Michael Sidko was just six years old when he witnessed how the German forces and their Ukrainian collaborators murder in cold blood his infant bother Volodya, his baby sister Clara and his mother, who screamed in pain while the Nazi troops kept firing to make sure she is dead.
Sidko, 85, is now the last living survivor of the massacre in the Babi Yar ravine in Kyiv, which marked the start of the Holocaust in the occupied Soviet Ukraine. The massacre took place over the course of two days on September 29-30, 1941, killing approximately 33,771 Jews.
For 60 years Sidko kept his Jewish identity and what he had witnessed at Babi Yar a secret. Even his own kids didn't know their father's history, who continued to live in the country where his loved ones were murdered in cold blood.
"I remember everything, even the small details, but I don't want to, it hurts too much", says Sidko.
"They moved us through a checkpoint, took all our documents, all the jewelry and everything we had. Then the healthy men were sent to forced labor, the women and children were sent to two different places and the rest, both the old and the young, were sent to the pit", he says.
By pit, Sidko refers to the massive death pit on the outskirts of the city, in which in just two days the entire Jewish community of Kiev was wiped out. Among them were also Sidko's brother, sister and mother.
"My sister Clara was born in 1938, she was three and a half years old, and my brother Volodya was just four months old. My mom was holding my brother, and Clara stood next to her, holding her skirt. One of the Ukrainian collaborators took Clara, hit her in the head, and stepped on her chest until she suffocated to death.
"My mom saw the whole thing and fainted. Then my baby brother fell, and the collaborator approached him and killed him. Mom woke up, started to scream and he shot her, then they grabbed them all by the legs and threw them into the pit."
Michael Sidko, and his older brother Grisha, miraculously survived after the Nazis eventually decided to send them for experimentation or forced labor. "When we witnessed the murder, I screamed and my brother covered me, so I wouldn't see anything, and that's how we stood until nightfall," he says.
After that, Sidko and his brother were moved to a basement, in which they were held for more than two weeks. "After being in that basement, they took us up to the second floor, and there we saw a German officer with his dog and a translator in the corner of the room. That translator was our neighbor Ivan Ivanovic, and he told the officer he knows us, so they threw us out of there and we managed to live."
The two brothers escaped death several times, mostly thanks to their Ukrainian neighbor Sofia Kondratieva. "We lived in a shared apartment, and in one of the rooms Sofia lived with her daughter, so every time someone came and asked who we were, she would say we were her sons, and that's how we survived until the war was over," Sidko adds.
Sofia was later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, which is an honorific used by Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from the Nazis.
Twenty years ago, Sidko, who currently lives in Beit Shemesh, finally found the courage to make aliyah to Israel following the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine - which were also among the factors that led tohim finally breaking his silence.
Last month Sidko was visited by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and Natan Sharansky - chair of the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, who awarded him The Knesset State Medal in honor of the 80th anniversary of the horrific massacre.