Interviewee: Valeria Boguslavskaya
Title: Boris Boguslavskiy´s family at a wedding
Place and Date: Khorol, Ukraine - 1908
This is my father's family at a wedding in Khorol in 1908. The man with the beard in the middle row is my great-grandfather Zakhar Rogachevskiy, his wife is beside him. Next to her is my grandmother Zlata Boguslavskaya, nee Rogachevskaya, holding her youngest daughter Klara Tarnapolskaya, nee Boguslavskaya. The last on the right in the upper row is my grandfather Lipa Boguslavskiy, next to him is my father's older brother Gershl Boguslavskiy. Next to him are the twins Moishe and Meilah Boguslavskiy. My father, Boris Boguslavskiy, is the third on the right in the lower row, the last on the right is his sister Esther-Malka Libina, nee Boguslavskaya and his brother Iosif Boguslavskiy is behind her. My grandmother's youngest sister Enta is the one sitting wearing a white apron.
My great-grandfather was merry and stubborn, even quarrelsome and reckless at times. He was a very strong man and he used his physical strength sometimes to resolve disputable issues. There were legends about his physical strength. Once he told a visitor to get out of his house when they didn't succeed to agree on something. That visitor said that he wouldn't leave and grasped at the door frame. My great-grandfather carried him, along with the door-frame, out of his house. Zakhar also enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. He often visited Poltava with his friends, went to restaurants and taverns. They said he even had a lover. I don't have any information about Zakhar's wife, my great-grandmother. I know that she died long before the [Russian] Revolution of 1917. My great-grandfather Zakhar lived a long life. He died in Khorol in the middle of the 1930s.
Zakhar had many children. The oldest was my grandmother Zlata, born in 1879. My grandmother's youngest sister Enta, born in 1896, died incidentally. During an epidemic of influenza in 1910 she and my grandmother's older son fell ill. The shop assistant at the pharmacy was ignorant but nobody knew this. He gave the first medication that was at hand and it turned out to be strychnine, a poison. Enta and my grandmother's son Moishe died.
My grandfather Lipa had to go to work when he was 14 because he had to provide for his mother and four younger sisters and brothers. My great-grandfather Zakhar Rogachevskiy helped their family. It was customary at that time that richer Jews helped the poor ones. Besides, he employed Lipa at his mill. Lipa felt at home in the family of Rogachevskiy. But when Zakhar found out that Lipa and his older daughter Zlata had fallen in love with one another Zakhar got very angry that his daughter wanted to marry a poor man. He didn't give his consent to their marriage. But Zlata, his favorite daughter, cried day and night until he gave in.
Interviewee: Kamyshan Dimitri
Title: Dimitri Kamyshan´s father Anatoliy Zilberberg and his sisters
Place and Date: Kharkov, Ukraine - 1913
My father, Anatoliy Zilberberg, and his sisters in the yard of their house.
My grandparents had six children. All my grandmother's children lived with her, and she was the mistress of the house. Their oldest daughter, Lilia, was born in Kharkov in 1892. She finished Russian grammar school in Kharkov and she worked as a planning manager at a plant. The second child was Victor. The third child, Ida, born in 1898, also finished grammar school and worked as deputy chief accountant at a plant. She was single and had no children. Then there were twins: Ludmila and Valentina, born in 1900. Valentina died of measles when she was 2 years old. Ludmila was my father's only sister that got married. Her husband, Arkadiy Zbar, was a Jew from Western Ukraine. They were engineers at a plant and had a daughter called Valentina, who was born in 1937. My father, Anatoliy Zilberberg, the fifth child in the family, was born in 1902. The youngest girl, Tamara, followed in 1910. She was an accountant at a plant in Kharkov.
My father was my grandparents' favorite son. He studied at the classical grammar school for boys in Kharkov. He was supposed to get a higher education later. They had classes in religion where they were divided into three groups, according to their religion. The classes were conducted by an Orthodox priest, a Catholic priest and a rabbi. Being a Jew, my father studied religion in the Judaism group, but his family paid little attention to religion, and he was growing up an atheist. My father studied well. He was easy-going, cheerful and popular. Nationality didn't matter to them at all. My father was fond of Russian literature and was very good at mathematics. He finished grammar school during the Civil War, so he couldn't enter a higher educational institution, according to new Soviet laws. He came from a bourgeois family and their children had no right to get a higher education. My father finished a course in accounting and became an accountant.
My father's sisters were spinsters, and they all loved me. I called them by their first names: Ida, Lilia and Tamara, and I was allowed to do anything I wished. My aunts spoke fluent French. They taught me French and raised me. On certain days I was only allowed to talk French with them. They had rather attractive appearances, by the way, and why they were single - I don't know. They were all different. Only now, after so many years have passed, do I realize how much I loved them. Tamara, the youngest one, finished music school and was forcing me to learn to play the piano, although I had no ear for music. I learned to read notes a little. She used to hit me on my fingers when I made mistakes. She was very unbalanced. I guess she wanted a man next to her. In 1941 she was 31. She kept the house and everything in it very clean. Ida was very sickly. We had to take her to Sevastopol to get treatment for a very severe form of radiculitis. I remember that she was taken there on a stretcher and came back even without crutches.
All Zilberbergs died at the same time. They were shot by the Germans in 1941 in Kharkov.
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Interviewee: Dora Postrelko
Title: Dora Postrelko with her sister
Place and Date: Tomashpol, Ukraine - 1924
This is a picture of me and my sister Hana photographed in the children's home in Tomashpol. The photo was taken around 1924. Hana is on the stairs, on the right, and I am the one standing before her wearing a dark sweater.
My parents were poor. My father Aron Gehtmann was a joiner and my mother Sura Gehtmann [nee Wainshtein] was a housewife. My father was different from other Jews. He liked parties and drinking, and he loved women. In 1920 my mother had another boy, Ehill, named after my grandfather, who had died shortly before. She wasn't attractive any longer and my father lost interest in her. He began to see a Russian woman called Evdokia. There were no arguments in our house. My father just left my mother with the three children. My mother fell ill after my father left. She refused to eat or breastfeed the baby. It was a period of famine [in Ukraine]and it was hard to get milk. The baby was given cow milk with some water, contracted enteric fever and died. My mother died shortly after the baby's death.
My sister Hana and I lived with my grandparents for some time. We starved. I even remember my grandfather saying that we were a burden to them. My cousin Olte and Dvoira often came to see us. They brought us some food, but it wasn't enough. We were getting swollen from hunger. Uncle Abram, my mother's younger brother, came from Kiev and made arrangements for us to get into a children's home.
It was a Jewish children's home in Tomashpol. At least we got regular meals there. In those years the Joint provided assistance and support to Russian children's institutions. We sometimes ate American tinned meat and egg powder - it was a feast. We wore trousers, sweaters and dresses from America. It was a small children's home: a one-storied building with about 40 children and a few teachers. We didn't learn anything. We played a lot and spoke Yiddish. I don't remember any celebration of religious holidays there; I don't remember any holidays from my childhood. It seems to me now that there were none.
I felt lonely in the children's home since my sister Hana, who was three years older than I, was in another class and spent little time with me. We had been staying in that home for about a year, when Evdokia, my father's new wife, came to see us. She brought sweets and tried to persuade us to come live with her, our father and their little son, born in 1922. This happened in summer when Uncle Abram was on vacation in Tomashpol. When he heard about her arrival he quickly came to the children's home and told us that we weren't going to father's new family, where we would just be baby-sitters for their children. Abram told Evdokia to go away. She left and I never saw her again. I didn't know my father until 1945.
Interviewee: Michal Friedman
Title: Michal Friedman with schoolmates
Place and Date: Kovel, Ukraine - 1929
This is me with my two collegues from Tarbut gymnasium. The photo was taken in Kovel in 1929 in the studio. The photographer was the father of one of these boys, his family name was Geller.
Hebrew was the everyday language for my friends and me. In Hebrew, I could write quite well, in a fine literary style. It was mostly girls who insisted that we spoke Hebrew. When at a certain age we started to go out with them, court them, they would set one condition. We will speak only in Hebrew. I remember one such pretty girl, Szewa Werba. I had to court her in Hebrew. After all, we have the greatest erotic poem in the world - the 'Song of Songs'. And I knew the 'Song of Songs' almost by heart.
The Tarbut gymnasium focused on preparing young people to move to Palestine. I remember a moving scene. One day, the director assembled all the classes. The year was probably 1925. He announced to us that at the very moment that we were speaking there, the opening of the Hebrew University was taking place in Jerusalem. That was a very stirring experience for us. 'For out of Zion shall come the Torah and God's Word,' said the director. All of us present there resolved at that moment that, after acquiring a profession, we would go to Palestine. Some went to university in France and when the war broke out, they made their way to Palestine. As teachers of Hebrew, they were worth their weight in gold. Unfortunately, I waited too long. I can't say that I regret it. But at times I am visited by a tormenting thought that things might have been different.
I graduated from the gymnasium at the age of 17; it was 1930. Afterwards I became a private tutor in Kovel. I taught Polish, History, and Hebrew. At that time, Hebrew was a gold mine since in order to get into Palestine, some sum of money stipulated by the English had to be paid and the prospective emigre needed to demonstrate his command of Hebrew. Hebrew examinations took place in Brest, where students from throughout Poland came. I had a friend; Josele Szpak was his name. I already told you about his father. But Szpak didn't know Hebrew. So I went to Brest pretending to be Szpak and naturally wrote a composition there, on the basis of which he got his certificate, his departure paper. In the 1980s I called on him in Israel. Perhaps he is still alive? Szpak was the owner of a bakery then. I had dinner at his place. Introducing me to his wife, he said: 'This is the man who saved my life.'
Interviewee: Ernest Galpert
Title: Rabbi Chaim Eleazar Spira
Place and Date: Mukachevo, Ukraine - 1935
This is a photo of Rabbi Chaim Eleazar Spira, taken in Mukachevo in 1935.
Mukachevo was a Jewish town. It was even called 'little Jerusalem' and it was a center of Hasidism. There was a yeshivah, a Jewish higher educational institution, in Mukachevo. The chief rabbi at the yeshivah was the popular Hasidic rabbi Chaim Spira [Shapira]. Our Hesed in Uzhgorod is named after him: Hesed Spira. Spira was a very authoritative Hasid known all over the world. I remember him very well since my father and I went to get shirayem - leftovers. A rabbi traditionally invites Hasidim to dinner on Saturday. The rabbi hands them leftovers of the dishes he had tried. Saraim was supposed to bring blessings to a person. Hasidim grabbed every piece from the rabbi's hands. Sometimes they even fought to get them. I remember when at the age of about five I crawled on all fours to the rabbi's table to get shirayem. My father didn't visit the rabbi every Saturday, but I tried to attend every Saturday. On Saturday morning my father went to the synagogue. When he came home we sat down for dinner and I rushed to the rabbi's house to get to the eshraim on time. Once I got confused and instead of sitting at the table with the rabbi I sat at the table for the poor that couldn't afford a festive dinner on Sabbath. They had cholent, beans stewed with meat. I had a meal, but then one of the Hasidim asked my father rather maliciously whether he was poor to the extent of sending his son to have dinner for the poor provided by the rabbi. My father asked me if this was true and then explained the difference between shirayem and dinner for the poor to me.
There was some competition between two rabbis in Mukachevo. Besides rabbi Spira there was the Belzer rebbe, also a popular Hasidic rabbi. He built a synagogue in Mukachevo and the community members divided into the admirers and opponents between the two rabbis. The synagogues of Spira and Belze were close to each other. I cannot tell what it was like with adults, but we, boys, whose parents attended different synagogues, even threw stones at one another. There were conflicts between the rabbis' office and the Zionists, too. One of the reasons was the Jewish grammar school. The grammar school paid little attention to religious subjects. The rabbis were concerned about such abandonment. There were also differences in convictions. Hasidim didn't think it necessary to move to Palestine. They believed that the Messiah would come to lead all Jews to their ancestors' land of Palestine and that they had to wait for Him where they were, while the Zionists were helping people to move to Palestine. Rabbi Spira often made angry speeches against the Zionists and even cursed them.
There is a well-known Jewish curse: 'to erase one's name so that nobody remembers it'. This curse is said at Purim when they mention Haman's name. Every time the name of Haman is mentioned, everyone boos, hisses, stamps their feet and twirls their graggers. Children start their rattles, adults hit the table with their fists and stamp their feet to blot out Haman's name from history. There's the expression 'blot out' the name or the memory of particular individuals. Rabbi Spira often used this expression when speaking about the Zionists. Sometimes it led to scandalous situations. Occasionally students of grammar school threw eggs at rabbi Spira during his speeches. Now I understand that it was wrong, but it wasn't considered to be so at that time: the rabbi spoke against the Zionists and they acted against the rabbi.
Interviewee: Haya-Lea Detinko
Title: Haya Lea Kats in her Hashomer Hazair group
Place and Date: Lvov, Ukraine - 1936
A photo from 'Hashamer Hazair,' 'The Young Watchmen'
My friends and I went to the Lvov region, to a pioneer camp. We rented an attic and lived there, sleeping on hay-- boys on one side, girls on the other. We were wearing this kind of uniform: a grey shirt and a dark blue tie. The regular pioneers wore red ties. We had shirts with pockets, whistles, all the stuff. We were all dressed this way. Look at this boy for example: he's got a rucksack on his shoulders and he's wearing our uniform.
In the first row first from the right is Rosa Fisher. She now lives in Israel. She was a figure skater.
In the first row second from the right is Maria Drucker. I don't know anything about her fate.
In the first row third from the right is Osher, I do not know his surname or what happened to him.
In the second row first from the left - I do not remember the person.
In the second row second from the left in a leather jacket - Yakov Dantsker, he was a dentist, we met in Israel in 1989, he left for America.
In the second row third from the left in a beret - I do not remember who this is.
Near him sits a boy who I can't remember either.
In the second row second from the right is me, Haya Nakhmanovna Detinko, at the age of 15.
Near me sits a boy, embracing two girls - I do not remember him.
The third row: first from the right stands Lea, I do not know anything else about her.
Second from the right is Hana Bokser. Hana was arrested together with my friend Haya.
The two guys in berets I do not remember.
In the third row fifth from the right stands Sara Sheinfeld. She lives in Israel now, working as a medical nurse.
In the third row sixth from the right in a white shirt is Yakov Goldberg. He was our supervisor, he also was arrested later. He died in a transit camp, where we were together, of a sunstroke. He studied in the grammar school together with my elder sister Hava.
I do not remember the guy in the third row seventh from the right.
In the third row eighth from the right wearing a kerchief is Buta Bukimer. I know nothing about her.
Interviewee: Ida Limonova
Title: Ida Limonova´s first husband Natan Shafir in the Red Army
Place and Date: Ukraine - 1941
My husband Natan Shafir in the Red Army. Natan is the 2nd on the left and on his right is his friend and writer Jack Altauzen. I don?t know the names of the two other military. The photo was taken at the front in 1941. Natan sent this photo to me to Chkalov.
In 1939 war in Europe began, but we didn't believe that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union. In May 1941 my husband Natan was mobilized to a tank military unit on the Western border, but still the beginning of the war was a surprise to me. At 4 o'clock in the morning on 22nd June air raids began in Kiev. I was alone at home. Yuri was in the sanatorium in Evpatoria.
At the beginning of the war, my husband started working in the editorial office of a tank unit on the Western border. We often received letters from him. Some of them were published in our newspaper. He wrote that he had been awarded a medal on 10th May and this day became especially memorable to him as it was also his son's birthday. He wrote that with each roar of cannonade he thought, 'This is to hit Hitler on the head for Kharkov, Kiev, for Yuri and for all mothers' tears!' I would like to read a letter that he wrote to Yuri on his birthday. It was a month before he perished..
'My dearest Yuri, I hope this letter reaches you on your birthday. You will turn 6 on 10th May. Your Daddy wishes he could be with you on this day and give you a present and kiss you on your little up-turned up nose. Here's what I wish you: to have your grandmother Rosalia make a huge pie with raisins in Kiev on your next birthday, cream and other sweets; that we meet as soon as possible and I find you, Mummy Ida, your grandfather and grandmother healthy and happy; that you always remember Soviet soldiers that are shedding their blood for all boys and girls, fighting for your happiness, your laughter and your home. You are a big boy now, and you understand how difficult things are for your father and your mother. But we shall be together one day. We shall go to work and you will go to school, but we shall get together in the evenings to talk and recall the past. We shall read nice books, travel, go to the cinema and enjoy life. My dearest, you have so many nice things ahead of you. I keep thinking about you and your Mummy, and I'm ready to give everything to you, even my life. Happy Birthday and many kisses. 'Hurrah!' to the birthday boy!'
In summer 1942 I stopped getting letters from my husband. I was very concerned. At first I was notified that he was missing. At that time Stalin issued an order to attack Kharkov at a time when the troops weren't prepared for such an attack. As a result, over 100,000 soldiers were encircled and eliminated in this area. Natan and their whole editorial office perished. Natan was a good soldier (he was awarded a medal 'For service in battle') and a skilled professional, a good father and husband. My son lost his father when he was 6.
Interviewee: Ferenc Sandor
Title: Ferenc Sandor in forced labor
Place and Date: Kiev, Ukraine - 1943
This is me in forced labor.
During the war, first I was sent to Gyongyos for forced labor service, then to Vac, and following that I spent one and a half years in Sastov, Ukraine, near Kiev. It was in August, 1942 when we went there. When full Jews were ordered to be sent further away, I, as a war-orphan, was offered the chance to stay in Vac. People who had Christian spouses were allowed to stay. They were given white armbands. I was contemplating whether I should go or stay, and in the end I decided to leave. But right then a guard kicked me back to the line. He wouldn't let me leave. Thank God. Because less than fifty percent of the company I was supposed to join ever returned. Later on, it was our turn to be sent to Ukraine. My company was a wonderful unit, an extraordinary group of people. Lots of medical doctors and lawyers among them. At the beginning of 1944 we were disarmed. Then on May 20, 1944 I was taken to Pecs, and from there to Szombathely. There I pulled the gold ring off my finger because I knew it would be taken from me anyway. I gave it away to someone in the street, so at least I gave it to someone I wanted to. We worked at an airport in Szombathely.
Interviewee: Sarra Shpitalnik
Title: Sarra Shpitalnik with her collegues at the parade on October Revolution Day
Place and Date: Chernovtsy, Ukraine - 1947
This is me, third from right, and my group at the parade on October Revolution Day, we were second year students. This photo was taken in Chernovtsy in 1947. There is a slogan behind us. It says 'Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin' in Ukrainian. On the left is the entrance to the cinema theater ?Ukraina?.
In 1946 I finished the tenth grade and wanted to study languages. I entered the French department of the Philological Faculty of Chernovtsy University. My parents and I moved to Chernovtsy. At the end of the war many Ukrainian families left the town following the retreating Germans and there were vacant apartments available. After the liberation of Transnistria, Jews from the ghetto rushed to Chernovtsy: we were a little late having stayed in Kishinev for a year. Those who came there in 1945 lived in nice apartments. Chernovtsy is a beautiful town. Our faculty resided in the former Metropolitan's residence, in the beautiful building of red bricks.
I lived the best years of my life when I was a student. We were divided into two groups. I was in a stronger group where all students were Jews and only two Ukrainians. Almost all students in our group were either veterans of the war or former inmates of ghettos in Transnistria. The political situation was rather severe: there were Bandera gangs in the area. One day we went to the university and got to know that all third-year students had been arrested. The authorities had found out that they had Bandera flyers. At this time the campaign against 'cosmopolitans' began. Ilia Gordon, a Jewish lecturer on foreign literature was sent away from Kiev to work in our town. The Party Bureau taped his lectures to review them later. We felt sorry for him and did our best to study his subject and obtain good marks in it.
Another demonstration of state anti-Semitism was that they closed the Jewish Theater in Chernovtsy. Actually, this was the Kiev Theater, but after the war they weren't allowed to return to the capital and had to move to Chernovtsy. They were always sold out since Chernovtsy was a Jewish town then. Some actors went to work in Russian and Ukrainian theaters, but many lost their jobs after it had been closed down. I also remember another incident: the university announced a party for local young people. I thought since I was a Bessarabian girl I was to be a local resident, but they didn't let me in, or any Jew for that matter. Only Ukrainians were allowed to attend it. However, there wasn't much impact of this kind on our studies. Our group was very close. We often had parties, celebrated birthdays, went to the theater and cinema. Our groups welcomed the establishment of Israel. We were ready to move to Israel as volunteers. Our co-student Anatoliy Kogan, who later became a writer in Kishinev, could play the piano very well. He occasionally played the 'Hatikva': there was a piano in the corridor of our faculty. Of course, we were a little afraid, but we were young and we were happy about Israel. Later, twelve former students of our group moved to Israel. Four still live there.
Interviewee: Dora Puchalskaya
Title: Dora Puchalskaya with her friends
Place and Date: Verkhovka, Ukraine - 1954
This is me, Dora Puchalskaya (nee Gitman), in the lower row, the one on the left, and my fellow students in Verkhovka village, Vinnitsa region. This photo was taken in 1954.
My brother and I finished school in 1951. A year later we entered the Agronomical Faculty of the Agricultural College in Verkhovka village, Obodov district Vinnitsa region. We were the only Jewish students in this College. We lived in a hostel. I began to meet with a Ukrainian guy in College. His name was Victor Puchalski. He was born in Aleksandrovka village, Vinnitsa region in 1932. He was the only child in his family and his parents spoiled him a lot. During the Great Patriotic War Victor stayed in his village. He saw fascist atrocities against Jews and he came to respecting Jewish people. I told him that I was a Jew and that we were in occupation during the war. Victor and I fell in love and actually became a husband and wife during our last year in College. His parents were also positive about our relationships. Victor's two uncles were married to Jewish women, so there were Jews in their family already.
After finishing our College we came to my mother in Vladimir-Volynskiy. My mother didn't care about his nationality. She saw that we were in love and this was what mattered to her. I was pregnant. Victor and I got married. We didn't have a wedding party. My mother just made a small dinner for our family and Victor's father Andrei Puchalski who came to our wedding.
I remember Stalin's death in 1953. We, students, were crying. We didn't know how to live without him. We stood a guard of honor by his portrait in our College with tears in our eyes. My co-students were Ukrainian girls from surrounding villages. They had a good attitude toward me, but I never mentioned to anybody that I was in occupation. At that time there was official hostile attitude towards survivors in occupation during the war.
Interviewee: Yakov Voloshyn
Title: Yakov Voloshyn with his family on vacation in Yevpatoria
Place and Date: Yevpatoriya, Ukraine - 1958
This is our family during summer vacation in Yevpatoria (Crimea). From left to right: my son Rafail Voloshyn, my daughter Nelly Gluschenko, nee Voloshyna, my wife Lilia Voloshyna, nee Tombak, and I. This photo was taken in 1958 in Yevpatoriya.
We spent our summer vacation with the children in the Crimea. Our children often had angina and their doctor advised us to take them to the seashore every summer. Those were happy days: we were together and I didn't have to hurry. This was my time when I enjoyed spending time with the children.
Regretfully, working so much, I didn't have much time to spend with my family. I didn't give sufficient attention to my children. I came home late in the evening, had dinner and sat down to work again. I did extra work for other newspapers at home. I had to do a good and timely job for them.
After finishing a secondary school my son entered the Faculty of Machine Building in Voronezh Polytechnic College. I can't remember why he didn't continue his studies in Kiev. I don't think it had anything to do with anti-Semitism. In Russia anti-Semitism was no different from Ukraine. After finishing this college my son got a job assignment in Moscow.
My daughter finished the Industrial College in Kiev. She is a china production engineer. She married her former Ukrainian classmate. Her marital surname is Gluschenko. Nelly is a production engineer in a scientific research institute of china. She has two daughters: Marina, born in 1972, and Yekaterina, born in 1983. Marina graduated from the Philological Faculty of Kiev State University. She is a pedagog. Yekaterina studies in the Industrial Academy. Nelly and her family live in Kiev. She and my granddaughters often visit me and help me about the house. My children have non-Jewish spouses, but it doesn't matter to me as long as my children are happy.
Interviewee: Mark Golub
Title: Mark Golub with his wife Maria Golub
Place and Date: Kiev, Ukraine - 1962
My wife Maria Golub [nee Dinavetskaya] and me at our wedding ceremony in Kiev in 1962.
Maria, a Jew, was born in Uman in October 1927. Her father Naum Dinavestky was an accountant and her mother Anna Dinavestskaya was a housewife. They didn't celebrate any Jewish traditions and they spoke Russian in the family. They had two daughters: Maria, and Sophia, who was born in 1915. In 1934 the whole family moved to Kiev. Maria went to school and finished 6 grades before the war. We didn't have a wedding party. We had a civil ceremony and my mother cooked a festive dinner for all the members of our families. We lived in my wife's apartment with her sister (her parents had died by then). Later, after Maria's sister died, my mother moved in with us.
Maria's father worked as an accountant at the Voenstroy Military Construction Company. Sophia studied at the Odessa Communications Institute by correspondence and worked as a radio operator at the Giprosviaz Institute. Her husband, Pavel Svirgunenko, a Ukrainian, worked in the Radio Security Department of the NKVD. Their son was born before the war. At the beginning of the war the family evacuated to Kuibyshev. Sophia worked as an accountant at the post office and Naum worked as an accountant in a company. Sophia's son fell ill and died in the evacuation. In 1944 they returned to Kiev. Pavel was a higher official in the NKVD.
Maria took a preparatory course at the Institute of Civil Engineers and after finishing it became a student at the Institute. In 1949 she graduated from the Sanitary Engineering Faculty of the Engineering Construction Institute and received a job assignment at the construction site of the Volga-Don Channel. She had to work with prisoners there. Upon completion of the construction she was transferred to the construction site of the Stalingrad power plant. She was an engineer in the Operations Department of the Sanitary Engineering Headquarters. Some time in 1955 Sophia quit her job to look after her mother who got sick. Maria also managed to quit work. She returned to Kiev and was hired as an engineer in the Sanitary Engineering Department at the Giprograd Institute. She developed designs for apartment buildings. In 1963 Maria was transferred to the Regional Housing Design Institute where she worked until she retired in 1983. She worked as senior engineer, chief engineer and chief specialist at the Institute. In 1987 she had a myocardial infarction and had to go to the hospital every 4-5 months afterwards. Maria died in the hospital in July 2000.
Interviewee: Fira Shwartz
Title: Fira Shwartz with her fellow employees
Place and Date: Kiev, Ukraine - 1967
My fellow employees and I (2nd from the left) at the shoe factory. We were celebrating winning the first place in the socialist competition of 1967; a red banner was handed over to the factory at the celebration.
In USSR there were annual competitions between enterprises in every branch of the industry. The group that produced the best products was given a red banner. This was an honourable award. The best workers were put on a board of honor, and were sometimes given a valuable gift, such as a watch.
After finishing the Library Faculty at the College of Culture and Education in 1954 i got a job assignment in the village of Vysokoye, Zhitomir region [200 km from Kiev]. Graduates usually got assignments in distant locations. I returned to Kiev in 1957, but I couldn't find a job as a librarian there. I couldn't live at my uncle's expenses and thus went to work in a shoe factory. At first I was a laborer at the storage facility, and later I became a laborer at the shop of the factory. I liked my job. The majority of the employees at the factory were Jewish. The director and chief engineer of the factory were also Jews. Of course, there was no anti-Semitism at the factory.
Interviewee: Dina Orlova
Title: Dina Orlova with her children
Place and Date: Chernovtsy, Ukraine - 1970
This is me and my children after a parade on 1st May. The woman in the background is just a passer-by. The photo was taken in the central park in Chernovtsy in 1970.
My daughter Svetlana was born in 1964, and my son Vladimir in 1966. He was circumcised. Our children were raised Jewish. We spoke Russian in the family, but we also taught the children Yiddish. They knew Jewish traditions and observed Jewish holidays with us. My husband taught our son the traditional four questions [the mah nishtanah] to be asked at seder on Pesach. My husband didn't go to the synagogue at that time because the practice of religiosity was punished by the authorities.
My husband worked a lot to provide for the family. I also worked and took care of the household. We often had guests; my husband and I liked guests. Mostly we had Jewish friends visiting. We celebrated both Jewish and Soviet holidays. 9th May, Victory Day, was the best holiday ever! Every year on Victory Day we thanked God for our survival. On other holidays we just got together with friends for a party and to have a good time. We used to have up to 30 guests on every holiday. My husband liked singing Jewish songs on Jewish and Soviet holidays. We invited our Jewish friends on Jewish holidays. I made traditional Jewish food. I've always liked cooking and make delicious food: gefilte fish, chicken broth, chicken neck stuffed with liver and fried onions and strudels. On Purim I make hamantashen. On Pesach there's matzah at home and we follow all rules celebrating this holiday.
After finishing school my daughter wanted to study at the Medical Institute. There was a big competition at Chernovtsy Medical Institute. Besides, they didn't admit Jews. She went to Leningrad but failed at three exams and returned to Chernovtsy. Svetlana went to work at the Electronmach factory. She became fond of electronics. She studied at Chernovtsy University by correspondence and upon graduation continued to work at the factory as an engineer.
My son passed all entrance exams to the Medical Institute, but he wasn't admitted there either. Vladimir finished a trade school and went to serve in the army. After demobilization from the army he worked at a plant for a short time and then entered a dentistry school in Beltsy. He finished it with honors and became a dental technician. He had also finished a music school when he was in secondary school. He learned to play the violin. He entered the Music Academy in Kamenets-Podolsk and finished it with honors. When he returned to Chernovtsy, Vladimir began to work with the Jewish Cultural Association, which was opened in the late 1980s.
Interviewee: Baby Pisetskaya
Title: Baby Pisetskaya performing with friends
Place and Date: Berdiansk, Ukraine - 1975
This is a picture of me, first from right, with my friends singing on the stage of the Palace of Culture in Berdiansk on 9th May - the 30th anniversary of Victory Day. The photo was taken in 1975.
When I was young and was a pioneer, I attended a club in the House of Pioneers in Kursk where we lived then. I liked singing and got invitations to sing on the radio and in concerts. Our string orchestra gave concerts at kolkhozes and factories. I sang songs from the repertory of Claudia Shulzhenko. [Claudia Ivanovna Shulzhenko, 1906-1984, a Soviet pop singer, whose name is associated with the start of Soviet pop singing.] In 1939 I took part in the children's radio festival dedicated to the 22nd anniversary of the October Revolution where I was awarded the first prize. I still have this award. There were newspaper publications about me and I kept these articles. In 1939, when the Finnish campaign [see Soviet-Finnish War] began, our school was transformed into a hospital and we moved to another school. We gave concerts in hospitals.
In the 1970s I still took part in the amateur art club of the Epsilon plant in Odessa, where I worked for many years. I sang. Office and professional workers of the plant attended the club. We gave concerts in Berdiansk and Leningrad in workers? clubs
Interviewee: Lev Mistetskiy
Title: Lev Mistetskiy with comrades
Place and Date: Ukraine - 1989
This photo was taken on the 45th anniversary of the liberation of Vinnitsa region from fascists. Our division that took part in battles for the liberation of Vinnitsa region was invited to a ceremony. In this picture with my comrades I am 5th in the 1st row. We were photographed at the headquarters of the Vinnitsa military regiment in 1989.
I've kept in touch with my comrades-in-arms. They found me through a newspaper, and since then we have been meeting in Vinnitsa on 20 March, the day of liberation of Vinnitsa. It's sad that each year there are fewer of us, veterans. Last time there were only five of us at this meeting. The rest are gone.
By the 20th anniversary of the victory over Germany I was awarded the Order of the Great Patriotic War, 1st grade. I have medals for the liberation of towns, memorial medals to the jubilees of victory. I wear my awards when I meet with my fellow veterans and on Victory Day. It's no secret that many people believe that there were no Jews at the front and that they just 'fought' in Tashkent [Editor's note: Tashkent was the town where many people evacuated to during the Great Patriotic War, including many Jewish families. Many people thought that the whole Jewish population was in evacuation rather than at the front and anti-Semites spoke about it in mocking tones.] Once I wore my orders, when a man asked me, 'What, you fought at the front?' Once a woman approached me and said that her father was killed at the front, and I was showing off with my orders. I was very annoyed. I'm sorry that her father was killed, but was it my fault that I survived? I fought honestly and never hid behind anybody's back, and I deserved my awards.
Interviewee: Basya Chaika
Title: Basya Chaika with her granddaughter Katya in Primorsk
Place and Date: Primorsk, Ukraine - 1990
That's me, Basya Chaika, with my granddaughter Katya, who is 5 years old.
The photo was made in 1990 in Primorsk.
Since 1955, I have been living in Kiev again. When I look back at my life in various military camps while my husband was in the Sovit Army, I always remember a cold and almost always hungry existence, crowded houses with cockroaches everywhere and huge rats active at night. Once, a rat bit my young Tanya, so the whole house ran after this rat to show it to the medics and free the child from shots. But I also remember that we were all friends in these towns and villages, the team was always international, and all the holidays were cheerful and long, even though there was not enough food. We could not imagine somebody saying anything negative or irrespective about Jews.
Having finally completed my secondary education at the age of 40, I went to work at the Education Ministry. I worked there till 1985.
By the end of the 1980?s, there were fewer Jews in Kiev, but my family increased: in 1985, my long-awaited granddaughter Katya was born. Her father, Tatyana's husband, is Viktor Malakhov, a son of famous sculptor, Aaron Foterman, and Belarussian doctor Tamara Malakhova. When he finished school and could not enter the medical institute after having passed practically all exams with excellent marks, he changed his last name for his mother?s. Then he entered the philosophy department of the University, where he studied together with my daughter. They have been living and working together for the past 20 years.
My husband and I doted upon our granddaughter. His last words before he died in 1991 were also concerning her. Unfortunately, he did not live to see her as a student and did not know that in the third grade her parents transferred Katya to the first Jewish national school of Kiev, which she finished with honors this year.
My granddaughter Katya is a person of the new world and a new era that began for us in 1991. She is absolutely free in her political thinking, her religionand her etbnicity.
This year, Katya passed exams with a very high rating and entered two universities at once: the National 'Kyiv-Mohyla Academy' University and the State Jewish Solomon University. She studies at the philosophy department. Even now she speaks fluent Russian, Ukrainian, English, and Hebrew. She knows Jewish traditions well. She loves reading the Torah and Talmud in their original.
It was through her that the Jewish tradition came back to our home. Katya tells me that the most valuable thing in life is free choice. She is probably right. It is not easy for me to understand her. Neither in my childhood nor in the rest of my life did I have such freedom, but I also understand what a dear price was paid for this freedom.
I am very glad that my beloved city of Kiev is becoming not only proudly Ukrainian, but also Jewish: Jewish schools, synagogues, theaters, 'Khesed Avot' - this is all very good; I just pray and wish that people will finally be able to live in peace. That's because there is probably no greater evil than mutual hatred.
I am especially afraid of national and religious hatred. And if religions or nationalities are able to separate people and make them hate one another, then something is wrong in this world. Because the most important thing is for people to get along, to accept the differences of others. . And they need very little to make this happen: a little kindess is a very good thing.
Interviewee: Zakhar Benderskiy
Title: Zakhar Benderskiy with his wife and friends
Place and Date: Chernovtsy, Ukraine - 1996
This is a picture of my second wife Sophia Lazko (in the center) and me with our friends from Lvov. The photo was taken in Chernovtsy on 9th May 1996.
My first wife died in 1973. I got married for the second time in 1978. My wife is Jewish. She was born to an assimilated Jewish family in Chernigov in 1920. Her parents were engineers. She finished school and worked as a typist at a military unit in Chernigov. During the war she went to the front. She was a topographer at the army headquarters. After the war Sophia decided to go to Chernovtsy. She didn't want to go back to Chernigov where all her relatives had perished during the war. Sophia was a lab assistant at the sanitary-epidemiological facility in Chernovtsy. She's a very nice and kind woman. We are very close. We have common interests and friends. I'm so happy to have met her. The Soviet power forced us to forget Jewish traditions. It's too late for me to restore them. We didn't live a Jewish life. We only celebrate holidays in Hesed.
Ukraine became independent and the Jewish way of life began to be restored. We have several Jewish communities in Chernovtsy. Hesed provides big assistance to us. We get food packages and medication. There are highly qualified doctors with Hesed. We also attend lectures, concerts and interesting films about Jews. We can get Jewish newspapers and magazines for free at Hesed. If it weren't for Hesed we would live a poor and miserable life. People that had been working their whole life receive a pension that's smaller than the fee they have to pay for their apartment and everyday things. It's very important that we can go out and meet people. Volunteers from Hesed visit us at home. We also have a nurse visiting us at home. It's very helpful and makes our life different. We celebrate Sabbath and all Jewish holidays with Hesed. There was a festive Purimshpil performance at the town theater on Purim. The synagogue is open. We don't go there often, but we always attend it on holidays and on the death anniversaries of our relatives. I'm 90 years old. I'm glad to have lived to the time when I can see it all with my own eyes.
Interviewee: Arkadiy Redko
Title: Arkadiy Redko with his comrades
Place and Date: Kiev, Ukraine - 1999
These are veterans of the war, members of the Kiev Association of Jewish War Veterans at the Jewish Council of Ukraine. We were photographed for the memory and each of us has a copy of this picture. This photo was taken in Kiev in 1999. I am in the first row, 2nd from the right, wearing a dark-blue shirt.
I retired in 1992, but I've still been working since. In 1993 I became deputy chairman of the organization of Kiev Jewish veterans of the war. I was elected secretary of the all-Ukrainian organization of veterans of the war in the Jewish Council of Ukraine. I am a member of the military commission in the Jewish Council of Ukraine. For eight years I've been a member of the council of the Kiev Jewish community, a representative of the Jewish Council of Ukraine in the Sohnut and Joint, and a member of the Association of Jewish War Veterans in Kiev.
As for the Jewish life in Ukraine after the breakup of the USSR, I think there are more Jewish leaders in Kiev and Ukraine than there is a Jewish life. There are many Jewish centers: 10-15 make a Jewish center, but they don't want to unite for the sake of the common goal, but want to take command. Over ten Jewish newspapers are published in Kiev and more than 47 in Ukraine. And they compete with one another. I think there will never be a Jewish life in Ukraine because people live very different lives. Ukraine will never get out of this state: it's necessary to replace the political elite. The only Jewish organization really beneficial for the people is Hesed. Hesed helps old people by providing food and medications; they also celebrate birthdays in Hesed. It's very important for old people to know that they are remembered. There are often meetings with delegations. And of course, Kiev's Hesed supports Jewish organizations. We need to render justice to them - they accomplish a lot.
Interviewee: Lev Mistetskiy
Title: Lev Mistetskiy with his wife Galina Mistetskaya and comrades
Place and Date: Vinnitsa, Ukraine - 2004
This is me in the center and my wife Galina Mistetskaya, nee Drinkovskaya, 2nd from the left, with my fellow comrades at the meeting of veterans of the Great Patriotic War. We were photographed next to the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Vinnitsa on 20th March 2004. My awards on the left side from top to bottom: Order of the Red Banner, Order of the Patriotic War, Ist class, medal for Liberation of Kiev. On the right - medals for liberation of towns and medals issued by the jubilee dates of victory over Germany.
In 1992 I was given the status of a war invalid. It's hard for me to walk, my wounded leg bothers me. The military office provided me a small capacity car. I retired in 1996 and my younger son Anatoliy convinced me to move to Kiev into his apartment. He lived with his wife. My wife was very ill, and here the hospital is close by. When we moved to Kiev, I was allowed a piece of land for a garage for my car near the house, being an invalid of the war. We constructed a garage where I brought my car from Lipovets and immediately my neighbor commented that he couldn't get a place for his garage, but I, being a cunning Jew, managed to get this space. I really think it will take more than one generation before anti-Semitism disappears from our life.
Hesed helps us a lot. They deliver food packages, free medications, and that's a great support for us, pensioners. We receive little pensions, lower than the living minimum. There are also interesting lectures in Hesed, clubs, concerts, and we celebrate birthdays and Jewish holidays there. I rarely go to Hesed - it's a long way to drive, which is too much for me, but I always attend concerts of Jewish songs and music, however hard it may be for me. I like this so much. I also regularly receive and read Jewish newspapers. When I moved to Kiev, I got to know that there is an association of Jewish war veterans and I registered there right away. I try to attend all meetings there.