Website search

 RUS  |   ENG 

Efim Levertov

Dora Vasilevskaya

Olga Zagadskaya

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum

Alexander Rosenblum


There was time when the common poppy was widespread in Belarus. The attractive red flowers could be seen in every garden in Borisov. Growing poppies today is fraught with unpleasant consequences, but before the war this seemingly innocent product was a necessary ingredient for a variety of confectionary.

When a child and like, probably, all children, I was a sweet tooth and was tempted by the poppy seeds. I could eat them pestled or powdered and mixed with sugar. But that was on holidays, while on weekdays my parents bought poppy seed products in a small mom-and-pop store, located in our Moskow Street.

I remember that the owner of the store was а man who my father called Benche der Kyukhelbeker. Only later, when I grew up, did I understand that it was a deliberate distortion of the word “kihlehbeker”, or, in translation from Yiddish, “baker, baking cookies”. His last name was Shifrin. He baked and traded only confectionary made according to the traditional Jewish recipes. He was a wizard of confectionary. The assortment of his sweets was impeccable and always in demand, attracting, first of all, children regardless of nationality.

I still remember the names of those tempting delicacies my mother brought from Benchi der Kyukhelbeker: “lekehlekh” (gingerbread), “imberlekh” (carrot and ginger sweets), “teiglekh” (pastry balls with honey), “homentashn” (triangle patty cakes with poppy seeds)… But most of all I remember “monelakh”, small lozenges of baked on honey poppy seeds, tough enough, but melting in the mouth and giving true enjoyment even to adults.

Bentsion Shifrin was said to have had no fear of competition and shared eagerly his secrets of cooking honey and poppy seed delicacies. He was said to have published books with that purpose. It’s strange but I wanted to check if that fact had been true. Visiting different libraries, I was interested if there were any traces of literary writings by the pastry chef from Borisov.

Such a trace I found in the Russian National Library (former Saltykovka) in St.Petersburg. That was a brochure written in Russian and published in 1909. In the language of the famous Odessa’s Privoz market the brochure tells how to prepare honey for cooking gingerbreads. Judging by this book, the author was not an expert in belle-lettres, but was an unequalled professional in his business (it should be noted that his wife and faithful companion, Khaya-Lea, helped him)

The Soviet authorities liquidated private ownership and pulled the plug on such as Bentsion Shifrin. The cooperative “Krasny Pishchevik” was organized in Borisov, and monelakh and other delicacies were produced there. But these poppy seed consumers goods were totally different.

The small mom-and-pop store no longer exists. No one in Borisov knows the taste of monelakh and doesn’t imagine even what it looks like. No one remembers old pastry maker Bentsion Shifrin (1872 – 1941). His wife and he were shot in the ghetto and no place has been found for their names in the city chronicles.

But I’m convinced that such people are worthy of honorable memory.

* * *

After the release of my book “Memory on Blood” in 1998, a woman called from Jerusalem, introducing herself as Larisa Levi. She asked if I had mentioned in my book the pastry-maker Bentsion Shifrin. On hearing my confirmation, she shocked me with the news that he was her grandfather.

Jewish settlements in Minsk region

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

© 2009–2020 Center «My shtetl»
Reprinting permitted ONLY to Internet editions and ONLY with an active link to website «My shtetl»
Email us: