on the grave of his grandfather Semyon Zelensky, veteran of World Struggle II, in Kryvyi Rih on Could 9, 2019. (Fb)

On Could 9, 2019, then President-elect Zelensky lay flowers on the grave of his grandfather, Semyon Zelensky in Kryvyi Rih. In a Fb submit, he known as the Day of Victory over Nazism “our Thanksgiving Day.” 

“Thanksgiving for the truth that the inhumane Nazi ideology is prior to now. Thanksgiving to those that fought and defeated Nazism,” he wrote. 

Requested about his faith, Zelensky advised the Occasions of Israel that he grew up in “an peculiar Soviet Jewish household” — a non-religious household, because the Soviet authorities promoted atheism and suppressed faith.  

“I consider in God,” he stated. “However I by no means communicate of God or faith.” 

Two different tales Zelensky advised Netanyahu centered on a Crimean Tatar Muslim lady, Saide Arifova, and Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest Omelyan Kovch. 

Arifova saved Jewish orphans in Nazi-occupied Crimea by mendacity to the Germans that the youngsters have been Crimean Tatars and giving them Crimean Tatar names. After the liberation of the peninsula, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the deportation of all Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. Arifova saved these kids once more by proving that they have been really Jewish. 

Arifova herself was despatched to Uzbekistan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she returned to her native city in Crimea and died in 2007. Her story turned the plot of the 2017 movie “87 Kids.”

Kovch, a priest within the city of Peremyshlyany in Lviv Oblast, was despatched to the Majdanek demise camp in Poland for giving out almost 600 baptismal certificates to Jews. In a letter to his six kids, he defined why he selected to say no early launch from camp: “If I’m not right here, who will assist them go to a different world? They may go into eternity with sins.” 

“We’re all equal right here. Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Lithuanians and Estonians. I’m the one priest right here,” he wrote in one other letter. Kovch died in 1944 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001 in Lviv. 

Discussion board, Iran and Putin 

Ukraine and Israel share the tragic historical past of World Struggle II. 

Yearly in September, Ukraine commemorates the victims of the 1941 bloodbath at Babyn Yar ravine in Kyiv, the place Nazis and native collaborators executed almost 34,000 Jews, in addition to tens of hundreds of Ukrainians and Roma folks. A Babyn Yar memorial middle is below development in Kyiv. 

However historical past can also be a matter of disagreement between the 2 nations. Ukraine honors some Ukrainian nationalists like Stepan Bandera and Andriy Melnyk as heros. Nonetheless, historians say their actions additionally collaborated with the Nazis in mass killings of Jews and Poles in western Ukraine. 

The Israeli Embassy in Kyiv has repeatedly criticized efforts to honor Ukrainian nationalists implicated in anti-Semitic violence. Ukraine has additionally seen a number of incidents during which Jewish monuments have been defaced in current months.

On the Jan. 24 briefing with Zelensky, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of one other enemy of his nation: Iran. 

Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger aircraft on Jan. 8, shortly after it took off from Tehran airport sure for Kyiv. Below worldwide strain, Iran admitted to mistakenly firing missiles on the aircraft and killing 176 folks on board however blamed the USA for the incident. 

Tensions between Iran and the Donald Trump administration in Washington had spiked after the U.S. killed senior Iranian army commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike on Jan. 2.

Iran hid the downing of the Ukrainian airliner “for 48 hours earlier than they have been pressured to confess it. I feel it says loads about what this regime is about,” Netanyahu advised Zelensky. “I look ahead to discussing with you the way we are able to confront the forces and regimes that threaten our frequent civilization and our frequent future.” 

The Zelensky’s administration acquired worldwide reward for its dealing with of the aircraft crash. Amid the U.S.-Iran tensions, Ukraine averted antagonizing the Iranian authorities and as an alternative sought to cooperate constructively on the investigation of the crash. 

Earlier than Zelensky’s journey to Israel, many speculated that the Ukrainian president may meet together with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the fifth World Holocaust Discussion board on Jan. 23. 

Nonetheless, Zelensky determined to surrender the Ukrainian delegation’s seats to Holocaust survivors. 

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial middle that hosted the discussion board, known as the transfer “puzzling.” The middle famous that the occasion was supposed as a gathering of world leaders, not a public memorial ceremony, and over 100,000 Holocaust survivors stay in Israel, the Occasions of Israel reported.


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