Vereschaki was located southeast of Orsha and
six miles northwest of Gorki in the Province of Mogilev, Belarus. It
is shown in the upper left hand corner of the map in Cyrillic as "Vereschaki,
Jewish Colony". Gorki, at the bottom of the map, was the local
commercial center. (Map from Library of Congress)
The Russian Jewish Encyclopedia of 1905
describes Vereschaki as an agricultural settlement in the District
of Savsk, Region of Gorki, Province of Mogilev of 1,200,000 square
meters of occupied area and 128 residents.
Vereschaki is also listed in the Encyclopedia
of Jewish Life, Schmuel Spector (Yad Vashem), New York University
The purpose of this Jewish Gen entry for
Vereschaki is to provide historical information about Vereschaki
that was contained in my familyís correspondence with relatives in
Vereschaki during the 1930ís, and to make this information about the
last days of the place available to Jewish Gen.
The earliest record of Vereschaki is the 1869
map at the left. Vereschaki may therefore have been one of the many
Jewish agricultural settlements that were founded by the Russian
Government between 1835 and 1866 to get Jews to settle the land. A
description of these land grants is contained in the letter from a
US Consular Official Schuyler.
For more information.
Vereschaki never achieved the legal status of a
village or town, but remained just a "settlement". Each household
had about seven acres to farm. My family had a horse and wagon, cows
and chickens. My grandfather and several of the men in the
settlement were blacksmiths who served the neighboring villages in
barter for various agricultural products. The Vereschaki blacksmiths
shared a communal iron forge.
The language of Vereschaki was Yiddish. My
grandmother and mother knew little Russian. By the 1920ís however,
the children attended state school in nearby villages. There they
The nearest synagogue was in Gorki, a distance
of six miles.
The Russian Famine that started in 1927 when
Stalin began to collectivize agriculture finally arrived in
Vereschaki in 1932. Shortages of iron and coal then forced the
collective iron forge in Vereschaki to fail. Men began to leave
Vereschaki to find work elsewhere.
Stalinís collective farm movement reached
Vereschaki in 1933. My grandparents lost all of their land, the
blacksmith forge, and their horse to the collective composed of ten
nearby villages. My grandparents were allowed to keep their house,
cow and personal belongings. In exchange they received foodstuffs,
but only enough for a starvation diet. A Torgsin store opened in
nearby Gorki where all foodstuffs could be bought, but only for
foreign exchange or precious metals. My grandparents survived the
famine by spending the dollars they received from the children who
had earlier immigrated to America.
Vereschaki suffered a major fire in 1939. The
settlement contained sixteen homes at that time. The fire consumed
ten of them. Many were rebuilt, but the number is unknown.
Germany invaded Russia on June 22, 1941. By
September 1941 the Germany Army had bypassed Minsk, Vitebsk, and
Smolensk and Vereschaki and was laying siege to Moscow. One month
later, in October 1941, Einzatzgruppen B of the German killing
squads arrived at Vereschaki.
The Germans killed the 60 Jews who remained in
Vereschaki on October 10, 1941. None survived. They are buried in a
mass grave. The Jewish community of Gorki has requested that the
Belarus government establish a marker to note the existence and
demise of Vereschaki. To date, no marker exists.
A more complete summary of my grandparentsí
correspondence from Vereschaki is available at YIVO, accession
number 86/03, entitled The Rissin Family of Vereschaki, Belarus.