Vera Yarmonkine Raffalovich

The grandson of Vera Yarmonkine-Raffalovich has contacted me to tell me about his grandmother and supply the photographs you see here.

Andre and Vera Raffalovich outside Andre's Paris bank.

Vera Yarmonkine-Raffalovich, born 1st November 1901 in St Petersburg Russia, was a refugee from the Bolshevik revolution. She escaped from Russia through the Crimea with the Czar's mother, Marie Feodorovna, and boarded the British Navy ship HMS Marlborough in Yalta on April 7th, 1919. She lived in exile in Paris with her second husband, Andre Raffalovich, who was a French banker born in Enghien-les-Bains (Seine-et-Oise) on the 23rd February 1896. The couple had two daughters, Michelene and Pierette and homes in Paris and Bordeaux.

During the German occupation of France Vera became involved with the Comete escape line, she worked at guiding evading Allied airmen through Paris and Bordeaux and finding them safe houses to stay in. Her husband and her brother, Valentin Yarmonkine, who was born in St. Petersburg on 9th May 1898, were also involved as was her daughter Michelene, who was in her early teens at the time, she claimed to have learned to speak English helping the evaders .

Valentin Yarmonkine.

Valetin was captured in Paris by the Gestapo in the summer of 1944. Soon after, on 3 July, 1944 the Gestapo came for the Raffalovichs. They lived in the top floor apartment at 110 Boulevard Hausmann and family tells, with some drama, how they attempted to escape by running over the roof tops with bullets flying.

The anguish of losing their parents, so abruptly, haunted Michelene and her sister Pierette, for the rest of their lives. Their fear and frustration was made all the worse when their parents were deported on the last Nazi train to leave Paris with prisoners for the concentration camps.

Andre Raffalovich's last letter to his daughters.
"We leave today August 15 probably to go to work in Germany.
Be courageous. The beautiful days will return.
Your Dad kisses you, and loves you."

Their father had been able to write one last letter to his daughters before being put on the train. Vera survived Buchenwald and Ravensbruck but her husband and brother perished after being taken to the Dora Mittelbau slave labour factories in the Hartz Mountains. Andre died of typhus on the 2nd December 1944 in Buchenwald and Valentin died in Ellrich.

After the war Vera would never speak a word about her ordeal, she always carried a bitter hostility to those French public figures she considered collaborators. Her daughters were ambivalent about their mother. On the one hand, they were proud of their parentís achievements and their decorations. On the other hand, they also admitted that they secretly blamed their mother for encouraging their father to engage in such dangerous endeavors when they had two young daughters in their care.

Vera was awarded the rank of Sous-Lieutenant des forces francaises combatantes, reseau "Comete Evasion" after the war and received the following medals.
Medaille de la resistance (France)
Croix de Guerre avec Citation "a l'Ordre de la Division" (France)
Medaille des Deportes et Internes de la resistance. (France)
Medaille des Combattants Volontaires. (France)
King's Medal for Courage (Great Britain)
Chevalier de l'Ordre de Leopold II avec palme. (Belgium)
Croix de Guerre Belge 1940 avec palme. (Belgium)
Medaille de la Resistance Belge. (Belgium)

Vera died 13th January 1964 and is buried in Chaville, France.
Andre Raffalovich and Valentin Yarmonkine are on the list of Comete Escape Line war dead.
My thanks to Paul Mifsud for the bulk of this information and if anyone has more information on the escape line work of Vera, her husband and her brother I would be pleased to receive it.
John Clinch
August 2007

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