JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Michael Sidko, the last known survivor of the Babyn Yar Massacre which occurred in September 1941, who made aliya to Israel in the year 2000, received a medal from the Knesset on Sunday marking 80 years since the horrific event. Sidko was presented the medal by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy.
“I was honored to present him with a medal of recognition on behalf of the Knesset, on behalf of Israeli democracy. I reassured Michael that the memory of his family, along with all the victims of Babyn Yar and the Holocaust, will be safeguarded forever,” said Levy.
The massacre took place in Kyev, Ukraine where more than 33,000 Jews were killed in just two days by the Nazis – their killing spree accounted for almost all of the Jews of Kyiv.
Sidko was reportedly six years old when he witnessed the murder of his sister, and mother.
For six decades Sidko maintained his silence, not even revealing to his children that he was Jewish or that he had twice survived hair-raising brushes with death during the brutal massacres which occurred in Kyev. In a recent interview Sidko described his ordeal:
“I remember everything, the smallest details, but I don’t want to recall it. It’s too painful,” Sidko said. “I remember huge numbers of people, from all of Kyev, swarming towards us like a flood. We were in groups of 300 people. They took us through a checkpoint, took all of our papers and jewelry, whatever we had. Then they took us through the second checkpoint- the healthy men, whoever could work….the Germans didn’t work. They took the men to one side, women to another side and children to a third place and all the rest, old and young, they sent “there” meanibg the ravine on the outskirts of the city where most of the remaining Jews of Kyev were murdered. (100,000 escaped into Russia before the Germans arrived).
Sidko and his siblings were sent with their mother towards the ravine: “My sister Clara was three and a half and my brother Volodya was just 4 months,” he recalls. Mother stood with the baby in her hands, Clara held her skirt. One of the collaborators caught Clara and hit her and then put his boot on her neck until she was suffocated. Mother saw this and lost consciousness. The baby fell and the collaborator came and killed him. Mother woke up and began screaming and then he shot her. He took them all by the feet and threw them into the ravine.”
Michael added that “I was screaming, my brother Grisha held me to him so that I wouldn’t see anything and we continued standing there until the evening. They put us in a cellar where we stayed for two weeks. Its unclear to me why we stayed there. Then they took all of us to the second floor where there was a German officer with a dog. In the corner there was a translator who was our neighbor, Ivan Ivanowitz. He said: “these children I know, they are the children of my friend.” This was enough for them to throw us out of there and we began to live a little.”
The two brothers were saved later once again due to the resourcefulness of their Ukrainian neighbor. “The apartment was joined to another one where Sofia Kondortaiva lived with her daughter. The stayed with us. Somebody came in and asked: Who are these. Sofia answered: ‘These are my children’ and that’s how we survived until the war ended.” Kondortaiva was recognized later as a Righteous Gentile.
Sidko, now 86, is considered the last living survivor of the massacre by researchers. He now lives in Beit Shemesh. One of his children also immigrated to Israel with him, another lives in Canada.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, said: “In order to understand the entire story of the extermination of the Jews in-depth, I call on the Israeli government and anyone who has visited Poland to visit Babyn Yar as well.” Sharansky promised Michael that the names of his family members who perished would be mentioned at the official ceremony in October in Kyiv to mark the 80th anniversary of the massacre.