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Khava Kogan (2/4/2022)

Khava Kogan was born in 1926 in Odessa, Ukraine and lived on the famous Myasoedovskaya Street. In 1937 her father, Shmuel, a Romanian Jew, was arrested and jailed as a Romanian spy, although in reality he was a shoemaker. Unfortunately, she never saw her father again. He was killed in Berezovka, where he had settled after being released from prison.

On October 16, 1941, the Germans arrived in Odessa and Khava, her mother, and her older brother, Zunya, were occupied. The authorities expelled all the Jews from their apartments and ordered them to gather in the school. They stayed there a few days, and then they were taken to the Odessa prison. Those who couldn’t walk and fell behind were shot mercilessly.

“I cried as I stepped over the dead bodies of friends and neighbors.” recounts Khava.

They spent about a month in prison. The women were separated from the men, and one day they found out that all the men had been transferred to the warehouse at the aerodrome and burned alive. That fire killed Khava’s brother, Zunya. Then, suddenly, Khava and her mother were released from the prison with nowhere to go.

On January 10, 1942, the Nazis issued an order to ghetto residents stating that all Jews should come to the Slobodka District. Machine guns were unloaded at their house at night and everybody was chased to the Slobodka District, where they were shut up in a barn. Khava’s aunt Dusya Bugaenko found her there. Before the war, Khava’s mother had helped Aunt Dusya to get a job, and they worked together. When the Germans came, her mother asked her to watch out for her. When Aunt Dusya saw Khava in the barn, she screamed,

“Khava! My daughter! Why are you here?”

She told the Nazis that Khava was her daughter and that she had been taken here accidentally. She demanded that Khava be given to her. Then she grabbed her hand and ran out of the barn. She did not even have time to say goodbye to her mother and never saw her again.

Her aunt Dusya brought her to her home, but she knew that leaving her in the house would be dangerous. They hid her in a basement room that her Uncle Misha made suitable for hiding and put an electric bulb in there. At night, she was able to go outside the room to eat. She lived in the basement from January of 1942 until April of 1943, when the Germans came to the house. Her Uncle Misha told a neighbor, Khrulev—someone he thought was a friend—that Khava lived in the basement. It was a mistake. The neighbor informed on her, and she was arrested and sent to jail. Two months later, she was sent to the Balta ghetto. It was a very difficult time for her as she had nothing to eat and had no clothes except a skirt made from a blanket. She was barefoot and was always freezing. Every time SS troops came to the ghetto, they shot people, and the children hid wherever they could: in gardens, outdoor toilets, in the pits. They sent them to work at the railway station located seven kilometers from the city and they had to unload freight cars that carried weapons. People worked until nighttime, and on the way back to the ghetto, many were shot.

“I really do not know what kind of miracle kept me alive. Three times I escaped being shot. Maybe I was born under a lucky star.”

Khava stayed in the ghetto from June 1943 to March 1944. In late March, as Soviet troops were approaching the city, the SS committed atrocities. They entered every house in the ghetto and machine-gunned entire families. Khava miraculously escaped, thanks to a Russian family that took her and other girls out of the orphanage and hid them until the arrival of Soviet troops on March 29, 1944.

All information from the book Never Heard Never Forget and interviews with survivors.

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