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Why are my brother Boris and I still alive? It’s because my mother and father were never officially married. She would tell people that I was my father’s son, who is a Jew, but that Boris had a different father. My mother only married my father shortly before his death. Can you imagine? Her maiden name was Chepelyanis. And during the occupation, my brother and I had this surname as well.

I remember us walking down Engels Street. It was probably eight kilometers long. The Jewish ghetto was located on what is now called Kalvaryjskaya Street. We were walking on the right side of the road and saw that the ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire, and children were standing there, looking through it. My mother would visit the ghetto and bring them something. For some reason, she took me with her, though otherwise she tried to keep me away from the ghetto.

When we were released by the Red Army in 1944. The same neighbors who had called me a “Zhid” now reported my mother to the Cheka. The Chekists arrested my mother. My grandmother and my brother Boris were thrown out of our apartment room. They were sheltered by the mother of my mom’s friend Stanislava. When my father returned from the hospital, he found out that his youngest son was being held in a shed, his wife was in prison, and his eldest son was nowhere to be found. The first thing he did was go to Vilnius to call for me.

There was an investigation into my mother’s case, but our friend Sedykh Vasily Yakovlevich took an interest in her case and helped secure her release. She may have been in prison for a year, maybe a year and a half. So mother was not there when we returned from Vilnius. I lived in a barn with my father, brother, and grandmother. And then my mother came back, without any trial taking place.

More Photos from Georgij Birger

Georgij Birger with friends (?)
      The Interviewee, Georgi Birger
          The Respondent (Georgi Birger) at Work
          • with audio description
            Georgi Birger’s grandmother
                Georgi Birger with his father
                    Georgi Birger’s father on the athletics track
                        Georgi Birger’s father
                            Georgi Birger’s parents