Moses Chubat

Moses Chubat (right) with his friends Grigoriy Rodimtsev (center) and Victor Prohin (left). Chisinau, 1947.

Chisinau, Moldova

Moses Chubat is a short, well-built man. He has thick gray hair and dark-brown vivacious eyes. He looks young for his age despite being in the dumps. Moses feels lonely in his tiny two-room apartment. Recently his wife passed away, with whom he had lived for over 45 years. Moses hasn’t gotten over his grief yet. He often bursts into tears and it’s difficult to calm him down. From his tale I understood that the pessimism in Moses Chubat’s soul is coming from the time of those military years when he was roaming with his mother in evacuation. Even the years of a happy and serene family life didn’t make him an optimistic and mirthful man.

Interview details

Interviewee: Zlata Tkach
Interviewer: Zhanna Litinskaya
Date of interview: July 2004
Place: Chisinau, Moldova

My family background

My last name is Chubat. When I was a teenager, I was interested in the origin of my last name. I understand that my family name isn’t Jewish. It’s either Romanian or Moldovan. I asked my paternal grandmother that question. She told me the story. My great-grandfather, the father of my paternal grandfather, whose name I carry, had a true Jewish name: Zielberman. He had four sons. At that time, the only way to be exempted from the tsarist army was if there was only one son in the family. My great-grandfather bought three names in order to rescue his sons, the true Jews, from the army. The oldest son remained with the surname Zielberman, the second one, who was my grandfather, got the surname Chubat, and the name of the third son was Poverennyi. I don’t know the youngest brother’s last name.

My grandfather, Moses Chubat, born in the 1870s in Bessarabia, was a teacher at a Jewish elementary school. He had been looking for a job throughout Bessarabia [1]. As a result, in 1908 he decided to settle down in Kishinev, rented a part of a house and kept on teaching at the Jewish elementary school till the end of his days. He was married. My grandmother, Tsirlya, was a few years younger than my grandfather. I don’t know her maiden name. I didn’t know my grandfather. He died before I was born, and I was named after him. My grandmother told me a lot about their life. Tsirlya had a typical Jewish sense of humor. She said that her main job was to give birth, raise and nurture children. She gave birth to eleven children, there were twins among them. The twins were premature and feeble. They didn’t survive and died when they were infants. There was another boy who had lived for only three years. But eight children, four sons and four daughters, grew up well. All of them got only Jewish elementary education.

The eldest son was my father, Shulim Chubat, born on 13th August 1902, in a small city in Bessarabia, where my grandfather was teaching. The second brother’s name was Shloime. He was born in 1906. He was married to a Jewish girl, Sura. They lived in the Romanian town of Galati [180 km from Bucharest], and their names were changed into Romanian ones. Everyone around them, including our family, called them Sami and Surika. Sami owned a dairy store, yielding a pretty good profit. Surika was a housewife, which was customary for Jewish women. She raised the children. In June 1940, when Bessarabia became part of the Soviet Union [see Annexation of Bessarabia to the Soviet Union] [2], Sami and his family moved to Kishinev, hoping to have a good life under the Soviet regime and staying with their relatives in one country. They planned to move to Bendery [50 km from Kishinev] with the commencement of World War II [see Great Patriotic War] [3]. Sami was drafted into the labor fund [mobilized to do physical work for the army] like most of the Bessarabians who didn’t have faith in the Soviet regime. He died while wood-cutting in 1942. Sami’s children died in evacuation. He had a son, Velvl, and a daughter, whose name I don’t remember. Surike went back to Bendery, where she died in the early 1950s.

My father’s second brother, Oizer Chubat, born in 1912, was in the ghetto during the war somewhere in Transnistria [4], outside Chernivtsi [today Ukraine, 450 km west of Kiev]. He managed to survive and in 1947 he and his wife Genya left for Israel. There he changed his name to Smuel. I don’t know what he did for a living. He lived there for a long time. I didn’t keep in touch with Oizer because at that time I was a member of the Communist Party. I wasn’t allowed to have correspondence with people from Israel, the Soviet regime didn’t approve of it, to put it mildly [see Keep in touch with relatives abroad] [5]. Even when his son came here in the 1970s, he didn’t want to meet me as he considered me to be an apostate of the Jewry.

The youngest brother of my father, whose name I unfortunately don’t know, was born in Kishinev in 1922. He died during the first days of the war at the age of 18 or 19. He was single and had no children.

My father had four sisters: Etl, Sonya, Brana and Blima. The eldest, Etl, born in 1904 lived in Romania with her husband Abram Ladyzhenskiy, and daughter Klara, born in 1932. Abram was a compositor at the typography. He made good money as there were very few skilful compositors at that time. When the Soviet regime came to power, Etl and her family moved to Bessarabia in 1940. They didn’t evacuate when the war began. During the occupation they were in the same ghetto as Oizer and his family and my grandmother. When the war was over, Etl’s family moved to Kishinev. They had a comfortable living as Abram worked, but in the early 1960s he was afflicted with gangrene and his leg was amputated. He became disabled. The family was then supported by Klara’s husband. He was a cobbler, and Klara sold shoes made by him at the market. Aunt Blima, who lived in America at that time, also assisted. In the 1990s, when there was no Iron Curtain [6] any more, she sent money, which was enough to buy tickets and process the documents for the whole family. Thus, Etl, Abram and Klara moved to America with their families. Etl died in America in 1998.

Blima, born in 1910, was a very beautiful girl. She studied in Bucharest [today Romania]. A Romanian fell in love with her. His name was Bari Borti. He knelt in front of my grandmother to ask for Blima’s hand. He went through a giyur [circumcision] and all the rituals necessary to become a Jew. Bari was a very wealthy man. He owned several commission jewelry shops. Blima had a fairy-tale life. She often sent my grandmother photographs. I liked looking at them. They had a posh mansion in Bucharest with an orchard, where Blima rode a donkey, bought by her husband. She dressed like a princess. They moved to Canada before the Soviet regime came to power in Bessarabia. Bari managed to carry diamonds, which were hidden in a cane, through the customs. In Canada he opened up a commission jewelry shop. After a couple of years he was robbed and after that incident he wasn’t that rich. Though, something was left. He then moved to the USA and purchased a two-storied mansion and a couple of houses to rent out. Bari and Blima had one daughter, whose name I don’t remember. I don’t keep in touch with them. I don’t know whether Blima is still alive. I think that her husband is unlikely to be alive, because he was ten years older than her.

Sonya was born in 1905. She was reported missing during the first days of the war. I don’t know what happened to her. Brana, born in 1908, got married before the war. She had a son, Yuzya. I don’t know what happened to Brana’s husband. She and her son left for Israel with Oizer in 1947. There Brana married a Jew, who had lost his family during the war. She died in the mid 1990s.

During the war, Grandmother Tsirlya was in the ghetto with Oizer and Etl. She did service for the Romanian soldiers there: laundry and cooking. The administration of the ghetto liked her, and it helped her children and their families to survive there. My grandmother remained by herself after she was released from the ghetto. She didn’t have a job or place to live. She had a hard life after having raised eight children. When she became old, it turned out that her children didn’t think of taking care of her. She lived for a couple of months with each of her children and all of them tried to get rid of her with all kinds of excuses. My mother suggested that my grandmother should live with us, but she didn’t want to be a burden as we lived in a four-meter communal apartment [7].

My grandmother died in 1954. I didn’t attend her funeral as I was sick at that time. My grandmother was religious and observed the Jewish rites and traditions. She lit candles on Fridays, the eve of Sabbath and tried not to do any work on Saturdays. Tsirlya tried to observe the kashrut the best way she could. When she was staying with her children, she ate what she was given, no matter that it wasn’t always kosher food. She fasted on Yom Kippur no matter what. My grandparents raised their children in accordance with the Jewish traditions, but all of them, with the exception of Oizer, who lived in Israel, stopped observing Jewish traditions.

My father finished cheder and a Jewish elementary school, which was customary for Jews. I don’t know if he had any further education. I think my father was self-taught. He was well-read in colloquial Russian and Romanian, book-keeping, and simple mechanisms. He was bad at writing, though. The letters he wrote during the war were full of grammar mistakes. My father didn’t serve in the tsarist army, though between 1920 and 1922 he was drafted into the Romanian army. I don’t know what my father did for a living before he met my mother.

My mother’s maiden name was Tsvitbaum, which means ‘a tree in blossom.’ My maternal grandfather Nuhim and grandmother Manya were from Kishinev. I don’t know exactly where they were born. I think they were the same age as my paternal grandparents. In the 1930s they lived on Petropavlovskaya Street in Kishinev [one of the oldest streets in Kishinev named after Saint Peter and Paul at the end of the 19th century. It has kept its name]. They had a tiny one-storied house, consisting of two small rooms and a kitchen. The house was heated by a stove. My grandmother, who was a master of baking and cooking, demanded to have a big Russian stove [8], where bread could be baked. I still remember the smell of the delicious wheat bread. Grandfather Nuhim was a tailor, being able to make lady’s clothes as well. There was a sign above the house with a picture of dressed up men and women. The first room was used as a drawing-room and workshop for some time. There was my grandfather’s Singer sewing machine and a table, where my grandfather used to cut, and had a heavy hot iron.

My grandfather often looked out of the window to see if a financial inspector [state officer responsible for identification of illegal businesses] was walking by. If he was approaching he said, ‘Manya, a financial inspector is walking by.’ My grandmother knew that she had to cover the sewing machine and put a quilt over my grandfather and take out all kinds of medicine and put it on the bedside cabinet. The financial inspector was convinced that my grandfather was ill and didn’t carry out his orders. This was done because the taxes were outrageous. Then the inspector sat on the sofa without feeling shy and said, ‘Оh, Nuhim, we have orders for a thousand leus!’ So it was necessary to grease the financial inspector’s palm. In actuality, Grandfather Nuhim was a sick man and didn’t work that much. He worked only to provide for my grandmother and the children, before they grew up. Although the family wasn’t rich, Grandmother Manya was always kind and sociable. There was always a samovar, jam and cookies, on the table.

Grandmother Manya stayed on the threshold and asked her passing by friends to come over, ‘Оh, Elke, you are coming back from the market and my samovar is ready for tea.’ Elke and other Jewish women came over for tea and dessert. They also told my grandmother about their problems and were accepted with kindness and warmth. The house was poorly furnished. There were simple benches by the table. There was one iron bed in the bed-room with an ordinary cover and a wardrobe. There was a traditional Jewish atmosphere in the house. On Fridays and Saturdays my grandfather went to the synagogue, which wasn’t far from the house. I liked to go to the synagogue with him and carried a velvet case with his tallit. Most of all I liked tasty warm pretzels which my grandfather used to buy at the market not far from the synagogue.

Grandmother Manya gave birth to four children. The eldest was my mother Roza, born in 1906. Her brother Monya was born in 1913. Then my grandmother gave birth to twins, who died as infants. Monya finished a Jewish school and since childhood he had an artistic talent. He was gifted and had always dreamt of the stage, and thus became an actor. He changed his name to Manus Tsvit. Manus and his wife Nusya, also an actress, worked in the Kishinev theater troupe before the war. Manus and Nusya managed to evacuate when the war began. They left Kishinev a day before we did. Then Manus met my father. Both of them were on the labor front. My mother’s brother was released from the labor front by a genius actress, Sidi Tal. With her help all the actors were found and different groups were organized at the front.

During the war time, Manus and Nusya performed for the military units. In 1947 they went back to Kishinev and worked at the theater. Manus helped my mother and me a lot. He even took me in their house for some months after the war in order for me to have good food. I tried to help them the best way I could. I looked after their little one-year-old son, when they were touring. The boy’s name was Naum. He’s my cousin. I keep in touch with him more than with the rest of my relatives. He became a doctor. Naum had lived in Chernivtsi almost all his life and now he lives in Germany. Manus died in 1998 in Kishinev, when he was over the hill.

My mother completed six grades of a Russian lyceum. Russian became her second language. Yiddish was the first of course. She was a rather literate person. She read Russian classics, knew verses by Pushkin [9], and Lermontov [10]. Later, when Bessarabia became a part of Romania [see Annexation of Bessarabia to Romania] [11], she easily learnt Romanian. Before getting married, my mother worked as a sales assistant in a grocery store, owned by a Jew. At that time she was also involved in charity work. She was a member of some sort of committee of Jewish women. She took clothes and money donated by the rich to the poor people. She loved her brother Monya very much. When he was drafted into the Romanian army, she borrowed money to buy him a horse and harness as those draftees who had a horse were to serve for six months instead of three years. Before getting demobilized, Uncle Monya gave the horse to the army and then helped my mother pay off the debt for it.

My mother never told me how she met my father. I think it was a pre-arranged marriage, which was traditional for Jewish families. My parents were under a chuppah in the synagogue, where my grandfather used to pray in 1929. I kept their marriage certificate which was signed by the chief rabbi of Kishinev: Zirelson [Zirelson, Yehuda Leib (1860-1941): rabbi, member of the municipal council of Kishinev and a delegate to meetings with government authorities. He yearned for a Jewish state based on Torah principles. He was killed in a bomb attack on Kishinev]. When I was a kid, I liked to look through my parents’ wedding pictures. My mother clad in a gorgeous long wedding gown and my father in a black vest suit. Unfortunately, those pictures vanished during the war. The dowry given to my mother for the wedding was spent on the purchase of a small room located on Chasovenniy Lane. Shortly before I was born, they moved to another apartment consisting of three rooms, located on the same street. However, the owner of the apartment had one condition during the purchase agreement: to leave the smallest room for a lady, who lived there, Ruhlya. She was supposed to live with us until she found another apartment or before her daughter was married off so that she could move in with her. In actuality, Ruhlya had lived in our apartment before the war.

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Growing up

I was born on 25th February 1932. I was named after my recently deceased paternal grandfather. My mother insisted that my name should be written as Moishe, my grandfather’s actual name. I spent my happy childhood in that small apartment on Chasovenniy Lane. We weren’t very well off. I remember that we had good wooden furniture. There was a nice carpet on the floor. We had sterling silverware. My father took credit for all our well-being. He worked very hard. He worked at the plant of carbonated beverages. The plant belonged to two widowed sisters. They inherited it from their deceased husbands. Those women weren’t knowledgeable about the production and my father did most of the work. He loaded siphons and took them in special wagons to the customers: cafes, restaurants, houses of the rich. My father also worked as a mechanic. He repaired the installations and made sure they functioned properly. He was also a collector and accountant. The owners benefited from that. My dad got half the pay for all those extra jobs and he was ready to assume those responsibilities in order to earn more. The work at the plant was seasonal as in winter time carbonated water wasn’t in demand and my father was supposed to earn enough money so as not to work during winter. Apart from my father’s salary, we also generated income from our poultry. There was a shed in our yard where we kept the chicken which we raised for sale, and our family was also provided with meat.

My mother was hardly involved in the household chores. We had a maid, a Moldovan, who came over and did the cleaning and laundry. My mother placed two stools outside, and put a tub over them, where the clothes were washed. The maid did the laundry and ironing. The maid’s husband usually cut wood and put it in our shed in tidy bundles. We needed firewood since we used the stove. At that time some people made jam for the winter time. Special people were invited over for that work. Jewish women usually didn’t do that as it took a lot of effort. A large basin made from nonferrous metal was placed in the middle of the yard, under which a fire was made. Women lined up in the yard. Jam was cooked in turns. It was mixed by a wooden hoe. When it was ready it was poured into large wooden containers and covered by parchment paper and put in the shed on the shelf. In winter for breakfast, my mother buttered rye bread and spread jam over it. It was very tasty. In general my mother wasn’t like a typical Jewish housewife. She didn’t like cooking nor doing household chores.

My mother enjoyed being involved in charity work. She and her friend went to the rich Jews and collected money, which was later distributed among poor Jewish families. Jewish charity was very developed in Kishinev. The ladies charity organization, where my mother worked, also took care of the orphanages. There were orphanages for boys and girls in Kishinev. My mother was always dressed to kill. I remember her in a trendy black suit and a hat over her cropped hair. My mother had always had a crew cut. She dressed this way when she was going to work on charity. She said that she was supposed to be immaculately dressed for people who gave money not to think that she was poor and was going to spend that money on herself. My mother often went to the milliner, hair-dresser, and then the cafe to have a cup of coffee with her friend. Sometimes my dressed up mother took me to the park and I, clad in a stylish velvet suit, strolled with her. Usually we went to the park on Sundays, when the wind band was playing and the Kishinev people, all dressed up, had ice-cream in small street cafes. It was a treat for me, because usually my mother didn’t take care of me.

I went to the group of the Froebel governess [see Froebel Institute] [12]. Every morning she took children from the neighboring houses. I put my lunch bag, containing a sandwich and beverage, over the shoulder. Bonna usually took us to the park, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did with my mother. Bonna was a German, and children taken to her were mostly Jews. She read us children’s books, and taught us etiquette. I looked forward to going home to my parents, especially to my father who came home late from work and still found time to play with me. He was always kind and gentle. My mother was very strict and this made her different from the other Jewish mothers. Maybe her intentions were good, but I still remember how she beat me for minor misbehavior. In 1938, when I tried to smoke with the neighboring boys she tied me up to the tree in the yard, and kept whipping me until the neighbor took me away. When I did something wrong, I ran to my grandparents, who lived on Petropavlovskaya Street, not far from us. I told my grandfather that I would be spanked and he hid me and had a long talk with my mother, when she came to get me. I wasn’t punished thanks to Grandfather Nuhim.

Grandfather Nuhim helped us with one thing. Ruhlya still lived with us. She sold fish at the market and the smell of fish had kind of diffused in her skin, leaving its trail. Our apartment smelt of fish. My father was very discontent. This wasn’t the biggest trouble Ruhlya had caused. Once at night Ruhlya went to the toilet. There wasn’t a central sewage system in the common houses back in that time. She hadn’t locked the entrance door and thieves broke in. At that time there were many international gangs, consisting of Moldovans, Jews, Romanians, in Kishinev. All of us were fast asleep. As it turned out we were chloroformed. The gangsters took off the velvet tablecloth and put in my mother’s jewelry, silverware, fur coat, Persian carpets, and left. There were cases when the gangsters returned some things for certain remuneration. Grandfather Nuhim managed to find them and became a mediator. We had to pay some thousand leus and some things were returned to us: a winter coat, my mother’s fur coat, table cloth, carpets, but the silverware and jewelry weren’t returned. So, it turned out that we suffered a terrible loss because of Ruhlya.

We took advantage of Ruhlya. My mother asked her do some things about the house. She especially used Ruhlya on Saturdays when we weren’t allowed to do anything in accordance with the Jewish traditions. Ruhlya had to put the kettle on and warm dinner. Regardless of Ruhlya being a Jew also, she had to fulfill my mother’s instructions because she lived in our apartment and there was no place for her to go. My mother wasn’t religious, but she tried to keep the traditions she used to observe in my grandfather’s home. She lit candles on Sabbath. My father often worked on Sabbath and holidays. In summer time his obligation was to earn money, and he condoned the traditions. There was a synagogue close to our yard and the acolyte often came over and asked me to light the candles in the synagogue. The first time I was taken to the shochet by my mother. Then I went to the shochet with my grandfather at the age of eight. After that, I went to the shochet by myself.

There was poultry in our house, and my grandmother never bought butchered poultry, only living ones. I observed what the shochet did: he cut the throat, hung the hen in a special shed over a tub so that the blood could drip from the poultry. In the next shed women disemboweled the poultry at a small price. They also removed the down from turkeys and ducks and then they made them into pillows. My mother never had the poultry plucked or disemboweled. We had wonderful down blankets in our house. Before Pesach, my father brought matzah in a white bed sheet. It was piled in the shed. My mother made fritters from the matzah. There was no bread during the holidays. For the first pascal seder we usually went to Grandfather Nuhim’s home. At that time I was the only grandson and was loved very much. My grandfather dressed in white festive attire and reclined at the table. My dressed up grandmother was there by him. She had a festive kerchief on her head. There were many traditional dishes on the table: chicken or turkey tsimes, nut cake. We didn’t have all that tasty food at home as my mother didn’t like cooking. I asked my grandfather the four traditional questions and looked for the afikoman. I got a present when I found it.

I remember sweet patties with jam and nuts: hamantashen, baked for Purim. It was a joyful holiday with a carnival procession. On that day it was customary to treat each other with dessert: shelakhmones. Мy mother said that these were reconciliation gifts. On that day she called someone from the street, gave him or her a tray with dessert, covered with a napkin, and asked him or her to take it to a certain person and ask for forgiveness. I think there was a reason for my mother to apologize. She was hot-blooded and temperamental. She often hurt people and then shortly afterwards asked for forgiveness. I remember when my mother and I went to Galati [today Romania] to see Uncle Sami. At that time Grandmother Tsirlya lived with them. It was the period of the Purim holiday, when children were given rattles. Uncle Sami wanted to make us happy and bought the children windmills. He bought me one in the form of a Torah with the opening doors and the same for his children but without the opening doors.

Jealousy built up and we fought snatching the windmills from each other and tearing them apart. As usual my mother spanked me in front of our relatives because I was in the fight. I felt hurt as everybody was fighting. If I didn’t fight, my cousins would think of me a coward. All the adults nagged Sami for buying the kids different toys. Like all children I liked Chanukkah most of all because I was given money by my grandfather. There was as homemade candlestick and every day a new candle was lit. I don’t think I remember the fall holidays very well. I remember that on Yom Kippur my mother gave me a rooster and my grandfather took me to the synagogue, where that rooster was revolved over my head. On Sukkot a sukkah was made in our yard. We had dinners there all week long. Simchat Torah was the last holiday in fall. On that day Torah scrolls were taken from the synagogue and all Jews, including the senile ones, danced around it.

We were mostly surrounded by Jews. We got along with people of other nationalities. The Orthodox Church was close to the synagogue and our house. The priest from the church was my father’s friend. He would come over to talk to my dad. Usually they discussed politics. My mother said that when I was around three or four, Kishinev was imminent with pogroms because of the nationalists who sought power. On one of those days, the priest’s wife came and said, ‘Roza, tonight you and the baby are staying with us!’ Fortunately, there was no pogrom, but the priest’s wife and other people remembered the horrible pogrom in Kishinev in 1903 [see Kishinev pogrom of 1903] [13] and wanted to rescue our family.

Our family kept Jewish traditions, but the times were different and I didn’t get a Jewish education. I didn’t go to cheder, though my father and grandfather did. Grandfather Nuhim always brought up that subject and my mother said that I was a feeble child. In actuality, my tonsils were bad and I often caught quinsy. When I turned six, I was finally convinced to have the operation to get my tonsils removed. Despite the fact that there was a free-of-charge Jewish hospital in Kishinev, it was customary for more or less well-off families to invite a doctor to come over to the house. They managed to talk me into having an operation by saying if I agreed I would be able to eat as much ice-cream as possible. Doctor Chervinskiy treated me. I was given an injection and operated on. The operation wasn’t complicated. When I came around I gestured that I wanted ice-cream. My father called a cab and I was taken home. The doctor came every day to check how I was doing. After the operation I didn’t get sick that often.

In 1939 I went to school. It was a common Romanian elementary school. There were a lot of Jewish guys in our class. I learnt a lot during the first year. I was a good student. I started learning Romanian. Before school, I was fluent in Yiddish as it was spoken by people who surrounded me, and a little bit of Russian as my mother liked it. At that time there were signs in public places saying that only Romanian should be spoken, and whoever spoke Russian would be fined. It was the time of turbulence, felt even by children. The war had started. Poland had been occupied. There was the Antonescian period [14] in Romania, and fascism was supported. My father and his catholic friend, Padre, listened to the USSR news every night and discussed the political events. Both of them agreed that the Soviet Union was the only hope.

In June 1940, I finished the first class with a distinction. On 28th June I went to my grandfather’s house and saw Soviet cavalry troops on the street. People went out to acclaim the Soviet army: emaciated soldiers in their dusty uniforms and heavy boots. I and some other boys climbed on a tank. Within a couple of days almost all the Jews came from Romania. Our relatives also came. But some rich people, mostly Romanians left Kishinev for Romania. In several days upon the arrival of the Soviets, unpleasant things came to place: almost all products vanished from the stores like wheat bread, sausages, meat. My parents understood the situation and didn’t complain. My father brought food from the village, and Ruhlya brought fish from the market and shared it with us. So, we weren’t affected by the changes. Nationalization commenced and many Jews, especially the rich ones, were exiled. Zionists and religious activists were arrested. I don’t even remember where our priest neighbor was. I think he had left for the village before the Soviets came to power. Our modest family was of no interest and therefore, we remained untouched by the new regime. In fall I went to school. It was a Soviet school and all subjects were taught in Russian and I was even a better student. I stood out among the Romanian children as I knew Russian. Another year passed.

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During the War

On 22nd June 1941, the city was bombed at night. In the morning we found out that the fascists had attacked the Soviet Union. Right away there appeared the talk about spies and diversion groups. A grenade was found in the basement of the synagogue, where the mikveh was placed. There were rumors that the grenade appeared there on purpose to exterminate Jews. In the first days, Uncle Oizer came to take Grandmother Tsirlya. My mother talked to my father to take her parents and live in the extreme parts of Russia. She suggested that we should stay there until the Soviet Army would do away with the fascists. Nobody doubted that those things would be over soon. My father listened to my mother, took a cart with two horses, loaded our bundles with clothes, linen and some house paraphernalia and we were ready to go.

In the vicinity of the train station the policemen on horses told the fugitives to return telling them not to panic, go back home and assured us that the Soviet regime wouldn’t allow the city to be captured. In two weeks we had to run without anything. The fascists were approaching Kishinev. My father rushed in and cried out that we had to leave immediately. I dressed in shorts, my mother in a summer dress, and we ran to the train station. My father took a leather bag, where he threw documents, some precious things, and money. He also took a cloak and my coat. My mother also took a bag. I was given a jug with potable water. I refused and my mother had to take it. Ruhlya and her daughter also left and we never saw them again. When we walked out we saw the militiamen throwing burning torches on the houses. Our wooden house was immediately set on fire and burnt to ashes with all our belongings. It didn’t happen in our presence though. Our neighbors told us about it when the war was over.

We walked towards the train station across the burning city. It was hard because of the smoke and our eyes hurt. On each corner there were barrels with water to extinguish the fire. We took water from those barrels and rinsed our eyes. There were long lines in the stores. Moldovans and Russians remaining in the city were storing products. The train station was teeming with people, trying to get on the trains no matter what. It was next to impossible to get on a train. We walked along the rails and reached the next station. Here we managed to get on the open platform, headed to the rear with some precious freight. There were a lot of people on the platforms. The train was bombed. At each station we and the equipment were covered with tree branches and leaves, but it didn’t help, the train was being incessantly bombed. Pregnant women jumped off the platforms, gave birth to children and died immediately, during the bombing. One of them gave birth to a stillborn baby, swaddled it and talked to it as if it was alive and tried to suckle it. When the train stopped, people jumped off and went to the bushes to relieve themselves. My father carried my mother as she couldn’t jump off the platform. Having fear of missing the train, people were going to the toilet without feeling ashamed. My mother took off the rings from her fingers and my father bought something for them. He sold one of the rings and bought half a carpet. Moldovan carpets are warm and we had something to cover ourselves with from the rain.

In ten days we reached some sort of Russian kolkhoz [see Collective farm (in Russian kolkhoz)] [15] named after Stalin. I was a child and can’t remember all the places we went to during evacuation. The only thing I remember vividly is the kolkhozes. We had to stay in them and all of them were named after Stalin. When we arrived at the first kolkhoz, located either in Orlovsk or Kursk oblast [today Russia], we were sent to the houses of the farmers. The men were sent to harvest bread in the field. Stalin ordered the harvest of bread for it not be taken by the enemy. My mother also worked in the field. As soon as the harvesting was over, everybody was given bread and taken to the next kolkhoz. In the period of August-September 1941, we happened to be in Ordzhenikidze region [today Russia], and the kolkhoz there was also named after Stalin. We didn’t stay there for a long time. I remember the crossing via the Caspian Sea.

We had been waiting for our turn for some days in Makhachkala [today Russia]. At night there was bombing again. Bombs were released around us, but they didn’t hit the steamboat. We went to Andijan [today Uzbekistan], located over 4,000 kilometers from home. It wasn’t far from the border of China. Several families of the evacuees settled in one room, which was very cold. Then we were loaded into gypsy-carts without windows and doors. The locals lived in such places. There was a primitive communal system, women wore purdah. We didn’t stay there for a long time. My mother was told by some of her pals that her parents were seen in Krasnogvardeysk [today Buynaksk, Russia, 1,800 km from Kishinev], not far from Makhachkala.

My mother insisted on moving there. We went to Krasnogvardeysk in late fall 1941. My grandparents lived there with Uncle Monya. Here my parents and Uncle Monya worked in a rice field in a kolkhoz. In winter 1942 my grandfather died from hunger. In spring 1942, my father and Uncle Monya were drafted to the labor front.

My mother went to the military enlistment office and got an assignment to Dzhambulsk region [today Kazakhstan] and again to a kolkhoz named after Stalin. The three of us: I, my mother and Grandmother Manya went there. We settled in the house of a local peasant, who supported us. My mother was afflicted with typhus fever and was taken to the hospital. My grandmother and I went to see her. My mother knew that we were starving and once she threw a piece of bread from the window. My grandmother and I also caught typhus fever. I survived, but my granny didn’t make it. My mother buried her when I was in the hospital. My mother and I were still here in summer 1942. My mother kept in touch with the information center of the search of evacuees in Buguruslan [today Russia]. People managed to find each other. Thus we found my father. He was involved in wood cutting. He was sick and was allowed to go home for a couple of months. He was in a terrible state: he had heart trouble and asphyxia.

My mother worked in the field and I stayed home with my father. We cooked some pottage from flour and grain, given to us in our daily ration. My father brought some canned food and pig’s fat. He was gradually recovering. In a month he got a notification from the military enlistment office. He was drafted to the labor front again. This time he was supposed to work at a sugar refinery in Orlovka, not far from Dzhambul [today Kazakhstan, 3,300 km from Kishinev]. He left again and we had to stay in the kolkhoz. My mother kept on working and I was cooped up. The local people were antagonistic against Jews. Their kids called me ‘little Yid’ and threw stones at me. The hostess protected me, covered me from those who hurt me and gave me something to eat. I helped her about the house, worked in the kitchen garden, and watched the brooding chicken.

In fall 1942, when the harvesting was over, the chairman of the kolkhoz was ordered to send all the evacuees to another place. He got us together, gave each of us a loaf of bread and a sack of grain. I took the grain to the mill and made flour. The hostess made pies for us. We went to Orlovka train station. We met my father there. He somehow found out that we were leaving. He brought us sugar beets, stolen from the plant, said good-bye and told us that he would find us no matter where we were. I don’t remember where we were going at that time. I think my story isn’t precise. I might confuse when and where we went. I think that when I’m talking about the roaming of a mother with a child, the precision isn’t so important. I had to become adult soon. My mother corresponded with my father. He had been in an accident. Part of his scalp was hurt by a tool and he was taken to the hospital. My mother was even happy as she thought he would be taken home. She was disappointed. My father was sent to Ural [today Russia] to dismantle plant equipment.

My mother and I were mobilized to a tobacco kolkhoz. We took a carriage, driven by a Cossack. On the way our carriage drove into an aryk [artificial irrigation ditch in Middle Asia] and overturned. Our things, a suitcase with documents and pictures, fell into the river. We were rescued by a military man, who was resting on the bank of the aryk. He also helped getting some of our things from the water. Our documents and pictures couldn’t be salvaged. We dried our things and moved on to the tobacco kolkhoz. I went to the field with my mother and helped her put the leaves on the frames for them to be dried. We didn’t stay there for long. As per our assignment of the military enlistment office, we went to the kolkhoz in Pervomaysk district [today Kazakhstan]. We settled in the house of a woman, who lived with her son. My mother and I shared a bed. There was also another family who had evacuated from Dnepropetrovsk [today Ukraine].

This family included a lady with her son and daughter. They also stayed in the room with us. Her daughter was starving. She got up at night and stole the food of the hostess. There was a crisis because my mother blamed me and spanked me until the poor girl confessed. In winter, my father came from Ural and brought some things and bread. My mother felt that the hostess, who hated Jews, wouldn’t leave us in peace. She demanded that my father should go to the military enlistment office otherwise she wouldn’t let him in. He enlisted there and in a month he got another notification. He was having heart trouble and had bad eyesight and was still sent to the leading edge of the front line. Probably some local gave a bribe in order not to go to the front, but my poor father was taken because there was a certain number of draftees required. I said good-bye to my father and he told me in Yiddish, ‘Мishenka I’m to die for you to have a better life than I did.’ So he left. My mother saw him off and came back with tears. It was the last time I saw my father. But I have always kept him in my heart.

We were famished. Once my mother exchanged the grain, acquired by the cards [see Card system] [16], and the miller gave her flour, fertilized for the planting. All evacuees who got such flour got ill. I barely survived. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and my mother decided to leave this place for Dzhambul. She sold our things and paid a Jewish guy, the driver of a fuel truck, to take us to Dzhambul. He profited by that. He took an outrageous amount for tying my mother and me to the cisterns and taking us to our destination. In Dzhambul my mother found a job as a seamstress in a shop where jerseys for the lines were sawn. Mostly Jews worked here and the director was also a Jew. So it was easier for us. When my father had left for the front, I felt like an adult and became more responsible. I wanted to help my mother. I met some Jews from Poland, who were selling goods at the market and helped them in their business. I ran errands like taking the goods to the market, and give money. I was paid for that. When I gave my mother ten rubles, she couldn’t believe I had earned them. I had to introduce my mother to my employers. I practically didn’t go to school when I was in evacuation. I didn’t have winter clothes. In Dzhambul I started schooling. There were no letters from my father, but there was no notification of his death either. Until the victory day, my mother had been hoping that my father was alive.

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In 1946 we went back to Kishinev. There are no miracles in life. In 1947 I was given my father’s death certificate and was assigned a pension of 120 rubles. Our apartment was gone. My mother rented a room in a basement from a Jew, Tsipa, and paid for the bunk we shared. We stayed in the basement for a year. I was tiny. I wasn’t growing because of constant hunger. Shortly after we came back I was given a voucher to go to the pioneer’s camp. I stayed there for a month. I was well fed and grew by ten centimeters. My mother worked in a bakery as a janitor. I went to her workplace a couple of times a day and she gave me the flawed pieces of bread which was either under baked or over baked. It helped to survive because we didn’t get enough bread with the card. Uncle Monya came back from Tashkent [today Uzbekistan] and assisted us. He took me for half a year and fed me very well. After the war my mother became persistent and in a year we were given a room which was the premise of the housing office. We didn’t have a kitchen. My mother put a stove in the corridor.

I studied at a secondary school. I was overage and it was hard for me to study. I took an initiative and soon became one of the best students. There were a lot of Jewish students in our class, as well as in the whole school. We got along very well in spite of the exacerbated all-state anti-Semitism. I became a Komsomol [17] member. I took an active part in the wall paper. I was rather ‘righteous,’ I didn’t drink or smoke, so the guys didn’t take me to be good company. Being a teenager I was interested in chess and music. I joined a chess circle and choir. Music appealed to me, especially accordion. I was eager to learn how to play the accordion, but my mother couldn’t afford it. At times I asked my friend for an accordion, but he only let me hold it and not play. When in 1950 I finished school, my mother insisted that I should enter the most unpopular college where there was no competition. It was very hard for Jews to enter institutions of higher education without bribe or connections as it was the time of the struggle against rootless cosmopolites [see Campaign against ‘cosmopolitans’] [18]. I wanted to become an engineer and work with metal, but I agreed with my mother that I should acquire some profession and start working. I entered a statistics college.

Mostly girls studied there. There were only three guys in our group. I was a handsome guy and girls tried to do their best to get my attention. The deprivations I went through in my childhood didn’t only retard my growth, but my general outlook. I didn’t notice beautiful girls, the splendor of nature, spring, trees and flowers. The war had an impact on my development and merely broke my heart. First, I didn’t pay attention to the new student who shared a desk with me, when I was in my second year. She tried to make overtures. Then I noticed that she was pretty and sweet. We became friends. Her name was Lyalia Rakier. Lyalia was born in 1936 in Kishinev. Her father, Gersh Rakier, had worked as an accountant. He died during the war. Lyalia’s mother, Maria Rakier, was an obstetrician, and worked in a hospital. We became close friends, though I didn’t think of marriage at that time. We went to the cinema, and for walks. Our mothers met. Together we decided to enter the institute. When we were in the graduate year, the Kiev affiliate of the Moscow Statistics Institute sent their teachers to invigilate the entrance exams. Mrs. Shiriayeva was responsible for the educational unit in our institute.

Lyalia and I passed the exams and got quite high scores, but we weren’t in the list of the admitted. I understood why Shiriayeva deselected my candidacy. I turned down her offer to become a Komsomol member. She bore a grudge against me. Lyalia had suffered for another reason. When we were married, her mother said that Shiriayeva was her patient and she underwent abortions. The last time Maria refused to carry out the abortion on the late term as it was deemed as a criminal offence. Therefore, Shiriayeva took revenge by not having admitted her daughter to the institute. Lyalia made the justice prevail. She wrote a letter to Kiev, attached her scores and said that she hadn’t been admitted for being a Jew. In a couple of days she received a response where it was indicated that she had been accepted. In winter she took the exams for the first term in Moscow. I was in the army at that time. I had been drafted after having worked as per my mandatory job assignment [19] in a small town called Skulyany near Kishinev, for two months.

I can say that I was lucky with my military service. I was allocated to the replacement depot of Sevastopol [today Ukraine, Crimea, 900 km from Kiev]. The competition was tough but I did well in my mathematics exam. I was noticed by one military dignitary, a Jew and he suggested that I should go to the intendance school. I went to Poti in Georgia. It was hard to get used to the army: getting up early in the morning, marching, singing combat songs, no matter what mood you were in. I was a quiet guy, so I wasn’t bullied. I had studied at the school for a year and acquired a specialty of a military clerk. Our class got an assignment to the cruiser Novorossiysk. Shortly before my graduation, more than half of the squad suffered from dysentery. We had stayed in the hospital for more than a month and I together with some guys were sent to the shore. I was very lucky to work at the torpedo base in Poti. The Novorossiysk was blown up. Our cadets had been among the three thousand people on board.

After a year my mother and Lyalia, who insisted on accompanying her, came to see me. My commander Shevchenko didn’t want to give me leave, but my colleagues treated me very well and took me to the city in a truck. A year later, Lyalia and her friend came over to see me. We made love and Lyalia made me promise that I would marry her. In my graduate year I was offered membership of the Communist Party. I did it consciously as I was a stickler of Communist ideas and believed in the party ideals.

In December 1957 I was given a ten-day leave and flew to Kishinev. Lyalia insisted that we get married immediately, and I couldn’t break my promise. I wasn’t ready to get married, but I couldn’t go back on my word. On the frosty day of 4th December, we went to the state marriage registration office. I wasn’t in winter uniform and Lyalia wasn’t in a warm coat. We didn’t have a wedding party. I was demobilized in February 1958. I came back to Kishinev.

We settled in the eleven-meter room of my mother-in-law. I started looking for a job. That was the time I felt what it really meant to be a Jew. There were no advertisements in the papers or recruiting agencies. I dressed in my marine uniform, and knocked on the doors of HR departments in all kinds of organizations. As soon as they saw my documents they said that there were no job openings at that moment or something like that. I had been looking for a job for a few months and finally found one as a rate-setter in the mechanic department of a knitting mill. I was happy though my salary was only 55 rubles. I gave my salary to my wife. Each day I was given 50 kopecks for lunch at the factory canteen.

On 3rd December 1958 our daughter Greta was born. When I got home I had to wash and iron the swaddles, get up and comfort my daughter when she was crying at night. When my wife was sitting her exams in Moscow, I took care of Greta. We were pretty indigent and hardly had any furniture and clothes. When I went to see my mother, she gave me some pocket money and it made me feel ashamed. My mother was in trouble, too. When I was in the army, she married a guy from Odessa [today Ukraine]. After some years she found out that he had a family in Odessa. He had lied to my mother. She turned him out and it was hard on her. By that time my mother had finally gotten a pretty good room in a communal apartment.

Years went by. Greta went to a nursery school, kindergarten, then to school. I was getting more and more promotions and gradually became the deputy director of the knitting factory. I earned more money and it was enough to buy the things we needed and go to the sea resorts with my daughter. I also was a member of the Party, the secretary of the party organization. This is why our family didn’t consider the idea of leaving for Israel. By this time, we had to tackle the issue with the apartment because my mother had been afflicted with a stroke and was bed-ridden. We had to take care of her. I tried to exchange our apartment, but without any success. At the party conference I had to give a letter to the first secretary of the central committee requesting for assistance with the apartment issue. Soon after that I was called to the Municipal Party committee and was given an apartment. I’m currently living in it. My mother died in 1999.

I was indifferent after the collapse of the USSR. Practically nothing changed for me. The only good thing was that Jewish life revived, many Jewish organizations appeared. I don’t take part in the latter, though. I have been an atheist all my life and I think I’ll die an atheist. It’s pretty late to change beliefs at my age. But I like the idea of revival. I think somebody needs it. People go to the synagogue, even young ones. I have been receiving my pension benefit since 1992, but kept on working for another ten years.

Two years ago my wife got severely ill. I retired and dedicated myself to looking after her.  Now I’m a client of Hesed [20], where Greta is currently working. They are doing the right thing by helping lonely elderly people: providing medicine and products and making them feel that they aren’t alone. I hope I’ll find friends among such lonely Jews as myself.

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[1] Bessarabia: Historical area between the Prut and Dnestr rivers, in the southern part of Odessa region. Bessarabia was part of Russia until the Revolution of 1917. In 1918 it declared itself an independent republic, and later it united with Romania. The Treaty of Paris (1920) recognized the union but the Soviet Union never accepted this. In 1940 Romania was forced to cede Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR. The two provinces had almost 4 million inhabitants, mostly Romanians. Although Romania reoccupied part of the territory during World War II the Romanian peace treaty of 1947 confirmed their belonging to the Soviet Union. Today it is part of Moldavia.

[2] Annexation of Bessarabia to the Soviet Union: At the end of June 1940 the Soviet Union demanded Romania to withdraw its troops from Bessarabia and to abandon the territory. Romania withdrew its troops and administration in the same month and between 28th June and 3rd July, the Soviets occupied the region. At the same time Romania was obliged to give up Northern Transylvania to Hungary and Southern-Dobrudja to Bulgaria. These territorial losses influenced Romanian politics during World War II to a great extent.

[3] Great Patriotic War: On 22nd June 1941 at 5 o’clock in the morning Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union without declaring war. This was the beginning of the so-called Great Patriotic War. The German blitzkrieg, known as Operation Barbarossa, nearly succeeded in breaking the Soviet Union in the months that followed. Caught unprepared, the Soviet forces lost whole armies and vast quantities of equipment to the German onslaught in the first weeks of the war. By November 1941 the German army had seized the Ukrainian Republic, besieged Leningrad, the Soviet Union’s second largest city, and threatened Moscow itself. The war ended for the Soviet Union on 9th May 1945.

[4] Transnistria: Area situated between the Bug and Dniester rivers and the Black Sea. The term is derived from the Romanian name for the Dniester (Nistru) and was coined after the occupation of the area by German and Romanian troops in World War II. After its occupation Transnistria became a place for deported Romanian Jews. Systematic deportations began in September 1941. In the course of the next two months, all surviving Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina and a small part of the Jewish population of Old Romania were dispatched across the Dniester. This first wave of deportations reached almost 120,000 by mid-November 1941 when it was halted by Ion Antonescu, the Romanian dictator, upon intervention of the Council of Romanian Jewish Communities. Deportations resumed at the beginning of the summer of 1942, affecting close to 5,000 Jews. A third series of deportations from Old Romania took place in July 1942, affecting Jews who had evaded forced labor decrees, as well as their families, communist sympathizers and Bessarabian Jews who had been in Old Romania and Transylvania during the Soviet occupation. The most feared Transnistrian camps were Vapniarka, Ribnita, Berezovka, Tulcin and Iampol. Most of the Jews deported to camps in Transnistria died between 1941-1943 because of horrible living conditions, diseases and lack of food.

[5] Keep in touch with relatives abroad: The authorities could arrest an individual corresponding with his/her relatives abroad and charge him/her with espionage, send them to concentration camp or even sentence them to death.

[6] Iron Curtain: A term popularized by Sir Winston Churchill in a speech in 1946. He used it to designate the Soviet Union’s consolidation of its grip over Eastern Europe. The phrase denoted the separation of East and West during the Cold War, which placed the totalitarian states of the Soviet bloc behind an ‘Iron Curtain’. The fall of the Iron Curtain corresponds to the period of perestroika in the former Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, and the democratization of Eastern Europe beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

[7] Communal apartment: The Soviet power wanted to improve housing conditions by requisitioning ‘excess’ living space of wealthy families after the Revolution of 1917. Apartments were shared by several families with each family occupying one room and sharing the kitchen, toilet and bathroom with other tenants. Because of the chronic shortage of dwelling space in towns communal or shared apartments continued to exist for decades. Despite state programs for the construction of more houses and the liquidation of communal apartments, which began in the 1960s, shared apartments still exist today.

[8] Russian stove: Big stone stove stoked with wood. They were usually built in a corner of the kitchen and served to heat the house and cook food. It had a bench that made a comfortable bed for children and adults in wintertime.

[9] Pushkin, Alexandr (1799-1837): Russian poet and prose writer, among the foremost figures in Russian literature. Pushkin established the modern poetic language of Russia, using Russian history for the basis of many of his works. His masterpiece is Eugene Onegin, a novel in verse about mutually rejected love. The work also contains witty and perceptive descriptions of Russian society of the period. Pushkin died in a duel.

[10] Lermontov, Mikhail (1814-1841): Russian poet and novelist. His poetic reputation, second in Russia only to Pushkin’s, rests upon the lyric and narrative works of his last five years. Lermontov, who had sought a position in fashionable society, became enormously critical of it. His novel, A Hero of Our Time (1840), is partly autobiographical. It consists of five tales about Pechorin, a disenchanted and bored nobleman. The novel is considered a classic of Russian psychological realism.

[11] Annexation of Bessarabia to Romania: During the chaotic days of the Soviet Revolution the national assembly of Moldavians convoked to Kishinev decided on 4th December 1917 the proclamation of an independent Moldavian state. In order to impede autonomous aspirations, Russia occupied the Moldavian capital in January 1918. Upon Moldavia’s desperate request, the army of neighboring Romania entered Kishinev in the same month recapturing the city from the Bolsheviks. This was the decisive step toward the union with Romania: the Moldavians accepted the annexation without any preliminary condition.

[12] Froebel Institute: F. W. A. Froebel (1783-1852), German educational theorist, developed the idea of raising children in kindergartens. In Russia the Froebel training institutions functioned from 1872-1917 The three-year training was intended for tutors of children in families and kindergartens.

[13] Kishinev pogrom of 1903: On 6-7 April, during the Christian Orthodox Easter, there was severe pogrom in Kishinev (today Chisinau, Moldova) and its suburbs, in which about 50 Jews were killed and hundreds injured. Jewish shops were destroyed and many people left homeless. The pogrom became a watershed in the history of the Jews of the Pale of Settlement and the Zionist movement, not only because of its scale, but also due to the reaction of the authorities, who either could not or did not want to stop the pogromists. The pogrom reverbarated in the Jewish world and spurred many future Zionists to join the movement.

[14] Antonescian period (September 1940– August 1944): The Romanian King Carol II appointed Ion Antonescu (chief of the general staff of the Romanian Army, Minister of War between 1937 and 1938) prime minister with full power under the pressure of the Germans after the Second Vienna Dictate. At first Antonescu formed a coalition with the Legionary leaders, but after their attempted coup (in January 1941) he introduced a military dictatorship. He joined the Triple Alliance, and helped Germany in its fight against the Soviet Union. In order to gain new territories (Transylvania, Bessarabia), he increased to the utmost the Romanian war-efforts and retook Bassarabia through a lot of sacrifices in 1941-1942. At the same time the notorious Romanian anti-Semitic pogroms are linked to his name and so are the deportations – this topic has been a taboo in Romanian historiography up to now. Antonescu was arrested on the orders of the king on 23rd August 1944 (when Romania capitulated) and sent to prison in the USSR where he remained until 1946. He was sentenced to death for his crimes as a war criminal and was shot in the same year.

[15] Collective farm (in Russian kolkhoz): In the Soviet Union the policy of gradual and voluntary collectivization of agriculture was adopted in 1927 to encourage food production while freeing labor and capital for industrial development. In 1929, with only 4% of farms in kolkhozes, Stalin ordered the confiscation of peasants’ land, tools, and animals; the kolkhoz replaced the family farm.

[16] Card system: The food card system regulating the distribution of food and industrial products was introduced in the USSR in 1929 due to extreme deficit of consumer goods and food. The system was cancelled in 1931. In 1941, food cards were reintroduced to keep records, distribute and regulate food supplies to the population. The card system covered main food products such as bread, meat, oil, sugar, salt, cereals, etc. The rations varied depending on which social group one belonged to, and what kind of work one did. Workers in the heavy industry and defense enterprises received a daily ration of 800 g (miners – 1 kg) of bread per person; workers in other industries 600 g. Non-manual workers received 400 or 500 g based on the significance of their enterprise, and children 400 g. However, the card system only covered industrial workers and residents of towns while villagers never had any provisions of this kind. The card system was cancelled in 1947.

[17] Komsomol: Communist youth political organization created in 1918. The task of the Komsomol was to spread of the ideas of communism and involve the worker and peasant youth in building the Soviet Union. The Komsomol also aimed at giving a communist upbringing by involving the worker youth in the political struggle, supplemented by theoretical education. The Komsomol was more popular than the Communist Party because with its aim of education people could accept uninitiated young proletarians, whereas party members had to have at least a minimal political qualification.

[18] Campaign against ‘cosmopolitans’: The campaign against ‘cosmopolitans’, i.e. Jews, was initiated in articles in the central organs of the Communist Party in 1949. The campaign was directed primarily at the Jewish intelligentsia and it was the first public attack on Soviet Jews as Jews. ‘Cosmopolitans’ writers were accused of hating the Russian people, of supporting Zionism, etc. Many Yiddish writers as well as the leaders of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were arrested in November 1948 on charges that they maintained ties with Zionism and with American ‘imperialism’. They were executed secretly in 1952. The anti-Semitic Doctors’ Plot was launched in January 1953. A wave of anti-Semitism spread through the USSR. Jews were removed from their positions, and rumors of an imminent mass deportation of Jews to the eastern part of the USSR began to spread. Stalin’s death in March 1953 put an end to the campaign against ‘cosmopolitans’.

[19] Mandatory job assignment in the USSR: Graduates of higher educational institutions had to complete a mandatory 2-year job assignment issued by the institution from which they graduated. After finishing this assignment young people were allowed to get employment at their discretion in any town or organization.

[20] Hesed: Meaning care and mercy in Hebrew, Hesed stands for the charity organization founded by Amos Avgar in the early 20th century. Supported by Claims Conference and Joint Hesed helps for Jews in need to have a decent life despite hard economic conditions and encourages development of their self-identity. Hesed provides a number of services aimed at supporting the needs of all, and particularly elderly members of the society. The major social services include: work in the center facilities (information, advertisement of the center activities, foreign ties and free lease of medical equipment); services at homes (care and help at home, food products delivery, delivery of hot meals, minor repairs); work in the community (clubs, meals together, day-time polyclinic, medical and legal consultations); service for volunteers (training programs). The Hesed centers have inspired a real revolution in the Jewish life in the FSU countries. People have seen and sensed the rebirth of the Jewish traditions of humanism. Currently over eighty Hesed centers exist in the FSU countries. Their activities cover the Jewish population of over eight hundred settlements.