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       Date Last Updated: 18-May-2012

Vitebsk Families Stories and Pictures



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My father Jacob (Yasha), the middle of five brothers, was born in Vitebsk, circa 1900. Indeed, either in his autobiography or a biography Chagall, in the first sentence stated I grew with the five Yavitch brothers.

I know the oldest died in the early days of WWI. The second, Leo, walked to then Palestine circa 1925 and went to Pardess Hanna where he lived until his death. Indeed his grandson led the assault that returned Mt. Hermon to Israel in the Yom Kipper war. AHUVIK, my cousin in Israel (actually his daughter) has also been doing research but to date we have been unable to learn very much. A few years ago I spent a lot of time using her surname and made contact with a few people but we could not establish any link.

My father escaped in 1922, and arrived in New York December of 1923. I just read my father's thesis from Cornell' which he wrote for his Masters Degree, and I found the below. "Isaac Yavitch, at the end of his military service in Dvinsk met and married Feiga (also I found his spelling Feyga) and my sister is named Fayga Leah Gafinovtich " (also various spelling). By the by, my father invented the bazooka, indeed, at first it was called Yavitch's telescope.

I know from him telling us, and I from what I have now found in my Father's documents, that his father Isaac died in 1906 or 07; yet when I look at cemetery records I cannot find his name.

The youngest brother, Joseph (a graduate engineer), wrote my father just prior to the start of WWI,I stating Stalin further forbid contact. Any and all research regarding Joseph by myself and other family members to date has been futile. My youngest brother is named after him. (My mother told us every time one of us was born she asked my father if he wanted to honor his brother and in the early 50s, obviously he said yes.)

My grandmother Feyga (Fayga)-Leah died on October 26th 1932 but I do not know where she is buried. The remaining brother left Vitebsk; and his daughter is now in New York. She also does not know where our grandmother is buried. I know that very, very poor the boys went to the cemetery to say prayers for kopecks.

After research, I desire very much to find out where my grandmother was buried, for she had such a hard life. I think of my father's endeavors and insistence and that his children get an education which gave us great lives. Therefore, I do want to stand over her grave, for her hardships were not for naught.

My maternal family is from Lepel but for another day. By the way, my daughter Judith Esther, is named for my father and maternal grandmother who was from Lepel. I always smile, my father born in Vitebsk, meets my mother born in Philadelphia, at the Jewish Y in that city.

I just retired and am spending time trying to find out more about my paternal family. Sadly, as is the case with far too many Jewish families, politics has torn the family asunder again and again.