Kyiv: Vanda Obiedkova was 10 years old when German troops occupied Mariupol, a strategic port city in the south of Ukraine, in 1941.
Nazi soldiers began rounding up the city’s Jewish population, but the little girl escaped arrest by hiding in a basement, according to Chabad.org, the official website of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Thousands were removed from Mariupol and executed, including Obiedkova’s mother. She survived the war.
More than eight decades later, once again trapped in a basement as Russian forces bombarded the city for weeks, Obiedkova lost her latest battle. She was 91. Before she died on April 4, she had asked her family: “Why is this happening?” according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Before the Russian military intervention on February 24, Mariupol - located between Russian-annexed Crimea and areas of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists - had a population of about 430,000.
Ukraine is home to about 10,000 Holocaust survivors, according to the Blue Card, an American nonprofit organisation that provides financial assistance to survivors in the United States.
Obiedkova’s daughter, Larissa, told Chabad.org that she had watched her frail mother’s life ebb away as they were holed up in the basement of a local store, “like animals” - with no running water, power or heating.
Larissa said she and her husband risked incessant Russian shelling to bury Obiedkova in a park near the Sea of Azov.
“Mama loved Mariupol; she never wanted to leave,” she said.