Naum Layer

"We need to stay close to our relatives, and know our family tree very well."

Name at birth
Nochom Layer
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Kazakhstan, Siberia - until the age of 6
Name of father, occupation
Mendel, Teacher of Geography
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Raiza Ida Laybovna, Teacher of Geography
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and myself. I was an only child.
How many in entire extended family?
My mother was the youngest of seven children, approximately 20 cousins. My father was an only child.
Who survived the Holocaust?
My mother's mother, my father and I.
We were evacuated to Kazakhstan in 1941, when I was 3 years old. When we were living there, I remember just a little. My mother had told me that we had no food. My mother, on the way to Kazakhstan got off the train to trade food for her clothing. Unfortunately, it took her so long, that she missed the train! She was able to catch up to us about 48 hours later. When we got to Kazakhstan, we were placed, temporarily, in the apartment of some other railway employees. This family had one son who was around 15 or 16 years old. I remember that we had to sleep on the floor, and I remember that we made a train out of matchboxes and played with that. Later, we got a small room for our family. There was no water in the small house that we were staying in, and it was very cold. We built a stove in the corner of the house from scraps to keep us warm. My grandmother used to go out and get cow excrement for us to burn in the stove for warmth. My mother’s family was murdered in Ukraine during the fascists’ occupation.

In the spring of 1944, Dnepropetrosvsk was liberated, and we were able to take a train back from Kazakhstan. It took three weeks to get there by train. We were stuck in the train cars for that time. We were placed in an apartment that had no light, and we shared the kitchen and one sink with three families. As people came back from the evacuation, more and more people had to move in and share the small spaces that were available. In 1945, my sister was born, and around that same time we began to receive packages with clothes from America. My mother made clothes for me so that I could begin school once I got old enough. There were so many children and so few teachers; we went to school ‘third shift’ from 3:00pm to 8:00pm. It was always very cold, and the rationing was severe. We had to stand in lines for milk and food, and there was not very much food.

When I got older, I was an excellent student, and received a ‘gold medal’ for my studies. In those days, Jews were still not allowed to go to medical or law school, so I became a mechanical engineer at the University in Dnepropetrosvsk. After five years, I finished my schooling, and in 1961, I moved to Moscow where I worked for 33 years. During that time, I got married and had two sons. 
When did you come to the United States?
1993. In 1991, my sister and father emigrated to Israel. That same year, my son came to the United States. In 1992, we came to the U.S. Embassy and claimed refugee status, so that we could come to America too. In October of 1993, we were able to move here.
Where did you settle?
Occupation after the war
Mechanical Engineer
When and where were you married?
1961 in Moscow
Svetlana, Civil technician
Pavel, x-ray tech in Columbus, Ohio Andrey, a physician in Massachusetts
Six: three granddaughters and three grandsons
What do you think helped you to survive?
I had the good fortune of being evacuated safely.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
We need to stay close to our relatives, and know our family tree very well.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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