Larissa Subashi

saved by brave people

I was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1926 to a Jewish couple called Braverman. When I was three years old my mother died of tuberculosis. After a short time, my father remarried. A very resourceful non-Jewish Armenian woman from the Subashi family. (My surname is the same as my stepmother's for reasons that I will explain below; in Turkish "su" is "water" and "bashi" is head, so Subashi means "a well".)

When the Second World War began, my father told my mother that we had to leave Odessa and evacuate to the east, to Russia, because if the Germans occupied the town they would certainly kill the Jews. Father pleaded for us to leave Odessa, but my parents were scared to flee by sea as the Germans bombed the ships. Mother did not agree to leave because she did not want to abandon their apartment, furniture, and other belongings, and she wanted to hide my father there meanwhile, while my parents debated escaping, the Germans conquered Odessa.

As soon as they arrived, the Germans summoned the Jews and issued orders on what they could do and how they were to behave. Jews had to sign a document saying they would not move house or flee. The Germans prepared to send the Jews to the concentration camps. After a while, the Germans gave control of Odessa and Moldavia to the Romanians. They, too, immediately started to target Jews.

 

Announcements were made that they Jews had to enter defined areas that became ghettos, and those Jews that hid would be killed. Mother hid Father in the basement of our house. The Romanians searched for the Jews throughout the city and at night they knocked on doors and asked if there were any Jews in the house.

One day, the Romanians came and caught my father and ordered him to join a queue beside our house of Jews whom they wanted to send to Dalnik, a village not far from Odessa, where we had heard that Jews were being burned. Later on, we left our home to say farewell to my father, who was standing in the queue, and we remained with him for a long time. Suddenly, when the soldiers were not paying attention, Mother pulled Father from the queue and brought him home, whispering:

"Either I save you or we all will perish." The soldiers did not notice the absence of my father.

The problem of how to protect Father continued as it was already very dangerous to hide him in the basement. Armenian friends advised Mother to turn to an Armenian priest who was ill in hospital. Mother went to see him. He was very sick and had no relatives to care for him. The priest told Mother that he had a house in Moldavia. Mother promised the priest that we would take care of him if he helped Father. We took the priest home and I took care of him: I cooked, washed his laundry, cleaned and helped him in all things.

Our family also include my four-month-old baby brother, who was born in May 1942. Mother was breastfeeding him and bringing us food items. When the possibility arose, Mother, Father, and the priest traveled to Moldavia. Although I was only sixteen years old, I stayed together with my baby brother and took loving care of him. While Mother was gone I warmed cow's milk for him and the baby almost died, but, thank the Lord, he survived. After a while, Mother took us both to Moldavia. The priest died and it was dangerous to remain in the house without the priest. One Moldavian family agreed to hide father, so we stayed in Moldavia.

When Moldavia was still under Romanian occupation, they came often to homes to check the residents' documents. When I became eighteen years of age, we had a problem in how to hide that I was a Jew. My birth mother was also Jewish and my family name before the war was Braverman, so it was clear that I could not show my birth certificate. What could be done? My mother had an idea. We had my school certificate that stated that I had completed seven classes in Odessa, with my grades in each subject. My mother ripped the places where the family name and year of birth were written. She found a woman who could forge the handwriting on the certificate and had her insert the name Subashi next to the hole where Braverman had originally been written.

When the Romanians came to check our documents, Mother explained to them that my birth certificate was lost but that we could show them my school certificate. Mother explained to the Romanians that the wholes in the certificate were caused by mice. The Romanians believed Mother and said that we had to go to the police for a new identify card. Mother told the officer that I did not have the identity card and instead showed him the school certificate. The officer ordered me to stand in front of him and Mother stood beside me answering his questions. My mother also changed my age, making me three years younger so I would not be sent to work in Germany. I received my false identity card in Moldavia on 29 February 1944. When I decided to move to Israel, I obtained a copy of my original identity card from the Odessa archives, but I retained my step-mother's family name as she was like a real mother to me.

After the War

When the war finished, I went to Odessa and studied in college. I worked in a pastry factory as a chef, finishing a correspondence course from the food institute and worked as a food engineer until my retirement in 1984. I lived in the city of Kishinev.

I was married in 1962 but my husband died of cancer in 1993. We did not have any children. After my husband's death, I was spiritually in a very difficult place. I was not yet a believer. A friend from the Adventist Church invited me to her congregation to listen to an American preacher. I liked the sermon very much. The pastor showed us how both the Old and new Testaments tell about Jesus the Messiah. I did not have a bible because of my financial situation and it was also difficult to obtain one.

They told us that whoever comes to listen to the service eleven times would get the Bible for free.

I was very interested and decided to come and listen all eleven times. So began my walk with God. I started to attend the Adventist church and also the home groups. They asked me many times to become a member, but I was not ready to take this important step and I also wanted to visit other congregations. So I went to many kinds of churches such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals, and Baptists. Once, a group of Jews who believed in Jesus the Messiah came to Kishinev from St. Petersburg. They had a meeting in a stadium with speeches, Jewish spiritual songs, and dances. They told me that there was a Messianic congregation in the city of Kishinev and I started going there. I liked the sermons and Jewish songs very much, and I took part in the worship group. I was baptized in that congregation.

 

Two missionary girls from Poland and Canada came to Kishinev. In the home group, they began teaching us Jews that God was gathering His people to Israel and that this land of our ancestors was awaiting us. They also helped me financially by organizing the papers I needed for making "aliyah" to Israel. I came alone in 1998.

My friend was living in Haifa and it became my hometown too. I found the Baptist congregation and I started to go there and became a member.

 

In the congregation, I heard about the Ebenezer senior home and I moved into one of four external flats that belonged to Ebenezer and lived there independently with three other elderly ladies. We took part in the weekly Russian Bible studies at Ebenezer and celebrations, where I played my violin with the music group, and some of us went there to participate in handiwork activities. When I started to have more health problems, I applied to be a resident in Ebenezer and in December 2009 I moved into the Home.

 

As I do not have any family here in Israel, it is so important to be part of Ebenezer family, where people care for my needs.

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