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David Chernyahovskiy (9/3/2021)

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Before the war David Chernyahovskiy’s family lived in Kiev. When the war started, and before the Germans occupied the city, some of his relatives left Kiev and evacuated to the East; others fought at the frontline. His parents, Hannah and Avraam Chernyahovskiy, remained in Kiev as his father had cancer and was bedridden. Like many Russian Jews, he believed that the Germans would not persecute civilians. During the Civil War in Russia, the followers of Petlyura and Budenny organized Jewish pogroms, but the Germans behaved in a civilized manner. “It’s the same people. They didn’t change,” He said his and his wife’s fears. On September 19, 1941, the Germans entered Kiev. David’s neighbor Pavlo Mihailovich, was among those who greeted the occupying troops. Palvo was happy—for him, it was the end of the communists and Soviet power, and he believed that Ukraine would live a happy life “without the Moskals [derogatory word for “Russians”—tr.] and without kikes.”

On September 28, Pavlo Mihailovich knocked on David’s door. With a mean look on his face, Palvo announced that the new administration had posted an announcement on the walls of the buildings that stated that all the Jews of Kiev must come the next day with their documents and valuables to the corner of Melnikov and Degtyarevskaya Streets in the Lukyanovka district. Those who disobeyed the order would be shot. When David’s mother asked what she should do with her bedridden husband, this neighbor, Palvo replied, “This is your problem. But there should be no traces of you tomorrow at six. We don’t want to go to the trouble of burying you when the Germans shoot you.”

In the early morning, David’s parents left their house and never returned. David was not there but his neighbors recounted his mother’s last words: “I would like to see my children one more time.” David’s mother went to say goodbye to her sister Motaya and her sister offered to hid her in her apartment. She said, “Hannah, you are still young. You are only fifty-five. It’s too early to die. Your Abram will not last long anyway. I’ll help him go to the meeting place, and you stay here. You don’t look Jewish, and you speak Ukrainian better than many Ukrainians. I’ll hide you in the countryside. I’ll say you are my sister. I remember how you and Zina saved my children and me during the famine. Now it’s my turn to help you.” But David’s mom didn’t agree to leave her husband. She decided to share his fate.

David’s mother took off her wedding ring, gave it to her sister in case she returned. Motya helped David’s parents get to Lukyanovka and without her, they would not have been able to make it to their grave. Motya later told David that the streets were full of Germans and polizei. She saw a youth with a bandaged leg sitting on the sidewalk because he couldn’t walk anymore. A German said something to the polizei, who then came up to the boy and shot him in the head. Motaya did not see how the Germans fired machine guns at the people in the ravine. Unfortunately, David's parents shared the fate of all the Jews who perished at Babiy Yar.

“The lives of six million European Jews were lost in the Shoah. And fascism, like cancer, is again spreading in the world. We have to resist this evil together. We cannot allow Babiy Yar to be repeated!” -David Chernyahovskiy

All information from the book Never Heard Never Forget and interviews with survivors.

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