Maria Tykva was Leonid Dinkevich' nanny of in Kiev and took care of the child while his parents were at work. When the war broke out, Leonid's father, Josef, joined the Red Army and went to the front. The child's mother asked Maria to take the five-year-old boy to her village Kolokhovo, in the Dnepropetrovsk District.
Even in the distant village, the little boy was not safe. When writing to Yad Vashem, he remembered the Germans arrival – a German soldier shooting the hen in the yard and asking the child 'are you a judo-bolshevist?' [The term used by German propaganda for the arch-enemy – the Communist conspiracy lead by the Jews]. Maria and the child were summoned to the German police and interrogated. Luckily the Germans mistakenly concluded that Leonid's last name was Polish, not Jewish, and they let them go.
Maria took care of little Leonid until liberation. They lived in her parents' home in the village. This was not without danger, because one of the German soldiers was housed at their place. However he apparently was not interested in child's origin. Leonid remembers him patting his head and crying – perhaps the soldier was missing his family, or was reminded of his own child.
In 1943 the house was billeted and the Tykva family had to move out. The German army turned their home into a storehouse. Leonid remembers the many sausages they found when the family finally returned to their home after the region was liberated in February 1944.
Soon after liberation a letter from his aunt arrived, enquiring about his well-being. She wrote that his mother had been evacuated to the east. (When the Germans attacked, the Soviet government evacuated civilians and factories to the rear. Families were separated in the hasty evacuation and spent the remainder of the war not knowing the fate of their dear ones in the occupied territories.). The aunt also gave the military address of Leonid's father. Probably because they could not write well, Tykva's family asked one of the Soviet soldiers, who was stationed in the village, to write to the father. Due to the post-war shortages and with no paper handy, the letter was written on the wax paper wrapping of one of the sausages the Germans had left behind. Little Leonid added a letter to his father. The note, written with childish writin survived.
Eventually Leonid's mother returned and took him back to Kiev. Leonid remembers that her hair had turned completely white. When the war ended, his father was discharged from the army and they brought Maria to Kiev, where she continued to serve as Leonid's nanny for several years. She never married, and Leonid took care of her in her old age.
On 22 June 2008 Yad Vashem recognized Maria Tykva as Righteous Among the Nations.