Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004


Had you ever heard of Uzbekistan?

I had never heard of it. We heard of Tashkent. Uh, I myself had not heard of it but my older sisters, from literature, they have heard about Tashkent being a city of the bread--there is plenty of bread over there, and coming from an environment that we came from um, not just bread, but all kinds of other goodies. So it uh, was attractive for us to go there, and mainly it was the uh, climate.

So the train took you to a nearby...

No, right into town.

Into ???

The train station, while it ran through the town, the station itself had a name, and it was called Golodny Steppe, which means the hungry desert.

That must've made you feel...

Golodny, golodny means uh, hungry.

That must have made you feel hopeful.

Nothing could depress us anymore!

So what were--what was the living there like?

The living--you see, we were not discriminated there. We um, we, we, we could live just like the regular general population was. The population was mixed. Mostly of course it was native Uzbeki uh, but there was a significant number of Russians living there, and there were some Russian Jews that evacuated from the Ukraine and from Belarus. This mostly consisted of well, well-off Russian Jews, they were Party members, they had uh, protectsia, which means that they knew their ways and they had friends in important places that they could get on the trains where many people tried to get on the trains, they couldn't get on trains. They could bring along many possessions that other people could not bring along possessions, and so forth. And these Russian Jews were very, very helpful to these so-called refugees. Uh, we were not called by name "refugees" there, they called us Polacks--Polish Jews.

Was there--there was a, a native Uzbeki Jewish community?

No. There was no Jewish community.

In Tashkent? None in Tashkent?

There were a sprinkling of what they would call the Bukharin Jews. Um, we did not come across them in our daily life. We only um, there might have been a small number of them, because only ones I remember that they had a religious service which was in somebody's home uh, and it had to be like a Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, and that's when we met several of these Uzbek, these Uzbeki Jews that you mention-- the, the--we called them Bukharin Jews. Uh, they could read a siddur, although their siddurim were different from ours--we did not have any siddurim. I don't know how we davened over there, because I had never seen a siddur in Russia all the time that we were there.

But you did daven?

But there was a service, yes. Uh, I didn't mention that when we were in the ???, in the wild...in the woods uh, the Jewish people in the forest knew--when Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur came, they did not work. They went to work, but did not do any cutting trees. They were just sitting around there, and only if somebody in authority was coming, so they pretended like that they're working. How they knew it, I don't know. Maybe some people memorized the Jewish calendar or something like this.

Did you socialize with these other Russian Jews?


Not at all?

No. There were, there were--I don't think that they were of any kind of organized group. They might have been there, maybe uh, for a short time. The center--the--of Jews in, in Uzbekistan was in uh, in the two cities, mainly Bukhara and Samarkand. They were at the other end of uh, Uzbekistan from Tashkent area where we lived. But, you know, Jews always wander around into other places where they could find um, uh, what they were looking for. So there was no, there was no, to my knowledge, any communication at all between us and them. But there was close relationship with the Russian Jews, very close relationships.

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