Friday, November 30, 2007

October's Best Babushka

Malka Zalmanovna, 84

Malka was born in Berezino, a town approximately 70 kilometers from Minsk. When the Second World War started, she was evacuated to the Urals with her mother while her father served in the Soviet army. Her father, Zalman, was never heard from again. She and her mother survived the war years, but due to severe malnourishment, Malka suffered from many illnesses throughout her young life and was diagnosed with osteoporosis when she was in her 40s. Malka and her mother returned to Berezino, but they found that Malka would acquire a better education in nearby Borisov.

Between sicknesses and studies, Malka had little free time, but she always made sure to sing and cook with her mother. “We were very close. Like sisters or best friends. I wanted to remember how she did everything, from her gefilte fish recipe to her bedtime lullabies,” Malka said while showing off her golden smile. (Literally, her when she grins, she shows off a mouthful of aurous gold-capped teeth.) “That’s why when I joined the Hesed club in Borisov, I realized that I knew more Jewish songs than anyone, because I had paid such close attention to my mother.”

Malka is now a star soloist in the Borisov Hesed choir. When she sings the songs she remembers from long ago, her small shaky frame suddenly stands tall to accommodate her powerful voice.

Malka has 2 children and 4 grandchildren. None of them live in Belarus.

Jewish Museum Turns 5!

5 years seems like a short amount of time for Minsk, a city which just celebrated its 940th birthday since its establishment. But in a post-Soviet city where communism almost completely destroyed 500 years of Jewish history in Belarus, 5 years of the existence of the Jewish Museum in Minsk is the only thing keeping the community from completely forgetting. The only Jewish Museum in Belarus, housed in the Minsk Jewish Campus, is only one room small, but is filled to the brim with Jewish artifacts, photos, and maps depicting Jewish history in Belarus before, during, and after the Holocaust. The Museum holds an archive of Jewish family names which helps Belarusian Jews and Jews from abroad discover their roots.

The 5-year birthday party of this prized project was hosted by director Inna Gerassimova who founded this Museum before she even received a salary for her work. The party celebrated supporters of the Museum, with the most honored being the volunteers who develop the projects of the Museum by acting as museum docents, text translators, and exhibit builders.