Helena Zahaikiewicz lived with her brother Orest and father Bohdan in the Ukrainian city of Peremysl. One day in September 1943, the two siblings witnessed a commotion on their street as they were returning home. Apparently, some Jews who had been hiding were detected. The authorities were called and the Jews as well as the families who hid them were taken away, most likely to be shot in the woods.
That evening, Helena and her family were awakened by Edek and Eda Scheffler. The couple had escaped the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto by hiding in a truck filled with corpses. When the truck emptied its load in a mass grave, the Schefflers made their escape. After being turned away by several other families, they sought shelter with the Zahaikiewicz household. At great peril, Helena, her brother and her father took the Scheffler’s in and hid the couple until the town was liberated by the Red Army.
After the war, the Schefflers moved to Israel. Fearing reprisals from the Soviet authorities because of their political views, the Zahaikiewicz family became refugees and settled in New Jersey.
Edited by Matthew London