Efim Skobilitskii was born in 1919 in Berdichev. His father was born in Poland, near Warsaw, and worked as a metalworker. His mother raised five sons. He studied in both a Yiddish school and in a cheder. During World War II, he served in the Red Army as the commander of a battalion of tanks. After he was demobilized in 1949, he returned to Berdychiv and was trained as an agronomist. He worked at a warehouse transfer station for kolkhozi and zovkhozi for thirty-five years.

Other Interviews:

"when I encountered the Germans"
Career in the Red Army
The Zogerin (the Synagogue Prompter)

“stuffing ourselves”

Berdychiv, Ukraine

Efim Skoblitsky recollects great poverty during his childhood. Although his family lived comparatively well-off, the memory of beggars and peddlers are engraved on his mind.

Efim, however, also remembers a philanthropist named Magazanik, who exported leather from the leather factory, where Vaisman’s mother worked, to Czechoslovakia. According to Efim, "Magazanik was a great landowner. He would lead his cattle along the entire street and would carry dairy products, like butter and sour cream, to sell in Zhytomyr and Kiev. And over there, he planted an orchard with all kinds of trees. Now it’s a street where they have added new buildings. It used to be a long orchard along the street.” Magazanik, Skoblitsky went on, lost most of his wealth when it was expropriated by the Soviet state and his property was seized for communal use.

It is perhaps in tribute to Magazanik that the Berdychiv-born writer Vassili Grossman gave the name of Efim Magazanik to the poor Jewish blacksmith who is forced to host a pregnant Red Army soldier during the Civil War in his 1934 short story, “In the Town of Berdychiv” a story later made famous by Aleksandr Askoldov’s 1967 film Commissar. Grossman was, perhaps, making an ironic comment on the fate of the wealthy under Bolshevism, by taking the name of this locally famous aristocrat and philanthropist for his poor blacksmith.

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