Legends of Anatevka

The characters and themes of Tevye the Milkman— the inspiration for play Fiddler on the Roof—echo in some of the family stories from this shtetl.   It turns out that the great Yiddish novelist and writer known as Sholom Aleichem (Sholem Rabinovich, 1859-1916) had a summer cottage in the village of Boyarka, only a few miles east of Ignatovka.  It was said that he spent time each year walking to and visiting the nearby villages, collecting stories and observing the colorful characters in the rural communities.  Sholom Aleichem created the rambunctious Tevye, name-sake for the stories Tevye, the Milkman first published in 1894.  

My own family has one branch which passed down stories of my great-aunt Sorah, whose childhood friend was said to be Tseitel, the rebellious daughter who gave Tevye much tsouris and headache.   Aunt Sorah’s parents in Ignatovka might have been a competitor to Tevye as they themselves had a cow and sold their milk and other comestibles in a rudimentary ‘grocery’, in their house.  It is not clear if Tevye, the man, or the inspiration for the character, lived in Ignatovka or nearby, or was perhaps purely fictional. 

It turns out that two other families who lived in this shtetl also have Tevye stories in their histories.  One account tells of Sholom Aleichem's visit to the village.  It should be noted that the town serving as the setting for Tevye the Milkman, was never identified by name by the author.  Anatevka was the adopted name for the village in Fiddler the play, as well as being the Yiddish name for the shtetl.

The author is commemorated by a life-sized bronze statue in a “parklet” along a main boulevard of Kiev, adjacent the huge Brodskiy Synagogue (See Photos).  

Fact, legend and fiction blend seamlessly in the summer breezes around Anatevka.

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