I was born in 1946 in the city of Lvov, Ukraine. Due to its close proximity to the Polish border, Lvov became the gateway for smuggling Jews out of the Soviet Union. My father was an artist, so he would create counterfeit passports for Jews who wanted to escape to the free world via Poland. During the year I was born, he was caught and sentenced to harsh labor in the Siberian Gulag.
In 1971, when we were living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, my brother, Shalom Ber, received an exit visa and immigrated to the United States. When he arrived, he sent the Rebbe a picture of the resting place of his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had been the rabbi of Yekatrinoslav, Ukraine, when he was arrested by the Soviets for religious activism. He was then exiled to Kazakhstan, where he passed away in 1944 in the city of Alma Ata (which is about 400 miles from Tashkent).
Later, when Shalom Ber went to visit the Chabad Headquarters in New York, the Rebbe – who never had the chance to see his father’s resting place – thanked him for the picture and asked him many questions about it: “Who is buried next to my father?” … “Is the cemetery Jewish?” … and so on.
Noticeable in the picture, which the Rebbe studied closely, was the woeful state of the headstone. It had deteriorated so badly that even some of the words were illegible. Suddenly the Rebbe said, “You told me that you still have family in the Soviet Union. Would you ask them if they could repair my father’s headstone?” (more…)