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Wooden bucket owned by a Romanian family that sheltered their Jewish neighbors

Object | Accession Number: 2017.648.1

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Wooden bucket used by Maria Strashnaya and her family, who hid their Jewish neighbors, the Gurvits family, in the attic of their house in Beleavinți, Romania (today Moldova). The Strashnaya’s hid them in the summer of 1941. Maria lived in a region known historically as Bessarabia, with her son, Ivan Strashnyi, daughter-in-law, Ksenia Strashnaya, and their young daughters, Maria (later Edeniuc) and Eugeniia. Following World War I (1914-1918), the area where they lived became part of Romania. On June 28, 1940, Romania ceded the region to the Soviet Union. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in summer 1941, Romania, a German ally, recaptured the region. The antisemitic Romanian government sought to remove Jews from its provinces by deportation and mass-execution. Benyamin Gurvits, who used to own the village grocery store, asked the elder Maria to provide temporary shelter for his family. Maria and her family members agreed to help Benyamin, his wife, Ita, and their two children, Yefim (Haim) and Manya, even though the townspeople had been warned not to assist. After some time, the Gurvits family heard that the killings had stopped and felt comfortable leaving the area. They passed through several ghettos and labor camps, eventually ending up in the Cernăuți ghetto (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine). In May 1945, the war in Europe ended. The Gurvits family never returned to Beleavinți. They moved to Groznyi, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (now Grozny, Chechnya, Russia), before immigrating to Israel. In 1997, Maria, Ivan, and Ksenia were all honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
    Date
    use:  approximately 1939-approximately 1945
    Geography
    use: Briceni (Moldova : Raion)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Vasilii Edeniuc
    Contributor
    Subject: Maria Strashnaya
    Original owner: Maria Strashnaya
    Biography
    Maria Strashnaya (approx. 1880-?) was born in Beleavinți, Russia (today Moldova), in a region northwest of the Black Sea known historically as Bessarabia. Following World War I (1914-1918), the region became part of Romania. Maria lived on her family farm with her son, Ivan Strashnyi, daughter-in-law, Ksenia Strashnaya, and their young daughters, Maria (later Edeniuc) and Evgeniia. More than twenty years later, on August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression pact guaranteeing that neither government would aid an enemy of the other. The pact also secretly defined the borders of Soviet and German interest and influence in other nations, and formally stated that Germany had no interest in Bessarabia. In September 1939, in accordance with the pact, Germany and Russia invaded Poland. In response, Britain and France declared war on Germany. On June 28, 1940, Romania, a German ally, was forced to cede Bessarabia and adjacent areas to the Soviet Union, in accordance with the earlier statements in the pact. These areas were unified and renamed the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

    In summer 1941, Germany broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union, seeking to take the western part of the nation and repopulate it with Germans as part of Operation Barbarossa. During this invasion, Romania recaptured Bessarabia. Romania had a long tradition of antisemitism, and the government sought to remove Jews from its provinces by “cleansing the terrain,” a codename for mass-execution. As the frequency of Jewish deportations and killings increased, Jews in the region became worried, including Benyamin Gurvits, who had been the proprietor of the village grocery store before the war began. Some Jews in the area around Beleavinți had already been murdered, so Benyamin asked Maria to provide temporary shelter for himself, his wife, Ita, and their two children, Yefim (Haim) and Manya . Though there were posted notices in the village forbidding the local population from helping Jews, Maria and her family members had often shopped at the grocery, and did not refuse to shelter their neighbors. That same night, the Gurvits family arrived at Maria’s farm. They were hidden in the attic, which was only accessible from within the house.

    The younger Maria, 6-or-7-years-old at the time, recalled periodically fetching water from the well in a pitcher and carrying it, along with some bread or cornbread, up the stairs to the attic for the hidden family. One day, in the summer of 1941, when her Grandmother Maria and her parents were out working in the fields, a Romanian gendarme came into their yard and found her there alone. He wanted to know if anyone was in the house, and said he wanted to search it by himself. Young Maria explained that no one was home, the door was locked, and that she had no key. Eventually, the gendarme left, and the Gurvits family was not discovered.

    After some time, the Gurvits family heard that the killings had stopped, which prompted them to leave. They were interned in several ghettos and labor camps in the region known historically as Transnistria (now Moldova and Ukraine), and eventually ended up in the Cernăuți ghetto (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine). In May 1945, Germany surrendered, ending the war in Europe. Later the Gurvits moved to the city of Groznyi, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (now Grozny, Chechnya, Russia) and then they immigrated to Israel. Though the Gurvits family did not return to Beleavinți, they did keep in touch with the Strashnyi family for many years. In 1997, the elder Maria, Ivan, and Ksenia were all honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Containers
    Category
    Wood Containers
    Genre/Form
    Containers.
    Physical Description
    Worn, cylindrical, faded brown, wooden bucket made from a single, hollowed out section of log with a smooth surface ringed by two flat, narrow, corroded metal hoops. A single, tapered, rounded handle has been carved out and extends vertically from the rounded rim. An inset, circular base is firmly held in place by a ring of corroded metal nails. Two vertical cracks extend along the full height of the bucket, creating two large, curved sections held together by the hoops, which are no longer fixed in place. The exterior has several residual bands of rust, likely where the hoops previously rested, many small surface holes, and several protruding nails along the bottom, sides, and rim. On one side, at the base of the vertical crack, there is a large triangular hole with worn and ragged edges where the wood has rotted away. There is an additional missing section at the top of the crack, and there are several smaller cracks in the upper portion of bucket. It is dirty and stained throughout.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 18.250 inches (46.355 cm) | Width: 11.875 inches (30.163 cm) | Depth: 12.250 inches (31.115 cm)
    Materials
    overall : wood, metal

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The bucket was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017 by Vasilii Edeniuc, great-grandson of Maria Strashnaya and grandson of Ivan Strashnyi and Ksenia Strashnaya.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 21:51:01
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn564569

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