6 May 2022

“I’ve been through it all, I’m not giving up.” The story of Genia from Kiev.

The history of Genya Davidovna Berenstein began in the Ukrainian village of Stavish, in 1924. There were three sisters in their family, Genya was the youngest of them. She finished 7 classes at a local school, and then she graduated from the “ten-year” in a neighboring village, to which it was necessary to walk 5 kilometers back and forth, and there was just a few to eat. For the whole school day, her mother gave her 2 slices of bread and butter and a whole apple. Clothes were somehow bought: some boots, boots, even a coat could be. Genya studied well and liked to ask tricky questions to the Jewish mathematician.

“In general, I finished 10 classes and when we came to get a certificate, they announced that the war had begun. Germany attacked us. Before the start of the war, my mother went to Western Ukraine, to relatives. She never came home again. She was killed there,” says Genya Davidovna, “My sisters were already living and studying in Kiev at that time. A couple of days later, I packed up a few things and went to my sisters in the city. I settled there, where they lived, and was there with them for a couple of days. Then it was necessary to evacuate. We were given a certificate at work with my sister and we evacuated to Russia, to the village of Radionovka. There we worked on a collective farm until the mobilization of girls to the front began.”

After the start of mobilization, Genya’s sister was sent to an aircraft factory to work as an accountant. A couple of days later, the older sister was taken to another city to take nursing courses. So 3 sisters, who were always together, ended up in different cities, far from each other. The older sister could not come to terms with this and ran away from the courses to her younger sister Ghana.

“The two of us were mobilized in November 1942 into the army. We started taking courses for radio operators. We studied well and were sent all the time to the field kitchen, which stood on the street, right in the snow, to peel potatoes. Due to the fact that we studied well, we could skip school, – Genya Davydovna proudly recalls, – After completing the courses, which lasted a couple of months, my sister and I became first-class radio operators. In November 1942, we were mobilized into the active army and we started working for the radio bureau. There we received information from the command and distributed it.”

Until 1945, Genya Davydovna and her sister fought side by side. They participated in breaking the blockade in Leningrad, for which they received the first medal “For Military Merit”. Genia has worked as a radio operator in Kiev all her life. She retired in 1985, but still continued to work there.

“I am a colonel by rank, I have many awards and medals. Of course, I took the most important ones with me. I have a small suitcase with me, I took the most necessary things,” says Genya Davydovna with pride but sadness.
The war in Ukraine has begun. Her son flew to Israel to visit his daughter, even before the tragedy occurred. The colonel was forced to live outside the city for 10 days, in a boarding house: “I was left alone in Kiev and we decided that we had to go somewhere out of the city for a while. There (in the boarding house) the explosions were not so audible and somehow it was calmer. I’ve been through it all, I’m a fighter and I won’t give up.”

A bus from the Jewish community of Ukraine arrived for Genya Davydovna and delivered her to a temporary accommodation center in Chisinau. In the coming days, she will fly to her son in Israel.

“I don’t want to go there at all. It’s not my home there. My home is here in Kiev, in my apartment. It will all end and I will return home,” Genia Davydovna says with confidence, “And in general, to be honest, I did not expect such a warm attitude towards me in Chisinau. They take care of me, pay a lot of attention. By the way, they ask to take a photo with me and say that I am “super-old”. They explained to me what it is and I am very pleased. I didn’t expect such an attitude, of course. Now I was told that a bus would pick me up and take me to the hotel to wait for a consular check there. After that I will fly to my son, to Israel. Many thanks to everyone who helps me and cares about me so much. Because here, in Chisinau, they didn’t take care of me anywhere.”

Now Genya Davydovna Berenstein is already in Israel, next to her relatives. She promised several times to return home, to Kyiv, when the war was over. In these difficult times, the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova supports all Jews and Ukrainians and mobilizes support among Jewish organizations in Moldova and abroad. Support us so that we can lend a helping hand to our compatriots from Ukraine.