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[Page 131]

Between two regimes


[Page 132]

A Story of Wandering

by Avraham Borsuk
(in memory of my brother Noach)

Translated by Ann Belinsky

It is difficult for me to write about a man who was so dear to me and whose life was intertwined together with mine. The cruel war caused the death of my dear and unforgettable brother. Numerous troubles and great suffering fell upon us together during the upheavals and wandering from place to place.

My brother Noach was a cultured man, of quick perception and liked by all, many found in him a good friend and colleague. He was used to encouraging anyone in trouble.

I remember when we left Steibtz, which came about suddenly. At the end of 1939 it became known to me that it was possible to reach the Romanian or Hungarian border. At the same time at that time, Noach was working only slightly, for in the days of the Russian rule, we were both hungry. When I returned home, I told Noach that I wished to leave Steibtz, and with a handshake to our mother of blessed memory, Noach promised that he would take care of me in our wanderings (for I was the youngest of the family), and my brother indeed fulfilled his promise to our mother. It was difficult to leave everything and not take farewell of friends and family. It is hard to describe the terrible suffering until we arrived to Turek (in Galicia). We turned to the Rabbi R' Yerechmiel Layzerzon of blessed memory and begged him to help us cross the Hungarian border. After some time a man was found who brought us to a Christian who was supposed to bring us across the Carpathians, but in the middle of the way left us in the lurch. Thanks to Noach's alertness we came to a farmer who treated us well, but since his home was on the border and the border guards would come to warm themselves in his house, the farmer got us a guide who would take us further. After several kilometers we arrived at the house of a Jew who lived already in the Hungarian area side. We were hungry and wet. In the house of the Jew they gave us plenty of food, and we lay down to sleep. In the middle of the night we were woken and told we had to leave. With tears in our eyes we left to continue on an unknown way without knowing the local language. Thus we walked until we got to Munkács.

In Munkács we were well received at the Rabbi's house and there we felt that we were in a Jewish home and among devoted people. When it became known in the town that two Zionists had arrived, people came and treated us well.


Noach Borsuk

[Page 133]

In the meanwhile we made contact with the family in Eretz Israel, who began trying to obtain certificates for us. We found out that Shlomo Lipsky had arrived from Eretz and he was organizing illegal immigration. And therefore we turned to him. After several days we received a letter from Dobkin and from Zalman Shazar, with a recommendation that Lipsky would take care of us. But it was already too late. Lipsky promised that when he returned to Eretz, he would not rest until we would be brought to our destination. We also received letters from Anschel Weiss from Bucharest, who took an interest in us. After a short time a certificate for Noach arrived. In the meanwhile, Turkey was not giving a pass to refugees and we were transferred to a concentration camp where I was separated from my brother Noach. Noach was attacked by bouts of fever without water or medicine, I absorbed cruel beatings before I managed to get to where my brother was lying. I had no idea what to do and how to help him. After two months of suffering and hopelessness, the Baroness Wertheimer suddenly came to us from the Red Cross. With difficulty I got to her, I started to beg and request her to help Noach and that he be brought to a hospital in Budapest, and to allow me to leave Hungary. The Baroness promised, and after two weeks, a license arrived, permitting Noah to travel. However, he insisted that he would not leave me in these bad conditions. I explained to him that I was well and could overcome everything and why should both of us suffer, and in the end he listened to me and left. Our parting was difficult and terrible. Noach improved a little in Budapest and after that he was given an ultimatum to return to the concentration camp or to leave Hungary. Noach chose a new way to cross the border to Yugoslavia illegally. It was hard for me to remain alone in the difficult conditions and without food.

Noach got to Yugoslavia and was really happy, for he found a place to start teaching the Hebrew language to immigrants from Vienna and from Germany. He dedicated himself with all his energy to educate the youth on their way to pioneering.

In his letters to me he wrote that if I could be beside him then he would be happy. A long time passed until I could finally get to him. I will never forget our meeting. He hugged and kissed me and said: Avraham, from now on we will never separate! I told explained to him that in a few more days' time there would be illegal immigration and I would be among the passengers. But he didn't agree to this. Many people were then in line to make aliyah and there was no room for everyone, and also some ships had run aground. I was forced to stay. We dedicated ourselves to help the newcomers who didn't know Hebrew and we also worked in the Gordonia youth movement. Noach got sick again. I began to write letters to the immigration office and requested that he be among the first to make aliyah to Eretz. In the meanwhile I got a letter from Switzerland from Nachum Shvelbeh, a childhood friend where he wrote: “Avraham! The land is in flames! Whoever can help himself should help the others.” Of course I wanted Noach to immigrate and this they promised me.

After I got the letter, I collected several youths and we travelled to Belgrade to the Polish Consulate and demanded that we be drafted as soldiers. At first they didn't want to hear about this, but after several days a telegram arrived from London to take out all the Poles from Yugoslavia. And thus I was amongst them. Noach came to Belgrade two days before the outbreak of war between Yugoslavia with the Germans. I would travel to Turkey and Noach to Eretz. We met at the railway station. He was very weak as a result of his prolonged illness. He pressed my hand while trembling and said: “Avraham, Maybe you will wait for a certificate and I will wait too and both of us will travel”. He had no money. Suddenly I felt a box of cigarettes in my hand. Choking back tears, I separated from him. And that was the last time that I saw him. He was cut down in the prime of his life and while still alive was thrown into a pit with others on top of him. In 1945 they were bought to burial in Eretz Israel.


The Borsuk Family

Sitting: Moshe and Sasha Borsuk
Standing from right: Esther, Mordechai, Noach, Chana, Avraham


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