A Ukrainian Jewish Century

A Ukrainian Jewish Century

13 episodes that will take you on a journey through the 20th century.With stories read by some of Britain’s finest character actors, you will hear excerpts from Sholem Aleichem, as well as personal stories of those who grew up in shtetls, fled from the Germans in 1941, and even fought them at Stalingrad. Then you’ll listen to stories of what it was like to start life over in the postwar decades.

Introduction: A Ukrainian Jewish Century

narrated by

Edward Serotta

The actor Steve Furst reads an excerpt from Sholem Aleichem’s autobiography, From the Fair. This most famous of all Yiddish writers describes what it was like arriving in Kyiv in the late 1880s. As he says about the big city, “If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go into the forest.”

Audio

Sholem Aleichem in Kyiv

narrated by

Steve Furst

The actor Steve Furst reads an excerpt from Sholem Aleichem’s autobiography, From the Fair. This most famous of all Yiddish writers describes what it was like arriving in Kyiv in the late 1880s. As he says about the big city, “If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go into the forest.”

Audio

Grigori Sirotta’s Centropa interview: Shtetl life in the 1920s

narrated by

Stephen Greif

In this short episode, we learn about growing up in a shtetl, fleeing a pogrom, and what it was like living on a collective farm.

Audio

Sophie Belotserkovskaya’s Centropa interview: How my parents met

narrated by

Jeni Barnett

One of our most colorful storytellers, Sophie tells us how one day, when her mother was walking on the street in Kamenets Podolskii, a handsome young man, an actor, asked for directions.

Audio

Sarah Kaplan’s Centropa interview: Married off to save her from starvation

narrated by

Janet Suzman

Perhaps as many as 4 million Ukrainians starved to death during Stalin’s enforced famine of 1832/1933. Sarah Kaplan tells us how, even though she was but 16 years old, her mother married her off to a cousin from Moscow, just to get her out of Ukraine.

Audio

“Maybe Esther“ by Katja Petrowskaja

narrated by

Shelley Blond

Edward Serotta introduces our wartime stories while walking through Babyn Yar, where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered by German soldiers in September 1941. The actor Shelley Blond reads an excerpt from a remarkable memoir. When Petrowskaja asked her father what his grandmother’s name was, he shrugs and tells her he was but four years old. “Maybe Esther,” he says. And Maybe Esther walked to the edge of the ravine in Babyn Yar.

Audio

Aron Rudiak’s Centropa interview: Escape from Odesa

narrated by

David Horovitch

Aron’s father was sure the Germans and the Romanians would never take Odesa. And he went off to enlist to help make sure they wouldn’t. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Aron insisted to his mother they flee on one of the last ships out. The rest of the family remained.

Audio

Dora Postrelko’s Centropa interview: Flight to the east

narrated by

Sara Kestelman

A story with the wallop of a 19th century novel. When the Germans were closing in on Kyiv, Sasha Goldberg took his fiancé, Hana Gehtman, and her sister Dora, to a train headed east. As winter set in, Hana became sick and died. Sasha kept writing her from the front line, and Dora answered, pretending to be Hana.

Audio

Hertz Rogovoy’s Centropa interview: The fights of his life“

narrated by

Allan Corduner

Before he was 20 years old, Hertz Rogovoy had fought in three of the war’s major battles: the defense of Moscow, in Stalingrad, and at Orel, where a sniper shot him. Twice. After a year in the hospital, Hertz decided he, too, would become a doctor. And he practiced well into his 80s.

Audio

Peter Rabtsevich’s Centropa interview: Starting life over

narrated by

Henry Goodman

Peter Rabtsevich describes what it was like for Jews in Kyiv, and in the Soviet Union, in the decades after the Second World War. Thousands would stand in front of Kyiv’s only synagogue on the High Holidays. “They came to remember their heritage, to remember their murdered families, and to remember that they were Jews.”

Audio

Evgenia’s Shapiro’s Centropa interview: He could never forgive them. Until he could.

narrated by

Jane Bertish

Jakob Shapiro was a highly decorated Army officer who railed against Jews leaving their motherland for Israel. A construction engineer, he worked on building sites until he was 86. In his final years, Jakob Shapiro mused, “I’ll bet I would have done well there,” he said. “Guess I should have gone, too.”

Audio

Lilya Finberg’s Centropa interview: The confident walk of my granddaughter

narrated by

Jan Goodman

Lilya Finberg paints a picture of postwar Jewish life in Kyiv, from the days of the ‘anti- cosmopolitan campaign’ to the infamous doctor’s plot. But Lilya watched society change, especially after Ukraine’s independence in 1991, and was thrilled when her son Leonid became one of Ukraine’s leading Jewish intellectuals.

Audio

Vasily Grossman’s essay: “Ukraine Without Jews“

narrated by

Jason Isaacs

In this episode, we take a drive out of Kyiv. Our destination is the village of Kozary, 82 kilometers to the north. This is where, in October 1943, the reporter Vasily Grossman wrote his searing essay, Ukraine Without Jews. From the English translation by Polly Zavadivker

Audio

At the grave of a friend. “Every Ukrainian photographer dreams of taking the picture that will stop this war.”

narrated by

Edward Serotta

That is what Maks Levin said when he went off to cover the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014. Once the Russians invaded in February, 2022, Maks had but 17 days to live. He was embedded with Ukrainian fighting units and covered the war on the front. On 11 March, his drone went down near the Hostomel airport. Maks went to retrieve it. The Russians were already there.

Audio

Credits
No sooner had Vladimir Putin launched his insane invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, than thousands of visitors to Centropa.org began exploring our Ukrainian database of interviews. That is when we decided to bring to life just a few of the 278 interviews we conducted there between 2001 and 2007.We have 13 episodes in this podcast season, and you can hear some of Britain’s finest character actors reading stories about growing up in shtetls, running from the Germans, fighting them at Stalingrad, and starting life over afterwards.You can also hear excerpts from Sholem Aleichem, Katja Petrowskaja, and Vasily Grossman.The entire season will soon be available in Ukrainian.Our Ukrainian interviews were conducted under the guidance of Professor Leonid Finberg, coordinated by Marina Karelstein, and were underwritten by the Claims Conference and the Jack Buncher Foundation.This podcast series has been underwritten by the Jack Buncher Foundation.__________________The series is hosted by our director, Edward Serotta.Executive producer: Oleh TeteriatnykMusic: Lika Bugaeva from ZeteticsSound design and mix: Stanislav LypetskyiFixer: Ievgeniia GotskaRecordings in Kyiv: BakerStreetStudioRecording engineer: Den KhrenovPostproduction producer: Olga SlezkaSpecial thanks to Jonathan Schwers of Centropa, the Kadyuk family of Irpin__________________

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