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Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum


During the Patriotic War of 1812 the Russian Jews didn’t serve in the army, but it is known that despite the discrimination policy towards them, they supported the country financially for the construction of bridges, hospitals, provision supply, ammunition, etc. Some Jewish communities were even honoured with the Tsar’s gratitude for their support.

But excessive eagerness sometimes leads to unforeseen and sad consequences.

Historians know that the retreating French army was surrounded on all sides by the Wittgenstein’s and Chichagov’s troops near the Berezina River not far from Borisov, and Napoleon’s captivity seemed inevitable. Still!..

A commoner from Borisov, Moisha Engelhardt, on seeing the French bridge over near the riverside village Ukholoda, rushed to Chichagov’s headquarters in Borisov. The same news about the construction of a passage was brought to the Russian commander by Borukh Gumner and Leiba Beninson. Chichagov accepted them all, thanked them for the valuable information and fed them substantially.

At the same time he ordered his army to start for Ukholoda immediately and meet the enemy properly. However, soon it became clear that the passage near the village is just a distracting trap, remarkably planned by the gifted general. The real passage the enemy pontoniers of General Eble constructed in quite a different, distant place which brought a European fame to the small village of Studenka where Napoleon succeeded in escaping the captivity, though suffered heavy losses.

When all that got clear, everyone immediately remembered the three supposedly enemy spies. By order of Chichagov they were caught and hung without a trial.

Now another Engelhardt should be remembered. He was a general, a nobleman and, of course, not a Jew. In November 1812, the Russian military commander, Major-General Pavel Mikhailovich Engelhardt, heading the rangers of the 7th and 38th detachments, was shot dead with fire grapeshot in the battle for the bridgehead in Borisov.

Some time passed. A certain Engelhardt, a Colonel, came to visit the place of his ancestor’s death in Borisov. He was told that alongside the Engelhardt who died a hero’s death for the native land, there was another Engelhardt who drag in the mud not only Russia, but also the last name.

Such a story shocked the Colonel. He wrote a letter to the Tsar and received his immediate response. The delivered Imperial order was short and clear: “From now on, the descendants of Moisha Engelhardt must have Engelson as their last name.”

The story seemed to have been put an end to, but 180 years later the little-know episode about the three Jews from Borisov was heard by a Moscow-based writer. I.Mazus decided to write a book about them.

In 1993, I. Mazus came to Borisov with hope to find someone from the Engelsons, the descendants of that poor Engelhardt. But, alas, there was nobody named Engelson in the city and no one knew anything about it. Nevertheless, the persistent writer realized his idea, creatively using imagination, and wrote a book titled “Berezina”. It’s been published both in a journal and as a separate book.

This last name is met in modern folklore, but it’s already off the subject:

On seeing a strange person with a propeller on his back, Brezhnev got interested in him and was told his name.

“Karlsson?“ Leonid Ilyich repeated, amused. “And where’s your friend Engelson?” Still, the Engelsons who keep the legend about their distant ancestor now live in different countries of the world. (By the way, here’s an e-mail of one of them from Sweden:

Jewish settlements in Minsk region

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

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