Omelyan Kovch was the father of 6 children, but helped to bring up other children as well. The youngest boy is a child taken by the priest from a poor Ukrainian family.

Father Omelyan Kovch with his parishioners.

Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, saved by Omelyan Kovch.

Omelyan Kovch
(1884 - 1944)

Omelyan Kovch was born in 1884. In November 1918 in Lviv the West Ukrainian People’s Republic was proclaimed. Omelyan Kovch, being a cleric, had no right to take up weapons, but he could not ignore his patriotic impulse and became a chaplain of the Ukrainian army. After the annexation of Galicia by Poland, Kovch’s activities caused repressions by the government, which tried to limit the development of the Ukrainian national movement. He was often arrested and imprisoned for a long or short time. In September 1939, after the Second World War started and the Soviet power was established in Galicia, the situation in the city changed rapidly. The Poles were the first victims of Communist repressions. Omelyan was the first one who rushed to help them. Either with food or with money, or just with a kind word, he visited families of Polish officers sent to Siberia. In September 1941 a group of German SS men locked the synagogue in the town of Peremyshlyany filled with people who came to pray right at that time. Someone threw bombs inside. The fire started, people rushed to the door and realised that they were caught in a deadly trap. Kovch who spoke German perfectly shouted to the German soldiers asking them to let him into the synagogue. Kovch rushed to carry people out of the burning synagogue. Aharon Rokeach, the rabbi of Belz was among those saved. Omelyan Kovch was laudable not only for a single heroic deed, but also for his long-term high-risk work. When a ghetto was established in Peremyshlyany, the father more than once got inside to help the Jews. He brought them food, medicine, clean clothes etc. For such activity Father Kovch was arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst in January 1943 and imprisoned in Lviv prison on Lontsky Street. He was tortured for a long time in the prison, and then was sent away to the Majdanek concentration camp. Omelyan Kovch, prisoner № 2399 of Majdanek, worked as all the others in the camp, but after heavy physical labour he still served as a pastor. He died on 25 March 1944, just a few months before the liberation of Majdanek.