23 May 1941

Satanov, Ukraine

"Dear Mummy and Daddy… I also kiss and hug both of you very tight
Yours, Edik"

Edik's Letter to his Father and Mother

Edik, who had just started learning to write, wrote these words to his parents, Klara and Lazer. That was the last they heard from their seven-year-old son.

Edward-Edik Tonkonogi was born in Satanov, Ukraine. His parents, Klara Mittelman (who kept her maiden name) and Lazer Tonkonogi, were artists in a travelling Russian theater. Their permanent home was in Odessa. In the spring of 1941 they left young Edik with Klara's parents, Rivka and Gregory Mittelman, and went on tour with the theater.

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, Edik was living with Klara's parents in Satanov.  Lazer was drafted, and served as an artist in the Red Army.  Klara, who was in Russia with the theater, couldn't get back to Satanov to be with her family, and was evacuated to Tashkent.  Klara and Laser's incessant efforts to find out what had happened to Edik and their relatives were unsuccessful.  Only when Satanov was liberated did they receive a letter that was sent to them from Satanov in April 1944, bringing the devastating news that all but six of  the town's Jews had been murdered. Almost their entire family had been wiped out:  their son Edik, Klara's parents Rivka and Gregory, Klara's grandmother, Malka, and more relatives. Yefim Mittelman, Klara's brother, who had fought in the ranks of the Red Army, survived. 

In 1947 Lazer and Klara had a daughter, whom they named Rivka. Lazer Tonkonogi and Klara Mittelman passed away in their 60s in Odessa. Their daughter Rivka Gorenstein immigrated to Israel in 1990, and in 2013 she donated the letters and family photographs to Yad Vashem as part of the Gathering the Fragments program.

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Letters that seven-year-old Edik and his grandmother Rivka sent to Edik's parents, Klara Mittelman and Lazer Tonkonogi, from Satanov in 1941
Letter that seven-year-old Edik wrote to his parents, Klara Mittelman and Lazer Tonkonogi, from Satanov in 1941.

Dear Mummy and Daddy,
Today it has been raining all day.
I am playing with Vitya and Grisha.
I kiss and hug both of you very tight,
Yours, Edik


Letter that seven-year-old Edik wrote to his parents, Klara Mittelman and Lazer Tonkonogi, from Satanov in 1941.

Dear Mummy and Daddy,
Grandma and I are going on an outing to Auntie Merin's house.
I also kiss and hug both of you very tight,
Yours, Edik


Letter that Rivka Mittelman sent to her daughter Klara Mittleman from Satanov on 23 May 1941.

Dear children,
We received your two postcards from Odessa. Grandpa and I reached Satanov safely on 18 May. Malka and Leibitz remained, but Edik and I managed to escape, so now we are all well and everything is alright.  Edik is already healthy. He has gained a little weight and his cheeks are pink.  He is much happier here than he was in Odessa.  Grishka is with his friends. Everything is very cheap here, and I bake delicious rolls.  Edik eats koriushka [fish], and I am very happy that I took him.  The difference in atmosphere between here and Odessa is significant.  We will not go back.  The color has returned to the child's face, and he is suntanned.  I have sent you 100 rubles in the letter, so that you have something to live on. 
In two or three days I'll send you the clothes and Sarah's address. By the way, what's happening with the permit [residence, travel]? What's happening with that? Write to me. That's all, farewell.
I'm writing you a letter, and Edik is writing to you too.  He writes lists of friends.  We await your letters, answer us, don't put it off… We await your letters.
Kisses,
Mother, Edik, Father and Grandma Malka
23 May


Letter sent to Lazer Tonkonogi on 22 April 1944, in which he is informed that his family members have been murdered.

Tashkent, Maxim Gorky St. […]6
For Mr. Tonkonogi c/o Czelirovksi

Dear Mr. Tonkonogi,
We received your letters, and we have the answers to your questions.  Only six people remain out of the residents of Satanov.  The rest of the Jewish population, amongst them your family members, were murdered by the fascist barbarians. Boris Kuperstein, Walodia Liptzan, Leida Ichilov and Motya Eizkov survived. You don't know the other survivors.
Your neighbors
22 April 1944

Tashkent, Maxim Gorky St. […]6
For Mr. Tonkonogi c/o Czelirovksi

  View the letters