16 February 2013

Chelyabinsk: More than Lightning Struck

It's not often I awake to a disaster in a remote portion of the former Soviet Union and nod knowingly: I know that place. In fact, I'd have to say not only is it not often, it's never before happened! Today's newspapers tell of the interesting meteor fireball sighting near Chelyabinsk, Russia. Now they're cleaning up. Chelyabinsk also happens to have been the place to which some of my Garber relatives were evacuated in advance of the Nazis taking their shtetl in Ukraine in 1941. And, in fact, I still have relatives in the vicinity. Before I started my family history research about five years ago, I didn't know that.

Base map from Google Maps, 15 February 2013
My grandfather Jack (Jacob) Garber had two sisters who chose not to leave the Russian Empire (later the USSR) when they had the chance: Perl and Sura (Sarah). They lived in their family's town Labun (in Yiddish known as Lubin and today in Ukraine called Yurovshchina, Khmelnytskyy, Ukraine). Perl Garber Zabarsky and three of her four children perished at the hands of Nazis and their sympathizers in 1941. Sarah Garber Giller and her family were more fortunate.

Sarah Giller, about 1912
Sarah (ca. 1892 - 1960) had married Zalman Giller (ca. 1893 - 1972) and had three sons: Simon (1923 - 1994), Efim (1926 - 2001) and Vladimir (1928-2000). Sometime before 1941 they had moved to Starokostyantyniv, a larger town 20 miles (32 kilometers) SSW of Labun. I have not yet learned all the details, but when it became clear that the Germans were closing in on the communities in the area, the Soviets began a concerted effort to evacuate residents. In June of 1941, Sarah, Zalman and their children were moved to Troitsk, Chelyabinsk, USSR, 1714 miles (2758 kms) ENE of Labun, well into the Soviet interior and just north of the border with today's  Kazakhstan. After the war they decided not to return to Ukraine and resided in Chelyabinsk until their deaths. Most of their families still live there. One grandson and his family moved to Israel.

I've sent an email to my Israeli cousins asking if everyone is unscathed. I haven't heard back yet. But, it's nice to know my family history work has expanded my horizons and made remote geography more meaningful.


  1. If they were struck, twice by a meteor THAT would be rare. lol Humor allowed? Bad joke, I know
    Diana Liebross Steinman

  2. I never knew Sura was for Sarah, it makes sense. I will go back into the Jewish Gen databases.

  3. Sura is the Yiddish equivalent of Sarah.


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