Bank of Portraits / Saik Onufriy, Anna and their daughter Iryna

Saik Onufriy, Anna and their daughter Iryna

Onufriy Saik, his wife Anna and daughter Iryna lived in Ternopil. During the first days of July, after the arrival of German troops, pogroms of the Jews took place on the streets of Ternopil. Jewish appearance was often the cause of death. Among victims were children. According to reports, 600 Jews were killed in Ternopil during the first week of July. After that, the German administration organized one of the first Jewish ghettos in Ukraine in Ternopil.

Onufriy Saik worked as the manager and caretaker of the farm known as the Zamok, which was located on the outskirts of Ternopil. In 1942, a Beutesammellager (a place for storing trophies captured by the Germans during the war) was organized near the Zamok. Jews were used there as labor force. Onufriy met some Jewish prisoners, including Mykhailo Ginzberg and his young wife, Sophia. They became friends.

On June 20, 1943, during the destruction of the Ternopil ghetto, Mykhailo Ginzberg asked Onufriy to help him to find shelter for him and his family. Onufriy offered to hide them in the Zamok, in an empty cave, which was once used to store ice.

A little later that month, a group of Jews, led by Mykhailo Ginzberg and his wife, dared to flee the camp and headed for the cave, where they were met by Onufriy Saik. Among those who fled with the Ginzbergs were Mykhailo’s mother, two sisters, and eight other Jews who dared to flee.

Onufriy blocked the entrance, building a false wall in the corridor to hide the shelter. He turned the rest of the room into a pigsty. This allowed food to be carried to the shelter under the guise of animal feed. Daughter Iryna, who was 12 years old at the time, also helped her parents save a large group of Jews. She carried water and food, and encouraged the fugitives.

In March 1944, during the battles for Ternopil, the Germans evacuated the city's population, including Onufriy and his family. 13 Jews were left in their hiding place without any food for a whole month. First they ate the potatoes they managed to store and then the potato skin. German troops finally left the city only on August 14, 1944.  Jews were able to leave their hiding place, where they had been for nine months.

The house of Ginzberg survived, unlike many other buildings in the city. All the survivors lived in this house for more than a year, until they left to Poland and from there to the United States and Canada. They hadn’t been in contact with their rescuers until 1988. That  year  Ginsbergs arrived in Ternopil, where they managed to find the children of Onufriy and Anna.

Yad Vashem awarded Onufriy and Anna Saik the title of Righteous Among the Nations on April 27, 1992. Their daughter Iryna received this title in May 2007.

Victoria Fedorchuk


Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University

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