by Lipa Goz
Translated by Sara Mages
In 1934, I left for Kibbutz Hachshara in Iwacewicze [Ivacevièy], Polesie. My parents didn't object to my leaving for Hachshara [pioneer training] because they were Zionists. Our home was a Zionist home that gave his sons a national education. All the children in our home studied at Tarbut school in town.
Two years after I returned from the kibbutz my immigration to Israel was approved. My parents were happy to have the great privilege to be represented in the Holy Land by their son. In that, they saw a source of hope that maybe one day they will arrive to Eretz-Yisrael.
Unfortunately, a great disaster befell our family and it was like a thunderbolt on a clear day. My young brother, Tzvi, was killed in a sawmill accident. I cannot express this tragedy in words. That black Friday, when the accident happened, was etched deep in my soul. My beloved brother took with him to his grave all the joy of life of our home and our family. The tragedy happened about six months before my emigration to Israel. After the accident, my parents, especially my mother, strongly opposed that I will leave them. My mother cried incessantly and repeatedly said with a broken heart: I cannot send my only son.
I was in a difficult situation, without the ability to decide one way or another. As I was skipping between the two thoughts I was fortunate that one Sabbath the Stolin Rabbi came to Rafalovka and he was the deciding factor.
As was the custom on Saturday evening, the rabbi received an audience who came to him for advice and words of encouragement and comfort. On that Sabbath I came home to visit my parents. When I entered, I found them sitting depressed on both sides of the table. Both of them cried that their son wants to leave them and immigrate to Israel. To find a solution, and a way out of the confusion, they decided to go to the rabbi and ask him to decide.
We came to the rabbi. My father zl and I sat to his left and my mother zl sat across from him weeping bitterly. My mother recounted to him the story of the terrible disaster that befell our family, and told him that their only Kaddish wants to leave them. At the end she turned to him with a request to advise her to do.
The rabbi replied without hesitation that she should let me go and that he pins his hopes on me that the rest of the Jews will follow me, and young people like me, to their homeland. The rabbi asked me personally to remember my parents and to make sure that they will arrive to Israel after me.
Since my immigration to Israel I had the hope and belief that my parents will join me in spite of the unrest that prevailed in the country at the time. I remember well a letter that I received from my father before the outbreak of the war, a letter saturated with faith for the fulfillment of their great aspiration, and among others he said: we are here in a wave of big clouds and there is hope for heavy rain, only God can help us.
However, the hand of the Nazi beast, which fell abruptly, put an end to his ambition. I was left a scion of my extensive family. Every year I fulfill my internal duty by lighting a memorial candle and a Yizkor prayer.
by Tzila Gorodinski née Bliznyuk
Translated by Sara Mages
Dear God, I'll tell you about the pain in my heart, about my past, my childhood, I'll tell you about a girl who loved to sing and write poetry, I'll tell you about my happy family, about parents who worked hard there, far away in anti-Semitic Poland, about a girl who was happy in her family, I'll tell you that I loved you, my great God, you created it all and have chosen us, you disappointed me, my God, a great disappointment.
Suddenly we were here without a shepherd, lost like blind, without a way. Everything was burning around us and the family burned in rivers of blood.
Please look, my God! Jewish bones are scattered in the fields without reaching burial, among them the bones of my family. I'll not be able to speak, to sing you a song of praise, I'll only be able to tell about destruction, tears and little and big children. I'll tell you about children crying without tears, about my sisters, about uncles and aunts, about my father and my mother.
I'll tell you about my home, about my sister Gita'le, about her husband Moshe Melamed, who were burned when she was in the seventh month of her pregnancy, about their two year old little daughter with her big and frightened blue eyes. I looked at my father and my mother. Suddenly they aged so much, they look at pregnant Gita'le, my sister Gita'le. Round and round fire and blood and corpses, everything is burning. My house was torn to shreds, the boards and the walls are burning.
Don't ask questions, my friends, I'll tell you about my sister Chaya and her husband, Naftali Gorenstein, and her family. I'll tell you, my friends, about my sisters Rachel, Rivka and Chana, who have not yet started a family. In the dark, when everything was burning, I asked, play the guitar, cry for my father, Yakov Leib, and my mother, Bella, the wife and the good mother. I'll tell you, my friends, that I, and my young sister Rosa, remained from the entire family, survivors and refugees.
My brother, Tzvi, also remained in the wilderness of Siberia.
I'll tell you about my late husband, Shlomo, who escaped from Nowogrodek Ghetto, escaped to the forest through the tunnel that they had dug. He was relentless and his ambition was to destroy and take revenge on the Germans who destroyed his family and their town. My husband organized and acted in the forest and saved hundreds of Jews who escaped to the forest, but he wasn't able to save the children of Nowogrodek. You were speechless then, my great God, you didn't see, you didn't hear the wailing of the children of the ghettos, among them the children of Rafalovka Ghetto.
The Germans, the Poles and the Ukrainians sang songs of praise to Hitler, songs of praise to killing and blood,abuse of women. They sang songs of praise for the rape of young women and little girls.
My beloved mother, I couldn't help you. I couldn't take you out of the rivers of blood. You were already among the murdered wallowing in their blood. I was left alone. I' extend my hand to you in my dream, crying and see your sad eyes.
I'll tell you, my friends, about my brother, Asher Bliznyuk, who lived in Russia and was the eldest in the family. He, his wife and two sons, lived in Kiev, the capitol of Ukraine in the big Soviet Union. The Jews of the city believed in it. Suddenly, they took them by force, all of them together
to the forest, all the Jews of Kiev, killed them all and also the members of my family. The Ukrainians were active participants to Hitler's act of extermination.
God, help the survivors of the terrible Holocaust, help the survivors of Rafalovka, a Jewish town that disappeared from the eyes of the world, this world who wanted to forget the killings.
Beloved Rafalovka, you always exist in our eyes, beautiful, calm and quiet. The school where we studied was a shelter for boys and girls, a place for the revival of the Hebrew language. Where are you my beautiful town, I have no pictures of you, my town, I have no picture of the school and not even a picture of the family, my beloved family.
God, why are you chasing us? Look, dear God, everything is blooming around, look at the beautiful mountains and look at the mountain goats climbing easily and happily to their homes in the tall mountains.
Hitler killed all my family. Can you look straight in my eyes? Please God, enough killing, enough tears and sadness. Help my nation, God. Help the masses of miserable orphans.
by Rachel Gilboa née Gruber
Translated by Sara Mages
Fifty years have passed since I separated from my beloved family zl. The family photo is standing before me. It was taken in the afternoon, inside the fruit garden that surrounded our house, on the eve of my immigration to Eretz-Yisrael. My mother, Chaya Sara zl, that her eyes were swollen from a lot of crying on that day. It was probably resulted from an unconscious sense that we would never see each other again Behind her standing my sister, Leah'le, she's also very sad and her natural smile was erased from her lips Rachel, me, the immigrant to Eretz-Yisrael, is standing to her left. Even my face looks serious, very sad and express what took place in my heart during the summer vacation that I spent at home before the immigration. To my left stands my brother, Shmuel. His face is also sealed and expresses the seriousness of the separation. Avraham's bride, Itka, daughter of Nathaniel Meniuk, is standing next to Leah'le. Their wedding took place sometime after my immigration. Missing in the picture is my father, Meir Gruber zl, who passed away in 1933 and, of course, our eldest brother, Michael zl, who immigrated to Israel before 1934.
Michael, the eldest, was the first to break the boundary of our town and traveled to study at a high-school in Russia.
The days were the days of the outbreak of the revolution in Russia and the studies were disrupted. Somehow he made his way to Vilna and finished his studies at the Hebrew Teachers' Seminary. He met there his future wife, Miriam Isaacson zl, and they got married at our home in Rafalovka.
Michael and Miriam had two sons: Moshe, his name today is Moshe Gilboa and he serves as Israel's ambassador in Athens the capital of Greece. Meir Gilboa received agricultural education and today he is a member of a settlement in the Negev. In 1938, my beloved sister, Leah'le zl, married Ben-Zion Meniuk who returned from Eretz-Yisrael after he studied for one year at the Institute of Technology in Haifa and served
in the Haganah. A daughter was born to them and they postponed their immigration because of his parents' request. Ben-Zion zl packed, together with me, his suitcases for immigration and wrote the destination, Jerusalem, on them. However, he wasn't able to immigrate before the German invasion.
Ben-Zion escaped to the partisans, was appointed head of mixed group of Jews and Ukrainians and fought valiantly to avenge his family's blood. When the message was received in the partisans' group about the decision to grant Ben-Zion the Outstanding Partisan Medal, and he was invited to Moscow to receive it, one of the anti-Semitic partisans shot him. By the way, this testimony was given to the Ministry of Defense by the surviving partisans who live with us in Israel. I, the sole survivor in the family, was granted to receive in his name the Fighters against Nazis Medal. which was granted to him on the basis of this testimony.
My brother, Avraham, and his wife, Itka (Meniuk), lived next to my mother at the Schneider family house that they purchased from Leibe zl. Shmuel, the youngest brother, integrated in the store and worked with father. On the last year before the war he finally decided to immigrate to Israel and left for Beitar pioneer training in Baranowicze. When the war broke out he left in order to be with his mother and escape with her to Russia. But, the cruel fate wanted that Shmuel, the diligent and talented among us, will perish together with the rest of the family. People, who managed to escape from the death procession to the pits, told that my mother's last words were I thank you God that two of my children are in Eretz-Yisrael.
Our home was a Hebrew-Zionist home. All of us studied at Tarbut school. Michael, who was a Liberal General Zionist, wandered in the towns during his vacation and lectured about immigration to Eretz-Yisrael. Avraham and Shmuel were enthusiastic members of Beitar. I was a devote member of Hashomer Hatzair and Leah'le moderated the political debates that broke out at the dinner table. A Hebrew paper usually arrived to our home from Eretz-Yisrael, we read Hebrew literature, and spoke Hebrew.
My brothers aspired to immigrate to Eretz-Yisrael but, after the death of our father, they were forced to manage the store and provide income with mother.
A terrible war broke out and put an end to all the hopes of Avraham, Shmuel, Ben-Zion and Leah. They were murdered.
Mt brother, Michael, and his wife Miriam, passed away in Israel.
I survived, I continue the life of my beloved who were murdered by the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers just because they were Jews.
Translated by Rachel Zetland
We were a very close knit class and were active outside the classroom as well. The blue box of the Keren Kayemet was very important to us, as was the Hebrew language Once, we agreed to speak nothing but Hebrew for a whole week. Whoever broke this rule had to pay a fine to the blue box. We spoke Hebrew for a whole week. When our parents would talk to us in Yiddish we didn't answer, or we would answer in Hebrew. They got angry at me more than once, 'why am I not answering, what has gotten in to me? What's this game? '
I will never forget the celebrations at school. At Hanukah we put a big show on with all the pupils. On Purim, we would all go around the town in our costumes to raise money for Keren Kayemet le-Israel with the blue box. On Lag Ba'Omer we would spend the entire day in the field with bows and arrows. Before Shevu'ot we would go out to the nearby forests with the teacher, pick flowers and vegetables for the holiday. The next day we would spread out in the town with the produce and raise money for Keren Kayemet le-Israel. At the end of the year we would go out on trips. I particularly remember the trip we took when I was in 7th grade. It was a big trip, for three days, to Lutsk, a large city in our area. We sailed on steamboats on the Styr River. I remember perfectly the large synagogue of the Karaites, a very old synagogue and a cemetery.
In the Tarbut school there was a big library. From 5th grade I served as the librarian. I remember every book and every author. There was not a book in that library I did not read and then later I recommended books to other pupils. That is where my ongoing love for books began.
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