Interviewee: Lia German
Title: Ilya Halperin with friends
Place and Date: Dvinsk, Latvia - 1906
This is a photo of my father Ilya Halperin (second from right, standing) with two friends. I don't know who they are. The picture was taken in Dvinsk in 1906.
My father Ilya was born in 1891. He was a very educated man, he graduated from the Saint-Petersburg Institute of Psycho-Neurology, the faculty of law, along with the famous actor Solomon Mikhoels from the Moscow Jewish Theater . But then the revolution [Russian Revolution of 1917] started and he didn't have time to defend his diploma.
Papa went to the synagogue twice a year - on Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur. In the 1930s, in Dvinsk, he didn't go to the regular synagogue, but to his friends' home, who had a prayer-room in the house left to them by their parents. Ten people were to attend. Once he took me with him, that's why I remember. But in Riga, after the war, when he was very old and didn't work, he didn't go to the synagogue on Saturdays, only on high holidays, when he kept the fast.
Interviewee: Abram Kopelovich
Title: Zalman Beskin`s family
Place and Date: Vitebsk, Latvia - 1920s
This is my grandparents family. The photo was taken in Vitebsk in the 1920s.Grandfather Zalman Beskin died in 1938 (he is the one in the center with the beard); I don't know when he was born, but he died in Vitebsk. I was three months old when he died. Grandmother Musya died in 1953 (she is the one fourth from the left). She was the head of the family.
My father Isaac (Mordukh Idel) Markovich (Motl) Kopelovich (second from the right) was born in 1901 in Dvinsk, and my mother Tsimlya Zalmanovna Beskina was born also in 1901 in Vitebsk (she stands, third from right).
They were a handsome couple. They got married in 1922. I don't know any details. They certainly had a chuppah.
My father was a follower of Leon Trotsky's at that time. But later he became a big follower of Stalin. And Mother told him, Stop fiddling about with your Communist Party, I'm expecting yet another baby, who we are supposed to feed!
My brother earned his living by reselling things. He was born in 1924, Lev or Lyova by name (he sits with father). In 1928 my sister Sonya was born, Sofia.
Uncle Ierukhim Beskin, Mother's brother left for Moscow with friends in 1925-1926 (he sits second from left). They became porters in Moscow, not having much of an education. And gradually, step by step, they made their way in the world. Some of them returned to Vitebsk, some were killed during the war.
The eldest aunt is Anya Bessmertnova (she stands second from left); her husband Khapl Bessmertnov (he stands third from left) died under the wheels of a tram in Moscow. But trams don't gain such speeds in Moscow to run over a man. He was a jeweler, so it was a suspicious affair. Before the war they lived in Vitebsk and owned a big house there.
Grandmother lived in Vitebsk with her younger daughter Tsilya Shagalova (she sits first from right). Her husband was called Efim (he stands first from right). Sofia Beskina, my mothrer`s sister (she stands first from left) died in evacuation in Kazakhstan. They lived in horrible conditions and many people succumbed to disease and starvation.
Interviewee: Masha Blumenthal
Title: Haim Epshtein
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1980
This is my father, Haim Epshtein. The photo was taken in Liepaja in 1927.
My dad was a merchant, he had a small shop near the market. Their clientele was comprised of village people, in other words plain folk. Mother sewed various women's clothing, dresses and undergarments on a Singer-model machine and Father sold them. And like this they left in the mornings and returned late in the evenings.
I wouldn't say that my parents were religious fanatics, but they observed religious holidays. They attended the synagogue on holidays and observed all the holidays properly at home. On Friday evenings they shut down everything and Dad went to the synagogue and Mom was always at home.
Everything was as it should be: fish and challah, and Mom lit the candles. And since we missed our parents very much, for we didn't see them all week, it was during this time that we three entertained them. I dressed up in my mother's high-heeled shoes and in generally we had a great time. On Saturdays, the only day they didn't work, we would simply be together.
My father was taken away by the Germans in 1941 and shot.
Interviewee: Simon Gutman
Title: Simon Gutman's first art exibition
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1932
This is me and my friends from the arts studio in Riga. I'm the one on the ladder holding a cigarette. The photo was taken on the occasion of my first exhibition in 1932.
I studied in a number of art schools in Riga. I attended the arts studio of the Riga graphic artist Roman Suta, I was his 'disciple' and took part in the exhibitions. One exhibition was in 1932. They chose some pictures for the museum, including mine. I created it in my mind, when they were taking me from Dvinsk jail to Riga central prison. It is now that they transport prisoners in a special truck, but back then the guards were just convoying me along the pavement. I kept the impression from that walk for a long time! Sitting in the solitary cell, I began to draw sketches of that image. In spring they let me out, and in summer I finished the picture. And when there was an exhibition of our studio, supervised by Roman Suta, my picture was bought for the Arts Museum. The picture is entitled 'Escorting of a prisoner'.
I remember the studio of Yan Liepin on Mariinskaya Street, in the court yard. When I went there, a few more or less skilled pupils were sitting and drawing. I sat down, too, and took a sheet of paper. And here enters a naked model! Holy smoke, I held my breath! I almost fainted! Well, really! Boys use to spy, through a hole in the fence, and here she comes out in what she was born! I started to draw, and during the break I looked at the other sketches. And the other guys represented the model not in her natural size, like me, but made her look stout - with heavy legs and arms. I asked, 'Where do you see such arms and legs? The model is of quite normal stature!' And they answered, 'You should draw what you think, rather than what you see!' Well, that's the Latvian style! Later I got used to it.
Interviewee: Bella Bogdanova
Title: Bella Bogdanova in Doctor Hyte’s private Jewish kindergarten
Place and Date: Liepaja, Latvia - 1932
I attended the best private kindergarten in Liepaja and afterwards, the best elementary school. Doctor Hyte was the headmaster of these institutions. I don’t remember his first name. Hanna Hermer (third from right, she died before the Holocaust) was a teacher in Doctor Hyte`s private kindergarten. She was very nice, but she died early. Only I survived the Holocaust, all the other children were killed in 1941.
Daddy sent me to the best school to make me the best person I could be. German was the language of instruction there. I had private English lessons for two years. We had two lessons per week on religious history and two on Bible studies. Religious subjects would be taught in Hebrew, of course. And I got straight A's, naturally.
My father spoke Hebrew well. He translated everything for me and helped me; I forgot everything, because I could be rather empty-headed. Our school was shut on Jewish holidays. We liked our homeroom teacher Hanna Hermer very much. She was very nice, but she died at an early age.
I finished only seven grades of school, but the level of education was very high there. It could be compared to eight or ten years at a Soviet school. That was my whole education. Maybe I would have become something worthwhile if the war hadn’t started. I had a good girlfriend. We went toeach other's birthday parties. Beautiful birthday parties used to be arranged in those days.
Interviewee: Ida Goldshmidt
Title: Joha Zaks and her friend
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1934
This is the only existing photo of my family. There is my sister Joha Zaks (left) and her friend. Joha and our parents were in the ghetto in Riga. They were killed in the forest near Rumbula in 1941. This photo was taken in Riga in 1934.
My brother Todres, the oldest of all children, was born in 1921. The next was my sister Joha, born in 1926. My brother Haim-Shleime was born in 1929. I was born in 1931 and was the last child.
Our family was a typical Jewish family. We lived a Jewish life. We lived in the Jewish environment, and the Jewish religion and Jewish traditions constituted a natural element of our life. We followed strictly all traditions, and it never occurred to anyone to skip any of them. We only spoke Yiddish at home. This was the only language I knew, when a child. Later I learned Latvian. I don't remember how I managed to learn Latvian. We lived in the Jewish environment and went to a Jewish school. We even had the Yevreyskaya Street, Zidu Yela, in our neighborhood.
There were two Jewish schools in our neighborhood: 'Zidas skola' and 'Ebrais skola'. Zidas skola was a six-year general education Jewish school. All subjects were taught in Yiddish. We also had Hebrew and religious classes. Ebrais skola was a Hebrew school. All subjects were taught in Hebrew, and children studied the Torah and the Talmud. We went to Zidas skola.
In June 1941 my brother and I were in a pioneer camp and we were evacuated together with camp. When my parents got to know about the war, they prepared for evacuation. They packed their luggage onto the cart and were ready to leave, but they couldn't get to the opposite bank of the Daugava River. German planes were bombing the bridge, and our family had to go back. They stayed in Riga. A few days later German forces came to Riga. The Moscowskiy forstadt area was fenced with barbed wire to make a Jewish ghetto [Riga ghetto]. At first Jews from Riga were taken to the ghetto, and then Jews from other towns followed. The first prisoners were those families, who lived in this neighborhood. In late November 1941 shootings of prisoners began. November in Latvia is frosty, and there is usually snow on the ground. Prisoners were convoyed to Rumbula forest, about 15 km from the ghetto where they were killed. My father, mother, grandmother and my older sister Joha perished in the Rumbula.
Interviewee: Hanna Ferber
Title: The wedding day of Isaac and Sara Hercenberg
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1938
This is the wedding photo of my brother Isaac Hercenberg and his wife Sonja (Sara in the documents) Sorkina. They got married in 1938 in Riga. Top row (left to right): my sister Gita, my brother Isaac, my sister-in-law Sara, Moric Rozenberg (Gita's husband) and me. Bottom row: my father, Adolf Hercenberg and my mother, Feike Ite Hercenberg.
My youngest brother, Isaac, also known as Isaac Meier, was born in Mitava, or Jelgava, in 1912. Isaac went to a Jewish school, graduated and went as a trainee to work in a clothes shop. He was rather short, but he grew up later to be a very handsome man. He was very kind. Isaac, too, like Boris, joined the ?Brit-Trumpeldorf? club. He wanted to go to Israel, too. Isaac became a salesman in a shop, and then joined the Latvian army in 1934. You had to be 21 to join the Latvian Army. When he came back there was a tendency among Jews to do hard physical work - to prepare themselves for life in Palestine. It was through such work that Isaac met his future wife, Sonya Sorkina. He was carrying bags for his brother-in-law (Moric Rozenberg). At four or five in the morning his brother-in-law got dressed and went out to work, in winter as well as summer. Farmers took corn from their farms to sell in town. They didn't deliver all their corn at once, just when they needed money. His brother-in-law was a great specialist. He tasted the corn, then brought it to the corn elevator.
In 1938 Isaac married Sonya (Sara) Sorkina. In 1941 we saw him for the last time on St. John's Day, 24th June. The war had already started. He came to our house, and Sara was there too. He told her, ?If everybody is leaving, you should leave too!? She answered, ?I am not leaving without you!? Later we found out that Isaac had been killed in Staraja Russ in 1941. We have a document to that effect. His wife Sonya remained with us for the rest of her life.
My sister Gita was studying to become a pharmacist. In 1933, she married Moric Rozenberg, who was 18 years older than Gita. Gita was very beautiful, and looked much younger than her true age. Moric Rozenberg was a bachelor, an older man, not too poor, but I wouldn't say he was extremely rich, either. In Jelgava he decorated a very beautiful flat, ordering everything from a catalogue, and employed a housekeeper to care for it. They had a beautiful, grand wedding. I was finishing the 7th grade when Gita got married. In 1934, she gave birth to a daughter who they named Atida. They lived a normal life. Gita didn't work any more. They had a Jewish circle of friends and played cards in the evenings. Gita could lose as much money as she wanted, as Moric would always pay. But when Gita happened to win some money, she would buy something for me - some material for a dress, or a coat or an outfit. Her husband loved me dearly.
Interviewee: Hana Rayzberg
Title: Hana Rayzberg with her teacher and schoolmates
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1949
These are my pre-war schoolmates in Ludza, those, who survived the war. We were photographed at the start of the academic year - on 1st September 1949. The director of the school is sitting in the center. There were no Jewish schoolmates among those, who returned to Riga after the war. I'm the 3rd from the right in the 1st row.
My student life cannot be called easy. The dormitory was a shabby wooden house with no running water or toilet. There was an Orthodox church across the street from the dormitory, and we used their toilet. We fetched water in buckets. It was impossible to live on the stipend. Mama could not afford to send me money. After classes I worked part-time as a typist in the Institute of Astronomy. I worked till midnight and left the typed pieces with the guard. I typed in Latvian. I also typed minutes and sheets for a shop. I slept little and ate little, but I studied very well and could also afford to support Mama. There were Russian and Latvian students in the dormitory, but I never faced any anti-Semitism. I got along well with all of them.
I finished my school with honors and before getting a job assignment I was offered to go to the Leningrad College of Light industry. This was a very tempting offer, but I was reluctant to leave Mama alone for so long. I wanted to stay in Riga. I got a job assignment at the sewing factory. I worked as a shift forewoman in the sewing shop. I also received a small room - eight square meters - in an attic with no heating, gas or water. The front door of the room led to the staircase. There was a wood stoked stove in the kitchen. However, this was at least some lodging. I convinced Mama to move in with me. Mama had poor sight. The staircase was very steep, and she had to make a strong effort to climb it, but we were happy to be together. We accepted life as it was.
Interviewee: Ida Goldshmidt
Title: Ida Goldshmidt and her tutor Tatiana
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1952
This is me, a seamstress' apprentice at the sewing factory, and my tutor Tatiana. I don't remember her surname. Tatiana and I were almost the same age, but I looked much younger, a starved children's home inmate. This photo was taken in Riga in 1952. We were photographed in the factory yard during lunch break.
In 1947 I became an apprentice at the sewing factory in Riga. I rented a bed from a family. I didn't stay long with those families. When their situation changed, I had to look for another bed. I was pressed for money. Apprentices received 30 rubles of allowance. I paid 15 rubles per month for the bed, and it was difficult to make a living on 15 rubles, particularly after the war, when there was lack of food. When I started working, I didn't earn much either. I was just a beginner, and was paid based on a piece-rate basis. Life was hard, but I knew I could only rely on myself. I joined the Komsomol at the factory. I was an active Komsomol member and participated in all events. After finishing the 8th grade I couldn't afford to continue my studies. I had to earn my living. There were many Jewish, Latvian and Russian employees at the factory, but there was no anti-Semitism.
I became a good dressmaker and was offered a job in a shop. They offered a bigger salary and I accepted the offer. There were Jewish employees in the shop. They spoke Yiddish to one another. I had forgotten the language when in the children's home, but when I came to this environment, it took me no time to restore my language skills.
Interviewee: Abram Kopelovich
Title: The family of Abram Kopelovich and that of his uncle Ierukhim Beskin in Vitebsk
Place and Date: Vitebsk, Latvia - 1955
This is our family with Ierukhim Beskin`s family. The photo was taken when they came to Vitebsk in 1955.
Svetlana Bunina (nee Beskina) is second from left. Now cousin Svetlana is in Damascus. She and her husband received jobs in the conservatory in Damascus.
My father Isaac (Mordukh Idel) Markovich (Motl) Kopelovich is third from left, and my mother Tsimlya Zalmanovna Kopelovich (nee Beskina) is third from right.
After the war, Uncle Ierukhim Beskin, standing first from the right, gave every one of his relatives 10 thousand roubles each to start building their own houses. And to his last day he supported his Mum. Uncle came to visit very often, together with his wife, sometimes in his own car.
Aunt Galina Evgrafovna (second from right), personally taught me, when I studied in Moscow, all the rules of good manners and decent behavior. She introduced me to Moscow's high society and taught me many things, including the right way to hold a spoon or a fork. You know, I was from a small town.
Her husband, Uncle Ira, was the director of a large printing house of the Moscow Theatrical Society. All posters, all tickets - were made there. As a student, I attended all the performances. Thanks to him, I saw a lot of theater plays. I had been to the first Viennese ballet on ice, various festivals. At that time I was a real Soviet boy and I didn't keep Jewish traditions.
Interviewee: Itsik Margolis
Title: Zelik Kopelovich`s chuppah
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1958
This is my cousin Zelik Kopelovich`s chuppah. The photo was taken by Israel Yahnin in Riga in 1958.
I spent three months visiting my cousin Zelik Kopelovich in America at his invitation. He told me that his father had been a joiner. His mother had had a job in the market place selling second-hand articles. They bought overcoats, repaired and resold them. And footwear they sold, too. It was a hard life. And then they moved from Daugavpils to Riga. In Riga she opened a store as well. Life became easier. They began to live better. Then the Soviet power was established. Their life didn't change for the worse ? they were workers, not that rich. Selling and buying operations were then carried out by both Latvians and Jews. The poor were being resettled from the basements to the apartments of the rich, who were sent to shared apartments.
Zelik and his wife Bella had their wedding in Riga in 1958, and they had a chuppah, too, in accordance with all the rules. It is a canopy on four posts made of fabric, with which they cover the groom and the bride and lead them to the prayer house, and people are walking around with lit candles. Music plays, serious music, everyone is crying. Then they pour wine in glasses, give a sip to the groom, a sip to the bride. Then they put the glass on the floor, and the groom must step on it and break it into pieces! And at once you hear a burst of cheerful music! Now's when merrymaking starts! The glass is usually wrapped in a cloth to prevent pieces from scattering. But the chuppah was put up not in the synagogue, but at the wedding. They have one daughter.
Interviewee: Nina Polubelova
Title: Nina Polubelova and the choir of the Riga Philharmonic
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1959
This is a choir of the Riga philharmonic society having a performance. At that time well-known Lithuanian singer, the performer of Jewish songs Nehama Lifshitsaite (she is in the center in front of the microphone) came to Riga and I was invited to take part in the concert and sing in the choir. I am standing behind Nehama Lifshitsaite, to the left from her. I don?t know the rest of the people. The picture was taken in Riga in 1959.
After school Aunt Irina gave me music classes. She had taken lessons with a singing tutor and she taught me everything she knew. I always sang during school holidays. When I studied at school, I found out that there was a people's conservatoire in Riga, where gifted young people were admitted. Unlike in ordinary conservatoire here no diplomas were given, but the classes were taught by the professors from real conservatoires. I found out about the entrance exams. When I saw the members of the board, renowned singers and professors from the conservatoire, I lost my voice from fear. I was asked to sing, but I couldn't produce a sound. I turned back and left. Then Irina scolded me, and I didn't make any more attempts.
I finished two terms at the Medical Institute and understood that it wasn't my cup of tea. I wasn't willing to work as a doctor all my life. I was lucky to transfer to the second course of the Chemistry Department of Riga Polytechnic Institute. I did well. I had excellent marks during the entire period of studies. I didn't feel anti-Semitism. Both teachers and students treated me fairly.
I got married during my studies at the institute, in 1959. I'll tell you a funny story of how I met my husband. During my studies me and some of my group mates left for training in Leningrad. Of course, after work we took a walk along the city, went to the theaters, museums. We went dancing almost every night. I loved dancing as much as singing. I couldn't live without that. One guy from Riga was my dancing partner. He wasn't from our institute. He left earlier than me and asked me out to the dancing club in Riga. I was shortsighted since childhood and was shy to wear glasses. I went on the date and thought that I saw my guy, white dance was announced, and so I asked that guy for a dance. It turned out that it wasn't the guy who had asked me out for a date. We got acquainted and danced all evening long. Then he saw me off. That guy was my future husband Vladimir Polubelov.
Interviewee: Ida Goldshmidt
Title: Ida Goldshmidt with her brother Semyon and his family
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1965
This photo was taken at the dacha, when I was visiting my brother Shleime, or Semyon, and his family. Standing from left to right: my brother's wife Eta, my brother Shleime and I. Ida's mother holding their son Boris is standing. This photo was taken in the vicinity of Riga in 1965.
My brother Semyon, a tinsmith, married Ida, a Jewish girl, in 1954. He had a traditional Jewish wedding. His wife was born in Liepaja in 1934. Her parents had nine children. During the Holocaust the family was in evacuation and they all survived. Ida's mother sent her children to the children's home fearing that she wouldn't be able to provide food for all of them. After the war they moved to Riga. Their son Boris was born in 1955, and their daughter Hana, named after my grandmother, was born in 1960. Boris was named after our mama, by the first letter of her name Buna. In 1971 my brother and his family emigrated to Israel.
My brother Semyon and I were very close. Uncle Boris trained him in his vocation of tinsmith. Later my brother started working in his shop. My brother and I celebrated all Jewish holidays at my uncle Boris's place. He observed Jewish traditions and celebrated Jewish holidays. His wife was very religious. We went to the synagogue on all holidays.
Interviewee: Irina Golbreich
Title: Irina Golbreich with her family
Place and Date: Yurmala, Latvia - 1969
This photo was taken at the dacha in Yurmala where my parents spent their vacation. We were visiting them, and my husband photographed us. From left to right: my father Boris Mikhelson, my mother Rachil Mikhelson holding my son Alexandr, and I. This photo was taken in 1969.
Our family was no different from many other families. My husband and I went to work. Our son went to school. The job of a school teacher takes much time and effort, and we spent less time with our son than we wanted to. Our son took to liking reading. Perhaps, it helped him to compensate for lack of his parents' attention. My mama worked as a piano teacher at the music high school. She worked there till she retired. My father worked as a foreman at the factory. When my parents retired, they could spend more time with Alexandr, and he liked visiting them. We spent summer vacations at the Riga seacoast. We also liked traveling across the USSR. Sometimes we visited my relatives in Moscow.
Interviewee: Irina Golbreich
Title: Irina Golbreich with her husband Aron Golbreich and son Alexandr
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1977
This is our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. We had a party at a restaurant. We invited relatives and friends. They greeted us, and said many warm words to us. This is my husband Aron Golbreich, me and our son Alexandr, a student of the Riga University. This photo was taken in Riga in 1977.
Alexandr was good at mathematic and exact sciences. He had the highest grades in these subjects at school. Our son studied well. He took part in various Olympiads in Mathematic and Physics, and was awarded prizes. Before finishing school, Alexandr knew where he wanted to continue his education. He entered the Faculty of Physics and Mathematic of Riga University. As a student, our son was also involved in scientific activities.
Upon graduation from university our son was issued a job assignment to the Institute of Organic Synthesis in Riga. He was a researcher. Later he wrote and defended a candidate's thesis. In Soviet times scientific works were funded by the state, and this funding was sufficient. My son had good perspectives at work. He had authority and was involved in a number of scientific developments. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Latvia became independent, and it no longer focused on scientific developments. Scientists were underpaid, and often their salaries were delayed. The funding of new developments was terminated, there was no money allocated for necessary equipment.
Many scientists, including Alexandr, started looking for jobs abroad. Alexandr worked in Germany for six months, and six months in France before he moved to America in 2000. He promptly adjusted to life in Americaand found a job that he likes. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He calls me two to three times a week. We have long conversations. My son tells me what happens in his life and asks me how I am. Alexandr is a very caring and loving son. Unfortunately, he has no family of his own.
Interviewee: Irina Golbreich
Title: Irina Golbreich with her husband Aron Golbreich
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1985
My husband and I having a stroll in Riga in 1985. We were photographed by a street photographer.
I was enthusiastic about perestroika at first. I had a hope that these promises of a better life would not remain mere promises and that life would change. There was finally some freedom of speech, and people were no longer afraid of the all-powerful KGB. There was freedom of the press, and people didn’t have to listen to foreign radio stations any longer. Our newspapers published everything one would want to read about. Also, people were allowed to travel and no longer needed the approval of district party committees, correspond with their friends and relatives living in other countries and invite them to visit us. People resumed their freedom of religion. There was no longer a ban on religion, and people had the freedom of choice. For those, who were born in Latvia and remembered life in Latvia before it was annexed to the USSR, this was a return to normal life, though for those who were born in the USSR and never knew a different life this was something new and different.
During perestroika the Jewish life in Latvia began to revive. In 1988 the Jewish cultural society was officially registered. In recent years it has significantly grown and strengthened. Jews finally felt themselves to be Jewish. My husband Aron returned to Jewish life. He read many books about the history of the Jewish people and their religion. Aron knew Hebrew in his childhood. He restored his knowledge to read the Torah and prayers. Aron went to the synagogue on Sabbath, and on Jewish holidays he and I went to the synagogue together. We observed Jewish traditions at home. On Friday evening I lit candles and prayed over them. On Saturday my husband went to the synagogue. I stayed at home, but I did no work at home. I left whatever chores I had for Sunday. On Saturday my husband and I read aloud and visited our friends or went for a walk. We celebrated Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukkah and Sukkoth, the biggest Jewish holidays, at home. We just couldn’t follow all traditions strictly, but we did our best.
Interviewee: Itsik Margolis
Title: Itsik and Libe Margolis and friends in Ludza
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1998
This is a picture of me and my wife Libe with our friends. The photo was taken in Ludza in 1998.
Each year, on the third Sunday in August, we go to Ludza, where the executed Jews are buried. I had a friend Arkady - Abram in Jewish - Kovnator, who always wrote the scripts to these memorable days. But he died recently. Who will organize now?! Graves in Ludza are maintained in decent condition. There are no unattended graves. There are many graves of those who died during the war, of whom Jews make up 70-80 percent. There is a monument in the city near the lake. And there is a monument in Pogulyanka too. They take very good care of the graves - better then anywhere! Financing? The administration gives something before the August event, but people look after the graves even without that. Schoolchildren also help. There are nine to ten Jews in Ludza.
Interviewee: Abram Kopelovich
Title: Abram Kopelovich with his wife Anna in Vitebsk
Place and Date: Vitebsk, Latvia - 1999
This is my wife Anna and I at the Marc Chagall Museum in Vitebsk. The photo was taken in 1999.
Wherever I went with my wife, or if I was traveling alone, I always found time for visiting a synagogue. Not because I was a believer, I just felt drawn to it. Besides, I liked to enter mosques and Christian churches, too.
My wife and I traveled a lot. We were on holiday on Baikal Lake when the putsch against Gorbachev came in August 1991. We were frightened, of course, because we couldn't reach our family.
We knew something was happening because whenever a big Communist died, like Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, television played only serious music. And they started doing it again. But as we know, things turned out bad for the coup plotters.
Interviewee: Lia German
Title: Lia German with husband and grandsons
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 1999
This is a family photo taken by my daughter Edith Dorfman, nee German, in Riga in 1999. From left to right: I, my grandson Henri Dorfman, my husband Israel German and my grandson Ilya German.
I got married in 1948, when I was still a student. We have been married for 54 years now. We were to celebrate our golden wedding not long ago, but he was sick at the time. My daughter-in law-booked a small table in a restaurant, but he had an acute seizure of gallstone disease and we didn't go to celebrate anywhere.
My daughter Edith has been living in Israel since 1992 and works as a teacher of chemistry. Her son Henri was born in 1975, has finished a Jewish school here, served two years in the Israeli Army, and now he works in Israel as a programmer, and studies at the economic faculty in the magistrates.
My son Michael graduated from the physics and mathematics faculty of the Latvian University. He is a system programmer and lives in Riga. He didn't even consider to pursue a humanitarian career like me. My son isn't religious. He is married to Irina and my grandson Ilya, born in 1982, is a student at the physics and mathematics faculty, he works, and pursues his mother's and father's career - they are all programmers. All three work in the same firm.
Interviewee: Ella Perlman
Title: Ella Perlman and her friends
Place and Date: Riga, Latvia - 2005
These are two choirs of the Society of Jewish Culture. We were photographed after a concert. I am the 4th on the left in the 1st row. I don't know all of them. Behind me is Tsilia Mishalova, the choir soloist, Irina, the one on her right, is a singer of the choir and the wife of our conductor Miron. He is on his wife's left. The first on the right is the soloist Vladimir Dvoyakin. This photo wastaken in Riga in 2005.
During perestroika the Jewish life began to revive, and this was very important for me. The Latvian Society of Jewish culture that was actually a Jewish community was established. From the first days we knew how much we needed it. There is a Jewish choir at the community, and I went there the moment I heard about it.
I look forward to our choir rehearsals. Each meeting is a holiday for us. Old and ill people sing in the choir, but when they start singing, they look young and happy. One lady in the choir is blind. She is 86, and her daughter takes her to the choir rehearsals. The daughter also sings in the choir. Both have beautiful voices. Both attend all rehearsals. Some of those I started singing with have passed away. Old age and diseases have no mercy. However, we are like one family. We visit and support people, if they fall ill. We also remember the deceased ones. When I visit my husband and parents' graves, I also bring flowers to put them on the graves of our deceased choir members. Many of them had no relatives left to visit their graves.
The Rahamim social center supports me a lot. They pay my heating bills during the heating season. They also provide medications that are very expensive here. I also have medical insurance for free. The synagogue bought me two trips to the recreation center. I had free treatment and massages there. This is all very important, considering that the pension is not sufficient to cover all expenses. It's also very important for me to know that I've not been abandoned and that there are people remembering and caring about me.