«… This town is known as Khabnoe. It has everything that you need in a shtetl: the post office, a state-appointed and a local rabbi, the river, telegraph service, a cemetery, a police station, a Talmud Torah, some Hasidim, two synagogues, a lot of poor Jews and a handful of the rich, just like it is in our shtetls.»
(Sholom Aleikhem “Khabnoe town”)
Кагановичи – Kaganovichi, Kahanovychi (Formerly), Кагановичі Перші – Kahanovychi Pershi (Formerly), Полесское – Polesskoe (Russian), Поліське – Poliske, Polis’ke (Ukrainian), Хабно – Khabno (Formerly)
Khabno was a historic town located in Kiev region of northern Ukraine. Khabno was located on the Uzh River, a tributary of the Pripyat. It was renamed Kaganovichi in 1934, and Polesskoye in 1957.
Khabnoe became a part of Russia Empire in 1793, in XIX – beginning of XX century it was shtetl of Radomyshl Yezd of Kiev Gubernia. In 1990’s it was resettled after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and high level of radioactive pollution. Khabnoe is no longer registered as a place of habitation. Visits are only allowed by special permission.
Khabno is approx. 22 km from Narodichi, 57 km from Chernobyl and in 131 km from Kiev.
While one of the first mentions of the settlement under the name of Khabno can be dated to 1415, 1215 is considered to be the date of establishment according to the official website of the Poliske region. According to one version of its history, the town was founded by Jews who fled Kiev because of persecution. There is evidence that some Jews lived in Khabnoe in the 17th century.
Habnoe on the engraving, XVIII century
Khabnoe had a synagogue, and from the mid-1700s, there was a Jewish cemetery.
In the XVIII and XIX centuries, several settlements flourished near Khabno, which was primarily a Jewish area. Zamostya on the left bank of the Uzh River was inhabited by Poles; Sloboda Radzivilovskaya (currently the Volya and Pesok Streets’ area) was inhabited by registered Cossacks and settlers; and Kovtyub (now the end of Volya Street and the area near the bus terminal and the sovkhoz Khabnoye) was populated by serfs belonging to an estate that was located on the territory of the present tuberculosis hospital. In the 19th century these separate settlements joined Khabno and the town’s ethnic diversity increased significantly. According to census results, the Jewish population of the town was 904 in 1847 and 1,721 by 1897. In 1890, 80% of the population was estimated to have been Jewish.
Khabno entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913
There was a significant increase in the Jewish population of Khabnoe in XIX century. In 1840 78 houses had Jewish owners, in 1841 88, in 1842 94, in 1844 106, and in 1845 114 houses. In 1845 four out of five coaching inns were under the Jewish ownership. Among 39 artisans of Khabnoe 38 were Jews (18 shoemakers and 20 tailors).
By the beginning of the WWI, there were two synagogues, one Roman-Catholic church and one Orthodox church in the town. Most of the buildings survive to this day.
Jewish population of Khabnoe:
1847 – 904 jews
1897 – 1721(63.2%)
1923 – 1682
1926 – 1710
1939 – 999 jews
1985 ~ 200 jews
In 1858 a klezmer choir was founded in Polesskoe which became very popular. In 1890s the choir was managed by Avrom-Yehoshua Mahonovetsky (1872 Khabnoe -?). In 1885 Khabnoe had 2 synagogues. Nohum-DovBer Reznick (1880 – ?) was the rabbi of Khabnoe from 1907. In 1912 the Jewish Savings and Loan Association was set up as well as several synagogues. In 1914 the Jews owned the only remaining coaching inn, a medical products warehouse and 40 stores in the town (including 21 out of 22 grocery shops, all eight general stores and the two shops selling ready-made clothes).
A unique Certificate of Graduation that certifies that Reizy Yankelevna Shapiro completed a 2-year school in Khabno in 1918.
It is noteworthy that the certificate was issued in Ukrainian and had a trident emblem of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which existed only between 1917-1919
On 4 May, 1919 there was a pogrom in Khabnoe, organized by Lazenyuk and Struk gangs; 15 Jews were murdered. On 30 July, 1919 another pogrom was started by the gang of Ataman Sokolovsky. In 1918-19 a Jewish self-defense unit was formed which carried out preventative operations across the neighboring villages to oppose local bandits and pogrom-instigators.
The information on the Jewish self-defense unit in Khabnoe during the Civil War as well as other related sources are preserved by the Joseph Giligich Fund (Australia):
A self-defense unit (or “okhorona” in Ukranian) was organized by David Kleshch, a Jewish conscript, who served his time in the Russian Army and came back to his native town of Khabnoe on the eve of the Civil War. He was extremely single-minded and very strong physically, capable of instilling fear and discipline in most people. Two other young men were involved in the “okhorona”, both tall and powerful and also called Davids. It was said that there is nothing to fear as you could rely on the three Davids, they would protect Khabnoe come what may.
Naturally, a three persons’ strong defense unit proved a bit optimistic as various gangs operated in the area around Khabnoe. So David Kleshch organized most young Jewish men under his own command, provided basic drills and military training and established a lookout rota for the town, involving all Jewish population of Khabnoe. Nobody refused when asked by the three Davids..
To start with, the unit had a single rifle; most youths were armed with home-made weapons. Then David went for help to Korosten and brought back a Red Army unit to protect the village from yet another gang. The unit was ordered to leave Khabnoe when the operation was finished but first the unit commander handed over eleven rifles and several rounds of ammunition to the local “okhorona”…
Between the Wars
In 1924 a Jewish “four-year” school with 152 pupils was set up. About 50 children studied in heder. There was a theater staging Jewish plays.
Pupils of Jewish school, 1935
In 1924 ” Komsomol seyder”, was held in the club by Jewish school teachers.
In Khabno, which had a strong Jewish militia and had escaped the worst ravages of the pogroms, NEP temporarily restored trade to the prewar level. Shutters were taken down from shops and goods again appeared behind counters. Smaller plants that had been nationalized were returned to their former owners. But in 1923 the currency was still unstable and swiftly depreciating, commodities were scarce, and prices were high. As it turned out, the commercial boom was sporadic and short-lived. By the end of 1923, the state taxes imposed on private establishments became ruinously high and state-produced goods began to compete with NEP produced goods. In Khabno, for example, a tannery with an annual turnover of 6,000 roubles had to pay eight different taxes amounting to 16o roubles a month.
In 1926, Benzion Shemtov (1902-1975), a representative of J.-I. Shneerson organized a group to study Talmud. In 1925 a Jewish agricultural colony “Labour and Khabno” (100 people) was set up in the Kherson region as an agricultural settlement №18.
Khabno Jewish school, 8th grade in 1936. Photo provided by Lena Semahoskaya
Khabno Jewish school, 8th grade. Photo provided by Lena Semahoskaya
In 1934 there was a Jewish collective farm in Khabnoe.
Members of Artisan association in Khabnoe, 1920’s-1930’s
In the 1930s, Khabno was renamed Kaganovichi Pervyye (Kaganovichi the First) after Lazar Kaganovich, a Jewish Soviet politician and administrator and Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party 1928 – 1939 who lived in the town. His birthplace, the village of Kabany (Dubrava), was re-named Kaganovichi Vtoryye (Kaganovichi the Second) at the same time. It is known for certain that, on his arrival to Khabno, Kaganovich spoke only Yiddish. Kaganovich, one of the organisers of the Ukrainian Holodomor, nevertheless helped his hometown by ensuring a supply of grain to the area. Khabno was therefore able to survive the terrible famine of 1933. Kaganovichi Pervyye received official city status in 1938.
Members of Artisan association in Khabnoe
Names of the people on the photo
In 1930’s many Jews left the town. In 1939 990 Jews (24.6% of the total population) lived there.
Here are the names of 15 students (pupils) graduated the 8 class of The Jewish School in 1941 just a few weeks/months before the war (they all were born in 1926 -1927):
Shulya Smolyansky (create this list in 2016), Yasha Kostinsky, Musya Kravchenko, Leonid Feldman, Peisah Habensky, Max Mezeritsky, Petr Mostovsky, Misha Mostovsky, Sonya Brusilovskaya, Misha Fishman, Sonya Kushnir, Hanna Belokrinitskaya, Rosa Spektor, Bronya Sapoznikova and Sika Freedman.
Khabnoe was occupied by the Nazis between July 22, 1941 until September 16, 1943. In September 1942 this region became part of the Gebietskommissariat Novo-Shepelichi of the General Kiev district.
Only about 15 Jewish families managed to evacuated.
On the first day of occupation all cows were confiscated from the Jewish households.
On 13 September, 1941 the Jews were ordered to report to the town stadium for work. The local police called from nearby villages rounded up the Jews and convoyed them to the place of mass execution out of town, not far from the village of Tarasy. In this day the 8th regiment of the 1st motorized infantry division SS shot 391 Jews. According to one version, Jews were buried alive…
According to eyewitness accounts, Ukrainians were forced to wash the blood from German cars. The mass graves were guarded by submachine gunners as the soil stirred for several more days.
German soldiers on the streets of Khabno
On 14 September of the same year 26 people were shot.
In July, 1943, 35 children from mixed families were killed in Khabnoe.
The property of the murdered Jews was kept in the storehouse and then passed to the regional board and sold to the locals.
List of Holocaust victims in Polesskoe and Polesskoe district (261 names):
List of Jewish soldiers from Khabno and Khabno district which were killed during WWII (created by researchers Fedor Maksimovich Gres):
After the Second World War about 120-150 Jews returned but the synagogue did not re-open, so many religious Jews prayed in one of the houses.
The furniture factory in 1955. The back shows some shops of this factory. The church was destroyed in 1963. The Furniture factory took the church land and built their building.
The Jews, killed during the Holocaust, were not buried in within the town boundary; they were buried elsewhere, perhaps in Chervonnoe village. There are three burial mounds.
Arch “300 years of Uniting Ukraine with Russia”. Built in 1954. The road is leading to the wooden bridge across the river. The bridge was 1 kilometer of length, was sort of guarded ( it had some military value) and connected Zamoztie with the town. That area used to be before Stariy Bazaar (Old Market). The local farmers were coming on Sundays to sell their produce. Then they built the Arch, planted 2 little parks on both sides and renamed the area to Square of Bogdana Khmelnitskiy.
There were two hospitals here, where Shapiro (Tanya Shapiro’s father) was in charge of the military one. Kleinerman was in charge of the Civil Hospital.
Last Rabbi of Khabno, 1960’s.
Photo was made by Gennadiy Smolyansky in 1960’s and provided by him to JewUA.org in 2016.
All three local barbers were Jewish. One of them was called Soroka. Another Jew called Ger was the vice-chairman of regional consumers’ co-operative. Kravchenko, also a Jew, was the doctor.
Moisey Yankelevich Shapiro (1899-1976) with sister Freidl Yankelevna Ferdman (1904-1978) in Khabno, 1960’s. Photo provided by Gennadiy Smolyansky
Before the Chernobyl disaster there were a few hundred Jews in Polesskoye (former Khabnoe).
School №1 in Polesskoe. Probably 50% of teachers were Jewish. English Teacher – Abram Moiseevich Shtotland. Russian Literature – Lyoubov Yosifovna Ratner. Physics – Oksana Nikiforovna Galich ( she pretend to be a Ukranian, but she was Jewish). Geography – Yakov Moiseevich Shpigel. Physical culture – Mikola Grigorovich Ilyin ( He was a Ukrainian, but his wife was Jewish).
After the Chernobyl disaster, the town’s population started to fall and in 1999 the remaining population was evacuated. While the town is officially uninhabited, in 2005 there were about 1000 people were living there, mostly senior citizens.
Khabno in 2010’s
In 2011, 10 people resided in Polesskoe despite it being in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
In the Kyiv archives the following documents about the history of the Jewish community in Khabnoe remain:
- Log books on candle and box state levies on the Jewish town-dwellers of Khabnoe during 1908;
- The regional Revolutionary Committee of Khabnoe, among the deposited material there are lists of students of the Jewish Labour school in Khabnoe and the report on its work; certificates of the rabbi about the civil status of individuals, personal verification documents, certified by the signatures of the Jewish residents of Khabnoe and logged because of the loss of some Jewish births and other certificates during military operations.
- The regional executive committee of the Councils of Workers, Peasants and Red Army Deputies of Khabnoe (Volost Executive Committee), information on the teachers at the Jewish school, family lists of the Red Army soldiers of Khabnoe, members of the Jewish amateur dramatics group at the Cultural League Department, reports of performances of the Jewish children’s troupe, performances to raise funds for the famine victims etc.
- The information on the foundation of the Jewish agricultural labor collective in Khabnoe district named after the International (lists of members, indicating occupation and family members, correspondence with the representative, extracts from the minutes of the agricultural meeting of Khabnoe about the transfer of land to the Jewish collective);
- The following information on the inspection of the economic status of the Jewish population of the towns of Kiev district (1923-1929). (In the report Khabnoe is called “Polessye”
Famous Jews from Khabno
Moses Efimovych Mizhiritsky (Moyshe Ben-Haim Ber, pen name of Moyshe Libes) (May 22, 1891, Khabnoe – December 18, 1951) a literary critic, PhD(1943).
His father, Khaim Ber Mizhiritsky, was a prasol (cattle-dealer), who died at the age of 36, his mother, Liba Mizhiritskaya (born Borodyanskaya) was housewife (murdered at Babiy Yar).
He graduated from the local heder and yeshiva, after the revolution he worked as a teacher in the Jewish schools in Kiev, where he studied at the night school. After his graduation he went on to study linguistics at Moscow State University. Back in Kiev, he worked as a researcher at the Institute of Jewish Culture.
Moses Mizhiritsky (1891-1951)
The first literary criticism appeared in the Jewish press in 1924. He wrote in Yiddish, was published in the newspapers “Proletarishe fon”, “Der Shtern” in “Farmest” magazine, “Sovetish literatures.”
In 1930s he was working on a textbook and a list of recommended literature in Yiddish for Jewish schools.
According to some sources, he was a member of the YEAK (Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee). After the war, he collected materials for “The Black Book” by I G Erenburg and V S Grossman; he worked on the monograph “Beginnings of the Jewish Soviet prose” and the materials on the Jewish participation in the partisan movement. He was arrested on 16 July, 1951, sentenced to ten years in prison and died in a prison van en route to a concentration camp.
Berl Kostinsky (born Khabnoe,1920), prisoner of Soviet concentration camps. He published 2 books of memoirs where also described pre-WWII Khabnoe. His second book available by link.
Iser Kuperman (Khabnoe,1922 – USA, 2006), a seven-time world champion of draughts, was born in Khabnoe on April 21, 1922. He emigrated to Israel and then to the United States in 1978. Iser was world champion in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, and 1974. After his emigration, any mention of him was purged from the Soviet records.
Lazar Kaganovich (1893-1991), a Jewish Soviet politician and administrator and Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party 1928 – 1939, lived in the town.
The cemetery is located on Khmelevaia street near the former farm machinery office. Special permission is needed to visit the site as Khabno (Polisske) is located in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
The plaques reads as follows: 1941-45, Ніхто не забутий – Ніщо не забуто (Nobody is forgotte, Nothing is forgotten), Здесь в 1941 году фашистскими захватчиками расстреляно 252 Граждан Района (Here in 1941 Fascist occupiers killed 252 inhabitants of the region).
The mass grave is surrounded by a green wooden fence. The area is rectangular and measures 52m x 18m. There is a bench
The cemetery is partially demarcated by a wooden fence in a poor state of repair. The site is surrounded by a ditch. It was not possible to measure the site precisely as the visit was brief due to high levels of radiation.
It is not possible to ascertain the number of gravestones at the cemetery as a result of thick vegetation. Between half and three-quarters of the visible gravestones are damaged. Gravestones are tablet-shaped, with inscriptions are in Russian and Hebrew. There is a caretaker’s house on the grounds of the cemetery. The cemetery was abandoned in the late 1980s/early 1990s after the Chernobyl accident.
Date Of The Oldest Known Gravestone: 1920
Last Known Jewish Burial: End of the 1980s/early 1990s
The cemetery is situated within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and therefore pollution levels in the area are very high, vegetation growth is practically unchecked and the gravestones are suffering from weather erosion and the effects of vegetation.
Information was retrieved from Lo-Tishkah website.
Holocaust mass grave
Grave locates along Taras Shevchenko street, on the way to Tarasi. 50m from the Poliske sign.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
While the memorial sign mentions that 252 people were killed at this site, local researchers Fedor Maksimovich Gres and Grigory Ivanovich Ivanenko have established that 439 Jews were in fact killed and buried here in September 1941 and during 1942. 398 from Poliske, 20 from the village of Vovchiki and 7 from Zalishany were killed here in September 1941. 4 members of the Novak family from Poliske and 10 people from the village of Maksimovichy were shot here in 1942. A list of 262 names compiled by Mr Gres can be viewed in the photo gallery above (7 pages).
Information was retrieved from Lo-Tishkah website.