Translated by Jerrold Landau
Editor's note: The authors of the articles in this chapter were all from among those who were exiled with their families by the Germans from Sanok when it was conquered on the eighth day after the outbreak of the war. The exiles crossed over to the Russian side over the San River and were dispersed into nearby towns. The following lines will tell us about their wandering and suffering in their halting places in exile in Siberia and Asian Russia. What is told here is very little, only a small part of the bitter and cruel experiences that they endured from the time they left our city until they reached this destination and finally their liberation and aliyah to the Land [of Israel].
Our brethren endured long journeys full of immeasurable suffering and tribulations which left marks on their souls and emotions from which they will not quickly be freed. Snippets of memories of the events and life experiences from those days remain etched in the deep recesses of their souls where they will remain forever. These experiences are too numerous to be examined in their entirety. Life was too difficult and cruel for these memories to be preserved in the depth of their memories without some confusion and blurring. Their experiences there were so degrading and oppressive that they cannot be definitively collected and captured and given faithful expression, either orally or in writing.
If this was the case during their journey to Siberia, it was even more so in Siberia itself. Siberia here refers to the Siberian forests and the vast areas enveloped in snow and ice where they ended up after a journey of several weeks which was filled with tribulation. The orders of the echelons: Here, in this place, you will remain and live. This place was a vast area, empty in all directions and completely covered with snow and dense forests that could be seen along the horizon. Parents and adult family members were sent to cut trees in those deep forests which were frightening in their height and density. Then they had to cut them into planks, count them and organize them in accordance with the orders of the foremen, the commands of the supervisors and the scrutiny of the inspectors. These fortunate ones who went to their daily work in these forests received their filthy ration of bread, which they brought home to serve as the primary source of food to sustain their family.
It is easy to understand the spiritual and physical state of our brethren, natives of our town and other places, when they arrived there without any defense against the cold, removed from any orderly lifestyle and without strength under unbearable conditions. One could not think that the days that followed the first, second, third and so on would be any better or that they would bring any hope of an easier and more pleasant life in their wake. The opposite was true. The decrees became more severe with each passing day. Every day brought new tribulations, and the later, newer tribulations caused one to forget the earlier ones. Aside from the evil decrees - the restrictions of movement, the persecution and the hatred and enmity, the people themselves felt hunger, want, poverty, cold, diseases and weakness that ate away at body and soul. The suffering and tribulations enveloped everybody. There was no food, neither for the old nor the young. There was no clothing, neither for the adults nor the children. There was no medicine to protect against disease, neither for the elderly nor the babies.
The stories written about this period in the lives of the Jewish refugees in exile in Russia and Siberia are very few and sparse. The details and descriptions given to us by those who lived this life and suffered these tribulations with their own flesh are few and brief. Of those people, only a few succeeded in reaching us with their frail health still intact, with their breath still in their nostrils, with the strand of life still in their spirit, and the hope for renewal in their souls. They do not have the power and ability to review this entire period of life as it was. They do not have the ability to retrieve clearly from their memories the full details of the suffering and trials. We will therefore suffice ourselves with what is conveyed in this chapter, excerpts of dirges from the scroll of Lamentations about the great tragedy and deep crisis, tiny drops from the wide sea of pain and agony. These excerpts are dear and important to us for their own sake but also because they are the only stories that we could salvage from their mouths and writings
Along the Way
Transport trucks with an address:
A wagon with ten horses
On its floor there is now
Transport trucks along the way
Moving here and there.
To where there is no tomorrow
To where there is no name
And the fear hovers
Outside the lattice of the window
The train moves quickly
Slinking on its belly
Oh would it not reach
The crater of the chasm.
(K. A. Britani: Seven Poems of Siberia)
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