Memory Office: A.Zolotar
Asia Zolotar, a member of Kaunas Jewish Community, who was born in Belarus, shares her memories of childhood in Ukraine, experiences of her family while escaping the war to Kazakhstan and the shelter they‘ve managed to find in Russia. Asia had spent most of her life working as an accountant, found her peace and love in Kaunas, where she is already counting her 90th year. (Interview with Asia is in Russian).
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"When the war began, we‘ve stayed in Ukraine for a while. Many Ukrainians had joined the so-called auxiliary police movement and helped Germans to catch Jews... The older brother, when leaving with partisans, said that we should only evacuate when he gives us a notice. When he called, dad took the horses (at the time he was working at the depot), told us to collect everything we might need for the trip. With the horses we rode about a month and a half, slept in the fields of collective farms, wanted to reach Kursk, get to the wagons going to Kazakhstan..."
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"I remember bombs, explosions, red sky... Only few tens of kilometers to Kursk, we got a message about the approaching Germans. About 40 carriages had to change the direction... Later, we got on the trains and traveled for two more weeks before we‘ve reached the territory of present Orenburg. We‘ve settled there with the local family, horses were taken, we have been working in collective farms - collecting sunflowers. The harvest was good, but it was only enough until the mid of 1942, then, the famine began... I can still see my father's swollen face, mother's feet ... Parents had to stay in the hospital alternately... They would keep people there until they would get better, then would release them..."
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"Later we got a call - all the children starting 14 years old were sent to the craft school. My younger brother was too young, I‘ve told them, that without my brother I will not go, I was threatening to jump out of the train, it took tears and prayers until they‘ve agreed to take him... At the school, we would get some bread which we hadn't seen for many years, we were high with pleasure... After two years in the crafts school, they didn‘t let us go home, instead, sent us to the next one - school of metallurgy... We have spent there over a year until my dad came and brought us home."
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“In 1947 I came to Kaunas for work. Kaunas seemed such a beautiful city, kept growing over the time, constructions were in progress... The barracks in Šančiai seemed worse, but later they were restored. I remember when I went to the market for the first time, and got my eyes mangled of the abundance of the products - eggs, chickens... There were no such things in Ukraine... Indeed, when I saw Kaunas, a life without collective farms, I wrote a letter to my parents saying - I wanted to live here. “I‘ve lived in Palanga Street, four of us in a one-room apartment. That house has been rebuilt... We‘ve loved walking around the city, went dancing at the Kaunas Garrison Officers Club, where I‘ve met my future husband..."
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Asia was born in 1928 Belarus, a religious, conformists’ family, where she was growing up with her two brothers. Dad knew Torah, spoke Yiddish. Mom didn't know how to read or write, was a good housewife. In 1936 Zolotar's family left for Ukraine, and in 1941, when trying to escape the war - evacuated to Kursk, to the area of Chkalov. After the war, when family had returned to Ukraine, could no longer recognize their home. Asia began studies and in 1947, came to visit relatives in Kaunas. Where she had stayed.
Date of the interview: 2018-02-07