Belarus SIG Newsletter

Issue No. 3 - May 1999


Lyuban is located 126 km. SSE of Minsk, 46 km SE of Slutzk, 52º 48’/ 28º 00’)

The information below about Lyuban has been written, collected

by Anatolio Kronik

Translated extract of an article from:

"HaMelitz", No. 54, published in 1884

"Our small town is part of the land possessions of the Principality of Wittgenstein. Every year we were obliged to pay a fixed tax for each one of our lands.

map of Lyuban 1880 (12 Kb)
Map of Lyuban 1880

Twenty years ago, however, the superintendent visited us and demanded that from that day forward we should pay double the previous amount. Some settlers didn't want to know about this and they refused to pay double taxation, but the intimidated majority resigned themselves and signed in a book that they were willing to pay the double tax from the moment that it was demanded of them. Some time afterwards they regretted having signed that document, and they sent a delegate to Minsk asking for the annulment of the imposed double taxation. The good services of a lawyer pleading in front of local authorities, high ministers and appeals to the employee of the Prince didn't succeed in stopping the official discrimination.

Twenty years passed. One day the news arrived at Lyuban that the appeal case had finished with the final verdict that required us to pay all the taxes for the last twenty years. That means some two thousand rubles. If we do not pay on time they will sell our houses. Each one of us will have to pay about fifty rubles. Where will we get the money? They have given us a term of thirty days. The situatíon is sad and hard."

In the Pale of Settlement, Lyuban Jews suffered pogroms, riots and other kinds of suppression of their human rights.

The funeral records of the Slutzk Chevra Kadisha


"On Friday, the eve of the holy day of Shabbat, the fourth of Sivan, (18 May 1866) , the martyr the r"r SHMUEL the son of mhr"r r' MORDEKHAI from Luban, was killed by an arrow in the forest of Aptsin and he was left in the forest till the "slidevatiel" arrived with the doctor from Bobruisk, and they embalmed him, and he was brought here on Friday the eve of the holy day of Shabbat the eleventh of Sivan, (25 May 1866) and he rests by the martyr m' MOSHEH who passed away on the thirteenth of Tamuz of the year 5616 (15 July 1856) row "kdoshim"."

The Slutzk Historical Society

is a very good source of information about Jews brought from Lyuban to Slutzk for burial, since there was no Jewish Cemetery in Lyuban in the XIX century.

This next piece is extracted from:

The Slutzk and Vicinities Memorial Book

[The SLUTZK AND VICINITIES MEMORIAL (YIZKOR) BOOK has about 40 pages in Yiddish and Hebrew about Lyuban.]

In the last decade of the XIX century Lyuban was a distant corner whose threshold was the swamps of Pinsk, enclosed by forests and lakes, roads that were not real roads separated Lyuban from the closest railroad. In spite of these conditions the small Shtetl demonstrated a positive disposition as a creative Jewish community that was capable of supplying their products to the big cities of the region.

Lyuban was already famous for its furnishing joinery, especially for the production of chairs. Not only Bobruisk, the regional metropolis, but also surrounding districts were its current markets. Lyuban specialized in the upbringing and export of geese. They were preferred in the market of Bobruisk. During the week of Pesach the Jewish population of Lyuban fried with fat of goose, and their traditional dishes were already well-known for a radius of many leagues. There was also a primitive factory of Shabbat candles and coloured candles for celebrations, that were used not only for the inhabitants, but also by the neighboring Jewish communities. In Lyuban there were also two siblings who possessed great skill in the crafting of very beautiful smoking pipes that brought pleasure to many of the peasants in the region. The pipes were supplied by a sales outlet in Bobruisk.

The isolated and conservative Jews of Lyuban provided qualified domestic service staff that were very much appreciated by the rich, new proprietors of Bobruisk, who paid the young Lyuban girls well. A typical young Jewish girl from Lyuban served with honor and honesty to her Jewish patrons for many years and succeded to return to the breast of her family with enough money for her wedding Nidoniah, and a shipment of clothing and utensils that improved the conditions of the paternal house. The Lyuban Shtetl provided skilled labor in the season of agricultural crops. Many of their Jewish setlers worked like artisans in the cities near Lyuban and they returned on the weekend in order to pass the Sabbath with their families.

Few foreigners visited Lyuban. It happened that sometimes a Meggid visited Lyuban in order to present his sermons in the Synagogue during the Sabbath. On other days the arrival of Doctor Schildcroit, the physician of the town, who had been called especially from Slutsk in order to attend to a very sick person, attracted attention. On such occasions all the population appeared in the street showing their curiosity. Also attracting the attention of the Jewish settlers was the noise of the bells that marked the passing of a coach with three pairs of horses driven by uniformed servants that drove a magistrate or a landlord and they followed that show from the door of each house, until the sound disappeared, returning Lyuban to its sleepy peacefulness.

On a Jewish wedding day the greatest joy was experienced by the children, not necessarily by the invited families. They were very noisy in the street of the Synagogue. They used to sustain the columns of the ritual canopy of the Chupáh and they enjoyed playing in the streets and it was even better if the ceremony was delayed when the relatives could not reach an agreement in relation to the amount of the Neduniah document. In that case the children remained awake until the late hours of the night, accompanied by the adults. It could happen that the two families of the boyfriend and the girlfriend entered into an open dispute that continued until hours after midnight without an agreement. In that case the attention of the wife of the richest man of the town was attracted: Sheine-Lea of Moshé Neshes, a woman of low stature and thin, with a face wrinkled with blue eyes that threw sparks of fire. She would come dressed in workday clothes covering her hair with a great handkerchief, indicating that she didn't come to the wedding like an invited person, but like a Justice of Peace. In any case Sheine-Lea didn't forgot to decorate her body with precious jewels that marked the importance of belonging to one of the richest families of the region, since she had gotten married to Moshé Neshes, who belonged to the youthful and nascent commerce of Lyuban with interests in the profitable forestry business. With their sole appearance the tension diminished between the disputants. That is to say that the two parties were already extremely tired of the discussion. After clarifying the several positions Sheine-Lea found a compromise, for which she ordered to bring ink and paper to scribe a note that obligated both parties. Once the agreement in the Ktuvah has been signed the noise and the rejoicing reigns again in the party.

During a visit to Lyuban, Boaz Rabinovich, the Rabbi of Bobruisk, protested holding a note in front of the Lyuban Synagoge on which was written: " It is necessary to erect a cemetery close to Lyuban in order to avoid the dead suffering a day’s journey to the distant town of Slutzk." After a meeting with the comunity leaders and a long day’s fund-raising effort he succeeded in finding the money and open the new cemetery of Lyuban."

Between 1860 - 1900 more then 200 Jews were brought to the Jewish cemetery of Slutzk.

Between Two World Wars

Between 1921 and 1936 Lyuban resisted the new regime’s campaign against religious practices.

Reb Moshe Feinstein succeeded to remain Rav, managing to become the shochet for all Lyuban, both Gentiles and Jews, when the government prohibited the practice of the shechitah to Rav Jakob Moshe Kostanovich, his father in law. When a municipal bath and swimming pool were being built in Lyuban, Reb Moshe prevailed upon the non-Jewish contractor to build the pool in such a way that it could be a kosher mikveh. He also convinced the authorities to have at the bath-house, in the interest of public hygiene, a few separate men’s and women’s nights.

("Reb Moshe", by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman/Rabbi Nossom Scherman, Mesorah Publications, Ltd. is a recommended book about religious personalities from Lyuban and the Pale of Settlement).

In the Minsk Historical Museum section covering the Holocaust there is a map registering 1610 Lyuban victims of the Holocaust. Baruch and Shlomo Kustanovich, born in Lyuban, died in the defense of Belarus in 1941.

Teme Kenikhe Kustanovich and her children Gynia, Hella and Moishe from Lyuban ended as victims of the Holocaust in the Minsk-Ghetto.

Israel Kronik, son of Elkanah Kustabovich, emigrated to Argentina about 1920 (ca. 15 Kb)

Kustanovich Family - the Elkanah Kustanovich branch (ca. 55 Kb) Chaim Kustanovich, who joined the Red Army ca. 1920 (ca. 25 Kb)

Israel Kronik, son of Elkanah Kustanovich, emigrated to Argentina ca. 1920

The Kustanovich Family - the Elkanah Kustanovich branch. Taken probably in 1922 after the two eldest sons left Belarus and Chaim joined the Red Army. Behind the backdrop can be seen the wooden house wall

Chaim Kustanovich, who joined the Red Army ca. 1920

Today Lyuban is a part of the area affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Lyuban, Belarus.
Lyuban, Belarus.
Entrance to the village founded 1566. (October, 1995)

In a remarkable reunion in Minsk, Belarus, in October 1995, three cousins visited their ancestors’ shtetl, Lyuban, and found among the remaining tombstones the tomb of their great-great grandfather and two other relatives.


This was an amazing experience. The cemetery was in a deplorable condition, but for some special reason two corners were safe. One, a very old part with tombstones with Hebrew and Yiddish inscriptions, and the other one with tombstones from the post-Stalin era, mostly with Cyrillic characters and a little Yiddish, well preserved. We took pictures there and in the town. The central part of the cemetary has been violated and there are very few tombstones left.

A view of the Jewish Cemetery in Lyuban (ca. 75 Kb)
A view of the Jewish Cemetery in Lyuban.
In the XIX century it was a difficult journey on unpaved roads from Lyuban to the Slutzk Jewish Cemetery for burial. (The distance between Lyuban and Slutzk is about 23 km).

We had time to decipher the Hebrew calendar date as written on the tombstone of Isaac, our great-grandfather, with the difficulties that the condition of the stone offered:

The tombstone of our great grandfather, Isaac (ca. 90 Kb)

"Here rests the dear old and honorable
Isaac Abraham Kustanovich,
son of Shmuel (Samuel),
who died on Dalet the month of Iyar
of the year TAV-RESH-AYIN-HEI"

Calculation of TAV-RESH-AYIN-HEI = 5675:
To the cipher 1240 - and always:
add: TAV = 400
RESH = 200
AYIN = 70
HEI = 5
and you get that the Gregorian year 1915

Dalet of Iyyar of (1915+3760=) 5675 translated to the Gregorian calendar says he died on Sunday the 4 of May 1915. This date matches with our information. If we assume that dear and old means about 75 years old, Isaac Abraham Kustanovich might have been born in 1840; and Shmuel Kustanovich may have been born about 1815.

In the case of the Yiddish-Hebrew tombstone of Neshima (or Neshume) Kustanovich, who died in Lyuban in 1926, she must be the daughter of Joseph Kustanovich. We could write now the correct date for Sima Kustanovich: Born: 1909. Died: 1 June 1977

The family obtained census information from the National Historic Archives, Belarus covering the surname Kustanovich. More than 300 names from census information (Minsk State Chamber, Slutzk State Duma, Slutzk District Military service Recruitment, Slutzk Conscription Presence,1816,1834, 1850, 1858, 1874, 1876, 1894, 1901, 1906, 1914, 1916). But it has not been possible to find the lost chain connecting the information from the archives with our information.

In the Slutzk Chevra Kadisha records from about 1884 it is difficult to find a significant number of surnames of Jews brought to the Slutzk Jewish Cemetery, as shown in this example:

"5974. On Tuesday, the second day of Khol HaMoed Succot, (7 October 1884) passed away the venerable mh"r r’ Shmuel, the son of mh"r r’ Nakhman from Luban, and he rests by Tsvi Hirsh who passed away on Friday, the eve of the holy day of Shabbat, the fifteenth of Elul 5644, (5 September 1884) in row "sixteen" by "kdoshim", to the town side".

That could be (according to the National Historic Archives Belarus - Lyuban Census 1834): Shmuylo Nackhmanovich Kustanovich born in 1804.

In the Slutzk Chevra Kadisha records from about 1860 it is equally difficult to find a significant number of surnames, but some persons were identified by their profession. For example:

"9033. On Monday, the second of Elul, (13 August 1866) passed away the r"r Elkana, the son of mh"r Yitskhak Khayat from Luban, and he rests by Yedidy who passed away on the holy day of Shabat, the fifth of the aforementioned Sivan, (19 May 1866) in row "sixteen" by "kdoshim", to the town side." [Khayat means tailor in Hebrew.]

[See also the JewishGen Bobruisk Interest Group, Bobruisk District Historical Summaries, Village of Luban].

More photos from Lyuban taken in October 1995:

Street in Lyuban (ca. 33 Kb)
Street in Lyuban
Railroad tracks (ca. 27 Kb)
Railroad tracks
Typical wooden house in Lyuban (ca. 41 Kb)
Typical house
(Interior of a house (ca. 26 Kb)
Interior of a house
(ca. 23. Kb)
A well-wheel still in use

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