Nacogdoches woman honored for mother's Holocaust heroism

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - An international honor began with a Russian immigrant grandmother telling a treasure trove of stories to her grandson.

Helen Dusher, 94, tells the stories to her grandson, Brian Konradi usually in her native language of Russian.

Konradi would vacation in Nacogdoches county growing up as a small child in Dallas.   One particular story from Dusher about her mother stands out to Konradi even as an adult.

"My great grandmother was a doctor. Her name was Dr. Elena Mamantova. That's a mouth full," Konradi said with a smile.

At the turn of 20th century the young non Jew, married to a Russian army officer, fled St Petersburg to a small town in Latvia.

"In that small town there was, I would say, probably 90% of them (were) Jewish people," said Dusher.

Nazi military entered town. What occurred next was a Holocaust nightmare.

"They arrested and took almost all the Jews on one terrible day out to the forest and killed the population of Jewish people in this town of Karsava," said Konradi.

The woman doctor, once persecuted during the Russian revolution, came to the Jews defense.

"She was arrested herself for doing that and was almost killed," said Konradi.

The doctor was released, but she didn't stop helping a small group of Jews in hiding.

"One of these Jewish women in hiding was pregnant and she gave birth to a son and it was my grandmother's mother who delivered that baby," said Konradi.  She did it even if it placed her own life in danger.

"She would help. We did not talk as a Jew or a Russian or German," shared Dusher.

Brian, is an attorney in Moscow, Russia. He says he wanted to push the family lore to historical fact. He seeked out the documentation. He discovered a historian who had written several volumes of Holocaust stories from Latvia. He found his grandmother's story in one volume, complete with pictures of the woman and her son.

"So it says, ' This golden Russian woman delivered my son," read Konradi from the book.

"No difference, absolutely,"  said Dusher referring to her mother's willingness to help anyone in need.

Konradi later spoke with the man who was delivered as a baby by his great grandmother.

A couple of years ago Konradi learned about 'The Righteous Among the Nations' award.      It's an honor created in Israel to recognize non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the holocaust.

Right away, Konradi, with the help of the man he met told the commission about his great grandmother.

Tuesday the honorable Maya Kadosh, Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southwest came to Nacogdoches to present a medal to the family.

"We are a nation and we are the home country of the Jewish people. If we can do something, even symbolic for these people, it's our privilege to do that," said Kadosh.

Mamantova's name will be engraved in a special memorial in Jerusalem as one who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.

More than 40 descendants from all over the country attended the honor.  94 year old Helen Dusher occasionally invites SFA students and other Russian immigrants to her East Texas home so more stories can be shared.

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