ONLINE NEWSLETTER
No. 13/2000 - 5. June 2000

Editor:
Elsebeth Paikin
The editorial staff:
Mario Kampel - Lori Miller

Pnina and Avramís Story.
A reunion of brother and sister
- after 58 years!

by Kelly Modlin, Israel

The search begins

The story begins with a place called Wyszkow and a document issued by the "Jewish Central Committee in Poland, Warsaw 1947"

MISHURES Pola
Born: Wyszkow 08-01-1939
Father: Aszes
Mother: Ryfka

Since then our search has carried us a few (thousand) kilometers to the East - deep into Russia - right to a place called Orsk, Orenburg Oblast.

Starting with almost nothing!

All we knew was that Pnina had spent her childhood War Years (1941-1945) in various Russian Orphanages situated in the Buzuluk Area - Orenburg Oblast. The question: Where and how does one go about obtaining the requested information?

In 1996, with the aid of a friend here at Kibbutz Shluchot, we entered an Internet plea requesting information about refugees who had fled to the Eastern parts of Russia, with the emphasis on "Buzuluk".

The result: a phone call from America. At the other end of the line: A lady. Her story, "Like Pnina, she too spent the War Years in Orphanages - Buzuluk Area. Her father served in the Czech Army. As far as she knew, all the parentís of children in Buzuluk Orphanages served in the Military.

Next a letter from Australia - the same story. I also remembered that the father of two children who were together with Pnina in Buzuluk, also served in the Army. On mentioning this to Luda, Pninaís very good friend, together with whom she had spent the War Years, her response was quick in coming. "Donít you remember what I told you? When we were in Buzuluk they told me that I received a letter from my father (a Soldier) saying, that after the War heíd come to fetch me". - (He never did! Now we know that he fell in Battle. Iíll get back to Luda at a later stage).

Putting two and two together, if their fathers were soldiers, perhaps the same applied to Pninaís father. This convinced me that we had to find information pertaining to refugees serving in the Red or other Armies under their command. Besides the Jewish Gen. Digest, I wrote to military Archives and the Russian Red Cross and Red Crescent in Moscow. We also approached the Organization of Jewish Soldiers who fought in the Red Army against Nazism. During the program "Missing Identity" on the Israeli T.V in which Pnina participated, we emphasized the Russian factor.

None of this solved our Problem. We were stuck and had come to a dead end. It was always my stern belief that for "Every human being somewhere in the World there must be some sort of information " The question where to now?

In February 1997 our very good friend Avigail Ben-Yair, who was Pninaís teacher after she arrived in Palestine in 1947, decided to approach Natan (Anatoly) Sheransky requesting his aid. He responded in the affirmative. And the task was handed over to the head of his staff, whose mother was a survivor of the Holocaust and Pninaís story was therefore close to her heart and she did all in her power in order to help us. She contacted Yaakov (Yasha) Kedmi the then head of the Lishkat Hakesher an Agency which is active in Russia. They set about seeking the requested information regarding Pninaís childhood in Russia. As mentioned previously, all that was known to us was the name MISHURES Pola and a place called "Buzuluk"

A breakthrough!

Seven months later there was a breakthrough. On the 10th Sept í 97 a letter and Documents were received from the "Main Educational Authority" - Orenburg District Russia with the following information:

  1. MISHURES Polia - born 1937, Kiev District - Zabolotíye, Father Moiseie (Moshe, Michael) at War. Arrived at the Koltubanovskij Orphanage - Buzuluk Area from the Bogdanovkíye Orphanage - Orenburg District. This was an entry in the registration book dated 01.01.1942.
  2. MISHURES Pelageia - born 1937 evacuated from the Battle Area Father at War.
  3. It goes on to state that on the 02.10.1944 Pnina was transferred to the Orphanage of the #2 School of Buzuluk, situated in the Village of Novoaleksandrovka. This was entered in the registration book on the 04.05.1945. After this there were no more entries i.e. End of the War.

Things began to move. The information received from Orenburg confirmed the fact that Pnina's Father served in the the Armed Forces. The obvious thing requested of us was to seek information concerning a soldier by the name of MISHURES Mojsha.

Once again I wrote to the Red Cross and the Military Archive - Moscow. Only this time I sent them the information received from Orenburg. The result of all this activity and letter writing, was a letter dated April 10th 1999 - from a certain MISHURES Alexander (Avram) Michaelovich, who lives in the town of Orsk Russia. Instead of a father we found a Brother and what's more very much alive.

WHAT A BREAKTHROUGH!

MISHURES Avramís Letter to Pnina

Regards from Russia, the town of Orsk in the district of Orenburg (Chaklov).

Shalom to you Paulina (Polina).

My heart tells me that you are my sister who I lost during the War. I will explain everything in chronological order. I remember that before the War we lived in a Rural District, somewhere in Western Russia (possibly Belarus). We lived in some sort of village (townlet), because the pavements were made of wood. We had a house of our own. There was even a cow. Father was called - I think - Michael (perhaps Iím mistaken). He was a shoemaker, he also made winter boots out of felt. Mother was a housewife, her name, I think Chana or Gana. We had a bigger brother by the name of Boris, he even came on leave from the Army. He brought sweets and cookies.

When the War began the streets were filled with soldiers, tanks and cannons. Us together with mother were evacuated. Father and brother were sent to the front. They transported us by freight train, which I think was bombed. They brought us to the Chaklov District (Orenburg), to the city of Orsk. We lived in a mud hut (hovel). Mother became ill very often and died in the Winter, donít remember which year, 1941 - 1942. We were sent to a "Child Selection Home" in Orsk. From the "Selection Home" they transferred us to or Baklanovka or Bogdanovka in the Chaklov (Orenburg) District. We were there together. Afterwards they separated us (almost certain at Bogdanovka). The bigger ones to another Childrenís Home. The smaller ones (children) to a different one. They spoke (said) to Buzuluk. Like this they separated us.

I spent time in various Childrenís Homes. The last one was at Oktjabrískoe - Chaklov District. When in the 6th - 7th grade I tried finding you, wrote to Moscow, but nothing came of it. They called me Avram the son of Michael. According to my words this is what they wrote. Family MISHURES, perhaps Iím mistaken, donít know. Afterwards I graduated from a Technical Trade College. I became a Tractor and Motor Mechanic and instructor. Served in the Army for three years. Once again in 1957 I wrote to Moscow, I received a reply that they started a search - thatís all.

I remained resident in the Orenburg District and married somebody from the Childrenís Home. Her name is Nina Chornia (Ukrainian), doesnít remember her parents. All my life I worked in a Trade School - I was a teacher and Vice Principal. Now Iím a pensioner, work at the school as a teacher. My wife Nina is also a teacher - mathematics, also a pensioner.

We have three children Oleg, Vova, (Vladimir) and a daughter Yulia. All are married and live in the Orenburg District. We have four grandsons and daughters. The oldest Stas, Sanya (Alexander), Nastiya (Anistasia) and Katiya (Yakatarina). We love them very much and keep in touch with them. For various reasons I had to change my name to Alexander, I got used to it. So now Iím Alexander Michaelovitz MISHURES (Misoris). We live in Orsk. Iím ashamed, as I donít know where mother is buried. Iíll search. Write me everything about yourself, how you live, about your family etc.

I was very happy when it became known to me that my sister Paulina is looking for me. I cried, alone, of course, as we (me and my wife), havenít even got a close relation. The "Red Cross" in Moscow sent me Documents and confirmation, but there are slight differences. They write that your name is Pelageia and that you remember the parents vaguely. I donít remember, we were only children and everything was written according to what we told them. According to my ID Card I was born on the 15th August 1936 (I got used to that) and celebrate my birthday accordingly.

I told my children that it seems that I found my sister Paulina, they were very happy. Well it seems that I have written everything. Regards from my wife and I wish you good health.

Strong hugs and kisses

Your Brother

Alexander

As mentioned in this letter - the year 1957, Avram once again finds himself writing to the Russian Red Cross seeking information regarding his little sister Polina MISHURES, whom he had lost during the War. They informed him that they had opened a file regarding his request and if they found anything they would contact him.

42 years were to pass until they re-contacted him. This happened as a result of my letter which included the documents and original letter received from the "Main Educational Authority" - Orenburg.

In addition to supplying him with our address here at Shluchot, they sent him documents referring to both himself and Pnina. Like in the case of Pnina, these documents were obtained from the "Main Educational Authority" - Orenburg.

He took the initiative and the result as we know was his letter to Pnina.

Contact!

The problem now facing us was how do we go about making contact, as Avramís letter took three weeks to arrive and who knows how long a letter from us would take to reach him. With the aid of a very good friend we managed to make contact with the Jewish Agencies Office in the town of Samara (Kuibyshev). The staff were only too happy to help. Luck was on our side. The person with whom we spoke, Melachi Akiva, was due to leave for Orsk within a few days on Agency business. Unbelievable, everything arranged to order. We had to work fast. Firstly we e-mailed a scanned photoís of Pnina as a child and in addition we faxed a letter which Pnina had written to Avram. Akiva met with Avram twice and returned to Samara with the documents received by Avram from the Russian Red Cross, plus a group photo of youngsters from an Orphanage. All this he faxed us on his return The documents which Avram received were most important in proving the relationship between Pnina and Avram as brother and sister.

As for the photo - you remember Pninaís friend Luda?
Well I'll get back to the photo and Luda later...

Before I continue I would like to write a few lines about Avram ís wife Nina. - Another one of the tragedies of the War. This is the story of her life as told by her:

Nina was born more or less in 1937 somewhere in the Ukraine. Until this very day the names of her parents are unknown to her. It seems that her parents were killed during the Stalin purges in 1939 and Nina found herself in an Orphanage. All that she knew was that they called her "Nina." With the German invasion of Russia she was evacuated to the East - Orenburg District. At some stage , in one of the Orphanages they had a roll call. The name Nina "Chornia" was called out, she looked around to see who they were referring to, perhaps there was another girl by the name of Nina at the Orphanage. It took some time to realize that they were referring to her. She felt insulted and degraded as the word "Chornia" in Russian means black whereas she was completely blonde. They explained to her that it wasnít an insult but Chornia is her surname. Every time I tell or write about Nina and her identity tears come to my eyes. Lets hope that one day we shall also solve the problem of Ninaís identity.

I must now go back to the Orenburg letter and documents received by us.

They only deal with the period from the 1st January 1942, the date of Pnina's arrival at the Kotubanovskij Orphanage in the Buzuluk Area. She arrived there from the Bogdanovka Orphanage in the Orenburg District. Pnina remained in the Orenburg District until repatriated to Poland, 1945 - 1946. Where as the ORENBURG LETTER received by us mentions KIEV - ZABOLT'YE, there is no mention of the town in neither the documents received by Avram or us (something to be investigated). Another point of interest, in the documents which arrived with the Orenburg there is a lack of information prior to the 1st January 1942.

On the other hand the documents which Avram received from the Russian Red Cross solve this problem. The two Documents, one with information on Pnina and the other on Avram contain exactly the same information, which is as follows:

MISHURES Pelageia Mojshevna born 1937
Place of Birth: Zabolotíye - Chojniki rajon (Area) Belarus Arrived - Bogdanovka Orphanage from Orsk
Registered: 29.12.1941

In order to understand all this we have to return to Avramís letter to Pnina. He writes:

"They brought us to Chaklov (Orenburg) District, to the town of Orsk. We lived in a Mud Hut (hovel). Mother became ill very often and died in the Winter (K.M 1941). We were sent to a "Childrenís Selection Home" in Orsk. From there they transferred us to Bogdanovka in the Chaklov (Orenburg) District. We were there together. Afterwards they separated us. The bigger ones (school age) to another Childrenís Home. Smaller ones to a different one. You were sent with the smaller ones (kindergarten). They spoke (said) Buzuluk. Like this they separated us".

In other words until the 29th December 1941 Pnina and Avram were together at the Bogdanovka Orphanage and on the 1st January 1942 Pnina arrived at the Koltubanovskij Orphanage.

Plain and simple, between the 29th Dec. and the 1st Jan. Avram and Pnina pathís parted. One remaining in Russia and the other emigrating to Palestine (Israel), destined only to meet, once again, after 58 years.

Unbelievable some say a miracle.


The Discovery of Ludaís Brother NIRKIN Roman

What remains to be told is the discovery of NIRKIN Roman, Ludaís ( Pninaís childhood friends) brother and the reunion of Avram, - Pnina, Roman - Luda and all of them together here in Israel. Not forgetting their wives.

Back to Luda and her brother Roman. Just a short reminder: When Avram met Akiva, besides the documents which he received from the Red Cross, he also gave him a group photograph. Akiva, on his return to Orenburg faxed us the documents and photo.

One of the boys in the group photograph received by Akiva from Avram is named Roman Nirkin. When phoning to Avram we asked him whether he remembered a boy by the name of Roman Nirkin. The answer was "Yes, we met about four years ago at a reunion of children from the Orphanage." At our request, Avram gave us Roman ís address and phone number. The question was how do we contact him, firstly in order to make sure that we have the right person and secondly to inform him that his sister is alive and living in Israel.

We consulted Annya, our Russian friend here at Kibbutz Shluchot and decided to contact Roman Nirkin (whom we believed to be Luda Nirkinaís brother), directly from here. Annya first telephoned him in the morning in order to make sure that we had the right person.

We got back to him in the afternoon: Obviously Annya didnít tell him that she was telephoning from Israel. Annya: Shalom, Nirkin Roman Simonowich. I received your telephone number from Alexander Michaelovich MISHURES. Roman: Iím very pleased, how is he. Did he send me regards? Annya: Yes. He also asked me to convey to you that he had found his sister. Roman: But both our sisters were together. How can that be? Annya: Whatís your sister's name? Roman: Luda. She was so small. And all the time I looked after her.

He then went on to tell the exact same story that Avram had told, how the two brothers and sisters were together until they were separated from each other, what happened to their father, how their mother (Luda and Romanís) had drowned. He went on to say that he tried to find Luda and their father after the War. Roman is a musician and teachers guitar and accordion. The most moving part of the conversation when he said, "Although I didnít find her, every time I went dancing, in my heart, I had a feeling that Iíd meet her," after that Annya Informed Roman that his sister Luda (Leah) is still alive and living in Israel. Incidentally, Leah is a dancing teacher and whenever possible in the evenings she goes folk dancing.

After speaking to Roman, there isnít the slightest doubt in our minds that Pnina - Avram and Luda - Roman are brother and sisters. Now what remained was informing Luda as to the existence of Roman. This all took place on a Friday afternoon. On Sunday a TV crew came to interview Pnina. We also invited Luda to come. During the interview we got around to telling Luda that perhaps we had found her brother as well. While we were explaining all this to her, we phoned Roman and after 58 years they too, (Luda and Roman) were reunited, although only over the telephone. Initially, Roman wasnít aware that all this was taking place at our home. When Annya asked him whether he knew the name of Avramís sister, the immediate answer was "Pola." All this was so touching that even the cameramen and the rest of the people present shed a few tears. Roman also explained that after the War, an Aunt came to look and found him. Today she is a woman of 80, so Leah also has an aunt and cousins, (possibly some of them living in Israel), picture of her parents and most important, she now knows exact the date of her birth.


All of this is like a zipper; all of the parts fit together perfectly. If we couldnít zip all this up to the last link and if only one tiny link was broken or didnít fit, we would have had to give up and start all over again.

A miracle like this, finding two brothers for two sisters at one time, happens only once in 58 years.

The Reunion


Nina, Avram and Pnina at Shluchot - evening on the lawn welcoming Avram and Nina

Pnina standing behind Avram. At the home of Luda - get together with Roman and Larisa

Avram, Nina and Pnina. Family Diner party in Jerusalem

Avram bidding farewell to the Chaverim of Shluchot - Yael translating


Below: Avram and Pnina's moving reunion after TV-show

Together with some of our children: Standing: Pnina and Kelly. Sitting (left to right): Arik our Son-in-Law, Talya, Achinoam our daughters and Lior our youngest Son

Pnina and Avram's story wouldn't be complete without a few paragraphs relating the Avram and Pnina's reunion in Israel.

Obviously this reunion could never have come about without the aid of all those wonderful people who helped us find, communicate and obviously who saw to their departure and arrival in Israel. This all resembled military maneuvers, real logistics. Coordinating matters between Israel, Russia and Belarus. Seeing to passports, visas, plane tickets, arrivals in Israel and being wined and dined in one of Tel Aviv most posh hotels. All this without the Levinsí (Leah) and Modlinsí knowledge.

The night of the 29th July 1999 Pnina and Leah appeared on a TV program dealing with their Lost Identities, endless Search and finally the discovery of Avram and Roman. We were given to believe that, unfortunately our visitors wouldn't be able to arrive before the program as a result of various technical problems connected to their Passports and Visas. The show couldn't be canceled.

One of the Jewish Agencies emissaries stationed in the town of Samara, who had been in touch with Avram visited him and while there filmed the occasion. The best that could be done was showing Pnina what Avram looked like so that when they arrived she would be able to recognize him.

Surprise!

As the movie started Avram and Roman walked into the studio. The reunion of the brothers and the sisters was something to see. Avram couldn't understand the reason for all the letters, faxes etc. all that was required were a photo of each of them in order to prove their relationship.

The resemblance is just unbelievable!

What with the separation of 58 years, culture, political and religious outlooks etc. there was a click between Pnina and Avram from the beginning. Avram blended into the scenery of Shluchot, as if he had been here for years. There wasn't a soul on the Kibbutz who was not aware of their arrival, even the little children. All watched the TV program the previous evening. Everyone was ever so kind and helpful. Both Avram and Nina were overwhelmed with the gardens, trees, birds the children etc. which and whom make up the landscape of our home.

Avram and Nina spent a good few years of their married life working on a Kolchoz and to this day have a plot of ground which they cultivate for their sustenance over the cold winter months, when vegetables are unobtainable or too expensive to buy. They just couldn't believe their eyes as to what they saw. The cows, fish ponds, turkey runs, tractors etc. I could go on and on, so instead just one small example. We grow carrots and when Avram saw the stream of carrots being harvested and latter washed, sorted and packed ready for marketing he was just astounded.

We spent much time touring and traveling our fair land, from South to North and East to West. Obviously one of the places visited by us was Yad Vashem. Here I must emphasize that they had no knowledge as to the Holocaust of six million of our Brethren. They where brought up being told that we are the provocateurs and destroyers of the Arab nations. By him (them) their "Catastrophe" (Holocaust) was the death of about 20 million Russian. When we completed our visit I think that he changed his mind. The same applied to our visit to the Yad Layeled Museum at Kibbutz Lochamei Haghettaot. When he saw what had been done to the children and after we explained to him that possibly his and Pnina's destiny could have been the same if they hadn't fled to the East, it sank in.

Well, the time arrived for them to return home, the feelings were mixed and the impression which their visit made upon them was very great. Avram never dreamed that his little lost sister Polina would have such a future. In his mind he always imagined that she was still alive and living somewhere in Russia.

Avram summed up his visit, although Israel is a most wonderful place with all it's advantages etc., his place is still there in Mother Russia. He hopes that one day things will change in Russia and everything will revert to what it was before the break up of the USSR. Back to the time when there was work for all, no bandits, free education and medical care. Back to the times when people received decent wages - and whatís more on time. Lets hope that his dream comes true.

What more can I say Avram is there and Pnina is here, we hope this coming July to pack our suitcases and rucksacks in order to visit Avram and get to know his family. When we return home we shall have to start all over with our monthly phone calls.


Summary

Well Avram, Nina, Roman and his wife Larisa have returned home to Orsk and Orsha and we have remained only with the memory of a wonderful experience. It is hard to explain the change that has come about in Pninaís life, for the first time she can say "I belong to somebody." The mere fact that she knows the names of her parents and place of birth, is like being reborn. Now that we know these facts much work still has to be done.


In conclusion on behalf of Pnina and myself I would like to thank all those, who were always there for us whenever we sought their assistance. Also those, although they couldnít help us solve our problems, but helped us morally with words of encouragement. We shall forever be indebted to all you wonderful people. I wonít mention names as the list is too long - and most important - I wouldnít like to leave anybody out.

One last word whereas Ludaís brother and family have applied to come on Aliya, our contact with Avram remains with a regular phone call.

Kelly Modlin - Kibbutz Shluchot

............................................

POSTSCRIPT:

About three months ago we paid a visit to the Belarus Consul in Tel Aviv and filled out three forms requesting Birth Certificates for Pnina and Avram and thirdly their parent's marriage certificate.

Yesterday morning we returned to their offices in order to inquire as to whether they had any news for us. They most certainly did. Nothing less than Pnina's Birth Certificate. The details are as follows:

Name: MISHURES Pola Isaak Mojshevna
Born: 02.03.1937
Registered: 06.March 1937
Page: No 10
Father: MISHURES Isaak Mojshe Avramovich
Nationality (Religion): Jewish
Mother: Chana Lejbovna
Nationality: Jewish
Registration: Zabolot_ skij Village/Soviet, Chojniki (Khojnitsky) rajon - Gomelskaja oblast
Registration No: 0124252

On the other side an affidavit signed by the notary of the Belarus Foreign Office (or Ministry of the Interior) according to the Hague Convention - 5. October. 1961,

The following information can now be added to what was known to us until now:

  • Exact date of birth
  • The spelling of the name MISHURES
  • Father: Isaak Mojshe Avramovich
  • Grandfather: MISHURES Avram (perhaps Isaak Mojshevich)
  • Grandfather: Lejb surname unknown.

The question, where to from now?

Could it be, that although Avram's birth and the parent's marriage certificates don't exist at Zabolot'ye, - however as living under Soviet rule they must have registered their change of address on arriving in the Shtetl.

If the Father was conscripted into the Red Army there surely must be some way of finding information regarding his service.

We asked the Consul to carry on searching.


Copyright © 2000 Kelly Modlin and The Belarus Newsletter

Reprinting or copying of this aricle or illustrations is not allowed without prior permission from Kelly Modlin, the editor: Elsebeth Paikin and/or the Belarus SIG Coordinator David M. Fox

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