Isaak Ashmian

Isaak Ashmian

Born: December 19th 1919 Kharkov, Ukraine (raised in Moscow). Passed Away: March 9th, 2013 Toronto, Ontario.

Interviewed In: Toronto, Ontario

Medals Awarded: Order of the Patriotic War (1st and 2nd Class) and  Victory over Germany In The Great Patriotic War

Volunteer Engineer Lieutenant Military Construction Corps, Moscow and Belarusian Front


“The Jews were fighting to protect the country they were citizens of. Nowadays we are more sceptical having the information about the Stalin era.” Isaak was in engineering school when the war started: “During the war I was a student. Well, in 1941 I was a 3rd year student at Moscow Railway Transport Engineering Institute. When the war began, on July 3rd we were sent to the front to build defensive installations. We stayed there for 3 months. After that the senior students were sent to Moscow to finish their studies. The junior students were left at the front. I was a 4th year student, so I was sent to Moscow. I volunteered to go to the front from considerations. We were offered to stay and work in that construction. I declined and asked to be sent to the front”.

Isaak was initially stationed in the Moscow area, where he would build temporary structures, either to replace ones destroyed in the war or to accommodate new but short term needs:

“So our job was the temporary reconstruction of bridges. We were given a task: here’s the river, you are to have the bridge ready for trains by the end of the week. That’s what we were doing. We were under the German fire, as the Germans were interested in ruining the supplies for the advancing units we were protected by anti-aircraft artillery. After the war the bridges underwent capital reconstruction. The temporary bridges are dismantled and undergo capital reconstruction with concrete, metal, etc”

He did similar work on the Belarussian front, only in a more rural environment.

After the war, Isaak finished his engineering degree and worked as a technical department head in Moscow. He noticed growing antisemitism in the post war period:

“We escaped the Holocaust, escaped annihilation. When they started antisemitic policy in the country we felt hurt. We couldn’t understand why. We thought we were equal. Then there was more and more and more… We know how it ended. ’51 – “cosmopolites”, the case of the Jewish doctors, liquidation of the Jewish Committee… …Mikhoels, etc, etc.. Anti-Semitism was gaining strength”.

Isaak eventually moved to Toronto and is part of a veteran’s association that visits schools to teach children about the Second World War.