Road to father
By Freider Mikhail Sanevich
Related to: Proskurov (Town)
, Travel Reports
In hopelessness all attempts to recover past are similar to efforts to understand meaning of life. One feels like a newborn that tries to catch a basketball – it slips through the hands. (Josef Brodsky "Less than 1" )
A heart beats even when it should tear apart. (Cheslav Milosh. "Elegy N.N." )
Age keeps off us from childhood events but brings us closer to our parents. Maybe one should go a part of the path to feel their state in the different moments of life. I started to think about my roots about 3 years ago. Timidly at first then more often I was thinking about visiting the place of birth and youth of my father because it happened that I've never been there…
It was known that shtetl Frampol, where my father Freider Sanya Moiseevich is from, does not exist on the map of Khmelnitskiy region (former Kamenets-Podolskiy), Ukraine. It wasn't clear if this shtetl disappeared, was renamed, or maybe what was left of it had got another name. Through Internet I found where it is located now and that its new name is Kosogorka.
We arrived to Khmelnitskiy region by a train that was going from Moscow to Lvov. When saying "we" I mean myself, Freider Mikhail Sanevich, and my wife, Larisa Nikolaevna (Larisa). Now we live in Chelyabinsk city, Russia.
We knew beforehand that we would have difficulties with language and transportation there. So we've been able to communicate with an organization that manages many parts of Jewish social life in 2 Ukranian regions - Hmel'nistskiy and Ternopolskiy. Its name is Khmelnitskiy Regional Welfare Fund "Hesed-Besht". When I talked by phone with its director Igor Ratushniy I was promised complete support and help during our trip in the places of our ancestors. We've been given a car with a driver Vitaliy and a guide Ludmila Pisklova. It's impossible to list all Ludmila's job activities but her formal job title is a librarian but really she is also a local historian, a tour guide, a cameraman and a director of small performances, and a designer of different materials for the fund "Hesed-Besht". She was helping us with all problems including finding a hotel and translating from the Ukranian language.
Monday, May 28th 2001
Khmelnitskiy City, "Hesed-Besht"
We've found a room in the "Eneida" hotel. It's a three-star hotel that is located in the city central plaza. It had everything we needed even the well-known defect in the post-Soviet countries such as complete absence of hot water during summer months for easier repairs. Our room had a bathroom, TV, and refrigerator.
After we've settled in the hotel we've reviewed the materials from the "Hesed-Besht" fund and got some short facts about Jewish community of Khmelnitskiy city. The community was created mostly not from original citizens because all those people were killed during World War II. Before the war about 40,000 Jews lived in Proskurov (former name of Khmelnitskiy city before 1954) that was 50% of the whole population. Current community members are people who arrived to new factories and their descendants. The fund has an account of 2,000 Jewish families. Evidently there are mixed families too.
"Hesed-Besht" organizes the culture life of all Jewish community in the city including holiday celebrations, Jewish education, language studies and local history work. At the same time it also acts as a support center for poor, elder and sick people. It provides them with food, drugs and fuel, repairs their home supplies, helps with transportation, and organizes different activities for elder people The fund's office is greatly decorated, has many interesting materials including information about soldiers of WWII and even a museum. The two-story building is just beautiful. One can feel great informal work atmosphere of the whole team and organizational talent of the director Igor Ratushniy. We didn't meet him because he was on a business trip but the results tell about him anyway. This fund is located also in the center of the city very close to our hotel "Eneida". The day we arrived was a Jewish holiday called "Shvuas" ("Shavuot"). There was a large number of socializing people inside the fund building.
During our time at "Hesed-Besht" we've been allowed to use their computer database of the registered people. We haven't found our nicknames.There are only two Jewish families in the Yarmolintsy district that is located nearby Kosogorka. We've decided to ask Mikhail Danilovych Lahterman to be our guide in Kosogorka.
Khmelnitskiy City, Regional Archive of Khmelnitskiy Region,
Statistical Committee, Local History Museum
After visiting "Hesed-Besht" we arrived to Regional Archive that was near our hotel on the Grushevsky street, 99. Former Ludmila's connections with a personal of the archive have helped us to access an archive easily but it didn't have any birth, death or marriage records during Soviet period and other documents were not well systematized. The cause was of course the war during 1941-1945. According to the personal all census records are stored in Statistical Committee and old birth, death and marriage records are stored in the local Civil Registry Offices. In general, work with archives requires special knowledge of the archives and the Ukranian language. Regular archivists perform searches according queries for the assigning state pensions and do not conduct any genealogical researches.
Our visit to Statistical Committee was not successful either because they had just general census data. They even didn't know that Frampol was renamed to Kosogorka and when the settlement spot was changed.
After that we went to Local History Museum desiring to find out a documental connection between Frampol and Kosogorka. Ludmila has good contacts there too. We've been given the book called "Printed materials of Podolsk Arch-Diocese Historic-Statistical Committee. Issue 9. Parishes and churches of Podolsk Arch-Diocese." edited by Evfimiy Szinskiy and printed in Kamenets-Podolsk in 1901. The books said about Frampol that a climate is healthy and ground is a black earth. "Frampol appeared in the beginning of eighteen century because of large road from Kamenets-Podolskiy to Proskurov. It was quickly settled especially by Jews. Frampol had 595 houses in 1894 of which there had been 565 Jewish houses, 13 shops…" No descriptions of renaming have been found.
Khmelnitskiy City, City Tour
After our visit to the Local History Museum Ludmila has conducted a tour around the city center for us. The city is very clean, green and traffic is not intensive. Maybe it seems this way because there are some streets made especially for pedestrians. One street actually is completely closed for cars. The beautiful central plaza has a great building with tower. It's regional Rada. There are fir-trees in front of the building.
There are only a few Jewish houses left. (house1, house2, house3). Even those left have been redecorated outside. Mostly the facades of the lower levels have been changed. Upper levels still have beautiful decorations, patterns and other special façade features. One of the houses has handsome door with metallic grid. Generally even these houses don't look very old. I think they were built in the beginning of 20-th century. Main street was called Maranzovka (after rich Jew Maranz that owned houses on this street) and renamed to Proskurovskaya now. Current building of the Art Museum is distinguished on this street; it was "South Russian Industrial Bank" before. There is a private house of a Jew Derevoed nearby where he had a pharmacy; it's now a post office.
"Hesed-Besht" is currently restorating a memorial on the site where Jews killed during 1920 pogrom were buried. In 1920 during several hours 1600 Jewish people were killed by robbers. Texts and bas-relieves of the monument are being conciliated, and construction stairs cover the monument itself. The memorial is planned to open in 2001.
After the city tour it was already late and we've been resting in our hotel room. The weather during this day and all the following ones was not appropriate for long walks; it was cloudy, often with showers and freezing wind. Looks like the weather in the Khmelnitskiy region is not stable during month of May.
Tuesday, May 29th 2001
From my childhood I remembered some strange names of father's birthplace like shtetl Frampol, town Yarmolintsy (the Yarmolintsy district). It seems that is was a small part on a far end of the earth where only Jewish people lived. At the same time the shtetl was seen as a big village because my father walked on those street, conducted long walks to a school, stole apples from the neighbor's garden and watched as his father, a shochet (Jewish ritual slaughterer), worked.
The Yarmolintsy Town
And now we are on the way to the current Kosogorka. In the beginning we've arrived to Yarmolintsy. Our path was going thru the good highway. There are many green trees on the both sides of the road such as poplars, acacias, and chestnuts. Yarmolintsy is a large settlement with 15-20 thousand people but most of the houses there stand in the greens.If one looks more precisely one can see that houses are very accurate, mostly made of brick. We've arrived to Mikhail Danilovych Lahterman and became acquainted with him and his wife, Klavdiya Mikhailovna. Originally she is from Leningrad (called Saint-Petersburg now), she has moved to the motherland of Mikhail Danilovych then where they have grown a son and a daughter and even have grandchildren and great-grandchildren now. Their children live nearby, so the apartment door is never closed because their grandchildren and great-grandchildren do not allow their grandmother and grandfather to be bored. We hadn't stayed long in the comfortable Lahterman's apartment (it's an apartment in the 2-story building for several families) but we've felt the peaceful and agreeable atmosphere in their home.
Mikhail Danilovych was born in 1927 and left the village along with Soviet Army in 1941. Nevertheless the war left a big trace in his family – his father was arrested and killed in Frampol where Mikhail Danilovych have been many times as well. During the war he lived with his mother in Bucharia and then he was recruited to the Soviet Army in 1944. He finished the war in Kenigsberg.
Possibly we were messing up some of family's plans for that day but Mikhail Danilovych has agreed to help us in Kosogorka anyway. He's changed the clothes and we've looked at his war badges. During the trip Mikhail Danilovych has made every possible efforts that we can get all available pieces of information from the natives of this district. We felt that he is authorative old inhabitant of this district and that he has good warm relations with surrounding neighbors.
The Kosogorka Village (Frampol)
Childhood years are always bright and joyful even if they are not very nourishing. My father didn't talk much about his childhood possibly because of the absence of good listeners. The Frampol shtetl had a Jewish school where my father studied for 5 years. Last 2 years he studied in the Ukranian school and I remember it was not inside that shtetl. Many villagers died in 1933 when the great hunger came. Father's father Moisha (I was named after him actually) died in 1935. Father's mother name is Brana (My sister is named after her as well as Bronislava). She was often sick and couldn't supply enough food for the family conducting small trades. My father also had an older sister and younger brother.
The distance between Khmelnitskiy and Yarmolintsy is 35 km and we've covered it in 20 minutes. There are another 15 km further to Kosogorka. The signs with the names of the known villages was passing by Tomashevka, Semenovka…and suddenly the sign with big letters appeared – KOSOGORKA (translated as small oblique mountain) though we were expecting another 2 km before the village. We've made pictures of it and the main sign before entering the village as well. The road was going up not very steeply confirming the word "gorka" (small mountain) in the village's name.
Once we've arrived to the top of the mountain the plain open square appeared, it was about 150m long and wide. It was almost empty except for the several covered trade tables that were empty and not used any more as we've found out later. The one-story municipal building stands in the right corner of the square.
Mikhail Danilovych said that Jews lived exactly here, in the middle of the village. I knew that Jews usually lived in the center of the settlement but it looked like that there is not enough space on this square for 1000 Jews who lived in Frampol before the WWII. Ukranian houses stand outside of the square on steeper sides of the mountain. By the way, the mountain is really oblique ("kosaya") and it has some steep and flat parts. Houses stand far from each other with kitchen-gardens nearby, and chickens, gooses and turkeys walk near the houses. All houses are well-built, some of them made of brick. Many green trees grow in the area and the surrounding view is just beautiful.
In the municipality we've talked to a head of administration. He didn't have any lists of inhabitant staff before the war and even didn't know when and why the settlement was renamed from Frampol to Kosogorka. We wanted to talk to old village inhabitants and he allowed us to visit his secretary Garbuz Tat'yana Bronislavovna. Tat'yana Bronislavovna couldn't remember the year of renaming as well. She only remembered that an attempt was made to rename Kosogorka back to Frampol about 10 years ago. But younger inhabitants who had all the documents with stated Kosogorka name were against the name change.
She has taken us to her mother and other elder people who lived during 1920-941 years and could possibly remember Sanya Freider, who ran on these roads, by his last name and the photos. They could not recall him that day, human memory is not perfect.
Kosogorka has 290 houses now but young people leave the village because they can't find work there. Jewish population does not present at all. Actually only one Jewish house is left with standing out rails by the windows on the second floor. Evidently there was a balcony before. The fascists hanged 5 Jews found in the surrounding area right on these rails. Another four Jews were hanged on the tree near this house.
We've talked to the oldest inhabitant in the village Ksenya Grigorievna Polonar (her maiden name is Lizun) who was born in 1909. She couldn't recognize my father of the photo but told stories about joined life of Jews and Ukranians. They were members of different farming cooperatives, Jewish and Ukranian, but sometimes worked in both. Villagers communicated with each other using both languages, Ukranian and Yiddish. Ksenya Grigorievna even said one phrase in Yiddish to our surprise indicating she still has a strong memory. One can feel that very friendly relationships existed in the community before 1941. We've made a photo of the oldest inhabitant in the village and wished her vigour and good health. We asked Ksenya Grigorievna and others who we talked to about the place of killing the Jewish people. Everybody mentioned the Yarmolintsy railstation.
All inhabitants talked to us in the Ukranian language; we thought before that it would be easy to understand most of their speech for us as people from Russia but apparently about half of the words sounded unfamiliar. Ludmila talked to people and then translated everything for us. Accordingly when we talked in Russian it seemed that they understood us with difficulties.
My father had very good grades in school. He knew mathematics and Jewish grammar well, and from time to time he wrote letters in Yiddish during his whole life. Last 2 years of the 7-year education he studied at the Ukranian school. He helped Ukranian pupils with mathematics and in their turn they helped him with the Ukranian language. I remembered only one teacher's name – Harlamb. Teachers from the Jewish school also gave lessons in the Ukranian school.
We were shown a pre-war Jewish school building that was located near the synagogue, the synagogue was not preserved itself. Former school building is a one-story barrack that is currently used as the community club. An obelisk with the names of the villagers who died at the fronts during WWII is located near the school's building. I've made a photo with Larisa, Tat'yana Bronislavovna, Ludmila, and Mikhail Danilovych near the obelisk.
The Ukranian school building also still exists and it was recently repaired for use as a middle school. We've met a director of the school Onapryuk Petr Anatol'evich who exited from the second school's building that serves as a high school. He explained to us that the school has 60 students. Students conduct a research of the village's history but pre-war photos and community lists have not been saved. The director pointed to the heap of bricks nearby and said that a thick stone wall with an arch that looked very old was found inside one of the destroyed Jewish houses. I've read that there was a square trade wall in the center of the shtetl that existed from 18-th century. Actually it was the first thing I was trying to identify upon entering the village.
Tat'yana Bronislavovna remembered the director of the Ukranian school named Harlamb who also taught the German language. He was her teacher too. Harlamb died in 1965. This man lived through the tragedy because during the war fascists caught and killed his guiltless daughter who was hiding in the village. And his wife, Sofia Zalevna, died merely old. Harlamb was the school director before 1941 and after the war. He had a great influence on the children of Frampol and then Kosogorka. His grave together with the wife's grave is located on the Jewish cemetery; we've seen it later.
The Kosogorka Village (Frampol), Jewish Cemetery
My grandfather Moisha was buried on the cemetery near the shtetl. My father moved to Leningrad searching for work in 1937. He left his mother, older sister and younger brother in Frampol. I don't know if he came back to Frampol before 1941. In 1940 he was recruited to the Soviet Army and he served in Siberia that's why he started the war near the Kalinin city in 1942. He didn't get any letters from the relatives during the war.
We've made a last observation of the square where the houses of the Frampol shtetl stood a while ago and were directed to the Jewish cemetery. We couldn't see it during our arrival to the village because it's located downhill about 50m to the left of the road sign. A monument to those who were killed during WWII stands near the cemetery entrance. It shows 7 Jewish last names, the heavy plate fell off and lies on the ground. One of the last name says O. Freider, of course it's some unknown to me relative because there were only about 2 families in Frampol with such last name and besides, this last name is rare too.
All graves are located on the territory of 1 hectare. There are about 150-200 tombstones with inscriptions in Hebrew I think. One part of the tombstones fell off and another sunk into the ground. Looks like it's a cemetery from 20th century because number of graves approximately equals to the number of Frampol's inhabitants in the beginning of century. We haven't noted any traces of vandalism. We made pictures of about 15 tombstones that didn't require any special preparations for making a photo. We only cleaned them little bit using a scraper and a brush. Usually there was no inscription on the reverse side of a tombstone. We've been somewhere near to the grave of my grandfather but couldn't identify it because nobody could read the inscriptions on the tombstones. Both front and rear sides of one of the tombstones were in very good condition.
One of plates was inscribed in Russian; it was the plate of the Harlamb's wife, Sofia Zalevna Harlamb. (1905-1955) His undecorated grave was right beside hers. With guilty feeling Tatyana Borisovna said twice that it's a shame that his grave does not have the appropriate tombstone.
In whole, the cemetery is in good shape. Unfortunately we didn't ask whether a number of tombstones decreased during and after the war or maybe they've been used for the cooperative's needs. There are some auxiliary buildings of some villager at the far end of the cemetery.
The Yarmolintsy railstation, Mass Grave
My father participated in the capturing of Bucharest and Budapest; he finished the war after capturing of Vienna. He returned home in the summer of 1945. After arriving to the village he found that all his relatives were killed by fascist and buried in the large ditch half-alive.
I've already heard such words as "the ground was moving" and "there were pools of blood" which said now Mikhail Danilovych. My father also heard these words then. We've repeated his path to the military base territory that is situated in 200m from the Yarmolintsy railstation. In the beginning this sorrowful path was covered by those who were taken on carts from Frampol, Sharovka and Yarmolintsy. These people lived in giant 3-story barrack waiting for their death. This scary building still stands and looks with empty windows on the world… Nobody could force themselves to use it again. People say that it has mines inside but I think the real reason is different. It's frightful not only enter inside but also even the look of it is scary.
After some waiting time an officer has come and according his order a soldier has opened gates for us to drive in the military base. The territory of the brotherly grave is surrounded by a concrete fence. There is 100m long path that goes to the main monument, a victim with open hands. Memorial plate has the inscription that says " 55 thousands of peaceful people were killed here in October of 1942 year." Behind the monument there is a grave where killed prisoners of war have been buried.
On the left from the path, about 30 m from the main monument, another monument stands in the shape of bouquet of stems. It's built in regard of the killed Jews. "Time link is broken…" There is even another monument on the right side. 18 thousands Jewish people are buried in these two graves only because they were guilty of being Jews. My grandmother Brana and her children are between them.
The memorial is well cared and is in the good shape. Mikhail Danilovych said that soldiers and veterans bring wreathes of memory every year on May 9th. Because of time limitations we had neither flowers, nor wreath. We've made photos of these monuments. One can't be there for long time but can hardly forget this place.
The Yarmolintsy Town, Old Jewish Cemetery
We've arrived to an old Jewish cemetery situated in a forest near a road to Kadievka. This cemetery was founded in 1910. It's not in the good shape. Its state was improved during cleanup actions conducted by "Hesed-Besht". Ludmila told us about this fact. Most of the tombstones and plates are broken and fallen down. Latest inscribed tombstones are in Russian and dated by 1978 year.
A monument and two graves are very distinguished between others; these are graves of the people from the "Joint" organization killed in 1920. They are professor Israel Fridlander (1876-10.07.1920) and rabbi Bernard Kantor (1892-10.07.1920). According to the inscriptions on the tombstone they came here with missionary goal to help Jews suffered during the civil war. The monument was placed by "Joint" in 1923 and restorated by "Hesed-Besht" in 2001. The son-in-law of Mikhail Danilovych rendered a big help for this restoration. I've made photos of Larisa, Ludmila and separately Mikhail Danilovych near this grave
The Yarmolintsy Town, Local Historian Alexander Semenovich Snegur
Some of the village inhabitants and Mikhail Danilovych remembered that the local historian Alexander Semenovich Snegur also was showing an interested about killed people during the war. We've visited the regional Art and Learning Studio where he works. He explained that he is currently preparing lists of peaceful inhabitants who were killed during the war in this region for a publication. Upon understanding who we are he has shown the lists to us. Our last name was not on the list. We added name of my grandmother. Alexander Semenovich studies also a history of Jewish shtetls in the Yarmolintsy district. He gave us a list of such shtetls: Mihampol (Mihalpol), Sharovka, Solobkovzi, Frampol, and Yarmolintsy. Also he gave us his book about history of Yarmolintsy as a present. He seemed to be very passionate and enthusiastic person. We wished him good luck in such difficult task.
Our trip program was finished for today and we came back to Khmelnitskiy.