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Wartime Correspondence

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Letter from Isaak Shmaruk to Sulamif Tsybulnik

Shmaruk, Isaac letter 1945
Courtesy of the Center for Studies of History and Culture of East European Jews, Kyiv
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tags: children & youth family hope liberation money

type: Letter

Husband and wife Isaak Shmaruk and Sulamif Tsybulnik lived in Kiev (today Kyiv in Ukraine) before World War II. In 1941, the city was occupied by German forces.1 Sulamif worked as assistant director at the Kiev Film Studio. During the war, she was evacuated to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, and lived there with her son, Sasha. Isaak, on the other hand, was drafted into the Red Army and fought on the Eastern Front.

The couple kept writing letters to one another throughout the war. Isaak wrote this letter on May 8, 1945—the last day of the war in Europe. Of course, he could not have known that this was the last day, though it is obvious from the letter that most people were aware that the war was going to end any day. Isaak was in Berlin, with the victorious Red Army. His letter shows the exhilaration the Soviet forces felt upon Germany's defeat. Although we know (as Isaak did) that the letter was probably read by Soviet censors, the feelings expressed in it seem authentic.

After the war, Sulamif became known as a prominent film director. 

One of the largest single mass shootings of Jews during the Holocaust, the Babi Yar massacre, took place in September 1941 on the outskirts of the city. For a history of the Holocaust in Ukraine, see Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower, eds., The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization (Bloomington: Indiana University Press in association with USHMM, 2008); see also Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Lincoln and Jerusalem: Nebraska University Press and Yad Vashem, 2009).

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May 8, 1945

My darling and beloved!

Yesterday, today, and in general, the events seem to indicate that tomorrow is the end of this gigantic battle. I have no words to express on paper the joy that fills our hearts, people are kissing and crying for joy and the echo of the victors' "hurray" is carrying through the gloomy and deserted cities and villages and through the vast expanses all the way to our dear homeland. Even nature itself has announced the victory day with a bright sunny day (before then it was raining). And no matter how much I would love to be with all of you today, I know that it is impossible, but knowing that it is impossible, I would at least like to be in some small village, as long as it was in our homeland. But it turns out that that is not possible either. Knowing what is going on here, I can only imagine (although it is difficult to imagine) what must be happening over there, it seems to me that no one, from the tiniest baby to the largest man, no one will ever forget this day, this bright day in the history of humanity, when the Russian Ivan (for the Germans, all Russians are Ivans), having fought all the way from the Prud to the Volga and the Caucasus, turned around, took a swing, and struck the beast over the head, sent it running, and having overcome all the obstacles, artificial and natural, along the way, rushed into the lair of the beast and finished him off. And now what's left to do is to completely destroy him and his ilk so it would never again be able to rise up.

You know, when I talk to Germans, my first question is always if they have children, and if so, I suggest to them that they drive it home to their children and instruct them so that they in turn would do the same for their children and so on, so that never again would they try to raise their hand against the Russian person. For they will be beaten in any case—and how!

I am anxiously awaiting your letter. I have never had to work so hard as in these last months and so it seems that I haven't really slept much. In my previous letter I wrote to you about our meeting, but now I will say that there is no doubt that soon we will be back together again. As soon as this is all resolved, and when I write in my next letter. You, for your part, write to me how the question of my recall is being decided. My darling, I have already written to you once that this year you will be celebrating your and Sashuta's [their young son's] birthdays in a happy year and a happy month. So once again I congratulate you, kiss you, and wish you all the best in happiness and life, and as for me, I have decided to celebrate this date here with my comrades. My love! I don't know if you've received my parcel but it interests me what you actually got because it has happened that people receive something different from what was in the package. In one of the parcels there is an overcoat. Try to tailor it for yourself. I think that, at least now, you will not be stingy with your letters. Write what is happening with the apartment and if anyone called you to appear anywhere about this question and whether you received the certificate and the money that had been sent.

Send my congratulations to all our relatives and comrades. Tell Ada that as soon as the joy of victory recedes, I will write to her and she must come right away and we will have to start working right away so that we would be able to finish up with everyone and everything as quickly as possible. So write me about Sashutka, how he is preparing for school and how he is behaving. So I kiss you many times and am waiting for your letters.


Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Center for Studies of History and Culture of East European Jews, Kyiv
RG Number RG-31.052
Date Created
May 8, 1945
Author / Creator
Isaak Shmaruk
Berlin, Germany
Kyiv, Ukraine
Reference Location
Ashgabat, Turkemenistan
Document Type Letter
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