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Chapter 3:

In the Soviet Diaspora

 

[Pages 104-106]

Remembering Lanowitz in My Wanderings

By Feirel Melamed (Pnina Perle)

Our town, Lanowitz, appeared to me as one in which many interesting activities took place. However, these activities were governed by a stable life pattern that had not changed for generations.

During 1939, our small world was shaken, as was the rest of the world. One morning, we came under Communist rule. Our holy community was in shock. Our Jews started to search for their proletariat ancestry. Retailers, who formerly struggled to make a living, began to fear that they will be looked upon as capitalists, and be sent to Siberia. Each one investigated his past so as not to appear as a counter-revolutionary criminal. My father, who was a Torah teacher, feared that the authorities will find out that he taught a religious subject. One resident feared the other, and wondered whether he will betray the other or withstand the pressure of the authorities. The streets became empty. For days, Jews did not venture out of their homes. A tragic calm fell upon the town. The normal discussions about politics ceased. Everyone was afraid.

The Lanowitz Jews deserve praise for the fact that no betrayal occurred. Their solidarity held. I, the daughter of a “reactionary” was found fit for the job of head secretary at the Municipality. I was recommended for the job by the local party secretary who liked me. Other Jews were also chosen for key posts in the town administration. These functionaries considered the saving of Jewish residents from arrest and deportation as one of the important administrative tasks. It is worth noting that Lanowitz experienced few deportation cases. No more than 2-3 persons were denounced by Ukrainians and deported. There was no way to ransom these persons.

When the German-Soviet war broke out, the Soviet administrators and we, its staff, retreated. I did not want to be separated from my old parents. I wanted to be available to help them in time of need. However, my mother came to my office and made me swear that I will leave town. She said: “Leave with Batya (my sister) and Shlomo (my brother-in-law). You are likely to be one of the first victims (of the Germans) as a Soviet functionary”

I accepted mother's reasoning and left town. The separation was hard. I cried yet my tears dried-up. I could hardly breathe. I had no time to pack needed items. I left with the clothes on my back.

The travel (by train) was difficult. The weather was alternately hot and rainy. Many passengers developed a fever. There was no medical help. Food was unavailable. We remained hungry. The enemy chased our train and bombarded us.

We arrived in Siberia after a long trip, depressed, broken, and lonely. The Siberian climate was most difficult. I came down with a case of malaria. I went to work despite my illness, to mitigate my loneliness.

For our factory work, I and others, received 400 grams of bread/day. This was the only food we received. When we refugees met, we tried to remember our loved ones that remained far from us. One asked the other: “Will we ever see them again?”

(In the winter) the temperature in town would drop sometimes to minus 30 degrees Celsius. One had to be careful when leaving the house to prevent one's nose and ears from freezing. Local residents warned us of the dangers of this terrible cold. We survived somehow.

At the end of 1944, my manager came to my office, and said: “Faliah, (that was my name in Siberia) Congratulations, the war has ended.” (It actually ended in May 1945 Ed.) In Siberia, we did not read newspapers, hence did not know what was happening in the world. My manager heard the news on the radio. I did not know what to do. There was no way to get to Lanowitz. Yet, I yearned to see or hear from my parents. I thought about them day and night. I wrote letters to various Ukrainian neighbors. Only one person answered my letter. It was Bushka, the male nurse. His letter was unpleasantly sweet. He described the killings that took place. He was full of praise about my father, describing him as an exceptional man. At the end of his letter, he wrote that my father was one of the first to be killed by the Germans.

I came to realize the full dimension of the Holocaust that occurred in Lanowitz. There was nothing to return to, nothing worth visiting.

I remember Lanowitz as a small but charming town. I remember, in particular, the daughters of Lieber Bronstein. These women took care of every poor person, fed and washed him. I remember the festive 3rd Shabbat meals of our Rabbis and their followers. I remember the many good deeds of our local men and women. What happened in Lanowitz, where so many good people were killed, is doubly reprehensible.


[Hebrew pages 107-112] [Yiddish pages 344-351]

From Lanowitz to the Soviet Union

By Arye Ginzburg (Atchi)

I was working for Yunek Farber in his egg warehouse when the Soviets marched into Lanowitz in 1939. As a worker, I was considered as a “kosher” proletarian. As the Soviets reorganized the municipal administration, I was considered “close” to the regime. The Soviet administration organized a new Police force, consisting of Ukrainians and Jews. Berchik, Hirsch-Ber and I, were selected as Police commanders. My task was to observe all that went on in our town. The task was an unpleasant one because the Soviet administration viewed the Lanowitz residents as a “suspect element”.

Fortunately, none of the propertied Jews were either arrested or deported to Siberia. This was partly the result of our efforts to prevent this from happening. While we tried to protect local Jews, we could not prevent confiscation of private property altogether. As the Soviet Politruks (managers) became established locally, they proceeded to nationalize significant private property. The first to be affected was Shimon Glinick. He was rich, and his villa attracted attention. He was ejected from his villa and made to move into his mother's house (Leah Hanah-Atis). Thereafter, his property was nationalized.

The first mayor selected by the Soviet authorities was a Ukrainian by the name of Kravchuk. His wife was Jewish. As a Komsomol leader, she made efforts to help local Jews in various ways. This regime, was half military, half civilian, it lasted for three months. It was replaced by a Soviet civilian administration. The latter administration reorganized the town's local institutions.

A city council was selected. Andre Kishka, a person who had not completed grade school, became the new mayor. As a proletarian, the mayor had an instinctive understanding of the desires of his superiors. The city administration moved into the Zinberg house, which had a pharmacy downstairs.

After three months, Andre Kishka was dismissed, and Dov Goldberg was named to replace him. The latter lasted in his post only a short while. After two months, he was replaced by Yizhak Shmokh. Pnina Melamed, the daughter of Yizhak Melamed, became his administrative assistant. In the meantime, the city administration expanded. It was again moved (to larger quarters) into the house of Sarah (widow of Shiah) Katz.

The new administration permitted the local retailers to trade as in the past. One day, the authorities decided to raid the offices of the wholesalers and factories in Lvov from whom the Lanowitz retailers drew their supplies. The authorities estimated the turnover of each retailer based on the sums indicated by the deferred checks of a given retailer, discovered in their offices. The additional tax levied on each retailer was in proportion to the discovered turnover.

The main victim of this new tax was Uziel Reichman, on whom a 5,000 ruble tax was levied. He refused to pay this tax, was indicted, convicted, and given a five year prison term, to be followed by exile to Siberia. His sentencing brought forth strong communal support. Two local doctors who in the past competed with one another, and who had distanced themselves from Jewish life, Dr. Lutwack and Dr. Lutz Eisenstat, the latter the town's senior physician, examined Reichman and certified that he is too ill to serve his sentence. As a result, he was not arrested nor deported. The fear of the trial so depressed Reichman that he suffered a stroke that paralyzed him. Reichman remained in his house but had to pay the tax.

The youths of Lanowitz, Zionist in their orientation, fluent in Hebrew and steeped in its literature, had to stop all their Zionist activities. They joined the Communist Youth organization to assure their political safety. All Zionist political activity was forbidden. Our youths felt like the conversos did in 15th century Spain. At the same time, the registration-of-marriages function was transferred from the Rabbinate to a secular city office. Jonathan Fogel became the registrar of marriages for our town. The Soviet regime did not interfere with communal life in other respects.

Jews continued to pray in their synagogues. In fact, they spent many hours in public prayer, as if to take advantage of something that is about to be forbidden. There was talk about the likelihood that synagogues will be confiscated, however matters did not reach such a point. Our Rabbis continued to serve their religious functions as in the past.

Something, however, shook up our collective spirit. The foundation of our society started to crumble. One felt a change and uncertainty in one's standing in society. All of us suffered from this feeling of uncertainty, including those of us that were now in positions of authority. One felt depressed about life and a certain fog enveloped our thoughts and our hopes for the future. This happened to most of us, though there were a few exceptions. A few of us got married. Those about to marry would hire a Rabbi secretly, yet for political safety register their intent to wed with the city registrar. These young couples viewed civil marriage registration as a plague that cannot be avoided. Having a wedding ceremony performed by a Rabbi was still considered by our youths as their primary social obligation. There was a case that annoyed our community. Moshe Kerner married a teacher from Yampil who was a die-hard communist. The couple only registered their marriage with the local civil authorities. When their first son was born, they had him properly circumcised. Our mayor, Yizhak Shmokh, found it necessary on this occasion to dismiss the mother from the party. Her dismissal left an unpleasant mark on her career.

Our youths would meet regularly in the local town hall. This hall, built by the Polish authorities and church, was located next to the old Polish cemetery. On regular evenings, Ukrainian and Jewish youths would meet there for dancing and singing. A band would play to create a joyous atmosphere. This happy setting compensated somewhat for our instinctive reservations as Jews, forced to ally ourselves with a regime and society devoid of tradition.

One day, we heard rumors that the Germans broke their treaty with the USSR and were attacking Soviet forces on all fronts. The thought that German forces are fast approaching our town caused our authorities to plan a possible evacuation. When German forces were already in Tarnopil, an order was received to pack up and leave. This order was, however, too late to enable us to depart by train. Nearby rail lines were already cut as a result of German bombing. While we sat on our baggage, we had to think of alternate escape means. We confiscated horses and wagons of local Ukrainian peasants and forced them to take us and our baggage eastward to an area still controlled by Soviet forces. Our local Ukrainians hated the Soviet regime. We had no choice but to use force to make them take us eastward.

About 35 of us left with the Soviet authorities. We knew that we will be the first victims of the expected regime change. We basically ran for our lives. The rest of the Jews refused to leave the town they were born in. To our regret, they even tried to persuade others to remain. I remember Yulik Korolki (Joel Katz), who was considered to be a wise person, dressed in the uniform of a Soviet soldier. He was full of cynicism. He asked me, “Where are you running to? In the East you will not fare better. It is better to hide here, until the worst has passed. I saw how 'strong' the Soviet forces are.” He was not alone. Many thought like he did. One that stood out, thinking similarly was Hirshke Lushik (Hirsh Leizer dem Zaner Shuster). He mocked those that ran away. He was convinced that he was the wiser to stay. Unfortunately, he paid the ultimate price for his “wisdom.”

After four days of travel, we arrived at a village near Kiev. We released the peasants and their wagons and climbed onto a train. The freight train was full of people and animals, with no room to spare. It brought us to Rostov.

On the way to Rostov, we were attacked by German bombers. From time to time, we had to leave the train to take cover in a field or in a drainage ditch. On the way, pardoned Soviet prisoners climbed aboard our train. They were released from prison on condition that they join the Soviet Army. We had to protect ourselves against this criminal, train element. At most train stations, we had the opportunity to buy food. Sometimes we even received food gratis from army commissaries located at these train station. In this respect, our fate was better than the fate of other evacuees.

In Rostov, we separated. A part of the Lanowitz group continued to Siberia. I and a few others remained in Rostov and joined a Kolkhoz. With me were “Hirsch Bar-Mazur and his daughter, Byya Goldberg, Hershele Solomon (son of Raisa Shakhnes), Berel Plazel the Hunchback, and others. We spent three months in the Rostov Kolkhoz. When rumors circulated the German army is approaching Rostov, we left the Kolkhoz. Each of us went his way. I chose to travel in the direction of Bukhara. Berel, the Hunchback was the only one who joined me going to Bukhara.

We arrived in Bukhara, looked around and slept in the town's main park. We were left with hardly any funds. I sent Berel to a nearby Kolkhoz to purchase matches and sell them at the railroad station. We lived off these proceeds. Byya Goldberg joined us in Bukhara. I developed a trade in vests. I bought them in Bukhara and sold them in Chekalov.

After some months, we met Hershele Solomon, grandson of Shakhnes. He was about 20. He lived with us only a short while. He contracted typhus and died shortly thereafter. We buried him in the hospital yard. The local administration forbade us to take him to the cemetery, fearing outbreak of an epidemic.

Our vest trade covered a certain geographical area between Bukhara and Tashkent. During our trading period, we met Shlomo Taitel (Tamri), who brought us news from Batya and Pnina (Melamed). Shlomo had, in the meantime, been released from his work camp. In Tashkent, we met the Shmokh family (formerly, Lanowitz's Mayor), Jonathan Fogel (Marriage Registrar) and his sisters.

I settled in Chekalov, continuing to sell vests in its market. I was able to support myself from this trade. One day, I discovered Zuni Rabin and his wife at the market. They did not recognize me. I called to them and our meeting was an emotional one. Thereafter, we met again several times. Zuni and his wife joined us. After awhile, our trading became more difficult and more dangerous. I decided instead to register for work, to become a worker until the arrival of better days. At that time, I already lived in Yeletsk. I became part of a team that worked in the forest belonging to the Pavelsk district, Chekalov province. In addition to my work assignment, I also did some trading in the local market. One day, I saw Dr. Lutek Eisenstat (the physician that helped Reichman during his trial) trying to sell a wrist watch. I recognized him immediately and asked him the reason why he was selling his watch. He explained that his wife was about to give birth and he needed the proceeds. I lent him 20,000 rubles instead. He returned my loan after a short time, mailing it to Pavelsk. He apparently found a position in the medical field. I never saw him again.

In Pavelsk, I was recruited to join a labor camp located in Magnitogorsk. I bid goodbye to all my Lanowitz friends and left for my new assignment alone.

Zuni, Jonathan Fogel, Shmokh, Yizhak Mani, Babzi & Rachel Shmokh, remained in Pavelsk. Jonathan Fogel was already married and had a child. My transfer occurred in 1944. I later heard that these men joined the Polish army so we did not meet again. In Magnitogorsk, I worked a full year in a factory that processed molten iron named “Magniteka”. The factory employed close to a million workers. The working conditions were good, but I suffered from the local climate. I contracted typhus and had to leave the place. Instead, I volunteered to join the Red Army. I participated in various battles. I was wounded near Czenstochova, Poland and was transferred to a military hospital in Grudziandz/Poland (near Gdansk) in May, 1945.

After I was released from the hospital on May 12, 1945, I traveled to Lanowitz to see what had happened to our town. In Shepetivka (a railroad junction north of Lanowtiz), I met Shalom Segal and Hayim Nathan Gittleman. Shalom left for Tarnopil and Hayim Nathan and I left for Lanowitz. Our town was completely destroyed. Even the remains of houses had been cleared by the Germans.

The only houses that remained standing were the main synagogue, the churches, the house of Shiya Natanes, that of Byrel Pacht - where the tailor's artel was located, that of Moshe Gurvich Marinkowitz - where the shoemaker's artel was located, the house of Michel, the Blacksmith where the court was housed; the house of Hayim Nathan opposite Michel Gladner where the Post Office was located and the house of Benny Hayim Leibes, which housed the government cafeteria. Below the cafeteria was the house of Shlomo Plezlis.

None of the Jewish residents remained. We were told that the daughter of Nakhum Kreper and Raisa the hunchback-lady had survived. We looked for them but were unable to locate them.

I stayed with Andrian. They bedded me on a mattress that, they said, belonged to Sarah Katz, the daughter of Shiya Natanes. They claimed that they found the mattress on the street. I was unable to elicit from them any information regarding the fate of Lanowitz Jews. They even refused to speak about the fate of my mother. Their only comment was that she died and is no longer among us.

I could not remain any longer “in Lanowitz.” The nightmares I experienced that night drove me to leave the town the next day. Before I left the town forever, I wanted to visit my loved ones at the mass grave. My hosts warmed that Bandera groups are nearby, that it is too dangerous for me to go there. Hayim Nathan did not dare go with me. I left my hometown without visiting the graves of those dear to me.


[Hebrew pages 113-118] [Yiddish pages 352-359]

This Is How We Lived In Russia

By Batya (Melamed) Taitel

 

Chapter I: A Secret Wedding

When the Soviet administration was established (in Lanowitz) in late 1939, Shlomo (Taitel) was accepted for a position of bookkeeper in the education department. We knew that under Soviet administration no job is secure, especially in the case of Shlomo. As a former trader, he was subject to be classified under paragraph 11, facing arrest and deportation at any time. Despite this uncertainty, we decided to build a common future, as if the future is assured we decided to get married.

The wedding was conducted in secret. Our parents insisted that we have a traditional wedding despite the hostility of the (Soviet) regime to such religious practices. For the sake of our parents, our wedding was conducted in conformance with all local customs. My parents' house door was shut and windows barred so no light could be seen from the outside. Only a few persons, those willing to take the (political) risk, were invited to the ceremony. Our joy was mixed with apprehension as to what the future portended.

The wedding ceremony was conducted exactly as prescribed by tradition. We used the same Khupah (a wedding canopy held by four posts) that had been used to wed local couples for generations. The bridegroom recited the traditional blessing and other honorees proceeded with their traditional parts. Rabbi Ahareli, the last and most tragic of Lanowitz's rabbis, conducted the ceremony.

While the seven blessings were being recited with gusto, the ceremony's proceedings became known outside the house. Next, the door opened and two soldiers in Red Army uniforms entered the house. They sat quietly at the men's table, not uttering a word. Those reciting the blessings stopped in their tracks, terrified of having been caught participating in an anti-regime act. The soldiers rose from their seats to calm the audience, begging them to continue and complete the ceremony. The soldiers told those sitting near them that they were Jews, but had not in the past had the opportunity to witness a traditional Jewish wedding. Their pleas to complete the wedding ceremony failed to relax the tension in the room. The soldiers noticed the fearful atmosphere. Only after the soldiers rose to kiss the men sitting near them, did the audience calm down, enabling the ceremony to be completed. This episode was remembered and recalled for a long, long time.

We returned to work the next day, continuing to wonder whether those two soldiers were planted. The week passed quietly. On Saturday we had a reception for our friends and work colleagues.

Chapter II: Our Exile from Lanowitz

Pnina, my sister, worked as a secretary to the town's mayor. One evening she returned home to inform us that she was asked (at her workplace) about Shlomo's background. She admitted to the interrogator that Shlomo was a former trader. We became frightened, certain that we would be deported from Lanowitz, exiled to an unknown destination. However, the episode had a happy ending. Shlomo was rejected for army service. His work performance was apparently satisfactory, and he kept his job.

Meanwhile the German-Soviet war broke out. The German army attacked Soviet-occupied Poland. We heard reports that the German army is already 40 kilometers from our town. We could hear the sound of approaching artillery. The Soviet authorities were in disarray and nervous. (Local) Jews were uncertain whether and where to escape to. They hoped for a miracle that would save them, as was the case when they faced enemies in the past; they were at a loss as to what to do.

We, as employees of the Soviet administration, knew that we must escape with the rest of the authorities. Our plan was to move to Teofipol for a few days, and later perhaps return to our families in Lanowitz. As matters developed, we had to leave hurriedly. I left with only the clothes on my back. I said goodbye to my mother. My father was, at that moment, in the synagogue. I had no time to find him and part from him before my departure.

My mother was in shock, unable to assess quickly the unfolding events. When she recovered, she went to Shlomo's office to have a parting word with him. By the time she reached his office, he had already left. She fainted in his office. Shlomo left before me with the rest of the office personnel. These officials knew better than we did that it was imperative to leave immediately. Shlomo left without notifying me of his departure plans.

Chapter III: Byya Kuzazker

After we left town (by train), it became obvious to all of us that our departure would not last a few days, stopping at Teofipol, but instead a journey to a far -off destination for an indeterminate period. Our journey continued in a confused and depressing atmosphere. More than anything, I felt the pain of separation from Shlomo. I had no idea when and where we would see each other again. Suddenly I was alone, separated from all those dear to me, left to fend for myself.

I found Shlomo accidentally, at one of the railroad stations. He was about to hand out the last paychecks to his Education department employees. He had taken the payroll with him, and was paying each employee his due.

The coachman (who was apparently the one who was forced to bring both Shlomo and Arye Ginzburg to this railroad station. See Arye Ginzburg's story, #15) decided that he was not “married” to this forced exodus. His intuition told him that if he continued to transport these refugees eastward, he would likely be dragged along with the rest of these refugees. To avoid such a fate, he broke some part of his wagon and announced to his passengers that he could not continue further. Instead, he returned to Lanowitz.

When Shlomo finished paying his employees, each left for his chosen destination. We were left alone. I broke down and cried. Even Shlomo was bewildered as no one remained with us. At that moment Byya Goldberg (Kuzazker) came over. Sensing my plight he said: “I will not leave you, do not worry, I will travel with you”. Moshe Gruber, and Willy, the son of Yossi Kleinman also joined us. On the way, we were joined by Hannah, Moshe's sister Byya who mitigated our feeling of loneliness. I will forever remember Byya's good deed.

Chapter IV: A Russian Jew Speaks Hebrew

At the Bila Tserkva (south of Kiev) railroad station, we were permitted to board a military train. We did not ask the soldiers for their destination. We were intent to move eastward regardless of the train's destination.

The train took us to Astrakhan (at the mouth of the Volga River and Caspian Sea). The locals greeted us with bread and water. After days of hunger and unimaginable suffering, I will forever remember their great deed. From Astrakhan, we sailed by ship to Makhachkala/Dagestan, a harbor on the Caspian Sea. I mention this town because the locals said that we were the first Jewish refugees to have arrived there. When we were sent from Makhachkala to Khazav'yurt/Dagestan (50 kilometers west of Makhachkala), we had the added distinction of having been the first Europeans that local residents had ever met. [The authoress is perhaps alluding to the fact that locals had never encountered Polish refugees before. Dagestan, a Soviet republic, was relatively isolated from the rest of Russia before WWII. Makhachkala had, according to Encyclodedia Judaica, vol. 12, pp. 478-481, a significant Hebrew-speaking Jewish population. It is likely that Khazav'yurt, a smaller town, had one aswell.- Ed]

We arrived in town without any instructions as to who to turn to for help. We approached a municipal official who happened to be of German origin. When he noticed that we were Jews, he was most unhelpful. We were fortunate to meet a Jewish official, a so-called Mountain Jew [Also known as Tats, a Jewish tribe that inhabited this area for centuries, speaks a Judeo-Tat, using cursive Hebrew script. For details see Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 12, pp. 478-481, and vol. 10, p. 441]. He did not speak Yiddish but, to our surprise, addressed us in Hebrew. He inquired as to problems we encountered dealing with the German speaking official, and warned us against dealing any further with him. When he heard that Shlomo was an experienced accountant, this official found him a job in the agricultural ministry office.

We women were assigned work in an artel (residence) for invalids. We were well treated there. The residence was managed by two local Jews. The invalid residents regularly expressed their appreciation of the good care we provided.

After sometime, Shlomo was ordered transferred to the front as a civilian helper to the Red Army. I felt lonely and confused. The greatest fear one has during wartime is losing contact with one's kin. I knew that the Hebrew-speaking “Mountain” Jew had been assigned to guide the group of civilian conscripts to the front. This Jew had visited Palestine once, to see his father, one of its early immigrants. I decided to accompany Shlomo to his front assignment. I counted on the guide to not stop me from coming along.

The guide was a wonderful fellow. He went so far as to encourage me to come along. The men marched in long columns, and I alongside them. He would walk with me, consoling me, and expressed the hope for better days in the future.

Chapter V: I Organize An Escape

After we reached the train station, the men were loaded onto a train but I was not permitted to join them. I was forced to return to Khazav'yurt, to my workplace. The next day I became ill, suffering serious pains. The cause of my pain remained a mystery. This condition continued for several days. My friends thought my end was near. In the meantime, the German army continued to advance towards Baku. (They were stopped at Groznyy/Chechnia Ed.) I immediately forgot my pains and regained my energy.

The area defense was augmented by requiring local citizens to dig a wall -trench to block the path of a river running through our town, Pnina and I were the only healthy persons at our residence for Invalids to be conscripted.

We worked under extremely harsh conditions. Our bodies were attacked by millions of mosquitoes that inhabited the riverbank. Food was also scarce and the news from the front discouraging. A Romanian Jew, who worked with us, alerted me to the seriousness of our plight. I decided to organize an escape for our residence staff. A stout Caucasian woman showed us an escape route. On the way, we found out that she was a Jewess. We left at midnight on this dangerous mission. The previous day a similar escape plan was leaked to the authorities. The men were caught, and expected to be punished severely.

We ran and hid alternately for 40 kilometers, fearful of being caught by the local authorities. When we reached Makhachkala, we noticed the wide damage to the town that had been caused by aerial bombardments. As we continued (southward) I experienced again a feeling of deep loneliness in the absence of Shlomo. We continued regardless to escape the Germany army. Shlomo knew our escape destination. As his unit broke up, he was able to catch up with us. We signed up to join a convoy headed for Siberia.

Chapter VI: Siberia

We arrived in Siberia in the winter, dressed in summer clothing. We were housed in a barn outfitted with bunk beds. I was assigned to cut down trees in a forest. One day my saw got stuck in a tree. I was unable to dislodge it. Exasperated, I sat down and cried, fearful of returning from work without my saw. A burly Siberian saw my plight; with his strong hand, he released my saw, enabling me to return home.

After some time, we were moved into barracks with other Jews, and our living conditions improved.

In 1945 we left Siberia with other (Polish) repatriates and headed for Szczecin/Poland.

From there, we moved to Pfaffendorf/Germany.

For some reason, men and women were housed separately in this Displaced Persons Camp. We felt as if we were again in a ghetto. One woman became hysterical. We all felt desperate that despite having survived the war, we may not be saved.

After 1-2 hours, as we were feeling low, the door to our barrack opened, and a smiling young man, introduced himself as Bolek and said: “Shalom.” His magical words and self-confidence lifted our spirits. We again felt at ease, confident that we had reached the end of our said journey. Our destination was the land of Israel.


[Hebrew pages 119-120] [Yiddish pages 360-361]

An Addendum to Batya's Report

By Shlomo Taitel

When I was taken to the front as a civilian worker, our camp was attacked by German forces. In the resulting chaos, I chose to escape, to try and return to my wife in Khazav'yurt. The road eastward was being bombarded from the air. Fires chased us as we moved. I ran for hours. When I could no longer continue, I lay down in a field to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I noticed that my leg became swollen and I could not continue. A military convoy passed me, and a soldier noticed my plight. He arranged for a Red Cross ambulance to take me to a nearby town. From there, I was taken by train to Kharkov (probably Baku, for Kharkov was already in German hands-Ed). The wounded were housed in a nearby military camp. After I recovered, we were told that former Polish citizens may register locally to enlist in the Polish army. I was sent to a medical examination. The medical team worked slowly. Twenty volunteers were examined, but only one was accepted. It appeared that they were not interested in Jewish recruits. I was turned down with a person from Visogrudek and one from Warsaw. With our release-papers we were allowed to proceed to Tashkent. It was there that I contacted my family by letter and waited for a reply.

We heard rumors that the Caucasus region is being bombarded. The Red Cross helped me again. I received a letter from Batya that her town is under bombardment. She added that they were waiting for me to escape eastward together.

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