A 91-year-old Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust during World War II has died in Mariupol during Russia’s invasion.
Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova died on April 4, begging for water in her basement as Russian bombs shook the area and Russian snipers made it nearly impossible for anyone to reach water sources, according to Jewish news organization Chabad.org.
“Mama didn’t deserve such a death,” Obiedkova’s daughter Larissa said.
Larrissa and her husband buried her mother in a nearby park, even as shelling continued to hammer the city.
Rabbi Mendel Cohen said Obiedkova “was a kind, joyous woman, a special person who will forever remain in our hearts.” Cohen also mentioned the “unimaginable horrors” Obiedkova had lived in Mariupol her entire life.
“Mama loved Mariupol; she never wanted to leave,” Larissa said. Obiedkova was 10 years old when the Nazis invaded the city. She reportedly hid in a basement when they came to her family’s home. They took her mother, but Obiedkova stayed hidden.
When Nazis executed thousands of Jews in the city in October of 1941, Obiedkova’s mother and her mother’s entire family were among the victims. Her father escaped execution since he was not Jewish. Obiedkova was eventually detained by the Nazis, but friends convinced them that she was a Greek, and her father placed her in a hospital where she remained until the Nazis were driven out of Mariupol.
“Obiedkova gave a full account of her life and Holocaust experience to the USC Shoah Foundation in 1998,” Chabad.org reported. However, the copy of the interview Obiedkova’s daughter held onto perished along with their home. “We had a VHS tape of her interview at home,” Larissa said. “But that’s all burned together with our home.”
Ukrainian officials have said that at least 5,000 citizens of Mariupol have died since the Russians invaded in late February, and Rabbi Cohen called the city “a cemetery.”
On March 16, officials reported that 300 people died from a Russian strike on a theater being used as a bomb shelter, even though the word “children” had been spelled out in large Russian letters outside.
When violence intensified in the city in March, Obiedkova moved with some of her family into the basement of a heating supply store, according to Chabad.org. “There was no water, no electricity, no heat—and it was unbearably cold,” Larissa said of the make-shift shelter. “[T]here was nothing we could do for her. We were living like animals!”
The Auschwitz Memorial paid respects to Obiedkova in a Tweet on Tuesday. “At 10 years old, Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova survived the Germans by hiding in a basement in Mariupol. 81 years later, she died in a basement in the same city as a victim of the horrific war hiding from the Russians.”
At 10 years old, Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova survived the Germans by hiding in a basement in Mariupol.
81 years later, she died in a basement in the same city as a victim of the horrific war hiding from the Russians.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) April 19, 2022