Josef and Shura-Rivka Khasin lived in Odessa with their two children, Rosa, born 1924, and Avraham, born 1930. They enjoyed good relations with their neighbours, especially an Armenian woman by the name of Peruza Bagdasarian who lived with her son Sarkis. Her husband had been accused by the Soviet authorities as an enemy of the state and sent to Kazakhstan.
In summer 1941 Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Josef, who was an invalid, refused to believe the rumours about Nazi atrocities and decided not to flee. On 16 October 1941 the Romanians entered the city and the persecution of the Jews began.
Following a bombing of the Romanian headquarters, many Jews, including Josef and his wife, were arrested. Their children were taken in by Peruza, who cared for them and when necessary, hid them in the attic. Peruza and her son would bring food to the parents in prison.
After one month in prison, Josef and Shura-Rivka were released and returned home. By that time the mass murder of Jews had started, and many were killed; others were deported to the Domanioka district, where they lived under terrible conditions and many perished. Most neighbors sympathized with the Khasins’ plight and tried to help as much as they could, but the janitor was very hostile – his daughter wanted to have the Khasin apartment, and therefore whenever Romanians or Germans passed the building, the janitor would complain about the Jewish residents.
On such occasions, the Khasins would send their children to stay with Badasarian, while the Germans and Romanians were ransacking their home. Despite his young age, Sarkis helped his mother and was an active partner in helping the Khasins.
On 11 January 1942 the Jews of Odessa were ordered to move to the ghetto in the Slobodka neighborhood. Knowing that the janitor would never enable them to stay behind, the Khasins moved to the ghetto. They had to sell their belongings to buy food, and when they no longer had anything to sell, Rosa would secretly leave the ghetto and go to her former neighbors to get provisions.
In April 1942 Josef Khasin was arrested under false accusation that he had been hiding gold. He was tortured and died. One month later, Shura-Rivka and her two children were deported to Karlovka in the Domaniovka district. They managed to survive the harsh conditions, and returned to Odessa in March 1944, when the city was liberated.
Their apartment was destroyed, and they lived for several months in the home of Peruza Bagdasarian until Shura-Rivak was able to find an apartment. The two families continued to be in close relations for many years. The Khasins wanted to have them honored, but Peruza and her son refused, saying they had only been doing their duty. After the passing of Peruza in 1998 and Sarkis in 2001, Rosa and Avraham submitted the request to honor their rescuers.
On 20 August 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Peruza Badasarian and her son Sarkis as Righteous Among the Nations.
Yad Vashem would like to thank Araksi Bagdasarian and Oleg Tkachenko for providing additional materials and background for this story.
Pran Tashchiyan www.yadvashem.org