Los Angeles Times - His family saved a girl from Nazis. That changed this Ukrainian refugee's 'destiny'
Photos by Sydney Walsh for Los Angeles Times | Read the full story by Kailyn Brown
The day was bitterly cold as Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson desperately knocked on the door of the Bogancha home. It was winter 1941. Dawson, 14, had trudged for miles in the snow, holding fast to five sheets of music, Frédéric Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu,” tucked under her clothing and her father’s final words in her ears: “I don’t care what you do, just stay alive.” That day, Nazi troops had rounded up Dawson and her family and sent them, along with other Jews, on a 12-mile march toward a ravine at the southern edge of Kharkov, as the city was then known. Just a mile from the destination, Dawson’s father bribed a guard with a gold pocket watch to let his daughter escape. Dawson sought refuge at the home of a non-Jewish classmate, Nicolai Bogancha. She hoped his family — whom she knew as “good-hearted people” — would let her in. When his mother answered the door, she pulled Dawson inside to safety.
Decades later, as war once again approached Kharkiv in February of 2022, the Dawson family returned the kindness the Boganchas offered all those years ago. Through a mutual friend, Zhanna Dawson's son, Greg, and his wife, Candy, helped Alex Bogancha escape Ukraine to California. The events have prompted Greg Dawson to reflect on his own legacy, including the birth of his granddaughter, who wouldn’t be alive if not for the risks that the earlier generation of the Bogancha family had taken.