Swept by the War

Ilya Okh


Without gloss and pretension, through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy, Ilya Okh presents a panorama of pre-war events in a Ukrainian shtetl, and the life of Jewish kids living on the steppes of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan during World War II.

After the 1917 Revolution, it was thought that Jewish towns in Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia would cease to exist. Jews were finally allowed to live where they wanted, and while many of them did leave the Pale of Settlement, the Jewish shtetl continued to flourish.

The experience of Jewish history can be summarized in the following words: “More than that the Jews kept the Sabbath; the Sabbath kept the Jews.” This also applies to these previously Jewish towns, especially in the post-revolutionary period. They were places that kept the Jewish traditions, both religious and moral.

Ilya Okh is neither a moralist nor a historian, but throughout his story with all its vicissitudes – life in an orphanage, prison, work at a factory, life in the Central Asian republics and the Baltic states – Okh remained true to his Jewish faith and values.

175 pages