Rykun village is a part of Dymer, an urban-type settlement in Kiev region, Ukraine. It was founded as a Jewish agricultural settlement in Kiev Uezd of Kiev province in 1853. Since the 1980s it has been the village of Dymer district, Kiev region. The city’s estimated population is 275 (as of 2001).
The origin of the village name is not known. A local historian from Dymer, Grigoriy Alekseenko reckons that Rykun is the surname of one of the first Jewish settlers who came there from Uman. This version was first suggested after a visit of an emigrant descendant from Uman, Jonathan J.Rikoon whose last name is similar to the village name.As a representative of American Heritage Commission, he visited the inauguration of the Holocaust memorial in Dymer in 2011.
In 1850 32 families resided in the village, 323 people (34 families) lived in Rykun in 1898. In 1917 there were 288people. Starting from 1941 the number of the inhabitants was decreasing, down to just 150.
Starting from 1853 in Dymer suburbs each colonist family was assigned 11 plots of land to use and was to be “compensated” in perpetuity for the use of their land. The state-owned land was not particularly productive and consisted of 16.2 acres (compared to 54-108 acres that were assigned to the first colonists in South Ukraine and Bessarabiya). The settlement farming was not profitable, and most Jewish colonists who were not good at agriculture rented the land plots out to the local peasants. Some Jews even left this farming settlement; most of those who stayed returned to their previous activities: handicraft, wood trading, food and goods resale.
In 1863 The Jewish colonist families numbered 236. 14 years later the total area of the state-owned land the colonists cultivated was 585.4 acres and the number of families who were engaged in farming was growing and reached almost 70% of all the inhabitants in 1898. The colonists grew rye, wheat and barley. There were also two brick kilns in the village where the Jews successfully produced brick and sold it to other villages and towns.
In the beginning of the XX century, frequent pogroms engulfed the South-Western territories of Russian Empire, and Rykun was not left behind. In November, 1905, 62 Jewish families suffered from the pogrom where the damage to the Jewish community reached 18,000 rubles. During another pogrom in 1919 four Jews were shot.
“…on the 16th of September an armed wing headed by Struk entered Jewish settlement Rykun and demanded gold and silver from the Jews passing by. The soldiers slaughtered the Jews with slabs and whips. Four of them were shot to death.” (from “History of Pogrom Movement in Ukraine”, by I.Cherikov.)
After Civil War
In 1929 a collective farm was organized in Rykun named after Sholem Aleichem, which employed 237 people in just one year and survived up to the beginning of the World War II in the Soviet Union in 1941. The first Young Communist in the settlement was a Jewish girl named Peisakhl (her last name is not known).
Bushes on the place of former Jewish collective farm
During the period between two wars, the World Wars I and II, most Jews left Rykun and moved to the bigger towns and cities in search of a better life.
Below there are the stories of some Jews from Rykun settlement:
Moisei Lasbin joined Red Army (Bolshevist Army) at the age of 15, survived World War II and held the rank of Colonel.
Yankel Nuhimovich Lisitsa (1871, Rykun – 1943, Kuibishev)
Tseitlin Samuil (Efimovich – son of Efim) – was born in 1894 in Rykun. He lived in Leningrad, worked as Head engineer of the laboratory for Leningrad telephone central offices. In May, 1937 NKVD and Prosecutor’s Office of the USSR arrested him, convicted and on the 15th of December Tseitlin Samuil was executed. His name appeared in the list of the Great Purge of 1937.
Abraham Aronovich Lisistsa (1905, Rykun – 1975, Kiev)
Yelik Gershovich Levitas (1909-1969) – one of 7 Jews from Rykun who were called up to the front line in 1941 (the beginning year of the World War II in the USSR territory).
During the first three months of the war, approximately 50 Jews evacuated to the eastern parts of the USSR.
After Rykun was occupied by the Nazis, local police chiefs Vasiliy Pavlusenko, Timofeiy Marchenko, Yakov Dmitrenko made the list of the Jews who did not leave the village. All of them were driven together at 39, Gagarina street, where they were kept without food and water for 3 days guarded by German soldiers. Local Ukrainians remember 50 Jews gathered in one hut. Some locals tried to hand over food for them. Later, all the Jews were transported to Dymer and kept in a school basement. Then they were sent to Babiy Yar and shot to death there. Russian Jewish Encyclopedia states that 93 Jews from Rykun settlement were shot in 1941. The property of the shot Jews was stolen by the local Ukrainians.
In this building local Jews were kept 3 days without food and water in 1941.
The last remaining Jewish woman, who lived in Rykun in 2016, recalled only 6 names of those who were shot: Gesiya Mednikova; Fira Levitas and her two children Nunik and Betia; Motik Lasbin (his Ukrainian wife brought him to Gestapo herself).
Yad Vashem lists state 22 persons born in Rykun settlement, mostly those who left the village during 1914-1941 period.
Anatoliy Kuznetsov in his documentary novel “Babiy Yar” recalls hiding in Rykun during the war. He describes the place where the Jews from nearby Dymer were shot to death. That place was an unfinished air field.
“…….a kind-hearted woman named Goncharenko from Rykun village welcomed me at her place. That was how I got to the village again….
…….A long ditch was partly filled, partly washed out with spring tide. The Jews and others from nearby villages were shot in that ditch. Vasia took me to the place to show their local little Babiy Yar. The ditch looked like an ordinary one. The neighboring fields stretched to the horizon. We noticed something leaking out from the ground. That was a black, sticky, human foot in a corrupted boot. We ran away.
Behind the ditch there was an unfinished military airfield. The prisoners constructed it by the orders of the NKVD. That was a classified object and it was prohibited to come close to the airfield. Now the enormous airfield was dead. Long lines and complete concrete landing strips were stretching far away. Everywhere there were piles of chad and cement hard as stone; hand barrows, mattocks, spades were lying as if they were abandoned a few minutes ago. Everything looked as if the people disappeared like a shot….”
When the village was liberated in 1943, the collective farm named after Sholem Aleichem was dissolved and never existed again.
After liberation most Jews who survived did not return to the village, because their houses were ruined or occupied by the locals.
Rukyn in 2016
According to the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, only 10 Jews who evacuated came back to Rykun. In 2016 the names of 4 Jews who returned home were found. They are: Yevdokia and Yenta Talalai, Sonia Levitas (1915-1985) and Peisakhl Lasbin (1912-1998).
Yelik Levitas whose family was shot in 1941 returned from the front line and married his cousin’s widow Peisakhl Lasbin. They had two children after the war.
In 2016 just one old Jewish woman lived in Rykun….