Bank of Portraits / Oleinychenko Polina, Yakym, Viktor and Valentyna
Oleinychenko Polina, Yakym, Viktor and Valentyna
Polina Oleinychenko, her husband Yakym and their adult children Viktor and Valentyna lived in Mariupol, Stalino (now Donetsk) region. Polina was a seamstress, her husband Yakym and son Viktor worked at the factory, and Valentyna went to school. The eldest son Kostiantyn, was a commander of the Red Army, and had been at the front since the beginning of the German-Soviet war.
German troops captured Mariupol on October 8, 1941, and a few days later the occupiers forced all Jews to wear armbands with hexagonal stars.
Soon the order appeared in the city, according to which Jews had to gather at a certain time with belongings and documents in the building of the so-called “regiment” (in the barracks of the former 238th Mariupol Rifle Regiment of the 80th Rifle Division; now it is a building of the Azov Technical University) for resettlement to Palestine. The Nazis organized there a temporary ghetto, from where on October 17 the victims were taken in small groups to the village of Ahrobaza in 6 km from the collection point. The Ahrobaza became the "Babyn Yar of Mariupol": in a few days in October 1941, the Sonderkommando 10a shot down from 8,000 to 12,000 Mariupol Jews in Soviet anti-tank trenches.
"We were told to undress, then they searched for and confiscated money and documents, drove us along the edge of the trench, but the edge disappeared, at a distance of half a kilometer the trenches were filled with corpses. Someone dying from wounds begged for one more bullet if one was not enough. In every gray woman I saw my mother. I rushed to the corpses ... but the blows of batons brought us back to the place." From the diary of Sarah Gleich
A few days after the shooting, at night somebody knocked on the door of the house on Soviet Street. It was one of Polina Oleinychenko’s clients - Hanna Maksymovych, a Jew, who married a Ukrainian. She brought her eight-year-old nephew, Veniamin Boryskovskyi, one of those who survived during the execution on October 20. At the time of the shooting, Veniamin fell into the trenches and fainted. He woke up that night laying under the corpses. Despite his wounded leg and shoulder, he escaped from the pit where his parents, three-year-old brother and 11 other relatives remained forever. In the morning, he reached the house of his aunt Hanna, who brought him to Oleinychenko.
The Ukrainians agreed to hide the Jewish boy in their house. The neighbors were told that he was their relative. The risk was extremely high, as Oleinychenko lived in one part of the house and three SS men in another.
Polina later managed to obtain a Ukrainian birth certificate for Veniamin, but she still did not allow him to walk on the streets, and as soon as the raid began, the boy was hidden in the yard under straw.
In the winter, when it was too cold to live outside, the Oleinychenkos set up a shelter inside an old piano, where Veniamin hid every time when strangers came into the house. When the Germans were not at home, Valentyna and Viktor took him for a walk.
"The eight-year-old child could not lie under the piano all the time, it was necessary to bind up his wounds, feed him, let him take the fresh air. We loved Venia and worried about him. He was a very intelligent and obedient boy. During the day he was in the room, and at night my brother Viktor and I took him for a walk." From the memoirs of Valentyna Ponomarova (Oleinychenko)
The boy lived in his new family for about a year.
Once in the summer of 1942, neighbors saw Veniamin running out into the street and suspected that he was a Jew. The Oleinychenkos decided that it would be better for him to leave the city.
"Till it was cold, it was easier, and when summer came, the boy became braver and the German who lived in the house saw him. We said it was our relative. He was swarthy and looked a little like us. In the fall of 1942, we had to part with Venia, sending him to a safer place. We were very worried about the boy who became our family." From the memoirs of Valentyna Ponomarova (Oleinychenko)
Until the expulsion of the Nazis from Mariupol in the fall of 1943, Veniamin hid in the house of their friends who lived nearby in the village and did not know about his nationality.
After the war, Veniamin Boryskovskyi returned to Mariupol and maintained warm relations with Oleinychenko family. He kept in touch with them even after emigrating to Israel in the 1990s.
On July 12, 1998, Yad Vashem awarded Polina and Yakym Oleinychenko, as well as their children, Viktor and Valentyna, the title of "Righteous Among the Nations."
Mariupol Museum of Local History
Mariupol, Donetsk region