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Memories of Tsilya Isaakovna Rubinchik

I was born in 1927, in the shtetl of Berezino. There were five children in the family. The first child died, when a baby. The brit milah was performed by a person with tuberculosis and out of hospital. The consequences were tragic.

My parents’ second son is Moisei. He managed to complete ten years of his studies and was draft into the army. He served in Leningrad. At the outbreak of war he was sent to the Volhkov operatonal group. He was an artilleryman. He was killed.

The third child was a girl. She caught pneumonia, which was extremely dangerous at the time, and died.

I was the fourth child in the family. The fifth was Iosif, born in 1936.

I finished school in Berezino. Between 1947 and 1952, I studied at the Faculty of History of the Belarusian State University. I worked in Gomel till I retired.

My brother graduated from the Forestry Engineering Institute.

I hardly remember my grandmothers.

Khiena is my mother’s mother.

Riva is my father’s mother.

I was born after my grandfathers, Meier and Girsha, had passed away.

Girsha was an innkeeper.

My father, Isaak Grigorievich, born 1890, was a timber rafting foreman. They drifted longs down the stream. My mother, Sosha, or Sofia Meierovna, was a smart woman, a good housewife. She kept hens.

The Jewish school in Berezino was closed in 1935. There was a Belarusian, a Polish and a Jewish school. The teachers and students from the Jewish school transferred to the Belarusian school. The school was opposite a small park of Pototsky. I have very good memories about the school.

The principal was Zalutski, later Solomyansky. I remember Alesya Flerovna, the head of a dance society.

My grandfather on my mother’s side was a very religious man. My mother told me a lot about him. He had a long beard. He observed Shabbat properly. On my father’s side it was not as strict.

My father and mother were not very religious people, but they celebrated holidays - Pesach, Purim, and Yom Kippur fasting - and the children had brit milah performed.

The children spoke Russian at home, but the parents Yiddish. I’m a party member, but lived in Gomel and tried to observe the holidays.

The Berezina River was navigable, and the steamers “Yakub Kolas”, “Yanka Kupala”, “KIM” shuttled up and down. I remember synagogues, rabbis. My mother sometimes went to synagogue. Uncle Iosif went there regularly. There was a local council in Berezino, headed by a Jew named Khuchin. There was an industrial plant, a food factory, a timber industry enterprise, “Torgsin” shop.

There were many shoe makers, tailors.

The war broke out. We left Berezino on 26 June. We went on foot to Pogost. Those who were well-to-do went in the horse-driven carts.

Uncle Iosif Levit, his wife and two children remained in Berezino. He had a good house. The Soviet authorities made a bank in it. His wife and he were shot in Yama, and their children were thrown into the ditch alive.

We evacuated to Novosibirsk. We returned to Berezino in 1944. Other Jews also came back, my husband’s father returned. We came to see our hose burnt down, while his remained in Chervenskaya street. Russian people lived there. They left the house and returned all the furniture. They even gave a cow to us. Our family lived in Berezino till 1961, then moved to Gomel.

My cousin Enya, who was married to a Russian man, Petya, remained in Berezino during the war. Petya’s sisters said they would hide Enya. They also hid their son, and Vilya remained alive. He is in Russia now, married. Enya was betrayed by her husband who had become a politsai. Enya was shot. Petya was in prison after the war, then worked as a postman in Berezino. He met with his friends. His sisters refused him.

Another cousin of mine on my father’s side, Raya, also got married to a Russian man. His parents didn’t support them, but he was a very decent man. There were a lot of mixed marriages. My cousin Riva got married to a Russian man, Vasya, who was also a decent person. They had two sons.

There is a Jewish cemetery in Berezino. My husband’s mother, aunts and uncles are buried there. There’s a monument at Yama, the site of mass shooting.

We went to Berezino in the 1990s. It’s a nice and beautiful small town. There are no Jews, but for the Zhukovsky family. There had lived another family, but they left the town.

Jewish settlements in Minsk region

MinskBerezinoBobrBorisov DolginovoDukoraDzerzhinsk Ivenets Myadel NesvizhObchuga Pogost Rakov Seliba Slutsk Svir Uhvaly Vileika

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