Bank of Portraits / Shyrko Pylyp and Nadia, Kondratyuk Hordiy and Nadia

Shyrko Pylyp and Nadia, Kondratyuk Hordiy and Nadia

Pylyp and Nadia Shyrko lived in the village of Stepan, current Sarny district, Rivne region. Before World War Two this area was the part of Poland. The Shyrko family was considered wealthy peasants. They had little children. Pylyp Shyrko had a small farm surrounded by fields and picturesque fruit gardens.

The family had active artistic life. In Stepan the local center of the “Prosvita” [“Enlightenment”] society existed. It developed the Ukrainian culture. In particular, there was the theatrical troupe known due to the performances of the Ukrainian plays. Pylyp Shyrko was the real “star” of the local amateur theater.

World War Two brought radical changes in the history of Stepan. In the autumn of 1939 Volhynia was annexed by the Stalinist USSR. Soon the new change of power happened: in July 1941 the village was occupied by the German army.

The war brought the feeling of the permanent danger in the life of the local people. The Shyrko family tried not to go outside home without need. Only sometimes father, if necessary, could go outside.

One of Pylyp Shyrko's acquaintances was the miller Yosel Magid, the Jew. Previously he owned the mill which was nationalized by the Soviet authorities. However, Yosel was appointed its director.

The life of Yosel, as well as lives of other local Jews, was in mortal danger under the Nazi occupation.

On October 5, 1941, a ghetto was established in Stepan, where Josel's wife Frida and their children Hershel and Eliahu were forced to move. Yosel Magid himself continued to work at the mill, so he managed to avoid relocation to the ghetto. On August 25, 1942, the residents of the ghetto were sent to be shot near Kostopil. Frida and Eliahu managed to escape and hid in the house of the Ukrainian acquaintance. Twelve-year-old Hershel ran to his father's mill.

It was dangerous to stay there. Looking for shelter, father and son came to the Shyrko family where they lived for about two weeks. The fate of the other members of the Jewish family remained unknown. It seemed extremely unlikely that they could survive.

Yosel and Hershel had to leave the house of Pylyp and Nadia Shyrko because of neighbors’ rumors that the Jews hid in their house. There was no time for hesitation. Pylyp told the Jewish family to find another shelter.

Yosel and Hershel decided to hide in the nearby forest, where they fortunately met Frida and Eliahu.

They went together to the village of Volosha, where a friend of Yosel lived. He agreed to harbor them, but only for a fee. The living conditions of the Jewish family were difficult – the Magid family suffered of cold and overcrowding. They could hardly have enough food. As soon as they ran out of money, they lost the shelter. In the same village, they managed to find another family who agreed to take them in without any payment. The peasant couple Hordiy and Nadia Kondratyuk hid the fugitives in a hayloft and brought them food there. In addition, every evening Hordiy came to the hayloft and read aloud passages from the New Testament. A devout Christian, he secretly hoped that he would stimulate the Jews to adopt Christianity, but never forced them.

In the summer of 1943, the fighters of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army entered the village of Stepan. This event prompted some Jewish residents to return to the settlement. Among them was Yosel Magid, who began working at the mill again and did not hide from anyone. However, the danger did not disappear. Less than two months before the return of the Red Army, some local Nazi sympathizers killed Yosel. Several other local Jews were killed. Their bodies were dumped in the Horyn River.

In January 1944, the Nazis finally retreated from the area. Frida and her sons said goodbye to the Kondratyuks. After the war, they moved to the United States. Instead, their rescuers, the Shyrko and Kondratyuk families, were exiled to Siberia by the Stalinist regime. The reason for the repression against the Shyrko family was the status of the wealthy peasants, and the Kondratyuks became a target for persecution because of their religiosity. Only in 1990s rescuers and survivors were able to reconnect.

On December 30, 2001, two families of rescuers were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations – Pylyp and Nadia Shyrko and Hordiy and Nadia Kondratyuk. Unfortunately, this recognition of the great humanistic feat of the ordinary Ukrainians was posthumous.

Alla Hrushetska


National museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

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