Monument installed at communal grave of 84 Jewish chidlren in Belarus

OSIPOVICHI, Belarus, October 27 (Itar-Tass) - Atrocities committed by Nazis during the occupation of Soviet Belarus were remembered once again in this country's eastern Mogilyov region Friday, as a monument was opened at the site of a communal grave of 84 Jewish children slain by the occupants in April 1942.

People have already given it the name of Children's Stone. This gray boulder placed on a granite platform is located in a small clearing in the forest in the Osipovichi district.

Inscriptions on the monument are made in Belarussian and Yiddish, as the latter was the mother tongue for the vast majority of Belarussian Jews before World War II.

Installation of Children's Stone was a privately sponsored project. The monument was erected by Vladimir Sverdlov, a former blacksmith who is retired and lives in the capital Minsk.

Sverdlov's initiative to commemorate the Jewish chidlren rallied support from the local authorities and rank-and-file people.

Vladimir himself is the only survivor out of the many Jewish teenagers and pre-school children, whom the Nazi aggression trapped in summer camps and at the Krynka countryside resort.

As the Nazis were transporting a group of kids to the site of execution, Vladimir, 10 at the time, managed to escape.

He said in an interview with Itar-Tass the idea an escape was not his own.

"One of elder boys advised us to organize the escape," Vladimir told Itar-Tass. "He gave up the thought himself, saying he couldn't leave our little comrades just like that, as they would cry bitterly in his absence."

"Then I chose a boy Izya by name as a companion for the escape," he said. "The attempt was successful but Izya decided to go back to when all other kids had already been shot and killed. He thought he would get away with it easily but he was wrong -- the Nazis hanged him."

Vladimir's memory keeps alive the images of all the kids who were together with him then. He loves them as one would love members of his or her own family.

Back in 1942, he spent many long days wandering around the forest and local hamlets. Help came unexpectedly from Alesya Zvonik, a woman who lived in the village Makarychi.

She found the boy who had been enfeebled by hunger and took him to her house. Vladimir stayed with the Zvonik family until the Soviet Army's return and liberation of Belarus in 1944.

Many of Alesya Zvonik's co-villagers knew that she was hiding a Jewish boy and yet no one gave him away to the Nazis.

The Museum of History and Culture of Belarussian Jews made a documentary about Vladimir Sverdlov's life story.

As for Alesya Zvonik, she was posthumously awarded the title of the Righteous Among the Nations two years ago.

Historians say the Nazis killed from 600,000 to 800,000 Jews on the territory of nowadays Belarus during the occupation that lasted from 1941 through to 1944.

Of that number, children made up from 200,000 to 250,000 persons.