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Yad Vashem The Story of the Jewish Community of Bălţi, Romania (today Moldova)

Their Legacies Remain…

Prisoners of Zion

After the war, hundreds of thousands of Zionist Jews were left in Romania. Israel's declaration of independence and the fact that Anna Pauker, the foreign minister of Romania, was Jewish, encouraged them in their Zionist activities, even during Romania's communist rule. At the beginning of the 1950s, following signals from Moscow, persecution of Zionism and Zionists in Romania began. Hundreds of Zionist leaders and activists were tried and sentenced to imprisonment. Most of the Prisoners of Zion that did not die in Romanian jails were released after a few years, and emigrated to Israel.

During the 1960s and '70s, many requests from Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel were turned down, and a great number waited for years for exit visas. Refuseniks that demonstrated against the delays were arrested and imprisoned, or exiled to far-flung places across the USSR. A number of countries put pressure on the Soviet authorities to release them, and their struggle was publicized in the western press. Public figures, politicians, artists and philosophers all joined the struggle to bring Jews out of the USSR. The last of the Prisoners of Zion left the Soviet Union beginning in 1986 following the Glasnost policy of Michael Gorbachev.

"Prisoners of Zion" is the name given to Jews and to Refuseniks imprisoned for their Zionist activities.

Dr. Yeshayahu Tumarkin

  • Students of the Bălţi Hebrew Gymnasium (school) with their teachers, 1927
  • Yeshayahu Tumarkin, principal of two Hebrew Gymnasium (school) in Bessarabia: in Mărculeşti and in Bălţi
  • Gathering of former students from the Bălţi Hebrew Gymnasium (school) and their teachers, with the principal Adv. Yeshayahu Tumarkin, celebrating his 80th birthday, Tel Aviv 1973
  • Yeshayahu Tumarkin speaking at the gathering of former students and teachers at the Bălţi Hebrew Gymnasium (school), Tel Aviv, 1973, with his wife Esther standing beside him
  • Misha Fux (left) presents Yeshayahu Tumarkin and his wife Esther with a certificate of inscription in the Golden Book of JNF marking Tumarkin's 80th birthday

Yeshayahu Tumarkin was born in 1891 in Vitebsk, Lithuania, and qualified as a lawyer. In 1919, he traveled from Kishinev to Mărculeşti, a Jewish agricultural settlement in Bessarabia, where he established the Hebrew Gymnasium (school) and became its principal. In 1924, Tumarkin moved to Bălţi to run the Hebrew Gymnasium there. In both schools he became a respected figure by both the students and the parents. Tumarkin was an active Zionist in Bălţi, and one of the founders and leaders of Maccabi in Bessarabia.

In 1940, with the annexation of Bessarabia by the USSR, Tumarkin left Bălţi and moved to Bucharest, where he worked in law and as the chairman of Maccabi Romania.

After diplomatic relations were established between Romania and the State of Israel, Tumarkin was appointed Legal Advisor for the Israeli mission in Bucharest. In April 1954, Tumarkin was sentenced with 40 other Zionist leaders to five years' imprisonment for his Zionist activities. He sat in Romanian military prison for two years, and in 1957 emigrated to Israel with his wife Esther. Despite his age and the suffering he endured in prison, Tumarkin managed to rebuild his life in Israel. In 1960 he passed the Israeli Bar, and worked as a lawyer in the Ministry of Justice and the Jewish Agency.

Yeshayahu Tumarkin passed away in Tel Aviv in 1973.


Lazar Lubarsky

  • Sonya Zibenberg and Alyk Lubarsky on their wedding day, Bălţi
  • Alik and Sonya Lubarsky with their daughter Rivka, Bălţi, end of the 1930s
  • Shifra Lubarsky
  • The Jewish cemetery in Bălţi. The graves of Moshe and Shifra Lubarsky, who died after the war, also commemorate members of their family that were murdered. The inscription reads: Necha and Alik and his children – victims of fascism
  • Moshe Lubarsky during the war
  • Lazar Lubarsky, 1945, Kazakhstan
  • Demonstration for the release of Lazar Lubarsky, London, 1970s
  • Lazar Lubersky receives a certificate recognizing his status as a Prisoner of Zion. Seated, left – then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, then-President of the World Zionist Organization Aryeh Dolchin

Lazar Lubarsky was born in Bălţi in 1926, and studied at the Hebrew Gymnasium. He belonged to the Gordonia youth movement in the town.

Following the German and Romanian invasion of the Soviet Union, Lazar, his parents, Moshe and Shifra, and his sister, Rachel, fled from Bălţi towards the east. Other family members went with them: his uncle and aunt, Alik and Sonya Lubarsky, and their daughters, Rifka and Ita; Alik's mother Nacha; and Sonya's mother Sheba Zibenberg. Moshe and his family continued eastwards, and arrived in Kazakhstan. The others were delayed by acquaintances in one of the villages near Bălţi, fell into the hands of the invaders and were eventually brought to the Bershad ghetto in Transnistria. At Bershad Sonya fell ill with scarlet fever, and was put into isolation. While in isolation, her family was deported from Bershad and murdered. Sonya survived.

In 1943, Lazar Lubarsky was recruited to the Red Army and fought on the frontlines. His parents and sister survived. In 1948 he was released from the military, and went to study communications engineering at Odessa University. He lived in Orel and then moved to Rostov, where he married Galina née Jacob. The couple had two children.

In 1970, Lazar Lubarsky requested an emigration visa to Israel. The authorities refused his request, and a short while later Lubarsky joined the protest activities of other "Refuseniks." In 1972 he was prosecuted and sentenced to four years imprisonment. Many people joined the efforts to release him, among them Ed Koch, the future mayor of New York.

In 1976, Lubarsky's longed for emigration visa arrived, and he and his family left for Israel, settling in Tel Aviv. After learning Hebrew, Lubarsky went to work for the Ministry of Communications. When he retired, he began to write in Yiddish and Russian about Jewish figures in non-Jewish literature. His articles are published in Yiddish and Russian magazines and newspapers in Israel and around the world.

The online exhibition was made possible through the generous support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.