Now 83 years of age, Pieter still vividly remembers being an eye-witness to the execution of a Jewish family Nazis found hiding with his neighbors back in Ukraine. The neighbors too were murdered for aiding the Jews.
Mere days later, two Jewish boys – David and Buszia Schmeigel – entered the Senevich family’s backyard. Their mother, who had been deported to the camps, was able to allow the boys to escape, telling them they must run and try to immigrate to Palestine, which was under British mandate at the time.
The Senevich family did not hesitate; they risked their lives and hid the two children in their home. After the war, the boys made it to Israel and currently reside in Beersheba.
In 1993, the Israeli consul in Ukraine managed to locate and reconnect the two families, which resulted in Yad Vashem granting Pieter the title of 'Righteous Among the Nations' – bestowed on non-Jewish men and women of all religions who helped saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
'We thought this was our home'
Five years ago Pieter and his wife Olga immigrated to Israel with their 29-year-old daughter Rosa. They settled in Beersheba, wishing to live close to David and Buszia.
But the Senevich family was dealt a devastating blow after Rosa's visa expired and the Ministry of the Interior informed her she must leave.
Rosa has already established herself in Israel, having found a job and giving birth to her daughter. She lives with her parents and provides for them.
“How are we to remain here without Rosa, who is our sole supporter?” asked Pieter. “Why are they asking her to leave? We thought this was our home.”
Shmaya Shushan, a family’s friend who employs Rosa in his factory, is trying to help the family reverse
the State's decision. So is the ATZUM (Avodot TZdaka U’Mishpat – or 'Justice Works'), the agency involved with aiding those recognized as Righteous Among the Nations; but so far to no avail.
The Ministry of Interior said in response: “Senevich has a permanent resident status for humanitarian reasons, and due to his Righteous Among the Nations title. His daughter has been living in Israel on a work visa, which has expired. She can visit her parents whenever she wants.”