Remembering the Annihilation of Bogdanovka
60 Years Later An Event that Defined Evil
Among the hundreds of monuments that form the stark and
moving Sheepshead Bay Holocaust Memorial – monuments
bearing familiar names like Auschwitz, Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen
and Babi Yar – one stone, the most recently engraved,
stands out. It stands out because you have never heard of
the village it memorializes – Bogdanovka.
On Sunday morning, May 8, as President Bush and Russian President
Putin prepared to celebrate the end of World War II in Red
Square, a small group, representing the remnant of those
tragic victims of Bogdanovka, together with Rabbi Mayer Okunov,
chairman of F.R.E.E., gathered in the Sheepshead Bay Holocaust
Memorial Park to dedicate the new monument – and to
More than 60 years before, in 1943, only women, children
and old men inhabited Bogdanovka because all males of military
age were enlisted in the battle against Nazi Germany. Utilizing
as cruel and demonic a ruse as can be imagined, the Nazis
gathered the 472 residents of the town together on the day
of Yom Kippur, ostensibly to commemorate the holiday.
Instead, every one of the elderly men and women, mothers,
infants and children were thrown alive into an abandoned
well by the Nazis and their collaborators.
Only two young children managed to escape into the woods.
The dedication ceremony, moving in its simplicity, was organized
by Alex Yusupov, grandchild of one of the victims of the
Bogdanovka massacre. If not for his passion and tenacity
the memory of this incredible atrocity would have been swept
into the dustbin of history.
Surrounded by the hundreds of granite monuments that comprise
the memorial, Rabbi David Hollander, spiritual leader of
the Hebrew Alliance of Brighton Beach, declared that the
plight of the Jews during World War II was met by a world
whose “hearts had turned to stone.” Rabbi Hollander’s
words resonated as he proclaimed, “the very stones
The village of Bogdanovka was a Jewish collective farm among
the huge collectives of the fertile Stavropol region near
the Caucasian Mountains.
Stavropol, besides being p breadbasket of Russia, was also
the birthplace of Nobel prize-winning author Solzhenitsyn
and first president of the USSR Gorbachev, among other notables.
Small as it was, Bogdanovka was efficient and productive
and considered a model farm. The Nazi invasion ended that
and, more tragically, the lives, the hope and the futures
of its Jewish inhabitants, most of whom perished at the front
or in the massacre.
Saved from this horror was Mrs. Zoya Yusupova who had just
married and moved to another village. She learned the fate
of her father, mother and sister from gentile eyewitnesses.
Still later she learned that her husband had been killed
Years later after remarrying and immigrating to the United
States with her two sons, her older son, Alex, came in contact
with F.R.E.E., the Chabad-Lubavitch organization devoted
to assisting new immigrants from the FSU. In time, Alex Yusupov
became very close to Rabbi Mayer Okunov, of the FREE Headquarters.
Inspired by the dedication of Rabbi Okunov he became reacquainted
with his Jewish roots, which had become a distant memory
during the years of Communism, the Nazi nightmare and the
upheaval that followed.
Along with this came the mission to memorialize the martyred
souls of Bogdanovka. With the creation of the Sheepshead
Bay Holocaust Memorial Park and its many monuments it seemed
that Alex’ dream would become a reality.
“It was not that easy,” according to Alex, “only
after five years of negotiating and red tape was permission
given to place a monument in memory of the victims of this
“My mom was only 17 at the time,” he continued, “We
want to show our kids what happened to our grandfather and
Many at the Sheepshead Bay Memorial were brought to tears
as Mrs. Yusupova spoke and Rabbi Ephraim Okunov of F.R.E.E.
chanted Keyl Malei.
The program continued at the F.R.E.E. Center of Brighton
Beach where the group was addressed by Alex Yusupov and many
of the older participants.
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