By immigrating, the Challov’s essentially got out of Dodge not a moment too soon. The disruptions of World War I, the Menshivik and then Bolshevik revolutions of 1917, followed by the Civil War, inflicted challenges and disasters on a scale previously only imagined. Not that there wasn’t a great deal of suffering in the Jewish past, but the years 1914-1922 were particularly vicious. Our family’s hometown of Krivoye Ozero was not immune and suffered a terrible, terrible pogrom in late 1919; actually, a never-ending series of pogroms, is what it was.
We often say how grateful we are that our ancestors left Russia, how thankful we are that we did not have to live through the chaos that ensued there. This is often said and felt in the abstract – luckily, we have never experienced the kind of violence and deprivation that those left behind were forced to endure. But occasionally I come across real information that depicts what our relatives still in Russia went through and it brings into stark relief the reality that the emigrants escaped and just how incredibly lucky we truly are.
The White Russians who opposed the new Bolshevik regime were supported by Western powers. This article provides a rather bland description of the so-called “Volunteer Army.”
This article from the archives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Thirty Days of a Jewish Pogrom in Krivoye Ozera, provides a more detailed, chilling and vivid eye-witness description of the month-long war against Jewish civilians conducted by the Volunteer Army in late 1919; the writer was a non-Jewish teacher. I warn you that it is horrifying; I include it because I feel that knowing what people went through is a way to honor their lives. Those left behind were not necessarily distant relatives: first cousins, aunts and uncles of our grandparents Harry, Ida and Mollie Challov, I imagine, not to mention friends and teachers. We don’t know their names as yet, perhaps we never will. But it is a certainty that the destruction of the Jews of Krivoye Ozero by the White Volunteer Army is a part of our heritage.
This is not the only instance of my family suffering at the hands of General Anton Denikin; he also led a pogrom about a month earlier in Fastov, where my grandmother Fannie Ronen had an uncle, Froim Pashkoff. Froim was killed; his family escaped to family in Kiev and brought typhus with them, which did the job on some that Denikin had not been able to complete in Fastov.