MARIA ARONOVNA VINNYTSIAfacecommjan18.PNG

PROFESSOR

Where does your family come from?

Both my father and mother come from a small town called Fastov, near Kiev. I want to tell you about the bloody events in the history of this place, about the terrible disasters that befell the Jews who lived there. Many of the Jews of the town were “cantonists” – soldiers who were forcibly conscripted to serve most of their lives for the glory of the Russian Tsar. They often returned after decades of hard service with deep scars, both emotional and physical. At that time, the Jewish Committee in the district of the township managed to obtain permission to lease some plots of land adjacent to Fastov to the cantonists.

In 1919, one of the worst pogroms in the period of the Civil War, occurred in Fastov. Almost 60% of the Jewish population was brutally murdered. People were burned right in the synagogue. And the cantonists were not spared despite their service and loyalty to the tsar and the Russian homeland. They were all killed.

My 23-year-old paternal grandmother miraculously managed to escape and take three nephews with her. All her life she regretted that she could not save her father. My maternal grandfather at that time had five children. His wife and three children were murdered during the pogrom. Their nineyear-old daughter, who witnessed the brutal murder of her mother and brothers, managed to hide and survive, but she went mad as a result of the trauma and never recovered.

This pogrom was written about by my great uncle, Lev Godik, who at that time was trying to raise funds to help the victims. He managed to engage the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC, aka “the Joint), which had sent three representatives to Fastov. Two of them were killed in the pogrom. My daughter, Inna Minuk, went to the New York offices of the JDC in 2012 to research about the Fastov pogrom, but the lists of the victims were not preserved. Inna created a website to document the tragedy in all its horrifying detail. While she was working on this project she tried to obtain archival documents, but the Ukrainian authorities did not permit her.

In the 1920s all the major European and American newspapers wrote about this pogrom. My daughter also found some information in one of the American Jewish yearbooks of the1920s. There is an opinion that even then the young Hitler adopted the methods of Fastov pogrom for his future doctrine of exterminating Jews from the face of the earth.

During the war, in 1941, the remaining Jews of Fastov who survived the pogrom were shot. Today, there are no Jews in this town.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

I really like reading detective stories, and of course Exodus Magazine.

Given the opportunity to meet anyone, who would you choose?

I would love to talk with the first woman Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir. David Ben Gurion said that he has only one real man in the government, and that's Golda Meir. They say that she was from Fastov. What are your future plans? My daughter, Inna, whom I mentioned, created a comprehensive day school “Matrix Academy.” I would very much like her school to flourish.