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[Pages 200-201]

We Were Saved in Russia

by Zeldah Veits

Translated by Deborah Schultz

Of the shelling of Kalush by the Germans on the day that they started the war against the Soviets, I heard only after the war. We were lucky that in the day the Germans started their war against the Soviets, I was already in the east of Russia, very far from Kalush. [However], inscribed in my memory was the aerial operation of the Germans in the skies of Kalush during the first week of the war between them and the Poles. This was on Monday, market day in Kalush. Several airplanes were over the town, and in some places gunfire was heard. In the marketplace, panic prevailed, people started to flee, chickens scattered in all directions, eggs were broken, and enormous quantities of fruit were scattered through the entire market. Screams of “Gas, gas!” were heard everywhere. However, this panic was in vain, and silence returned after a short time. This silence was tense, because it became known that the Polish Army was defeated on all fronts and the Polish state had collapsed.

In the third week of the war, the Russians arrived in town. [People] were dancing from great joy, and cheered for the “Red Messiah.” However, the days of the Messiah lasted only a short time. In town, shortages prevailed; the stores became empty of merchandise, it was difficult to get bread and sugar, and long lines appeared in front of the stores.

It was a comfort that [those] days were over quickly, which were only a time of transition until the Soviet regime was arranged. The Soviets arranged elections, and the community went to vote in happiness and to the sounds of music. [But] after the elections began the “purging.” Independent Jewish professionals, among them Master Friedlender and Dr. Fentser, and also distinguished Poles, among them the mayor, were expelled by the Russians from the town. Also, my husband and A. Lang were banished as so-called traitors to the Communist Party and the Soviet regime. They were led away like sheep to slaughter, and until today I do not know their fates. According to the rumor, most of them were murdered by the N.K.V.D. [Soviet secret police, preceding the K.G.B.]. I remained alone with a baby one-and-a-half years old, but I was still in Kalush my town, in which lived my extended family.

On the 22nd of May, 1941, at the hour of four in the morning, we heard knocks on the door of my apartment. Two men of the N.K.V.D. entered in uniforms. I shook from terror and begged them to leave me alone, but my plea was to no avail. They helped me pack a few things, among them a blanket and a pillow, that saved me and my little child from death in frozen Siberia. When we went down to the street, a cab was waiting for us, and in it we drove to the train station. It was made clear to me that I was not alone; many people were sent the same day from Kalush to Siberia.

My parents, who accompanied me to the train, cried bitterly, certain that we were sent to die. Yet behold, fate ran otherwise. They, all my relatives and almost all the Jews of Kalush, were murdered in cruelty at the hands of the Nazis, and I with my child, sent to Siberia, remained alive. There is no evil that in it, there is no good.

After we returned to Poland in the year 1946, I looked everywhere for anyone from among my relatives, or at least somebody from the Jews of Kalush, but in vain. However, in Vrotslav [Wroclaw, Poland?], I met by chance a Polish woman who was until the war a cashier at the cinema. She told me stories of the horror that the Nazis, may their names be erased, did to the Jews of our city. She herself was – in her own words – a witness to cruelty by children towards a Jew, who lived opposite to the Catholic church and occupied himself until the war in the sale of whitewash. The children competed among them in plucking the beard of the Jew, and together with the hair, they plucked out pieces of skin. In deep pain, I separated myself from the woman, because I could not listen [anymore] to the description of the horrors.

 

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