Anya was four years old when German soldiers occupied her village of Kruti. Jews were no longer safe there. Her family, like others, was forced to live in a barn for several weeks without food or water. Fortunately able to escape, the family sought refuge in the forest. Knocking on farmhouse doors, they were frequently turned away as Russian families feared they, too, would be killed by the Germans if they offered protection to the Jews.
In 1941, Anya and her family were captured by the Germans and placed in the Jewish ghetto in Rybnitsa where they remained until 1944. They lived in a small house with two other families, their family of eight crowded into two rooms. Anya’s father left the ghetto daily, forced to work for the German army. He received no wages for this work and performed additional odd jobs to earn a little money for food.
The residents of the Rybnitsa Ghetto lived in constant fear. German soldiers conducted nightly raids, using dogs to hunt and find people. Neighbors would disappear or simply be executed. During these raids, Anya’s family would hide in the attic. Suffering from whooping cough one cold winter, Anya was forced to press her face into a pillow to be certain that her cough would not alert the Nazis of their presence. In another raid, Anya’s uncle was killed. And yet another time, the Germans captured a group of boys, including Anya’s two older brothers, taking them to the concentration camp of Varvarovka. Anya’s brothers returned some months later, exhausted, emaciated, and barely alive. They were mere shadows of their former selves and barely recognizable.
After the war, Anya’s family stayed in Rybnitsa. Times were very hard and they lived in poverty. Anya’s father was employed by the Rybnitsa Municipal Trade Board. Her two oldest brothers were conscripted into the Russian Army. One was killed on the front lines, the other returned as an invalid. Anya, her sister, and her brother resumed their education.
Anya met and married her husband, Yefim, in Rybnitsa. They had two daughters.
Anya came to Birmingham, Alabama in 1999 and proudly became an American citizen on November 17, 2005. Anya is grateful for all of the freedoms her new country affords her, especially the freedom to be a Jew.