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Shpola – Шпола (Ukrainian), Shpole, שפּאָלע (Yiddish)

Shpola is a town in Cherkassy region, a center of Shpola district, a geographical center of Ukraine. 18,112 lived in the town in 2011.

Before the Revolution, Shpola was a town of Zvenigorod Uezd of Kiev gubernia.

I could find very little information about the history of Shpola Jewish community before 1917 🙁

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The heyday of the Jewish shtetl and its emergence as a Hasidic center in the 18th century were connected with the tzadik Shpoler Zeide (“the grandfather from Shpola”).

Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib ben Boruch (Saba from Shpola), also known as (1725, Uman – 1812, Shpola) – (‘grandfather’-a nickname given to him by the Baal Shem Tov at his circumcision), is famed as a miracle worker and devoted to the succour of poor Jews in distress. In his early years, he was a disciple of Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, a leading figure in the first generation of Chassidim. The Shpoler Zeide was a key opponent of Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav.

Old ohel of Shpoler Zeide before reconstrruction in 2014

Old ohel of Shpoler Zeide before reconstruction in 2014

The sons of Rabbi Arieh Leib did not become Chassidic leaders. They settled in Shpola, and three of them were buried beside their father. At the request of the Shpoler Zeide, there is no tombstone at his grave, but a big box with the date of his death. Pilgrims to the site throw notes into the box.

Jewish population of Shpola:
1720’s – 566 Jews
1847 – 1516 Jews
1863 – 2534 (50%)
1897 – 5388 (45%)
1939 – 2397 (16%)
2017 ~ 10

On the 18th-19th of February 1897, the local population smashed shops and apartments that belonged to Jews, but there were no victims.

In 1905, the town had a society of benefits for the poor, an almshouse, four houses of prayer, a large synagogue.

In 1910, a society for helping the poor was operating, there was an alms-house, four houses of worship, a large synagogue, private male and female Hebrew schools, an evening school for adult girls and a Talmud Torah

Shpola entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

More lists of Shpola entrepreneurs by 1913


Civil War

During the civil war, the Jewish population of Shpola suffered from several pogroms, but they were not as severe as elsewhere in the district. As a result, a mass of Jewish refugees from eight destroyed shtetls of the district (more than 4,000 people) concentrated in Shpola.

Also, Jews began to leave Shpola in great numbers in an attempt to reach the Romanian border and to immigrate to the USA to their relatives. In 1921, 61 families (247 people) of Jewish refugees from Shpola lived in Odessa.

Shpola Jewish self defence

Shpola Jewish self-defense

Pogrom of May 27, 1919 (testimony of Krasniansky)

The pogrom was perpetrated by bands of neighboring peasants (from Lebedin and Listopadovo), going under the flag of Grigoriev. A band of about 150 to 200 men appeared on Monday evening, May 26, and went around to the synagogues, and com manded all the men to go to the station. Close to 1,000 Jews obeyed without question and collected at the station. There they separated out the old men and declared that they were going to shoot them. When cries and entreaties arose, the bandits stated that they would let them live if they would get them a certain quantity of provisions and money (sugar, tea, flour, etc.). Two hours time-limit was set. A commission was chosen which started to collect the provisions. But firing began at the station of Tzvetkovo (12 versts from Shpola), and the gang got fright ened and left.

On the next morning (Tuesday, May 27), a reconnoitring party came, and, finding that there was no one in the town, informed the gang of the fact. They immediately appeared and began to loot. The population, in a panic, scattered and hid. All the Jewish dwellings and some shops were plundered (at the beginning of the year there had been a great fire in Shpola and almost all the stores were burned). They took away goods, clothing, and underclothes, and spoiled and destroyed what was left. On the same day fourteen were killed, mostly by fire arms, some accidentally, by stray bullets. The local peas ants at first hid the Jews, but then began to say that they were afraid themselves. They took no part in the pillaging. Crosses were placed on the doors of non-Jewish dwellings. In the even ing Soviet forces arrived and forced out the bandits.

Three weeks after the first pogrom a detachment of Grigorie vists with yellow flags passed by Shpola, and about twelve men entered the town, looted (valuables, watches, and money; they didn’t stay long enough to get much) for several hours, and barbarously killed three. One fourteen-year-old girl was violated. She was operated on in the hospital, but died. Later it was said that these bandits who entered the town were disarmed by their own commanders.

I found some random information about Jewish self-defense in the town. We know that it existed and prevented a series of pogroms. In 1922, it consisted of 30 people.

Between the Wars

In the 1920s, a Jewish school was established. Children studied in it until the 8th grade, and then moved to the Ukrainian school. The authorities closed the Jewish school in 1932.
Frida Hershelevna Golderg (maiden name Feldman) (1890, Zlatopol – 1941) was a teacher of chemistry at this school.

Former Shpola synagogue. Now it is a Culture House

Former Shpola synagogue. Now it is a Culture House

In the 1920s, a Jewish collective farm was oraganized in Shpola; it existed until the early 1930s.

In the 1930s, there was a private Jewish kindergarten for 10-20 children in Shpola.

Benzion Izrailevich Golberg (1883,. Korsun – 1945) worked as a doctor in the district hospital, and in the city polyclinic as a radiologist. He was a competent doctor, and the local population respected him very much. In his house there was a special room with a sliding roof, for the celebration of Sukkot. He was arrested in 1937, served the entire term and died in exile in 1945.

Perl and Meer Ulanovsky with grandchildren, Shpola 1928. Photo was published in the book “A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present” by Zvi Gitelman, 1988

Perl and Meer Ulanovsky with grandchildren, Shpola 1928. Photo was published in the book “A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present” by Zvi Gitelman, 1988

Rosenfeld was a dentist in the town.

Before the war there was a Jewish theater in the town.


With the beginning of the Soviet-German war, many Jews did not evacuate because they remembered the Germans from the First World War and their good attitude toward the Jews.
Refugees from Poland and Bessarabia passed through the shtetl and warned of the danger emanating from the Germans.

The evacuation began only in late July. However, many of those who left could not cross the Dnieper and had to return. Some were overtaken by German troops and also returned to the village.

Shpola was occupied on July 30, 1941.
On August 19, 1941, local authorities ordered all Jews to wear bandages with the star of David and 2 stripes (analogous to the ones on the flag of Israel).

On August 20, 1941, all Jews were ordered to move to the ghetto in Kotsyubinsky and Shchedrin streets. Local Jew Hoffmann was appointed a ghetto leader.

The invaders called this quarter “Palestine”. Prisoners were not allowed to enter the market. There were no supplies. Jews paid 200 roubles for 200 grams of bread. Because of hunger, 10-12 people died daily.

On August 22, 1941 in Darievskiy Forest (Nyzhnia Darievka area) the Jewish men were shot. The number of victims is unknown.
On the 3rd and 9th of September 1941, the second mass shootings in Shpola took place with 160 representatives of the local intelligentsia killed.

People were sent to different jobs. Jews were forbidden to go to the bazaar and they were forced to exchange their belongings and valuables for food from local Ukrainians. This continued until May 1942.
On the night of May 6-7, police surrounded the ghetto, chose people and took them to the police office.
On May 15, 1942, all the disabled old men and children from the Shpola ghetto were sent to a building of the former orphanage. It was situated in Dariev Forest, where they had been kept for about a month. Then five families of specialists were selected: two blacksmiths, one male tailor, one saddler and one lady’s dressmaker Vinokur. They moved them back to Shpola. All another 760 Jews were executed not far from the orphanage. Dr. Holberg’s daughter was holding her children in her arms and shouted that the blood of innocent children would never forgive the murderers.

Holocaust mass grave in Dariev Forest

Holocaust mass grave in Dariev Forest


In August 1942, about 80 Jews were shot in a well near the village of Iskrennoye.

A group of able-bodied Jews was driven to build the Kirovograd-Odessa highway. In Zvenigorod district, there were three camps forthe construction of roads – in the villages of Shostakovo, Yerki and Brodesskoye.
Patients with typhus were not treated here, but were shot. The conditions of detention were terrible. But security was not strong and there were opportunities to leave. But most did not leave, because they didn’t have where to go…
255 able-bodied Jews, who had been working for several months, were driven to Bradetsky concentration camp, and on December 15, 1942, they were shot. At the same time, 105 people who worked in the Shestakovsky concentration camp were shot as well. After this, 250 Romanian Jews were brought here and shot. Approximately 500 Shpola Jews were killed here.
The family of Peter Ivanovich Gorovenko saved Gitia Volkovna Korsunskaya.

Last Shpola Jewish craftsmens were executed in 1943.

Shpola was liberated by Sovier Army on 27th of January 1944.

A few dozen local Jews survived the occupation. They managed to stay alive with the help of local Ukrainians. Policemen pushed some Jews out of the column, which led to the shooting. Some crawled out of the pit with the corpses or escaped from execution site (Hanna Gleizer).
Afanasiy Kuprievich and his wife, Yelena saved local Jewish girl Klara Vinokur. On September 13, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized Afanasiy and Yelena Kuprievich as Righteous Among the Nations.
Stories of Klara Vinocur and Fira Zamenskaya store on USHMM website.

Holocaust survivor Klara Vinocur with post-WWII photo of Shpola Holocaust mass grave

Holocaust survivor Klara Vinocur with post-WWII photo of Shpola Holocaust mass grave

In 1965, monument was erected on Holocaust mass grave.

After the WWII

After the war, families Avrutsky, Esrekh, Bliakher, Lubovner, Polonskiy, Singer, Shvartsman, Bisnovaty, Sokroyskiy, Shapiro, Konelsky, Koen, Belotserkovsky, and Taran returned.
I could not find more information about the post-war Jews of Shpola.

The Jewish community was registered in the early 1990s.

The first head of the community was Anatoly Naumovich Libovner (died in the late 1990s); the next chairman was David Yosipovich Kriss (moved to his daughter in Korsun where he died in 2018), then Shura Naumovna Plakhotnik (died in 2015).

Now the head of the Jewish community is Yelena Blizniuk.

In 1965, in Haifa (Israel), David Cohen’s memories of the Jewish life in Shpola were published in Hebrew.

Story of Joel Gomberg from the family of Shpola candlemakers:

Famous Jews from Shpola

Solomon Yefimovich Gurovich (1884, Shpola -?), conductor and composer. In 1910, he was a chief conductor of the St. Petersburg Choral Synagogue.

Semion Kaufman (1839, Shpola – 1918, St. Petersburg), military doctor, had been the head of the Jewish community of St. Petersburg for 15 years.

Moses Kogosovich Rabinovich (1896, Shpola – 1969, Tel Aviv), the organizer of ambulance services in Tel-Aviv.

Moses Rabinovich

Moses Rabinovich

Yakov Natanovich Apter (1899, Shpola – 1941), graphic artist, painter. He was killed at the front during the defense of Moscow.

Yakov Apter

Yakov Apter

Itsik Fefer (1900, Shpola –1952, Moscow), Yiddish poet. Itsik Fefer was 12 years old when he began to work at a printing shop. In 1917 he joined the Bund and became a trade union activist. A Communist from 1919, he served in the Red Army. He began writing poems in 1918, and in 1922 joined Vidervuks (New Growth) in Kiev, a group of young Yiddish literati whose mentor was Dovid Hofshteyn. Fefer was arrested in 1948, together with other members of the JAC. He was executed on 12 August 1952.

Itsik Fefer

Itsik Fefer

Before the war, the father of Itzik Fefer was a head of the elderly home in Shpola.
He didn’t evacuate, because he could not leave the old people and died with the local Jews. After the war, Itzik Fefer came to Shpola to find out the details of his father’s death.

Jewish cemetery

The cemetery seems to have emerged in the late XVIII– early XIX century. The oldest section was located across the street from building 27a on Korneychuk Street. During and after the war, most of the cemetery was destroyed and the tombs stolen. The plot dating from the 1920s-1930s has remained and is adjacent to the sections from the post-war period. The rest of the cemetery territory is used as gardens.

The Jewish cemetery was used until 1971. Since 1972 Jews have been buried in a common cemetery.
In the 1980s, the first “ohel” at the grave of Shpoler Zeid was built by the efforts of the director of the sewing factory Lubovner. Four Jewish buses from abroad came to the opening of the “ohel”, among them there were two old men who were carried on stretchers.

Old ohel of Shpoler Zeide before reconstrruction in 2014

Old ohel of Shpoler Zeide before reconstrruction in 2014

The “ohel” was reconstructed in 2014 and is practically new.

Ohel of Shpoler Zeide, 2017

New ohel of Shpoler Zeide, 2017

After the war, most of the old Jewish cemetery was destroyed and the authorities were going to make a park in its place. Some birches were planted and are still growing. But then their plans changed and the cemetery was given to people for gardens.



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