Itzhak Leybman

On the eve of the war I saw my mother for the last time

I am Itzhak Leybman, born in the city of Minsk in March 1930. I lived there before the war on Zamkovaya street 16. I studied at school № 42 on Svoboda Square and graduated from the 3rd grade before the war. My father, Meer Itzkovich Leybman, a male tailor, was a craftsman and worked at home. My mother, Nekhama Shmuylovna Leybman (nee Levina) didn’t work. On December 27, 1937 my father was arrested and sentenced to 8 years with disqualification for his anti-Soviet activity. In June 1941 I was at “Ratomva” pioneer camp, when the war began. On June 16 my mother came to me and told not to wait for her the following Sunday, on June 22 as she would be busy with my younger brother Lev who had to move to dacha in Malinovka with the kindergarten. Thus, on June 16 I saw my mother for the last time. I don’t know anything about her fate and about my brother since that time, though I looked for them for a long time with the help of different organizations. On the morning of June 22, like everyone in the camp, I was awakened by the roar of planes. They were flying so low that the crosses on the wings could be seen. We spent two days in the forest, and in the morning on the 25th of June, all of us, about 500 children, were taken to the railway station, put into boxcars and removed to Minsk. In Minsk we stopped at the passenger station.

Minsk was burning, it was bombed. The camp director tied up the carriage doors with wire not to let anyone go out: neither the children nor the teachers. We were standing in one place for about an hour, then he somehow got a steam locomotive and we began moving to the heart of Russia. We were traveling for a long time, without a schedule, often staying in the open fields. Several times we were fired at by planes but, thanks to God, we got only some holes in the car roof. So, we were brought to the city of Volsk, Saratov region and then transported to a steamer and a barge for going up along the Volga river. We arrived in the city of Khvalynsk in Saratov region and were placed at the rest house. We stayed there until September, and during that time the rooms of the orphanage №1 were prepared for us - other children were removed from the orphanage (totally, in Khvalynsk there were 7 orphanages).

At the orphanage I graduated 6th grade, then at 14 years old I was sent to the vocational school №1 in Saratov, after that in summer, 1945 I was transferred to the vocational school № 8, where I was able to finish 7th grade at the working youth school. Then there was Saratov Industrial Technical School, I graduated from it in 1950 with a technician diploma. I worked there for six months and was mobilized into the army. I was demobilized in October 1954. I didn’t return to Minsk because I had no one left there. I had friends In Saratov, and I was well acquainted with the industry. I found a job at a factory, got married and entered an institute by correspondence, I graduated from it in 1961. I worked at different factories as a designer until my retirement in 1990.

A few words about my father: After 8 years of prison he was released in 1945, but for a year he was restricted in rights and couldn’t go anywhere. In 1946 he came to me in Saratov, but because of the restriction he couldn’t stay in Saratov and had to leave for Volsk, Saratov region, where he worked as a tailor at an enterprise. In 1966 he was rehabilitated and came to live with me in Saratov, he died in 1977 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Saratov.