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Group portrait of Bulgarian Jews in a forced labor brigade in Bov.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 55599

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    Group portrait of Bulgarian Jews in a forced labor brigade in Bov.
    Group portrait of Bulgarian Jews in a forced labor brigade in Bov.

Isaac Varsano is standing in the center.


    Group portrait of Bulgarian Jews in a forced labor brigade in Bov.

    Isaac Varsano is standing in the center.
    Circa 1941
    Bov, Bulgaria
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Jon Varsano

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Jon Varsano

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Jon Varsano is the son of Mordechai (Seeco) Varsano and Elaine Schneider and the grandson of Isaac and Rachel (Shella) Varsano. Mordechai was born December 2, 1932 in Sofia, Bulgaria, and he had one younger sister Sarah (Seli, later Gerecht). The Varsanos family had lived in Bulgaria for approximately 450 years. Isaac owned a hardware store, and the family was upper-middle class. Seeco and Seli both attended the elementary school attached to the American College in Sofia which taught English and an accelerated curriculum. In 1939 their lives began to slowly change with the rise of the Bulgaria fascist party. In July 1940 Bulgaria adopted the Law for the Defense of the Nation and began the expropriation of Jewish businesses. The following year Bulgaria officially joined the Axis and allied with Nazi Germany. That September, they shut the American college and soon afterwards began conscripting Jewish men for forced labor. In 1942 Isaac was sent with other Jewish men to work building railroads in a remote area near Bov. In August 1942 the Commissariat for Jewish Questions enforced more antisemitic legislation including the confiscation of belongings and the wearing of small Jewish stars. While Isaac was in Bov, the rest of the family received deportation order to Razgrad. However before they left, Seeco developed an infectious stomach ailment and Seli developed the mumps. As a result, the family was quarantined and permitted to remain temporarily in its own apartment. However on May 21, 1943, all remaining Jews in Sofia received an order to leave the capital within three days. Isaac, with help from Bulgarian friends, arranged to send his wife and children to Novi Pazar, a small farming village near the Romanian border. On May 24 pogrom broke out in Sofia, and a few days later the Varsanos left for Novi Pazar. Jewish children were not allowed to attend public school there and instead learned in one room. Once, when Seeco was only nine years old, he was arrested and sent to jail after being betrayed by a playmate for crossing on a "Christians only" bridge. The authorities released him only after his father paid a bribe. By mid 1944 an Allied victory was anticipated and Bulgaria switched sides. By fall Soviet forces occupied the country, and in November 1944 the Varsano family returned home. When they reached Sofia, they found squatters living in their home so they moved to a different apartment in the Jewish quarter. However, most Jews did not want to remain permanently in Bulgaria. On November 5, 1948 the Varsano family boarded a train for Yugoslavia. From there they took a boat to Israel arriving on November 23. Tragically though, only three months later, Isaac was killed suddenly in a car accident. Seeco was forced to go to work to support his mother and sister. He studied machinery in an ORT school and ran a machine shop for twenty years in Israel. In 1964 while returning from a vacation in the United States, he met Elaine Schneider. They married the following year and later settled in the United States.
    Record last modified:
    2014-06-23 00:00:00
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