ZEKHARYA CHESNO was born in Berlin in 1928 to a middle-class Jewish family. In 1933, after the Nazis came to power, his family left for Lithuania, just to find that Lithuania was occupied by USSR in 1940. After the Nazi invasion in 1941, Zekharya was evacuated deep into Russia; he returned in 1945 to Vilnius, where he graduated from high school and Vilnius University.
He attempted to emigrate from the USSR to Israel several times, but only in 1971 was he granted permission to leave. Since 1972, he has lived in Jerusalem. He worked as a journalist in the foreign program section of the “Voice of Israel” radio until his retirement.
To what shall I compare a human life ? Perhaps the most suitable comparison is that of a river. A river starts from a tiny brook and as it flows it gathers strength and then calmly carries its waters, then begins to seethe and boil when it comes across some rapids or another obstacle. And so it goes until finally its waters disappear into the sea.
Since our early school years, we had known which sea a certain river falls into. Let us remember: “The Neman falls into the Baltic Sea.”
Similarly, our lives also seemed to go in a simple, absolute order. But as time passed, it became more and more evident that life is unpredictable and often asks such questions which are hard and sometimes even impossible to answer.
Yes, I know very well where the rivers that flowed through my life finally terminated: the Spree—into the Oder, the Viliya—into the Neman, the Kama—into the Volga, the Cheptsa—into the Viatka.
But besides physical geography my memory holds quite different geography.
For me, a boy brought up in the Jewish tradition, the guiding star has been golden Jerusalem. All the roads in the world lead to this wonderful, unique city. And likewise today I can claim that all the rivers of my life flow into the Jordan.
So, in my memoirs, I want to tell about my life, about the things I have seen, and the people I have met on my way to the Jordan…