Voronezh[1]…is…the administrative center of Voronezh Oblast, Russia, located on both sides of the Voronezh River… It is an operating center of the Southeastern Railway (connecting European Russia with Ural and Siberia, as well as Caucasus and Ukraine)…Population: 889,680 (2010 Census).

The Battalen Connection to Voronezh

From “Paper Life,” by Louise Goldstein

According to documents such as his ship’s manifest, World War II Draft Registration and Declaration of Intention (“first papers”), Louis was born in Voronezh. There are two locations with this name: a small town northeast of Kiev in Ukraine and the provincial capital of the province (formerly Gubernaya, now Oblast) of Voronezh.   When I first began using JewishGen.com, its system would not let me enter “Voronezh, Russia” but insisted that I meant “Voronezh, Ukraine.”  I corresponded with JewishGen.com, providing the evidence of an address, and they allowed me to enter “Voronezh, Russia” in the database.  I also corresponded with one Harry Leich at the Libraries of Congress who agreed that given the address, the Russian location is the more likely one.

An undated letter to from Lev to Fenya gives us a clue as to which Voronezh is the correct one.  

My address is on the other side of this page

Province Capital Voronezh

1 Ostropozhskaya Street

Bldg. #4, Apt. 8

To H. Borovskaya

For Lyov Efimovich Batalin

This Borovskaya is my older sister who is going to America this summer [likely 1910].[2]

It’s certainly possible that Battalen’s lived at some point in both places called Voronezh, in the Ukraine and Russia, so Voronezh, Suk’ska Oblast in the Ukraine, remains a possibility.

History of Voronezh, Russia[3]

…human settlement on the site dates to the Stone Age…the present city was founded in 1585 by Feodor I as a fort protecting the Russian state from the raids of Crimean and Nogay Tatars. The city is named for the river, itself named for an earlier city destroyed by the Mongol invasion

In the 17th century, Voronezh gradually evolved into a sizable town, especially after Tsar Peter the Great built a dockyard in Voronezh where the Azov Flotilla was constructed… In 1711, it was made the seat of Azov Governorate, which eventually morphed into Voronezh Governorate (Guberniya).

In the 19th century, Voronezh was a manufacturing and trade center… A railway connected Voronezh with Rostov-on-Don in 1868 and Moscow in 1871.

During World War II, Voronezh was the scene of fierce fighting between Russian and combined Axis troops. The Germans used it as a staging area for their attack on Stalingrad, and made a key crossing point on the Don River…In late June 1942, the city was attacked by German and Hungarian forces…The city was completely under Axis control by July 24…parts of the Second German Army and the Second Hungarian Army occupied Voronezh…On January 25, 1943, Voronezh was “liberated” after ten days of combat. During the war the city was almost completely ruined, with 92% of all buildings destroyed.


By 1950, Voronezh was rebuilt…new factories were established: a tire factory, a machine-tool factory, a factory of heavy mechanical press, and others… In 1968, the Voronezh Aviation factory…was established…Today Voronezh is the economic, industrial, cultural, and scientific center of the Central Black Earth Region.

Jews in Voronezh[4]

Voronezh was one of the towns outside the Pale of Settlement that developed a sizable Jewish presence.  By the 1830’s, despite limitations put on Jewish artisans living outside the Pale, they were often the only tailors or shoemakers around, and thus were indispensable to military garrisons.  Hence they were allowed to live in cities such as Voronezh, so long as they continued to ply their trade.

Though residence in Voronezh was forbidden to Jews until 1917, “The Russian authorities also took special steps at the beginning of the 19th century to remove Jews from the province, in order to prevent them from influencing those Russian sectarians who inclined toward Judaism (the Subbotniki, who were numerous there).”

  • In 1874, with a Jewish population of 319, permission was granted to “…maintain a synagogue in a private house.”
  • In 1890, there was official authorization of the Jewish community’s constitution.
  • In 1897, 2,888 Jews lived in the Voronezh Guberniya, with 1,788 living in the city of Voronezh.

On October 18, 1905, there was a terrible pogrom in Voronezh, as well as in numerous other cities with a Jewish population.  These pogroms by the notorious “Black Hundred” were held in reaction to the small parliamentary gains that had been made in August of that year, when ”A system of representation based on class qualifications and limited to advisory functions but without any restrictions as far as the franchise of the Jews was concerned,”[5] was implemented.

Our grandfather Lev would have been about 13 years old at the time.  In my conversation with Stanley Chernak, he told me that Chasha was wounded on the back by a Cossack’s saber during the pogroms of 1905.

The Synagogue and Cemetery

In Voronezh, in the south central part of European Russian, the unoccupied part of the old Jewish cemetery has been confiscated.  With rare exceptions the Jewish dead have to buried in the Russian cemetery.

The synagogue in Voronezh escaped destruction during World War II, when the city was heavily contested, but the authorities have taken it for use as a grain warehouse.  The Jewish community has not been able to raise the money required for its release as a synagogue.  The windows have been bricked up and the Star of David has been removed from the building.[6]

Large Synagogue Reconstructed in Voronezh[7]

One of Russia’s largest synagogues with the area of 600 sq. m has been opened in Voronezh…It took almost four years to complete reconstruction before reopening the synagogue nowadays. The works were carried out with assistance of the Russian Jewish Congress, which helped to combine efforts of all the project participants, including regional authorities, large Russian patrons of art and the board of trustees of the Voronezh Jewish Community.  The opening of the Voronezh Synagogue was timed to its 110th anniversary.

Today Jewish life has returned to Voronezh and Chabad runs a Jewish Cultural Center in Voronezh with a full array of services.

[1] This and subsequent information is taken from Wikipedia article on Voronezh, April 24, 2013, except where indicated.

[2] Lev to Fenya, Voronezh, Sister’s address; Chasha emigrated in 1910.

[3] Wikipedia article, April 26, 2013

[4] The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol 16, p. 224.

[5] “History of the Jews in Poland and Russia,” Simon M. Dubnow, 1918, p. 480.

[6] New York Times, June 19, 1959.

[7] www.russia-ic.com, October 24, 2014