fbpx The Afanasievs: A Family of Rescuers | HEROES OF THE RESISTANCE Skip to main content


The Afanasievs: A Family of Rescuers

Piotr Afanasiev lived near the city of Daugavpils, which was to be the scene of some of Latvia’s worst massacres. After witnessing the liquidation of the ghetto there, Afanasiev managed to contact some of the Jewish prisoners who were still being held in a nearby fortress and invite them to come to his home for safety if they should ever escape. Piotr and his wife Lucija prepared a concealed compartment under his kitchen floor and waited for the day that someone might come for help. 


Piotr Afanasiev

As German forces surrounded the fortress in preparation to massacre the inhabitants, a number of prisoners escaped. Five women would eventually find their way to Afanasiev’s home, but as there was only space for three in the compartment, two were forced to seek shelter elsewhere. When the two women, Bunja Zelikman and her daughter Rachel, returned after two weeks of searching for someone to take them in, Lucija agreed to transport them by wagon to Piotr’s parents’ house, an isolated farmstead shared by four generations of his family. The Afanasievs warmly welcomed the desperate women, sharing their meagre rations and even smuggling them to a bathhouse once a month under cover of darkness.  

Only towards the end of the war would the Zelikmans learn that the Afanasievs were hiding another Jewish woman in their barn, and the three Jewish women who had remained at Piotr and Lucija’s house would soon join them. All six women survived the war and would regularly visit the Afanasievs, who were later recognised as Righteous Among the Nations (non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews) by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre.