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Rēzekne Families Stories and Pictures

The KOGEN/ZAK Family

This material was submitted by
Eli Valk

My father was born in Kasoka (north of Rezekne). My mother, Afna-Leah Kogen, was born in Rezekne in 1912.

My great-grandfather Gavriel Kogen had 4 sons. His son Hirsch, my grandfather, was born in 1870. My uncle David had a building material store in the center of town. (Some people had stores in their houses.) Most of the stores there were owned by Jews.

My mother had an uncle called Shlomo Zak (this names means "from a holy seed"). His son Zelig Zak came on Aliyah in the 1920's. He was a member of the Lechi Organization. He was murdered by the British in February, 1941. He is listed by the surname "Jack" in the Lechi Memorial book.

My mother belonged to the Zionist Youth Organization – HaShomer HaZair. She was a pioneer and came on Aliyah to live and work in Palestine. Therefore she had a Brittishpasport. Four years before the Holocaust her father influenced her to return to Latvia and study something; so that she would have an occupation and would not have to work as a cleaning woman. He said he would deposit 2000 Pounds Sterling in a Palestinian bank and then the family would be able to come on Aliyah as investors.

My parents married and lived in Riga. My oldest brother was born there. At the beginn ing of the WAR, they fled separately into Russia. They found each other with help of relatives who had previously settled there. I was born in Russia. After the War, they returned to Riga, where my youngest brother was born.

I was a member of the "underground", which helped Jews to escape from Russia to Israel. Then Latvia was the Zionist center of the USSR.

I came on Aliyah in 1971.Then there was a big Aliyah from Latvia. My mother and my 2 brothers came on Aliyah on April 2, 1971.

Jews who had property in Latvia were able to get it returned to them between 1992 and 1996; if they had documents proving that it belonged to them. We received our parents and grandparents houses and sold them. Because of taxes here and there we did not get much money. I visited Rezekne and photographed the house.

Now I am head of the Association of Latvian and Estonian Jewry in Israel. Sometimes I go to Latvia on official business.