Czerkasski, Raya

Czerkasski, Raya

Rivne (Kirovograd District: Ukraine), Kiev

Czerkasski was born in 1921 and lived with her parents, one sister, and one brother in Rivne (Kirovograd District: Ukraine). She attended high school and graduated in 1938. Her father owned several mills.

Czerkasski states that she herself experienced anti-Semitism from 1930 on. She grew up in steady fear of attacks upon her family and discrimination. Czerkasski had already heard of pogroms against the Jews, but she felt safe in the Jewish community in Rivne.

In 1939 Rivne was bombed by the German air force but no German soldiers entered the town. On September 17, 1939, after the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Russian army occupied Rivne. Czerkasski’s father was a Russian and appreciated the Red Army. Nevertheless, on October 2, 1939, he was ordered to the offices of the Russian secret police and arrested without any reason. Czerkasski visited her father every day. In order to feed her family, Czerkasski applied for a job with the Russian secret police. She started to work as a telephonist, then became a secretary and later on the assistant to the bookkeeper. Czerkasski met her future husband, a Russian officer, who did his utmost to free her father through legal means. Finally, Czerkasski’s father was released.

In 1940 Czerkasski and her husband moved to Kiev where her husband taught in a military academy. Before the Germans attacked Kiev, the Russians evacuated all officers’ wives. Czerkasski’s husband had to serve at the front.

The German army occupied Rivne in June 1941, and most of the Jewish population of Rivne, including Czerkasski’s family, was executed. Before their extermination they had to dig their own graves. In 1943 Czerkasski received a letter from a survivor, who described her family’s disaster.

After the war Czerkasski and her husband moved again to Kiev. She attended college and graduated in 1952. Anti-Semitism had not disappeared in the Ukraine and thus Czerkasski emigrated to Poland in 1957, where she worked as a teacher. In 1965, Czerkasski and her husband moved to the United States.

Interview Information:
Date: June 12, 1997
Interviewer: Rabbi C. Rosenzveig
Length: 1 hour 40 minutes
Format: Video recording