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 Press.

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 learned Russian.

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.

L. C. Kravitz

Rockville, MD






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