Boyarka is a town located in Lisyanka district of Cherkassy region of central Ukraine. Boyarka is located on the Gniliy Tikich River, a tributary of the South Bug. The town’s estimated population is 654 (as of 2009).
Before the Revolution it was a shtetl of Zvenigorodka yezd, Kiev guberniya.
Boyarka is approx. 32 km from Korsun and in 160 km from Kiev.
The first evidence of the Jewish community of Boyarka, dating back to the early XVII century, was found in the Kiev Regional Archive. In 1625, three Jewish families were mentioned in the tax records of Boyarka town.
According to the census of 1765, 13 Jewish families were resident in Boyarka. In 1768, as a result of the Haydamaks’ uprising, the number of Jews was down to seven families. Others must have moved to safer locations. The Jewish community in Boyarka underwent a boost in the XIX century.
Jewish population of Boyarka:
1625 – 3 families
1765 – 13 families
1847 – 497 Jews
1897 – 720 (40%)
1923 – 106 Jews
1926 – 53 Jews
In 1837, a European community was formed with Kagan Leyba the chairman, Avraam Skliarskyy the treasurer and Chaim Sokolov the rabbi. In 1847, 497 Jews lived in Boyarka. In 1863, the Boyarka Jewish community constructed a synagogue, now housing the local House of Culture.
In 1877-1879, the famous Yiddish author Shalom-Aleichem used to attend the synagogue in Boyarka every Saturday. He worked as a teacher in the family of a Jewish tenant Elimelekh Loyev in the neighboring village of Sofiyka.
In the early XX century, Boyarka boasted two synagogues, one for the Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) and another one for Hassidic Jews. Contemporaries would recall that while the parents were praying, their children were engaged in gang warfare, involving fighting and boxing matches between the communities. In 1898, seven Jewish businessmen were officially registered in Boyarka. Four of them, Titelchuk, Belopolski, Eisenberg, and Sokol, were food manufactures, one of them, Neymark, was a winemaker, and two of them, Titelchuk and Neymark, were engaged in trade.
Monument to Shalom-Aleichem in village of Sofiyka (11 kilometers from Boyarka)
Beyt Lazarov, a professor at the University of San-Diego, USA, provided a list of 62 Jews from Boyarka, Zvenigorod district who voted in the elections to the Parliament (Duma) in 1906.
The materials concerning the lawsuit of 1908 against Yankel Moshkovich Stavyskyy, a Boyarka resident, by his neighbors Skhariy Sokol Kisil Golodayl, Nukhum Sokol, Ruvin Zeyger, Ruful Yablochnik, and Itsik Svirtsik are still preserved at the Kiev Regional Archive, where they challenged Stavyskyy from building a gas-powered mill on the right bank of the river Hnylyy Tikych as it would be too noisy and disturb the neighbors. The court granted Y.M. Stavyskyy permission to build the mill but it had to be constructed as far as possible from the residents’ houses and Yankel had to pay 11 rubles and 25 kopeks of State Court Tax. This lawsuit engendered such animosity between the families that, according to D Borowitz, their descendants in the US are still engaged in constant mutual litigation.
Boyarka entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913
In 1914, 2,054 Jews were resident lived in the Boyarka district, which was 14 % of its total population, with over 800 Jews residing in Boyarka. The accounting books of the Boyarka District Council from 1916-1917 are kept by the local museum. The names of Leyb Pokhorovskiy, Volko Fastovskiy, Sobol Gershl, Yankel Olshanskyy, A.Kagan, Gavriela Dobrovolska, Malka Kagan, Sava Kagan, Mendel Hershkovych Sigalov, Golberg Srul, Avraam Laviter, Iday Galperin, Khavva Yaklovska, Sava Baklovskyy, Radion Sinitskyy, Sh. Frimen, Yankel Braverman, Shifra Pokhorovska, Khana Kagan, Gdal Alpere, Yakiv Leyb Braverman, Leyba Bilopolska are found in the records.
Civil War pogroms
In 1917, the first victim of Jewish pogroms was recorded. Nekhama Prokhorovskyy was murdered on his way to Poberezhka village. In June 1918, two dead bodies of Samuel Sokol and Idal Rzhavskyy were found in the forest near Boyarka. A paramilitary unit swept through the shtetl and looted some Jewish stores. Luckily there were no victims. The first significant Jewish pogrom was carried out by the Red Army detachment of Popov-Kozakov on the 15th of June 1919. The Hassidic Jews of Boyarka were mostly targeted. The Jews were herded into the synagogue and ordered to hand over their money and gold. After that, they were led to Semenivka village, where they were forced into the river Hnylyy Tikych. Those who didn’t drown were shot or murdered, with 87 people dying on that day. According to the sole survivor, A Golbert, who later moved to the US, the murdering mob were shouting “Where is your God?”
Former market square and site of 2 synagogues (Hasidic and Litvish) in Boyarka
Here are some names of those who perished: Yud Belopolskyy, Aaron Dubov, Avrum Sinitskyy, Ishiy Sokol, Danisa Sokol, Luzer Podkaminskyy, Yankel Krupnik, Smikha Shubinskiy, Gershko Prokhorovskiy, Volko Postovetskiy, Gershon Grinfeld, Shloma Rakhlis, Gershm Dyvinokiy.
On the 8th of September 1919, the Directory (the first Ukrainian Parliament) government sent its representative Ivan Derevenskiy to Boyarka to investigate the pogroms. The population was so frightened that only 14 people agreed to testify. The findings of the investigation can be found at the Kiev Regional Archive now.
I.Derevenskiy says: “In August 1919, a group of soldiers entered Boyarka. Eight people from the Denikin’s Volunteers army started to demand money from a single Jewish woman at her own house. As this was happening, the woman’s daughter said: “You are not soldiers, you are bandits”, for which she was killed. The bandits also burgled some other households. On the 24th of August 1919, a unit of 20 Denikin’s soldiers entered Boyarka and stopped near the “New Market”. They surrounded Jewish shops and ordered everyone to keep away. The following morning the soldiers started looting the shops, taking the loot to the square and piling it up. Then they forced all Jews to congregate on the central square threatening them with death. Poor Jews were led to the headquarters, the building of the local council. The soldiers demanded money and gold from the Jews, torturing and killing many. Then, most Jews were taken to the nearby forest and murdered there. This pogrom lasted for two days, Sunday and Monday, until the commandant arrived and put a stop to the atrocities. During the pogrom many Jews, particularly children, survived rescued by Ukrainian families. They also interceded on behalf of the family of a rich Jew called Bruzhenitskiy. Here is a story of Chaya Misonshnik’s family. The soldiers offered Chaya to baptise her daughters Berel and Semia and save their lives. She refused and the whole family was murdered by the soldiers.
Village Board. Many Jews were killed in the front of this building by Denikin’s soldiers. Building was destroyed after WWII.
The third and the most terrible Jewish pogrom in Boyarka was instigated by the soldiers of D. Kvitkovskiy’s detachment in the spring of 1920.
Here is how Aaron Golberg describes this pogrom. “Every Jew they could find was killed. The streets run with Jewish blood. Two heroes must be remembered. Mendel Ruben Gerts and Leyba Kuzhner, the sons of rabbi David Kuzhner, came to the synagogue to defend the Torah. When this day was finally over, the remaining Jews gathered to bury the dead. Everyone dug a pit for their relatives. All bodies were buried within a week. The Boyarka shtetl, which survived for 300 years, was now no more. 118 people were killed during this pogrom. The commander of Kvitkovsky detachment Levko Khimich took an active part in the pogrom. He used to be a vet in Boyarka.
Last Jewish house in Boyarka. It was a drugstore before Revolution
About 800 Jews were recorded in Boyarka in 1917, 180 people died before the pogrom by the end of 1919. In 1920, 118 Jews were murdered.
The Jews started to leave the shtetl and move to big cities or abroad.
Some Boyarka Jews moved to New York before the 1917 revolution and settled there. A New York resident Benjamin Balantsov, who had a family in Boyarka, collected the invitation letters for the emigrants and travelled to the border of Romania, where he passed the letters to Boyarka. Thus, about 100 families emigrated to the USA. We can imagine how distressing that journey was from the words of the travellers, Yosyp Stoviskyy and Yonia Sokil.
Lily Rapaport (1911-2013) was the last PreRevolution Boyarka-born Jewish emigrant in USA.
From the article about Lily Rapaport and her expirience during Revolution in Boyarka:
Known back then as Leeza Yurkovsky, Rapaport says she watched as Russian soldiers, or “Cossacks,” rode through town shooting people. A bullet killed Rapaport’s baby sister. She saw the rabbi’s wife get raped.
Between the Wars
In 1923, the Jewish community of Boyarka had only 106 people. But most Jews emmigrated from Boyarka to big cities
After the revolution various members of the Jewish community of Boyarka worked in agriculture. Avram Davydovych Bliumen was working as a shop assistant at the local farm shop, Gershko Movin was a blacksmith, Pavlo Zhabyanskyy was the head of the post office, his other relatives worked in education, Tula Gedal was an accountant.
Pupils of 7th grade of Boyarka school, 1929. In second row (sitting) from left to right: №6 – Sergey Shleider In third row (on the ground) from left to right: №3 Rivka Staviskaya, №4 Mariya Sigalova
The emigrants from Boyarka formed the mutual assistance society in the USA in 1923. A section of the Elmant cemetery in New York was obtained where people from Boyarka were buried.
More information about activity of Boyerker Benevolent Society and many family photos can be found on kehilalinks.jewishgen.org as a list of pogrom victims also.
Village was occupied by Germans in July 1941. We don’t have information about the number of Jewish population which wasn’t evacuated but can estimate it as 20-30 person.
These names and information were collected by local teacher Mikola Demchuk in 1990’s.
The Gershov family lost the wife Liza and daughters Danika and Lesia. Sak Kanivskyy’s, Tula Gedal’s, Arsen Kyzym’s families suffered as well. Pavlo Zhabyanskyy (the head of the post office) and his daughter Yivha were taken under escort to the village Medvyn where they were shot. Avram Blumin, Oleksiy Antonovych Bratko, Aron Dubovyi (born in 1925) with his family members Saya (born in 1927), Gulia, Elyniy, Tsipa and Khayka, and Gershek Levin (the blacksmith of the collective farm) were shot by the Nazis and buried in Medvyn village.
Salata Palazhka and her daughter were hiding Musiy Hranovskyy.
Milia Bezik, Harik Bezik, Erik Bezik were hidden by Priska Razizhovska and her children Kateryna and Hanna. They said to their neighbors that those were their relatives from Moscow and that they couldn’t return home because of the war.
Site of destroyed Jewish cemetery. It is a sand quarry now
O.A. Bratko’s Jewish wife was found by the policeman O.Polishchuk. While she was being led through the village, Oleksiy Antonovych’s brother gave a newborn daughter of his brother to the policemen with the words: “Take her away, who needs this Jew?!” Oleksiy Antonovych Bratko came back from the war with his legs amputated and found that none of his family survived. He was unable to forgive his brother. They lived in the same village without ever saying a word to each other, and when his brother died, Oleksiy Antonovych did not attend the funeral…
The family of the Soviet officer Avram Davydovych Blumin was subject to particular violence and humiliation by the Nazis. Klavdiya Blumin and her children were hiding in Poradivka village at the house of Petro Andriyovych Dobrovolskyy. They were found by the policemen. One of them, O. Kalenychenko was especially violent. In a fit of rage, he grabbed the little boy by his legs and hit him against the doorpost. The family was shot outside the village near the silo pit. All those who had been shot were reburied in the local cemetery after the war.
We know only 15 names…
Many burials of Boyarka Jews are still unknown. The old residents tell us about the cellar in a former farm outside the village which was the place the collaborators shot many Jews.
Unconfirmed Holocaust execution site. Before the WWII it was inhabited part of village but due to population decrease it was abandoned and transferred to agricultural area.
After the War
Boyarka residents remember Avram Davydovych who came to the graves of his wife and children, and how he tried to prosecute the policeman Serhiy Kovbasenko.
Some Jews returned from evacuation and Red Army but we haven’t find exact names.
Currently several completely assimilated descendants of Boyarka Jews reside in the village…
US citizen Jeremy Borovitz was an English teacher in local school from 2010-2012. He was raised in Paramus, NJ, the son of a Reform rabbi and a lawyer for the Jewish Theological Seminary. He got a BA in Public Policy from the University of Michigan in 2009, and joined the Peace Corps.