Righteous among the Nations from Ukraine to be Posthumously Honoured at Yad Vashem
(November 20, 2014—Jerusalem) On Sunday, November 23, 2014, a ceremony posthumously honoring Petro and Kateryna Durniak from Ukraine as Righteous among the Nations will take place at Yad Vashem. Christina-Ludmila Kril, daughter of the Righteous among the Nations Petro and Kateryna Durniak, will be in attendance from Ukraine to accept the medal and certificate of honor on her parents’ behalf. Olena Ivanchuk, from the Ukrainian Embassy will be in attendance, as well as Freddy Gruber, son of Righteous Josef Gruber who was a friend of Petro Durniak. They will be joined by Holocaust survivors, family and friends. The medal and certificate will be presented by Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the Department of the Righteous among the Nations of Yad Vashem. A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance will be held at 11:00 a.m. followed by the presentation of the medal and certificate of honor and unveiling of the names in the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations at Yad Vashem. The event will take place in Hebrew and Polish. The event is open to the press, in coordination with the Media Relations Dept. 02 644 3410.
The Rescue Story:
In the summer of 1942, when 50,000 Jews from Lwow (today Lviv), were deported to their deaths at the Belzec Extermination Camp, David Winter and his wife decided to separate from their newborn daughter, Anna, in order to increase her chances of survival. They secretly took Anna out of the ghetto and asked David’s Ukrainian friend Petro Durniak to watch over their baby daughter. Petro’s wife, Kateryna was pregnant at the time and shortly after Anna’s arrival the couple had a daughter of their own, Christina. The couple changed Anna’s name to Barbara and presented the two girls as twins.
The Winter couple survived the Holocaust and the first news they heard of their daughter came from David’s brother, Nachum Winter. Nachum was a soldier in the Red Army and after his hometown Lwow was liberated, he requested time off and travelled to search for any of his relatives who may have survived. He found his niece at the home of Kateryna Durniak (she and Petro were separated at this time) and gave her his monthly salary in gratitude for care of his niece. Before he left he took a photograph with his niece. When Nachum discovered his brother and his wife at one of the refugee camps in Central Europe, he informed them that their daughter was alive and sent them the picture he had taken with Anna-Barbara. David and his wife contacted Kateryna and organized for Anna-Barbara’s transfer to them, across the border of the USSR.
The Winter family moved to Israel, but shortly afterwards they emigrated to Austria. With time, the Winters lost contact with the Durniak family. However, the Durniaks never forgot Anna-Barbara. Kateryna kept her picture in a family photo album and after her death, her daughter Christina kept the photograph.
The rescue story of baby Anna-Barbara came to light in 2013 when Freddy Gruber, whose father Josef Gruber was recognized as Righteous among the Nations in 2005, travelled from his home in Israel to Lviv to meet his father’s family. Freddy also searched for any descendants of his father’s friend, Petro Durniak. He arrived at Christina’s home and she showed him the picture of Anna-Barbara as a small child. Upon his return to Israel, Freddy turned to Yad Vashem and told Anna-Barbara’s rescue story. After further investigation, the Department of the Righteous among the Nations uncovered a testimony given by Freddy’s mother, Antonia Gruber, in 2005. In a single sentence she mentioned that her future husband’s friend, named Durniak, had rescued a Jewish girl. In addition, a testimony from 1961 of Nachum Winter was found in the Yad Vashem Archives where he gave a detailed explanation of how he discovered his niece. Attached to his testimony was the picture that was taken of Nachum and Anna-Barbara at Kateryna’s home. These two photographs, the one saved by Nachum from the Durniak family, and the photograph that was in David Winter’s testimony, clearly show the same child. Therefore, with the help of testimony which was given more than fifty years ago, Yad Vashem was able to connect the two parts of this story.
On July 10, 2014, Petro and Kateryna Durniak were recognized as Righteous among the Nations.