DORA CHORAKAEVfacecomm nov 19.JPG


The Jewish community where you lived was decimated during the way. Please tell us how you were saved.

I was born in the city of Simferopol (Crimea) in 1936. My mother, Dora Efremovna Levenshtein, died in the hospital with my twin brother a month after my birth. My father took me from the hospital and named me after my deceased mother. In all likelihood, he could not cope alone with a newborn baby and handed me over to my grandparents in Yalta. My grandmother, Dina Dorfman, came from Uman. She married Efroim Levenshtein, with whom they, together with their eighteen-year-old daughter Mira, lived in Yalta. In the 1941, when the Germans were approaching Crimea, the Levenshtein family – my grandfather and grandmother, their daughter Mira and me, their granddaughter – moved from Yalta to the Russian town of Karasubazar (known today as Belogorsk).

We settled in the house of a Greek woman named Sophia Gavrilovna Leonidi. My grandfather always spoke well about the Germans. He said that he worked at a dairy with German specialists, of whom he was of the highest opinion. Therefore, he did not consider the thought of evacuation. Even though I was only four yours old when the Germans entered Karasubazar,

I remember that a man came in a white suit and white canvas shoes and demanded our documents. He then said that we would all be sent to Germany to work. All the neighbors envied us. On the appointed day we were taken along the narrow streets of the town. It was a large column of Jews, families of military personnel, and communists. The neighbors, standing along the road, escorted us. My grandmother probably felt that we were being led to death, and, seeing our hostess Sophia Gavrilovna among the mourners, she pushed me out of the column. Sophia Gavrilovna immediately grabbed me. All this happened in a matter of seconds. So, with G‑d's help, I was saved, and my family – my grandmother, grandfather and aunt Mira – was shot along with the whole convoy. They said that the girls were raped before being shot. They all lie in the same mass grave in Karasubazar, where a common monument was erected, if it still exists.

When I arrived there from Israel in 2002, the monument was in a deplorable state. I could not manage the repair myself and left my Israeli address to the neighbors so that they would pass it on to other visitors, and with joint efforts we would repair the monument. But no one responded.

What was your experience like during the war, after your family was taken?

Sophia hid me in her cellar until the end of the war, letting me our to breathe some fresh air only late in the evening. She risked the life of her family, because if the Germans had found me, they would have killed everyone. When Crimea was annexed, according to the decree of Stalin, all Crimean Tatars and Greeks were deported. So Sophia’s family was deported to Uzbekistan. But before leaving, she left me (then I was seven years old) with her Russian neighbor, Baba Tanya, in the hope that one of my relatives would find me. Sophia was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Hashem and the State of Israel. In 1946-47, my grandmother’s sister, Berta Iosifovna Mezheritsky (Dorfman) found me in Karasubazar and took me to Samarkand, where her family had fled from Odessa during the war. In 1948, the Mezheritsky family with two sons (a third died at the front) returned to Odessa. There I graduated from Odessa University, and worked as a teacher of mathematics. I married Mikhail (Musya) Shlemovich Guitarz,we had two children.

How did you end up in Israel?

My daughter and her husband decided to move to Israel. Two years later, having hardly collected money for the trip, I decided to visit them. Then it was very difficult for them, but they overcame the difficulties of being new immigrants. Both of my grandson were circumcised. At the request of the rabbi, my daughter called from Israel to Odessa, so that the rabbi could clarify some issues related to Jewry. For example, he asked what Jewish holidays we observed. I told him about how we in Odessa could not openly buy matzo for Passover. My grandmother had a religious younger brother who attended the synagogue. So he brought us some pieces of matzo.

Two years later, my husband and I went to Israel. By that time, our son was already married, and we decided to move there overnight. We lived in Holon. Soon, Moshe was born – our second grandson, to whom my husband and I devoted all our time. And we also moved to Canada after our daughter.

If you had the opportunity to make a “lechaim” with: a historical character, a modern politician, a figure of literature and art, or just a friend, who would you choose? Why?

I would like to meet my family – my parents, and my grandfather, grandmother, and aunt who were murdered. I grew up without family, and I have always missed and longed for the ability to communication with them.