The Growth and Destruction of the Community of Uscilug by Aryeh Avinadav
The Jewish residents of Ustilug lived in peace for many generations, raising their children to continue their forefathers’ traditions. Igor Stravinsky, the famed composer of “The Firebird” and “The Rite of Spring”, maintained a country estate for many years in Ustilug where he worked on a number of his compositions. Stravinsky himself described Ustilug in his book, “Expositions and Developments” as a mistyechko, “a little place”, out of Isaac Babel or Chagall, the coziest and most affectionate community imaginable”.
World War I however, and the aftereffects of the war, were terribly destructive to the Jewish community of Ustilug, whose fortunes plummeted. As a result, many were forced to move away. But over time the situation improved and the town thrived, until by 1935, Ustilug’s mostly Jewish population had reached approximately 4000. There were two libraries, one for Hebrew and one for Yiddish, a number of wood mills, several craftsman, cattle dealers, an orphanage, an expanded Jewish school, and 12 shuls, one for each of the Tribes of Israel.
And then on the morning of June 22, 1941, everything changed. On that day, the Germans bombarded Ustilug heavily as war broke out between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. By October of that same year, 900 residents had been killed, and by September 1942, all of the Jews of Ustilug were gone.
This book is a memorial to the people and the town of Ustilug written by former residents who either escaped or left before the war began. Originally compiled and published in Israel in 1961, in Yiddish and in Hebrew. Edited by Aryeh Avinadav.
Year first published: 2021