NELLY TSIRULNIKOVA.jpgPlease tell us a little about yourself, your family history. I was born in Odessa. After graduating in Obstetrics at the Odessa National Medical University, I worked as a nurse in a city hospital, and then for twenty-six years in a military hospital. My grandmother, aunt and mother always observed Jewish holidays, especially Passover. Before Passover, we would bring flour to the home of one of our friends who baked matzah for all the Jews in the area. It always gave us great joy to receive the fresh, fragrant matzah and celebrate Passover.

Today I would like to tell you about the military history of my family. During the war, we were on one of the last ships to leave for evacuation to Siberia. My grandfather died there. The frost was so intense that the ground was frozen solid; we had to burn tires to thaw the earth so that we could bury him. We returned to Odessa as soon as possible – in 1944, when artillery discharges were still heard.

My grandmother had three sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Yakov Leizerovsky, was an engineer. After fierce battles for Odessa, the city was occupied by the Romanians. Yakov was left in the city to conduct sabotage operations behind enemy lines. The Romanians arrested him, attached a sign “Jew - Partisan” to his chest, and hung him. The neighbors told us about this when we returned from the evacuation.

My grandmother's middle son, Jozef Leizerovsky, was the deputy head of the special department of the NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) in Nikolaev before the war. At the beginning of the war, he was drafted to the front. Letters from him came very rarely, and then we got a funeral notice. After the war, the NKVD received a letter by mail with his documents. The senders wrote that they found them in the insole of his boot. The NKVD of the Odessa region allocated a pension to the children, and the family was given an apartment.

Until recently, we did not know the details of his death. This past May, seventyfive years later, we learned about how my uncle Yuzia fought. Thanks to the sites “Memory of the People” and “His Battle Path,” created for the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory, we gained access to information about the fate of many people, including my uncle. It turned out that he was the head of the Special Department of the NKVD of the 17th Guards Mechanized Brigade of the Southern Front, a member of the Community Party. Some of the entires in the website about my uncle include:

Throughout the fighting, Lieutenant Leizerovsky showed diligence, skill and initiative in maintaining combat discipline and spirit in the brigade, which was of great importance in its successful advancement and organization of staunch defense.

In the offensive and breakthrough of the front line at Stalingrad, Leizerovsky showed courage and heroism.

In December 1942, at the patrols Bizyukovsky and Zarya, his brigade heroically fought against the advancing enemy tank units. With the aerial support, the command was able to organize a strong defense. As a result, the brigade stopped the enemy advance with a fierce battle at the Zarya crossing, and held their position for eight days, continuously repelling the Romanian tank attacks. In this battle, twelve mechanized guns and forty enemy vehicles were destroyed.

The brigade, in which Leizerovsky fought heroically, broke through the Romanian front on December 27, 1942, covered 200 km in four days of battle, capturing 2,850 Romanians, as well as warehouses with uniforms and food.

My uncle died on February 22, 1943 in the Matveyev Kurgan are of the Rostov region. He was 37 years old. In May 1943 he was posthumously awarded he Order of the Red Star.

The youngest son of my grandmother, Hertz (Grisha) Leizerovsky, was drafted to the front, where he was a driver for a senior officer. One day, he was driving with his commander and bent over to fix something. Looking up, he saw that his boss had been killed. He is the only son of my grandmother who miraculously survived. His daughter left for Canada in the 1970s, invited her parents to join her there, and they, in turn, helped my family emigrate.

The fate of my grandmother's three daughters is as follows. The eldest, my mother, studied at the conservatory. Her husband, Ilya Tepman, my father worked in salvaging before the war, lifting sunken ships in Odessa. He was drafted in the first days of the war into the Black Sea Fleet as a radio operator, and participated in the defense of Sevastopol. In his final letter, written at the end of June 1942, he wrote: “The day will come when we will defeat the fascists and meet again in our pearl, in Odessa.” He believed in victory. He died on July 3, 1942 while defending Sevastopol. He was only 29 years old. My mother never remarried again – she kept the memory of her beloved husband.

The husband of the middle sister, Leo, was a career soldier before the war. He went to the front with the rank of captain and returned shell-shocked, but alive. The husband of the third sister, Zinovy, took part in the defense of Leningrad during the war. He came from the front almost blind and covered in boils. He was an unusually kind, honest man, who served as a father figure in my life.

The memory of these terrible years is always in me. I want it to never happen again.