In Belarus, locals pay respects at Peres’s childhood home
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In Belarus, locals pay respects at Peres’s childhood home

Nobel laureate and ex-president, who lost family members when Nazis reached Vishnyeva, ‘brought pride to our village through his life and accomplishments’

Residents of Vishnyeva gather outside Shimon Peres’s childhood home to pay their respects on the day of his death, September 28, 2016. (Courtesy of Limmud FSU)
Residents of Vishnyeva gather outside Shimon Peres’s childhood home to pay their respects on the day of his death, September 28, 2016. (Courtesy of Limmud FSU)

Residents of the Belarus birthplace of Shimon Peres gathered outside his childhood home to pay their respects to the most eminent international figure to emerge from their village.

Villagers in Vishnyeva learned about the Israeli statesman’s death Wednesday from Limmud FSU, a Jewish education organization that has remained in regular contact with the remote community since holding 90th birthday celebrations there for Peres three years ago.

“Shimon Peres brought pride to our village through his life and accomplishments, and we felt obliged to pay our respects following his death,” said Oleg Demidchik, 63. “We are humbled that he is from our town and we will never forget this.”

The events for Peres’s 90th birthday celebration, held as part of the Limmud FSU Belarus conference, included a permanent photo exhibition showcasing his childhood. A plaque was also dedicated to Peres at a house on the site of his one-time family residence.

Shimon Peres as a child, sitting in the front row in a mandolin orchestra in what is today Belarus (Shimon Peres Archives)
Shimon Peres as a child, sitting in the front row in a mandolin orchestra in what is today Belarus (Shimon Peres Archives)

The plaque reads: “In this place, Shimon Peres, son of Yitzhak and Sarah Perski, the Nobel laureate and ninth president of the State of Israel, was born on August 2, 1923.”

Peres was born in what was then known as Wiszniew, Poland, as Szymon Perski, and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of 11. Family members who stayed behind were killed when the Nazis reached the area during World War II.

(R-L) Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the joint Nobel Peace Prize winners for 1994, in Olso, Norway. (Photo by Government Press Office via Getty Images)
(R-L) Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the joint Nobel Peace Prize winners for 1994, in Olso, Norway. (Photo by Government Press Office via Getty Images)

“Shimon Peres, a Nobel laureate, is probably the most well-known and prominent individual to ever be born in Vishnyeva, and his memory and legacy honor this town,” said Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU. “We are greatly moved to see how deeply the people of Vishnyeva care for Peres and that they joined together in his memory.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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