Part 11 (Nazi Occupation)
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Because of the explosions, Lavra was closed up and we had to move out. It was just before we moved out, that there was an announcement that all the Jews had to come to the railway station with their valuable belongings. There was some speculation that they were being deported to Poland, but soon everybody (even children) knew about the massacre at Babi Yar.
There were very few Jews in Lavra. I only knew of one family, a poor shoemaker with many children. Until then I didn’t even know that they were Jewish as it wasn’t important to us. I remember crying about it because it was just a nice family with young children. It was very, very sad. My parent’s Jewish friends were all educated and were able to evacuate.
How far away were you?
We were reasonably far from the center of Kiev, and we were far away from Babi Yar. We were at the other end of town. It would have been an hour just to get there. And yet we knew about the massacre. This is what amazes me – when grown-up people say they never knew about it. I was a child and I knew what happened within three days.
It was a good 15-20 minute trolley ride [to the center of Kiev]. Maybe not, because I used to walk all the way into the city. But it was a long walk. Maybe a forty minute walk. The city was small at the time and distances feel different to me now than when I was a child.
Soon after this (a week or two) we left Lavra and moved into the apartment on Bankova street that our friends left in our care.
From the English language Wikipedia article Babi Yar:
Babi Yar, a location in Kiev, became a site of one of the most infamous Nazi WWII war crimes. During two days in September 1941, at least 33,771 Jews from Kiev and its suburbs were massacred at Babi Yar by the SS Einsatzgruppen, according to their own reports. Babi Yar was a site of additional mass murders of captured Soviet citizens over the following years, including Ukrainians, Romani, POWs and anyone suspected in aiding the resistance movement, perhaps as many as 60,000 additional people.
Babi Yar notice
Babi Yar is about 10 KM (6.2 miles) from Kiev Lavra. Source: Google Maps
It was hard to get food. The Germans printed some occupation money but it had little value. The economy existed mostly by bartering. My parents had fabric, shoes, utensils and other potentially valuable items. Peasants came into the city and would trade bushels of flour, potatoes, and other produce for dry goods. Many people would walk miles to villages for food.
The apartment that belonged to our Jewish friends was in center city all the way on top of the hill and was only the third house from an area destroyed by fire. The name of the street is Bankova Ulitsa, which means Bank Street. Dad and I found it [in 1974] and it was very hard for us to find it because the city had changed so much. There was so much new construction.
After Rena’s family was forced to leave Kiev Lavra they were fortunate to have an apartment to go to that was not destroyed. She doesn’t know what became of the Jewish friends that evacuated. She remembers the address as Bankova Street. Valentin’s working papers list the address as 21a/21 Liuteranska Street which is around the corner. Google Maps (below) shows a building that extends around the corner and faces both streets.
Nazi occupation money for Ukraine from Valentin's collection. He may have purchased it after emigrating to the United States.
Central Kiev in ruins
The apartment at 21 Liuteranska Street is marked on this 2019 map. Lavra is at bottom towards the right.
Source: Google Maps