My Second Trip to Belarus
In the Spring of 2017 my partner Susan was invited to a film festival in Krakow, Poland. We used that opportunity to return to Belarus — I wanted to see three of the shtetls that my ancestors lived in for which we had no time to visit in 2016 and I wanted to return to Logishyn where work had started on the restoration of the Jewish cemetery. All of these towns were in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1793 when they were handed over to the Russian Empire. In 1922 the area was incorporated into the newly formed Soviet Union and 20 years later it was occupied by Germany. They have been under the jurisdiction of Belarus, since the Soviet Union disbanded in 1990.
An 1834 census shows that my great great great great grandparents Shyloma and Sosha Axelrod lived in Radoshkovichi, as it’s called now, a large shtetl of about 1500 people 20 miles north of Minsk. Jews had lived in Radoshkovichi since the 1500s when it was part of the Polish Lithuanian kingdom. Shyloma and Sosha’s 16 year-old son Meer was absent from the household when the census was taken. Was he trying to evade the Russian draft? Or was he simply on a trip somewhere? We know that at the time he was married to Beylya, a woman two years older than he. By 1838 Meer, Beylya and their two year old son Iosel had moved to Minsk where my great great grandfather Berko/Barnet was born in 1840. The rest of the Axelrods stayed in Radoshkovits.
About a month after we had returned from our 2016 trip I was doing more research on the Berman branch of my family tree because Alissa Berman, my first cousin twice removed, had recently died. I found the manifest from the ship that carried her grandmother Dora and her uncle Alter when they came to the US in 1906. It said that they had resided in a place called Wolosne. I had thought that my great grandmother Sarah Berman Klausner was from her mother Shima Abramson’s shtetl of Kreve, but it’s possible that she was born in her father Baruch’s shtetl of Wolosne, Valoshyn or Volozhin, about 20 miles from Kreve.
My great great great great great grandparents Ayzik and Fruma Golda Levin were born in the early 1770s in Uzda, a shtetl of about 285 inhabitants. By 1853, some of the Levins had migrated to the city of Minsk, 40 miles away, including my great great grandmother Risya/Rose Levin and her parents Itsko and Chaya. Many of the other Levins remained in Uzda.
We had visited the lovely town of Lohishyn, home of the Klausners, in 2016 but were disheartened to see that the Jewish cemetery had almost completely disappeared due to the ravages of nature. Here is the story of that trip. Working with Yuri Dorn of the Jewish Heritage Research Group and Lohishyn’s Mayor Valery we were able to clear away the undergrowth, bushes and some trees and build a fence around the cemetery.