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Kanetspol – XVIII, Sawrań (Polish), Саврань – Savran (Russian)

Savran has been an urban-type village since 1957, a district center of the Odessa region.
It has existed since the late XIV century. In the XVI – XVIII centuries, it was a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1793 it was incorporated into the Russian Empire. In the XIX – early XX centuries, it was a shtetl of the Balta uyezd, Podolia gubernia. Since 1926 Savran has been a center of a Jewish national village council.

We visited Savran during our expedition in the summer 2018.
In 2019, Vladimir Chaplin, a director at the Odessa Jewish Museum provided us with audio records and photos of the ethnographic expedition to Savran in 2012.
An interview with unofficial head of the Jewish community of Savran Mikhail Usilnikov was especially valuable for us. He died in 2016.

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I didn’t find information about Jewish community of Savran in the XVIII-early XIX century.

In 1870, two synagogues were functioning in Savran. In 1889 there were three, in the early XX century – four.
In 1912, there was a Jewish savings-and-credit society in Savran.

In the XIX – early XX centuries, the main occupations of the Jewish population of Savran were crafts and trade.

Savran entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Savran entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

In 1914, Jews owned four drugstores, both hotels, both forest warehouses, two mills, the only creamery, 66 stalls and shops, including all 17 groceries, all 17 textile shops, all three shoe-making shops, the only furniture shop, all three wine stores and all six bakeries.

Savran Hasidic Dynasty

Rabbi Moshe Tsvi Giterman was born in approximately 1775. He is considered to be the first Savran rabbi, a great student and follower of Levi Itskhak from Berdichev. and also of Rabbi Barukh from Medzhibozh, a grandson of Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judisiam.
(after Levi Itskhak’s death Giterman become a rabbi in Berdichev)

Jewish population of Savran:
1847 — 2548 Jews
1887 – 2900 (68%)
1897 — 3198 (54%)
1923 – 2851 Jews
1926 — 3415 Jews
1939 — 1101 Jews
2012 — 6 Jews
2018 – 1 Jew

In 1811, rabbi Moshe Tsvi Giterman became a rabbi of Savran shtetl and a leader of Hasidim. He founded one of the most powerful Hasidic dynasties. His authority as a Tzaddic increased gradually, he became as famous as rabbi Israel from Ruzhin and rabbi Mordekhay from Chernobyl. He arranged assistance to hasids by collecting money in Israel. Rabbi Moshe Tsvi’s hasids lived mostly in Podolia and partly in Bessarabia. He gained the reputation of a scientist and a wise man who took an interest in everything that happened in the world. Thus he was very popular among Maskilim (followers of Haskalah movement). In the 1830’s, he fought against Bratslav Hasids. In 1831, Moshe Tsvi left Savran. This probably happened because of the epidemic there. He moved to the shtetl of Chechelnik which later became a main center of Hasidism. His son, Shimon Shlomo, and his two grandchildren, Moshe and David, became Tzaddiks both in Savran and Chechelnik. Such an admiration of rabbi Moshe Tsvi’s grandsons was connected with a special status of Tzaddics from Chernobyl. When their father had died, they were adopted and brought up by rabbi Yokhanan from Rotmistrovka. The latter arranged marriages between his daughter and rabbi David and between rabbi Moshe and rabbi Aron’s (from Chernobyl) granddaughter.

Ohel of the rebbe from Savran’s dynasty in old Jewish cemetery in Savran:

Inscription on the ohel's door, 2018. From another source, Shimon Shlomo was buried in Chechelnik.

Inscription on the ohel’s door, 2018. From another source, Shimon Shlomo was buried in Chechelnik.

Rabbi Moshe Tsvi died on Tevet 27, 5598 (December 1837) and was buried at the old Jewish cemetery of Chechelnik.
After Shimon Shlomo’s death, his sons Moshe Giterman , who became a successor in Chernobyl, and David Giterman, who became a successor in Savran, competed with each other.
Shomo “Second”, Moshe Giterman’s son from Chernobyl, was very young when he became a very popular leader. His descendants served as rabbis in Podolia and Bessarabia. After the Holocaust some of his descendants stayed in the USSR while the others moved to the United States and Israel.
Rabbi Moshe Giterman’s (1827 – 1876) grandson rabbi Shimon Shlomo Giterman (1800 – 1848) and rabbi Shlomo “Second” Giterman’s (1858 – 1919) great-grandson were buried in ohel in Chechelnik.
Savran rabbi’s both grandsons rabbi Itskhak Meir Ager (1860 – 1926) and rabbi David Giterman (… – 1912) became his successors in Savran.

Plan of 2 Savran’s synagogue in 1896, photo from the collection of The center for Jewish Art, Israel:


In April 1918, the Jewish population of Savran suffered from a pogrom which was committed by local peasants. As a result, doctor Kleyn, the head of a self-defense detachment and his father-in-law Kirzhner were killed. In 1920 one more pogrom was committed by the squads of Volunteer Army.
Jews began to flee to Odessa and other towns to escape these pograms. In 1920, 41 families of Jewish refugees from Savran were registered. There were 151 people totally.

Description of porgom in Savran from Yiddish book published in 1923:

After the Passover 1917, a group of bandits came to Savran to raid the town, and started attacking and raiding people homes, “AGUDAT HAMAGEN” the protective group, scared them away. One of the bandits was killed. The Christian town people retaliated, and killed the head of “AGUDAT HAMAGEN,” Dr. Klein, and his father-in-law, Liev Alters, and attacked many Jewish homes and stores.

From there on, there was no rest for the Jews of Savran: Kozakov’s troops raided Savran. Kozakov called the two village rabbis and demanded a 200,000 Rubles “contribution” and made them responsible for all that would happen if this would not be paid within one hour. The town Jews collected the money, but failed to do so in an hour, so Kozakov left the town with the two rabbis, captive, and killed them in a horrific way, torturing them to death, making them eat rotten eggs and burning their beards while singing praises for him. After crossing the river he caught three more Jews, an old man, and the two sons of Moyshe Barshedsky and killed them as well.

The 200,000 rubles where given to the widows and orphans of the rabbis by the town people.

After a while the troops of Danikin started to come to Savarn, the first group caused no harm, and only asked for food supplies and clothes, but after came Kazaks from those troops, and after taking what they wanted (e.g., food clothes) they took a respected man, Shimon Elizepan, and whipped him fifty lashes just for saying: ”We can’t leave a Jewish town without leaving any mark passing through.” They laughed and the man fell to an illness for three months after this.

And when the Danikinians were killed of the hands of the Soviet troops, they came back to Savarn and slaughtered the entire Jewish town folks, it was Saturday (morning of Shabbat) that the first faction came of fleeing Danikinians and demanded “contribution” but then the town bells started , and they fled. But at noon came the second faction, and started the slaughter any Jew caught by the faction was killed on the spot. Old people were butchered, little children were torn to pieces which were thrown to the faction’s dogs, every women between 12 and 70 years of age were raped and then killed in many horrific ways.

At first the Danikinians tortured their victims to get word of the hiding places where they stashed their belongings. After taking their possession they also took their lives. Thus, they took 200,000 rubles out of the old man BOYKES hands and promised when he gives the money they will let him live, after taking his money, they put him against the wall pour oil on him, and torched him alive, counting the money in front of his eyes, while the poor soul was screaming and burning to death. Then they killed his son. SHAUL (SAUL) CHERNOAUS son, a five year old, they found under the bed, hiding , they asked him ”Where is your father?” “I don’t know” the boy said. Immediately they cut him to pieces and threw his remains to the dogs.

Israel Arages’ wife, a very beautiful and graceful women, they took, raped, and decapitated.

The faction was accompanied by many of the important Christian community leaders which led them to the hiding places of the Jews. All the Jews were killed by crude weapons. One Jew plead to be killed by a rifle, and got this answer: “Every bullet is now very expensive, pay us the bullet price, and you will get killed this way.”

The killing lasted three days, and after ten more days, more Danikinian factions came and again butchered, raped, robbed and pillaged the town Jews. The casualties toll came to approximately 800 people. Many of Savarn Jews fled to the nearing villages where they died of cold or hunger. In Savarn few Jewish families stayed, but they were also harassed and driven out by the Christian families.

The state of these families is evident by this fact: A Jewish student from Savarn traveled to Odessa with two Christians, and they stayed in an inn together over night, were they stole his money: 35,000 rubles. When the Soviets learned of this, they came to the hotel, checked the Christians satchels and found counterfeit money in their possession and guns. They were of course arrested. After a few days a poster was hanged on a wall in Savarn : “Communist Yids: If you will not return our people, we will slaughter you all. Petliura slaughtered you all and didn’t finish; Danikinians slaughtered you all and didn’t finish; we will slaughter you all – and will not leave even a baby in his crib. The Alliance of Destroyers.”

(These are the words of Savran refugees.)

Between the Wars

In 1925, Jews from Savran founded agricultural colonies in Balaychuk and Friling (now Vesnianoye) in the Odessa region. 48 Jewish families (305 people) from Savran who had moved to the Crimea founded four agricultural collective the farms “Blago”, “Yedineniye”, “Slava”, “Trudoliubiye”. In 1931, 4,028 people lived on the territory of the village council. In the late 1930’s, many Jews left Savran for large cities of the USSR, especially to Odessa.

In 1939, 1,101 Jews lived in Savran, 1,227 Jews lived in the entire district. In the 1930’s, Savran was a center of the Jewish village council. In 1931, 4,028 people lived there.


It was occupied by the German-Romanian troops in July 1941. 600 Jews lived in the village at that time.

In late July a ghetto was formed in Chkalov Street. Since September 1, 1941 Savran was incorporated into Transnistria. In October 1941, all the Jews of the village were deported to Obodovka, Vinnitsa region by the Romanian police. Almost all the Jews died of famine and illnesses. 18 children and elderly who were not able to couldn’t walk in the column to Vinnitsa region were shot. They were buried on local Jewish cemetery.

In 1942 – 1944, a camp for Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina was in Savran. More than 100 people died there.
In September 1, 1943 there were only two Jews from Bessarabia and eight Jews from Bukovina left in the camp.

In May 1943, 127 Romanian Jewish communists from Vapniarka camp were sent to Savran. In early 1944, they were returned to Romania. After Savran had been liberated in late March 1944, the Pustilnik family (three members) returned.

A monument to the Holocaust victims was established at the New Jewish cemetery in the 1980’s. The authorities painted a Star of David which had been on the monument.

Old Soviet's Holocaust monument in local Jewish cemetery, Savran 2018

Old Soviet’s Holocaust monument in local Jewish cemetery, Savran 2018

In the 1990’s, a Remembrance Wall to Holocaust victims was established at the new Jewish cemetery. However, it was not properly constructed because local builders stole a part of cement which was meant to be used to build the Wall. Thus, the Wall collapsed in 2017.

Opening of new Holocaust memorial on the place of Remembrance Wall, 2018. Photo from

After the WWII

We don’t know the exact amount of the Jews who came back to Savran after the war.
In 2018, one local non-Jew whom we met at the Jewish cemetery remembered following surnames:
– Misha and Faina Pustilnik. Misha’s nickname was “Golda Meir”. He died in Savran in 2016 but his children buried him in Israel. His wife moved to Israel and died there.
– The Shvartser family; their son Sema lives in Australia.
– The Solodky family; their son Sema lives in Germany.
– The Dovgonos family; father Isahak Romanovich used to sew hats. His son David lived in the USA, and the daughter lives in Australia.
In the 2000’s, Mikhail Usilnik collected money from the natives of Savran living in Canada, Australia, and Israel, and fenced a new Jewish cemetery.

In 2018, only one Jew lived in Savran – local math teacher who married to non-Jewish woman. He has some memories of his mother and uncle but refused to share them.

Old Jewish cemetery

The old and new cemeteries are situated near each other. Most of the matseyvas from the old cemetery were stolen by local citizens.
There are residential buildings and a school in the neighbourhood. The school soccer field is directly on the cemetery territory.

New Jewish cemetery

The new cemetery was used starting in 1910 so the oldest graves are deep within the cemetery and covered with thick bushes.

There was one more Jewish cemetery in the center of the shtetl not far from the market. Mikhail Usilnik (? – 2016) claimed that several grave stones from that cemetery were in the yard of one local Ukrainian family who lived one street away from the bus station.




  1. Thank you for educating Jewish people.

  2. Also thank you for educating non-Jewish people

  3. Guys. You made a little mistake. Person name is Misha Pustilnik not Ustilnik. He was my neighbor and good friend for all my family .

    • Поправил и отписал Вам на почту )

      • Вы не везде исправили. У вас везде Устильник

      • Вы не везде исправили. У вас везде Устильник. А также там жили семьи Дуб, большая семья братьев Мотл,Фридман, Хилык Фридман, Йосив Фридман, Гительман, Клюрфельды.

  4. Amazing seeing that old news paper article clipping talking about all of the jobs; my family name is Barats and were from Savran, about the only lead I have to finding any sort of heritage. Shockingly a google translate later and I finally see the family name near that time period in that news article. Sounds minuscule I know from someone on the outside but given all of the death and destruction of that time period and lack of records plus being entire continents away. I really appreciate who ever took the time and dedication to upload all of this tiny piece of history to some and and humongous piece to others.

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