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Gornostaypol is a village in Ivankov district of Kiev region.  The population of Gornostaypol was 1061 people in 2001.

The shtetl has been known since the year 1493. It became part of the Russian Empire in 1793. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the shtetl was part of the Radomysl district, Kyiv province.

I visited the former shtetl in 2018; I managed to interview the local resident Olena Dimitrovna Ovsyanik, who was born in 1938. She told me some facts about the post-war Jews of Gornostaypol (or Gornostaipol).

Article was translated by Daniel Pesin.

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In 1863, the shtetl had a synagogue. From 1898, the rabbi was Chaim Men.

In the second half of the 19th century, Rav Mordechai Dov (son of Meshulam Zusya Itshak) settled in Gornostaypol and started his Hassidic dynasty. His sons escaped from Gornostaypol during the 1919-1920 pogroms.

Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twerskiy (1839 - 1903), founder of Gornostaipol Hasidic dynasty

Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twerskiy (1839 – 1903), founder of Gornostaipol Hasidic dynasty

Another photo of Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twerskiy

Another photo of Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twerskiy

There are 2 assumptive burial places in the destroyed Jewish cemetery, which locates in ~50 meters from each other.

First place:

Second place:

In 1913 a Jewish Savings and Loan Association operated in Gornostaypol.

Gornostaypol entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Gornostaypol entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

At the time of the Revolution (1917-1920) the Jewish population suffered greatly from constant looting from members of Struk’s gang, which operated in this region.

Jewish population of Gornostaypol:
1847 — 366 Jews
1897 — 1888 (57%)
1923 — 468 Jews
1930’s ~ 200 Jews
1990’s — 0

The Jews of Gornostaypol were subject to constant indemnities (ransoms?) of thousands and thousands of rubles.

For example, in 1918 bandits arrested Issakhar Spektor, and also I. Geridman, H. Gorohovskiy, Z. Epshteyn and M. Kaplan, and let them go after having received 10,000 rubles in ransoms.

Ataman Struk looted the shtetl multiple times. One day, before they (Struk and his gang) left the town, they plundered and destroyed leather workshops, some textile shops and the home of Shmuel Roitman.

In 1919 theatrical props were found in the home of the Jew Peretz Borodyanskiy, including clothes which looked like priests’ clothes. Borodyanskiy was dressed up in these clothes and told to sing prayers while the gang brutally beat him. After this he was put in prison, and on the third day was released on bail of 10,000 rubles. The local priest testified that the clothes were not church clothes, but only theatrical props.

One night the 16-year-old girl Rosa Byelorusskaya was shot to death. The Cossack who shot her was arrested, but freed on the same day.

On the 8th of May, 1919, the chiefs (police/government officials?) allowed the gangs to do whatever they wanted with the Jews for six hours. At 10 in the morning, each gang spread out around the city, and began to beat the Jews and loot their homes. The pogrom continued until five in the afternoon. The thugs ran around the streets like wild animals, brutally beating the Jews who fell into their hands, forcing them to take off their boots, their outer clothes and even their trousers, leaving them only in their undershirts. Yitzchak Slutskiy and Levi-Yitzchak Shlomovich Shapira were killed.

In September 1919 there was a pogrom, arranged by parts of the (White) Volunteer Army.

At the end of the 1920s the mikvah was closed. In 1930 the synagogue followed suit. A significant part of the Jewish population left for Kyiv and other big cities in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1930s, there were three collective farms in the village, one of which was led by the Jew Vilitskiy.

The shtetl was occupied by German in September 1941.

Around 150 Jews did not manage to evacuate or flee. Jews from the surrounding villages were driven here (to Gornostaypol). On the 6th of November, 1941, a unit of the German gendarmerie – around one hundred servicemen – arrived in the village. On the 7th of November, 1941, the act of extermination began. It was led by three SS men, one of whom later fulfilled the duty of executioner. Local policemen also took part in the act.

Through local policemen, representatives of the arriving punitive team announced the start of the “evacuation”, ordering all of the Jews to gather. They were to have warm clothes and valuable items with them. As not all of the Jews had gathered, they began to look for them and take them under escort to the market square. The Ukrainian population were ordered to enter their homes and not to go outside.

Having gathered the Jews of Gornostaypol in the market square, the chasteners ordered them to put together all of their things and valuables. Leaving one policeman to guard the property, the Germans and policemen escorted the people to the territory of the collective farm called Petrovsky. Behind the garden of the collective farm they were shot. As the local residents remembered, some of the Jews went barefoot in the snow.

In the morning of the same day, a team of ten people – with a policeman as a guide – was sent to the neighbouring village Loputka, where, according to the Nazis, 10 hiding Jews were found. But the punitive team, having arrived in the village, did not find the Jews. Warned by the local residents, they fled to and hid in the forest.

In total, on the 7th of November, 1941, 280 Jews were shot, according to data from the ChGK; according to German data, 385 were shot, the majority of whom were driven from nearby villages. The things of the people who had been shot were taken by the policemen and the representatives of the punitive team, who immediately exchanged them for food. Not a single Jew in the village survived the occupation.

The monument is not located exactly at the killing site:

Mass killing site locates somewhere in this field...

Mass killing site locates somewhere in this field…

After the war the dead were reburied in the Jewish cemetery in Ivankov. In 1988, a monument was put up, not far from the place of the shooting, but the shootings took place further from the road.

After the war the family Velitskiy returned to the village – the head of the family had been at the front, and the family was in evacuation, which is why it survived. It consisted of the patriarch, his wife Meira and their three daughters Nina, Klava and Pronya. In 1945-46, the family left the village for Kyiv.

Meira Velitskaya returned to the village for the last time in the 1970s before her immigration to the USA. She took some earth in the village, for memory…

After the war only these people lived in the village: Leika, an lonely old Jewish woman, whose niece took her to Kyiv, and the tailors Slava and Srul’, who sewed clothes for people in Gornosatpol and the neighbouring villages – they did this in the 1950s.

In the 1970s Jews did not live in the village anymore…

At the start of the 1990s, the remains of a foundation of a destroyed ohel on the territory of the graveyard were found. The ohel was restored by representatives from a Jewish organisation.

Only one old building is left in the village; it belonged to a Jewish family until 1917, which reminds one of the Jewish history of the shtetl – here was the post office, the village council, the school.

The synagogue was located on the territory of the current Tsibel household.


List of pogroms in Chernobyl, Gornostaipol, Habno and Ivankov.

Famous Jews from Gornostaypol

Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899, Tashan, Borispol region, Ukraine – 1985, Bnei Brak, Israel), known as The Steipler or The Steipler Gaon. 

Staipler’s father, reb Chaim Peretz, was the father of three daughters. When his first wife died, Chaim Peretz was already 60. He visited his Rebbe (probably somebody from the Cherkassy branch of the Chernobyl dynasty) and asked whether he should remarry. The reply was that he should marry a young woman and he would be blessed with sons. So he did and had three sons; the oldest was named Yaakov Yisrael. Reb Chaim died and his second wife moved to her hometown Gonostaypol. At the age of 11, Yaakov Yisrael was recruited from Gornostaypol for the Novorodock yeshiva.

In 1937, his mother died in Gonostaypol. Grave was destroyed after the WWII.

Jewish cemetery

Photo from the Surveys of Jewish cemeteries by ECJF

Destroyed Jewish cemetery in Gornostaypol. Photo from the Surveys of Jewish cemeteries by ECJF



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