Stepantsy is a village located in Kaniv district of Cherkassy region. The villag’s estimated population is 2,770 (as of 2007).
In XIX – beginning of XX century it was village of Kaniv uezd of Kiev gubernia.
The first mention of Jews in Stepantsy dates back to 1765, when 12 people lived here.
In 1845, Stepantsy was bought by Rogozinskiy for his daughter Antonina. She was married to Liudvik Klementyevich Khamets.
By 1863, the local population consisted of 2,370 Christians and 3,171 Jews.
In 1882, Jews were expelled from the village by the authorities. Jews could come back to the shtetl only after Kiev trader Iona Zaytsev had rented the land from the local Polish landlord Khamets in 1903.
PreRevolution school in Stepantsy
The letter is invitation to wedding in Zolotonosha which was send to Burshtein , Stepantsy from 6 September 1891 (photo taken from kehilalinks)
Invitation to wedding, 1891
In 1897, the total population of Stepantsy was 7,436 people, of which 3,389 were Jews. The rabbi of the community was Nachman He-Chasid.
In the early 20th century the majority of the enterprises and shops in Stepantsy belonged to Jews. They owned five synagogues as well.
In the end of 1910’s, Srul Haimovich Gaishinskiy was a shoihet in Stepantsy and David Shokel was a Rabbi.
Civil War pogroms
The first pogrom in Stepantsy was on the 2nd of February 1919. It was organized by Ataman Golub’s band. His band consisted mostly of the local Ukrainians.
Jewish population of Lisyanka:
1765 – 12 Jews
1863 – 3,171 (57%)
1897 – 3,389 (45%)
1920’s – 0
In August 1919, the Jews became the victims of another pogrom which lasted one week and was carried out by various local gangs. 119 Jews were killed, 411 were seriously wounded, and approximately 50 houses were burnt down. In a week 10 people were killed and 25 wounded in Denikin’s pogrom. A lot of women were sexually assualted.
The period between January 1920 and September 1920 was quite painful for the poor Jews of Stepantsy. Anarchy persisted in the countryside with various maurauding armed gangs constantantly raiding the villages. Many Jews died of diseases and malnutrition. Thus they began to sell their houses for nothing because they didn’t have anything to live for. The peasants pulled the houses down and took them away.
Stepantsy entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 1
Stepantsy entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 2
In November 1920, ataman Yaryy organized pogrom in Stepantsy. 17 people were killed and those who had survived were ordered to leave the village in a three-day period.
It was severe cold on this tragic day. The poor, tattered Jews with their exhausted children and miserable belongings escaped from their native shtetl.
Former Jewish house. Now it is Post Office
Within several hours all the Jews left Stepantsy and only 100 year –old Jewish cemetery watchman refused to leave his dear cemetery. In three days his dead body was found. He had died of cold and hunger.
2,500 Jews escaped to Boguslav. Many of them died of diseases or moved away. In the same year 1920, 1,000 Jews from Stepantsy lived in Boguslav.
After the Civil War
I haven’t found any information whether some of the Jews returned to Stepantsy in the 1920s.
In the 1980s, the native of Stepantsy General Lev Skvirskiy wanted to establish a monument in the village in memory of the destroyed Jewish community. However, he didn’t manage to do it for some unknown reasons.
I visited Stepantsy in 2016 but I couldn’t gather any information concerning the Jewish community. Only several photos of the destroyed Jewish cemetery were taken.
Famous Jews from Stepantsy
Lev Solomonovich Skvirskiy (1903, Stepantsy – 1990) was a Soviet commander, lieutenant-general (1944). During the Great World War he was a chief of the 26th army (May 1943 – January 1945).
Lev Israilevich Gorlitskiy (1906, Stepantsy – November, 2003) was a Soviet designer of heavy armour.
Lev Israilevich Gorlitskiy
Iona Mordkovich Zaytsev (1828, Stepantsy – 1907, Kiev) was a sugar manufacturer and philanthropist.
Iona Mordkovich Zaytsev
Aba Borokhovich Finkelshtein (1899, Stepantsy – 1978, Moscow) was a bibliographer. He worked in Yiddish newspaper “Der Emes” and magazine “Sovetish geymland”.
There are the following documents concerning the Jews of Stepantsy in State Archive of Kiev region:
– 1/295/57083: About the permission given to the Jews of Stepantsy village to rebuild the school. 1863.
– 1/295/59564-a: About Stepantsy box-taxes. 1865.
– 283/12/37: With the description and reports of merchant Moisey Zaytsev, Stepantsy mead factory. 1871.