Birth: March 12, 1992 in Warsaw, Poland
Death: October 13, 2006 (age 84) in Victoria, B.C.
Burial: Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery, Victoria, Capital Regional District, British Columbia, Canada
Rysia Kraskin was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1922. She had 3 older brothers. She graduated from High School in 1939, just before the war broke out. After the German army came, she and her family were required to wear the yellow Star of David. Just before the ghetto was closed, Rysia Kraskin’s parents sent her to live with friends in the countryside where she remained until 1942. That summer, she was taken as she walked along a street and brought in a truck to Skarzysko camp. At this munitions factory she and others worked 12 hour shifts. It was hard physical labor without food. Many didn’t survive.
A year and a half later, Rysia was taken to another munitions factory, Czenstochowa. It was the second of five camps that Rysia Kraskin endured. She was transferred from camp to camp sometimes by foot, sometimes packed in trucks, or crammed into cattle cars on trains. They were occasionally beaten and often locked in without food or water.
Rysia risked her life to stay with a young woman who was sick with typhoid. The woman’s aunt also attended. Because the young woman was not left alone in the bed, her life was spared. She and Rysia remained friends even though her friend lived in Israel.
Other women showed great acts of selflessness and bravery as well. Helen Jacobs (also buried in this cemetery) is another example. Helen and Rysia survived Skarzysko, Czenstochowa, Ravensbruk, Burgau, and Turkheim together. They were shipped from Ravensbruk to Burgau in a sealed cattle car. Many perished en route. When they got to Burgau, the doors were open and Helen was handed water. Without taking a sip, she brought the water to Rysia who was lying on the floor on the opposite side of the car in a weakened condition. Helen then got water for herself and later helped Rysia off the train.
Later that day Helen once again saved Rysia life. People were screened before being allowed into the camps. If they seemed healthy enough to work, they were admitted, if not, they were sent directly to their death. The story has evolved to be told that Helen was somehow able to get a tube of red lipstick. In order to make them appear healthier than they were, Helen rubbed a little lipstick on both women’s cheeks and onto their lips. However, Helen used blood, not lipstick. As Rysia was barely alive, Helen’s action saved her life. Both women were liberated by Americans at the end of April 1945, and remained lifelong friends.
Rysia passed on October 13, 2006. Her grave was prepared Geoffrey Perkins, the caretaker at the time and his partner Joy Wilkins. Just shy of the regulation 6 feet depth, they hit bedrock. Without time to dig in another plot, they decided to build up the grave with rocks and earth that had been piled up by the shed. Joy Wilkins was aware of Rysia’s story. While she was at home waiting for the funeral service to be completed, Joy found a tube of red lipstick. It wasn’t her color and it had never been used. With permission from the Rabbi, put the tube of red lipstick in the grave as she filled it in.
Gravesite Details: Row D – Plot 57
פּ״נ (Here lies)
March 12, 1922 – October 13, 2006
A survivor of concentration camps:
Czestochowa and Skarzysko, Poland
Ravensbruck, Burgau and Turkheim, Germany
A WOMAN OF GOD
Hebrew name: Risha b. Gita v’Aharon
ת נ צ ב ה
abbreviation for Biblical quote: “May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.”