“These were my ancestors,” Chaya said, holding an old, sepia-toned photo. “The Nazis brutally murdered them here seventy-five years ago. They filled this mass-grave with 27,000 Russian Jews in just two days.”
“The only reason my grandmother, Musia, survived the massacre was because she was a medic, serving at the front. Those that remained in Rostov were not as lucky. Her mother, Cecilia, was an old hunchback. When she tried crossing the bridge to escape, she was told to turn around. Too weak to continue, she returned home, accompanied by her youngest daughter, who refused to leave her alone. They hid in their basement, hoping to stay alive. When the Nazis came around looking for Jews, a neighbor disclosed their location. They were dragged out of their home, tossed onto a truck, and driven here to Zmievskaya Balka where they were murdered in the largest massacre of the Holocaust on Russian soil.”
Driving back to the center of the city, Chaya stares out of her window, lost in her thoughts. She wipes the tears from her eyes.
“Seventy-five years have passed since the Nazis attempted to erase every trace of Judaism from our city,” she said, “but we’re still here.”
“I grew up during communism. It wasn’t easy. You can’t understand it if you haven’t lived through it. I was often ridiculed in the streets with anti-Semitic slurs. I was afraid to be seen anywhere near the synagogue. Once a year we’d come to pick up Matzah for Passover, but we’d do it discreetly out of fear.”
“Today, I work in the Jewish preschool. The synagogue has become my second home. I live a Jewish life with pride, and I know that I’m honoring my great grandmother’s memory and continuing her legacy.”