Interviewee: Iosif Yudelevichus
Title: Sarah Pagirskaya and her family
Place and Date: Jonava, Lithuania - 1910
The picture was made in Jewish Photo Studio on the wedding of one of our relatives in Jonava in the 1910s. It was recently sent to me from the USA by one of the relatives. In the first row standing: the fourth to the left wearing a hat and a fur piece is mother's sister Masha Granevich. Next to her in a cylinder hat is her husband Reuben Granevich. Behind them is my gorgeous grandmother Sarah Pagirskaya, she was not grey-haired yet. Her kerchief was neatly tied. Behind grandmother is my grandpa Avel Pagirskiy, young, handsome with a neat beard. Mother's sister Malka Mayzel is standing in the top row behind Granevich. I do not know the rest.
My paternal and maternal ancestors are from Latvian Jonava [about 80 km from Vilnius]. It was a small town, inhabited mostly by Jews. My maternal grandfather Aba (he was called Avel in the family, so I used to hear that name oftener) Pagirskiy was born in 1866. Avel owned a rather large house on one of the central Jonava streets. It was a solid log house, which could stand for centuries. Avel was a well-to-do merchant. He owned a large hardware store as hardware goods were in demand. Nails, horseshoes, fastenings, buckets and other inventory were mostly purchased by peasants. The store was in a five-minute walk from the river. There was a warehouse in the yard of the store as well as big scales, on which peasants used to weigh cattle. It was also income-bearing for grandfather
My grandmother Sarah Pagirskaya, nee Krasko was born in 1865. Sarah was a rather educated woman. She could read and write in Yiddish and Russian. She spoke Polish. Her Lithuanian was not good though. Sarah ran the house as grandparents had servants. Grandmother was a tall, buxom, stately woman- a true beauty. She and grandfather had their own honored seats in the synagogue. Avel and Sarah were rather religious, trying to keep Jewish traditions. Neither grandmother nor grandpa covered their heads all the time. When they went to the synagogue, grandpa put a kippah on and grandmother wore a hat or a nicely tied kerchief. Grandpa had a modern beard- short and neat. Avel and Sarah often went abroad on vacation. As a rule they went to Karlovy Vary (at that time that resort was called Karlsbad). Grandpa had problems with stomach. He was recommended by doctors to drink healing water every year. In 1935 Avel was operated on in Konigsberg -he had a carcinoma behind his ear, which looked like a big plum. It was a malignant tumor, so grandpa lived only for a year after operation. In 1936 he passed away.
Sarah and Avel Pagirskiys had ten children. All of them got an excellent for those times education in lyceum. They were literate and cultured people. When children grew up, they were not religious, like their parents merely sticking to the traditions and marking Jewish holidays.
My mother’s sister Masha married a Jew Reuben Leib Granevich. I do not know what he did for a living, but he was rather well-off. Reuben Leib died several years before the outbreak of Great Patriotic War. Masha, being single by that time, remained in the occupation. She had lived in Kaunas ghetto and in 1944 she was sent to Nazi concentration camp Stutthof along with the group of Jewish women. My aunt died there. Masha had three daughters.
Mother's sister Malka was born after Frida in 1891. She married a man from Vilnius- Lipman Maysel and they lived in Vilnius with their children- son Efraim and daughter Miriam (we called her Mika). Mother had not seen her sister for a long time, when Vilnius belonged to Poland. We went to see Malka as soon as Vilnius again became the capital of Lithuania in 1939. We saw each other rather often before war. Unfortunately aunt Malka, her husband and Miriam did not manage to get evacuated. Malka, Miriam and Lipman perished in Vilnius ghetto.
Interviewee: Iosif Yudelevichus
Title: Taube Yudelevich with her husband Abram Yudelevich and their friends
Place and Date: Jonava, Lithuania - 1924
The picture was made by the bus traveling between Jonava and Kaunas. The first to the left is father's brother Isaac Yudelevich, the fifth to the left is my mother Taube, next to her is my father Abram Yudelevich. The rest were just fellow travelers. The photo was made on their way to Kaunas in 1924.
My father went to Russian lyceum in the town of Suwalki [Poland, 10 km away from the border of Lithuania and Poland and 170 km from Vilnius]. Upon graduation he decided to enter university. He dreamt to become a lawyer. Father went to Russia to enter the institute. I do not know how he happened to be in Siberia. He entered Tomsk university [about 3000 km from Moscow]. Father studied there for couple of years and got transferred to Yekaterinburg [Russia, 1500 km from Moscow], where he graduated juridical department. Father came back to the motherland in 1918 right after Lithuania became independent [Lithuanian independence].
My mother Tauber Pagirskaya was born in 1898. Mother as well as her siblings got a good education at Russian Commercial Lyceum. Upon graduation mother lived with her parents before getting married. She did not work. I do not know exactly where my parents met. I think they knew each other when they were young. I have the picture of my young parents and mother's siblings, taken at the beginning of the 20th century by the boat, traveling to Jonava across river Neris. My parents got married in 1923. Parents had never told anything about their wedding. I think it was carried out in accordance with Jewish traditions. At any rate before war at home there was parents' wedding certificate issued by the rabbi.
They did not stay in Jonava for a long time. They moved to Kaunas shortly after wedding. They rented an apartment in the heart of the city. They barely stayed there for a year. In 1925 my elder brother David was born. The family needed a more spacious apartment, so they had to move. Another apartment was in the house leased by Boris Shlapoberskiy. Father was a private lawyer and made pretty good money. The amount of rent was 800 litas. At that time it was a lot of money. Parents could afford a trip to the spa. It was in style and decent to take a vacation for couple of days or weeks to go seaside in any season. My brother was a feeble and in 1928 my mother expecting a child in couple of weeks, took brother to the seaside. They went to a village not far from Klaipeda [300 km from Vilnius]. Soon father came there as well. I, Iosif Yudelevich, was born in that village on the 25th of December 1928. Before long the family came back in Kaunas.
I remember the apartment, where I spent my childhood. There were five rooms in it- one room was after another. The first two rooms were occupied by father: one room was a reception, where his clients and visitors were waiting for him, and another room was father's office. Father's secretary Kozlovskiy was at the reception desk. Father's customers sat on the leathern couches waiting for my father to receive them. At that time my father was one of the most famous lawyers on civil cases in Kaunas. There was a large desk in father's office with a lamp and ink well ,a small adjoining table for negotiations and book shelves containing the works on jurisprudence, books by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and regulation documents. There were few fiction books. Most of them were written by Russian classics - Tolstoy, Turgenev etc. I do not remember whether there were books by Jewish writers at home. There was a large dining-room behind father's office. There was a large round dining table, the one we are sitting now, arm- chairs, chairs, beautiful carved cupboard, bedroom furniture and children's furniture used by brother and I . Of course, there was a kitchen, but I cannot recall my being there.
Interviewee: Fania Brantsovskaya
Title: Fania Brantsovskaya and her family
Place and Date: Varena, Lithuania - 1926
This picture was taken in Varena in 1926, when we went there on a visit. Standing and wearing a kippah is my grandfather Bencion Galunskiy, I am standing beside him, wearing a wreath, my grandmother Hana-Leya Galunskaya is standing on the right, and sitting from left to right are my mother's brother Motl Galunskiy, my mama Rohl Joheles, nee Galunskaya and her brother Yitzhok Galunskiy. Our Lithuanian neighbor kept this photo and our other belongings during the occupation.
My mother came from the town of Varena at the border of Lithuania and Poland. My mother's father was born in the 1870s. He worked at the local carton factory. He also dealt in beer wholesales. He owned a warehouse where he had beer stocks. Grandmother Hana-Leya was a housewife. The Galunskiy family celebrated Jewish holidays and went to the synagogue. They also raised their children to respect traditions. However, the children were a new generation, growing up during World War I and the Revolution in Russia in 1917. Almost all of their children became atheists. In 1938 Bencion and Hana-Leya moved to Palestine: their son and daughter had settled down there before them. Therefore, my maternal grandfather and grandmother escaped falling victims to fascists like my father's parents and the majority of Lithuanian Jews. They died in the 1960s and were buried in the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Their grandchildren visit their grave each year.
My mother's youngest brothers, Motl and Yitzhok, lived in Kaunas. Motl became an electric mechanic. Yitzhok was a building contractor. Motl and Yitzhok had one daughter each. Motl and his family perished during the Great Patriotic War.
Interviewee: Iosif Yudelevichus
Title: Taube Yudelevich with her family and friends
Place and Date: Kemery, Lithuania - 1927
This is the so-called 'train'. The company of children and parents from our house often went to spend a weekend on the coast of the Baltic Sea. That was the way the photographers had the people align so that everybody could fit in the picture. Children are standing to the left - the first is my brother David Yudelevich, the children of neighbors are behind him: Fira Amsterdamskaya, Boris and Efim Hainson. The first to the right is our neighbor and family friend Evsey (he was killed in action during Great Patriotic War, he was on the side of the allies), my father Abram Yudelevich, the), Amsterdamskiy (I do not know anything about him, not even the name), Hainson 's wife (I do not know what happened to her), my mother Taube Yudelevich, and her sister Masha Granevich. 1927, Kemery.
Interviewee: Feiga Tregerene
Title: Feiga Tregerene with teachers and pupils of the Jewish school
Place and Date: Birzai, Lithuania - 1930
This is our Jewish school. My mother, Chaya Glezer, is the second in the third row. She was a member of the parents' committee. Sitting in this same row is our favorite teacher. She's wearing a dark dress. She is the one, in whose home our carnival costumes were made. I can't remember her name. I'm the fourth on the left in the fourth row. The first in the third row is my brother Falk, and the third on the left is Fayvel. The one on the right in the upper row is Ethel Sluzhitel. She perished at the front. I can't remember the others. This photo was taken in Birzai in the 1930s.
I was born on 17th February 1927 in Birzai. There was one four-year Jewish school in Birzai. All subjects were taught in Yiddish. When I started this school at the age of seven, my brother Falk had just finished it. We had wonderful teachers. They were truly committed to the idea of Jewish public education. I made a number of new friends at school. They were Jewish boys and girls. Basia was one of them, and there was Perez, whose parents owned a large store in the center of Birzai. He was probably the best provided for child at our school. My mother was an active member of the parents? committee. This committee was established to provide assistance to teachers. My mother attended its weekly meetings. Parents collected contributions to organize celebrations on holidays, buy costumes and supplies and support the needy schoolchildren. Besides general subjects that were taught in Yiddish, we were told about the Jewish history and religion, and this was when I came to know the origin of my people's holidays and traditions.
I liked preparations for Jewish holidays most of all. We staged amateur performances, which were sketches from the Jewish life, for each holiday. Purimspiel was the merriest performance on Purim. Once I even played the role of Queen Ester, the savior of the Jewish people. Our mothers and older sisters made costumes for holidays in our favorite teacher's apartment, which almost became a sewing shop. Our teacher enjoyed preparations to holidays as well. We also gave performances on Simchat Torah and Chanukkah. I enjoyed going to school, and my school years were happy and flew by quickly.
Interviewee: Sara Ushpitsene
Title: Sara Ushpitsene in front of her house in Luksiai
Place and Date: Luksiai, Lithuania - 1930s
This is I, Sara Ushpitsene, in front of our house in Luksiai. I am on the bike, which I had been given for Pesach. I am standing by the milk factory, where we took the surplus of milk. The picture was taken in the 1930s in Luksiai.
I was born in 1925 in Luksiai. When it was the time for me to study, I went to a Lithuanian lyceum. There was no other place in town, neither Jewish nor any other. Beside me, there were several more Jewish kids in our class. I was friends with both Lithuanian and Jewish kids. After school we went to the park or to the lake, which was most attractive in winter. There we skated and went tobogganing. My siblings and I had to study after school. Girsh kept teaching us religion. Daily after school we had to study Yiddish, both written and oral, as well as Jewish history. Sometimes we even cried, envying the Lithuanian kids, who had no extra load, but my father was adamant. His dream was for his kids to be true Jews.
I had a lot of other duties apart from my studies. I helped Mother with gardening and house chores. We took water from the water pump, which was about 100 meters away from the house. We took meat to Father's clients, worked in the kitchen garden and sold milk. In a word, I got used to working since early childhood. I wasn?t a bad student at school, but I didn't get straight excellent grades. The teachers treated me fairly. We didn't feel any different attitude towards us. I had studied in that school for six years and then left for Sakiai to study at the lyceum.
I successfully passed the entrance exam and became a lyceum student. Every day I had to go to Sakiai, which was eight kilometers away from the place where we lived. At times Father took me in a cart. There were times when I had to walk there along with several other students. I also had Lithuanian friends in Sakiai. There were no Jewish girls in my class at the lyceum. By that time there were cinemas in Sakiai and Luksiai. We went dancing and watched movies. I was totally apolitical. Of course, I knew of Zionist organizations and underground Komsomol, but I wouldn't join any of them. At that time the daughters of Mother's sister from Marijampole became members of Jewish Zionist organizations and left for Palestine to work in a kibbutz, but I didn't find that interesting.
Interviewee: Fania Brantsovskaya
Title: Fania Brantsovskaya with her schoolmates
Place and Date: Vilnius, Lithuania - 1931
Celebration of Purim at my school on 3rd March 1931. I am standing on the staircase wearing the costume of a Chinese girl and holding a fan. My friend Pesia Shneerson is on my right.
I was born on 22 May 1922. I was named Feige, but since my early childhood everybody called me Fania, which is a Russian name. There were a number of schools and gymnasiums for Jewish children in Vilnius. They were schools in Hebrew and Yiddish or in Polish. There were 7 and 8-years schools. There was a number of Yiddish schools: Gurewich, Shimon Fruk, Zeire Kuperstein schools. They were named after their sponsors and founders. The humanitarian Realschule and the Sophia Gurwich gymnasium were the best. I went to the Sophia Gurewich gymnasium.
We celebrated Jewish holidays at school. We had a masquerade on Purim. We wore costumes. I remember wearing a Chinese costume once. We also brought shelakhmones to school. We put everything we brought from home into a big basket and everyone could take a treat from it. In this way poor children could also enjoy better shelakhmones. The gymnasium charged fees. My father paid 50 percent of my tuition fees as he was a member of the teachers' association. However, it happened sometimes that I wasn't allowed to come into the classroom when my father didn't pay my fees on time. We particularly liked the event we celebrated on 1st March - the School Day. We had a banner made of all kinds of geometric figures: quadrates, triangles and rhombi that we took outside. There was a meeting and Sophia Gurewich made a speech. In 1933 the gymnasium was closed. I know that Sophia Gurewich starved to death while in evacuation in a town in Russia.
Interviewee: Revekka Blumberg
Title: Revekka Blumberg with her parents
Place and Date: Kaunas, Lithuania - 1939
This photograph was taken by the fabric store owned by my father. This is my father Yacob-Berl Levin standing by the store, beside him is my mother Hana-Leya Levin and I am two years old here. This photo was taken in Kaunas in 1939.
I don't know how my parents met, though I know for sure that this was not a prearranged marriage considering that my father's family was not really happy about it. They thought it to be a misalliance. My mother came from a poor family while my father's family was a wealthier one. My father's parents were probably going to have their son marry a girl with plentiful dowry, but my father went against their will. From whatever little my mother told me, I knew that her relationships with my father's family were no good, and therefore, she avoided talking about them.
My parents got married in 1936. They had a traditional Jewish wedding. My father insisted that my mother left her job after getting married. My father had a nice apartment in Kaunas where the newly weds settled down. My mother's family accepted my father. They had warm and kindly relationships. My father even employed my mother's sister and brother. I was born in 1937, one year after my parents' wedding. I was given the name of Revekka.
The language we spoke at home was Yiddish. Lithuania was the center of Jewish culture before the war, and now, after almost 50 years of Soviet rule, the Jewish culture has very deep roots. I remember the Kaunas of my childhood. This was a beautiful and green town. Vyshgorod, a neighborhood in Kaunas, was located on a hill, and there was a funicular connection with it. We lived on the main street, which was Laisves Aleja at the time. There were many Jews in Kaunas. And, of course, there were synagogues, cheders and everything else that was necessary to support the life of a large Jewish community.
Thinking about my aunt Shulia, I believe my father was a religious man, considering that they grew up in one family and received similar education. I don't think my parents were canonically religious people, though they observed all Jewish traditions. Even after the war my aunts had kitchenware for meat and dairy products, followed the kashrut, and I believe that this was the way of living in our family before the war. My father's family strictly observed all Jewish rules, and my father was no exception in this regard. As for my mother, she was always religious, having received religious education in a German school.
Interviewee: Fania Brantsovskaya
Title: Fania Brantsovskaya in the ghetto in Vilnius
Place and Date: Vilnius, Lithuania - 1943
This is me photographed for my documents in the ghetto in Vilnius in July 1943.
On 4-5 September the situation in the town grew tenser. Lithuanian and Polish residents were forced to leave their homes in Strashuno, Rudninku, Mesino and some other streets in the center of Vilnius. On 6 September at 6 am Lithuanian policemen knocked on our door rather politely. They gave us 30 minutes to pack and move to the Jewish ghetto. Thee were 2 ghettos established on 6 September. One was big where we were, with a central point on Rudninku Street. The smaller one was on Stikle and Jidu Streets.
Our life was more of existence, really. My father was an excellent specialist and was given a yellow certificate. The color of these certificates was often changed and this was another 'monkey trick' the fascists played. Those who failed to obtain new cards were taken to Ponary. Each worker could register his wife and two children under the age of 16 as his dependants. Since I was short and tiny my father wrote I was born in 1926 instead of 1922, and I was registered as his dependant until 1942. This gave me the right to stay at home, obtain a dependant's card, in this way he rescued me from forced labor that I would not have survived.
We hardly had any food to eat. Fortunately for me I had many friends and spending time with them made this horrible existence somewhat better. I knew there was underground movement in the ghetto. In January 1942 a partisan organization under the leadership of Yitzhak Vittenburg was established there. I asked my friends to give me a recommendation to join it. This organization helped me to get a job at a shop. At the beginning we weaved straw shoes: fascists used to wear them over their boots. Then we got knitting orders and I worked 12 hours per day. I had my own work coupon.
Interviewee: Isroel Lempertas
Title: Isroel Lempertas and his fellow soldier Vyacheslav Dedov
Place and Date: Vilnius , Lithuania - 1945
The picture was made on the occasion of the end of World War II in 1945. This is me to the right. Next to me is my fellow soldier Vyacheslav Dedov, who came up accidentally. The order of Soldiers' Fame is on my chest. The picture was made in Vilnius.
On the 21st of June 1941 the Great Patriotic War was unleashed. By the evening of the Sunday, 22nd of June we left the town on foot. There were four of us - the families of aunt Shifra and mother's younger sister Rahil. We arrived in the town of Kirov [850 km to the east from Moscow]. We and the family aunt Shifra were sent to some kolkhoz in Kirov oblast. First I was involved in agricultural works and then in carpentry. I dreamt of studies in spite of the war. I still thought of entering the institute. When Moscow Teachers' Training Institute was evacuated in Kirov, I was enrolled for the first course of Physics and Mathematics department. It was easy for me to study and I did well.
I had studied only for a year and a half. At the beginning of 1943 I was drafted in the front-line forces. I was sent to the newly-formed Lithuanian division # 16, positioned in the town of Balakhna, Nizhniy Novgorod. I had spent couple of months training and was sent to the front shortly afterwards. In summer 1943 I turned out to be on the leading edge. I was a private in the infantry. It was the hardest and most dangerous military profession. We always were the first to confront the enemy face -to-face. Our division was the part of the First Baltic front. We swiftly moved along the territory of Russia, then Ukraine and further to the West. I was not a coward. I was one of the first who rushed in the attack. Before one of the fiercest battles I joined the Communist party.
During one of the most serious battles I was ahead of everybody. I jumped in the enemy's trench and killed the fascists who were there. I was conferred with the Order of Fame for this battle. Soon I was elected a Komsomol organizer of the squad and became the aide of the political officer. I was to follow the rounds-up of the fronts, estimate political situation. The war was about to end and the front was advancing to the Western borders of the USSR. In summer 1944 my motherland Lithuania was liberated.
At the end of 1944 the invitation for the officers' courses was sent to our regiment. It was suggested that I should go there. I did not want to be a career soldier as I did not like military service. I wanted to continue my studies at the institute.But still, I agreed. I even do not know why. Probably, because I was highly responsible. I left for the courses, which were to last for 3 months. We settled in Riga. When the war moved to Eastern Prussia, we were sent to the former German Kaliningrad region, having been liberated by soviet troops. We met victory here. We were exulting. We were so happy to know that the war was over and now it was the time to think of our future. We had been already conferred the officers' rank and I became a junior lieutenant. Shortly after our victory we were allocated to different military units. I was sent Vilnius and assigned Komsomol organizer of regiment # 249, where I used to serve. First I lived in the barracks with everybody. Our regiment was in Severny Gorodok, it was the name of one of the outskirts of Vilnius.
In 1946 many people left Vilnius for Poland and many apartments were empty. I was given a small two-room apartment with a kitchen, but without conveniences. Finally, we had our own house and we settled there with mother. I had been writing the requests on demobilization, but they were returned to me unsigned. I was demobilized only in 1947. I was happy. The only thing for me to do was to find a job and go to the institute.
Interviewee: Yankl Dudakas
Title: Yankl Dudakas, Archi Zavadskiy and Iosif
Place and Date: Kaunas, Lithuania - 1950s
Here I, Yankl Dudakas, am on the right, Archi Zavadskiy, my cousin Hanna's husband, with a hammer, is in the center. My fellow worker Iosif is on the left. Archi became a tinsmith and worked with me. This photo was taken at the factory where I worked in Kaunas in the 1950s.
I got tinsmith's training. At first I started working for a distant relative before I got a job in a shop. There was a good team in this shop. I was given an opportunity to go to an evening school where I managed to finish the seventh grade. I joined the Komsomol and was quite an active Komsomol member. I was sincerely committed to Communist ideals. I remember what a hard blow Stalin's death in 1953 was for me. I was secretary of a Komsomol unit then, and after the death of the leader I admitted almost all the young people in the shop to the Komsomol. I myself joined the Communist Party. My father was amazed at my political activities. I remember literally his words in this regard: ?Why are you laying your sound head into a sick bed?? However, I was attracted by the Communist ideas. They are truly attractive and very humane.
By the early 1960s our shop developed into a small factory named the ?Metallist.? I had a very good reputation and worked as a shift foreman. Once I was requested to act as a shop superintendent through the period of his absence, and I managed very well. Since then I often filled in for the shop superintendent, when he was on vacation or business trips. Many times through my career I was offered key positions, but during the Soviet period workers and foremen were paid way better than the engineering staff. My position was more profitable and I worked until 1997 without changing my job.
Interviewee: Feiga Tregerene
Title: Isroel Glezer with Jews of Birzai
Place and Date: Birzai, Lithuania - 1950s
My father Isroel Glezer is second on the right. Jews of Birzai are sitting at the table commemorating the deceased ones. On the right is my cousin Fayvel, my uncle Meishe Glezer's son. This photo was taken in Birzai in the early 1950s.
My father didn't work after he returned from evacuation. He was helping my sister to raise her son. When Simon was born, he moved in with us. When I went to work, he was babysitting. My sister didn't get along with her husband. She decided to get a divorce. In 1948 Hanna and her son moved to Birzai. Formerly we had made up our mind to never go back to our hometown, where even stones seemed to have been soaked in the blood of our dear ones and acquaintances, but then my mother decided to join my sister. She wanted to be of help to her. As for my father, he decided to stay with me. My mother never recovered from her sons? death. She walked along the streets recalling who lived there and what happened to him or her. One day she had a stroke right there in the street. My mother died. This happened in 1949. After her death my father moved in with Hanna.
There were few Jews left in Birzai, but they stayed together, remembering their deceased friends. They collected money to install a monument in their memory at the burial place. My father didn't work. He received a pension for his sons. In the middle of the 1950s Hanna's husband arrived in Birzai. He made an attempt to make up with her. As it turned out later, he wanted this for the sake of the apartment. My sister believed her husband. She, her son and her husband moved to Kaunas where they received a nice apartment. My father moved to Zarasai to live with me some time later. He was of great help to me. He was my best friend and companion. He lived many years before he died in 1976 at the age of 85. We buried my daddy at the Jewish cemetery.
Interviewee: Ranana Malkhanova
Title: Ester Kleinstein at the central square in Palanga
Place and Date: Palanga, Lithuania - 1950s
This is my mother, Ester Kleinstein. This picture was taken in the central square in Palanga, in the background is the monument of Lenin, in the 1950s.
My husband Matvey and I lived comfortably. Both of us earned pretty good money. We didn't own a car or dacha. Only a few people could afford that. We usually went on vacation with our children to the Baltic coast in Palanga. Once we went to Siberia. We stayed in my husband's motherland for a month. We also went to Yalta in the peak of the vacation season. Having been used to the cold sea, I could barely stand the Crimean heat.
My mother was bonded with my family. She didn't have friends. She didn't go to the synagogue. Before, my mother wasn't religious and after the war she didn't want to hear of God. Even if she had believed in God, she started disbelieving after she had lost her husband, son and relatives. Though, she always fasted on Yom Kippur and bought matzah on Pesach. I think she did it because she was used to it. My mother was getting more and more ill and couldn't help me anymore. In 1964 she died. She had a secular funeral in the city cemetery in Vilnius without any Jewish rites being observed.
Interviewee: Tobijas Jafetas
Title: Tobijas Jafetas and his friends
Place and Date: Vilnius, Lithuania - 1951
This is me with my co-student friends. I am on the right, and beside me are my Lithuanian friends Piatras, Vitas, Petrikas. The photo was taken in 1951 in Vilnius.
In fall 1945 fall I went to the 2nd grade of gymnasium. After the war Lithuania maintained its prewar educational system: a four-year elementary school and eight-year gymnasium course. I didn't feel quite comfortable, being overage. In summer I studied individually and passed exams for the 3rd grade, and then I could go to the 4th grade. I also took the course for the 7th and 8th grade at university. I was good at studying. I also joined the Komsomol, and in 1949 I finished school and obtained a very good certificate.
I successfully passed my entrance exams to the Chemical Faculty. However, Buchas, the rector of Vilnius University, who came from Kaunas and knew my father very well, said that sons from bourgeois families were not to study at the university, and I was not admitted there. My cousin Anna's friend helped me. She was married to the pro-rector of the Teachers' Training College, and I was admitted to the Faculty of Physics and Mathematic. I studied well. I was well-loved at home. Aunt Masha's family treated me like their son. I wasn't an active Komsomol member, but I liked amateur performance clubs. I was involved in the amateur theater performances and sang in the folk choir. This choir toured all over Lithuania on plain trucks. I had many Lithuanian friends and never felt an outcast like I did in the ghetto. When in the early 1950s all newspapers trumpeted about cosmopolitan Jews, this anti-Semitic campaign also affected me. I was excluded from the Komsomol, not for being Jewish, but for having a bourgeois origin. I was a success with my studies and finished the college with the highest grades. I wanted to attend post-graduate studies, but I wasn't admitted there, without any explanation. I was told I was to work off whatever money the state had spent on my education.
Interviewee: Rafael Genis
Title: Rafael Genis and his employees
Place and Date: Telsiai, Lithuania - 1965
In this photo you can see the employees of our trading base on the Communist Subbotnik. I am down on the right; we are cleaning the territory of the base. The photo was taken in Telsiai in 1965.
In 1947 I met my master Shilenis, who also told me many things. He worked for the regional Ispolkom, and helped me very much. I was given an apartment ? with a large room and a kitchen. I was ready to accept any job. First, I was asked if I knew how to make sausage. They brought me a cow and I made the sausage myself. I was given money and went to Klaipeda. I bought a sausage-making machine.
My boss, a Jew called Germanis wasn?t a decent man and misappropriated almost all the sausage. I didn't want to work with him and be liable for larceny. I left him and soon I became the director of an industrial enterprise. It didn't exist for a long time. Then I was in charge of a logistics department in a car fleet. I changed those jobs within a year and in 1948 I started working in the road department of the Ispolkom as an engineer of asphalting the road Telsiai-Plunge.
Interviewee: Sara Ushpitsene
Title: Shmuel Ushpitsas in his bar mitzvah
Place and Date: Kaunas, Lithuania - 1974
This is the bar mitzvah of my son Shmuel Ushpitsas. The picture was taken after the rite in a Kaunas photo salon in 1974.
On 15th May 1961 I bore a son, whom we called after my perished brother Shmuel. We had a good life. We were not needy. I made pretty good money. My husband was also well paid despite being a common worker. We were one of the first people in Kaunas who bought a car for the whole family. My children were raised by their grandparents in their house in Sakiai. My husband and I went there every weekend. Only when it was time for them to go to school, I took Hanna and then Shmuel to the city. We went to the seaside in Palanga with our children. We also went to Vilnius. We didn't leave Lithuania.
We tried to observe Jewish traditions the best way we could. We went to the synagogue with our children on Sabbath and on holidays. Both of us were members of the Jewish religious community of Kaunas in the Soviet years, which was quite frowned upon, to put it mildly. The monument to the perished Jews in Sakiai was set up on the donations from the relatives of the perished. We went there every year on the day of execution. When our children grew up, we took them with us. We told them about things that took place during the war. I communicated with Lithuanians and with Jews. Both Lithuanians and Russians treated me very well at work. I felt no anti-Semitism. My children identified themselves as Jews. Yiddish was spoken at home. At the age of 13 we celebrated our son's bar mitzvah. Unfortunately, my mother didn't live to see that, but my father and brother were very happy to see it.
Interviewee: Yankl Dudakas
Title: Yankl Dudakas and his family
Place and Date: Kaunas, Lithuania - 1975
This is our family photo: I, Yankl Dudakas, am with my wife Sophia Dudakene, and our daughters, Inna is standing, and Yelena is sitting. Inna is an Octobrist, and this photo was taken in Kaunas, when she was going to school in September 1975.
My private life happened to be very successful. In 1964 I went to visit my distant relatives in Vilnius where I met a Jewish girl. She became my wife some short time later. Her name is Sophia. My wife's maiden name is Gelzina. She was born in Gomel, Belarus, in 1939. When the Great Patriotic War began, my wife's mother and Sophia were in evacuation in Chkalov region in the Ural. Sophia's father, Itzhak Gelzin, was at the front. His wartime service was over in Vilnius. He liked the town and stayed there. He found a job and arranged for his family to join him there.
Sophia finished school in Vilnius and found a job as a storekeeper. We liked each other and got married soon. Our wedding took place in early 1965. We had our marriage registered in a district registry office, and then had a wedding party at our home where my mother and mother-in-law made a fancy dinner. The food was delicious. We had about 30 guests. They were our relatives and friends. They were eating, drinking and having fun almost until dawn.
In 1966 our elder daughter Inna was born. In 1968 Yelena, the younger one, was born. I worked a lot and provided well for the family. We had a good life. We spent vacations in Palanga, a Baltic Sea resort, and went to the Black Sea a few times. We went to the cinema and theaters. Mama lived with us until the last days of her life. She prayed and fasted on Yom Kippur. On Pesach we always had matzah. Well, we didn't follow the kosher rules, and I had to work on Saturday, but we always celebrated Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, the biggest Jewish holidays, at home.
Interviewee: Rafael Genis
Title: Rafael Genis and his friends - front-line soldiers
Place and Date: Telsiai, Lithuania - 1980
This is me, Rafael Genis with other front-line soldiers during the celebration of Victory Day, in Telsiai in the 1980s. The former major from the military enlistment office is next to me. Last name Ivanov, behind him ?I don?t remember the rest, all of them have already died.
I was discharged from the military hospital in early January 1944 with the so-called ?white card?: I could not be in the lines any more. I had to get recouped somehow. I had to find a lodging and a job. I was recommended to be a military trainer at the vocational school. I went to Lipetsk, an industrial town, where there were a lot of schools. I was hired by one of the vocational schools right away. I rented a room. I worked hard. All I had to wear was a military uniform. Lithuania was still occupied, and I didn't care where I should live. I did well at work. I had military awards: two Great Patriotic War Orders and others.
Interviewee: Tobijas Jafetas
Title: Tobijas Jafetas at a cybernetics company
Place and Date: Vilnius, Lithuania - 1990
This is me at work at Sigma, a cybernetics company. The photo was taken in 1990 in Vilnius.
In 1954 I got a job. I taught physics, astronomy and mathematic in a secondary school. I worked as a teacher before 1959, when I entered the Faculty of Cybernetics for those who had higher education of Moscow Polytechnic College. After getting my degree in cybernetics I went to work at a computer company, which had opened in Lithuania. I went successfully in this company for almost 32 years till 1992. I wrote a candidate degree thesis, but I didn't want to defend it. I thought its subject had become outdated while I was working on it, and I decided against defending it for the sake of an increase of my salary and obtaining the candidate's degree.
My family had very positive feelings about the changes after perestroika, when Lithuania gained independence. Well, this office where I was working happened not to be needed, like many others, and I lost my job in 1992, but my brother supported me all right, and besides, I had my pension. In independent Lithuania I didn't have to explain anything, when I wanted to travel abroad. We became free citizens of a free country. Besides, I've become a rich man. According to the restitution law my parents' house in Kaunas was given back into my ownership. Now I have real estate, and my family and I go there at weekends. My grandchildren will inherit my house, which was built by my father.
Interviewee: Fania Brantsovskaya
Title: Fania Brantsovskaya in the Vilnius museum
Place and Date: Vilnius, Lithuania - 2003
This is me in 2003, photographed in the Vilnius museum by the stand with the photographs of all dear ones who perished during the Holocaust.
I live a fulfilled life, also since I'm involved in the Jewish life in Lithuania. I'm not religious, but I'm happy that there is a wonderful Jewish community and the Hesed taking care of old people in Lithuania. I volunteer for the section of former ghetto inmates. I also conduct public activities as a former inmate of the ghetto. I meet with children in the local Jewish school - there is a state Jewish state school in Vilnius - speak at meetings and on memorial days. I also visit Ponary where Jewish Lithuanians were killed. I always speak in Yiddish, which is my mother tongue, with other survivors of the Holocaust.
I don't regret that my husband and I have lived our life in Lithuania. Though, in the course of time, we had more and more understanding of the hypocrisy of the Soviet power, we were its true servants. However, I'm happy that Lithuania has become independent. This promotes the development of the Lithuanian and Jewish nations. Every year on 9th May, Victory Day I make a speech at the town meeting. At the 45th anniversary of the victory I spoke in the Jewish Knesset where I was invited and so were other veterans of World War II, former ghetto inmates and partisans.