Ukrainian Weekly    25-Jan-1998,  p. 3    Vavrisevich family hid 7 Jews

Holocaust survivor thanks Ukrainian brothers

PARSIPPANY, N.J. Nechama Singer Ariel, a Holocaust survivor, shared Thanksgiving dinner in her Borough Park, Brooklyn, apartment with the family that sheltered her for 15 months during the second world war, brothers Mikhail and Nikolai Vavrisevich of Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine.

Thirteen-year-old Nechama Singer and her widowed mother, Rachela Singer, hid under the floorboards of the home of Konstantin and Maria Vavrisevich the brothers' parents in November 1942-February 1944 as Nazi pogroms raged in Volodymyr-Volynskyi.  The Vavrisevich family also hid five other Jews in the shelter located below a bare room reserved for a cow and a goat in winter.

Mrs. Arial, who is now 68, told The New York Times in a November 28, 1997, article title "Tearful Reunion for Friends Who Defied the Nazis," that Mikhail and Nikolai helped her and her mother observe Passover by providing them with enough potatoes and beets so they could refrain from eating leavened bread.  The brothers helped them observe the Sabbath on Fridays by lighting a makeshift candle an oil-dipped piece of thread in a potato with its insides scooped out.

"They were treating us with respect," she said.  "You don't know what it is like to be treated with respect when you are cannon fodder, when you go out into the street and they shoot you."

Mikhail and Nikolai were 18 and 16, respectively, when Mr. Ariel and her mother hid under their floorboards.  "Even though we were so young, this time aged us," said Mikhail, who at 73 is a college professor and legally blind.  "We had to be very careful and keep out tongues, be watchful of who was coming, who was following us, what they were talking about.  If we hadn't taken these precautions, we wouldn't have survived, and the people who were with us wouldn't have survived."

The Vavriseviches' reunion with Mrs. Ariel was organized by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a Manhattan-based non-profit group that sends checks, $30-$150 a month, to some 1,400 Christians and Muslims who helped save Jews during the Holocaust, and who are now old and poor.  The brothers' journey was arranged with the assistance of Viktor Kryzhanivsky, consul general of Ukraine in New York.

Mikhail and Nikolai, 71, a retired doctor, receive $30 a month from the group.  According to Stanlee Stahl, the foundation's executive director, all those who are aided by the foundation with checks have been recognized at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial.

Following their emotional reunion, Mrs. Ariel took Mikhail to Maimonides Medical Center, where she worked for 46 years as a lab technician, researcher and interpreter, to have his eyes examined.  Mikhail underwent two successful operations for glaucoma, and left the United States on January 15 with the ability to see as far as his finger.