Alexander Paskov

Saint Petersburg, Russia

 

I, Alexander Moiseevich Paskov, was born in the city of Leningrad on May 31st, 1931. I am my parents' only child. 

Mama began working when I was four months old. I was taken care of by a nanny, a young village girl by the name of Sasha. When I grew older, I began attending kindergarten. During the summer, I was often sent to live with relatives in Starodub or Klintz. Sometimes Mama went with me, sometimes I went alone. 

 

My family background

During the war

Growing up

After the war

Marriage life and children 

 

My family background

My grandfather on my mother's side, Moisei Beniaminovich Levitin, was bornin 1865 in the city of Pogar, in the Bryansk region. He finished Hebrewschool and was an Orthodox Jew. His native tongue was Yiddish. He livedwith his wife and children in the village of Starodub, formerly of theprovince of Chernigovski (now the Oryol region). He was a minor trader andhandicraftsman. He made honey, wine, and artificial fish fat and otherlubricants, which he then sold at a stall in his town's market. His wife,Sosya Shaevna, was a housewife. They had five children. Grandmother diedyoung, in 1914, when my mother, the youngest in the family, was only eight.They had a one-story stone house with a high porch and a garden.

After Grandmother's death, Grandfather Moisei lived with his oldest son,who was a shop assistant. After the death of that son in 1920 he lived withother children. In 1921 the entire family began organizing the Jewishagricultural commune "Unity" on a farm in Starodub Uyezd. Grandfatherworked there until 1924, until he lost his ability to work at the age of60. After this he became dependant on his son Zinovi, the former chairmanof Unity. Grandfather died at age 70 in 1935. I was visiting Starodub atthat time. I was only four years old and therefore wasn't brought to thecemetery. I remember, however, that Grandfather was buried according toJewish tradition. I watched everything from the high roof of the house.

My paternal grandfather, Yankel Girshevich Paskov, was born in 1864 in oneof the small Jewish enclaves in Chernigovski Province. He was adopted andbrought up by his foster father, Girsh Paskov. The last name given to himat birth was Reizen, but there is no information about his birth mother.People said that his foster father wasn't drafted into the army because hewas the father of an only son-and that is why he adopted my grandfather. Idon't know if this was true, or if there were other reasons. Grandfatherfinished Hebrew school and was a true believer, following Jewish tradition,going to synagogue. He was a member of the Jewish community. He circumcisedhis sons, but wasn't Orthodox.

Grandfather Yankel was a carpenter by profession, but he also knew"turnery"-making objects on a lathe. First he worked in the railroadworkshops, then alone in his carpentry workshop. Sometimes he would take onan apprentice. He taught carpentry to his sons. In 1919 he was aninstructor at the trade union school. He knew carpentry and turnery well,and had 30 years of practical experience. From 1920 to 1922 he worked onthe construction site of a drying factory and power station.

His wife Sarah ran the household and raised the children. I was namedAlexander after Grandmother Sarah. She was Orthodox. Their native languagewas Yiddish. They both died during the Holocaust, shot by Germans, alongwith their son Samuel's and their daughter Hannah's families, in the ghetto-camp in Belovshina.

Grandfather Yankel often corresponded with my father, writing cards inYiddish. My father received the last two cards from my grandfather on the3rd and 4th of August, 1941, in Leningrad. He got no further informationabout the fate of his parents and other relatives. When Starodub wasliberated from German occupation, he learned of their deaths. Sixteenmembers of the Paskov-Levitin died in the Holocaust.

I would now like to describe how the city of Starodub used to be. That cityhas been documented as far back as the 11th century. As described inrecords from 1612, the soldiers of the second False Dimitri, known as the"Tushinski Thief," gathered there before heading for Moscow. In 1906, whenboth my parents were born there, it was a small town in ChernigovskiProvince. 

Many Jews lived in Starodub; it had a synagogue. I visited several timeswhen I was a child, in the summers between 1935 and 1941. In the center ofthe city was "Red Square," a large marketplace. People traveled by horse,so there were tethering posts around the square. On the edge of the squarestood a small one-floor building, like a barn. My grandfather Yankel Paskovlived inside. In this building were two little rooms with very lowceilings. The entrance to his lodgings was through the carpentry workshop,in which his tools hung and his workbench stood. And at the end of a yardwas a cart.

The closest railroad station was called Unecha. We traveled there by horse.In the city was a narrow gauge railroad, used to transport timber, and alsorailroad workshops.

During the war the city was occupied by Germans. All the Jews weredestroyed by the beginning of 1942, although it was said that some wereable to escape into the woods, even from the ghetto-camp. During the Germanretreat the city was greatly damaged: according to a witness, my father'smath teacher Mikhail Kibalchich, 250 houses were burned, including those ofmy relatives. After the war the city was rebuilt, but today there is norailroad in Starodub. It is a "Chernobyl zone," forgotten by God and man.It will probably not become a destination for pilgrimages. Still, one hopesthat the memory of the ancestors will be kept alive.

My father, Moisei (Moisei-Girsh) Yankelevich Paskov, was born on February19th, 1906, during the pogroms. Father first studied at Hebrew school, thenat a Jewish academy. From 1917 to 1924 he studied at the school of Sovietworkers, in the former Starodub Gymnasium. He studied carpentry with hisfather and combined schoolwork with a summer job. He worked on theconstruction of an electric station and a drying factory for the regionaltimber committee.

In 1924 he graduated from school. He and his twin brother, Mark, theyoungest sons of the family, left for Leningrad. He worked as a carpenterin the Volkhovstroi, at Timber Processing Factory #3, on the Okhta River,and at the Avrora plywood factory. While working, he attended eveningclasses in the Polytechnical Department of the Builders' Academy.

He changed his job often because he had no specialized education. One yearhe was even unemployed. Not working was not possible for him, as hisparents were poor and couldn't help him materially. By the end of hiseducation, he was working as a junior technician on the construction of apaper plant, and as a draftsman at the Tekstilstroi, the Institute for theGrowth of Textile Building.

In 1930, Father finished technical college and started to work as the headtechnician at Tekstilstroi, which, by then, had been merged with Gipromez(Black Metallurgy) and renamed Stalproekt. From that time until hisretirement in 1966, my father worked at that institute. He took part in thecreation of the most important centers for black metallurgy in the USSR:Magnitogorsk, Krivoi Rog, Mariupol.

My mother, Estra Moiseevna Levitina, was born on March 4th, 1906, asevidenced by her birth certificate, which was written by the Starodub Rabbion March 31st, 1916. Mama herself told me that she was actually born at theend of 1905, but her official entry into the register of births was delayedby pogroms. She was the youngest daughter in a family with four otherchildren, two sons and two daughters. Estra's mother died early in 1914 andshe was raised by her older sisters, who really spoiled her.

Estra graduated from high school in Starodub in 1924 and left for Leningradto continue her studies-the only one in the family to do so. Each summershe continued to work in the fields of the collective farm.

In 1927 she graduated from the Mordvinovski agricultural school, havingspecialized in agricultural techniques. She had dreamed of becoming anagronomist, working with crops, but in 1926 the school changed itsspecialty to animal husbandry. After graduating, Mama worked at variouslivestock farms as a laboratory assistant for milk and milk productanalysis: in Peterhof, Pella, Starodub, and at the Leningrad milk testingstation. This work didn't make her happy, but finding work as an agronomistwith her zoo-technology degree was not possible in Leningrad.

In 1929 she began working as an assistant to the agronomist of the Kustovcollective farms of the Starodub Regio. There, she also served the Jewishfarm community. Then she left to work as the agronomist for the KustobediniCollective Farm in the Serpuhovski Region. Here she endured the "Cleansingof the Soviet System" in December, 1929, and remained at her post withoutreprimand.

She really liked working as an agronomist, and the only reason for leavingher work was that she married my father and moved to Leningrad in 1930.There she worked in her former school as an instructor of field cropcultivation.

In 1930, my parents married. They had known each other for a long time,since studying together in Starodub. However, in my mother's words, duringschool, "Father didn't notice me." Then they met in the StarodubZemlyachestva in Leningrad and in Starodub. These meetings led to theformation of our family. In 1931 I was born.

After my birth, from 1931 to 1934, my mother worked close to our home. Thiswork was only marginally concerned with farming: it was at the Selhozgiz,the state publisher of agricultural literature.

In 1934 she began work at the Leningrad Agricultural Institute as alaboratory assistant, first in the department of soil science, then in thedepartment of horticulture on Kammen Island, 2nd Beryoz Alley, next to theKinofabrika. She dealt with soil analysis and enjoyed her job. All thefacts about my parents' activities before my birth, I took from theirautobiography, which they wrote in 1938 and kept in the family archives.

 

During the war

During the war our whole family was evacuated to Nizhni Tagil, whereGipromez had a branch. Mother worked for that branch and as a cashier atthe building site. She was later awarded a medal for "Valiant Work duringthe Great Patriotic War 1941-1945." After returning to Leningrad in 1946,she worked as a laboratory assistant in the microbiology section of thewell-known institute of experimental microbiology, VIEM (All-UnionInstitute of Experimental Biology), where vaccines against diphtheria andwhooping cough were being developed. She left her work due to illness. Shewas talkative and curious even in her advanced years, and she passed awayin 1983.

I obtained an understanding of Jewish traditions from my grandfather'shouse in the city of Starodub, but I was only a child then and rememberedvery little. After they moved from Starodub to Leningrad, my parents becamecompletely assimilated. I grew up in a non-religious atmosphere. They knewYiddish from childhood, but didn't follow Jewish traditions. Neither didthe other young people, their friends from the Starodub Zemlyachestva inLeningrad. (A zemlyachestva is formed when people move to a new locationfrom the same village; it's a little diaspora in one location. They meet,spend time together, celebrate holidays and study together.)

The Starodub Zemlyachestva in Leningrad was made up of active and friendlyyoung people, almost all the same age and in the same classes. They hadmuch in common and were very close to each other, especially in theiryouth, but also as they grew older, keeping in close contact with eachother's lives and families. I spoke with members of the StarodubZemlyachestva mostly at family holidays, and I know more about them fromthe stories my mother would tell and her photos. As a child I called allthe members of the Zemlyachestva "Aunt" or "Uncle," or by their last name.Most of the women kept their maiden names and first name-patronymic, athome and at work.

Among the oldest Starodub Zemlyachestva compatriots was the famous writer,Grigori Reilkin, who later worked in Moscow. The composer AlexanderManevich, laureate of the Stalin prize, was a reason for pride among thecompatriots. How great was their bitterness when, at the last minute, hisopera was not premiered. Lev Mendelev was one of the heads of a largeconstruction trust. Before the war he built the Baburinski Zhilmassiv inLes. He also ran the student's practicum at LISI. His wife, Dasha (JudithLevovna Knopova), due to her literary bent, was a teacher, and became thedeputy head of pre-schooling for the city department of education. Hersister Zhena was a journalist. Lev Aronskin was an officer in theEngineering Corps. He finished the war as a colonel, and until 1952 was thehead of the military training department at LISI, where he trained reserveofficers in pontoon bridge building. He also taught camouflage to the girlsfrom the architecture department. Not long ago I met the bard, StanislavSlutzker, captain second class, and it turns out that his father, BorisSlutzker, is also from Starodub. In the 1920's, the artist Yurski lived inStarodub, a fact which his equally famous son, the artist Sergei Yurski,recalled.

In the summer of 1941, when the war began, Mama and I were vacationing withrelatives in Klintz. After a telegram from my father, we were evacuated tothe Urals. We lived in Nizhni Tagil, where my parents worked and I went toschool, until 1944. After our return to Leningrad from the evacuations, Istudied at school #222, "Petershule".

When the war began, my father was supposed to be drafted into the army onJuly 5th, 1941. He was assigned to the home guard, but on June 11, 1941, byorder of the director of Gipromez, he was sent on a lengthy business tripto Sverdlovsk in order to carry out important governmental directives. Hewas therefore taken out of active duty. At this time an armored rollingmill was transported from Kolpino, a village near Leningrad, to the Urals.My father's task was to set up this mill. He worked at a branch ofGipromeza and built blast furnaces in Nizhni Tagil.

In 1944 he returned to Leningrad and brought the mill to the Izhorskifactory in Kolpino. He later took part in the creation of metallurgicalfactories in the USSR (Cherpovetz), in India (Bhilai), and in China(Anshan). In 1958 he graduated from LISI evening school and continued towork at Gidromez, but by this time as an engineer/designer. He was a veryactive person at work, both during his youth in Komsomol and when he wasmuch older. He received many awards, including the Order of the Red Worker.Outside of work he was a quiet and modest person. He wasn't religious. Heknew Yiddish from childhood and corresponded with his father in thatlanguage, but in Leningrad, Jewish traditions weren't observed. He passedaway on September 6th, 1972, and was buried in the Cemetery for Victims ofJanuary 9th.

 

Growing up

From 1949 to 1954, I studied at the architectural faculty of the LeningradInstitute of Engineers and Builders. After graduating from institute, from1955 to 1992 when I retired, I worked as an architect at Giprolestrans, thestate institute of timber transport and forestry, working my way up fromcommon engineer to leading expert. I took part in the design of a greatnumber of projects in our country: Bratsk, Ust-Ilimsk, Petrozavodsk, Baikal-Amur Magistral; and abroad, in Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia and Cuba.

My father's twin brother Mark (Meer-Haim) Paskov graduated from theLeningrad Chemical Polytechnical School. Because this school had the statusof an institute, Mark received his diploma as a specialist in engineering,metallurgy and casting. Until the summer of 1942, he worked as a technicalengineer at the "Bolshevik" factory in Leningrad. In 1943-44 he wasevacuated to Nizhni Tagil, where he worked in his field. After his returnto Leningrad, he worked as an engineer and junior scientist at the NII-13Scientific Research Institute. He died in 1961.

Mark's wife, Fanny Grigorievna Shapiro, was a doctor. Before the war theylived in the city of Pushkin, and after the war in Leningrad on the islandof Vasiliev. Their twins, Alexander and Rosita (Rita), were born in 1937.

Alik (Alexander) graduated from the Gorni Institute and worked as aconstructor of cranes in the factory of lift transport building, as well asfor Baikanur.

Rita graduated from the Institute of Film Engineering and then worked as aengineer/chemist in the "Arsenal" factory. She was married in 1959 toSamuel Goldin. Her son Ilya graduated from Polytechnical Institute as anengineer/metallurgist, and her daughter Anna graduated from LISI as a sewersystem engineer.

The fate of my father's older brother and sister was quite different. Theoldest brother, Samuel, was a carpenter like his father, and worked at theDetkomissi workshop. The oldest sister, Hannah, married a salesman, EfimBlumkin, who became the head of a food store. The youngest sister, Haya,suffered from epilepsy and was unable to work.

When the war began, none of them evacuated. At the end of the war Fathersent requests for information on their fate, both to officialorganizations, such as the Starodub city council, and to acquaintances,including my father's math teacher, Mikhail Kibalchich. From the answers tothese questions it became clear that all our relatives had been killed.Kibalchich wrote the most in-depth explanation of their fates, in a letterdated November 25th, 1943. Samuel's daughter Mina was killed by a bomb onthe third day after the Germans' arrival in Starodub. After 10 days, SamuelYankelevich, his wife Rahil Davidovna, their son Dodik, and my father'sparents-like all the Jews in Starodub-were sent to a ghetto camp set up inBelovshin on a former collective farm. Each Jew was allowed to take as manyof their personal possessions as they could carry at one time, and the restwas confiscated. Three days after arrival, all the men were shot. The womenand children were kept in the camp until Spring. They lived there incramped quarters, in the cold, and with little food. In March, 1942, theGermans shot everyone who was left.

The Starodub city council sent a letter dated December 10th, 1943 thatconfirmed this information, and added that this horror also touched theLevant family, my mother's sister, and the Blumkins. Hannah, her husbandEfim, and their son Alexander also died.

Hannah's two other children, Igor (Isaac) and Fanna, had been studying inMoscow before the war, and survived. Igor, after graduating from a militaryacademy, enlisted in the Baltic Navy and then became the director of thecafeteria at the Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow. Fanna (whosemarried name was Shaikevich), moved with her son Alexander's family toIsrael.

My father and Uncle Mark were very close to their cousin Adolf (Alter)Velkomski. He was their age, having also been born in 1906 in Starodub, andthey left for Leningrad to study together. He graduated from the LeningradInstitute of Water Transport and became an engineer and builder. Before thewar he worked on the construction site of the large Ferganski Canal and themilitary port in Tallin.

During the blockade, he was a colonel engineer on the Leningrad front. Hewas injured. After hospitalization, he finished the advanced militarypolitical academy in Central Asia in four months, and went back to thefront as a zampolit (second in command) in an artillery division. However,in his first battle after joining our soldiers near Smolensk, he was badlyinjured in the stomach by shrapnel from a mine. He lost consciousness andlay in the crater. After the battle was over he was retrieved and sent tothe military field hospital, and from there by plane to Moscow, where hewas checked in to the Burdenko Hospital and his life was saved. He remainedan invalid and was demobilized.

 

After the war

After that he worked first as the head engineer at the Zhilishni Trust onthe Petrograd side of Leningrad, and then as a designer at Giprospetzgaz,the institute of projects for the gas industry. He was a very active andenergetic person, an activist in the Komsomol and the chariman of theProfkom at Giprospetzgaz for 15 years. Because of his shortenedparticipation in it, he didn't like to talk about the war.

Mark and Adolf married the Shapiro sisters, Fanny and Marie, fromZaporozhia, at the beginning of the 1930s. Their father was a minorcraftsman and died in Leningrad. Adolf and Marie's children are Irma (whosemarried name is Kozub), born in 1932, and Asya, born in 1948. Both now livein Petersburg.

Mother's older brother was a salesman who died young, in 1920. Her secondbrother, Zinovi (Zalman), born in 1900, was one of the bosses of theagricultural movement and one of the organizers of the Jewish agriculturalcommune "Unity" in the Spring of 1921. At one time he was Unity's chairman.The commune was located on a farm on the Belovshina Starodub administrativeunit. In 1934, when the commune moved to the Crimea, the Levitin familystayed in Starodub. Zinovi worked as an accountant for MTS, the machine andtractor station. During the war he served in the Rokossovski Army as asenior lieutenant and was awarded the Red Star and a medal for heroism.After the war he worked in the finance department of the RegionalAgricultural Administration in the city of Oryol. He died there in 1981. Hehad no children.

Mother's oldest sister, Sonia, was married to Avraam Levant, a farmer. Iremember him as bearded, in boots, and with a whip. When the commune moved,Sonya and her husband transferred to another agricultural community. Theirchildren, Lyonya and Raia, were schoolchildren older than me when the warbegan. The entire family stayed in Starodub and were killed in the ghetto-camp that the farm was turned into.

My mother's other sister, Liza (whose married name was Shifrina), was asalesman's wife. They lived in Klintsi, where they perished during the war,along with their daughter Raeya, who was my age.

My mother's cousin Zinovi Lokshin was a violinist and an accountant whospent the war as an officer. After the war he lived in Leningrad and workedas the head accountant for the October 25th Hospital. His son and daughterboth have higher education. His son is studying technical science and hisdaughter is a philologist. We often speak with this family.

 

Marriage life and children

I met my wife, Galina Zotova, at work; we worked at the same institute. Wewere married in 1959, and our daughter, Anna, was born on June 8th, 1960.My wife then quit her job and both brought up our daughter and took care ofthe household. My wife is ethnically Russian. She was born in Leningrad onOctober 9th, 1930. Her parents were from Arkhangelsk. Her father, DimitriMoiseevich Zotov, was a salesman. Galina graduated from secondary school inVolhova, where her family lived at that time. She began to work at theLeningrad Institute Giprolestrans in 1953, and in 1958 she graduated fromthe Leningrad branch of the All-Union Correspondence Builders' Institute asa hydrolic engineer. She majored in water supply and sewer systems, andworked at this until our daughter was born.

My daughter Anna obtained her diploma in power engineering at the LeningradShipbuilders' Institute. Today she works as a programmer. Her son, YegorPaskov, was born in 1987 and attends secondary school. Anna and Yegor livewith us.

Country: 
City: 
Saint Petersburg

Interview details

Interviewee: Alexander Paskov
Interviewer:
Ludmila Liuban
Month of interview:
October
Year of interview:
2001
Saint Petersburg, Russia

KEY PERSON

Alexander Paskov
Jewish name:
Moisei-Girsh
Year of birth:
1931
City of birth:
Leningrad
Country name at time of birth:
Soviet Union
Occupation
after WW II:
Working in natural and technical sciences

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