GRODNO, BELARUS – October 2005
Thank you very much for the letter and the money … I will try to answer some of your questions.
Before the war my family lived in the little town of Ostrino near the town of Grodno, where I was born. Before the Second World War, Grodno and our little town of Ostrino belonged to Poland, and all these regions were called Western Byelorussia. In 1939 the Soviet Army “liberated” the territory of Western Byelorussia, and Western and Eastern Byelorussia were united. The United Republic of Byelorussia became part of the USSR. Then in 1941 the terrible war began.
Before the war, my mother’s family traded in grain and exported it abroad, including to America.
My father’s family had a plywood factory, where they processed forest timber. We lived well before the war.
My parents had two sonsâ€”me, Yakov, and my younger brother Mikhail. When the war began, I was eight years old and he was four.
Before the war I went to a Jewish school. There was also a Synagogue in
Ostrino. The Jews who lived in Ostrino, including our family, observed all the Jewish customs.
When the war started, my mother, my brother and I were evacuated, and Papa went to the front with the Soviet Army. I will write about wartime in my next letter.
Again, thank you very much to all of you.
P.S. I am sending you a photograph. In it are my parents, my brother and I before the war.
[NB: All of Yakov’s extended family members died in the ghetto.]