Lidia Meltzer

"Shalom, Peace.  I want peace in the world. The Jewish people should never go through such a horrible tragedy like what we went through. Let there be peace in the world."

Name at birth
Lidia Semionovna Shukstulskaya
Year of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Minsk, Belarus
Name of father, occupation
Simyon Shukstulskiy, Accountant
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Elizaveta Yakovlevna Shukstulskiy, Worked in Factory
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, me and half-brother, my father had a child from previous marriage who passed away, Ruven
Who survived the Holocaust?
Sophia, my mother's sister and I
Isaac Trabskiy, Journalist wrote this from the words of Lidia Meltser:       
These songs entered my heart during the horrible time of Hitler’s occupation of my city and just as horrible to remember times after the Minsk became free from the Germans. To this day I cannot think of those times without tears on my face, with sorrow smile she whispered. I cannot start to remember my childhood and my youth without a difficult feeling in my heart. Besides, you don’t need to see my tears… You know, it’s best if I let you read this letter in which several years ago I have described a tragic history of my life.
Prior to the war our family lived on the fourth floor of this big break building on Nemiga Street. I remember that the entrance to the building was through the arch. When in the summer of 1941 Germans entered the city, we could not evacuate on time. My father, along with the other men who were neighbors, was immediately shot. All other Jewish women, children, and elderly Germans were dragged outside where there was already a line of people surrounded by the German soldiers and police. Once lined-up, the entire crowd was pushed towards the mass execution. 
I was walking next to my mother and her sister, aunt Genia, who was holding her two children – 6 year old Lilia and 3 year old Roman. Aunt Genia knew German and she told German Officer that she is a doctor, showed her identification and he permitted her to step out of the execution line. At that moment, my mother pushed me towards my aunt, who grabbed me along with her children came out of the line. We end up at the house next to the Ubileiniy Market, which used to be the police building. There were hundreds of people who were able somehow to hide from the Germans. I remember running throughout the building, trying to find my mother. I could not even imagine that I will never see her again.
Later with my aunt Genia, we end up in the unknown house in the middle of the Jewish Ghetto on our Nemiga Street. I remember how during the round-ups, men would lift the floorboards so us children could hide under the floor. We were constantly starving and I used to crawl through the barbwire into the other side of the ghetto wall, into the Russian Sector: to get some food. 
One day I saw our pre-war neighbor Maria Mikhailovna Hydoleeva. I was crying hard when I told her about the events that took place with my family. This nice lady told me to go back to the ghetto, take along both of my aunt Genia’s kids and bring them to her apartment in the Russian Sector. “I will save you,” she said to me. When I returned to the ghetto, I told about the offer to my aunt Genia, but she did not want to let go her children. 
This is what I learned from the newspapers later in life:
On July 7th, all Jews were forced outside, outside of the city limits. There were fourteen holes dogged out, in which the Jews were executed. On top of the dead bodies were brought new people and were executed as well. A woman came to the police officer with her child and asked begged him with following, “Listen, I beg of you, save my child, he is Russian.” The child grabbed onto his mother’s neck and would not let go crying, “No mother, I am not going anywhere, I want to be with you.” That child was no older than 4 or 5 years old. The German SS officer who was standing near by asked the police man about what the woman wanted. He was translated about what the mother said and what the child said. The SS officer ordered a woman to dig a new hole, then took her child and threw him into that hole and told the woman to cover the child with dirt completely. That woman could no do such a thing, so the officer poured gasoline all over the child and burned him alive. The woman became instantly insane and started running around the field naked, while the Germans were practicing target shooting on who will be the first to hit her…”
All of that could probably happen to me, but Maria Mikhailovna hid me, the Jewish girl, in her apartment risking her life. Later to feel more secure, Maria Mikhailovna took me to church. There I was christened, and my savior hanged on a cross on my neck and said, “Now your new name will be Ivanova, Lidia Alekseevna. Also, never tell anyone nor ever try to remember that you were a Jewish girl by the name of Lidia Semionovna Shukstulskaya. Otherwise you will be shot.” 
She took me to the German’s-organized admittance center. From there, I was taken to the orphanage located in Kozirevo not far from the Chervenskiy Market. There we were often lined-up and questioned, “Who of you is a Jew?” but nobody ever admitted. To this day I remember some of the names: Boris Kyht, Arthur and Edmynda Birger, Sonia Petrovskaya, and Lenochka Antonova… From the orphanage we were sent to work, doing garden work for the Germans. To get to these gardens, we needed to cross the large ditch. There was no bridge and we need to crawl through the water pipes. It was dark and scary. There was an older girl with us, her name was Ava. She took care of us children. After the war I found out that Germans hanged her for the association with the partisans.
From the orphanage Vera Gerasimovich, a farm lady, adopted me to the Shabani Village. I grazed her cows and helped her with the garden. Obviously she did not know that I was a Jew and treated me fairly.  This village was located by the “Trostyanez” – the death camp. Often when I grazed the cows to the field I hear machine-gun fire and I already knew that it was a massive Jewish execution. After the war I found out that Nazi’s exterminated over 200,000 Jews at that camp.
In 1944, when the Red Army freed Minsk, Vera Gerasimovich took me to the city. She left me at the Department of Public Education. Yadviga Nesterovich from the Krypzi Village applied to the city hall with the request to adopt a girl orphan. I was happy because I did not want to return to the orphanage. I agreed to go to Yadviga. But in the new home, where I had to “slave” for two years, I really found out the meaning of hard labor. I grazed and took care of the cattle. 
But the toughest thing was that there was only one well in the entire village. In the winter the water was very hard to get. In freezing cold weather, every night, I need to fill three barrels with water just enough for the cattle the next day. Besides, I was always hungry, and my owner was an alcoholic who often became violent. Due to unbearable work conditions, I ran away and walked all the way to Minsk to see my savior Maria Mikhailovna Hydoleeva. She remembered that I liked to sing and through the City Hall, she entered me to the Orphanage #7, the orphanage for talented kids. There was a chorus in which I was a lead singer. We sang mostly songs about the war. In 1948 several girls, including myself, were sent to obtain a work qualification to the Kaliningradskoe plant-factory technical school. It was located in the ruins of a large building.
We could only dream about the normal education, there was no water and no food… Thin and unhealthy from hunger, all of us, orphans, wrote the letter to Moscow. Soon the administration of our school received an answer – bring all of us back to Minsk. Upon arrival back to Minsk, I went to see the Head President of High Authority of Belarus, Mr. Kozlov. He arranged for me and the other girls from my group to receive twenty rubbles each and coupons for free food at the cafeteria of the Orphanage #7. I still remember the names of the girls from our group: Emma Livshitz, Nelia Gerbovizkaya, and Zina Borodavko. I really hope for someone from these people to contact me some day. Besides, I am not the only survivor of the Hell of the Ghetto and who remained forever with the new name, last name and nationality, just to survive.
I obtained an education as a hair stylist and started working in the hair salon in Minsk. That is how I, Lidia Alekseevna Ivanova lived until 1952, until I got married to the nicest workingman Lev Meltser.
During the entire war and post-war times, I carried my secret in my heart and wanted to marry only a Jewish man, just to feel what I was missing all my life-being a Jew. I wanted to be able to tell people openly and loudly that I was a Jew! I tried on many occasions to collect documents from the archives that I am not Lidia Ivanova that I am in fact Lidia Shukstulskaya, but without success…
Thanks to the United States of America and city of Detroit, where I am with my husband, kids and grandkids found my happiness. Where I can sing the songs about those horrible time with hope that the history will not repeat itself. Hoping that such horrible times will never come to Israel, America or any other place in the world.----
Name of Ghetto(s)
Where were you in hiding?
Orphange in Kozirevo, Farm in Shabani Village
Occupation after the war
Hair Stylist
When and where were you married?
1952 in Minsk, Belarus
Lev Meltzer, Army and painter
Henry, engineering; Elizabeth Orman, Jewish Family Service
Five grandchildren: Danny, Karena, Eleanor, Alan, and Adam Two great-granddaughters: Savannah and Veronica
What do you think helped you to survive?
My mother’s friend before the war who took me in, Maria Mikhailovna Hydoleeva.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Shalom, Peace.  I want peace in the world. The Jewish people should never go through such a horrible tragedy like what we went through. Let there be peace in the world.
Interview by Isaac Trabskiy and Charles Silow
Interview date:

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