Elizaveta Bershadskaia was born in Chernyatka in 1927. Her father was a barber and was also born in Chernyatka. Her mother was born in Bershad and worked as a seamstress. She had two brothers and a sister. She moved to Bershad at the age of 13, and spent much of the war in the Bershad ghetto. We interviewed her on July 18, 2002 in Bershad.
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Upon returning home after the war, whether from evacuation, the army, a ghetto, or a camp, the first challenge that met most returnees was simply finding shelter. Many returned to find only ruins where their houses had once stood. Those whose houses had been spared the bombs, found that in their absence their homes had been occupied by neighbors or others in search of shelter. Invariably, their property had been plundered.
Those who remained in town, Jew and non-Jew alike, had assumed that the evacuees would never return and that their property was available on a first-come, first-served basis. The law was ambiguous on ownership rights, as a 1937 edict had deprived those absent for more than six months of any claims to abandoned residences. City officials had no means of determining which of the evacuated families were ever going to return, and so assigned abandoned houses to newcomers in need of shelter.
If the prewar owners returned, their claims of ownership conflicted with those of the newer residents who had been allocated the property by civil authorities. Many survivors had difficulty returning to their homes after the war. In this clip, though, Elizaveta Bershadskaia explains that she managed to reclaim their belongings with little effort.