Zvenigorodka is a city and district center in Cherkassy region. The city’s estimated population is 17,400 (as of 2016).
It was first mentioned in historical record in 1545. According to another version it existed during the Kievan Rus period. In 1569 Zvenigorodka was in Kiev district, Kiev province in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was incorperated into the Russian Empire in 1793. In the XIX – early XX centuries Zvenigorodka was a district town of Kiev gubernia.
In 1765, there is mention of a single Jewish tenant living in Zvenyhorodka among 134 homes in the village.
In the late XVIII century almost all the inns, mills, and distilleries of Zvenigorodka were rented by the Jews. The names of the tenants are present in Polish documents from 1792: Mendel Shmuylovich, Chaim Mortkovich, Moshko Genikhovich, Yankel and Leyzor Peysakhovich, Abram Mortkovich, Moshko Leybovich, Moysa Fabishovich, Abel Leybkovich, Runin Zelmanovich, Eli Davidovich, Mortko Peysakhovich, Chaim Leyzorovich. The list of names in these Polish documents contain only given names and patronymics as Jews were not assigned surnames until the beginning of the XIX century.
House of merchant Ginsburg
According to the population census, in the mid-19th century, there were 2,341 Jews in Zvenyhorodka, 4,620 Orthodox Christians, 271 Roman Catholics and 47 Old Believers. Trade and industry were in the hands of the Jews who also founded a tobacco factory and a plant for making candles. There were 11 Christian merchants but 35 from the Jewish community. Many Jews worked in the fields during harvesting.
Zvenigorodka entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913
4 additional lists with names of entrepreneurs, 1913
Historical documents reveal information about industry in Zvenigorodka in the 1890’s. Aron Abramov’s brewery had 15 workers who local residents. Veniamin Iyerusalimskiy’s and Bentsion Sosnovskiy’s owned steam mills. The water mill that belonged to the town and was rented by Shumer Fefshtein. The cement plant was rented by the widow Vaintrub’s. And a soap factory was rented by Gershko Kogan.
River Gniliy Tikich in Zvenigorodka
In the late XIX century, there were five synagogues, a mikvah and a printing house, which belonged to Nuhim Yakovlevich Zotulovsky.
From 1892, the community rabbi and head of the rabbinical court was Joseph Halpern, in the 1890s, while the county rabbi was Tsal Shmulevich Dobrov. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Jewish population of Zvenyhorodka increased to about six thousand (40%).
There was commercial college before Revolution
On the 15th September 1902, Jewish social hall Ha-Torah opened. The building was rented. 1,500 roubles were gathered for it’s maintenance plus 900 roubles of charitable contributions. The teachers consisted of Naum Izrailevich Yurovskiy, Aron Shayev Grinberg, and Shlomo Izrailevich Kamenetskiy. In 1913, V.Kamenetskiy founded a private men’s college.
In 1910, seven synagogues operated, there was a Talmud Torah, three Jewish schools for boys, a Jewish hospital and a benevolent society, as well as the Jewish cemetery.
Zvenyhorodka suffered from three pogroms. In 1918, as a result of the first pogrom, 27 Jews were killed and 50 wounded. The second attack took place in August 1919. The pogrom was organized by units of the Volunteer Army. In January 1920, the troops of Ataman Tuz vandalized Zvenyhorodka.
Site of destroyed synagogue on the front of current synagogue
Between the Wars
In 1922, a Jewish self-defense unit consisting of fifty people operated in the town. In 1921, an office of the Jewish Section was opened in Zvenyhorodka. (the organization’s goal was to spread communist ideology among the national minorities). There was a Zionist organisation in the town and in September 1922, a group of Zionists were arrested. According to the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, in 1926, the Jewish population of Zvenyhorodka numbered 6,584 people (36,5%).
Interesting JDC report from Zvenigorodka, 1923:
Zvenigorodka was one of the most important corn-trading centres in the uyezd of Uman. The greater part of the Jewish population was engaged in the corn trade either as merchants, commissioners, shippers or as employees. There was 7 steam-mills, 2 oil-presses and several grits mills. Primitive industry is also being carried on, principally shoemaking, tanning and cart making. There is also one primitive cast-iron foundry. Now the population is chiefly occupied with small
Former Jewish house
Now the population is chiefly occupied with small trade, quite a number of people are engaged in the purchase and transport of horses to Moscow, Kharkov and Ekaterinoslav. Owing to fortunate circumstances, Zvenigorodka did not suffer from any pogroms. Before the Revolution Zvenigorodka had a population of 30,000, of which 12,000 were Jews. The general population has not changed, but the Jewish population increased to 15,000. This increase is due to the fact that at present 350 Jewish refugee families are concentrated in Zvenigorodka. Many refugees have already left the town and returned to their native places, but many remain. There are 200 Jewish artisans, 200 workers and about 300 without definite occupations in the town. The town has the following social-welfare institutions: 4 Children’s Homes (one of which is Jewish), 1 nursery, 1 Sanatorium for tubercular children with 28 children (no Jewish children), 1 Hospital for eye diseases, 1 dental ambulatory, 1 bacteriological station and one Home for Aged with 28 inmates, mostly Jews.
According to the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, in 1926, the Jewish population of Zvenyhorodka numbered 6,584 people (36,5%).
In the 1920’s, there were three synagogues in Zvenigorodka, the majority of the Jewish population attended them.
There were many craftsmen, tinsmiths, tailors, and cobblers. Some of them worked in cooperatives and some at home.
Around 30 Jewish families founded a collective farm in the town. In 1931, there was also an agricultural school with training in Yiddish. Two primary schools in Yiddish and a vocational school were established. In 1927, a school for needy children was opened and an orphanage operated.
A Jewish school had been in Zvenigorodka by 1939. In 1939, it was closed and reconstructed into the Russian school.
Gulkin street (now Proletarskaya street) was completely inhabited by the Jewish families that lived in one-storey buildings.
In 1939, 1,957 Jews lived in Zvenyhorodka.
Over 3,000 citizens of Zvenigorodka were mobilized to the Soviet Army.
Zvenigorodka was occupied by the Wehrmacht on the 29th of July 1941.
In the late September or early October 1941, the detachment of operative command five shot about 100 Jewish men in Zvenigorodka.
On November 3rd 1941, “Jewish residential area” (an open ghetto) was organized in Zvenigorodka. The ghetto was located between Shevchenko, Komintern, Zhdanov, Pionerskaya and Karl Liebknecht streets. Three-four families would live in each house. The Jews were obliged to wear yellow stars on their clothes. The Germans appointed the head of Judenrat (Jewish council) and five-six brigadiers. Those were Jewish. They delivered the orders to the ghetto.
On the 16th of August 1941 the town pharmacist Skybynskyy was taken out of his home and shot in his garden. The same day Krasylovskyy was brutally murdered. Then engineer Kanevskiy and lawyer Yablunovskiy were killed. Bookbinder Yanishevskiy was put into a barrel with stones and rolled along the streets. He died. On the ninth of 1941 Krasylovska was killed in the yard of her own house. A local Ukrainian policeman named Kyslenko together with the Germans made her daughter dig the pit and shot her mother in front of her.
There was a ghetto in 1941-1942
On May 5th 1942, 150 able-bodied Jews were selected to work in the camp in Nemorozh village.
On May 17th 1942, the Jews from Katerinopol and Olshany were settled in Zvenigorodka. After the concentration of the Jews from the outskirts in Zvenigorodka on the 18th of June 1942 1,375 Jews were shot and 100 people were sent to the camp to Iskrenoye village. Only 80 artisans were left in Zvenigorodka and executed later.
Jewish population of Zvenigorodka:
1787 – 51 Jews
1805 – 2137 Jews
1856 – 2255
1897 – 6389 (38% of total population)
1910 – 5630 (23%)
1926 – 6584 (37% )
1939 – 1957 (14%)
2016’s ~ 50 Jews
In Febuary 1942 all prisoners from a concentration camp in Nemorozh village were shot. The people were gathered at the edge of Gubskiy forest. They dug a pit on the meadow and then shot everybody from the Nemorozh concentration camp. They left the place for 50 more people who were selected from Smilchentsi concentration camp. Several captives managed to escape during the shooting. Total amount of those who were shot in Gubskiy forest on the second of November 1942 is approximately 200 people.
During the Holocaust approximately 3,000 Jews died in Zvenigorodka.
Buzia Sigalova, Mariya Konstantinovskaya (1900-1956) with her daughter Shelia (1931-2000), Mania Torgovetskaya (her 11 month old daughter was killed), Lidiya Andrushchenko (1925-2005), Liubov Krasilovskaya, sisters Liza and Grunia Khilkivskiy, Betia Medved, Mikhail Khutorianskiy, Alexandr Shwartsman, I. Feldman, Asia Yakovlevna Zukina, Mania Torhovetska, A.S. Lement, Liza Yakovlevna Medvynska, A.P. Lemberska survived from Nemorozh camp. Appoximately 30-40 people escaped with their lives.
Zvenigorodka was freed on January 28th 1944.
Many Jews returned to Zvenigorodka after the War but I haven’t find information about Jewish life before 1990’s.
One local Jewish Veteran Mikhail Taranov and residents Liubov Krasylovska (1920, Zvenigordka – 2013, Haifa), and Liza Kerzher determined the names of 581 Jews from Zvenigorodka, killed by the fascists.
Mikhail Naumovich Gutmakher is a non-staff worker of a History Museum in Zvenigorodka. He is doing his best to revive the history of the Jewish population of Zvenigorodka and its district.
Yevgeniya Solomonovna Braslavskaya was a primary-care physician of Zvenigorodka district hospital. She’d been working at the same section for 45 years.
In 1993, a Jewish community was formed. The arrival of American Sally Grach caused the unification of Jews. They gathered in the flats, rented rooms in the local hotel.
Jewish community was registered in 1994.
Leonid Yakovlevich Braslavskiy – Head of Zvenigorodka Jewosh community
Community recieved building of PreRevolution synagogue in 1999.
Synagogue and community center in Zvenigorodka
In the summer 1999, Gudkin family from the USA presented a Torah-scroll to the community. The USA sponsors financed the reconstruction of the synagogue building which was built in 1891. The Jews from community “Temple-Shalom” (Succasunna, New Jersey) with rabbi Joel Sofin at the head were working the whole week together with the local Jews in 2001. They were painting, arranging Torah ark, landscaping the yard of the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery.
Small Jewish museum in one room of synagogue:
Famous Jews from Zvenigorodka
Grigoriy Markovich Chernobylskiy (1889-1937) was a Soviet scout, worked in the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), shot in 1937.
Iosif Markovich Ostrovskiy (1895-1937) was a activist of NKVD, had occupied several responsible posts for 15 his year-career. The last one was the head of Road Board in NKVD USSR, was shot in 1937.
Yakov Samoylovich Magaziner (1883-1941, Kiev) was a professor of Kiev State Conservatory. He was one of the founders of the musical ten-form school for talented children. He taught the violin in musical colleges of Kiev, in Kiev conservatory (the 1930’s). Yan Frenkel and many other famous violinists were his students.
Yefim Isaakovich Vodonos (born in 1939, Zvenigorodka) is a Russian art’s historian and critic, a museum employee and a teacher.
Chaika Semenovna Watenberg-Ostrovskaya (1901, Zvenyhorodka – 1952 Moscow) – a translator, was accused during the trial of the leaders of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and shot on August 12, 1952.
Nathan (Agmon) Bystritsky (1896, Zvenyhorodka – 1978, Tel-Aviv) – an Israeli writer.
Horatio Osipovich (Naftali-Hertz) Ginsburg (1833, Zvenyhorodka – 1909, St. Petersburg) a banker, social activist and philanthropist.
Boris Eltsin (1875, Zvenyhorodka-1937) a Russian revolutionary.
Jacob Samoilovich (1889, Zvenyhorodka -1941, Kiev) a musician, violinist and teacher.
Zvenigorodka Jewish cemetery
There are old and new (post WWII) part. Most old gravestones were stolen or destroyed during the XX century.
The cemetery suffered during the war. There are many anonymous graves of Jews who died in ghetto in 1941-1942. For example, Liubov Krasilovskaya buried her parents there herself but after the war she couldn’t find the grave.
Former house of the watchman and enterance to the cemetery
In the 1960’s, the Jewish community financed building of the house for the cemetery watchman and had been maintaining it by the 2000’s.
This cemetery contains the most ancient Jewish tombstone in Kiev and Cherkasy oblasts, which dates back to 1805. Inscription on the oldest gravestone (1805):
מהו דוד נפט
יום ב לחודש
Is a respected
And humble lady,
Daughter of our
Teacher and rabbi David,
Who died on Sivan 2, 5565
Let her soul be bound in the bond of life.
Holocaust mass grave
Dibrova forest, 20 meters from the wood. There are three mass graves of Jews, located about 10 meters away from each other in Dibrova forest (see map above).
The monuments on the place the mass execution of Zvenigorods ghetto were established in 1981 on Liubov Krasilovskaya, Mikhail Taranov and Mykola Kobrynskyy’s initiative for cost of Zvenigorodka Jews.
Fence constrction in 2006
In the 1990’s, the children’s grave was dug up by some marauders. Thus the head of the Jewish community had to bury children’s bones himself.
Mass grave of Nemorozh labor camp
The mass grave is located in the forest, 150 meters from the road. Not far from Murzintsy bus stop.
The Jews from Zvenyhorodka and a labor camp in Nemirozh were shot here. The erection of the monument was initiated by Mikhail Taranov. The money was collected by the Jews from Zvenyhorodka. The monument was erected in 1986-1987.
Memorial in Gubskaya dacha