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A Nurse in the Red Army (cont.)

 

We reached Vilna (Vilnius), which was also under bombardment. The doctor remained behind, and we went on to Minsk. Dr. Fingerhut still managed to cheer me up and calm my fears: “Apply to the Ministry of Health, and you will see that they will employ you anywhere.”

In Minsk we admitted the new mother to the hospital, and went to the place where all the VIPs were gathered. Not much time had passed when the driver came and told me that we had to collect her immediately and continue on, because the bombing hadn't stopped. Even the hospitals were being bombed, and all around everything was on fire! The patients were moved from place to place and we couldn't find our patient, and without her no one would have driven us further. We were directed to the forest, where patients and wounded people were concentrated, and among them we found the woman and her baby. She was sitting – and that's how I can see her now before my eyes – holding the baby, and as though awaiting the bitter end. We put her into the car and drove off.

We reached Moscow. We transferred our patient to the hospital and I approached the Lithuanian Delegation there (I knew Lithuanian but not Russian). For a year I worked in the Prakopnoi kolkhoz (in the Saratov region), where I worked as the sole midwife, without the assistance of a medical staff. One of the houses was emptied of its residents so that it could serve as a “maternity hospital”…

At that time, I asked to volunteer for the Lithuanian Division, but was refused. They promised me that when they drafted women they would approach me too. In the meantime I learned that my aunt Anya Moseievna (the wife of my uncle Moisei Chernamordik, my mother's brother) was working as a doctor at the hospital in Krasnokamsk, and after taking the appropriate steps, I was invited to come there, and worked as the head nurse in a military hospital. I worked seriously and with great dedication under the direction of a doctor who was very strict, but I “suspected” him of having a Jewish soul. One day they were required to send some of the hospital staff to the front. I stood in front of the selection committee, of which the strict doctor was a member, and was addressed in Russian. Then I heard the doctor saying to his colleagues that I didn't understand Russian and so was not qualified to join the team, and while he was talking, he looked at me and winked, as though hinting his intentions. The doctor remained there, and I was appointed to be the head nurse of the officers' section. The entire team that set out for the front perished on their way…

While I was at the military hospital I made friends with a nurse from a different ward, and we would have long talks together. At the end of the war, she revealed her secret to me: the N.K.V.D.[1] had ordered her to locate deserters who practiced a variety of stratagems not to go to the front. She had informed on many people. I was astounded. I immediately thought about the conversations we had had, when I did not always guard my tongue, and I asked her why she hadn't informed on me too. “They didn't mean people like you,” she answered.

At the end of the war, I reached Vilna, where I worked in a hospital. Letters to my family that I had sent previously returned with the comment; “I don't want to cause you grief, but there are no Jews left”. I discovered that my brother Moshe, who was a soldier in the Lithuanian army, was trapped in a barracks that was set on fire and burnt down, and there he met his death. When I went to Dusiat, I went up to the old cemetery. A cow was wandering through it. I found overturned gravestones, and was absolutely unable to locate my father's grave, which caused me great pain…

In Utian I didn't have the strength to go to my mother's house, and I couldn't open my mouth and ask what had happened to my family.

In Vilna I married my husband Benjamin, a native of Aniksht (Anyksciai), and a “Prisoner of Zion”[2], who was imprisoned by the Soviets in Krasnoyarsk. We immigrated to Israel in 1969 with our only daughter Lotta, who has since married and raised a family. My sister Leah came from South Africa especially to see me. Only the two of us remain…

It was clear to me that my path led to Israel, and nowhere else. Did I need another Diaspora? This is my only home!

 

 
Survivors beside the Mass Grave in the Deguciai forest
From left to right: Lanka Visakolsky, Raya and Baruch Krut,
Shmuel Levitt and Luba Napoleon

 

 
Lana Binder (Visakolsky) with her daughter Lotta Landau
Beside the grave of Reb Abba-Shiye at the cemetery in Dusiat
July 1998

 

Sara Weiss (Slep): On my visit to Dusiat in June 1991 I found the gravestone of Reb Abba-Shiye and sent a picture to Lanka. She was so excited, and asked to join me on my next visit. I appreciated her daughter Lotta's decision to join her mother on our visit in 1998.

Lotta Landau: In 1998, at the initiative of Sara Weiss, and under her guidance, a group of Dusiater and their families set forth on a journey of “roots” to Lithuania. My mother and I were among those who were fortunate enough to participate.

During the trip, my mother was able to put closure on a most painful emotional circle. For years she suffered remorse because she had survived while members of her family had perished in the inferno. She was tormented by the thought that one of her brothers could have joined her in her escape, or that she might have remained behind with them in the shtetl. The trip to Lithuania enabled my mother to come to grips with the fact that she had been granted the privilege of making aliya to Israel, and the fortune of seeing her grandchildren serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Am Yisrael Chai !

The Jewish people will live forever !

Footnotes

  1. The Russian secret police – predecessor of the KGB. Return
  2. Jews requesting to immigrate to Israel, who were imprisoned by the Soviets. Return

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