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       Date Last Updated: 18-May-2012

Vitebsk Families Stories and Pictures


The Shaikevich Family

This information was donated by IS

IS hopes that she is telling the whole story, she is telling everything that she knows:

Our Family has been living in Vitebsk for 400 years; which means since the beginning of the Jewish settlement in Vitebsk. My family was made up mainly of simple Jewish people. Mymy Greatgrandmother, on my Motherís side was a seamstress, and her daughter, my grandmother, was a teacher. She is still alive.

During WWII my Grandmother and Great-grandmother were evacuated from Vitebsk. They were on a train and there was a bomb scare. Everyone tried to escape to the forest. My Grandmother got separated from her Mother. My Grandmother was then 8 years old. A soldier found her and hid her under his coat. He saw a lady sitting and crying and shouted to her to stop crying and be quiet for her daughter was with him. They found a small low tent and stayed there for a while. Afterwards they moved and a woman, who seemed not to be Jewish, helped them. She took them into her house and gave them food and books to read. She should be considered one of the saints who helped Jews during WWII, for she did risk her life by doing so.

They realized that they were very close to Vitebsk, but dared not flee from this place and return. They heard that many Jews were being killed in Vitebsk. The Vitebsk area was made up of many villages with large Jewish populations. A pit had been dug for the Jews of this area.

My Grandfather from my Fatherís side was in the secret service of the Soviet Air Force. He was married before the War. During the War, he returned to his village, which was near Vitebsk; and saw his wife and 3 children murdered before his eyes. It is hard for me to understand what he went through. Afterwards he married again. He married the woman who became my Grandmother. My Father and Aunt are named after our Grandfatherís murdered children My other Grandfather was in the Soviet Navy after the War.

The Jews of Vitebsk, as all the Russian Jews were quite influenced by the Soviet government. They believed in this government. Perhaps this was due to previous BUND propaganda. They subconsciously hid their feeling of Jewish identity. Some knew a bit of Yiddish and ate some Jewish foods.

My parents grew up in Vitebsk, in this atmosphere. They were influenced by Communism. They didnít actually feel their Jewish identity until about 1990. Then the Vitebsk Jews (as the Jews of all of the USSR) began to return to their roots.

From about 1989 through 1994 the gates were opened for Jewish immigration from the USSR. Jews tried to get to Vienna and from there were to come to Israel. Many Jews changed their plans and tickets and went on to the USA. Afterwards there seems to have been an agreement between the USA and Israel whereas the United States government didnít accept many Jews. Therefore less Jews went to the USA and Jews began to go to Germany.

Today there is an Orthodox Chabad (Lubavitch) Synagogue in Vitebsk. Both young and old people attend this Synagogue. The Synagogue gives help to Jewish people and there are Sabbath and Holiday celebrations held there. There is also a Chabad representative there. The Jewish Agency has many activities. These activities both help and educate the Vitebsk Jews. Therefore many Vitebsk Jews leave Vitebsk and come to Israel.

I attended the STARS group. This is a program for Jews (people who are Jewish according to Jewish law) which teaches Jewish culture and religion. It also gives a good scholarship. There are various study groups and seminars. This group has many members.

I am now participating in the OFEK program for Russian students. I plan to stay in Israel and go into the Israeli army.

I hope that I have done justice to my family and to my Jewish heritage and to the Jews of Vitebsk.