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Hacia Rivkina

Minsk, Belorussia

Hacia was the oldest of three girls born to a Jewish family in Minsk, the capital of Belorussia. Before World War II, more than a third of the city was Jewish. Hacia's father worked in a state-owned factory building furniture, an occupation in which several of his relatives also made a living. Hacia attended Soviet public schools throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s.

1933-39: The Rivkins' home was in central Minsk, on Novomesnitskaya Street. Hacia was a talented singer and was known as being the best singer in her neighborhood. As a young girl she was a member of the Soviet youth organization, Young Pioneers. By the late 1930s Minsk was filled with Polish refugees fleeing the German invasion.

1940-43: The invading Germans reached Minsk on June 27, 1941. Hacia's house was bombed the next day, and the family lived on the street until forced into the Minsk ghetto that August. On November 7, the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Hacia and her family hid in their ghetto apartment during a German roundup of Jews. Leaving meant risking deportation or death. Waiting was agonizing. They were certain the Germans would come at any time. To soothe his family's nerves, Hacia's father recited stories from Jewish history.

Though they escaped deportation in 1941, Hacia's family was deported two years later. Hacia's sister Berta escaped the ghetto, but the others were never heard from again.

Because both of her parents had died by the time Vita was 5 years old, ...
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