Sokolivka: Once Home

Life in Sokolivka

David Sultz, Sokolivka-Ustingrad on Market Day as reproduced in Sokolivka-Ustingrad Reunion Booklet, 1991. Ferne Mittleman Research Collection, Cofeld Judaic Museum.

A Country Life

Sokolivka-Ustingrad was arranged in a horseshoe with Jewish families and synagogues at the center of the village, and non-Jewish farmers and laborers in homes on the outskirts. Peretz Shuman counted 6 synagogues each with its own rabbi, chazzan (cantor), and Shamas (sexton) . There were four shochtim that provided kosher meat to the village. At least 10 melamdim (Hebrew teachers) served the shtetl, each with his own cheder.  

“I can give you a clear picture of this little community where my family lived in those days in the outskirts of the dor of Sokolivka. Looking directly across the street was a little shul and this shul was called the “Kantekazovele’ shul” and [since] the shul, [was] the most important place in this whole community, the street [it was on] was called the “Kantekazovele’ strasse (street)”.

Now, directly across the street, on Kantakazovele’ strasse was the house of my Grandfather Isaac Schechtman. …On the right of his home lived Moshe Lieber. And on his left lived Ipsin Gosif, and next to Ipsin Gosif lived Shima Ber who of course was the husband of my Great Aunt Raiza, and next to Shima Ber lived the Shnitzers. The Shnitzers are presently in Buffalo as you know, and are caterers and are well known to my family today.”

Sol Mahr, Oral History, Courtesy of Stuart Bogom.


There are two studies that include histories of Sokolivka-Ustingrad and dive deep into the daily life of the shtetl.

Gillman, Joseph M. (Joseph Moses) and Etta C. Gillman. The B’nai Khaim in America; a study of cultural change in a Jewish group. Philadelphia: Dorrance, c.1969.

Read it here →

Miller, Leo and Diana F Miller. Sokolievka/Justingrad : a century of struggle and suffering in a Ukrainian shtetl, as recounted by survivors to its scattered descendants. New York: Loewenthal Press, 1983.

Read it here →

“…there were no real organized streets as we know of, but houses put up on various pathways…”

Sokolivka Village Layout

Sokolivka was 20 miles from the nearest large city of Uman, 20 miles south. On Monday each week, village market day, thousands of residents from several surrounding villages including Konela, Nestrovka, Zashkov, Buky, Voronove, Nestrova, and Popovka would all converge on the Market Square and buy and sell their wares. Livestock, fruits and vegetables, grains and leather could all be bought in Sokolivka and families could catch up with their extended families networks. David Sultz, a former resident of Sokolivka, who came to Buffalo with his family, provides us with a detailed layout of where residents lived, worked and prayed in Sokolivka-Justingrad.

…the home that my Grandfather Isaac Schechtman lived in, if you can picture a building approximately 15 feet wide and 20 feet long, divided into four quarters. Facing it from the street, on one hand, on the first quarter was the so-called dining room, which consisted of a big wooden table and some benches. Here the entire family ate. In this room there was also a big bed where my Grandmother Malka slept along with a couple of her children …. In the remaining corner of the house was the big kitchen with a tremendous oven where all the baking was done. The oven was the only means of supplying heat to the entire house in the wintertime …. In the summer time when it was especially hot everybody slept outside.

— Sol Mahr, Oral History, Courtesy of Stuart Bogom.