Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

A chess game played by a young girl and boy in the Mogilev ghetto in Transnistria

Chess set that Chaya Stecolchic received from Leone Goldstein on their liberation from the Mogilev ghetto, Transnistria Chess set that Chaya Stecolchic received from Leone Goldstein on their liberation from the Mogilev ghetto, Transnistria Chess board Chess board Stecolcic Family, circa 1930, right to left: Sara, David with Misha on his lap, Rosa, Luba, Bluma and in front – ChayaStecolcic Family, circa 1930, right to left: Sara, David with Misha on his lap, Rosa, Luba, Bluma and in front – Chaya

“In remembrance of the difficult but happy days"

Thirteen-year-old Chaya Stecolchic from Czernowitz became friends with the youth Leone Goldstein in the Mogilev ghetto. Leone, who had a chess set, taught her to play the game, and when they were released from the ghetto he gave the handcrafted game to her. On the reverse of the chessboard he wrote: “In remembrance of the difficult but happy days 24/4/1944”. The inscription reflects how the game of chess enabled the teenagers to briefly forget the hardships of their surroundings and to simply enjoy being young.

The Stecolchic family, Rosa and David and their five children, were imprisoned in the Czernowitz ghetto at the end of 1941 and then deported to the Mogilev ghetto in Transnistria. The family struggled to survive in spite of the harsh conditions of extreme hunger and cold. David managed to eke out a meagre living by doing carpentry jobs while Rosa cooked and baked the scarce ingredients she was able to acquire and then sold what she could. From Mogilev the family was sent to Scazinetz where the conditions were even worse.

Thanks to their eldest daughter, Sara, who insisted that her father was a talented carpenter whose services were essential, the family was able to return to the Mogilev ghetto.

The chess game remained with Chaya as a memento of a friendship that alleviated the hard times in the camp. 

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Donated by Chaya (Stecolcic) Shirding, Israel