Video Archives: Sonia Litvak
born in Novohrad-Volynskyĭ , 1925
Sonia Litvak was born in 1925 in Novohrad-Volynskyy. She had four siblings. Her father, a leatherworker, was also born in Novohrad-Volynskyy. Her mother worked occasionally as a freelance seamstress. Sonia studied at a Yiddish school. After the war, she worked as a curricular administrator in kindergartens, as well as in a textile factory. In the 1960s, she worked in the cultural department of the Soviet consulate in Germany.
Current Video: The Head of the Fish
In Soviet times, while public displays of Jewish observance were heavily discouraged by state authorities, many Jews held on to the traditions of Passover, such as clandestinely baking and eating matzah. More than most other Jewish practices, Peysekh customs persisted among Soviet Jews, in part because of the symbolic content of the holiday's message of national liberation, and because of the memory of participation in the Seyder as children. Sonia recalls that fish was an important part of the Peysekh meal. The father, as head of the household, was served the fish head, which was considered a delicacy in Eastern Europe. The rest of the family had to share the body and tail, with the tail being the least desirable part.
Because the family was unable to acquire enough matzah to last the entire holiday, they celebrated only the first three days, marking the first day with a traditional Passover Seder. Even though they observed a shortened holiday, those first three days were observed fully and strictly -- there was no bread or grains in the house, and Sonia's younger brother asked the fir kashes (the Four Questions) at the Seder.