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[Page 259]

With Jonavers in Exile in Siberia

by Yitzchak Ben-David (Burstein)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

On the Sabbath of June 14, 1941, I left the house in which I lived on Uzaska Street in Kovno in order to go to work at the office on the Green Mountain near Petrovska. I walked in the middle of the free sidewalk. I was surprised to suddenly see dozens of army and civilian trucks laden with moveable objects, men, women and children, traveling in the direction of the train station accompanied by Soviet vehicles. All sorts of explanations of this matter came to my mind.

I arrived at the office. The Jonavers Rachel Levin, Tovia Kolbiansky (the son of Moshe and Rachel) and the director Shimon Merbiansky also worked there. It was through the latter that I was hired as chief accountant after I transferred to the Kemach factory where I continued my service for some time after the war.

Something was about to Transpire

An oppressive atmosphere pervaded the office. Everyone sensed that something was about to happen. I attempted to get in touch by telephone with my family in Jonava, but was not successful. Rumors spread that Jewish families were being sent to Siberia. I waited impatiently for the end of work. I hurried home to my sister Miriam Levin, with whom I lived for the final six months.

Two people were waiting for me at the entrance: The Comsomol member Leizke the Yellow, and a strange man who was a representative of the N.K.V.D. I was ordered to raise my hands. They searched my pockets, and searched through all of my personal belongings in my room. They informed me that I was a prisoner, and that they were bringing me to the train station in Jonava in order to reunite with my family along the way to Siberia.

My sister arrived in the meantime, and when she found out what was happening, she was smitten a second time. The first strike was that her husband Tzvi Levin was imprisoned when the Russians came to Kovno. He was held in the Yellow Prison, and she remained with two young children and with no means of livelihood aside from payments for the room and food. We parted without knowing if we would ever see each other again.

Meir Wolfovich lived downstairs in the house. He was the youngest son of Leiba, and studied in the gymnasium. We were put into a taxi and brought to Jonava, directly to the train station. I did not know at the time that my father was lying in bed sick. We passed by the Kemach. I requested that we stop so that I could pick up some personal belongings. They summoned Greenblatt who brought me suits, boots, coats and shoes. I had placed these there at the time the Soviets entered.

Family Meeting on a Cattle Car

The train station bustled like a hive with hundreds and thousands of people. A long chain of transport or cattle cars stood on the tracks. There were two Soviet guards next to each car. We were greeted by the N.K.V.D. official, my acquaintance and fellow townsman Shmuel Wichov. He seemingly apologized and said,

“Yitzchak, you will see that for you it will be better, for what will our fate bring? For the war is approaching.” We were brought to the car of Jonavers. A guard opened the lock and the latch and brought us up to the train car. Shmuel Chernman and Dr. Mordechai Wolfovich fell on my neck and kissed me. They poured vodka and said, “Drink, and it will be okay for you!” I emptied the cup. I looked around – and what did I see? In a corner on one of the shelves, my poor mother was sitting in agony. Father remained sick in the house, and who knew if she would see him again. Her daughters remained in Kovno, and what would be their fate? As she sat immersed in thoughts about the fate of the family members, suddenly her only son appeared as an angel from heaven! She hugged and kissed me with silent weeping. My sister Leah and her husband Dov Segalovsky with their year old child Uza surrounded me, as well as the other Jonavers in the train: Malka and Avraham Jochovsky, Nissan Goldshmidt – all of them young members of Beitar and the Revisionists who had gotten married that year. Nissan and Tzvi perished in the Reshety confinement camp in the region of Krasnoyarskaya in Siberia. Shmuel Chernman and Leiba Wolfovich were later taken from us. Three of us men remained: Dr. Mordechai Wolfovich, Yechiel Kerem of Wilkomir and I – with tense nerves. A deep mourning overtook all of us. Many questions drilled through the head: Where would the men be taken? Where were we being taken to? We did not want to utter the word Siberia on our lips – for a certain death from hunger and cold would await us there.

Stops Along the Way

The train moved along slowly. We wrote letters and scattered them along the tracks with a request to take them to a mailbox. We crossed the border into White Russia. At the first stop, we were ordered to choose three men to bring food, accompanied by a guard. I and two others exited the train. We breathed the fresh air into our chest. People who were simply dressed stared at us in curiosity. Sights such as this were not strange to them from previous years… We were informed that one of the trains that had just passed was full of men. I deduced from this that the men who had been taken from us were on that train. I found out that our train consisted of 20 cars – 18 for prisoners, a car for medical staff, and a car for N.K.V.D. workers. We received soup, meat and rolls according to the ration of 500 grams for an adult and 300 grams for a child. We returned to the train. We ate with an appetite, for it had been five days since we had eaten warm food.

Before we arrived at the Orsha Station, I found out that the war had broken out. The Lithuanians counted on a German victory and rejoiced that they would be able to return home shortly. We remain oppressed, for our hatred of the German Hitlerists was greater than our hatred of the current enemy.

The city of Orsha was a large railway junction. We stopped on a side track and once again left to bring food. We did not succeed in getting newspapers, for many people used the paper to smoke “makhorka”. We also filled up a bucket of “kipiatok” (hot water) and returned to the wagon with food; however we had no news to tell. Only as we continued our journey did I succeed in obtaining some sort of newspaper from which I learned that the situation on the fronts was not bright. Lithuanian cities were being abandoned, and battles were being fought near Minsk. I thought a great deal about the fate of our dear ones who were left behind.

Far from the Front

Our train crossed the border from Europe to Asia at the beginning of July. We entered the Ural Mountains, at the Plada manufacturing region. One morning we stopped at a remote stop. The guards permitted us to go out for a few hours. Anyone who has never been imprisoned cannot imagine the extent of the joy that we all felt. We burst out and approached a small pond. The women did laundry, and the men and children bathed. We breathed clear air far from the front, and approximately 2,500 kilometers from our Jonava. When we returned to the car, the guards did not close the door. They were sure that nobody would escape. The tension let up somewhat. We left the door slightly open and breathed easily. We found out from the guards that we were being taken to Siberia.

We moved slowly, for the railway tracks were full of trains with soldiers, arms and supplies. We arrived in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia on July 8. This was a giant station, the largest and most important on the Trans-Siberian Line. The station bustled with throngs of people. The pressure of the war could be felt. Our train left the Trans-Siberian Line and turned southward, toward the capital city of the Altai Krai, Barnaul. From there we traveled along thick pine forests toward the city of Biysk. This city resembled a large village. If it was already decreed upon us that we must be in Siberia, we would have been content to remain in that place. But that is not what fate had in mind.

On Trucks to an Undesirable Place

We were ordered to remove all of our luggage, and we were informed that trucks would come to take us to kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the area. In the meantime, the N.K.V.D. men approached us and conducted an additional search of our belongings. A Finnish knife that was a souvenir from my visit to Helsinki, pictures, and other things were taken from me. The trucks then arrived. The representatives of the farms understood the “living merchandise”, our muscles. They searched for families that were not caring for children. We fell prey to the representative of the Karpovsky Sovkhoz of the region of Soloneshnoye, Rodkov the medic, who served as a physician and a veterinarian.

We loaded up our luggage and went out in a caravan of ten trucks. We crossed a bridge over the Ob River. Other trucks set out to other sovkhozes of the area. We crossed the Katony River in ferries. We spent the night in a youth hostel in one of the villages. When we reached the final village on the dry plain, the drivers filled up with petroleum in preparation for the venture into the mountainous region. A sudden rainfall dampened the roads. The wheels got stuck and began to sink in the mud. We were forced to return to our hostel in the village below. We returned soaked, except for the elderly and children who sat in the drivers' cabins.

We set out on our way again in the afternoon. This time, we succeeded in reaching the summit of the mountain. A wide, mountainous plateau spread out before our eyes. It was completely empty and filled with grass at the height of a person. There was no living soul, except for our caravan. We fell asleep. When I woke up it was dark. The people in the trucks slept, but the drivers snuck away and went to the village of Berezovka among the clefts of rocks to sleep. This was at the edge of the Soloneshnoye region, occupying an area of 100 by 80 kilometers. Through the years this region became my second home. I worked there for 15 years. I crossed its length and width, without permission to leave it.

We continued on our multi-faceted journey along the tortuous mountains. Throughout the entire time, the following thoughts never left our minds: Where are they taking us? What awaits us – a human life or a dog's life? We arrived in a remote and desolate village of Lyotyevo. This was a large town of wealthy people before the revolution. Later they were exiled from there, and a large area was left abandoned. During the mid 1950s, a tractor and combine station was built there to work the land according to Khrushchev's plan. I was then appointed as the chief bookkeeper. The town grew and even succeeded in getting electricity. In the interim we continued our journey and arrived in the Madbadivka Farms – one of the five units that comprised the Karpovsky Sovkhoz. Those traveling in the first truck were designated for that sovkhoz. They remained there at the crossroads. Most of them were Jews from Wilkomir, such as the Peltz, Yaffa, Chait, Riklansky, Janovsky, and Zaks families. The rest were Lithuanians. Of course, I wanted to remain there at the crossroads, where automobile connections were possible, but the reality was otherwise. We would also have preferred that all of the Jonavers remain together in one place, but blind fate also thwarted that desire. We arrived at Komsomolskaya Farm in the evening. All of the Specifraslanskas (our official designation) who were brought there and had traveled by wagon were set up in the small hall of the tiny settlement, which consisted of only seven homes next to the gorge of the small Sholovolicha stream. Among them, there were also Jewish families from Wilkomir – young Shapira and his wife, and Krikin and his wife. The tractor driver started the tractor, and we continued our journey to the Balshaya-Tucha Farm. Once again we ascended mountains and glided down trails until we arrived at the farm. The women and children were put up in the hall, and the men and unmarried women in empty granaries. The Jonavers were split up along the way: the Wolfovich family went to Pashchanka Farm to work in cutting trees and transporting them to the sawmill. In the morning, there was once again a thorough search of our belongings. We asked for permission to heat up the bath house so that we could wash up from the filth of the journey. When everything was ready and we prepared ourselves for our bath, we received a command from the director, the crafty Vizinsky, that we must report immediately to work. All of our pleading was for naught. The time was pressing. We must weed the fields and provide food to the front.

Work in the Heat during the Hot Season

We set out to the fields, a journey of five or six kilometers with the brigadier at the head. The following people were in the group: Yochel Chernman, Batya Goldshmidt, Malka Jochovsky, Moshel Monosevich and my sister Leah. The brigadier showed us the field which we were to weed. I was appointed as supervisor and was told that I was permitted not to work, and that I would receive four rubles per day. The quota for each person was four dunams. The field was filled with thistles and wild grass, to the point where it was hard to make out the oats. The women were equipped with parasols and gloves to protect them from the great heat and the prickly thorns. We had a measure of water. The women were immersed in worry, as were the men. Yochel advised that we rest every ten minutes. They lay down on the soft mat of grass and chatted as if they had come for a vacation. When I advised them to get up for work, all of them spoke up at once: “Look at him, how dedicated he is to the Soviet government…” The sun set and we had only cleared one dunam instead of 10 hectares (20 dunams). The area was indeed clear. Thus passed two days.

I had the opportunity to chat with a group of female workers, natives of the farm. They explained to me how they met the quotas. They would cut down the heads of the thistles with a scythe, and not concern themselves if they also cut down oats… We also attempted this method, but with our hands, for the use of tools was forbidden. I requested from the work director that I be transferred to another job. I was sent to work in preparing fodder for the winter.

I worked hard. The heat was great. Drops of sweat rolled down from my face and my body, which was half naked. There was a pail of cold water next to me. I would drink it with thirst. We built up the heap in the middle of the valley. When the base reached a height of two meters, a worker ascended and began to bind the fodder, which I then placed in the heap. As it grew higher, I exchanged the pitchfork for a longer one, which reached four meters in length. The work became more difficult and backbreaking. Our hands trembled, however, we made sure to bind the fodder well so that it would be properly preserved.

My Value Increased

From the first days of my work in that area, my name appeared on the chart of honor as a Stachonovich who fulfilled his quota by 200%. Of course this was not correct, but management wanted to set somebody up as an example so that others would increase their energy in their work. My bread ration was increased to 700 grams. The local residents treated me with honor, and I was appointed as the head of the group. Discipline was standardized and if anyone acted lazy, I would attack him with a fundamental, juicy Russian curse. This increased my value even more.

One day I received an invitation to appear in the main office of the central farm. I was freed from work, and I walked the ten kilometers by foot. The director received me politely, and invited me for a meal at his house. He treated me to vodka and a modest meal. Then he asked me to become the accounting director of the Komsomolskaya Farm. I agreed on the condition that he would give my family and me an appropriate dwelling. I was promised this, and two weeks later, I moved my mother, my sister and her daughter Uza to the new dwelling. It had a small corridor with a dirt floor. The room itself was nine square meters, with an oven and a shelf for sleeping and suitcases. This was a Garden of Eden compared to the previous conditions.

As I have stated earlier, the farm consisted of seven houses compressed into a narrow valley. Everything was neglected and abandoned on account of the casualness of the local people, and also of course due to the lack of working hands – for most of the men had been drafted into the army. We barely received any food provisions aside from bread. We decided to purchase a cow at any price. The price for the cow, “Burka” was 1000 rubles, a dinner jacket, dresses, pillow cases and sheets. We concluded the sale successfully at the end of August 1941. “Burka” sustained us throughout the war years and after.

[Drawing page 263: Uncaptioned. A man with a prison outfit, a Star of David and wooden shoes, holding a document or a book.]

Meeting with my Sister

I wrote to my sister in the Land of Israel at the time that I arrived. I received a telegram from the Land about one month later, stating that money and a letter were on their way. In the letter we found out that my sister Miriam with her two children were also in Siberia, near Biysk, approximately 200 kilometers from us. Rachel was in the city of Slogorod, also in the Altai Krai. Our joy could not be measured. However we also grieved over father's fate. Only after four years did we find out that he perished in the Stutthof Camp. I immediately wrote to my sisters with the addresses that I received from the Land. We received a response two weeks later that they were healthy and whole. I decided to gather the family around Mother.

In the winter I received a permit to visit my sister Miriam. I traveled in a sleigh hitched to horses. I was furnished with an authorization for an official mission, which enabled me to obtain a train ticket on the Biysk-Barnaul line. I also walked for some of the way. The joy upon meeting my sister was great. I spent two days with her. I went out to the forest with the Kovno natives to help them cut down trees, for I was expert at this – for my father was a forestry merchant. The snow was one meter high. The clearing of the area and cutting down the trees was a great effort, but I enjoyed the spectacular site of the pine trees. Miriam had to request a permit to move to us from Barnaul. We parted, and agreed that she would come to us when she received the permit.

One day we received an identity paper from the N.K.V.D. It was a simple piece of paper with personal data. It said that we were only permitted to move in the region of Soloneshnoye. We asked them: “For how long?” and we were answered, “Permanently”.

The Poorest Type of Medical Care

There were two families from Wilkomir with us on the farm: Hadassah and Shimon Shapira and the family of Chaim Krikin. We would gather together with that family every evening. Mr. Krikin, approximately 60 years old, was a jovial man with an important profession. He was an expert in harnesses and saddles. People would bring him saddles to repair from all the farms. The directors honored him greatly. We were honored with his voice every night. He sang to us all of the melodies from Jewish operettas and told us about life in South Africa, where he had spent many years. After he accumulated money he returned to Wilkomir in Lithuania, where he built a large flour mill and a bathhouse, known as the “Krikin Bathhouse”. He was a customer of the Kemach factory. We reserved a portion of the firewood from the forests around Wilkomir for him. He took ill in the winter of 1942 with urine retention. It was impossible to transfer him to Biysk at the time of the melting of the snow, and he died. Shimon and I dug a grave for him in the frozen ground on the summit of the mountain.

This first death shook us up greatly. We realized that the medical assistance was particularly poor. If we were to be afflicted by serious diseases – from whence would our help come? There was one medic for all of the residents of the sovkhoz (approximately 2,000 people) on the central farm.

My sisters Miriam and Rachel with their three children arrived at the end of spring. Our family now numbered nine people. I succeeded in obtaining a larger dwelling. That winter I visited the Jonavers on the Pashchinka Farm for working of forestry products – the Wolfovich and Chernman families. Despite the shortage of physicians, the N.K.V.D. did not permit Dr. Mordechai [Wolfovich] to work at his profession. Only after much intercession was he permitted to move to the central town of Soloneshnoye and be appointed as a physician in the regional infirmary.

Being Uprooted – and Order within Disorder

In the spring of 1942 rumors spread that we would be transferred to the Yakutia in the Far East. We had nothing to lose. The situation was intolerable, with food shortages, inadequate housing and crowding. The issue of firewood was even more pressing. We had to travel on a difficult path of 15 kilometers in order to cut trees – and there was a shortage of horses and oxen. Nevertheless, we had fears about what was waiting for us in the east, a distance of about 2,000-3,000 kilometers away. Indeed, the Wolfovich family and Masha Namiot (five people), and Batya Goldshmidt (nee Perevoznik) were taken to Yakutia in the month of June. Remaining in our place were our family, Yochel Chernman, and Malka and Avraham Jochovsky in Parshchinka. Avraham was freed by mistake at the time of the liberation of the Poles from internment camps.

The war continued on and the situation became more serious. All of the work was done by women, children and the elderly. The death rate among the flocks of cattle, sheep and horses increased due to the lack of fodder. The veterinarian invited me to accompany him in his inspection of the cattle flocks in order to help him care for them. My task was to surround the head of each calf and hold it tight as the injection was given. After the operation we would drink the spirits that were designated for the care of the sheep, and refresh ourselves with black bread, onions, and grains of salt that were designated for the cattle.

My director was exchanged and the new director watched the newspapers closely. There was a great competition among us on this subject. There were no radio receivers, for they had been confiscated at the outbreak of the war. We received all of our news from the newspaper, which came four days late.

Throughout this entire time we barely had any news about what was transpiring in the Jewish world. However, bitter thoughts bothered us and gnawed at the heart. Mother had one “meal offering” that remained for her a refuge from all of the searches and confiscations. For her the Sabbath was a source of inspiration. She would pray and weep, while this was a regular workday for the rest of the family. In 1943, Mother and our sisters decided to arrange a Passover Seder. There was a great deal of planning. With difficulty, we managed to obtain a bit of dark rye flour. We baked matzos whose appearance was of the darkness of Egypt and Siberia. The meal was simple but festive. Everything was in small portions, but in good taste. We invited several guests who came: the Krikin widow, the Yaffa sisters and Chait from Wilkomir who came from the central farm. We ate, discussed, and talked not about the Exodus from Egypt, but about our travails here in the mountains of Siberia.

In 1942, we found out about the location of Berl Segalovsky, the husband of Leah, who was in an internment camp near the main railway line in the Krasnoyarsk region; and Yosef Dushnitzky, the husband of Rachel, in the region of Archangelsk. Their situation was difficult, and we saw it as our duty to send them food packages. We were receiving packages in growing quantities from our sister Sara in the Land. These permitted us to support our dear ones in the internment camps, as well as easing our own situation. These packages contained clothing, thread, soap, tea and coffee – all items that could not be purchased with gold.

We had good fortune and we were able to obtain butter and honey. We also obtained onions, garlic and tobacco in necessary quantities. Our sisters brought the packages to Soloneshnoye or to Biysk, and they sent them by mail.

The Struggle for Existence

In the winter of 1944, I was transferred to the main office of the central farm as a statistical bookkeeper, and finally as a replacement for the chief bookkeeper. We received a large dwelling. The connection with Biysk was relatively easy, and our sovkhoz had three trucks. The trip in them took eight hours, whereas it would have taken three days by horse. I was close to the upper class of the sovkhoz, and I was able to obtain all types of favors. Miriam and Rachel worked in cleaning hides, sawing wood and clearing snow. In the summer, Miriam was appointed as a shepherd. Despite her fear, she went out to the sheep pasture, a distance of five kilometers from home. She would sound a bell to scare away the wolves. As she worked she would collect twigs for firewood, and she would return home in the evening with a load of wood on her shoulders.

The director later appointed her as the central cashier. Rachel continued on with the farm work. This enabled her to have some free time on occasion and travel to Biysk in order to send packages. She was our “foreign minister”.

Leah and mother were occupied with housework: caring for the four children, cooking, and laundry. In addition they tended to the cow, the chickens and the vegetable garden of the size of four dunams. The work in the garden was Mother's duty, and she did it with diligence, love and success. The carrots, beets and onions were first class. Aside from this, we had a potato field on the mountain slope, a distance of two kilometers from the farm. I would turn over the ground for two weeks during the month of May – before and after work, and on the day of rest. My sisters came to assist me. This was backbreaking work, but fulfilling, for the field supplied us with potatoes for the winter season. In the final months of the winter, when the supply diminished, I was forced to travel to the town of Solonovka, approximately 35 kilometers away in order to purchase approximately 300 kilograms of potatoes for food and planting, in return for various belongings. The negotiations would last for hours, for we had to go to many houses in order to obtain the necessary quantities. At this time, we would also purchase tobacco, and sometimes also wheat.

I Almost Lost my Life

On one such journey I almost lost my life. I traveled with a Russian refugee from Leningrad. The cold was more than minus 40 degrees. We reached the forest and went to sleep in the guesthouse of the sovkhoz. The negotiations lasted until the afternoon. We set out on our return journey. We wound our way atop the mountain on foot with a sleigh laden with 250 kilograms of wheat. The cold increased, burned our faces and made breathing difficult. We met a caravan that was passing near us; not in the set direction, but rather toward the higher altitudes of the mountain. They called and gestured to us from afar, but we did not understand anything and continued onward. We journeyed some distance, and suddenly before us was a flood of water and snow, and the path disappeared. We tried to cross the obstacle, but the sleigh sunk deeper and deeper. The horse escaped from the harness. We remained immersed in water, snow and fierce cold. I did not lose consciousness. From the sleigh, I jumped onto the horse from behind and attempted to place him back in the harness. However, the horse balked at the harness and fell into the water. My felt boots filled with water. The situation became serious. We had to rush, to leave behind the sleigh, to leave the water on the back of the horse and hurry to an inhabited place, for there was danger that my feet would freeze. I poured out the water from my boots, but they remained damp. He rode on the horse and I went by foot in order to warm up. Among the clefts of rock we found a broken and abandoned house. We collected twigs and lit the furnace, but it did not help. The cold worsened and I felt that my boots were frozen. We continued in the direction of the sovkhoz, a distance of seven kilometers. The journey was difficult, and the snow reached a height of a half meter. I moved with all my might. The lenses of my glasses were covered with mist inside and with snow on the outside, and I followed after the horse and its rider with difficulty. The Russian offered me the horse, but my instincts told me not to rest and to continue to move.

After a two hour journey, with my boots turned to pillars of ice and being barely able to feel my feet, I notice a light flickering in a window from afar. Here was the awaited settlement! We were saved! I called to the Russian. We entered the house and I called to mistress of the house, whom I knew: “Oksania, save me! My feet are frozen!” Her brother, a strong, aging man, advised me to lie beneath the burning furnace. He put my feet inside in order to melt the boots. It was only after a half an hour that I was able to remove the boots. I was fortunate, for only two toes of my right foot were still frozen. I scrubbed them with cold water. I was unable to sleep due to the great sensitivity and pain in my toes. I groaned silently. The gentile also did not sleep, for he was concerned that the wheat would disappear. As for me, my sole interest was about my frozen toes.

The owner of the house went out with us early in the morning in order to help free the sleigh. We equipped ourselves with axes and poles. When we reached the place, we found a frozen pond, sparkling with colors in the first rays of sunlight; however we did not see the sleigh. Suddenly we saw something sticking out of the ice. This was the front, high part of the sleigh. We were encouraged. We cut the ice with axes and dug out the sacks of wheat. We dragged the sacks to a dry place. We freed the sleigh with the help of ropes. We loaded the sacks, harnessed up, and continued on our journey. After this event I was laid up for a month. The medic tended to me with dedication and later I was able to resume my work.

Concern for Fodder and Fire Wood

Good news began to come from the fronts, which kindled the hope for liberation and return from where we came. The motto on the internal front was “to work harder” for the soldiers on the front. Aside from the office work, we also had to work in the fields, to prepare animal feed, fodder and silage for the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. We went out to work with three wagons hitched to horses, and collected the fodder into piles. We would return home at around noon. During that season, there was a great deal of rain on the Altai Mountains. We needed to make use of the clear days. When I would urge the girls to arise from their rest and return to work, they would sing me the following ditty: “Witnesses from Above / the rain and precipitation / enough to soak everything / and we will be free from work.” However, when they worked, they worked diligently.

I also had to concern myself with fodder for our cow. I did this on my days of rest. I would go out with a sickle to cut the soft grass. My sisters would go out to help me collect the fodder.

We also had to assist in bringing in the harvest in the autumn. To do this, we would go out to the farms for a week and sleep in the fields. As winter approached we had to prepare reserves of wood. If you got an ox or a horse on the day of rest, you could collect only enough for two weeks. However it was not always possible to obtain these animals and sleighs, despite the will to assist. The weather was also not always appropriate, for there was great cold and snowstorms. This was a battle for existence. You would go out in the morning and return at night frozen, tired and hungry, but with a sense of satisfaction as you looked at the sleigh laden with birch wood – fuel for two weeks.

We had to ascend the summit of the mountain, clear the snow near the trees, and use the axe. However, the first blow would not penetrate on account of the cold. Slowly we would overcome the tall birch. I would load the branches with their leaves on the sleigh. The foliage dragging behind served as a brake during the descent from the mountain. Below we would cut the branches, saw the trunk into short blocks, and tie them to the sleigh with ropes. I would walk on foot, for the cold penetrated the bones. At times the load would overturn along the way, and we would have to reload everything. This was my lot and fate for days and years.

The Difference Between the Russian and Jewish Mentality

At times I pondered the difference between the Russian and Jewish mentality. The men were at the front, and who knew if they were still alive. At home there was want and backbreaking work – so what reasons were there to rejoice?! The Jew in this situation was immersed in worry and agony. When we arrived we purchased a bottle of fine wine that we found in the store. My sisters hid it away for the day of the liberation of Berl or Yosef. The Russian women behaved otherwise. Almost every two weeks some mistress arranged a celebration and invited guests. For days before, she would prepare beer from honey and hops. There would be small portions of food, but the drink was aplenty, and the party was accompanied by song and dance until dawn. There were times when we prepared the fodder for our private cows together according to the timing of the cycle from one party to the next. With the passage of time I began to understand them: life was difficult, there were many worries, and one needed to give salvation to the soul.

On the day when the chairman of the economic cooperative would return from Biysk with a large barrel of liquor, which happened no more than once every three months, the saleswoman would arrange a party. I was always among the guests. The saleswoman had stocks of white flour, meat and butter, and we would eat to our fill, since we were generally always hungry. They would replace the bottles of liquor that were taken from the barrel with water.

We Also Drank

At the end of 1942, Avraham Jochovsky was transferred from Parshchinka to Solonovka, and after that to the city of Biysk. Only Yochel Chernman remained in the place, childless and forlorn. She devoted all of her energy to collecting food in order to send it to Shmuel who was imprisoned in the Reshety internment camp. She would carry the packages on her shoulders to the post office in the town of Soloneshnoye, a distance of 35 kilometers through winding upgrades in the mountains. She would tarry with us for rest. I tried to convince her to take care of her health, but she did not listen to me. She weakened in 1944 and moved to us in order to get medical assistance. She took ill in the spring of 1945. We cared for her for more than a month. The women Chait, Levi and Yaffa from Wilkomir assisted us. We arranged a rotation to stay with her during the nights, but it did not help. She died, and we buried her in the Russian cemetery in the town of Karpovo. Shmuel Chernman was freed from the internment camp and came to us. He stayed with us for about a week, received the “inheritance” left to him by his late wife Yochel, and moved to Biysk. He got married there, got a job, and remains there to this day.

In January 1946 we received a telegram that Yosef Dushnitzky, the husband of my sister Rachel, was freed from his internment camp. The joy in our house cannot be described. He arrived emaciated and pale, but he recovered. The director wanted to appoint him as an official in the office, but he refused and went to work in a smithy. We invited guests, and finished off together the bottle of wine that we had saved for this purpose from 1941.

The issue of sending packages troubled us greatly, with the concern for a permit and travel to Biysk. However, in February 1945, Leah received a permit and moved with her daughter Uza to Biysk. From that time, it became easier for us to send packages.

Time and Emotions Did their Work

In the winter of 1941, refugees who evacuated Leningrad and Moscow came to us in the sovkhoz. Among them there were two young, educated women with children. One of them, Galina Michaelova, was appointed as my office assistant. I will admit that the local women were not attractive to my heart. They lost their femininity because of the difficult work. In addition, they were simple, with a low, provincial level of intelligence. Suddenly an intelligent, young, pleasant woman appeared before me, with bright eyes and hair, cute dimples and a pleasant smile…

At first, of course, we maintained a business relationship. It was appropriate to keep my distance. However time and emotions did their work: a 35 year old bachelor falls in love like a young man! A cautious approach, a light caress, and many compliments. A quick kiss. She became friendly with my sisters and family. It was pleasant to chat with her. She understood our spirit. Her mother remained in Moscow. Her husband, an engineer, was in the Kolima region of Siberia. Because of his legal status, she did not say whether or not he had been sent to hard labor. She corresponded only with her mother.

With the passage of time we became further connected with intimate relationships. She remained in my place as the director of accounting when I moved to work in the central farm. Every Saturday after work I would walk by foot through the mountain paths, a distance of 5 kilometers, to visit my beloved. I would pick aromatic flowers along the way and give them to the mistress of the house, who accepted them with thanks and love. Galina had a sweet voice. She would sing folk songs, and she accompanied her songs with the guitar. She tried to make my day of rest pleasant with drink, food, and an abundance of expressions of love.

The Bright Star Disappeared

In 1944, a command was issued that all of the residents of Moscow must return to their places by a specific date. Otherwise, they would lose their rights of residency there. She had a dilemma, to remain in the remote mountains according to the pull of her heart, or to return to the capital city according to healthy logic. The push to return came from my advice. She corresponded with me for years. I knew her as a talented musician. Her songs that were dedicated to me were songs of truth and earnestness, and every letter was a virtual hymn. In 1947 I received a telegram from her from Novosibirsk in which she stated that she was traveling to Kolima and wanted to see me very much. She would be waiting in the train station. This was something impossible: to receive a leave from work, a permit, and transportation, would take more than a week. In the meantime, I would miss the train. With this, the contact was severed. A bright star had appeared suddenly in my sky in the darkness of my night, and disappeared into the horizon…

In the summer of 1944, after the liberation of Kovno, my sister Sara in the Land received a letter from Tzvi Levin, who was the sole survivor of his entire family. He was of course interested in the fate of Miriam, the children and the rest of the family. In the subsequent letters he wrote that he had received a position as the fuel director in Kovno. His supervisor was Eliezer Kagan from Jonava. Tzvi wanted to come to us to take Miriam and the children with him. However fate was otherwise. One dark night they knocked on his door, conducted a search, arrested him, and sent him to far off Ural. We waited in vain for letters. After some time they wrote to us that he was imprisoned, and they did not know way. A dark melancholy overtook the residents of our house and the question tormented us: “Why, to where, and for what?!” Finally, after a few months, the awaited letter arrived from Tzvi. He said that he was in the coal mines in the Sverdlovsk region and was waiting to be freed. He requested food packages.

The War Ended

It was Sunday morning, May 10, 1945. I traveled to cut branches to make a fence around our vegetable garden. The twigs of the old fence were used for firewood. I wound my way behind the wagon, immersed in thoughts. Suddenly I heard the shouting of a woman from among the rocks.

“What is it, miss?” my voice echoed through the mountains.

“I have just heard that the war ended,” she shouted to me with an emotional voice.

Thus is it was in the far off mountains. Without a telephone or a radio, news traveled with the speed of lightning. I hastened back to inform the community and my family of this news. On the farm there was tumult and emotion. People left work and gathered together. I tarried a bit and returned to my journey.

On the journey I was engrossed in all types of visions: we were liberated, and we could go home. Those who were imprisoned in internment camps would follow behind us. We are again in Jonava and Kovno. How good and pleasant will it be for brethren to dwell together. But all of this was a dream… while awake. We later had reason to sense that it was not the time to engage in false hope.

In the evening, when I returned home, the joy and exultation was great. Honey and liquor were placed on the table. We gathered together, drank, sang and danced.

After the war, the supervision by the N.K.V.D. became more intense. Was it decreed upon us that we must remain in this place for eternity?

Joy came to our house in April 1947. Tzvi Levin was liberated and came to us – pale and emaciated, but healthy and whole. Mother and his wife Miriam took good care of him, so that he would return to his strength and recover from the suffering of the internment camp. He arrived on an official passport and was permitted to travel anywhere he wanted, but his wife and children were not allowed to leave the region. We found out that the N.K.V.D. was going to confiscate our passports, and we made sure to thwart them. We spoke to acquaintances who transported him that very evening – the day before the N.K.V.D. was to come – to the town of Solonovky, 35 kilometers away. From there he traveled by truck to Biysk, and from there by train to Moscow and Vilna.

My Family Members Leave Me

On June 15, 1947, two months after Tzvi's liberation, we once again had good news. Berl Segalovsky returned to his wife Leah and her daughter Uza in Biysk after six years of backbreaking labor in the taiga of the Krasnoyarsk Region. He also came to us and told us that he survived thanks to the food packages that we provided him. He assisted us in preparing fodder for our cow. He stayed with us for about a month and then decided to return to Biysk and from there to Vilna. After he would establish himself he would bring his wife and daughter. In September of that year I confided with Director Vardnikov, who was a proper man, that he should allow me to transfer my mother to Biysk to be with her daughter Leah, where her life would be easier, even without an official permit from the N.K.V.D. He gave me his agreement. On account of the rain that began to fall, the trucks only reached the Madovdivka Farm. I was forced to seat her on a calf and transport her there through mountains and mud. This was her final journey of her wanderings, and she was 75 years old. From Madovdivka, they took her straight to Biysk by truck.

That autumn, Leah secretly obtained train tickets without her neighbors knowing, and she left Biysk and the Altai Krai permanently along with her daughter and mother. Then came the turn of Miriam and her children. She requested permission from the N.K.V.D. to move to Biysk. The pretext was the education of her son. The requested permit arrived. I bid farewell to Miriam and her children. I was like a father to them during the war. From Biysk they set out directly to Vilna. Rachel and her family also went there from Novosibirsk.

I Remained Alone – But Not Alone

I was the only one left of all the Jonavers in the exile in the Soloneshnoye region of the Altai Mountains. I was connected to family life – a wife, without the bonds of a marriage ceremony. After Galina Michaelova of Moscow left the sovkhoz, other women attempted to take her place. Among them, Zoya Konstantinova Gromka of Leningrad stood out. She was 27 years old with an eight year old child. Her husband, an army captain on the front, married another woman and cut off contact with her. Zoya moved to my house and assisted me in conducting our private farm: Burka the cow, the ducks, the chickens and the vegetable garden.

In 1948, I was appointed as the accounting supervisor of 40 kolkhozes, and we had to move to the central town. My salary was lower than that in the sovkhoz, where I also had received all types of provisions. Here, I was like a synagogue mouse…[1]

I wandered from one kolkhoz to the next, most of the time by vehicle, but sometimes on foot, a distance of 40 kilometers. I worked in that position for two years. I saw the people of the kolkhozes at work, in their houses, and in their times of joy. I knew that their lives were not easy at all. As a result of this, they related to their work with indifference. After all the inspections, I reported the findings to the director of the kolkhoz. A general meeting would then be called, and I, Yitzchak the son of David, preached words of reproof to the local Ivans.

I returned to my office after each inspection. Zoya, who worked as a secretary in the financial office of the director of the region, would type my report with a typewriter. It would then be discussed by the local council.

In the months of August and September I was busy, along with other officials, in the preparation of fodder for the horses that were owned by our office. We would put up huts out of branches and straw, similar to tents. We lived in them. We cut the grass with sickles. I would cut for our own cow at night until midnight, and also in the morning. In addition, we had to work at various communal endeavors, such as removing the ice from the channel that brought water to the hydroelectric plant, so that there would be no interruption of the flow of electricity.

I was dismissed from my job in 1950. I was satisfied with this, for I was tired of the sleeping over, the journeys and the walking to strange places on snowy, muddy and icy days and during snowstorms, when the river water rose and I could only cross by lying on my horse who swam across the water, with the danger that we might be swept away by the current.

Later I found out that that the first secretary of the party in the region was opposed that I – the spoiler of rights and from the bourgeois class – should be the inspector of kolkhozes and find out too much about what was doing with them and what their situation was, which was evident at every inspection.

New Places of Work

I was accepted as the accounting director of the restaurant of the consumers' union. My economic situation improved. My salary increased significantly, for the restaurant exceeded its plans by 150% each month, and we received gratuities. I was able to receive my food provisions and eat at low prices.

Before that there were many thefts. There was no such event throughout the two years that I worked there. I conducted audits. I spoke earnestly to the staff, urging them to fulfill their duties and thereby profit. Indeed thus it was. Their salary increased, and they were satisfied. The sudden inspections of the N.K.V.D. were in vain. From that time, they would send me out for an inspection at any incidence of corruption in the region. Since I had worked in the sovkhoz for seven years, it was not hard for me to uncover any cunning tactics. Workers of the sovkhoz, who were jealous of the drunks and thieves, would come to my assistance and provide me with information. The source of the theft was the excess that was hoarded by the keepers of the warehouses. They would take that to the black market.

At the end of 1952, I was appointed as chief accounting director of the new tractor station in the town of Lyutayevo, approximately 40 kilometers from the regional town along the way to Biysk. This was during the year that Khrushchev decided the scope of labor.

At that time, the N.K.V.D. began to follow us more closely, because no small number of people like us uprooted themselves from their places of exile and escaped back to Lithuania. Among them were my mother and sisters. Therefore I wrote to my family in an indirect manner. They searched after them in Vilna, and Leah was imprisoned twice. Finally they became disgusted with the entire matter, and they moved to the city of Frunze in Kirgizia: the Levin, Dushnitzky and Segalovsky families – 11 souls – led by mother. All of this was made possible by the assistance that was provided to us by our sister Sara in Israel

I Went a Bit Further Afield

We had to move to the designated location, Lyutayevo, before the October holiday. We loaded our belongings and the cow on a truck. Zoya was next to the driver and I was on top. We set out on the journey in the snow and cold. We arrived at midnight. The head of the office set us up in our dwelling. After about a month we moved to a new office, whose walls and floor were full of cracks due to the hasty construction. Wind would blow through the cracks. Zoya got a cold and a cough, but she continued to work in order to make up the balance sheet. I had to travel to the city of Barnaul and give it over to the chief director of 200 tractor stations in the Altai Krai. A small crack was opened for me, and I began to go a bit further afield.

I found out about the events of the world from the following newspapers: the Altai Truth, Pravda, and Izvestia. From them I found out about the War of Independence and the State of Israel. The articles were brief, but supportive of Israel.

I digested the news. I did not have anyone with whom to discuss the events. I would reconstruct them in my mind in my bed at night.

My first stop in Biysk was at the home of our fellow native, Avraham Jochovsky. At night I knocked on his door, which was locked with seven locks. The joy of our meeting was great. After a meal and glasses of liquor, we sat and chatted until dawn. The topic was the Land of Israel. He knew much more than I.

I was a regular guest of the Abramovich family in Barnaul. There, I would listen to the radio and hear the news from Jews about the Jewish State.

When I returned, I was occupied and immersed in the small town reality, with its problems that had become my problems. There was no small number of negative characters who came to the region among the volunteers. Some squandered the money that they had received in advance and attempted to escape. I had an additional job – to pursue the wanderers and initiate legal proceedings to have the money returned.

As time went on, they built a two room house for me. The economic conditions improved. I received a salary of 1,200 rubles and Zoya received 600 rubles. We continued to maintain our own auxiliary farm. We would prepare fodder and bring it with a tractor.

The year was 1953, the year of the Doctors' Plot[2]. The atmosphere was very tense and oppressive. Many people were fired from their jobs at that time. I do not know to this day how I succeeded in retaining my high position.

{Photo page 271: In Siberia. 1. Yitzchak Burstein, 2. Miriam Burstein. 3. Zoya.}

Visit to Frunze

In 1954 I took a two month leave and received permission to travel to Frunze to visit my mother and sisters. I traveled with Zoya. This was not an easy journey at all. We traveled by truck and trains. We sat on our suitcases for about ten hours until we found a place in the cargo cars of the train, which were nicknamed “the joyful train” by people. Many youth were traveling on it. The doors of the cars were open. They sat with their feet outside and sang songs accompanied by accordions and mandolins. Then we transferred to another train and arrived in Frunze at midnight. Berl Segalovsky, Tzvi Levin and Yosef Dushnitzky with their children greeted us. The joy was great. The city was adorned with greenery. We stopped next to a wooden house with electric lights, with a large apple orchard beside it. Everything seemed to me like a summer dream. There was Mother; there were my sisters with their sons and daughters whom I had cared for. All of them greeted me with great warmth.

We spent a month in Frunze. We walked through its streets. We visited its markets that were full of fruit, vegetables, watermelons and food items about which we could only dream in Siberia.

(Continued on page 273)

[Page 272]

The first letter that arrived from Tzvi Levin after the liberation of Kovno by the Russians (abridged).

Kovno, August 19, 1944

I do not know how to begin. I lack words. From all of our large family only I remain… Some perished in the ghetto and others were hauled to Germany. I survived by a miracle.

I found out five months ago that the Gestapo was plotting to arrest me because I was involved with smuggling young Jews to partisan units in the forests of the area. I succeeded in escaping from the ghetto, and I hid with farmers in the villages of the region as well as in Kovno.

It is a sufficiently gloomy picture. Of the 38,000 Jews who were concentrated in the Kovno Ghetto, only about 500 survived. The ghetto was burnt and bombed by the Nazis.

Now, about my last hope, what is the fate of Miriam and my two children? If they are alive, you certainly have contact with them. Please tell me the entire truth, good or bad.

Please answer quickly

Hirsch Levin

The story of the photocopy:

… My first visit in the Land was with my childhood friend Shimon Zak in Jerusalem.
During the conversation he turned to me and said:
“Did you find the picture of the opening of the University which was hanging on the wall of your room in Jonava?”

“No, and no. Everything was lost.”

“After 40 years from the founding of the University, I saw that exact picture in a photographer store window display on Ben Yehuda Street.”

We went there.

The photographer showed us two pictures and said.

“My father took this picture. I will not give up the large picture under any circumstances, but you can have the small one.”
I paid some money and took it as a souvenir.

And here it is before you.

Yitzchak B. is noted in the center of the photograph *

* See the top of page 275

[First unnumbered page after 272. NYPL 381.]

{Uncaptioned. The photograph mentioned on the previous page.}

[Second unnumbered page after 272. NYPL 382.]

The first letter of Yitzchak Burstein from Siberia to his sister Sara in Israel (abridged)

{Note: the original letter in Russian is photocopied on top of the page.}

August 10, 1941
Komsomolsk Farm (Siberia)

To my dear ones.

We reached here on July 10. We left Jonava on a “special train” on June 17. With me are Mother, Leah and her daughter Uza. We are healthy and working. Father was ill and remained at home. Dov Segalovsky along with other men traveled on a different train in a different direction. Along with him were Aryeh and Tzvi Wolfovich, Avraham Jochovsky, Nissan Goldshmidt and Shmuel Chernman. Rachel and Yosef Dushnitzky were “taken” from Jonava on June 14. I went to their house in the evening and found it closed. Miriam Levin and her children apparently remained in Kovno. We are located 130 kilometers from the train station of the city of Biysk. We and almost all of the Jonavers are located in the Karpova Sovkhoz. These include: Batya Goldshmidt (nee Perevoznik), Malka Jochovsky, Yochel Chernman, Mordechai, Bunia, Teibl and Meir Wolfovich, and Masha Namiot, the wife of Tzvi Wolfovich.

… I am concerned that Father and perhaps Miriam and her children remained under Nazi rule… I understand that neither you nor we can get in touch with Father. We will wait until Hitler is defeated at the end of the war.

Your brother Yitzchak

[Third unnumbered page after 272. NYPL 383.]

{Top photo}

Jonavers in Vilna and in the Land. In Vilna – taking leave of Yitzchak Burstein:
Chaya Leah Druker (Monosevich), Shlomo Druker, Shlomo Ber Meirovich, Leizer Glazer, David Friedman and his wife, Avraham Jochovsky, Batya Namiot, Yitzchak, the wife of Shlomo Ber, Rivka Simchovich, Batya Goldshmidt-Perevoznik, Malka Jochovsky.

{Bottom photo: In the Land at the wedding of the daughter of Nachum Blumberg.}

[Fourth unnumbered page after 272. NYPL 384.]

The First postcard that arrived in the Land from Miriam Levin-Burstein from Siberia

Realshoz, October 15, 1941
To my dear ones:

I am with my children Shlomo and Yehoshua in a settlement for wood-chopping in the Altai forests, Troitsky region. We are healthy and well. I have not seen Tzvi for more than a year, since he was imprisoned, and there is no news from him. Yitzchak and Leah with her family were also deported, but we do not know where they are. Rachel and her family were also deported. Father remains ill in Jonava. Our friend “Meistans” we do not see (Editor: an innuendo that there is no meat). “Fiana” (that is milk) we receive on occasion.

Please let me know the address of family members if you know them.

Peace to you
Your sister Miriam

[Page 273][3]

We liked Frunze. We returned to our place and requested a permit to move to Frunze. In October 1955, we set out on a journey in a truck belonging to the tractor station.

Farewell to the Altai Mountains

When the truck ascended the final snowy peak, before gliding down to the desert, I asked the driver to stop. I went out and shouted out in a strong low voice:
“Farewell to you, Altai Mountains! Thank you for the bad and the good!”
After 15 years of ascending and descending the Altai Mountains I remained alive, healthy and whole, and I succeeded in reuniting with my family – that is why I felt the duty to do what I did.

We remained in Biysk for two days with Jochovsky and met Chernman, who in the interim had remarried.

From there we traveled to Barnaul. We stayed with the Wolfovich family. The mistress of the house Teibl was no longer alive, but I found a Jonavan atmosphere. We shared memories with Leiba, Mordechai and Bunia.

We finally arrived in Frunze. Mother had obtained for us a room with a kitchenette, 12 square meters in area. I found work in the Ministry of Building, and continued to work there for approximately ten years.

The Voice of Israel and the Voice of Comfort

Here I heard for the first time, after 15 years, Kol Yisrael (the Israel radio station) in Yiddish. This was at 8:00 p.m.. On most days I went into my mother's room at 9:00 p.m., set the channel, and listened to the voice of our homeland for 15 minutes. In this manner I absorbed the news of Israel every evening for ten years. In May 1964, my sister Sara in Israel subscribed me to “Kol Haam”, which was permitted to be distributed in Russia until the Six Day War. Communism disseminated in the Hebrew Language was less untouchable for me. I also read between the lines. The newspaper broadened my knowledge of the Hebrew Language.

Nechama Lifschitz came to Frunze. I purchased a ticket and went to listen to Yiddish folksongs in the theater after a hiatus of 15 years. I will never forget that evening. When I saw the hall full of Jews applauding enthusiastically, the impression on me was very great. I wept. I was unable to stem the tears. The second time she came to us she was brazen enough to sing a Hebrew song. The thunderous applause roared through the air for several minutes.

Acclimatizing to Frunze

There were approximately 5,000 Jews in Frunze at the time, including approximately 30 families from Lithuania. There was also a small synagogue in a residential dwelling. After my mother passed away in 1964 I got to know almost all of the worshippers, since I went twice a day for 11 months to say Kaddish.

I must admit that anyone who wished to go to worship or to circumcise his son was not bothered by the Soviet authorities. Nevertheless, I must also state that the Star of David that was hanging at the entrance of the courtyard of the House of Worship suddenly disappeared, and in 1964, the recitation of “Next Year in Jerusalem” after Yom Kippur ceased in accordance with a directive from the government authorities for religious matters. Apparently this was in reaction to the wave of national awakening of the Jews.

I became acclimatized to Frunze. I had a fruit garden that required care. Berl Segalovsky and I dedicated each Sunday, the official day of rest, to that end. We were not short of firewood. We also plastered our own walls. It was impossible to hire professionals for such work due to our low salaries.

The three families from Jonava – Burstein, Segalovsky and Levin – lived as neighbors, with Mother at the head. On Sabbath eves we would sit at the table, covered with a white tablecloth, adorned with candles. I would recite Kiddush in father's tune – of course with aberrations and dissonance.

In the winter of 1957, my wife's son, who concluded his studies, arrived from Novosibirsk with his wife and stayed with us. We lived together in a 12 square meter room: we on the bed and they on the floor. In 1960 I enlarged the dwelling to 20 square meters. I knocked down the wall with my own hands, and dug the excavation and poured the foundation myself. Similarly, I did all the painting and glasswork. I was assisted by other builders and by a friend for other work. I received the building materials from the ministry for a cheap price.

Family Meeting

Sara came to Moscow in the summer of 1963 in order to visit Mother and the family. She was not permitted to travel to Frunze. We had no choice but to go to her in Moscow. I arrived by airplane and was put up with acquaintances. Mother and my sisters traveled by train for three exhausting days through the Kazakhstan desert (“The Desert of Famine”) in excruciating heat. I rented a large room in a national hotel in the suburbs for them. I met my sister, and we traveled by taxi to meet the rest of the family in their hotel. My sister Rachel and her daughter also came from Kovno for the family gathering.

We remained in Moscow for a week. We went every evening to mother in the hotel, ate together and discussed memories. The day of parting arrived. Mother wept silently, as if she suspected that this was her final meeting with Sara. We returned to Frunze by airplane – a five hour flight. This was mother's last journey. She died in May 1964. A few days before her death she adjured me to attempt to leave Russia, to go to the Land and to gather together all of the members of the family.

Parting from my Friends and from my Girlfriend

The day arrived, November 11, 1965, and I was on a railway car from Frunze to Vilna, on my way to the Land. All of the members of the family from Frunze, my girlfriend Zoya, her son Boris with his wife and daughter, friends and acquaintances – all came to see me off. My sister Miriam was with me in the train. She accompanied me to Vilna. Many hoped to see me again in the Land. My girlfriend Zoya wept bitterly, for this parting would be forever. After twenty years she remained alone, broken and ill. She was a proud and upright woman. She did not want to burden me, for this contradicted her personality. Members of my family and Zoya accompanied me to the nearby station. There were warm kisses, and the train departed.

{Drawing page 274: Uncaptioned. An elderly woman. (Translator's comment – likely Yitzchak's mother.)

[Page 275]

Pictures of my Life Passed Before Me

I lay on my bed on the upper berth and immersed myself in thoughts. Pictures of the film of my life passed before my eyes: My native village of Kaplice, at the Carlebach Gymnasium in Kovno. Classes were conducted in German, but Hebrew studies occupied many hours. Rabbi Yudel “The Yellow”, who knew the entire Gemara clearly, taught me various sections of it. The days of the German occupation – when I received Russian lessons from the teacher Libshin. I concluded the gymnasium in 1922, at the age of 17 and a half. We moved to Jonava. My communal activities were cut off in 1923 when I was accepted as a student at the upper level school in Vienna. There as well I was active in the Zionist Hechaver student organization, and was later appointed as secretary of the organization. (The chairman was Binyamin Aktzin, today the rector of the University of Haifa.) In 1925 I was among the three delegates who were selected by the organization to participate in the opening ceremonies of the [Hebrew] University in Jerusalem in 1925. I visited the Nahalel in the valley, which had been settled very shortly before, with its residents living in bunks; the winepress of Rishon Letzion where I was treated with cellared wine; I spent an evening in the Casino nightclub in tiny Tel Aviv, whose foundations are embedded in the sea.

Then there was the festive celebration, conducted with great emotion: Before my eyes were the great ones and spiritual leaders of the nation (see the photo after page 272).

I was once again in Jonava. I continued my variegated activities, and I assisted Father in his business.

I fell in love with Rosa Kagan, the beautiful brunette with modest “sex appeal”, a scion of a good family and a cultured girl. Only a tremor in the corner of her upper lip gave expression to her hidden desires, to the modest beginning of motion on the volcano. I courted her for two years. The only thing that was lacking was a formal engagement. Suddenly events took their course – and we parted. We remained friends. My heart always aches for the fact that she did not succeed in her life, by going after the fiancé of her youth.

I was also unlucky. Out of my great despair I fell into the arms of a married woman, a demonic woman with blue eyes, with an overflowing and immodest sex drive, lacking discreteness. I was attracted to her because there were no other options, based on the adage “and she will rule over you”. Her family life was stormy. I attempted to calm her with intimate relations, and I spoke to her heart for her to desist, but she did what she wanted. After some time she again snared me with her spread-out spider web. This stolen love lasted for ten years. Stolen waters might become sweet. The end of this era came only at the time of the arrival of the Russians…

How pleasant it is to remember events of childhood, youth, and young adulthood!

I Again Boarded the Train

The train arrived in Vilna. Miriam and I stayed with our sister Leah. I met the survivors of Jonava, and spent a week with my sister Rachel in Kovno. When I returned, the Jonavers arranged a farewell party for me at the home of Mrs. Namiot. Leizka the Yellow turned to me and said:

“Yitzchak, do you remember when I, as a Comsomol member in Jonava, went to Kovno in order to send you to exile in Siberia? This time I will accompany you and seat you in a train that will take you to the Land. He said it and did it. The next evening, at the time of parting at the train station, he came to the fore from the side, grabbed me in his strong arms, and brought me up to the train. The train was taking me and Shlomo Levin, the son of my sister Miriam, to Minsk. From there I would go to Moscow on my own. After much toil, which is a story in its own right, I ascended the threshold of the Embassy of Israel. Behold, I was in the lobby of the embassy. Nobody was there. On the small table there was an abundance of periodicals and brochures. Everything was in Hebrew. Was this a dream or reality? I forgot the reason that I had came and immersed myself in reading. Nobody came. There was a bizarre quiet.

I knocked on one of the doors and entered. An embassy employee greeted me and asked me to sit down. He clarified for me that the address of the embassy was written in my passport. He advised me to fly by airplane but I preferred to travel to Warsaw by train, and then to go to Vienna via Czechoslovakia. On December 23, [1965] I arrived in Lod on an El Al airplane.

[Page 276]

15 Years and One Day

by Batya Goldshmidt (nee Perevoznik), Petach Tikva

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 276: Uncaptioned. Batya Perevoznik Goldshmidt}

I Struggled and Succeeded
15 Years in the Siberian Taiga

I was young when the Soviets arrived in Lithuania. I had not yet turned 20. My father Hillel was a dedicated Zionist. I studied in Tarbut and continued in the Hebrew Real Gymnasium in Kovno. I was active in Beitar, and my entire outlook was directed to the Land of Israel.

Our brick kiln, which was owned in partnership with my Uncle David Yitzchak, was nationalized immediately after the proclamation of the Soviet guard. We were left bereft of an economic base.

I decided to leave home and to get married to my childhood friend Nissan Goldshmidt, an official with Segalovsky, whose enterprise was also nationalized. I got a job with the thought of beginning a quiet life appropriate to the times. However, this was not to be my fate.

Late at night on June 14, 1941, we were awakened to the sound of knocking on our door. To our question, “Who is there?”, someone declared in Russian, “Open up, we are from the N.K.V.D.”. Two of them broke into our small room with pointed guns, accompanied by Reuven Vidzky of the Comsomol Youth. They conducted a thorough search and ordered us to prepare for a journey within 20 minutes. We were permitted to take up to 100 kilograms of belongings. In the darkness of the night, we were hauled to the train station in a truck, accompanied by soldiers. We were forbidden to bid farewell to our parents and relatives. We were brought into a transport car, the doors were closed with bars and locks, and a Soviet guard guarded us.

At a young age, lacking in experience, innocent of wrongdoing, and suddenly I bore the mark of a criminal. Why and for what reason? Where were we going? Large question marks floated before my eyes. I was broken. My world darkened upon me. I wept bitterly and screamed, “Mother!”.

The next day, my mother, father, brothers and sisters appeared. They stood at a distance. They were not permitted to approach. Through the mesh window I could see them weeping as they peered into the cage in which the bird, the apple of their eye, was imprisoned.

The next day, at one of the stops in the darkness of the night, they knocked on the door and asked for Nissan. He was ordered to leave the train. Thus my lad, with whom I had hoped to share my fate in the new exile, was cut off from me. I never saw him again. He perished in the Rashuty Camp in 1942. I remained alone, alone as is written in the Book of Job, “A fire of G-d has fallen from heaven and burned the flocks and lads and consumed them, and I remain alone…”

Yitzchak [Ben-David (Burstein)] already wrote about the tribulations of the journey and my life in the Altai Mountains throughout the year. I will not repeat it.

I will describe in brief what transpired with me in the far-off, frigid Yakutsk region.

At times, a person needs to be stronger than iron if he wishes to continue to live and to come to better days.

[First unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 389.]

{Top Photo}

Members of Beitar of Jonava: Levi Perevoznik, Nissan Goldshmidt, Yehudit Ferber, Dina Kapol, Yocheved Kahansky, Batya Senior, Moshe Namiot, Batya Perevoznik, Tzvi Suntochky, Babilsky, Biarsky, Yaakov Kapol.

{Bottom photo}

The Siberian winter in the endless forests. Batya writes about her daily routine.

[Second unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 390.]

{Top photo}

Batya Goldshmidt among the woodchoppers of Yakutsk in Siberia.
1. Batya. 2. Shimon Shapira of Wilkomir.

{Bottom photo}

The expanses of the endless forests and the woodchoppers.
1. Batya.

[Third unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 391.]

{Two photos with a caption between applying to both of them.}

Batya at work, and measuring rations.

[Fourth unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 392.]

Batya at work and on a break.

[Page 277]

In August 1942, we received a command from the N.K.V.D. that all of the families who do not have small children should prepare to leave the Karpova Sovkhoz. Wagons hitched to horses were sent. We loaded our belongings, and walked on foot to the city of Biysk, accompanied by the N.K.V.D. guards who were riding on horses. The Wolfovich family and Masha Namiot were with me. The journey lasted for three days. In Biysk we learned that we would be taken to the region of the Arctic Ocean, to the Tiksi point on the Lena River, a journey of 4,000 kilometers. We proceeded to Barnaul and Novosibirsk on open transport trucks, and from there, we boarded the Trans-Siberian railway. After a week of travel we arrived at the Osterovo railway station. From there we continued in trucks on an uncharted route through mountains and valleys, for hundreds of kilometers until the water mill on the Angara River. There, they loaded us like cattle and sheep upon transport barges, and after three days we arrived in a place not far from the port of Mukhtuya (Lensk) on the Lena River.

We transferred to a larger ship, and after we traversed more than 1,000 kilometers in a seven day journey along the downstream of the Lena, we arrived at the port of Olekminsk.

We, a group of four families numbering ten souls, were put up in a room of 12 square meters. The day after our arrival, we went out to work in the taiga that extends the length of the Lena River. Our work was to prepare firewood for the ships. We received portions of bread according to rations. Since we were not used to this type of work under these conditions, we did not reach the quota, and were starving for bread. The cold was minus 40, and it exhausted our strength.

As I was at the threshold of despair, I recalled the admonitions of Yitzchak [Burstein] who was our work director at the time we worked in the fields of the Altai Mountains. If you wish to remain alive you must work well, and whoever acts otherwise will have a bitter end. These words were spoken in the heat of an argument with Yochel Chernman, and her end is known. Thus did I act. I never refused to perform all of the work that was imposed upon me – the backbreaking labor of men. I withstood the test. I had to do so, for I had no relative, no redeemer, and no packages from abroad.

I was transferred to Berezova, also on the Lena, at the end of 1942. There I worked in setting up barges. We would roll tree trunks to the water, and I would ascend the blocks of wood and tie them together. We would tie them six rows high. The barges on the Viliya seemed as toys in contrast to the barges that we prepared. I was the only Jewess there. The Lithuanians there were in the same “Specifraslanska” situation as I was.

In the autumn we took down the storehouses that served as our residences, loaded them on barges and floated them down the river to a place that was called Delgey. We re-erected our houses in the vast forests with our own hands. Two Jewish families from Wilkomir joined us (Shimon Shapira and his wife, today in Neve Sharet, and the Krem family).

I continued working at cutting down trees, making barges, and other backbreaking work until 1948. I became an accomplished professional. In 1947 I received a government prize for dedicated work during the wartime years.

We again packed up and moved 200 kilometers further to opposite the city of Olekminsk. I continued my work of tree cutting in the winter and producing barges during the summer. The system of food ration cards was revoked, and the situation in that region improved.

I was appointed to head staff in 1952. I breathed easily. A heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. My job was to allocate the workplaces and to register the quotas. The shortage of workers was made up with political prisoners who were freed after serving their sentences in the prison camps of the Kolyma Peninsula. Without any way to continue their journey home during the winter season when the only means of exit from this area of Siberia was by boat, they tarried with us in order to earn some money before continuing onward. These people were a part of our staff during the long winter.

During the well-known Doctors' Plot of Stalin in 1953, I was suddenly fired from my “high office” as an official in the forest, and sent back to physical labor, which I continued until June 1956.

That year, thanks to my government prize, I was informed that my designation of “Specifraslanska” was removed from me, along with all types of restrictions. I received an identity card with the Hebrew designation, and I was permitted to move throughout all of Russia, with the exception of Soviet Lithuania and an area of 100 kilometers around the capital cities of the Soviet republics.

I seized the opportunity and left the Yakutsk Region. Despite the ban, I went to Vilna. Shmuel Balnik (today in Ramat Hanasi, Bat Yam), a member of the party, with a high government position in the milk combine (like Tnuva), set me up with work and assisted me in registering with the Vilna police as a resident with full rights.

I did not find any members of my family. I immediately began to take interest in immigrating to the Land. I fought for this right for 12 years, and I only received my permit in 1969.

I spent 15 years of my youth in the taiga of the Yakutsk Region, in conditions of terrible cold, fierce snow storms, freezing fog, malnourishment, and backbreaking work which was the work of men. I, the sole Jewess, strode through endless forests up to my knees in deep snow in the winter and in the ice cold water of the Lena in the summer, working together with men, the vast majority of whom were criminals, thieves and murderers – and all of this in order to come to better days.

180 months, which are 6480 days and nights – without a relative or a redeemer! Days and nights filled with tribulations, frustrations, delusions and desires of a young soul; days and nights of lack of sleep and fear of the N.K.V.D. who wanted to capture me in their net and embrace me with a life of danger, slander and causing harm to others. Then they would treat me with a “candy”.

My conscience remains clear. I struggled with them and succeeded.

[Page 278]

One Day in the Siberian Taiga

by Batya Goldshmidt-Perevoznik

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In the vast forests, in the desolation of the snow, white prevails. Walls of grey tree branches, adorned with piles of snow, close in from both sides. On the fourth side is the vast span, covered with a white desert, sparkling like ice in the dim light of the moon. This is at the banks of the gigantic Lena River, spreading out below our feet – the silence and splendor of the works of creation.

In this open region, in this ice, an altar was prepared for me upon which I offered my energies and my youth.

The chimneys of the barracks which house us “Specifraslanskas” stuck up skyward. There were about 20 other small wooden huts for the rest of the workers. The chimneys spewed smoke.

It was 5:00 a.m. The early risers had already lit the large oven and were warming the soup, prepared from the previous day. During the night, the strong cold penetrated into the barracks. The windows were covered with a layer of thick ice that was beginning to melt.

I woke up. I breathed in the cold air and tarried in getting up. I had not slept enough. However, the hunger was gnawing at the stomach and the head, and I involuntarily crawled out from beneath the warm blanket.

The light of the dim lantern spread its shadows around. Along the length of the walls were twelve wooden shelves, one meter wide each. These were the wooden beds, called the “nars”. Beside each such bed, attached to the wall, was a wooden shelf. This was the food corner. The passage between the beds was half a meter, and beneath them – all of one's property: suitcases and sacks from the parental home.

The iron oven with its tin pipes reaching up to the chimney was already burning, red from the fire. The wooden beds hung down from the ceiling on both sides of it, and above it were the tattered clothes that were hung up the previous evening while they were still wet, and now they were dry. A small pull, and my patched pants made out of cotton and my pupikia[4] were in my hands, warm and dry. I slid into them, took a few cups of soup and bread, sipped a cup of tea – and already the gigantic bell (brought from some church), hanging on the pillar in the middle of the field was pealing and breaking the silence. It was time to go out to work. I tarried a bit. Immediately the barrack supervisors castigated me with shouting and curses:

“Hurry, daughter of a bitch, lest you be late for work.”

It was still dark outside. Only the stars were shining above, as if they were blessing those going out. How beautiful and frightful was the world around. We went out on foot into the recesses of the sleepy forest. Snow fell at night. The paths were covered and disappeared. Again we dug a new furrow through the cover of snow. We marched through the darkness for an hour. We got hot. The sweat rolled down from under the headgear on the forehead and dripped onto the eyes. The fog was heavy. The minus 50 degrees cold weighed down upon us.

We reached the place of the cutting. We spread out two by two in all directions of the wide area. I and my work partner, a Lithuanian gentile, approached one of the silent trees whose foliage was still enveloped in darkness. We quickly removed the pile of snow around its roots until we got to the layer of frozen ground. I used the axe to slowly chop chips of the trunk until the appropriate depth. Then I moved to the other side and used the saw. We kneeled on our knees or stood bent over, monotonously pulled the saw, and cut this gigantic tree with a humming sound. A small groan was heard. We jumped to the side. The pine tree slowly leaned downward. One more minute, and the giant fell over, raising a flurry of snow. Now we cut the branches with axes, gathered them into a pile, and lit them. The trunk was cut according to the standard measurements. Our quota was eight cubic meters, which was made up by 30-40 trees.

Lunchtime approached. We removed the piece of frozen bread from our sacks and placed it on a wooden twig next to the bonfire to toast it. We also melted snow in a cup. The water boiled and the tea was ready. After an hour of rest, we returned to work.

It was 4:45 in the afternoon. The work was registered by an official of the office. They signed the document – and the fate of the quota of bread and of life was decreed upon you. We cast a glance around, there had been a forest and now there was a dead field. It was time to return “home”. The light was dimming. The sun disappeared behind the treetops. The cold deepened. The pants, pupikia, felt boots and gloves were damp from sweat and the deep snow. I quickened my pace, and in my head there was one thought: hot soup and fresh bread.

When we arrived at the small field we hastened into line at the small store in order to receive our ration of bread: 600-800 grams. Once a month we also received other provisions: a kilogram of sugar, two kilograms of grits, 700 grams of butter, a small bag of tea and two small bags of machorka for smoking. When there was no butter we would receive a kilogram of horse meat in lieu of each 100 grams.

We removed our work clothes when we entered the barracks. Everything was hung to dry. The oven was lit, and the elderly people and children who had remained there had already prepared their meals. We snatched our places near the oven. Whoever was unable to cook their meal had their pot pushed to the side. It was now the turn of the people of the forest.

The meal was ready. I devoured my “delicacies” but I did not have the feeling of satiation. I arrived hungry and remained hungry. There was no radio or newspapers, and all sorts of rumors were spread. Everyone jumped in and said what he wanted. The Lithuanians spread fabricated stories about the German victories. The gnawing in the heart grew. Aside from these stories, we heard words of argument, strife and slander.

It was 9:00 p.m. I hastened to my bed, fell asleep and dreamed about food, love, and days and years gone by.

Tomorrow is another day of work. One of thousands like it.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Similar to the English expression, “poor as a church mouse”.Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctors'_plotReturn
  3. Page 273 is missing in the NYPL scans (Page 275 was repeated twice in error).Return
  4. I am not sure of the meaning of this term – although I expect it is some form of long underwear (the word pupik, Yiddish and Slavic for navel or abdomen, is present).Return

[Page 280]

To Those who are Making the Effort
- Be Strong and of Good Courage!

Translated by Jerrold Landau

“Let us Remember” - this is the name of the 50-page booklet that was published by the Geulim School of Bat Yam, which adopted the community of Jonava for itself.

The teacher Riva Shalovich, the organizer of the adoption activities, tells:

“I was raised with the stories and memories, as my late mother used to tell and describe, so that to me, Jonava became a living and well-known town, even though I only spent the first two years of my life there.”

The commemoration ceremony was organized on the 9th of Tevet, 5730 (1970). The occasion was particularly impressive and very moving. The guests - including many Jonava natives - felt anew the experiences of those days, and could not stop the emotions that came to the fore.

The ceremony left a great impression even upon the students who played an active part in or witnessed the proceedings, to the point where they were able to identify with the fate of the people of the town. This is expressed through their impressions:

“I felt literally as one of the survivors of Jonava. Tears began to flow from my eyes,” writes Rivka Shami.

Chaya Loberbaum also testifies to this, “I felt as if I was in that town of Jonava and participated in all the experiences… The identification filled my entire essence… This evening imparted a great deal to me and to all those who were present.”

The rests of the students in the booklet confirm this.

On the memorial day on the 9th of Tevet 5731 (1971), the memorial corner, that is the perpetuation room, in which the students invested a great deal of work and dedication, was opened.

The ceremony began with the words of the school principal Rachel Angel. Then, Menachem Levin and Yitzchak Burstein spoke. A representative of Yad Vashem also spoke.

{Photo page 280: Uncaptioned. The ceremony. The banner at the top reads, “I have made a vow to remember everything. To remember, speak and not forget.}

[Frst unnumbered page after 280]

{Photos page 281: The Perpetuation Room of the Community of Jonava of Lithuania. - three photos.}

[Second unnumbered page after 280]

{Top photo: At the memorial in the Geulim School of Bat Yam, which adopted our town of Jonava. The dais: Zeev Ofek, Y[itzchak]. Burstein, Rabbi Aryeh Lifshitz, the representative of Yad Vashem, principal Rachel Angel, teacher Riva Shalovich - a Jonava native, the daughter of Yentl Solomin, teacher Maoz Shefi.}

{Bottom photo: Jonava natives and the parents of the students.}

[Third unnumbered page after 280]

{Two photos with caption in between: The female students presenting a performance about the fate of the Jews of Jonava.}

[Fourth unnumbered page after 280]

{Top photo: Students of the school at a play on the memorial day.}

{Bottom photo: The students listening to the words of Zeev Ofek. Next to him is the principal Rachel Angel.}

[Page 281]

Many students participated in the performance. They gave expression to their identification in skits, words, and song. Actor Meir Tsoref [Goldshmidt] read an excerpt from Holocaust literature.

This was a ceremony of unity that left a strong impression on all the participants.

On top of all this, we express our esteem and thanks to the efforts of those who led and carried out the adoption efforts - the teachers and students together.

For strengthening our hands - let your hands be strengthened!

A Small Room that Contains So Much

by Riva Shalovich from “Nir”, the publication of the students of the school.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

A large group gathered from various places in the Land. They came especially to participate in a memorial evening for the general Holocaust Day, and to open a perpetuation room for the community of Jonava of Lithuania that was wiped out in the Holocaust.

It was obvious that the evening was very precious to everyone. Many years have passed since then, but the memory of the town with all its personalities and people is etched upon the hearts of everyone as a living picture. The gathering evoked memories of youth that ended in pain and great sadness.

The perpetuation room was opened for visitors. The small room includes so much in it - a full world of the life that once was. I looked at the faces of the visitors. Emotion overtook them. They were searching for faces and childhood landscapes that they recognized in the pictures. Stories and trivia were dredged up from the recesses of the past. It was hard to leave the place.

One felt that one was situated in a corner of communion with the destroyed home of one's parents; a corner that is the connecting link between that generation that witnessed the events of the Holocaust with its own flesh and the younger generation that grew up free and secure -- children who attempted to the best of their ability to understand the magnitude of the tragedy, and to feel the pain of the nation.

The adults feel gratitude toward the following generation who are learning to recognize the Jewish towns of the European Diaspora by delving into stories of the life in the town.

Let this be their comfort, and it is no small comfort, for all those who lost their dear ones and for those who survived the Nazi inferno.

By Riva Shalovich,

[Page 281]


by Riva Shalovich

Translated by Jerrold Landau

… I was deeply impressed by the perpetuation room, as if we had been in that community of Jonava (Elana Zavdon).

… We heard the sounds of weeping from among the audience present at the ceremony. Our tears also choked our throats. It was only with great difficulty that we held them back. Our part in the ceremony came. We ascended the stage with the feeling that we were part of those people. I must admit that we did not fully understand the meaning of the word “Holocaust”; but after we had heard from the natives of the town what had happened to that community and its people, our hearts were filled with feelings of honor and understanding for them, and for all the people of the Jewish communities who were overtaken by the Nazi destruction.

(Yitzchak Levi)

From the impressions of the students present at the perpetuation ceremony, from the same publication.

[Page 282]

{Photo page 282: Uncaptioned. Children in front of a picture of the town.}

The memorial ceremony opened a wound that may not heal. Perhaps? Is it possible to forget?

The burning question: How could such an atrocity have taken place?

The drama club of our school put on a performance of a chapter of lives of the children in the ghetto, which brought us to tears. It was obvious that memories were brought forth in the hearts of the audience. I attempted to control my tears, with the prayer in my heart that such a Holocaust never be repeated, that we will never again have to weep over communities of Israel.

Orli Mendelson, a grade 8 student.

On the 9th of Tevet 5732 (1972), we gathered together to recall the victims of the Holocaust, as is our custom.

The ceremony began with the reading of Yizkor, and the recital of Kaddish and Kel Maleh Rachamim[1].

Mr. Shani spoke in the name of Yad Vashem. The editor of the book of Jonava, Shimon Noy, spoke about unique stories of the Jews of the town, the youth, and expression of resistance[2].

The actor Meir Tsoref [Goldshmidt] read sections of the book of Jonava and described some of his personal wartime experiences. His words were spoken in Yiddish and were directed primarily to the new immigrants.

The dramatic club of the school, under the direction of Ruth Lifschitz, presented skits of the life of the children in the ghetto. The material of the skits was culled from the books “The Children of Mapu Street,” and “There are no Butterflies Here.”

The meeting between the youth who grew up in the Land and did not know the terrors of the ghetto with the natives of the town blew a spirit of support and hope into all those present.

With this, we fulfill the commandment: Remember, and do not forget! We also emphasize that such a Holocaust will never take place again.

Riva Shalovich, the coordinator of the adoption effort.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Kel Maleh Rachamim is the Jewish prayer for the dead. Kaddish is a doxology recited in memory of the deceased. Yizkor is a memorial prayer.Return
  2. Evidently, resistance efforts to the anti-Semitism of the Holocaust.Return

[Page 283]

In Memory of the Fallen

Yitzchak Pogirsky

by Dr. Shimon Zak from the book “Banim” (“Sons”)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

We were both born in Jonava, and we were approximately the same age. I knew Yitzchak (Itzel) already from his childhood, even though we did not study in the same school, for, in accordance with the will of his father, he received a more religious education that I was given.

When we returned to Jonava at the end of 1921 after the expulsion, I met Yitzchak in Kovno as a student of the Real Hebrew Gymnasium. In 1922, we were both accepted to the medical school of the Lithuanian University. The friendship between us strengthened. We sat on the same school bench for two years, always did our practical work in the same group, and prepared for exams together. In 1924, he decided to continue his studies in France. We met again in Strasbourg. He moved to Paris in 1926, where he completed his studies.

When I returned to Lithuania in 1932, I found that Yitzchak had established a family in the interim, and served as a physician in the Lithuanian Army.

{Photo page 283: Uncaptioned. Yitzchak, with a wife and two children.}

He made aliya with his family to the Land in 1933. I made aliya in 1934. He remained in Tel Aviv, and I joined a Kibbutz. We met on occasion, and I always enjoyed my encounters with my old friend.

In 1941, fate brought us together once again. We were drafted into the British Army as physicians. Yitzchak was sent to Egypt, and I was sent to Sudan and Ethiopia. In 1943, I received the news that Yitzchak was no longer alive. He had fallen in October, 1942…

The following are some of his personality traits, as are guarded in my memory. First of all, he was particular and diligent. If he set times to study, nothing could move him from his learning. He had internal integrity. He would carry through to completion anything that he believed in. He was exacting in fulfilling the commandment of “the produce of the Land.” Despite the fact that he was well off, tall, strong and handsome, he did not desire to stand out and did not take any pride in doing so.

The strand of his life was snuffed out in his prime, when he was only in his early 40s.

May his memory be a blessing.

[Page 284]

Yerubaal and Hillel Lavie, Rachel Zisla

Published by Ein Harod

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Yerubaal Lavie

{Photo page 284 right: Yerubaal Lavie}

Yerubaal, the son of Rachel (nee Zisla) and Shlomo Lavie-Levkovitz, was born on the 1st of Tammuz 5684 (1924). He was born, raised and educated in Ein Harod. He was orphaned from his mother during his childhood. He was modest in his deportment and upright and of pure heart in his way of life. From his childhood, he was known as being responsible and dedicated to any matter to which he was given responsibility. When he left school, he participated in farm work and the course of life. He was active in local defense activities. His regular work was in the shed. He enlisted in the Hebrew Brigade of the British Army in the latter part of 1944. His stops included Sarafand[1], Egypt, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Holland, and France. When he returned from the army, he joyfully returned to the work of the farm and the realities of life at home. He was employed as an orchard worker. In the latter, turbulent period, he found his role in defense, and dedicated himself to this with his full energy and strength. He became known as a competent leader and filled his role of company commander with responsibility. On the 8th of Adar II, 5708 (1948), he hurried the reinforcements to assist his friends in the Battle of Gilboa and fell.

Hillel Lavie

{Photo page 284 left: Hillel Lavie}

Hillel the son of Rachel and Shlomo was born in Ein Harod on 11 Av, 5689 (1929). His mother died when he was a year and three months old.

From his childhood, he stood out from among his friends in his independence and storied spirit. With the passage of time, when he set out with his classmates from the school and entered the farm along with his friends, he naturally became the center of the group, and the instigator of the spiritual and social activities of his friends.

He chose work in the home garden as his regular occupation.

With the outbreak of the disturbances and the war, he immediately played an active role, at first among the local ranks and later as a leader and trainer of youths and adults. He participated in the Battle of Gilboa in which his older brother fell. Then, he was sent to a national course for leaders. On the night of the invasion, he volunteered to go from the course to the incursion unit of the Palmach in the Negev, and participated in all of its daring activities.

He set out in a convoy of jeeps to bring help to Kfar Darom on June 6, 1948, after the first ceasefire. On his return from the village, on 7 Sivan, 5708 (1948), he was hit by an Egyptian shell.

His body was brought to burial in the soil of Ein Harod on the first anniversary of his death.

This Was His Mother

Hillel was born to a mother - oh, what can one say about this mother? Wellspring of love flowed from her to all that surrounded her. With all these, she was able to keep the depths of the wellsprings of her love for her children…

In one of the letters that she wrote to the father of her children when he was away from home for a few days, we find a praise for Hillel: -- -- -- “Now I think, how great is the power of the children, as I think of Hillel, I feel that all the chambers of my heart are filled with light, joy, and love. It seems to me as if the light of the sun and the chirping of the birds exist only in the merit of children. Everything is wonderful in its beauty and goodness…”

We called him Hillel. She said that our oldest son is called Yerubaal. “He will destroy the idols[2], and he will be the heir to your fighting spirit… This one will be my heir, like Hillel the Elder in Jewish tradition; he will seek peace, calm, and love.”

This was the mother of our children.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A town in pre-war Palestine, near Ramle. A large British army base was located there.Return
  2. An additional name given to the judge Gideon. The name means “He who fights with Baal.”Return

[Page 285]

Mordechai Herman

by Shoshana and Gershon Vilan

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 284: Lieutenant Mordechai Herman, the son of Chaviva (nee Persky) and Yeshayahu, fell in the area of the Suez Canal on the 4th of Elul 5729 (August 18, 1969).}

I first met Motti at the beginning of 1964, when I came to lead the Hachorshim Brigade of Hashomer Hatzair in Ramat Gan. I met a unique youth, central and active.

Motti loved nature, and especially living beings, very much. He visited the Negba on the Feast of First Fruits of 5724 (1964)[1]. That entire day, Motti was filled with excitement about the horse races. He wandered around the stable, visited the horse, and inspected it from head to hoof.

Finally, the competition itself came. Motti galloped on a horse with blazing eyes - on the grass at the center of the Kibbutz. Our truck was waiting, and the driver was blowing the horn (in order to return to Ramat Gan). The travelers were already seated and ready for the journey - all of them, except for Motti. He could not part from the horse. “Go, I will return myself,” he shouted to us.

His great knowledge of agriculture astounded me at the time. He took interest in crops, irrigation, machinery and tractors a long time before he began his studies in Hadera.

With his love of nature, he was an ideal member of the youth group.

Motti studied in Hadera for three years.

I only followed him during the first period, at the beginning of his path there. I felt that the period of time in the agricultural school was an important milestone for Motti along the path toward independence and adulthood.

I visited the school twice. I chatted with Motti's advisors. I recall his many stories of his status and his feelings toward the school and the group - how he operated the mechanical equipment for plowing and the equipment in the garage, how he worked as the operator of agricultural implements for the farmers of Hadera. Motti indeed found his place in that school, despite the fact that he had uprooted himself from Ramat Gan, his friends, and even in pushing off his army service.

The connection between us continued even after I returned to Negba. On occasion, on Sabbaths, Motti would come to visit us, bringing some of his friends along. I will admit that each visit left a unique feeling with us.

I remember Motti as a soldier in army fatigues and high army boots, standing in the darkness and stubbornly entering the children's room to take a glance at his sleeping baby. This seemed slightly strange to us, but it was so true to his nature! The older daughter already knew his name and remembered him from visit to visit.

[Page 286]

There were also meetings in the field, several kilometers from the farm. Motti would appear in the field and come to me. I was not at home, and he went to search for me in the field, full of happiness and a smile. He would give me professional advice on the tractor and on cultivation. He was full of joy and faith in life, all exclamation marks with no questions.

My final meeting with Motti was after he completed his course as an armor officer. A mature officer sat next to me, a lad in whom the Israel Defense Forces had placed great responsibility. We exchanged impressions on Sinai and the Suez Canal. Motti told us about his plans in the army. We parted, and he entered his white “Saab”, started it and set out on his way. Shosha, who was standing next to me, said, “See, we knew a land and now he has grown up. Did you ever believe that your “wild” Motti would become a captain?”

Motti had a deep sense of volunteerism: to forge forward, to do, to help, to succeed, to prove himself. How proud was he of his deeds during the Six Day War in Kibbutz Haon, when he took an ambulance and transported wounded people himself, even though he was only a lad in national service.

It seemed that there were no bounds to his wellspring of energy… However … however … Motti is no more; Motti, with whom we were so connected and whom we liked so much, who was so full of youthful plans: flourishing, laughter, and renewal. The heart refused, the logic contradicts, but the reality screams out.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shavuot.Return

Eliahu Hagalili (Galanreichik)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He was born in 1913 in Vilna and was raised in Jonava. He made aliya in 1933. He fell in the War of Independence, in the Western Galilee in the area of Nahariya, on June 27, 1948.

{Photo page 286: Uncaptioned. A barren tree.}

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