Family archives

Inventories of the archives


Traditionally, researchers used to be less interested in personal sources than in official ones. Meanwhile, quite a lot of materials of great historical value – letters, photographs, documents, and items of daily use – have been preserved by ordinary people at home for years and transmitted to their heirs as family heirlooms.

Public interest in genealogy, family history, and daily life has grown over the last decades. Consequently, family archives are now attracting more scholars’ attention since they contain not only documentary and photographic remnants of the past but also perceptions of people who witnessed significant historical events. Family archives are unique records of époques as they represent individual perspectives of reality, of changes in social, political, and cultural landscapes. Materials of family archives can considerably complement the evidence from official sources.

Family archives preserved in the Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry include materials that characterize the life of Jewish population of Ukraine from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century and reflect the most important events in social history of this period. The Center’s collection contains letters, photos, documents (birth and academic certificates, identification cards, employment records, references etc.), awards (medals, orders, diplomas), and memoirs. The majority of the materials are original, although archives of some families are present only in the form of printed or photo copies, which is understandable as some heirs have not been ready to part with family heirlooms.

The scope of materials in each given case differs a lot: from hundreds or even thousands of units of storage (as in the Center’s biggest collections, for example, the archives of Ulik-Papish and Shmaruk-Tsybulnyk families)  to only a few documents.

The information about the persons who left the archives also varies in profundity and detalization. We know quite a lot about some people thanks to archival documents, autobiographies, memoirs, and biographical notes of their children and grandchildren. Some archives were collected by famous academics, artists, etc. Among them are the film directors Isaak Shmaruk and Sulamif Tsybulnyk, actress Vira Ulik, biochemist and geneticist Roman Khesin-Lurie, chemist Lev Yahupolsky, and others. There are also individuals about whom we know nothing but their names, as, for instance, about the author of the so-called Front Letters of the Unknown. However, it does not diminish the worth of these letters, which complement the general picture of the daily life of soldiers and civilians during World War II.

The family archives may attract the attention of scholars who research the history of Jewish pogroms of the early twentieth  century, the Holocaust, and the dissident movement in the Soviet Union as well as everyone interested in Jewish life, culture, and genealogy.

The Center’s collection includes 76 family archives. The largest collections in terms of the number of units are: