Henda Zimelikhina

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  • Photo taken in:
    Vetka
    Year when photo was taken:
    1940
    Country name at time of photo:
    Soviet Union
    Country name today:
    Belarus

This is my Aunt Henda, my mother's oldest sister.

Henda was a housewife, and her husband worked in the supply business.

They lived in Vetka. They had two sons. The elder, Herz, was a student in Gomel, and he was in love with a Russian girl. When the war started, he joined the partisans.

When Herz came back to Vetka, his beloved betrayed him, and the Germans shot him. Henda with her husband, Haim, and son Alexander, born in 1930, were evacuated to Asia, where she died in 1943.

My mother, Rachel Herzevna Erenburg, was born in Shzedrin in 1907. She graduated from a Jewish elementary school. In her youth, she helped her widowed mother around the house and in the vegetable garden. She worked for the rich Jews, as a day laborer and in a candy factory. She was joyful, sang well and acted in an amateur theater.

My father, Boris Davidovich Erenburg, was born in Shzedrin in 1907. The family was religious, but poor. He became a shoemaker's apprentice, and at the age of 16, he started to work on his own.

As there was not much work in Shzedrin, he worked in the adjacent villages. He came to a village, collected orders, lived with one family, then with another where he worked. Those were Belorussian families, but meals were cooked for him separately, because he ate only kosher food.

My parents married in 1926. I was born in 1927, the eldest of four children. We moved to Bobruisk when Father had a job in a plywood manufacturing plant. When the war started, Bobruisk was almost instantly bombed.

We went to Shzedrin by foot, but Germans arrived there very soon, and we returned to Bobruisk. The first execution of Jews was on September 9, 1941.

We were ordered into the ghetto in October. Father and I escaped and hoped to free Mother and the children, but on November 7, the Germans shot 30,000 Jews from Bobruisk, including Mother, Grandmother, my little brother, sisters and our other relatives.

Father and I were with the partisans from March 1942 until June 1944. During the war, 25 members of our family were killed. Only six survived: my father, three cousins, me and my uncle's wife, Khaya. She later married my father.

There are no Jews living in Shzedrin now. The Jewish agricultural colony of Shzedrin existed exactly 100 years - from 1842 to 1942.

After the war, I went to a forestry technical school, and then I was directed to Leningrad to Giprodrev, the state institute where they designed wood-processing plants.

I worked in this institute until 1992, climbing all the way from a technician up to the main engineer of the project. I was the secretary in the Komsomol organization of the institute.

Komsomol and the Communist Party were very aggressive in anti-religious propaganda and rejected any religion. This is a reason for my assimilation, and this is why I turned 180 degrees from being a religious man into a Soviet-type atheist.

I married Raisa Grigorievna, my second wife, in 1963. Like me, she is from Belorussia. Her father was Jewish, her mother, Belorussian. I met Raisa in 1961 when she came to work in our institute in Leningrad.

Our daughter, Lida, was born in 1966. I divorced my first wife because she did not want to have children.

Interview details

Interviewee: Grigory Erenburg
Interviewer:
Ludmila Liuban
Month of interview:
November
Year of interview:
2001
Saint Petersburg, Russia

KEY PERSON

Henda Zimelikhina
Year of birth:
1905
City of birth:
Shzedrin
Country name at time of birth:
Russia
Year of death:
1943
Died where:
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Occupation
before WW II:
Housewife
Family names
  • Previous family name: 
    El
    Year of changing: 
    1923
    Reason for changing: 
    Marriage

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