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Arkady Shulman

Arkady Shulman


This story began with a letter, which I received by e-mail from Natasha Goldberg from Israel.

“My grandmother (mother’s mother) originated from Lepel. Her family hid a Jewish family of five people in their house during World War II. There are witnesses’ letters proving that. However, no one remembers the name of those Jewish people. We searched for them in Yad Vashem database in Jerusalem, but in vain.”

I was requested to find a Jewish family, which was saved during the war in Lepel, or at least try to find out their family name.

I tried to find the witnesses that Natasha Goldberg mentioned.

One of them is Galina Grigorievna Zamalina, born in 1924, currently retired and living in Vitebsk. Even though our conversation did not help me in my search, it was very informative and I am grateful to the circumstances which brought me to this woman.

“I was born in Chashniksky region. At the beginning of the war I was 16. During the war I stayed with my grandmother, who was at the time around 80. I stayed with her to help her out.

At that time the Nazis started actions against the Jews from Chashniki. My father’s sister Pelageya Makarovna Kazakevich lived there. Her husband died in 1934 and so she was alone with children. Jews helped her a lot – she lived among Jews and understood their language. She had four children. When persecutions of the Jewish residents began, many of them came to aunt Polia for help. As far as I understand, many of them asked her to hide their children. So she did for a while – she hid the children on the attic, then in the basement, and then sent them to our village. Our village was seven kilometers away from Chashniki. I do not know how they reached the village – they were either accompanied by aunt Polia or her son Fedia (born in 1929). My mother was really scared someone would report on them but she could not refuse to help.

My mother’s name was Yelena Mihailovna Antipovich. On that night she decided to take the Jewish children to the forest because she had heard that there was a partisan detachment there. Most probably the children turned out in Leonov’s partisan detachment.

I do not know what happened to those children. Just like many of my peers, I was patriotic – I had connections with partisans, and sent them information concerning the Nazi police and German garrisons. Our neighbor started suspecting me of connections with the partisans, so I had nothing else to do but leave. I joined Dubov’s partisan detachment.

After Belarus was liberated my parents met the family of Ada Zinkevich in Chashniki. It turned out that both families had helped hide Jews from the Nazis during the war. Fedor Dmitrievich Zinkevich hid a family of five people in his house until he managed to send them to the partisans. “

I did not manage to find the names of the people he was hiding. The second witness of those events was Aleksey Alexandrovich Tumashkov. I did not meet him – he died in Lepel in 2008. However, his story remains.

“I know the family of Tamara Fedorovna Zinkevich really well because we were neighbors. I lived in a village called Kostritsa, and she lived one kilometer away from us in Schurovka. I used to go to school with her and we were friends. I often visited them at home and they treated me as a part of their family.

I can confirm that during World War II, during the occupation, the Zinkevichs hid a Jewish family in their house for more than a month, not long before the local Jews were executed in Chashniki.

Then they contacted Dubov’s partisan detachment and managed to send those people to the partisan zone.

Tamara Fedorovna’s father and elder sister also joined the partisan movement. Later I did the same.”

I went to Lepel to meet Tamara Fedorovna Zinkevich. Before going I checked the list of Jews who participated in the partisan movement in Belarus. There I found 14 people who were a part of Dubov’s detachment.

I read out all the names I found to Tamara Fedorovna and every time her answer was negative. For some reason I was sure that Kasovsky was the name we were looking for. In Dubov’s brigade there were Sofia Moiseyevna Kasovskaya (born in 1928), Elena Moiseyevna (1925) and Vladimir Moiseyevich (1926). However, after reading out these names, the answer still was: “I am not sure it’s them”.

Then Tamara Fedorovna began her story. She was born in 1926 in the village of Schurovka, Lepel region. When the war began she was 14.

- When the war broke out, where did you live? – I asked.

- I was in Schurovka. We heard about the war on the radio. There was very little factual information and the rumors abounded, especially when our region was occupied by Nazis. We heard that they were shooting Jews and that the families who were hiding Jews, were also executed. One night, it was in winter, I do not remember the exact date, someone knocked on our window. Father opened the door. At the door stood a Jewish family – five people from Chashniki. They told us that the following day there would be an execution of Jews in Chashniki. They asked us for shelter.

- Why did they come to you? Were you acquainted? Or was there some kind of agreement?

- There was no agreement whatsoever. Their daughter Sofia was in the same grade at school with me. The fathers knew each other from the parents’ meetings at school.

- How did they find your house?

- I had told Sofia where it was. I told her it looked different from other houses – it was the nicest-looking house in the village. My father was a teacher and he wanted our house to be different. Of course, when I told her about it, I did not know that they would have to look for it in such a situation.

- Did your parents let them in immediately?

- Naturally. We gave them food. Our family was rather well-off and we had food. Then we hid them. No one in the village knew they were staying with us, even though the village was really small – just 11 households.

- I was told that before this family came to your house, someone in your village had given away some soldiers hiding in the village, to the Nazis?

- It did happen, yes.

- So your father realized that he was risking the safety of his own family, didn’t he?

- He certainly understood that. The name of that traitor was Kubar. At that time Kubar and his wife lived in Lepel. No one came to our house.

- How long did the family stay in your house?

- A month or a little more. Then we sent them to a partisan detachment in Ushachi region.

- Who did the family consist of?

- Parents, daughter Sofa, son Naum and grandmother. I do not remember the family name. My sister does not remember, either. It happened so long ago. I never met this family again. Maybe they looked for us, but our village was burnt down during the war

- Did you attend the school in Chashniki after the war?

- Of course, I was in the 10th grade there. There were no Jewish children in our grade after the war.

- Did you attempt to find out where they were?

- We did talk to our teacher. She said everyone had been shot. We also had heard the same from different people.

I found out a lot of details in the conversation with Tamara Fedorovna Zinkevich but the family name of the Jewish family still remained a secret.

Maybe someone who reads this knows the story of the family or their name…

Arkady Shulman

Tamara Zinkevich’s interview

Jewish settlements in Vitebsk region

Vitebsk Albrehtovo Babinovichi Baran Bayevo Begoml Beshenkovichi Bocheikovo Bogushevsk Borkovichi Braslav Bychiha Chashniki Disna Dobromysli Dokshitsy Druya Dubrovno Glubokoye Gorodok Kamen Kohanovo Kolyshki Kopys Krasnopolie Kublichi Lepel Liady Liozno Lukoml Luzhki Lyntupy Miory Obol Oboltsy Orsha Osintorf Ostrovno Parafianovo Plissa Polotsk Prozorki Senno Sharkovshina Shumilino Sirotino Slaveni Smolyany Surazh Tolochin Ulla Verhnedvinsk Vidzy Volyntsy Yanovichi Yezerishe Zhary Ziabki

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