A Visit to the One Last Jew in Brusilov, by Charlotte Adelman

A Visit to the One Last Jew in Brusilov, by Charlotte Adelman

Bust of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in the town of Brusilov. Photo from: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Брусилов_(Житомирская_область).

Trying to Make Sense

In this article that appeared in Pioneer Press, Charlotte Adelman describes her visit to Brusilov, the Ukrainian town where her father was born.

An ordinary town (officially an urban-type settlement, in reality a large village). Brusilov had a population of 14,000 in the 19th century. 2,800 of it were Jewish. In 1994, the numbers are 5,000 and 1, respectively.

A wonderfully written article that everyone should read. (To expand image, right-click then choose “view actual size.”)

Article “A Visit to the one last Jew in Brusilov” by Charlotte Adelman published in Pioneer Press of August 25, 1994.

An ordinary Soviet story. Pogroms, Revolution, WWII, Nazi relying on the locals to identify Jews, one little Jewish girl is saved by a local family. She and the officials that accompany the visitors find it funny that neighbors helped make the town Judenfrei. Well, almost Judenfrei. Were the parents of these officials among the helpers?

Not a word about this in the Wikipedia Ukrainian, Russian, or English articles about Brusilov. An obligatory memorial to the victims of the Nazi massacre has been installed. As obligatory as a bust of poet Shevchenko. The Jewish cemetery is simply an empty lot – not a headstone in sight.

  • Michael Luther
    Posted at 17:58h, 23 November Reply

    My grandfather was from Brusilov.
    He saw a pogrom. The Rabbi was
    Hanged. My grandfather escaped as a child.
    Someday I will visit.

    • Bena
      Posted at 18:32h, 23 November Reply

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you should make the trip to Brusilov and perhaps to other towns nearby. Not a single Jew remained in Brusilov by now. In Berdichev and Zhitomir there are (relatively) vibrant Jewish communities; the leaders will be happy to give you tours. Everywhere many residents are descendants of those who perpetrated the pogroms and/or denounced the Jews to the Nazi and/or collaborated. But you’ll breathe the air your grandfather and other family breathe and walk the streets they walked, and visit what used to be the Jewish cemetery.

  • Liz Chapman
    Posted at 12:29h, 18 February Reply

    My husbands family came from this town before WW1 to Chicago and then Los Angeles. Are there any records remaining of who lived in the town?

    • Bena
      Posted at 19:07h, 18 February Reply

      Hi Liz,

      I don’t know anything about Brusilov beyond my friend’s story in the post. Unfortunately, there are no Jews in the town any longer. You’ve probably tried Jewishgen.org already. Other than that, there are the scanned records by Alex Krakovsky – if you find Brusilov on the list, I’ll be happy to browse the names for you. And the Kiev archive may have something. I do have a researcher to recommend who is located in Kiev and charges reasonably. He was very helpful.

      Good luck,


  • Judy Weiss Jackson
    Posted at 20:36h, 08 April Reply

    My great grandfather was Rabbi Aryeh Visofsky from Brusilove. My grandmother grew up there too. they had a small Inn.
    Do you have any more information to share with me ?
    thank you very much.
    Happy pesach.

    Judy Weiss Jackson

    • Bena
      Posted at 08:51h, 16 April Reply

      Hi Judy! And happy belated Peisach. My family comes not exactly from Brusilov but from nearby towns. This post came from a friend of mine whose father had emigrated from Brusilov in the 1900s and that was all she knew about it. Tiny towns like this has long lost all their small Jewish population. I’m in the same boat for some of my family. Sad.
      Be well.

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