Mark Labok Exodus_nov_rus-page-019.jpg

  Engineer, journalist, writer


Please tell us about your career.

I have three degrees: Construction and Architecture, Journalism and Theatre Direction. I studies in the Architecture and Construction Department of the Leningrad Institute of Engineers, with a focus on transportation. After completing my studies I worked at the Kirov Railroad and spent most of my career in the Leningrad Institute of Urban Design, and was designated an “Honorary builder of Russia.” I studied my second discipline, radio-television, in the evenings at Leningrad State University. Upon graduation I was assigned to the Leningrad Television Studio, where I worked in the evenings. I later managed a team of amateur performers.

Where is your family from?

My father and my grandfather are from Borisov, in Belarus. All the relatives on my father’s side were murdered in the ghetto there. My grandfather had 11 children, of whom my father was the 10th. In 1912, the six older children emigrated from Belarus to America. In 1997, I sought out my Aunt Sarah, who lives in Buffalo, thus connecting the broken branches of our family. In New York, in a memorial center at the Statue of Liberty, which lists the names of the first immigrants, there is my family’s name - Labok. Currently, I am in touch with Alexander Rosenblum, now living in Israel, who organized a website dedicated to the city of Borisov and its inhabitants. His site describes all the Jews of Borisov, and the tragic events of the Borisov ghetto where thousands of Jews were murdered in 1941. My grandmother from my mother's side, Chaya, comes from a distinguished Jewish lineage - her maiden name was Abarbanel. Abarbanel was one of the greatest Jewish sages, a philosopher, scholar and writer. She lived in the town of Beshenkovichi, in Vitebsk province. Seventeen days before the war in Leningrad my sister was born, and as a result our grandmother came to visit - which saved her life since all the Jews in Beshenkovichi were murdered during the occupation. My grandmother was deeply religious. She kept kosher even during the war, observed passover with matzah and special wine, and attended the illegal underground synagogue in someone's apartment.

How long ago did you emigrate? Why did you choose to live in Thornhill?

I came to Toronto to visit my daughter and grandson, and eventually moved to Canada in 2003 to join my daughter’s family.

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

I work with Russian media in different countries, including Canada, the US, Russia and Israel. In Toronto there are several Russian language newspapers, such as "Canadian Courier”, “Russian Canadian Info”, “Newspaper Plus” and others. In 1993, Exodus Magazine [Russian Edition] published an article about the reconstruction of the foundation of the Leningrad Synagogue. It is the second largest in Eastern Europe (after the Vienna Synagogue), built in the Moorish style. The groundwater there was a threat that would have caused the synagogue to lurch, as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was one of the Leningrad professors involved in the project to strengthen the foundations of the synagogue.

If you were given the opportunity to meet anyone, who would you choose?

I would gladly sit with the unique Jewish artist, the “a man of 1,000 faces,” Arkady Raikin, whom I was lucky enough to be familiar with. I still have my picture with him, which I keep as a treasure.

What are your future plans?

Joy, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.