Isaak Vaisman 's father, who died in 1928, was also born in Berdychiv and had worked as a tailor. He grew up with one sister. He attended a Yiddish school for seven years, before he was transferred to a Russian school to complete his education. He evacuated to Uzbekistan when the war began, from where he was drafted into the Red Army. He served from 1943 until 1946 in an intelligence unit. After his retirement, he worked as soda seller on the market.

Thank God We Had a Piece of Bread

Berdychiv, Ukraine

Isaak Vaisman’s pride in serving his country during the war was evident, but when asked when he had experienced the best times of his life, he answered without hesitation, “My youth.” After hearing him describe his childhood, one could only imagine how much worse things must have become for these to have been his best years.

Isaak and his wife Bella say that her family did provide some charity for the poorer families, like the Vaismans, who lived in the same building block. Those who grew up poor often relied upon the beneficence of those who were a little more fortunate. At least until the government began arresting the wealthier members of the community, there was often a philanthropist in town who helped alleviate the struggles of the destitute.

Isaak Vaisman was seventy-seven years old and still doing backbreaking work selling seltzer water in the Berdychiv marketplace.He pries open a heavy rusting canister with a wrench and pours seltzer into glasses for the waiting customers who tossed him a couple of kopecks for a swig. He worked silently, rarely exchanging pleasantries with his thirsty customers, and only turning his attention from the queue to glance at the canister’s gauge and adjust the pressure of the gas.

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