OTACI (ro) / ATAKI/ (ru) OTEK (yid)
Otaci is one of the oldest towns in Moldova, dated back to at least early 15th century, when a custom checkpoint existed here. According to 1847 census Otaci shtetl had 559 Jewish families, but the same year a cholera epidemy much reduced the Jewish community. Nevertheless in 1862 the town is described as “belonging to Kantakuzino family and populated by Moldovans and Jews, 5678 people totally”. Till 1862 Otaci had no own school, and the kids had to cross the Dniester river to Mohiliv and back every day. By the end of 19th century of 6976 Otaci inhabitants 4690 were Jews (or 832 from 1000 families), with a synagogue and three prayer houses. For a certain while Otaci was a flourishing town; but the opening of the Novoselitza railroad in 1893 destroyed all its business, while the population was increased by the expulsion of Jews from surrounding villages. Those who had the means emigrated to the United States of America. During the famine of 1900 the Jewish Relief Committee of St. Petersburg gave assistance to 109 families of Otaci; but a far greater number remained destitute. Between two world wars Otaci was divided into two parts: Otaci sat (Otaci village) and Otaci târg (Otaci marketlace). In Otaci târg in 1930 Jews constituted a vast majority of population (2781 of 3503). In the short ”first Soviet period” between Molotov-Ribbentrop dividing of the Eastern Europe in June 1940 and Romanian-German invasion in June 1941 some Jewish families from Otaci were repressed by NKVD along with the Moldovan, Ukranian, Russian ones. In June-July 1941, when the war broke down, much of Otaci Jews (but way not all of them) succeeded to run away. By August 8 about 8 thousand Jews (locals and from Bessarabia and Bukovina) found themselves in Otaci with no chance to escape. Some of them were murdered by Germans or Romanians soon, some perished later.
Otaci has an outstanding ancient Jewish cemetery, one of the oldest and possibly one of the most ornamental in Moldova, and a ruined synagogue. Today Otaci face is mostly Roma with the specific worth seeing architecture.
© Jewish Heritage Moldova (Maghid NGO) Research, Education, Guiding