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Slovechno

Slovechno

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Словечне – Slovechne (Ukrainian), Словечно – Slovechno (Russian)

Slovechno is a village in Ovruch district, Zhitomir region. The population is 1,725 people (in 2001).
In the early XX century, Slovechno was a shtetl of Ovruch uyezd, Volin gubernia.
The village was a district center of the Zhitomir region from 1923 till 1962.

Part of the information for this article was provided by local historian Oleksiy Gorbachevskiy.
Much more of information about Jews of Slovechno can be found in the book Slovechno is My Shtetl by Isaak Kipnis. But it is in Yiddish 🙁

In 2017, local historian Oleksiy Gorbachevskiy provide for us good excursion in Slovechno. You will be able to see him on all videos in this article.

There isn’t much information about the pre-revolutionary history of Jews in Slovechno.

Father and mother of Isaak Kipnis, in Slovechno, beginning of XX century

Father and mother of Isaak Kipnis, in Slovechno, beginning of XX century

In 1913, Jews owned all 19 grocery stalls, all three hardware stalls, both manufacturies, the only clothing shop, as well as the butcher’s and baking house.

Slovechno entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Slovechno entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

One of two mills belonged to a Jew man, Engelbrekht. The owner of the drugstore was Abram Yurovskiy. He rent it to his compatriot Leyzer Markman.

Jewish population of Slovechno:
1847 – 444 Jews
1897 – 1187 (56%)
1926 – 2916 Jews
1939 – 879(27%)
1950’s ~ 50
2017 – 0

There were five or six rich Jewish families in the shtetl. Their houses were situated on a single street. Rabbi Ratner’s house was located on that same street.
Old-timers recall the names of two local rich men, the merchants Leyba (surname is unknown) and Motel (surname is unknown).
The synagogue in the shtetl was in the center of town, and it was burnt down by pogromchiks during the Russian Civil War.

In late 1910’s, Itsik Kipnis organized amateur literature and drama groups in the shtetl.

House of rabbi Ratner was standing here. Rabbi was killed in pogrom in 1919

House of rabbi Ratner was standing here. Rabbi was killed in pogrom in 1919

Pogroms

After the beginning of the 1917 revolution, there weren’t any anti-Semitic deeds in the shtetl for a long time. However, in July 1919, the local Ukrainian population organized a pogrom. As a result, 72 people were viciously killed and about 100 were wounded. A local rabbi was among those Jews who were killed. He was in his fifties.

According to local legend, in the 1920’s, children played in ruins of local Rabbi Ratner’s house and found a rucksack with golden coins.

I couldn’t find more information about Jews in the period between the two world wars.

There was a synagogue....

There was a synagogue….

Holocaust

In 1939, 879 Jews (27.6% of the total population) lived in the village. 503 lived in the surrounding Slovechno district.

The shtetl was occupied by German troops on 18 August 1941.

At the end of August, the Nazis organized a raid on market day. As a result, 50-60 Jews were shot in the local club. 20 of those who were shot came from nearby village Listvin. After the shooting, the club was burnt down. During the war the corpses were reburied to the local Jewish cemetery. However, we couldn’t find the traces of this grave in 2017. A monument has been erected on the site of the shooting.

Site of the burned club

Site of the burned club

Most of local Jews were exterminated on the 27-28 August 1941 in the vicinity called Fabrichnaya Sinka. Even an approximate amount of people who were killed at that site remains unknown. We can assume that there were a few hundreds of people murdered. The Jews from the nearby villages of Antonovichi, Listvin, Bingun, Zadorozhok, and Tkhorin were also shot at that place. Their bodies weren’t buried but, instead, were simply covered with dirt.

After the shooting, the Germans cordoned off the shooting site and didn’t allow the locals to bury their fellow villagers. In the early spring of 1942, the corpses began to decompose, which threated the nearby German garrison with an epidemic, so they finally allowed the bodies to be buried properly.
After the war, someone put a metal post without any plaques or inscriptions at the mass grave site. However, in 2017, we weren’t able to find the post, and it is impossible now to identify the exact location of the mass grave.

The Jews from Slovechno who weren’t killed in 1941 were later shot in Bokiyevskiy Yar.

The Germans left one local Jewish tailor alive until just before the village of Slovechno was liberated. He was killed behind the hill near Jewish cemetery. In 2017, it was impossible to reach the grave because of bushes and trees.

Seven Jews (two women and five children) from Slovechno were killed in the village of Begun; three families (nine people total) were killed in the village of Levkovichi; ten Jews were killed in Tkhorin. Most Jews from the village of Levkovichi were shot by the Germans in “Liakhove” near the Ovruch-Slovechno road. In the villages of the former Slovechno district, local Ukrainian police killed around 130-140 Jews.

According to the information given by the local historian, 500-800 Jews were killed in Fabrichnaya Sinka resort in Slovechno.

After the WWII

After the war, several Jewish families returned to Slovechno.

In 1962, the Slovechno district was dissolved. Some state offices were closed. At that time, the remaining Jews moved from Slovechno to bigger towns.

In the summer of 1995, descendants of Slovechno’s Jews came to visit the town. They came from Israel with a pre-war map of Slovechno indicating places where hidden treasures had been buried. They asked the locals to dig in certain places. Some of them allowed the digging, but the majority prohibited it because their gardens were planted with vegetables. None of the digs turned up anything.
Hopefully, these descendants will read this article and share this unique, historical map of Slovechno as a former shtetl 🙂

 

Famous Jews from Slovechno

Isaak Nukhimovich Kipnis (1896, Slovechno – 1974, Kiev) – Jewish Soviet writer, poet and translator. He wrote in Yiddish.

Isaak Kipnis

Isaak Kipnis

Dine Libkis (1900, Slovechno – 1990’s, Kiev), Yiddish poet and prose writer.
The pseudonym of Dine Kipnes-Shapiro, she was the sister of the writer Itsik Kipnis and the wife of the poet Monye Shapiro. She received both a Jewish and a general education, initially in her hometown and later in Kiev where she completed a Jewish pedagogical course of study. For a time she worked in a children’s home, later in a Jewish middle school, later still as an assistant librarian at the Winchevsky Library in Kiev. Influenced by her older brother, she began to write herself and debuted in print with poetry in the newspaper Komunistishe fon (Communist banner) in Kiev (1922).

Mortkhe Yardeni (1906, Slovechno – 1982, USA), Yiddish writer.
The pseudonym of Motl Sherman, he was born to a father who was a Talmud teacher, a merchant, and a prayer leader. He studied Bible and Talmud in religious elementary school, and Hebrew and general subjects with private tutors. With assistance from the Joint Distribution Committee and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, in 1921 he made his way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his father had earlier arrived. In 1929 he published for the first time a humorous poem and humorous prose sketch in Forverts (Forward) in New York.

Boris Mogilner (1920, Slovechno – 2000, Moscow), Yiddish poet and prose writer.

Jewish cemetery

The Slovechno Jewish cemetery is located almost in the center of the shtetl. In the summer of 2017, it was overgrown; we could only see a few gravestones.
Most gravestones were made of local red stone.

Photos were provided by Sarah Garibov:

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