Holocaust Remembrance

Ala Galperin scaled e1707827886969

International Holocaust Memorial is January 27, and we want to share the tale of Ala Galperin from Kyiv. Ala is a resident of our WIZO Parents Home and when we came to interview her, she said, “I’m so glad to have someone to share my experience with. It seems that no one was interested to hear our stories any more. The next generations have moved on. Unfortunately, this war has brought it all back. For all of us.”

Even at two months shy of 90 years old, Ala Galperin can recall exact details of her experience during the Holocaust: that on the day that they were frantically rushed out of their home and told to board a train, she was wearing her best white dress because it was her birthday, and she concerned herself with keeping it clean, clinging to a shred of hope that the chaos and panic was temporary and would soon pass.

Ala, a resident of WIZO’s Parents Home and one of several Holocaust survivors, was 7 years old when Nazi Germany invaded what is now Ukraine. The only child of an elite fighter pilot father and a communist activist mother was fortunate enough to have been whisked out of Kyiv, along with other military families, a mere two days before the Nazis overran the capital.

Thousands of Jews, including her grandparents, uncles and aunts, were not able to flee, and were later sent to Babi Yar, the infamous site of the largest mass-murder by the Nazi regime during the campaign against the Soviet Union. Some 33,771 Jews were massacred at Babi Yar.

Ala’s escape story is quite remarkable. She, her mother and her nanny were put on cattle cars to escape and after a short ride, they stopped the train to allow the passengers to use the bathroom in the fields. While Ala was squatting in the bushes, the train began to pull away and they were left behind. Hours later, after trekking through the dark forest with no food or water, someone came to retrieve them. After the war, Ala learned that the train they had been on was intercepted by the Germans and everyone on it was murdered.

Ala and her mother survived the war by traveling deep into USSR territory to a place called Tatarstan, where they lived among the villagers, many of whom had never met a Jew before. One villager asked to feel her head and was surprised not to find horns.

At the end of the war, Ala returned to Kyiv. In 1974, she, her husband and only daughter moved to Israel. This year is their 50th aliyah anniversary.

This war broke my heart,” said Ala. Her only daughter died of cancer 5 years ago. “A mother should never have to bury her child, it’s the cruelest fate. So many mothers have buried their children in this war.” Ala, who worked at WIZO as an early childhood educator and day care manager until she was 83, never imagined that her great-grandchildren would live through a brutal massacre like the ones her generation survived. The term Never Again rings hollow at a time like this.

Other articles

Scroll to Top