Olshana is a town in Gorodishche district, Cherkassy region. The town’s estimated population is 3,256 (as of 2011).
It was established around 1598 and has been a part of the Russian Empire since 1793. In the XIX – early XX centuries, it was a shtetl in the Zvenigorodka district, Kiev gubernia.
In 1847, the Jewish community consisted of 689 people, and in 1897 – 1233 (20%).
In 1867, a synagogue was functioning in Olshana. Eliezer-Leyb Shapiro (1858-?) was the rabbi in Olshana since 1892.
Jewish population of Olshana:
1847 – 689 Jews
1861 – 850 (22%)
1897 – 1233 (20%)
1923 – 916 Jews
1939 – 195 Jews
1993 – 1 Jews
2016 – 0
Crafts and trade were the main occupations of the Jewish population in the 19th – early 20th centuries. In 1914, Jews owned a drugstore and forty-five stalls in Olshana, including all eleven groceries and three small wares shops.
By 1900, 1,953 (11%) Jews lived in Vilshana district. In 1914, Chaim-Gersh Mordkovich Labskir and Chaim-Yudko Moshkovich Dukhovnyy were the members of the peasant council.
There were two synagogues in Olshana.
The Jewish community suffered during the Russian Civil War. In April 1919, ataman Zelenyy’s band organized a pogrom in Olshana.
Olshana in the beginning of XX century.
In JDC documents by 1923 mentioned Olshana Jewish self defence unit. Also mentioned active members Hirsh Etinzon and Leizer Borishansky.
In USA, Oshana’s emmigrant create Olshaner Progressive Association.
Olshana entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913
Between the Wars
In the 1920s, Bentsion Yankelevich Kozarovitski was the local shochet, Aron Davidovich Tubelskiy was the rabbi, and Pinia Meyerovich Miropolskiy was the cantor in the shtetl.
In 1925, the natives of Olshana founded Jewish agricultural organizations (Kolkozhes) “On a new way” which consisted of ninety-two people, “A new way” sixty people, and “Renewed life” seventy three people in Kherson district.
In the 1920s-1930s, the majority of Jews left Olshana.
In the 1920s, a Jewish school was formed in the village. Lev Iosifovich Umanskiy was one of its teachers.
Both synagogues were closed in 1923. Afterwards, the first one was used as a club and the second one became a warehouse.
All the Jewish men were mostly artisans, blacksmiths, cobblers, and barbers. All lived very modestly. Every family had three to five children. Parents paid much attention to their children, they kept an eye on their learning and after the graduation always tried to send children for further study.
When the war began, a lot of families had managed to evacuate but those who failed to get to the left bank of the Dnieper were surrounded and had to come back. The Germans organized the police out of the local Ukrainians. They hung a poster “Jews and dogs aren’t allowed to appear in the streets”.
Ruins of Jewish house in the center of town
Below are some surnames of those who were in occupation:
– Umanskiy family. Lev Iosifovich with his wife Bronia and children Nina, Asia, Illya, and Aron. Only Nina and Asia survived
– Komarnitskiy family. David (an invalid from the First World War), with his wife Rachel, and daughters Mania and Nina. Only Nina survived
– Fishel Kaminskiy with his wife and adopted son Grigoriy Basovskiy
Former activists, party members and Jews (seven people totally) were shot the first in the village. Lev Umanskiy and L. Soyfer were among them.
Monument on the grave of first seven German’s victims. Among them were Lev Umanskiy and L. Soyfer
In October 1941, the policemen gathered all Jewish men of thirteen and older near the village council. They said they were sent to work. In the evening they were driven in some unknown destination and shot. The place of shooting is still unrevealed.
The rest of the Jews , about one hundred women and children, were gathered in ghetto.
The ghetto consisted of four neighboring houses. Everybody brought all they could from their own homes. The Jews were forbidden to communicate with the local population. Approximately 100 people were huddled together under the control of the Ukrainian policemen. Every morning the Jews were counted. They were made to wear yellow bands on the right arm with a Star of David sewed on them. Young prisoners were led to work.
On the 5th of May 1942, the policemen took the people out of the houses and led them to the square near the school. The drays for little children and old men were already there. All the Jews were taken to the prison in Zvenigorodka.
Next morning the prisoners who were capable of working were sent to the labor camp in Nemorozh village. However, the majority stayed in Zvenigorodka and were shot together with the local Jews in June 1942. 45 Jews from Olshana were among them.
Olshana Jews lived as one family in the camp. The amount of the Jews in the labor camp in Nemorozh decreased from several hundred to fifty people in May 1943. It was the result of unbearable living conditions and permanent shootings.
Rachel Olshanskaya died in the camp.
Ukrainian Sofya Kostritsa had been hiding Jew Naum and his mother (her surname is unknown) in Olshana during the whole war.
Olshana was freed by the Soviet Army on the 5th of February 1944.
Only thirteen Olshana Jews survived in occupation. Those were Asia Umanskaya (1924-2007), Tatyana Shnayder (Pipkina), Roza and Raya Geshektor (Fridman, lives in Israel), Mania Bronevitskaya, Vera Galperina, Basia (Polina) Chudnovskaya (emigrated to the USA), Fulka Olshanskiy with daughter Nina, Dora Nirenberg (Lerner) (1896-1985) with daughters Busia (1928-1995) and Sarah, Nina Blinder (Komarnitskaya) (born in 1927) and her sister Mania Levin (born in 1924).
After the WIII
After the war several Jewish families lived in the village.
Before the War, the Jewish population lived mainly in Kalaberdin Street. After the war the teachers who were sent to work in the local school settled the abandoned houses.
The house belonged to David Chaim –Aronovich Gomberg (shot by the Germans). In 1897, his twins Berko and Munish were born. They disappeared during the WWII.
Lev Pipkin came back to the village from the front as an invalid and died in 1981.
Sarah Khaskilivna Nerenberg (1926-2009) was an English teacher in the local school. She emigrated to Israel together with her children.
In 1965, book “Life and Destruction of Olshan” (Chayieha Vechurbana Shel Olshan – Leben un Umkum fon Olshan) – A memorial (Yizkor) book of the anihiliated Jewish community of Vilshana was published in Tel-Aviv by Meir Sheli.
Local residents remember the lonely Jewish woman who died in the 1970s, her surname is unknown.
Zinaida (Zarah) Emmanuilovna Shikhman (1913-1995) repatriated to Israel in 1979 from Olshana after many years of refusals.
The last Jew in the village was Oleg Krupa, Sarah Nerenberg’s son, who emigrated to Israel in 1993.
Olshana Jewish cemetery
Only two gravestones are preserved in the Jewish cemetery. It is impossible to read what is written on them. In the late 1980s, the Jews came there and cleaned cemetery.
Last gravestones of Olshana Jewish cemetery
Inscription on the oldest tombstone was taken in 2009 by Lo-Tishkah expedition (I haven’t found this tombstone in 2016):
בת ר אליעזר
שמואל (sic) אשת ה”
יד תשרי תרעט
Is a respected woman
Daughter of Reb Eliezer
wife of the [illegible] Shmuel Donskoy
Tishrei 14, 5679 (September 20, 1918)
Let her soul be bound in the bond of life.