Despite unseasonably cold weather and gusty winds, more than 100 Holocaust survivors and their family members gathered at a New York seaside park to commemorate the capitulation of Nazi Germany to Soviet forces in Eastern Europe.

Organized by F.R.E.E.-Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, a Chabad-Lubavitch run program benefitting Russian-speaking immigrants, the May 9 Victory Day celebration included Zoya Yusupov, the only living survivor of Bogdanovka, a Jewish collective farm in the Caucasus that was annihilated during World War II.

Speaking at the ceremony, Yusupov recalled the harrowing days of more than 65 years ago, and the miracle of being able to practice her religion in a free country. She urged attendees to be “unified, assist one another with advice, and help each other.”

Another participant noted that many Jews took up arms alongside their fellow Russians to defend their country.

“We’ve come here today to salute the heroes in our families,” he said, “who bravely fought the Nazis with self-sacrifice.”

Rabbi Mayer Okunov, chairman of F.R.E.E., presided over the ceremony, while Rabbi David Okunov, the organization’s associate director, chanted a special memorial prayer known in Hebrew as Kel Maleh Rachamim. Yusupov’s son, Alex Yusupov, chaired the event, reaching out to F.R.E.E.’s network of immigrants from Russia’s Khavkaz region to attend.

After the ceremony, Alex Yusupov recounted the tragedy that befell his mother’s town when Nazi forces approached Bogdanovka. Its citizenry depleted of able-bodied men, who were conscripted into the Russian army, the hamlet contained only 473 seniors, women and children when German troops amassed everyone by an old well. The invaders murdered everyone, save for two children who escaped.

Five years ago, Yusupov advocated for the inclusion of a stone bearing Bogdanovka’s name among the memorial’s stones representing Auschwitz, Babi Yar and other locations where Jews perished during the Holocaust.

“It’s a good thing that we have this stone here,” said the son. “We can’t go to Russia, so every year, May 9 is a big day for us.

“My mother carries a lot of pain with her,” he continued. “I come here and I remember that I was born this. I remember all of the stories that my mother told me, because it cannot be forgotten.”