Most of information obtained for this article was presented by Oksana Tolkachova from the Korukovka historical museum.
Korukovka is a historic city located in Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine, and is the center of Korukovka district. It was founded in 1657. Korukovka is located on the Brech River, a tributary of the Snov. The city’s estimated population is 14,805 (as of 2005).
In XIX – beginning of XX century it belonged to Sosnitsya Yezd of Chernigov Gubernia.
Judging by what we know of Jewish settlement in Sosnitsya Yezd, we can surmise that Jews first appeared in Korukovka at the beginning of XIX century.
In 1887 the local sugar factory was bought by Lazar Brodskiy. Brodskiy was famous for his philanthropy. In 1896 he funded the construction of a school and from 1902-1904 a hospital as well as housing for the workers of his factory.
Building of Brodskiy Hospital 1902
Jews lived in different areas of Korukovka but most of them were concentrated on Sovetskaya Str. In the beginning of XX century there were approximately 22 Jewsih families (Aptermani, Haykіni, Bulavіni, Tumarkіni, Grachova, Merhelі, Ochkovskі, Radіchі and others)
The Business directory of 1903 lists the names of several Jewish enterpneurs from Korukovka:
Grocery stores: Levyant Moses Meirov., Simhovich Evsey Haim., Margolin Shlema David. from Kholmy
Progroms occurred in Korukovka between 23 and 30 of October 1905. Several Jewish businesses were vandalized.
In the 1920’s the shoyhet of Korukovka was the Lubavitcher hasid Labnovsky. Labnovsky helped in the repair of the mikvah which was given to Korukovka by Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (sixth Chabad Rebb).
At the end of the 1920’s a collective farm was established in the Korukovka region. The farm named, “Krasniy Plugar” , was headed by Moisha Khaikin.
According the 1939 census 475 Jews lived in Korukovka. Small communities were preserved in the villages of Kholmy and Kozilovka. Single family lived in some villages of the district.
Monument in the forest near village Kholmy of Korukovka district. At this place 132 civilians of former Holminsk district were shot. Here in November 29, 1941 and in January 12, 1942 more than 50 jews of Holmy village were shot. The monument was re erected in 2005.
On September 7th, 1941 Korukovka was occupied by the Wehrmacht. For the town’s residents evacuation was impossible due to lack of road and rail links. Most Jews stayed in the occupied territory.
The first mass execution of Jews was held in the Kholmy village on November 29th, 1941. Later on January 12th, 1941 Jews from different localities were executed at Kholmy. The total number of dead exceeded 50.
In Koryukovka the sequential destruction of the Jews began in November 1941. It was during this time that the Germans started to experiment with new forms of killing, most notably through the use gas vans. The victims were promised safe passage and resettlement in Chernigov city. On the way the detainees would die from poisoning by exhaust fumes of the vehicle. The bodies were not transported to Chernigov but instead buried somewhere in the woods. The location of the mass grave from this particular killing remains unknown.
In December, on the shore of the lake in the center of Korukovka 250 people were executed among them 90 Jews.
In January 1942, 130 Jews were shot in nearby forest. Those who managed to escape, were spotted and killed in different parts of the city.
At this place in January and February 1942 300 Communist party members and partisan family members were shot. Among them were 130 Jews. Monument was rebuilt in 2005.
All population of Korukovka was eliminated during Korukovka massacre on March 1–2, 1943. During these days the city was completely burned, and its inhabitants killed. Among the dead were 50 remaining Jews.
Monument to the victims of Korukovka massacre in the city center
On the basis of archival documents and other sources, it can be assumed that in Koryukovskaya area for the period of occupation shot, drowned, strangled and burned at least 350 Jews.
We know names of only 229 civilian Jews killed in Korukovka and Korukovka district and 41 names of soldiers who were killed during WWII. You can find both lists here (in Russian).
Jewish population of Korukovka:
1897 – 381 jews
1923 – 796 jews
1926 – 712 (10,7%)
1939 – 475 (4,9%)
Other names are still unknown…
In November 2012 local authorities exhumed one of the mass graves in Koriukivka. Eight Jews were found among the 250 bodies, (5 men and 3 women).
Among the residents of Korukova were several people whom would later be awarded the Righteous Among the Nations award for saving Jews: Mikhail Yurchenko and his wife (posthumously), Ananenko Anna and her daughter Theodosia Tovstonoh, Kyril and Dariya Opanasenko.
Monument in the Korukovka center on the bank of wetland pond. At this place in December 1941, were shot 250 civilians, among them were 90 Jews.
We also know the names of several Jews who fought in partisan detachments around Korukovka district: Aaron and Evdokia Tumarkiny, Matvey Krichevsky, Sofia Yakubovich, Vera Ostynenko, Gregory Byhovsky, Boris Hyskin, Abraham Ohman, Yakov Pavlovsky, Goldin and others.
Korykovka was liberated by Red Army in September 19, 1943.
After the war many Jews returned from Red Army and evacuation.
Famous Jews from Korukovka
Zinoviy Vilenskiy (1899-1984)
Zinovy (Zalman) Moiseevich Vilensky (1899-1984) was a Russian sculptor worked and lived in Moscow. Famous for his monumental portraits exhibited at landmarks of Russia such as Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery and many others. He was awarded Stalin Prize in 1948, Became a corresponding member of USSR Academy of Arts and got two People’s Artist of USSR awards in 1969 and 1980.
The synagogue in Korukovka was constructed in second half of the XIX century.
In Soviet times building was converted into a library, during the German occupation it was a creamery. Now it is the building for the “Society for the Defense of Ukraine”.
Korukovka synagogue building
The synagogue was damaged very badly during the Russian civil war. Because of this Jews began to hold their religious services at a home on Bukhanov street (the street does exist). The building was burned to the ground on March 1, 1943.