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“I saw father in my dream. He is still alive…” – Presidential Library’s unique materials

17 July 2019

The Presidential Library illustrates rare documents about the Great Patriotic War, received to the institution’s digital collections. They include a unique album of children's drawings to poems of the Soviet and Israeli poetess Alla Naumovna Aizensharf (1936–2018), as well as its animated version. In full accordance with the spelling of the poems written by little Alla, the album is called “The Germans and the dogs are looking for us”.

A native of the Ukrainian town Nemirov, Alla Aizensharf, was six years old when the war broke out and the Nazis came to the city. Parents were imprisoned in the ghetto. Father was killed. Mother was deported to a concentration camp. But six-year-old Alla and her ten-year-old sister Mary managed to escape. After wandering around the outskirts of Nemirov, they took refuge in a barn with friends, and then in a house with completely unfamiliar people. Alla Aizensharf carried this memory through her life. She became a poet, the author of 17 collections, moved to Israel...   

The “Second Life” of the poems about the war of the six-year-old poetess was given by the Eva St. Petersburg Jewish Charitable Public Organization with the support of the Humanitarian Cultural Foundation of the Moscow Institute of Arts.

“For the first time I read the poems of an amazing talented child and felt shocked. <...> I got the idea to read the poems of Alla Aizensharf to children of 6–12 years old. There were fears and doubts. But... The children asked questions, sympathized, empathized, painted”, - says Natalia Vorontsova, the artist, the head of the Simha studio at the Eva Organization.

As a result, two dozen young St. Petersburg artists illustrated the poems of Alla Aizensharf, creating a unique album, and then his “live” version. The materials have already been added to the section “Defenders of the Fatherland: Living Memory” of the large collection of the Presidential Library “Memory of the Great Victory”.

Here is the comment of adult Alla Aizensharf: “When Uncle Mitya learned that there would be a raid, he found us in the city and quietly led us to a wasteland. There, in a pit, he piled us with burdocks. Even the shepherd dogs did not want to go through the thick, high burdock of the wasteland. And we lay from morning till evening without water. Sometimes they heard barking, people screaming ..."

We read further. “I dreamed of father. / He is still alive, / and so we laughed out loud and merrily / and went home on green grass. / We went home and held hands. / And my mother waved at us from the window, / and the grandmother was visible in the window”, - such a dream accompanied Alla Aizensharf for many years.

The picture of 11-year-old Alisa Yegorova, illustrating the poem, depicts a field of flowers and dead people...

Of course, the war is not the easiest topic, especially for children's creativity. And the doubts of the adult authors of the album and the cartoon made on it about the participation of modern boys and girls in this work are understandable.

““I don’t think that way on purpose”, - wrote a six-year-old Alla, thinking about global issues: why? for what? who will answer me?.. If my young artists "inadvertently" ponder over these questions - it means that our album saw the light for good reason”, - answers the question why this was done, the head of Simcha studio Natalya Vorontsova.

Let us remind that in the framework of the campaign to collect evidence of the siege and the defence of Leningrad, more than 250 people applied to the Presidential Library, providing at least 3000 unique documents for digitizing. These people are survivors of siege living in Israel. They donated to the Presidential Library a book on the “Blockade Memory Page” consisting of several dozen stories from residents of the besieged city.