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What did the Argentinean Jew do in Lutsk?

What did the Argentinean Jew do in Lutsk?

Each of us has a special and unique story of their family. But only few think about who were our ancestors, how and where our ancestors lived? The desire to return to the native origins, the historical homeland and to the past of the family - this is a new direction in the tourist sphere, the name of which is sentimental (nostalgic) tourism.

One day we received a non-standard message on Visit.Lutsk gmail. Argentinean Erick addressed us with an interesting request. In addition to excursions, he wanted to investigate the history of his ancestry. Moreover there was a need to find out about the events of 1942 and their consequences for his family members as well as to find his potential relatives.

Erick's ancestors were from Volyn. Shifre Beckering was his grandmother from Rozhyshche and his grandfather - Moyshe Fuks - from Ratno. It is known that the great-great-grandfather Mayer Rubinstein was a rabbi in Rozhyshche. They were typical Ashkenazi Jews - one of the two most numerous subethnos of Jews, descendants of immigrants from medieval Germany and Eastern European countries. We don’t have much information about Moyshe. He was a member of the partisan resistance. He spent some time in Kovel, hiding in the woods, underground systems that were built by partisans. As told by Erick, in 1942-1944 Moishe moved to Lviv, where he worked as a truck driver, sold sugar, cigarettes and other things.


Moyshe Fuks

We know a little more about Shifre. She managed to survive during one of the mass shootings in August 1942. For some time, a friend of the family - the German doctor Fried - helped Shifre to hide in the village Dorosyni. In 1943, she was in Lutsk, where a priest Boguslavsky from the Cathedral helped her. All these people also hid Jewish children. Later, after joining the partisan units, Shifre hid in Kovel. Throughout the war, Erick’s grandmother had a fake undercover identity, her fake name was Cristina Barszczuwna, and she used it from around 1942 to 1947. When the Soviet troops fixed their positions, the woman returned to Rozhysche and worked as a German translator. Later, a relative of Shifre found her work in Lviv. There she worked as an official translator for the NKVD. In Lviv she met Moyshe, so they moved to Krakow in 1946. For some time they lived in Germany and France. And finally in 1948, they emigrated to Argentina (Buenos Aires), where they settled down and lived until the end of their days.


Shifre Beckering                                        Mayer Rubinstein

It is extremely difficult to have excursions around Lutsk, to visit all Jewish places, conduct research with archival documents as well as to visit Rozhyshche and Ratno and to communicate with the only representative of this nationality there - all in the course of one day!

The first two trips to the archive before the arrival of Erick made it clear that research work would take a month. Hours in handbooks - and I ordered the required documents. When he arrived, we looked through the entries in the metric books and the residents of Rozhyshche before the Second World War. We did not find the required surnames because some documents were lost. 

12:00 p.m. we were on a highway to Rozhyshche. First we arrived to the place of mass shootings. Only modest memorial as well as huge ravines, that hid thousands of bodies, remind us about these tragic events. After that we visited the ancient Jewish cemetery. Most of the inscriptions are almost impossible to read, and those that are preserved were in Hebrew.

We also met with Lyubov Leubev, the only Jewish resident in Rozyshche. They talked for a long time, shared amazing family stories about rescue, discussed the activities of Jewish communities. Lyubov did not know Erick’s family (she was born after War). But she remembered that her father told her what their city was like before the terrible war began. Thanks to her memories, we managed to find a place where there once was the bakery of Erick’s great-grandfather - Eliahu Beckering.

We returned to Lutsk in the evening. Having attended the castle of Lubart and all the charmes of the old city, we visited places that preserved a piece of Jewish history of the city: the XVI century synagogue, Olitsky Beyt Hamidrash (formerly the cinema "Zmina"), M. Glickikh's Gymnasium (Pedagogical College), the former Puritsivky and Galician synagogues, the Jewish community, and of course, the elegant houses of the Kronshteins. By the way, the descendants of these most influential developers of the first third of the twentieth century have visited Lutsk recently!

Thanks to numerous publications, Erick saw old photographs of Lutsk, Rozhyshche, Ratno, as well as pictures of formerly happy residents and bloody shootings. He tried the local cuisine and remembered that his grandmother also often cooked varenyky in Buenos Aires. Erick was extremely fond of the Lutsk calmness and comfort, which is so often lacking in metropolitan areas.


 Erick Fuks 

 The descendants of Kronshteins with the workers of the Center for Tourist Information and Services 

Shifre and Hershl were the only survivors of seven brothers and sisters. The photo below shows a certificate issued in 1961 by the Rozhyshche Committee, whose members are survivors and relatives in Israel. Certificate is in Hebrew, in the middle of the column there are all the names: grandparents, siblings and nephews. All of them died in the war, except of Shifre and her brother Hershl.

Erick said that it was possible that siblings of Moyshe stayed or died in Ratno. He has no information about them. That's why I asked for help of Mykola Mykhalevich who is Director of the Kortelisy Historical Museum. According to him and to the census of the population, there are no Jews. The majority of them died, those who survived immediately emigrated after the war.

Because of the rare and unpopular surname Fuks (as mentioned in old documents - Fuchs), I even found some people who may be Erick's relatives. Currently we are waiting for answers from them. We only visited Rozhyshche. There is still a lot of work ahead, so the research continues. Together with Erick, we intend to see the little homeland of his grandfather Moyshe - Ratne.

Undoubtedly, such research requires more time, interaction with communities, councils, museums and other scientific institutions. It is extremely interesting and exciting. A simple conversation can easily lead to clues. It is important not to give up at the beginning and to seek further. Sentimental tourism is developping more and more, thus overcoming any historical, temporal or spatial obstacles!


Excursion guide of Center for Tourist Infrormation and Services

Oksana Melnychuk


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