KHERSON, UKRAINE-January, 2005
Greetings with respect — I received your letter with the [money] for which I am very, very grateful. I am very touched by your attention and care to me. You are interested in my life and I will describe it. I was born March 2, 1918, in a very poor family. There were 6 of us children and I was the last one, and I was born 3 months after my father died. This is why I was named Chaim ben Chaim — among us Jews that is a custom.
When my family lost its provider, we became even poorer. My mother had to go to work as a â€œslaveâ€ day laborer (the lowest kind of work). When I was eight years of age, I went to a Jewish school in a colony, Lvova, in the Kalinin region. After I graduated, I moved to the city of Kherson where I went to study in a Jewish technical school to become a mechanic for agricultural machinery. I studied for 2 semesters, then I had to leave the school because my mother could not help me any more — there were no provisions from her. I decided to change my specialty and became a chauffeur (driver). As a chauffeur, I worked until I was drafted into the army. That was in 1938. I was in the army for just one year before the Polish War started (when Stalin occupied eastern Poland). That’s why I wasn’t discharged from the army (I would only have had to serve one year, but war broke out). I was sent to the front. In my army service, I was a driver. So as a driver I was in the Polish war, the Finish War (started in 1940) and during the Great Patriotic War (WWII). Of course, to go through 3 wars was very difficult. I was wounded, and I spent time in the hospital. As a result, I am handicapped to the 2nd degree, disabled. I went back home in July, 1946. At home there was only my mother and my brother’s wife, a widow now, with 2 children, waiting for me. She was the wife of my older brother who died at the front in the first several months of the war.
During the war, my mother and my brother’s family were evacuated to Uzbekistan (NB: at this time, families of Jewish soldiers were evacuated to keep them from the Nazis). After the liberation of Kherson from the Germans, we returned home. The period of the war was very difficult. Destruction and famine. And because I needed to help my family and the children at least somehow, I married my brother’s widow. We lived in peace and agreement for 50 years. Now I am alone.
I am struggling with different illnesses: losing my sight … which requires an operation, but my pension is so small that surgery is not an option. Well, being old is a bad thing. (NB: the person who is writing for him adds that his vision is very bad-one eye has only 20% and another is blind. And when he tries to see with one eye, there is pain.) In addition, there is such a difficult political situation in this country that we don’t know what’s going to happen.
That’s my short description about myself. Wishing you everything good for you at New Years. I would like very much to learn about you — everything about you â€“what age, who is your family, how did you learn about me-a least a little about your life…I wish you everything good.
I Kiss You,