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The Soviet Exile-- Into Central Asia
A thousand years ago, well before Marco Polo, Jewish merchants, known as “Radhanites”, made their way from Europe to the Orient and back. Because they were neither Christian nor Moslem, they could travel freely across opposing lines, and at the same time, use their connections with far flung Jewish communities to facilitate commerce. In the middle of the 20th century, numerous thousands of Jews and non-Jews traversed much the same routes in search of safety from the advancing Nazi onslaught.
It is estimated that 1.1 million Jews were evacuated by the Soviets from the front lines of the war and sent to central Asia. My daughter’s father in law, who hails from Moldova, explained that at one time, his family had a different last name, Kaiser. When the Germans approached their town, Soviet officers came to evacuate the population eastward. They also distributed false identification papers to provide cover for Jews in case they were caught by the Germans before the trains could leave. The papers stayed with them throughout their travels; so did their names, and thus it came to be that my grandchildren have last names, Ferd, given their forebears thanks to some Soviet officer in WWII. (Many Jews ended the war with very different last names thanks to documents that helped them survive. Just so, my mother’s my aunt, Dora Iger, became Kitzay).