Today. Makhnovka (49°43´N 28°40´E) is located in western Ukraine. It is 13 miles SSE of Berditchev, 27 miles NNE of Vinnitsa, 96 miles SW of Kiev. Administratively, it is in the Kozyatyn raion, in the Vinnitsa oblast. It is situated along the west bank of the Gnilopyat River (which also passes by Berditchev). On many modern maps (including Mapquest) you may find it by its Soviet-era name Komsomol's'ke. A 1976 1:100,000 topo map shows the town at about 250m (800' above sea level), on a barely sloping river bank, with no prominent hills or elevation variation in the general area. The town is near a wide spot in the river, where several small streams feed into it from both sides.
19th Century. Makhnovka was within the "Pale of Settlement" of the Russian Empire. On this map from the 1882 Blackie & Sons Atlas, it is shown as being in the Kiev guberniya, but it was very close to the Podolia and Volhynia guberniyas, and the exact borders moved around. It was most closely linked to Berditchev, which was a major Jewish center. In addition, researchers have reported family connections to other nearby shtetls including Vinnitsa, Pikov, Lityn, and Vachnovka. It was about 75 miles east of the eastern edge of Galicia.
Other Names. The Russian name is typically transliterated as Makhnovka. The Yiddish name varies slightly, but may be transliterated as Machnovka, Machnowka, or even Machnivka (which seems closest to the pronunciation reported by several grandchildren of emigrants from this shtetl). More significantly, the name of the town was entirely changed in 1935 to Komsomol's'ke (or Komsomolskoye), which was a very common town name during the Soviet era (meaning something like "young communist league town"). In 2001, the village council elected to return to their historic name of Makhnovka.
Which Makhnovka? In searching atlases (or using online geographic search tools such as the JewishGen ShtetlSeeker), one will discover that there are several towns with this same name, and even more with closely matching names. There is a Machnowka near Krosno, Poland (former Galicia), and two Makhnovkas in the Poltava district of Ukraine, as well as a couple more inside Russia proper (slightly beyond the Pale). The standard resource Where Once We Walked did not help to dispel this confusion, saying only "A number of towns share this name. It was not possible to determine which was being referenced." However, further research suggests that the Makhnovka near Berditchev is the "right" one for Jewish genealogical interest. A variety of Makhnovka references in books and papers all turn out to point to the same Makhnovka, as did the personal accounts of all Makhnovka descendants discovered using JewishGen FamilyFinder. Thus far, there does not seem to have been any Jewish community in the other Makhnovkas, and the confusion can be removed in favor of the Makhnovka near Berditchev described in this ShtetLink web page. (Care should also be taken to keep this town distinct from the similarly-named Vachnovka, which did have a Jewish population, and is just a bit east of Vinnitsa along the Bug river.)
Polish Commonwealth (1569-1793). From the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (which was known commonly as "Poland") in 1569, until the Partition of Poland and annexation by the Russian Empire circa 1793, the region of western Ukraine was part of the Crown lands of Poland. Jews fared reasonably under the Commonwealth, which had an official policy of religious tolerance, though their affiliation with the Polish and Lithuanian landowners made them secondary targets of the periodic Cossack and peasant uprisings. The first mention of Jews in Makhnovka comes in 1648 in an account from the Cossack-Polish War (1648-57), when Chmielnicki's Cossacks attacked the local fortress and murdered a number of Poles and Jews. Over 100 years later, in 1765, six Jews are recorded in Makhnovka (presumably from the tax census of that year). [References: EJLBDH]
Tsarist Russian Empire (1793-1914). Upon the Partition of Poland (circa 1793), territories including western Ukraine were annexed into the Russian Empire. Tsarist Russia, which was officially orthodox Christian and intolerant of Jews, suddenly acquired a significant Jewish population in their annexed territories. As a result, the "Pale of Settlement" was created, generally restricting Jews to living in the territories, but not in "Russia proper". Jews during this period had a generally harder time, at best being isolated, and at worst being visited with pogroms. In the census of 1897, the village of Makhnovka had 2,435 Jews out of a total population of 5,343 (about 45%). [References: EJLBDH] On an 1845 Russian map, "Machnowka" was the chief city of the Machnowka uyezd in Kiev guberniya, while "Berdyczow" was just a small town in Zhitomir uyezd of Volhynia guberniya. When the railroads were developed (some time after 1860), the railroad went through Berditchev and Kazatin (7 miles east of Machnovka), but bypassed Makhnovka. This caused Makhnovka to decline, while both Berditchev and Kazatin grew. Sometime around the turn of the century, Berditchev was separated from Volhynia guberniya and joined to Kiev guberniya, replacing Makhnovka as the chief city of the uyezd (which was renamed from the Machnowka uyezd to the Berdichev uyezd). Anecdotally, JewishGen researchers generally report that their ancestors emigrated from Makhnovka between the late 1880s up to 1913 (just before revolution and WWI), for reasons of hard times and lack of opportunity.
Soviet Union (1921-1941). In Makhnovka in the mid-1920s, a Jewish rural council (soviet) was set up. Jews were employed in a sugar refinery, brickyard, asphalt plant, and kolkhoz. A Jewish elementary school was opened in 1925, operating up to the 1930s. A few dozen children attended a "heder" set up in the late 1920s. [References: EJLBDH]
German invasion (1941-1945). In 1939, the Jewish population of Makhnovka was 843. The Germans captured the town on 14 July 1941 and on 9 Sept. executed 835 jews in the Zhezhlevsk forest 3 miles (5 km) from Komsomolske. A ghetto (or camp) was then set up for the few hundred Jews still in the area. They were murdered in a number of "Aktions" in 1942. On 13 Dec. 1942, the last seven Jewish artisans were murdered. [References: EJLBDH]
York Landsmanshaftn / Burial Plots
When Jews emigrated from their shtetls, they often joined with their fellow landsmen to form immigrant benevolent associations, known as landsmanshaftn. These organizations collected dues to provide help to their members in times of sickness or unemployment. Significantly, these organizations would purchase community cemetery plots, insuring that their members all had a place for proper Jewish burial. There were at least two such aid associations formed in New York by landsmen of Makhnovka, and burial plots in at least four different New York area cemeteries, providing valuable genealogical resources on New York immigrants from Makhnovka. Click here for more details. (new! added photos of Mt. Zion Makhnovka society burial plot)
In 19th century Eastern Europe, the business of book publishing often entailed the author (or his agents) to go from town to town, soliciting "pre-subscribers", who would pay for the book up front to cover the cost of its publication. These "pre-subscribers" (prenumerantn in Yiddish) would then be acknowledged by town and by name in the printed edition of the book. As many books from that time survive (while many census and metrical records do not), these prenumerantn lists may be a valuable genealogical resource. Click here for more details.
Families (Researcher Scrapbook)
An online scrapbook of families from Makhnovka, their recollections and photos. Each entry is told from the point of view of a JewishGen researcher, and how they and their family are connected to Makhnovka. It is our hope that this scrapbook can help sketch the lives and people of our shtetl, that recollections may inspire other recollections, and that maybe family members can find ancestral connections here. Click here to see the scrapbook.
Hasidic dynasty in Makhnovka
There was a Hasidic dynasty in Makhnovka from the latter half of the 19th century, beginning with Grand Rabbi Yoseph Meir Twersky (1860- 29 Av 1917) of Machnovka, son of Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua Heshl of Skver. After World War II, the Makhnifker Rebbe was banished to Siberia by Soviet authorities, and in 1965 was allowed to emigrate to Israel, where the dynasty continues. The Makhnifer rebbes are part of the Chernobyl dynastic group of families. A Wikipedia article provides more info.
Aleichem, Sholom, Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem.
In the story "Home for Passover", he talks about taking a boat across the Bug River still filled with ice. "Take it the way a man does if he's on his way from Machnivka to Berdichev for the Sabath..." While Sholom Aleichem wrote vivid descriptions of Jewish life in turn-of-the-century Ukraine, he made up most of his place names and his geography cannot be taken too literally. While it is likely our grandfathers may have traveled the dozen miles from Machnovka to Berdichev for the Sabbath, it is the small, short Gnilopyat River they would have crossed. The much larger Bug River starts near Chmelnitz, passes about 30 miles south of Machnovka, through Vinnitsa, and then flows hundreds of miles southeast to the Baltic Sea. But forget the geographic quibble and enjoy the passing mention of our ancestral town in these stories of life in our grandparents' time and region.
Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People
The archives (http://sites.huji.ac.il/archives) has 8 miscellaneous files concerning the town of Machnovka (which they report is located between Berdichev and Vinnitsa). These documents are all in Russian, are scattered across various microfilms and paper copies, and would require a personal visit to the archives to research them, as the archives staff are not able to conduct detailed research.
file on an informer named Goldenberg, 1837 (6 microfilm frames)
file regarding an assault of a vicar that was committed by Jews; 1838 (30 microfilm frames)
report on houses and shops that were destroyed by a fire, 1841 (34 microfilm frames)
2 files regarding the set of rules of the Hevre Kadisha (altogether 816 microfilm frames) (the material is of a general nature, and probably contains no specific names)
A file on the election of a rabbi for the region of Berdichev (177 microfilm frames) (the Jews of Machnovka together with many other towns participated in the election)
2 files containing statistics on the Jews of Machnovka (altogether 83 microfilm frames)
file from the 3rd department (secret police of the Tsar) regarding Jews in various towns (65 pages of paper copies)
Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust
Makhnovka has a paragraph in this encyclopedia, which provided much of the information in the History above.
Kagan, Berl, Sefer HaPrenumerantn, (New York: Ktav, 1975).
A seminal work, indexing books with lists of prenumerantn. Machnovka is Kagan #4660. According to Kagan, there are two books with prenumerantn from Machnovka. There are no authors, congregations, or fraternal societies from Machnovka indexed.
Rosenstein, Neil, Latter Day Leaders, Sages, and Scholars
(New Jersey: 1983).
[This book is said to have a reference to Makhnovka according to WOWW, but I haven't tracked it down yet.]
New York City Incorporation Papers, 1848-1920, I-154.
Collection of the American Jewish
Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York,
Includes incorporation papers for two Machnowka-related landsmanshaftn.
Weinstein, Miriam, Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova (New
York: YIVO, 1999).
Contains a listing by town of available genealogical records in Ukrainian archives. No listing for Makhnovka (or Komsolmo's'ke). For Berdichev, only very scattered years for metrical records. Census for 1869-74 and 1880-90 for Berdichev is in "KIEV2". Census for 1855-69 for Berdichev uezd is in Rovno. It is unknown whether these would include Makhnovka or not.
[WOWW] Mokotoff, Gary, Where Once
We Walked (Bergenfeld NJ: Avotaynu, 2002).
"Makhnovka (also Machnowka, Mochnovka), pop 2025. Sources: CAHJP, HSL, LDL, SF. A number of towns share this name. It was not possible to determine which one is being referenced."
JGFF - JewishGen Family Finder
The JGFF allows you to find other researchers interested in Makhnovka, and to register your own interest in the shtetl. As of February 2012, there are 24 researchers registered for Makhnovka.
This page maintained by Tom Chatt. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or contributions.
Updated by TRC 19 Feb 2012
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