"My dad's brightest memories were his pre-war childhood in the village of Zhiryatino", says David's daughter, artist Sima Vasilieva (London).
"My dad – Slutzker David Naumovitch was born in a large village called Zsiryatino in Bryansk Region. It proved impossible to determine his exact date of birth... according to dad’s brothers – their mum Sima (after whom I was named) went into labour when she was rinsing laundry in a frozen river. This means that his birthday could have been anytime between November 1927 and March 1928.
He was thirteen when the war began. German troops speedily advanced towards Bryansk. But at the time my grandfather was detained in Bryansk prison, under investigation. A rumour reached the village that the prison was getting disbanded, and its occupants were to be released. In spite of the impending danger babushka Sima firmly decided to stay behind an wait for her husband.
She gave her middle son, Grisha, horse and cart to take to her parents who lived in a nearby town, so that they could flee. That way she saved their lives. Grisha then marched straight to the local military recruitment point, signed up and went to fight at the front. He lied about his age – making out that he was two years older than he actually was. It was not until the mid 1980’s that my father found out that Grisha died courageously fighting at the front.
Meanwhile the fighting was getting closer and closer. Explosions could be heard in the village. But Sima was firm in her resolve to wait for her husband. At the last minute she managed to force her youngest son – my father to flee. She made him promise that he would go to Slavyansk, where both of his eldest brothers lived. My dad crossed river Desna, and as soon as he crossed it, the bridge was blown up behind him. My grandfather, apparently still jailed in Bryansk, disappeared without a trace. Babushka Sima never got to see her husband again. She was executed during occupation.
My dad travelled the length of Bryansk region on foot until he reached Slavyansk – a town where his brother Yakov was working at the dairy. He asked for Yakov Slutzker, but fainted from hunger and exhaustion as he waited for his brother. Next thing that dad remembers is being washed in a bath and being given sweet tea by a woman he does not recognise. It was Vera – Yakov’s wife.
Eventually both of his oldest brothers went to the front and dad was evacuated with his eldest brother Abram’s family. He had suffered a lot during those evacuation years... nearly dying from malnutrition and typhoid.
Raised three daughters, lived in Israel for the last 20 years of his life".