The Zeltser family in Belarus

Anya Antopolsky
Nokdim, Israel
Summer, 2018

OK, here we are, the Zeltser family! This summer, on August 2nd, 2018 my husband, our children and I visited Novye Dorogi in Belarus. Before our trip to Belarus, I did some investigation and learnt a couple of new things about our family. I am glad to share the information with you. In this text, there are some questions that I don’t know the answers to. So I’ll be glad if somebody knows the answers.

Here we are at the entrance to Novye Dorogi. My husband Mitya, our children Shlomo, Yuda and Levik, and me:

Novye Dorogi is now a small village with only one main street:

It was the same size at the beginning of the 20th century. Now it looks like this:

This house looks rather old. Who knows, maybe my grandmother Peshke (Pauline) and her sisters and her brothers saw this house too…

From Novye Dorogi we went to Bobruisk. I remember my grandmother telling me about this “big city’’! Now you can get there by car in 50 minutes; I guess it took about 4-5 hours on a cart drawn by a horse. So it was the same road from Novye Dorogi to Bobruisk. We saw the same landscape my grandmother saw … Except the entrance to the city which, most probably, had looked different 🙂

Here are some buildings in Bobruisk that were built at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century. So we can say for sure that our relatives saw them:

The building of a former synagogue built in 1901:

The ruins of a former synagogue built at the end of the 19th century:

And this is the building of the Bobruisk high school, Alekseevskaya Women’s Gymnasium. My aunt Eva told me that her mother Pauline used to tell her that her sister Frieda went to a high school in Bobruisk. Maybe it was this same building? But I learned that there had been several schools in Bobruisk. Does anybody in the family have an idea where Frieda studied? If there are any documents left from that time, I’d appreciate seeing them!

While we are still in Bobruisk, I want you to see the four following pictures.
That’s what the abandoned Jewish cemeteries look like all over Belarus today:

And these are the memorials in memory of Jews who died in the Holocaust – you can see them all over the country.

Here is one In Bobruisk. “Here are buried thousands of men, women, children and prisoners of war who were shot and burned by the German fascist (Nazi) invaders during the time of the Great Patriotic War (what WWII is called in Russia/Soviet Union), 1941-1945. Prisoners of Bobruisk Ghetto. Their memory will live forever in the hearts of the people”:

In Starye Dorogi. “For the victims of fascism (Nazism) the citizens of Starye Dorogi who died during the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”:

And now let me share with you a couple of new facts I found about our family. My brother Lyonya and me applied to the National Archives of the Republic of Belarus for some documents. We received a marriage registration record – chuppah between Jossele Zeltser, Movshav’ son (Joseph Zeltser) and Chava Veinshtein, Zalman’ daughter (Eva Zeltzer). It turned out that the chuppah had been held on July 20th, 1890. According to the Jewish calendar, it took place on 15th of Av – the Jewish Day of Love!! Next two pictures are the original document and its decoding:

We also received a birth record of my grandmother Pauline (Peshke, Pesya). It seems she was born on July 19th 1907. But all her life we were celebrating her birthday on December 19! Does anybody in the family know about her changing her date of birth? Maybe she did it while moving to the USA? Next two pictures are the original document and its decoding:

While in Bobruisk, I received an extract from the graveyard book — about the burials of people with the surname Zeltser. Are any of these names familiar to someone in our family?

Badana Zelser, Jenoch’ daughter born 1903
Zinaida Zelser, Evsey’ daughter born 1900
Ilya Zelser, Roman’ son born 1889
Lazar Zelser, Pavel’ son born 1912
Meer Zelser, Hirsh’ son born 1901
Moyshe Zelser, Ruvim’ son born 1901
Rachel Zelser, Moyshe’ daughter born 1909

One of our relatives who lives in Moscow, Maxim Osovsky, told me we have a relative who had been living in Bobruisk all these years! Her name is Alla Yarush and it turned out that she is my third cousin. So it means that she is also a third cousin to my brother Lyonya, to Bill, Rachel, Sarah, Lena, Sergey, Isabel, Jennifer, and to all of their first cousins… That’s how it goes:

So I met Alla Yarush in Bobruisk! She showed me a picture of her grandmother Sheina with her grandfather and her father Gregory:

And we took a picture of all of us sitting in Bobruisk on August 2nd, 2018. Alla is sitting on the left side of the table next to my son Levik. Next to her is her son Timur and Alla’s two grandsons. On the right side of the table is my husband Mitya, me, and our sons Yuda and Shlomo: