November 2002

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Mel Shalev Visits Svisloch

My name is Mel Shalev [formerly Goldberg]. I am the son of Emanuel Goldberg z"l, one of the few survivors from Svisloch resident in the town on the eve of the German attack in June 1941. My father left Svisloch for Leningrad a few days before the attack and was thus saved. He was a correspondence student of the Gerzen Pedagogical Institute in Leningrad and was on his way to write an examination. He never reached Leningrad -the attack on the Soviet Union had made the examination completely irrelevant - but he had escaped the fate of his immediate and extended family - who were all trapped in Svisloch and the surrounding towns which were taken in the very first day of the attack. I was recently in Svisloch, on Sunday October 6, and took a number of pictures. I am also in the midst of writing an article about the visit. I can send it to you soon you along with some scanned pictures.

A few words about myself: I live in a kibbutz in northern Israel (actually the most northerly point of the coast). I am not a member of the kibbutz, just a 'resident'. I have lived here for almost six years. Previous to that I lived for about five years in Akko (Acre as it is called in English, St. Jean D'Acre in French) which is also on the coast about half way between Haifa and Rosh Hanikra. Previous to that I lived in Haifa, Hadera, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal (where I was born).  My mother and sister live in Toronto and I have a brother in Vancouver. I work for IBM and my career there, which spans just over 20 years, was entirely in software - starting on the engineering side of software development and for the last 5 years more on the business side. My work takes me to many countries all over the world - including many of the eastern European countries. I have been to Belarus five or six times on business trips. My previous visits were mostly short though on a trip two years ago I was able to visit my mother's town - Baranovich - which today is a city and the village of my mother's mother, Lahovich, which is just south of Baranovich. Baranovich is about halfway between Svisloch and Minsk and I passed it on the way to Svisloch. This time I stayed a week in Belarus, and over the weekend made the effort to visit the town of my father's youth.

On my visit to Svisloch, I was accompanied by a colleague of mine, Zina, from Minsk who works in a Minsk-based software company which I visit from time to time in the context of my work. I have known her almost five years and when I went to Baranovich two years ago, Zina accompanied me then as well. As my command of Russian is very basic, Zina helped me considerably with translation.

In Svisloch, I met Alexander Simeonovich Polubinski. He mentioned that he has written a number of articles in journals and newspapers on the Jewish community of Svisloch - he showed me a photocopy of one of his newspaper articles - which was entitled in Russian the equivalent of "They Lived Among Us". I asked for a copy but he told that it was his only copy and that he would make another copy and send it to me. Knowing that his circumstances must be constrained and that the Museum budget was also limited I made a donation towards the museum of $100(in Belarus rubles of course) which for someone from the west is a fairly modest sum but is a fairly substantial amount there. Alexander Simeonovich also mentioned he was in touch with a certain Rabinovich in Israel and that a Jewish group from the US had visited in the summer and he had taken them around. They asked many questions and took a lot of notes. He couldn't remember any of their names. Given his advancing age - he is now 82 - and declining health, it would be a very good idea to interview him properly (to film the interview) as soon as possible and to make sure that any relevant documents he has collected and organized are properly preserved and that copies are made for the 'virtual museum and archives. I plan to be in Minsk again in February or March of 2003 and can participate in that.

Before we parted ways Alexander Simeonovich mentioned that it is a pity that I cannot visit again on November 1 at which time they have their annual memorial procession from the town to the monument for the Jewish community. It wasn't clear if this was a formal city sponsored event or something that is a personal initiative of some Svislochers, Alexander Simeonovich among them. Anyway, this year, given the 'round number' and the fact that the number of those who were direct witnesses of the persecution and destruction of the community is relentlessly diminishing, they decided to have a more substantial ceremony this year.

In closing, I would like to say, that as a personal project, I will endeavor to translate the Second memorial book in its entirety into English over the next half year and make it available for distribution thru the website (by the way there is a partial list of Jewish families - some of whom had immigrated before the war - in the second memorial book).

warm regards,


Jen Mohr works on Yizkor Book Translations

Joyce Field, head of the Yizkor Project for JewishGen, is working on getting permission to translate both Svisloch Yizkor books and will contact Jen to give us the go-ahead as soon as everything is set.

Mel Volunteers to Translate the 2nd Book

In a letter to Jen, Mel writes that the article written by his father, Emanuel Goldberg, and which is one of the longer articles in the 2nd Yizkor book is already available in English. Being fluent in both Hebrew and English he is qualified to perform the translation and will make the time for it. [Mel further writes: "I had read thru the full text in Hebrew shortly after the book came out - and recently, before visiting Svisloch, I read through large parts of it again."]

The First Book and the Second Book

Emanuel Goldberg  maintained close ties with all the Svislochers of his generation that he grew up with and who had left Svisloch - of course almost all of that group had immigrated - mainly to the US, Israel, Canada, Argentina and Uruguay - before WWII and many long before; he also maintained ties with the previous generation (the ones who wrote the First Yizkor book - the Second book was written by his generation). The generation who wrote the First Yizkor book is long gone and the generation of the second book - the last resident generation - is thinning out and will also soon be gone. It would be a good idea to interview a few of them.

A Recent Map with Explanations

Here is one the maps I used when traveling recently. Amstibiveh (where my father's family came from) is written Mscibava. Amstibiveh is about 10km from Svisloch (scale of the map is at top right) - about a 2 hour walk at a leisurely clip... My father's maternal grandparents came from Krinki - whether this is Krynki some 20km NW of Svisloch (now in Poland), or Hrynki some 6km almost due south remains to be determined... Not also the townlet of Svisloczany just to the west of the Polish border...

It seems that Svisloch, Krinki and Amstibiveh (that is how my father used to pronounce the name) all figure in our family history. I am fairly certain that the Krinki of my father's grandparents is the larger town that is now in Poland and not the other town to the south which has a similar name.

My Thanks I am grateful for all your help in getting this web site up. I have lots of unfinished stories from all of you. Hoping that in the coming days, I will be able to work on them.

-Nancy (web coordinator

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Whether born there or halfway across the world, it was one world to those people who stayed behind and those who left.

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