Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.
Name of Interviewee: Menucha Asher (daughter of the Interview Subject);
Subject of the interview: Loka Eliezer Lazar Astrachan, b. 1902 in Riga;
Parents of the interview subject: Menucha (nee Sterobinyetz [Starobiniec]) and Leon Yehuda Leib Astrachan;
Siblings of the of the interview subject: Michael (Misha), b. 1899; Sonya, b. 1908.
Loka was born on February 6th 1902 in Riga. His name Eliezer was in memory of his grandfather Eliezer Sterobinyetz (his mother's father) who passed away in Berezino in 1901.
Loka's parents were Menucha (nee Sterobinyetz) and Leon Yehuda Leib Astrachan. Loka had an older brother Michael Misha born in 1899 and a little sister Sonya born in 1908.
Loka's family was a traditional Jewish family and not very religious, they kept kosher, kept the Sabbath, fasted on Yom Kippur, baked matza (unleavened bread) for Pesach (Passover), but did not go to the synagogue every day, only on Jewish holidays.
Loka's parents were Zionists and were very involved in the Jewish community.
Loka's family moved to Minsk when he was a little boy.
Leon had a business: he was a very successful wood trader and had sawmills. He had good relations with his gentile neighbors and customers.
Menucha was a housewife. Menucha suffered from Parkinson disease from 1920.
Loka was a very active boy. He used to play games like cops and robbers with the neighborhood children, Christians and Jews.
When he was 8 years old he was the captain of the neighborhood soccer team because he was the only boy with a ball.
In those days it was very difficult for Jews to be accepted to schools in Russia, so his parents engaged a private tutor to teach him at home when he was a very young boy, in order to prepare him for the school’s entrance exam.
He learned to read easily in Russian because he used to listen to his brother Misha learning Russian.
Loka was accepted at the public school before he was 6 years old.
In 1914 the First World War began and his school was moved far into east Russia to Petrograd. He finished high school with honors in 1917 when he was 15 years old and came back home to his parents in Minsk.
In 1919 during the Bolshevik revolution, when the Bolsheviks took over Minsk, Loka's family escaped to Bialystok, Poland.
Between the years 1921-1925 Loka studied production engineering and trade management at the Business School of Liege University in Belgium.
As a student he was an excellent sportsman, he won competitions in boxing and wrestling.
After getting his degree, Loka came back to live with his parents. They had moved in 1923 to a big house in Danzig that his father built at 2 Opitz Street.
From 1925 Loka worked with his father in the family wood trading business. He managed the work in the family's sawmills near Danzig and Warsaw together with his brother Misha.
Loka was very close to his brother and sister and they used to travel and spend leisure time together.
Loka and Sonya spent a lot of time together and used to tell each other everything.
Loka was a Zionist and a member of the Zionist sport club of Bar Kochva organization in Danzig.
Loka was in the sailing team and the rowing team.
In the sailing team Loka met Toni Neuburger and she became his girlfriend. Loka loved her very much and told her that if they could sail a boat together, they could sail the boat of life together forever.
Loka and Toni lived together in Loka's parents’ big house in Danzig and on September 30th 1937 they got married in Warsaw.
After the "Crystal Nacht" (the November pogrom) in November 1938 and the increase of Nazi anti-Semitism, Toni and Loka decided to move to Warsaw.
Every weekend Loka and Toni used to visit both of their families who moved to Otwock at the end of 1938.
When the Second World War began in September 1939, Loka and Toni came to be with their families in Otwock at first, but as the Nazis came closer to Otwock, Loka and Toni escaped east to the border of Russia. First they settled in Lida and Loka worked in the store of the Russian army.
When the Nazis invaded Russia and bombed Lida in 1941, Loka and Toni escaped and took a train eastward. When they realized that the train was heading to Siberia they got off and took another train. They reached Tashkent in Uzbekistan where they stayed until the end of the war.
In 1944 their first daughter Aviva was born in Tashkent.
Loka was forced to work in a Russian labor camp under very hard conditions. Only after his health deteriorated was he released.
Loka and Toni went through the war suffering from hunger, cold and disease; Toni got Malaria.
The war ended in 1945, but the Russians did not let them leave Uzbekistan until 1946.
In 1946, while Toni was pregnant they left Russia and arrived at a transit camp of the Jewish Agency in Stettin, Poland.
Toni and Loka lost contact with their families in Otwock during the war. When they reached Stettin they found out that their families had been killed by the Nazis in Treblinka extermination camp on August 19th 1942. Loka found out that his mother Menucha was shot in her wheelchair by the Nazis in ghetto Otwock and that her attendant, Antonia Siroka, had buried her in the yard. He traveled to Otwock and gave his mother a respectable Jewish burial.
Loka's and Toni's second daughter was born in Stettin in 1946 and they named her Menucha in memory of Loka's beloved mother.
A few months later, they were sent to Warsaw to a pediatrician for treatment for baby Menucha, after she developed health problems from a vaccine she had had. From Warsaw they managed to get to Paris, France. From Paris they went to a refugee camp in Marseille, where they were registered as "tourists" by the Ha`apala (illegal immigration) organizers and boarded the Ma'apilim ship "Teti" to Palestine ( Eretz Israel).
They arrived at Haifa port in December 1947 and lived with Loka's sister Sonya Ahimeir for a few years in Jerusalem. After that they moved to Tel Aviv and then to Givatayim.
Loka and Toni had 6 grandchildren. […]
Loka's wife Toni passed away in 1997.
Loka passed away in June 1998 in Givatayim, Israel.