3 Kislev 5778 21/11/2017

Arrival in Chiali

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was exiled to the distant, primitive village of Chiali, which was far away from any Jewish community. He and a fellow Jewish exile arrived there with nothing and nowhere to stay.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was exiled to the remote village of Chiali in Kazakhstan. Chiali was a squalid outpost that was swamped with dust and mud. Swarms of mosquitoes infested the village, making the lives of the local inhabitants a misery from morning till night. They were everywhere and there was no refuge from them.

The houses in Chiali were built from mud and plaster. Their damp walls could not withstand the heavy local rains or hailstorms and their dirt floors were hardly any different from the ground outside. They gave little protection from the constant strong winds, searing summer heat, and freezing winter weather. During the hot summer a strong stench of sewage pervaded the village. Therefore it was hardly surprising that disease was rife during the summer months and many died.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok arrived in this miserable village on the evening of Monday, Shevat 19th, 5700 [1940]. The only sound that could be heard in the darkness was the constant dripping of heavy rain. Another Jewish exile was sent to Chiali with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, and both men tried to help each other.

The first thing they did was look for other Jews in the hope that another Jew might be able to help them find somewhere to live. However, it was very difficult to make any inquiries because neither Rabbi Levi Yitzchok nor his friend spoke the local Kazakh language. When they had finally made themselves understood, they found out that there was one other Jew living in the village. This was a Jewish tailor who had been exiled to Chiali many years earlier. Unfortunately this man did not want to have anything to do with them. When he saw them, he drove them away and they had to look for help elsewhere.

Feeling very tired and hungry by this point, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and his friend made their way to the nearest house they could find that still had a light burning. This time, the owner took pity on the two emaciated figures that unexpectedly knocked at his door and he allowed them to stay in his home overnight. He spread a blanket over the narrow, damp kitchen floor, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and his friend arranged their clothing to serve as a bed. Unfortunately this still did not protect them from the terrible chill which crept into their bones, and they hardly slept the entire night.

In the morning, their host spoke to them at greater length and told them that one of them could stay. After drawing lots between them, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok won the right to stay. He did not want to be separated from his friend, but he realized that he had no choice. Before long he sent a telegram to his wife to let her know where he was. He also asked her to send him some of his most precious possessions including his tallis, tefillin, some books, and various essential food items.

Three weeks later, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok received a parcel containing his tallis and tefillin. He later told Rebbitzen Chana that his joy at being able to use his beloved tallis and tefillin for the first time in about a year could not be put into words.

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Featured photo
The president of Kazakhstan presents the head shliach with a document signed by the government (in 2000) denouncing the persecution of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok.
The president of Kazakhstan presents the head shliach with a document signed by the government (in 2000) denouncing the persecution of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok.
31/07/2007
Featured gallery
A Gallery  of Notable Visitors to the Chabad Center in Almaty and the Tomb of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok
A Gallery of Notable Visitors to the Chabad Center in Almaty and the Tomb of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok
20/02/2007