The History of Jewish Life in Vladimirets
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Geography & History
The town may be listed under
It wasn't until 1809 that the Russian Tzarist Government required Jews to adopt fixed, inheritable family names so that they might be more easily identified for taxation and conscription. Any records previous to 1809, if we could find them, would simply be of the "Name, son/daughter of Name" type of record. However, as late as the middle of the 19th century, Russian Government officials were still complaining about the frequent change of family names among Jews who lived in different communities under different surnames. Often these different surnames were simply variations due to the lack of vowels used in Hebrew Names. For example, בריל became Baril, Barill (USA), Brill, Barel, Bariel, Baryl, and probably countless other variations as yet undiscovered.
Unlike some shtetls, Vladimirets
never had a "Jewish Ghetto" – Jews and non-Jews lived as
neighbors until the 1940's when Nationalist Ukrainians working
with the Nazis began rounding up outlying Jews and bringing them
to Vladimirets. The 1939 census shows a thriving Jewish
community with 1,377 members – today there are no Jews left from
before WWII. After the war (1945), some Jews came back to locate
survivors or try to find justice. They found neither and
did not stay. The last Jew left Vladimirets in 1948 for
The Jewish community in Vladimirets was diverse. There were at least 6 shuls (synagogues): Trisk Chasidim, Stepan Chasidim, Stopan Chasidim, the Craftsman's Synagogue, and Conservative. There were also many “shteibels” [usually a one-room building just for davening], study groups and minyans held in people's homes. There was no orthodox/non-orthodox distinction – it was only observant or less observant Many families who went to Chassidic shuls would not align themselves with the ultra-orthodox Chasidim once they left Vladimirets.Several of the shuls had schools (cheders or Talmud Torahs) associated with them and most Jews (including the women) were well educated. Most could read and write – often in several languages. The shul was the hub of the Jewish social community as well as the religious center. Everyone would have attended shul every Shabbos (Shabbat) for the chance to see friends and family they didn't get to see during the week.
Typical of Jewish shtetls, Vladimirets was not a wealthy community. Because of the laws, Jews weren't allowed to own land or anything that hadn't been owned before, which meant that most Jews were merchants of some sort. One Jew, however, owned the grain mill in town. Others were carpenters and shokhets (ritual slaughterers), junk men and furniture makers, and of course, teachers and rabbis. Given the time and conditions, the Jewish families of Vladimirets were doing reasonably well for themselves.
Those who remember Vladimirets before the war often refer to Jewish Vladimiretsers as “good people living a simple pious life”. While some of this may be the glow of nostalgia, there is most likely an element of truth in it. Everyone kept kosher (it’s a lot easier to keep when everyone around you is kosher). If a family needed assistance the word went out and help would be found or perhaps a basket of food mysteriously left on a doorstep. Skills such as midwifery and healing were freely shared. The Jews of Vladimirets lived together harmoniously, different factions playing pranks on each other that would be forgiven with payment of damages and a bottle of samogon (moonshine, home-brewed alcohol) shared.
There is a story in the Talmud about a rabbi making a determination of kashrut over a Shabbos chicken that had been dropped on the floor – if the family could afford a new chicken and there was enough time, the rabbi is to give the chicken a blessing of purification and require that the chicken be given to the poor; however, if the family couldn’t afford a new chicken, then the rabbi is required to simply give the blessing of purification and explain that the laws of kashrut are not intended to be used to make someone go hungry. This is the kind of simple common sense that permeated Jewish life in Vladimirets. The days, the weeks and the year cycled around the Jewish holidays, the simchas of births, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, and the puncuations of funerals and sitting shiva. Even the differing values of rival youth groups never split families or the community into different factions. They saw themselves as Jews. Whether bad time or good, it was shared by all as part of Jewish community.
Due to travel restrictions, emigration and travel happened in
waves. Somewhere around 1910 - 1925, there must have been a
lifting of travel bans in the Pale, because we start to see Jews
traveling back and forth to Vladimirets from other towns and
and World War I touched Vladimirets deeply
– many families
families emigrated from Vladimirets between 1900 and 1930. While
many came to the
another major wave of emigration after the pogroms of the
1930's. Special passports and travel papers were required
to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. They were often decided
by lottery. Because travel to North America was easier,
passenger manifests show many families emigrating to the
Aside from pogroms and Nazis, some of
our family emigrated for economic opportunity or other reasons.
Some of them came to the
Zionism was strong in Vladimirets and
the surrounding Vohlyn region. Vladimirets supported multiple
Zionist youth groups. Some were able to make aliyah and emigrate
World War II Years
As World War II
drew closer, the former residents of Vladimirets formed a
benevolence society, a "landsmanshaften". They worked throughout
WWII to raise funds to help those in Vladimirets. Many were
convinced to emigrate, but there were those who chose to stay
behind or couldn't emigrate for some reason. Their names were
memorialized in the Vladimirets Yizkor Book.
The Vladimirets Landsman
Society was disbanded in the
By the middle of WWII, Jews who
traveled to larger cities for work and those with families in
other countries were already hearing about the Jewish Ghettos
and roundups in
During the 1940's, Vladimirets was under Ukrainian Nationalist occupation, which was allied with the Nazis. Jews from surrounding areas were forced to move to the larger towns and villages, including Vladimirets. They lived together in a Jewish ghetto, and were forced to work the neighboring farms for the occupation forces. Pogroms and terror campaigns were common during this time. The Judenrat served as an intermediary with the occupying police / military forces. Some members of the Judenrat are noted at the bottom of the Vladimirets Surname page. To the Jews, it didn’t seem to make a difference whether Vladimirets was occupied by the Russian army, the German army, or whoever else wandered through – the occupiers always took more than they gave, and officers made a point of taking advantage by taking as much as they could without paying.
One thing that the yizkor book makes clear is that many people went into hiding both before and during the massacre. In Vladimirets, there was a clear division between Poles and Ukrainians – the Ukrainians were on the side of the Germans and helped hunt down Jews, while the Poles hid them and aided in their escape. This may have been because the priest of the Vladimirets Pravo-Slavic church (the Polish Orthodox Christian church) was not only not anti-semitic, he was actively sympathetic towards the Jews. At one point, when the Nazis had demanded payment from the Jews so many times that they could no longer raise the money, the priest collected from his own congregation to give to the Jews so they could pay off the demand. There are cases of Poles both turning away Jews for fear of losing their own lives and Poles giving their own lives in defense of Jews. But the Ukrainians always sided with the Nazis, having been the target of the Ukrainian Genocide by Stalin.
The Remnants of Jewish Vladimirets
There was another Jewish cemetery, which is now near the center of town. After the war, the Communists built a government building and factory on the site. The headstones were ground up and used in the cement for the sidewalks. All that remains is a grassy yard. There is no marker. The Catholic and Pravo-Slavic cemeteries were not destroyed. (updated 1997) [See 2006 Vladimirets photos] The headstones were reportedly ground up and used as cement material for the sidewalks in the government square. The Soviets did not do the same to the Catholic or Slavic cemeteries. (updated 2008)A memorial site in the
The mass grave is rarely visited, and there is little to no ongoing maintenance, although local municipal authorities did re-erect stones and clear some vegetation some time back. A group of Vladimirets survivors visited the area in 2000, and have arranged with a local man for annual maintenance. (updated 2007)
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©2009—present. Terryn Barill
Compiled by Terryn Barill
Updated: Jun 2010
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- JewishGen Ukraine Database
Vladimirets is currently located in the Ukraine, Rovenskaya Oblast.
The town is located at 51.41 longitude and 26.13 latitude.
It is approximately 94km from Rovno, and approximately 250km from Kiev. At various times, it has been located in Volhynia (or Volyn/Vohlyn/Wolyn),Poland/Polish Empire, Galicia,Russia/ Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Belarussia (Belarus), and Ukraine.