The years and months of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s exile dragged on. Soon his five-year sentence would come to an end. In the meantime, World War II was still raging. As exiles were not allowed to go home even at the end of their sentences, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbitzen Chana had to find somewhere else to live. The Jewish population of Dnieperpetrovsk, where they had previously lived for thirty years, had been annihilated. Many members of their family were among them, including one of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s brothers. Although Rebbitzen Chana was aware of his fate, she thought it was better to hide this information from her husband.
Although Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s release was imminent, he was only allowed to live in an officially approved location. When wartime conditions somewhat improved a telegram arrived from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. A large number of Jews from Moscow had settled in Tashkent, and anyone who applied to live there was accepted.
One day Rebbitzen Chana and Rabbi Levi Yitzchok received a telegram from their eldest son Menachem Mendel (who would eventually become the Lubavitcher Rebbe). In it he asked for exact details of their address and inquired about their health and the situation of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s brother. A few weeks later, he sent his parents another telegram, this time written in English. Translating it was not easy. It took Rabbi Levi Yitzchok about a week before he could find anyone who could interpret it, and this particular individual lived several kilometers away.
It was a long time since Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbitzen Chana had heard from their son, and his telegrams greatly lifted their spirits. A short while later, they received their first food parcel from him, which was of tremendous help.
The letter below, which Rabbi Levi Yitzchok sent to his son in 1943, clearly illustrates his situation in exile:
5th Adar, 5703 – 11th March, 1943
My dear beloved children,
Although we wrote to you several weeks ago, I decided to write again without waiting for your reply. I have been living here for almost four years. Mother came out here temporarily two years ago for Pesach. She had intended to return home, but ended up staying because of the war. Everything we own, including blankets, was left at home. Our health is not good and we are very weak. Recently we were very sick.
We would have much preferred to spend our old age close to our children. Here, we are among strangers and have no friends. I would like to request that you write back to us as soon as you receive this letter. Tell us about your health and how you are managing. Please send us a parcel of clothing and warm underwear, as well as fabric for sewing suits for me, and some shoes. I take a size 43 and Mother is size 38. We also need food items such as oil and coconut.
We are impatiently awaiting your reply. With a strong embrace,
Your father, Levik
Mother sends her love. She will write in the next letter.