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Arkady Shulman


Mikhail Yakovlevich Kaznelson.
Mikhail Yakovlevich Kaznelson.

Mikhail Yakovlevich Kaznelson is 88. He was born on September 3, 1922. Despite his age, he is an active person who does not lose an interest in life and has lots of plans for the future. He writes poems and plays and dreams of opening a small amateur theatre. All this quite surprised me.

комсомольский билет.

I was even more surprised when in the middle of our interview Mikhail Yakovlevich told me: “You can relax and I will smoke a cigarette.” Seeing the surprise in my eyes, he added: “I am an amateur smoker, I don’t smoke a lot. This is something I derive pleasure from.” Thus he sat down onto a small chair and began smoking.

- It has been seven years since my wife died. Now I live alone. We lived together for about 50 years. I have two sons, grandchildren and a great granddaughter. The sons are living in Belarus. Some of the grandchildren are living in Israel and come here in summer.

- You have been living in Liozno for about 50 years. Do you consider this to be your native town? Or are you a native of Slobodka?

- I was born in Slobodka, Mogilev region. It has been seventy-five years since we left the village. However, sometimes I close my eyes and see our house, each room, the garden… It seems it was just yesterday…

My name in the passport is Fisia Yankelevich. My wife was Belarusian and I was working among Belarusians, so they started calling me Mikhail Yakovlevich. My father’s name was Yankel Girshevich, mother’s - Sarra Nisonovna.

There were two boys in our family – my brother Binyamin (Boris) and I, and four sisters.

There was no synagogue in our village. Usually Jews prayed in someone’s house. Before the war there were ten Jewish families in our village. The Belarusians and Jews were friendly with one another. There were no real conflicts.

All the Jews that remained in Slobodka when the war started, were killed. They were taken to Kirovsk, a regional center, and shot.

Mikhail Kaznelson with his wife Anna Ivanovna Karpenok.
Mikhail Kaznelson with his wife Anna Ivanovna Karpenok.

My parents used to speak Yiddish to each other. Therefore I know the language quite well. Of course, many words are forgotten by now, but I remember the songs that were sung in our house.

We lived in the village until 1937. Before the war I was drafted to the army.

Mikhail Yakovlevich Kaznelson with his great granddaughter.
Mikhail Yakovlevich Kaznelson
with his great granddaughter.

On June 22, at 4 am we were woken up by an alarm. We thought it was training. However, it turned out that a real war began. We had to defend ourselves with guns against Nazis in armored vehicles.

In 1942 I was wounded and sent to a hospital in Tajikistan. After that I was given an early discharge from the military service and stayed in the hospital as a guard. I had nowhere else to go to. In 1944 the hospital was transferred to Malakhovka, near Moscow. I went there as well. Once I was sent to Moscow as a courier and by chance noticed an advertisement of a law college. I entered the college and graduated in 1946. By that time Belarus had been liberated and I returned there.

All of my relatives, who stayed in Bobruisk during the war, were killed. I cannot talk about this. After the war I visited the execution site…

My brother survived the war. Now his children are living in Israel. Also my sister was lucky to survive. She also moved to Israel.

Jewish settlements in Mogilev region

MogilevAntonovkaBatsevichiBelynichiBelynkovichiBobruiskByhovChausyCherikov Dashkovka DribinEsmonyGluskGolovchinGorki GoryGrozdianka Hotimsk KirovskKlichev KonohovkaKostukovichi KrichevKruchaKrugloye Lenino LubonichiMartinovka MoliatichiMstislavlNaprasnovkaOsipovichi RodniaRudkovschina SamotevichiSapezhinkaSeletsShamovoShepelevichiShklovSlavgorodStaroselieSukhariSvislochVereschaki ZaverezhieZhilichi

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