Jewish Observer
November 2001
5762 Kheshvan

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The shtetl's unique world, including culture, way of life, architecture and arts, has been under study for several years in the CIS already. The most important trend in this study is to collect memories of those who still remember a Jewish town of the last century. One of such memories or evidence is given in the book of the journalist Boris Khandros. The book is called "A town that does not exist any more". This is the story of the small town of Ozarintsy, one of the most ancient settlements in Podolia (Mogilev uezd), the first reference to which was made as far as 1486.

The history of this small town is described through the life of its residents. In the beginning of the last century there lived Benya (tailor), narrow professionals Yankel, Zeilik, Gershko, Borukh Khandros and others. The history of Ozarintsy does not differ much from other shtetls: a usual routine life in which everybody wanted to survive (trade, bargaining, jokes, synagogue, market); revolution with the Civil war, six pogroms; bolsheviks, Jewish school, district council, Cheka, war and the Holocaust. During the Civil war the power in the town changed several times. And each new power used to organize pogroms. The town was captured and robbed by Petlyurovtsy, various gangs, Poles and Reds. Only the latter managed to set up a strong power and to stop further pogroms. The Bolsheviks organized their own robbery though financial inspectors and other tax collectors. Everything, including instruments, feather beds and pillows, was confiscated. Famine came to the town in 1933. Then the terrible year of 1937 came. From 76 citizens of the town arrested in that year only two returned home.

Till the very beginning of the war the Jewish children used to go to their national school to which teachers came after graduating pedagogical institutes.

The further history of the town is told mainly in the form of testimonies of eyewitnesses. Lyuba Kats-Lozover and Musya Gass speak about Nazi Saturday killings. Nina Bogorad testifies about anti-Semitism in the partisan detachment. Each story in the book is a life story. B.Khandros is thinking about shooting a film based on this book. The importance of this undertaking can be hardly overestimated.

Khandros B. A town that doesn't exist any more. P.I.Shtetl - K.: Alterpres. - 328 p. Circulation - 500 c.


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