Svalyava, Czechoslovakia (now Svaljus, Ukraine)

Eight of the Boys came from Svalyava, a town in the Carpathian Mountains, now in western Ukraine.

Svalyava is located on the Latorica river, about 25 kilometres north-east of Mukachevo, in the region known historically as Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Other nearby towns home to members of the Boys include Uzhorod, Khust, Vynohradiv, Irshava, Berehove, and Tacovo.

It is known as Svalyava in Ukranian and Russian, Szolyva in Hungarian, Svalyeve in Yiddish and Svalova in Romanian.

Until the end of World War I, Svalyava belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire. During the period between the two World Wars it was part of Czechoslovakia. In the course of World War II it was occupied by Hungary. At the end of the war it became part of the Ukrainian republic of USSR.


Jews probably settled in Svalyava in the first half of the 18th century. In 1830, the Jewish population was 45. By 1880, the Jewish population was 319, out of a total population of 1,664.

The Jews of the Subcarpathian region were among the poorest in Europe, many living in rural areas and working in agriculture. Jewish families earned their livelihoods from trade and crafts. They worked mainly as traders and craftsmen, particularly as carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, cobblers, glazers, tinsmiths, brush makers and painters.

At the beginning of the 20th century, two sawmills were built in order to establish a local furniture industry, as well as a chemical factory for wood, alcohol, acetone, and glue, employing Jewish workers. In 1921, during the Czechoslovakian period, the Jewish population of Svalyava rose to 1,099.

By 1941, the Jewish population rose to 1,423, out of a total population of 8,400.


Following the Munich Agreement in 1938, Czechoslovakia was divided up and Svalyava and the surrounding area were annexed by Hungary, before being formally incorporated into Hungary in 1939. The town became known as Szolyva in Hungarian.

The Hungarian government was pro-German, and the Jews of Szolyva were subjected to discrimination under the Hungarian occupation. Many Jews were persecuted and pushed out of their occupations.

In 1940, 150 Jews from Szolyva were drafted into forced labour battalions and others were drafted for service on the eastern front, where most died.

In August, 1941, a number of Jewish families, who could not prove their Hungarian citizenship, were expelled to Kamenets-Podolski in Nazi occupied Ukrainian territory, where they were murdered.


The Nazis occupied Hungary in March 1944 and installed a puppet government. That government participated in the Holocaust.

In April 1944, the Jews of Szolyva were gathered in the synagogue; from there they were taken to the brick factory outside Mukachevo with Jews from surrounding localities.

On 22 May 1944, the ghetto was emptied and all its inhabitants, including over 1,000 Jews from Szolyva, were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp in occupied Poland.

When the trains arrived in Birkenau a selection was made on the ramp. It offered healthy young men and women a chance of survival as they were often selected for slave labour.

The fact that the Subcarpathian Jews arrived six months before the camp was liberated in January 1945, greatly increased their chance of survival.

An estimated 85% of the Jews of Subcarpathian Ruthenia perished in the Holocaust.


After the Second World War, Szolyva became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and became known as Svaljus. Many Jews felt there was no future for them under Stalinism and either did not return to their homes or decided to flee westwards.

Most of the Jews from Svaljus were murdered in Auschwitz and a few survivors returned, but eventually settled elsewhere. The few survivors who returned to Svaljus after the war attempted to revive the Jewish community, but Jewish life became impossible under the communist regime then in power in Ukraine.

The synagogue building was turned into a bakery, and the study hall was used to store grain, and to house offices. The mikveh (ritual bath) was converted into a public bath.


In 2001, Svaljus had about 17,909 inhabitants. No Jews live there today.

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