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Reminiscences Mingled with Pain (cont.)

 

Higher Education

Not many left the shtetl to continue their education. My brother Yitzchak and I continued our education thanks to help from our mother's family in America. Some learned various trades in the shtetl, and others went to Kovno (Kaunas) to work, or to hachshara.

The teacher Malka, who taught arithmetic, history, Lithuanian and Hebrew, prepared me for my studies in Utian (Utena). Just then the pro-gymnasia (junior high school) in Utian closed, and I went to study in Vilkomir (Ukmerge). I was about twelve years old.

My brother Yitzchak continued on to higher education. First he studied engineering, and then medicine. He was a leftist, and as a student he was active in the communist movement. During the war he volunteered for the Lithuanian Division, and was killed in one of the battles.

 

 
The Youth in Dusiat
From right to left, top: Zamke Fein and Meir-Leib Mordochowitz
Second row: Etka Patz, Chana-Bailke Glezer, Hene-Bailke Griez, Rivka Fein, Sheine-Musha Melamed, Goldke Katz (daughter of the tailor), Yosifon Poritz (son of Aharon)
Third row: Bunka Napoleon and Malka Feldman
Bottom: Rachel Schneider, Zelig Yoffe, Rachel Glezer and Micha Yossman

Only Malka and Zelig survived the Holocaust.

 

The Hebrew Language Is “Erased”

When Lithuania came under Soviet rule, Zionist activity was forbidden, and the Hebrew language was “erased”. The changeover to studying in Yiddish was a harsh blow for us. We knew how to speak Yiddish, but didn't know spelling or grammar. We also made sure of speaking only Hebrew, and anyone caught using Yiddish was fined, and had to make a donation to the Jewish National Fund. The last examination in the gymnasia (high school) took place on June 20, 1941. The smell of war could already be sensed in the air, and we urged the teachers to give us our report cards. The teachers I bring to mind are Dr. Shohat, principal of the former Hebrew gymnasia; Dr. Lampert who was a history teacher, and his wife who taught German; Dr. Grinspan - the Yiddish teacher; Ritz from Rakishok (Rokiskis) – the Lithuanian teacher; and Grin – the Latin teacher.

I still have the report card – in Lithuanian and Yiddish – bearing the date June 21, 1941, that is to say, one day before the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

 

 
Report Card in Lithuanian and Yiddish

 

W a r !

Come Home at Once

At the time, I was in Vilkomir where I went to school. I lived in a rented room, and the brothers Emme and Bebe (Avraham and Dov, sons of David Schwartz) who were also from Dusiat, lived there too. The Germans bombed Vilkomir, and there was panic in the city. I ran to the bus station, where a bus driven by the brothers Ansel and Baruch Krut came from Dusiat every morning. I waited for the bus to arrive, met Ansel Krut, who brought me a short letter from my father. My father requested that I return home immediately. I asked Ansel how I could get there, and he told me that I could probably return with him. In the meantime the bus was drafted, and clearly I couldn't go to Dusiat with them. I enquired at another station whether there would be a bus going to Dusiat, but no public transportation was working. I met with the Schwartz brothers, and we made plans on what to do.

There was panic in the city. People ran back and forth, and many were looking for ways to leave. Loud Russian march music could be heard in the streets, and military trucks raced along the roads. We tried to hitch a ride, but no vehicle was going in the direction of Dusiat. Masses of people were fleeing in the direction of Latvia. We decided to spend the night in Vilkomir, and to set out on foot for Dusiat in the morning. The bombing continued all night long.

In the morning we set out on foot. I had a knapsack, with one dress and some underwear, a passport and my graduation certificate. We walked for hours. Army trucks filled with Russian soldiers passed us on the way, and one of them stopped and picked me up, but not the others.

Planes flew overhead and bombed us. We jumped from the truck into the ditches at the side of the road, and then returned to the truck. This happened several times. The Germans were bombarding in order to destroy the roads. The day passed and we reached Utian. There I met Emme and Bebe, and we agreed to meet in Daigal (Daugailiai - a tiny place ten kilometers from Dusiat). I arrived in Daigal at one o'clock in the morning. Two other people got off the truck with me: Ephraim, a refugee from Poland who came to Vilkomir (he was killed in the Polish army), and Yerahmiel (today living in Kibbutz Nir-David). We took the road leading to the left, but Russian soldiers stopped us and warned us not to go on. From them we learned that the Lithuanians were ambushing people on the road and torturing them to death, cutting off arms and legs. From them I also understood that the Schwartz brothers had already passed that way.

We turned in the direction of Zarasai, hoping to reach Dusiat via a roundabout way. A truck drove by and we got on it, and the Lithuanian “White Partisans” shot at us along the road. We reached Zarasai where I found my relatives packing their belongings with the intention of departing for Dvinsk (Daugavpils). We learned that the only open road was the one to Dvinsk, which was about twenty-five kilometers from there. A friend from the movement and I walked that distance on foot. Dvinsk was filled with refugees. They gathered us together in a school, where they fed us, and then we got onto a freight train, without windows.

The trains were supposed to depart for Russia. We crowded into the train, which was shunted back and forth in the station, as though it was turning on its axis and not advancing. We were certain that the Latvians had held us up, in the hope that German planes would come and bomb us. The train didn't leave the station until morning, when it started moving in the direction of Russia. At the Russian border they stopped the train and took off all the Jews, “because you are all spies.” In the meantime, the bombing resumed. We ran towards the forest, hid among the trees, but the planes caught up with us and bombed us. I saw people falling around me. I lay under a tree and thought to myself that the end was coming. My friend was beside me. He urged me to go deeper into the forest. Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion. An ammunition car blew up, fire broke out, and the forest began burning. I began running, and left my knapsack behind. My friend tried to shove my knapsack into my hand, but I didn't take it. I thought that I wouldn't need it anymore.

I was barefoot, my dress was torn, and I had only my passport and certificate with me. I hid them in my brassiere, and guarded them closely throughout the entire war. Like many others, I crossed the border and went eastward…

 

 
At the Launching of the Dusiat Yizkor Book
October 15, 1989, Tel Aviv

From left to right: Malka Gilinsky (Feldman), Raya Krut (Gilinsky), Zelig Yoffe
In front: Shayke Glick

 

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