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VIII. Appendix

Selections from a diary kept on the illegal immigrant ship Pietro 2 – Copied directly from the manuscript without editing or change except for punctuation.

Monday – October, 15, 945 On the Way to the Ship in Italy

… just as the evening of 7 March 1944 when I joined the partisan camp put its stamp on my life and directed the course of my fate, so this very evening, October 15,1945, exactly ten months after I left Vilna and I am an 'Oleh,' symbolizing and representing a new chapter in my life. How will I begin this period? In what manner? Is this not a stage in the cruel war for existence that does not pass over even that ideal Land . ? To the City? To the Kibbutz? To my uncle, resume studies, . . is true that my mother and sister are really alive, will I benefit from those same things? What fulfillment. And with these thoughts I fall asleep leaning on my friend's back.

I woke up after a hard blow to my side. The car stopped. From the distance pairs of lights creeping forward could be seen. These are the cars that are traveling behind us and by them it is possible to judge the winding and twisting road that we traveled on through the stillness of the night on the soil of Italy – that second partner in the Berlin-Rome Axis, which is now serving as the route for illegal immigration … isn't this a historical paradox?

Walking on foot, one following the other. The ground is sandy and it is good for walking and it does not make any noise, a twisted path, of boils, scorpions and hills. We run across the railroad tracks in silent elation. Isn't this a page out of the story of the partisan camp?

The edge of the sea; the waves sparkle with their phosphorescent light as they lick the coast … I look with admiration on these young men from Eretz Yisrael who are standing half-naked and shoeless in the water as they direct the small boats from time to time.

Our ship hints to us with its few lights winking at us: “Here, on me is your hope. Only on me and with my help will you attain your passionate desire – to reach Eretz Yisrael.” I am reminded of the lines of a poem that I read someplace and

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sometime, back in the Good Times – “Wonderful ship/from the distance you come.”

Tuesday – October 16, 1945

Only when I woke up at 6 in the morning did I realize in what kind of 'hole' we were sleeping; in every way, it was like a dark storeroom. On the shelves on the wall was an assortment of merchandise randomly stacked and even we looked like the iron bars or wooden logs. From a square hole, a ray of light peeked through from the deck. In addition, two enclosed lanterns cast dull light.

It seemed that we were moving away from the coast. The engine ran, the sailors were at their stations and everything was working.

A commandant with full authority was appointed. He picked the kitchen crew and the orderlies. We were very happy at this moment – to breathe pure air. In all reality, when I came up on to the deck, I felt like a fish that just returned to water. One by one, our group appeared on the deck. They looked like they had been taken out of an inferno: sweaty, hair in disarray and wearing dusty clothing. But in spite of all of this, you could read on their faces, “This is our last obstacle and we will certainly overcome it.”

The sea is more or less calm. From time to time, we have to go below deck for safety reasons. We comply unenthusiastically. The orderlies do their best. On our left is lovely Italy with its beaches and vineyards, its forests and bridges. We begin to think of the days of the voyage. This one and that one complained – after all, they are Jews. All arrive at a seven days trip and agree as they nod their heads saying: “If it would only be the seventh day, it would not bother me any more …” Meanwhile, we manage. Meals and water – one canteen for seven people - are distributed; guard duty is assigned. We sit and fraternize for a bit. We sing and get into the routine of life during the voyage.

The moon rises, the large southern stars shine brightly, twinkle and hint. The lapping waves, the humming engine and the sound of the wind join together in splendid romantic harmony sprinkling you with a sensation of hallucination.

The Holy Sabbath – Day Six of the Journey to the Holy Land – With Best Wishes for Success

October 20, 1945

11:00 o'clock between the Archipelagos Islands and Cyprus; from there only one more day. You prevail over being thrown about, the stench of the hold and the overwhelming filth that is even worse than in the forest. You set your sights on the stretches of water and you look or you lie on your back and do not take your eye off the pale clouds roaming like the stork in the blue sky. The sun kindly warms you and the breeze dispels your tiredness, your nostrils breathe

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deeply while your lungs take in the refreshing pure air that provides you with a hearty appetite.

The ship sailed with ease over the waves capped with foam sparkling in the sunlight lapping at both sides. They were like a massive formation of tanks without end moving broadly on a flat plain. Look into the distance and you will see that they are all similar. Each bursting forth from its hiding place to the right place, capped boldly with foam to strike (like the anonymous Russian solider following the attack command Na Hura) catch and disappear. His place would be taken by his fellow soldier and the same exercise would repeat itself, never ending never ceasing. Eyes never tire gazing on the vast expanse called the sea. Every minute, you see something new, surprising and interesting. You need not be a romantic or an ascetic. Just patience – concentrate for a moment, 10, 20 … the more you concentrate, the more you will be accustomed to it for it will interest you more …

Lunch was announced and we hurry to get the serving. Distribution begins with class 'G' and continues according to groups. From 12:00 midnight a blackout will be declared as we are nearing the dangerous places for 'those returning to Zion.' Really, it will be very hard to remain in the hold for twenty-four hours under these conditions.

I remember the railroad car I stayed in for twenty-four hours in Stanislawow in Russia without even getting up from my spot, how I rolled under the engine without documents, how I crossed the Alps on foot and more and more … They all embody a long chain of pain, troubles and suffering, without knowing the dangers mixed up in each. There is a time when I benefit from them: “The Land of Israel is acquired only through suffering,” and my suffering for her is dear to me, my illegal immigration, and even more so that for me, it is finally coming to an end. The epilogue is sure to follow …

Sunday – October 22,1945
The Seventh Day of the Voyage
Cyprus

It was a sleepless night. The ship was carried from wave to wave and its sides creaked. From time to time, you felt a gush of water rushing through a crack - and above all, the suffocating heat. The heavy vapor from the mouths of 171 people does not disperse quickly. Breathing is hard for me. The forehead and temples sweat as usual. I cannot bear it any longer and I go up onto the deck.

With great effort, I pull myself out the packed 'pencil case' known here as a bed. From below, I bump into heads and various appendages pressed tightly one against the other and impossible to differentiate what belonged to whom. The closer you got to the opening, the more you felt the stream of fresh air moving slowly in our direction.

I could only take a deep breath when the upper half of my body got to the deck accompanied by the groans of the ill and those asleep. I stood with my mouth opened wide deeply

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sucking in the wonderful 'clear' air that in reality was absolutely awful.

Little by little, my eyes adjusted to the dark. I felt drops dripping on me for a while. The sky was cloudy and the crescent moon as well as the stars was invisible. With lights out, the boat continued plodding along in darkness like the old legendary anti-Nazi partisan fighter in the forest 'Batyah' [Papa] crossing the marsh in a stormy dark night.

I wrap myself in a blanket like I would as if it were (not meaning any disrespect) a Talit and stretch myself out in a corner shaking from the downpour and delighted that I can fill my lungs with fresh air. Whispering is heard from the captain's bridge – short conferences. Apparently, we are close to Cyprus, but the fog hides it from us. This, too, will pass and tomorrow at this very moment …!


When I awoke, there was a cramp in my right leg – it would not move. The head orderly already stood at his post arranging those coming and going [to the lavatory].
At home with Bilha and our second & third generation, Jerusalem 2002

 

The second & third generation at our home, Jerusalem 2003

 

At the Israel Museum with my two daughters and my son's-in-law ,2004

 

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