A 91-year-old Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by hiding in a basement in Mariupol died while she was sheltering in a basement in Mariupol during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova reportedly spent the last two weeks of her life in a freezing basement, begging for water and asking “Why is this happening?”

Her surviving family members escaped Mariupol after she died on April 4 and they told the Jewish organization Chabad about Obiedkova’s final moments in an article published Tuesday.

“Mama didn’t deserve such a death,” Obiedkova’s daughter, Larissa, tearfully told Chabad hours after arriving in a safe location.

“There was no water, no electricity, no heat—and it was unbearably cold,” she said.

Larissa dedicated all her time taking care of her immobile mother, but she lamented that “there was nothing we could do for her. We were living like animals!”

Snipers were set up near the closest water sources, making trips extremely dangerous, in addition to the bombings, Chabad said.

“Every time a bomb fell, the entire building shook,” Larissa observed. “My mother kept saying she didn’t remember anything like this during the Great Patriotic War [World War II].”

Obiedkova’s surviving family members risked their lives to bury her in a public park during non-stop shelling.

“The whole Mariupol has turned into a cemetery [sic],” Chabad-Lubavitch director Rabbi Mendel Cohen said. He has worked full-time to evacuate civilians, including Larissa and her family, from the besieged Ukrainian port city. 

Mendel, Mariupol’s only rabbi, has known Obiedkova for years. 

He said she “lived through unimaginable horrors” but was still “a kind, joyous woman, a special person who will forever remain in our hearts.”

Obiedkova was born on Dec. 8, 1930, in Mariupol. When the SS came to her family’s home in 1941, she hid in a basement while her mother and sister were taken away and executed.

Her mother’s entire family was murdered, along with up to 16,000 Jews in Mariupol. Her father was not Jewish, so he was able to eventually check her into a hospital until the end of the war.

“Mama loved Mariupol; she never wanted to leave,” her daughter said.

“I’m so sorry for the people of Mariupol,” Larissa tearfully noted. “There’s no city, no work, no home—nothing. What is there to return to? For what? It’s all gone. Our parents wanted us to live better than they did, but here we are repeating their lives again.”

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