Naum Gaiviker born in 1912 in Khmel’nytskyy (Proskurov). He worked as a barber for 36 years, just like his father. In 1930 he decided to move to Moscow, but had to return to Khmel’nytskyy during the Famine in 1933. He was drafted into the Red Army in 1941 and fought in multiple fronts, including Stalingrad, until the end of the war.

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"I was a courageous lad"

The Proskurov Pogrom


One of the worst pogroms occurred in Proskurov (now Khmelnytskyy), where rumors were spreading that the Bolsheviks were about to launch an uprising in the city and appoint a Jewish socialist as its leader. Christian residents responded by attacking the city’s Jewish population. The pogrom began on February 15, 1919, and lasted three days.

In this clip from 2007, Naum Gaiviker, who was six years old at the time, remembers the events of that terrible day. At the age of ninety-five, he retained his boyish rebelliousness and good humor, even while sharing with us some harrowing stories from his past. But this one he found too upsetting to talk about, so his wife, Sonia, told us what had happened to him as Naum sat next to her, leaning against his cane, nodding and wincing. According to Sonia:

They came into their house:
-“Give gold or diamonds!!”
They were very poor. They didn’t have anything. So they said:
-“We don’t have anything.”

-“If you don’t give us anything, we’ll chop off your head.”
They had no idea what was going on outside. They only heard how people screamed “gevalt.”

At that point, whistling began outside, [signaling] the leaders to convene, to gather together. The bandit, who wanted to kill them, took his saber and put it inside his sheath, and left.

This time they survived. But when they went outside, they saw that over there were heads, over there were hands, over there were feet. And all of his friends were killed off. And he, just a boy, stayed alive. It tormented him his entire life.

Gaiviker finishes the story, adding, “Afterwards the Poles came in and took away my father for one-and-a-half months. When he wasn’t there anymore, we thought he was murdered.”

But Gaiviker doesn’t want to end the story here; instead he concludes with the comment, “In general, things were joyous here.”

Source: Jeffrey Veidlinger, In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine (Indiana University Press, 2013)