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[Page 135]

Lives and Names

 

Perl Tine Reports…

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Montreal. We sit together: Gitl Kupersztajn, Meir Czarta and I and hear what Perl Tine reports.

We listen not only with our ears but with our entire being and she talks. Her voice trembles from time to time and stops. She has to catch her breath, control herself, gather her thoughts and we do not interrupt [during] the long, difficult pauses without any words. It appears to us that in certain places she forgets that we are there and she is speaking to herself. She speaks with a quiet voice, opens and closes her eyes.

Suddenly she turns nervously and sharply to me:

– Dovid, do you need to know everything precisely? Everything that happened? Do you want to go through everything on our road to death with us, which will take hours, many hours? Everything? Your effort is useless. Human words cannot explain what we have lived through. Those who were not there will not understand. You have already heard everything more than once and from more than one person and you again will hear everything. Learn the details, but you will not have lived in the same air that we lived in; you will not understand the secret of the insulted souls that became dulled, but unprotected. All of the insults penetrated through the shield of becoming accustomed [to them] over hours, days and months, of becoming accustomed to and dulled to the surroundings, to the pains, to waiting for death, which must come, every day. One cannot become accustomed. One cannot live with another's tortured soul just as one cannot live with another's tortured body. Such is the human nature.

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The first blow: on the first day, as soon as the Germans arrived in Kolki, they took 40 Jews – based on [a previously created] exact list of artisans, merchants, older and younger people – and took them away and they were never seen again.

You probably already know the further blows. I do not have to repeat everything. The edicts against us came one after the other like the plagues against Pharaoh. Something else every time.

Give the boots. Not one pair of boots was to remain in any Jewish home. Without difference – new or old, all boots had to be given up. And what if there were no boots in the home? Steal, buy, “extract” from under the earth – but one must bring boots.

Give the furs! – the short and long fur coats, fur-lined coats, pelts; everything without exception that is considered fur goods – everything that once belonged to the pelt of an animal.

Give up warm clothing: gloves, scarves, sweaters, socks. You must give. There is no choice and if you do not give, you will deliver your murdered husband, brother, sister to the cemetery (then it was still possible to be buried at the cemetery).

Give! Give! Give everything! – plates, bowls, pots, forks, knives. Give! Give! Give! So try not to give!

The “takers” did not give everything to Hitler's state treasury. A great deal of Jewish possessions remained with the neighbors – Ukrainian peasants.

And still not everything had been told. As great as the fear of the occupiers was, fear of another terrible enemy – hunger – was greater. Something had to be kept to exchange for a piece of bread. Jews did not have the right to have anything – not any bread, not any flour, not any bits of butter. They had to exist with a piece of lime-bread, that the Germans allowed to be given to their accursed Jewish slaves. The would carry on inspections and take everything, searching

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not only in the sideboards, in the kitchen, but also under the pillows and under the beds. When they found something, they often also took the “guilty one” [who had hidden something].

And they lived in fear during the day and at night; the soul never knew of rest and of respite.

They lay in their clothing and not one Jew closed his eyes the entire night when a wedding took place at a close neighbor and the sound carried of a harmonica and drunken singing from the wild guests, among whom there were Germans. [They] waited with deadly fear of the beautiful [said ironically] group getting the desire to live it up in the ghetto. Once they came at night to our house. We heard the voice of Georg (that is what the local leader of the Germans was named) and we instinctively felt horror: he was coming to us. The entered in a group; he and his comrade – a two-footed one who was like a 200 kilogram [440 pound-] pig. His speech also was like the “grunt” of a pig. His coming as a “guest” actually coincided with my husband coming from work in a village. At the same time he had to trade his suit for a few kilos of cornmeal and two kilos of barley groats. I thought that I had hid this “treasure” very well. However, they detected it and they took it for themselves. After a thorough search [they also took] three large valises with the very last things that we had saved. This was not only our own. Five families lived in the house with us and everyone's last possessions were in the valises. We all now remained bare and naked. And we were lucky that at least we had saved our naked bodies. Alas, the greatest luck because for what did we need this ugly life? However, the nature of a man already was apparent – he is ready to sacrifice everything – even if it is only for an hour – to live!...

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After us, they entered Chaim Chasis' house, but they found nothing there. They already had taken everything during such previous visits. A fire was lit in their devilish hearts – they ordered the police to throw out the pitiful remainder of the pitifully poor furniture and made a ruin of it. They sold on the spot, at Swiniacze Street, at the pasture, everything that had even the least value. There was no lack of customers.

In short – mir hobn gebentsht goyml [we recited the prayer said after having escaped great danger] that it had ended this way. In many cases it ended differently – new widows and new orphans came to the ghetto.

All of the Jews had to work – that you know. However, perhaps you do not know that the sick with 40 degree [Celsius – 104 degrees Farhenheit] temperature and people who were spitting blood were driven to work. The Germans found work for the young and the grown, for a young boy and an old man, for someone burdened by age, who could barely retain his soul. There were lime pits in the Polish village Kolodnitsa, eight kilometers [almost five miles] from Kolki. Previously, a few Polish peasants were employed digging out slaked lime; now the Germans created an entire factory at these pits. Fifty to 60 Jews worked here and they were rarely permitted to return to the ghetto. They had to “live” on the spot. They would toil all day then spend the night of four hours in a barn and then they would again be awakened for work.

These people, perhaps with more feeling than sense, understood that they were getting closer to death. As is known, “Need breaks iron,” as several young men declared. And they built a bunker at night not far from the Polish village of Taracz [Tarazh] and hid it. The work continued with deadly danger almost the entire summer. Besides them [the builders of the bunker], the remainder in the barn did not even know that they were disappearing at night for a terrifying job.

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Perl Tine again became silent. This time it [the silence] lasted long. Then she shook herself as if from a nightmare and looked at us with a fogged glance.

– Yes, the last edict in the ghetto was the order that the ghetto must at once collect 20 kilograms [44 pounds] of gold. Do you hear that? Twenty kilograms! We understood that this was a game of death; we gave wedding rings, earrings, medallions that belonged to our grandmothers and great grandmothers and had been inherited, wedding gifts, golden goblets from our great grandfathers and bequeathed Elijah's cups and despite this, we could not collect much. The Germans, experienced with looting and robbing, understood: [this was like] taking the skin from a corpse; he is dead and cannot even give his breath.
I do not remember exactly when this happened; I think between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. How can one remember when each day was a holiday with us and each day we found ourselves in front of the religious court and knew that there would be no other verdict than the highest punishment: death!

Once, on a Friday morning, I had baked a few breads and hid them in a hiding place (perhaps they are still lying there?). We lived near the butcher, Mendl Burka. He had, if I remember, a wife. She was called Khaytshe. Something drew me to go outside. I went down to the small bridge, looked around and saw nothing, absolutely nothing. Everything around me had died out. A dead stillness. And the terrible stillness frightened me. New S.S.-men had come last night – none of them were seen. There was not one Ukrainian policeman around the ghetto. They were not leading nor forcing anyone to work. No door opened anywhere; no one went to a neighbor even for a second. Such stillness. No noise, no movement. Did every Jew in the ghetto, as with one heart, feel that danger hovered, death was coming, was approaching on tip-toe, so that they

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hid? With fear I ran to my older sister Golda, Zelik Fajersztajn's wife. She then lived near Avraham Itsikl – the same one who traded in rags. I ran breathlessly to my sister Golda and said:

– I am not pleased with the dead stillness. Something is surely happening and we do not know. I cannot understand why it is quieter today than every other time. Why? My heart tells me that something bad is happening. Something will happen from which we have to leave. Come, Golda, let us leave the ghetto. She answered me:

– Where can I go with two very small children? Where will I go with them? What is the difference where they will kill us? At least, let us all be together and accept death together. If you want to, you can go. Your husband Vove still works in Kolodnitsa; go to him, perhaps he will find a solution somehow.

I did so. I took the children and left. My son was five years old; he walked after me. I put one daughter on my back and the second one – a nine-month old – I carried in my arms. We walked and walked. No one stopped us, no one even looked at us. It was as if everything around us had died. Usually, a Ukrainian policeman would appear as if from under the ground when one just tried to leave the ghetto, or another devil [would appear] and now they all were as if into the ground, as if that was the most suitable place for them… In short, I went to Kolodnitsa. The Jews surrounded me and began to question me. I told them that the unusual, dead silence had frightened me. It was not a day like all the other days. Silent. They [the Germans] were no longer driving [Jews] to work, were not chasing them, not beating them. I saw no one. Something must happen?

Later, so many Jews began coming from the Kolki ghetto to Kolodnitsa – bloodied and wounded, without jackets, as if leaving a fire.

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We learned from them that the large liquidation had begun. The Germans had unexpectedly attacked the ghetto, surrounded it and whoever had not succeeded in escaping or hidden somewhere had been driven to the Biala pits.

The Jews in the barn escaped into the forest. Many perished in the previously built bunkers. Vove had gotten a wagon and he sent me and the children to the Polish village of Usychi. There, no one wanted to permit me and the children to enter any house, until someone took pity and, despite the fact that this put him and the members of his household in great danger, took us in. I have remembered his name with thankfulness for my entire life. He was named Ignaci Lipinski.

Two days later, my Vove and Shmulik Czartoryskier came. My Vove was completely bloodied and his hand had been shot through. We knew that the Jews in the bunkers had all been murdered. They thought that no one knew about their hiding places and, at first, no one did know. However, the next morning, after the liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans and the Banderowces [members of the Bandera faction of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army] showed up at the bunkers. They all had come not for a war but for hunting. They shot a series of gunfire deep into the bunkers and waited. After a longer pause, they threw in several grenades and listened with pleasure to the voices and moans that reached them. They waited and then threw in a dynamite bomb and so on – more grenades, an incendiary bomb, again a series of shots. They extended their pleasure for as long as it was possible.

When Vove and Shmulik came to us, they did not stay but took two shovels from the peasant and went into the forest to dig out a pit. I left my son and daughter in the village and took my nine-month old baby into the pit with me. The little one did not even cry as if she were an intelligent person and understood what kind of situation

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we found ourselves in. I was so physically and spiritually exhausted that I simply was in no condition to understand that the child was not crying because it simply had no strength – I did not let it out of my hands and so my little daughter died in my arms.

One night we sensed more than heard that someone was approaching us. It did not even occur to us to escape – let whatever is destined happen. However, we looked out and noticed that Lipinski's son was coming to us and was leading our daughter by the hand. My heart exploded in me. The younger Lipinski told us that someone had denounced them to the Germans as hiding Jews. The S.S.-men had taken his father. His father knew where the hiding place was; he might not be able to endure the torture, the beating, the brutalities. Therefore, it was better that we flee from here and take along the child.

Vove grabbed our daughter in his arms and, without deliberation and without losing even a second, we quickly left. Where do we go? God in heaven! Now, no one would allow us to cross their threshold!...

There was still one person, an old acquaintance of ours, Alszewski, in a farmhouse six kilometers from Kolodnitsa. We placed our lives with him, as on the last card.

– Dear ones – Alszewski said to us when we came to him – I cannot help you at all. Policemen are swarming all around and there are many types in our village who would be ready to run to the Germans to denounce you…
We left, to wherever our eyes took us. It appeared as if we were hurrying in the direction of the village of Taracz. Suddenly I stopped, riveted to the ground – I could not see. I saw nothing around me, not the road, not the trees. Complete darkness had descended on me.

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I had lost my eyesight. But we hurried on our way as if death itself was chasing behind us. Vove carried the child in his arms and the child did not stop crying. I held on to Czartoryskier and thus we walked pressed close to one another. Now we knew where we were going – to Taracz, to Taracz, more quickly to Taracz. It would have been easier without me. I did not see the world. Everything was the same to me. I was only a weight, a hobble. But we walked. We arrived in the village in the dark evening and entered Alszewski's barn.[1] We crawled into the straw and tried not to breathe under the straw, which covered our heads.

However, the dog in the barn smelled strangers; he began barking. He barked and barked and what could he bark but a new misfortune for us? The old Alszewska [the wife] came out to calm the dog and entered the barn. She did not see us, but she understood. She began talking to us as if we were standing face to face:

– Crawl out of the straw – she said – and sit down; I will come right back.
She came back with a large pot of hot, boiling potatoes just taken off the fire.
– Eat dear ones – she said – but you cannot stay here. I have children, grandchildren, I have a son; I am afraid. Sit here until nighttime and disappear.
Did we have a choice? We started walking again at night. We left our young girl with a peasant in the village of Aburki. I remember his name to this day. He was named Kazlowski. We left the child with him and ran further quickly. Vove had a Ukrainian acquaintance in the village of Chernysh. Never criticize the entire world. There also were decent, respectable people among the Ukrainians. We knocked on the peasant's window, whom we familiarly called

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Yoshe, Yoshke. He recognized us and immediately opened the door, letting us in his house. He immediately took a pot of hot borscht out of the oven, cut bread and told us to eat.

We sat eating and hope sneaked into our hearts: perhaps he would let us stay with him, not show us the door, had found a bit of a place of refuge. We ate and he was silent, saying not one word. When we were finished with the feast, he said:

– My heart is bloodied, looking at you, but all around us they are doing nothing but searching for Jews as if this was the purpose of their lives. My brother's sons are Bulbavces [division of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army], true animals, who thirst for blood. They would split your heads with the axe that is standing in the corner, and my head, too. You must leave here and as quickly as you can.
He gave the men shovels and two loaves of bread and with pleas argued:
– Go, go into the forest.
We went deep into the forest and saw a hill, overgrown with bushes. We began to dig. It was December. My sight had not returned; I lived in darkness and without hope. My feet were half frozen. Over the course of a few days Shmulik and Vove dug with zest as a result of persecution and created a large and well- masked hiding place. It was not even cold there. In the middle, with the appropriate stones they found, they made a spot for a fire. It was built with such craft that the smoke would go out in a small strip among the thick branches and disappear in the branches. The men discovered piles of potatoes and prepared two large sacks. They even found an old bowl. We would fill it with snow, melt [the snow] on the fire. In this way we had water. Blind, I would give advice about grating the potatoes with a grater and the mass was thrown into the bowl; we got starch from this and we ate this.

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Now we could live. We were hit by a new plague; we were covered with lice, which fed themselves on our dried out bodies and were large and fat and hungry and nearly drove us crazy.

If such a terribly ugly life was not enough for us; they made it even uglier. We began to be nauseated by ourselves. There was nothing we could do. The more of them we killed, the more they became. We also were the losers in this war until Shmulik found a new way of battle. He found a board somewhere. He laid this board on two holes near the fire. The smoke enveloped the board in a thick net. We placed everything we were wearing on the board. They, the lice, fell into the fire. After such a thorough procedure we diligently beat our smoked rags with sticks and then shook them over the fire. We breathed easier. The victory was on our side. But not for long. We had to return regularly to this procedure.

Thus we spent the winter in the pit.

A blow came with Spring. It became sunny and warm. It became easier on our souls. The forest became greener and thicker. We even tried going out into God's bright world, to warm our frozen, stiff limbs. We were certain that we had found the right way to save ourselves. And when that hope grew in us, this happened…

At night when we intended to enter our place of refuge, we saw shepherd children spring up as if from the earth. We stood still, as if rooted to the ground. The children were just as frightened as we were. We did not look like people, were as

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shaggy as a monkey and, in addition, in rags… The shepherd's children laughed for a few seconds and crossed themselves in horror and began to run away.

We also did not wait. We understood that our hiding place had been seen through. We grabbed what was necessary, first of all, the shovels and began running in the opposite direction. With our last strength we ran with momentum for a long time.

Shmulik and Vove already were great specialists in finding a suitable place and complete “architects” at building bunkers. About 20 kilometers or so from the previous pit, they dug a new grave for the living… However, the Germans and their servants already knew how to search [for the hiding places] and detected the bulk of the hiding places like good dogs and actually with the help of four-footed dogs so that the best bunkers was no longer secure. When fear entered our souls uninvited or when we noticed something in the forest that looked suspicious to us, we would not wait long and looked for a new spot. [There were] larger forests, but it was more and more crowded for us. We were afraid to approach people. How do we recognize a person? A person from someone inhuman? A friend from an enemy? My son was hidden with a good person. My daughter was no longer of this world. We wandered. Constantly wandered and constantly trembled in fear of a human devil.

We were in a Polish village of Przebrodz for three days and had to go further… Further… We searched everywhere for a way to join the partisans. Once we saw a group in the distance and it occurred to us that we had finally found a trace of the partisans. Suddenly we heard the resounding of submachine guns. This was the Banderowces [members of the Bandera faction of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army]. I remained alone…

I remained alone. My sight returned little by little and everything improved. Now I had one purpose and one hope: the partisans…

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Finally we succeeded in finding the way to the partisan division of Fedorov's partisan faction. I was with them and near them until the very end. All of the Jews in Kolki and other surrounding shtetlekh [towns] already had been murdered. The last to die were the baker, Khona Liplewski and my brother-in-law, Zelik Fajersztajn. They begged for death, even from our murderers, but the Germans were stubborn and let them live for as long as they were needed.

Perl Tine remained sitting quietly, with a sunken head. She apparently was in her thoughts again – in a sea of death and with clenched lips, handed herself over to pain in her soul.

We stood up silently, we took her hand in ours without words and pressed it. Silently, quietly, we left her in silence and left with a lump in our throats [and] tears; a lump that we could not swallow…


Trnaslator's Footnote:

  1. There seems to be an error in the narrative. Alszewski has said he cannot help. The Jews leave for another village and the narrative again mentions Alszewski. Return

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On the photo are: Yankl Balut, Sura Klajman, Sholem Garbacz, Kh. Beker, Yosl Klajman, Malka Simces, Meir Czartarisker, Hershl Biber, Berish Egber, Tsvia Zilberberg, Meir Beker, Zishia Chajczik, Sura Falewski, Leibish Kacan, Sheva Lambadiner, Nakhman Mechlin and one unknown person

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What the Eyes Saw

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Dear David! I read your article about Kolki in the newspaper and I have to tell you that you write exactly as if you yourself had lived through everything that we lived through in the Kolki ghetto. This is apparent because you could listen with patience and great interest to what people spoke from their hearts. And if my discourses are not for publishing, I am sure that they can be heard because I will only speak about what I saw with my own eyes, what my heart felt and my mind understood. I am not made of dough; I hate lying and the truth gnaws at my heart and so many years have passed and there is no remedy for this.

My blood begins to boil when people say, and with such ease, that we let ourselves be led like sheep to the slaughter. You know that we were not sheep. When hooligans wanted to make a pogrom against Jews – and when did they not want to? – our “sheep–like” Jews appeared with single–trees [wooden or metal bars used to balance animals pulling a wagon], with crowbars and sticks against those who wanted to attack us at a fair. During the time of the First World War, the city would suddenly be without a ruler. We immediately organized a self–defense group, armed ourselves with whatever we had and did not allow the peasants from the surrounding villages to enter the Jewish shtetl [town] to loot our possessions. More than once the peasants from Semka, from Kopyl'ye, from Roznichi, Starasine and other villages, set this as their goal. They simply did not let them over the bridge to the shtetl; Jews were on duty day and night.

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Why, when Hitler, may his name be erased, attacked, did we suddenly become such cowards and let them do everything to us that they wanted to do? Why did the blacksmiths, the carpenters, the wheelwrights and other such young men become as if paralyzed? What, did they lose the use of their hands and feet?

But before the Germans entered our shtetele [small town], our local enemies were ready – and well organized – to murder us. The hordes of Ukrainian nationalists did not have to wait for an order from the Germans. They lay in wait like wild animals and were impatient. Later, they had other enemies to kill in this order: Poles, Soviet partisans. However, we [Jews] were the first to be fired upon. After the Banderowces [members of the Bandera faction of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army] and Ukrainian policemen had carried out the first slaughters, the Germans arrived. The Germans were very different “heads.” They did everything exactly and calculatedly, with a plan. They deceived, they provoked, even presented themselves as softies. Those who have not seen them at such work do not know what they are and what they can do. They took several Jews from the shtetl and then let them return to their families. They did this several times. That way, they led their victims to make an error and then they seized several tens of people, ostensibly by chance. However, in truth, with calculation, according to a list: a teacher who had influence and a blacksmith who could give a good punch. After 40 young people were taken away, the remainder became discouraged. The Germans did not say that each of them [the 40 young people] was murdered; they were working. My father was no longer alive. To convince us and others, they gave us another portion of bread because our fathers were working so well.

Who knew now who was alive, who not? And if things were bad for those taken away, they would now, no doubt, leave us alone. What was the usefulness of murdering people? What could one get from the dead? We would hope. A human is an animal with hope; out of a will to live, he would believe everything.

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I will not say that all Ukrainians were murderers; there were those who helped Jews. However, how many of those were there? The peasants in the villages who would perhaps have helped us were afraid, but many of them openly helped the Germans. There were good people in the surrounding Polish villages, who helped Jews. However, one must not exaggerate; among them there were many who were friends of the Banderowces and they assisted in their crimes.

We had an impression that in the villages the average [person] would be neutral. Perhaps the murderous work of their neighbors did not please them, but they did not come out against them. Today, who can know what each one felt in their hearts?

The situation changed then, when Jewish Volyn was already a Jewish cemetery and the new victims became the Poles. When Polish villages were set on fire, Polish women and children were murdered, then the relationship [of the Poles] to Jews became warmer. They helped with a piece of bread and the bolder would also take a risk and permit a Jew to spend the night. The misfortune was shared.

In addition to the official gangs, many scoundrels organized themselves into smaller groups and made “a living” searching for escaping Jews who were hiding in the forests and [the scoundrels] took everything from them. These private “gangs” were not, God forbid, illegal; the Germans armed them, paid them and the things that were looted also belonged to them [the Germans].

I ask you, Dovid, how could we resist? It was a united front against Jews. And the front was everywhere, wherever a Jew tried to save his life: in a bunker, in a pit, under a bush, in the gardens, in every crevice. The Jew was one against multitudes of murderers, always one against predators.

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I am Dwoyra Cipes. However, am I the same Dwoyra Cipes that I was? Not because I am older – there is no difference in that – everyone gets older. “Older” also is a little different. I think, after one has seen such things that I saw with my own eyes, they could not be the same. Everyone lives with their childhood memories and the memories of their youth, but no one can live with the horror experienced that remains in the mind forever. One cannot live and one lives. Because life is stronger than death. We, who waited for death for years, every day, every hour, every minute, lived with death – we continue to live…To live…

I was, as you know, from Kolki. I married in Otowa and lived there with my husband.

(At this spot, I, Daniel Kac, feel it necessary to interrupt Dwoyra Cipes' story for a second to provide a little information about Otowa, which I have taken from the Yevrekskaya Entsiklopeda [Russian language Jewish Encyclopedia], published in Petersburg before the First World War. This is what is said there: “Otowa, a Jewish agricultural settlement in Volyn gubernia [province], Rovner district. It arose in 1836. In 1898, 121 Jewish families lived there, 575 souls. They owned 2,525 “diesiatin” [measurement of land] [plots]. The Jewish colonists were very poor. In addition to agricultural work, they had to do other hard work.”)

With this, my intervention ends; Dwoyra Cipes speaks further:

Only one Christian family lived in Otowa. The Germans sent them away; the Otowa Jews were peasants and artisans; mostly they were gardeners. At first, the Germans left the Jews alone. They would arrive and take all of the milk, butter, the meat, rye and wheat. One could think that Otowa would remain a peaceful island in the surrounding fire. The Germans needed food. What did it bother them

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that the Otowa Jewish peasants would labor for them? They would come to their work and argue: “These are not Jews!” In each case, these were

“useful Jews.” This led to an error [on our part].

They began taking men from the shtetl to the forest, ostensibly to chop down the trees for the distilleries and for the Kostopol train station. No one returned. However, we had to work the fields and gardens. The old men, women and children did this. From time to time the Germans would surround the shtetl at night, send in a band of Ukrainian policemen to search for what there had not been for a long time – wheat and other foods. After such a night, there were 10–15 funerals in the shtetl.

I do not remember how, but in the shtetl we learned that the Kolki partisans were located in the forests; the first courageous young people then entered the forest. On the other hand, the Germans had a good and well–tested means. If they discovered that someone had escaped, they took his entire family and led them outside the city and shot them. The Germans announced: The entire family of those who escape will be shot. Every young person who had the idea of escaping from the shtetl to save his own life or to take revenge, first of all, had to think if he was ready to be the murderer of his own family, those who would be murdered by the Germans because of him?

“Why did you let yourself be led like sheep to slaughter?” – beasts, fools, do you understand how horribly senseless and how vulgar it is just to ask that question? “Why did you not throw yourself on the enemy with an axe or a knife? Why did you not go into the forest?” – and it does not occur to them that often, more correctly, every time it was the same as taking an axe or a knife and throwing it at your own father and mother, at your own child! We remained and waited until death came to everyone. Let the Germans be the murderer and

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not we the murderers of our own. Were we involved with people then? These were murderers. The law, the regime, the justice of a wolf, the morals of a jackal stood on the side of the murderers. They were more dog–like than the dogs with which they persecuted their victims.

And yet…yet we did not refuse to join the partisans from Kolki. It was after the second deportation in Kolki. That is, after the second blood bath.

When my husband came from the forest for the first time, he was very sad. The Kolki partisans were overwhelmed. They had already “put away” [buried] several partisans. However, how could we go to them when we had a nine–month old child in our arms? And I said this to him, that on no condition, should he wait to hear from me.

– Go, dear one, go there, like all of the men, Sooner or later they will kill us all.

My husband screamed terribly:

– Crazy! I will not leave you here alone with our child. If [I] go, it will be all of us together, with our child. I know where the Kolki partisans are located; when it becomes dangerous, we will leave.

Until then, many Jews had escaped from Otowa. However, they were murdered by the neighbors, by those around them, not by the Germans.

All of the Jews from the surrounding shtetlekh already had been slaughtered and in Otowa they waited [to be slaughtered]. Peasants tore themselves away from the earth with difficulty; it also was more difficult for them to wear the yellow patch. Otowa also no longer lived; it barely breathed. It would occur that Jews who had saved themselves from death would come to look for salvation in Otowa. The Germans strongly forbid taking in an outsider. Yet, refugees were hidden in the attics, in the cellars, in hiding places. The group of Jews in Otowa grew unnoticed in such a manner. It seemed to us that the Germans knew and, meanwhile, pretended they did not know so as to attack unexpectedly and to take everyone all at once – the Otowa Jews and the refugees.

[Page 155]

We expected a bad ending and once, in the middle of the night, the bad ending arrived – the shtetl was surrounded.

At dawn, German sonder [special] divisions and entire bands of Ukrainian policemen under the leadership of the area commissar, Ginter, began to drive the Jews from the shtetl in the direction of Kostopol. They drove the Jews together to several points. However, the Jews dispersed. Escaping, not far away they encountered blockades arranged by Ukrainian policemen. No matter in which direction we ran, everywhere we encountered a wall of impassive faces, laughing and with bared teeth.

A trap. A mousetrap…the blackguards entertained themselves. Shouts reaching to heaven. They should split the heaven, as it is said, but they do not split…They should have torn hearts, but they do not tear them…The horrible scenes in which children fight with all of their strength not to be torn from the mothers and fathers and there are torn away; how fathers stunned with fear and horror drag their daughters, run back and forth, looking for a crevice in which to disappear and do not find any – all of this was a spectacle for the devils. They – the contemptible people – were drunk and wanted to amuse themselves; they laughed when a woman with a child in her arm threw herself at them with a stick; they would shoot only in moments when they found themselves in danger. They amused themselves…They entertained themselves…they entertained themselves with the hell before their eyes. Oh, may they not escape from the hell, the pitch and the sulfur; their souls should burn for eternity.

And yet, the danger of death revealed the bravery in people who pushed through like animals being chased; they escaped to the forests and fields. I ran with my husband carrying my child in my arms. In the commotion, we lost each other. I did not understand anything; it did not sink in and I did not see anything around me. I had only one desire; a voice called in me: “Dwoyra, save the child.”

[Page 156]

I ran in the direction of the Ukrainian guards around the shtetl – they did not shoot at me, but only chased me back. The area in which to run was smaller and smaller. Now a small group of Jews began to resist and they were shot at – shot at without stop. There was no longer anywhere to run. I noticed beds of high bean plants nearby. I understood that this was not a hiding place, but I was drawn there. There were ditches among the beds. I flung myself and my child into a ditch and the thick bean lattice covered us. It was soon apparent that we were not alone in the ditch. Here lay my sister–in–law and her three children, neighbors with children. Somehow, they had all been instinctively drawn to the same spot. The small children did not cry. They were quiet. Until today, my poor sense cannot comprehend; what explains this? Do children have something that supplants their sense and experience? Do they take on some kind of sense of danger that give them signals to be quiet?

This did not last long. We did not have a chance to catch our breath when the Germans and policemen arrived. They took my neighbors and their children, my sister–in–law and her three small ones. I lay holding my breath and was silent, waiting for my turn. They did not notice me and my child. How could they not notice?! They went by me; how could they not see? Impossible! Perhaps, after the successful hunt for the mothers and children, something moved in their souls and they acted as if they had not seen me? Impossible! This is also impossible: how does a “person” come to feel pity?! Such as those who take part in such a hunt?!

I did not move from the spot. I heard shooting; bullets whistled low over my head. People ran. People's lives ended, suffocated on the blood in their throats and I felt this all. [I] lay and did not move from the spot, with a silent child in my arms.

[Page 157]

I thought, darkly thought: do not leave my child in their hands. Let the bullets get us at the same time.

Suddenly, an auto stopped near the garden where I lay. A German officer came out of the auto and gave an order to move to other places because here everything was alle erledigt [all done]…

I lay. It was quiet around me. Later, I learned that when I was saved as if by a miracle, lying in the ditch with my child, corpses lay around on the bridge in Otowa. They were those who immediately resisted the police and those who had perished while escaping. The remainder, wounded and completely whole, were loaded on trucks and taken in the direction of Kostopol.

I lay for an entire day. An entire day!… My child with a nipple in his mouth, so he would not cry. No, he did not cry. He was still. The dead silence after the turmoil and the shooting also did not wake him up, crying. I still lay in a ditch, in a garden in Otowa and Otowa was no longer there…such an old Jewish shtetl; how little time it had taken to empty and make it dead? Corpses in the streets, gardens – everywhere. Doors and windows open, knocked out window panes, houses emptied.

Now, in the silence, I transformed myself into pure hearing. I, Dwoyra Cipes – am alive and hear and see: everywhere – the dead. And every corpse in the pose where it met death. An autumn sun watched everything…The murderers had departed. The “kindly” neighbors from around returned little by little. They sniffed the air with their noses and looked around, what was still here to take and drag for themselves. The “livestock,” the cows, the calves left the stalls. They also sniffed, lowering their muzzles and sniffed something. Then, running over to the garden, looking with their large, round eyes, almost human eyes: what happened? Eh? What happened here?

[Page 158]

I lay in the ditch with my child the entire day and listened, watched; saw not only with my eyes, but also with my ears. I think even with my skin, with my entire body. I thought silently and amazed. I had the feeling that as long as my child was alive I would live. My husband, my Menakhem, instilled in me the idea that our child must live. He was named Menakhem[1] and this [that our child must live] was his consolation and mine. Whatever happened, our child must remain alive. We could not even imagine that it could be different.

I lay and was eyes and ears. Eyes and ears! What had happened to the cows? They had become somewhat nervous. From the gardens and fields, they began to run back to the stalls. [They] went in and again ran out of there. The cows, the calves, the few oxen began to bellow, bellow as if obsessed. Ants began to scamper over our backs. Ours hearts tightened. Yes! They [the cows] were crying over their slaughtered, murdered owners…

I now have the feeling that this was really how it was, although people keep explaining to me that this was something I was imagining. The cows simply had utters filled with milk. It was time to milk them and they had not been milked.

I waited, but I began to worry. The Ukrainians would soon come here, take the last ones who had remained after the annihilation of the Jews. We needed to leave here more quickly. My husband and I had discussed it; if we lost each other, we would meet in a place not far from the Kolki partisans. But from where I was located, I did not know the road to take me there.

More people with empty sacks under their arms appeared in the distance; others even had wagons. I stood up and I began to run with my child in my arms.

[Page 159]

I ran up to the bushes at the edge of the forest and crawled under a thick bush. Later, I began to slowly search for a more secure spot and I hid in a deep, over–grown ditch. I lay and waited for death in the darkness. Suddenly, I noticed a silhouette that was coming closer in my direction. I was completely exhausted and had visible hallucinations. I hid, watched and recognized in the white, moving ghost, Pesakh, the klezmer [musician]. His beard scraggly, his face white as lime, barefoot and a fiddle under his arm. The fiddle banged into the branches that from the distance appeared to me as if it had gotten entangled in the branches of a rifle.

I quietly called to him. He did not recognize me. He only repeated constantly, as if he had lost his mind: “Where are my children? Where are my children?” Suddenly he stood up, recognized me. We hugged and both cried. Suddenly, my nine–month old son cried. His cry forced us to keep silent; we remembered the danger.

They told me later that after this, Pesakh wandered around for several days among the survivors in the forest and searched for his children. When he finally was convinced that none of his family had survived, he returned to the Germans, who had promised him that if he played for them, they would fulfill his request and shoot him at the Jewish cemetery. And this actually happened. Dovid, what you have written is not a legend, not a thought–up story – this is the pure truth.

I walked around the bushes in the forest for three days. I do not believe it myself; how could I walk around from place to place with a child in my arms and without a swallow of water for three days. My child, from exhaustion, could not cry. It was silent. It lay cuddled against my chest…Soon, he would die. I did not give up. Do not be afraid, when there is no choice…

[Page 160]

I neared the night watchman's room. When I was ready, I knocked. A young woman came out of the house. I asked her for a little milk for my child. She looked at me and considered that although my coat was dirty and a little ripped, it could be of use to her. She did not stand on ceremonies: give me the coat and I will give you bread and milk and show you the way to Jews who are hiding near the village of Wyszkow. They go out at night to look for something to eat, you will see them.

Regret is not goods. We accepted the conditions. In the evening, I sat on a small path in the forest without a coat and with my child in my arms and waited. I waited and at night actually met a small group of Jews – our neighbors from Otowa.

I learned from them that my husband was alive and my brother–in–law and two children had survived.

Life in the forest began. What a life! There were days when I thought that we had finally found a bit of safe ground where we literally could bury ourselves in the ground, but still live. Policemen would appear as if from under the ground. The hell began again: shootings, crying, corpses. They would run in all directions wherever their eyes took them. Running, looking for a new place of refuge, one would come across new groups of Jews trying to “arrange” themselves again in pits and, still unable to warm our feet, we again were attacked by our persecutors. There was talk about my husband; that he was continuing to search for the Kolki partisans. The word “partisans” was a consolation, a hope: there was a purpose and it kept us alive.

Resistance! Resist! When we said those words, we always had to think of the situation. I saw people who had split the head of a Ukrainian policeman with a stone or with a stick. Was this resistance?

[Page 161]

At first, we had three, four and five police raids a day. We needed to save ourselves, constantly save ourselves. They followed our tracks; they did not give us a day of rest. We did not give up, did not lie down under their knives, but like persecuted animals looked for new “lairs” for ourselves.

Was this a resistance? In dozens of searches with a small child in the arms – was this a resistance?

– Say! Was this resistance?

When we did not allow ourselves to be driven into the pit in Otowa, but the spirit carried us from place to place…

– Trial, judge: Was it resistance?

Families fell, died; shooting from all sides and people with empty hands did not go arbitrarily to the slaughter…

– Is it resistance?

Damn all of the mothers who [give birth to] children, from whom grow up murderers, or children, who will become victims – to be slaughtered…Or are we, who wanted so much to live and for the price of great suffering wanted to save our children, at the time when the dogs, who had such great power in their hands to cause for everyone such “cold,” to eliminate us from the world with such a violent death. Were we resistant? And although they tortured us every day as if somewhere in hell, we wanted to live in all conditions…wanted to live!

– I want to know; will I finally know: is this called resistance or is it now resistance?

Near the village of Otwoka we met a large division of policemen face to face. Eidelsztajn from Kolki and his two children fell then; my mother–in–law also fell there. The others ran away. And I lay under a tree and the policemen

[Page 162]

ran by so close to me that their boots were several steps from my face. The persecuted divided their last food, their last drop of water. I was not broken. This happened when my brother–in–law's son, whom I met in the forest, told me that he and my in–laws ran away with others from a police search and he saw my husband murdered with his own eyes. My child would certainly die in my arms with such a life; my husband was dead – why should I continue to suffer?

Later, it was revealed that my husband was alive. The policeman who had chased my husband, a young Ukrainian from Maidanek, knew him very well. He shouted to him at the last minute: “Fall!” And [he] shot higher, shooting further each time.

My husband was told by the peasants in a farmhouse that they themselves had buried me and my child. Thus, we both, alive, mourned our “deaths” together. I have to say that after I received the false news I went without a purpose, not even trying to hide, longing for death as a redemption, as a gift of your dear name…

My husband already had accepted the end of his life and waited calmly for his death. By chance, he entered a cottage to ask a peasant for a few potatoes; he met Yosel, my sister–in–law's brother, there. He learned from him that my child and I were alive. Then they both came to me.

My husband told me that he had not found the Kolki partisan group. When he entered the forest where they were supposed to meet, a police search had begun. The Jews dispersed. The partisans retreated to another spot. We knew that if we joined a larger group we would not be able to maintain such a life.

[Page 163]

My husband and I decided to hide in places close to the Germans. No one would consider that Jews would try hiding so near to the German danger. We could not save the child in such conditions. We could not give him to an honest acquaintance because a circumcised Jewish child would have been recognized immediately. Even those who wanted to save [him] would not take such a risk. My heart was torn apart. Give someone my child? However, if I wanted my child to live, I must give him into hands where perhaps he will be saved. It actually made me dizzy. I felt that I would not be able survive this separation.

My husband argued with me: there are only two ways: go on the country road, so that all three of us would be murdered, or leave our child with good people and alone try to reach a partisan division.

We were dirty, full of lice, furiously hungry. What could we do? I felt that my husband did not himself believe that someone would agree to take our child. He wanted to choose death on the highway – all three of us. But he was worried by the thought: our child could be shot and then we would remain alone. He could be shot and I would be alone with our child; I would be shot and he would remain with our child. No! We would perish together! But how could we accomplish this?

I was the stronger one: we needed to search for life not death! We left for a Polish acquaintance – Marian. We asked him if he would go to Otowa and bring a few things from there that we had buried [before running away]. He brought them. We divided it. His wife, Matilda, took our child and carried it away to a couple in her family, childless. Matilda's little girl sat with our baby for three days, so it would become accustomed to her and not cry.

[Page 164]

Thus, we separated from our child and left for the snow–covered forest. The usual wandering began, hiding here in a haystack, surviving there in a stall, in an abandoned bunker in which the previously hidden Jews had been annihilated. We were convinced that it was the worst in the forest; we were safer anywhere but there. Polish peasants would pretend not to notice that we were spending the night in an out–building.

I longed for my child and felt that my soul was leaving me. We once sneaked into the cottage and did not recognize our child. Our son sat, washed, cleanly dressed and smiled. Yes, these were decent people; they let us stay overnight, fed us until we were full and we left in the morning, but I had the feeling I had seen my child for the last time.

There was the farmhouse cottage in which we would quietly knock when there was no other way out. They would feed us and let us spend the night. They did not chase us away. We knew ourselves that we had to leave so as to not bring any misfortune to the good people. The barns and attics were usually hammered shut with nails so that Jews could not enter. However, we entered through holes, through roofs and lay for a few hours. In the best situations, it was warm near the cows. Thus, we survived the cold nights. We would walk around the farmhouse from a distance and wait until the glow of the lights in the small window was extinguished and then we would go to a new place to sleep each time.

My heart did not promise me anything good. The misfortune came; our child became sick with the mumps, got a high fever and died.

We trudged further, waiting for a miracle, looked for partisans. We met partisans from White Russia, but they did not want

[Page 165]

to take us. They found themselves in constant conflict with the Germans, Banderowces [members of the Bandera faction of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army], Ukrainian policemen and others bands. They, the partisans, would help us with bread, even with a suit, but they did not want to let us in their group.

The slaughter of the Jews ended; the Banderowces began to slaughter the Poles. First, it was their partners. They robbed the robbers, murdered them and set fire to their houses. The second phase was a wild pogrom against all Poles in the area. My husband and I were staying secretly in Huta Stepańska. Here they would give us and other Jews food and even let us spend the night. A Polish family helped us. The owner of the house was named Marian Szelimowski. He and his wife were murdered; their three daughters escaped to Poland. Oh, how I want to know if they are still alive. One was named Helena, the second, Bronka; I forgot the name of the third one.

The surrounding Poles called Huta Stepańska “Stalica.” There was a Polish self–defense group here; escaping Poles arrived here. The partisans warned the Polish residents that they should go to the forests because they would be murdered by the bands. However, they did not listen to this advice.

One night, dark clouds of smoke began to appear in the sky. Fire hit and made the sky red. The surrounding Polish villages were burning, burned brightly – Mielnica [Mel'nytsya], Osnitsa, Vil'che, Korost and others. Huta Stepańska, where it is certain 10,000 souls were assembled, was surrounded by many thousand bandits. A number of them were armed with automatic weapons, rifles, machine guns, with the newest weapons had by the Germans. Separate divisions were armed only with axes, knives, scythes and similar weapons. The defense of the village by the self–defense group did not last for long. Chaos began. They began running on foot and on wagons to the nearby

[Page 166]

forest. And then the same thing happened as in the Jewish shtetl. However, the Jews were driven together to the previously dug pits and they were shot; here the Banderowces gave themselves the “pleasure” of splitting heads with axes, cutting with scythes, knives. Like wild animals, they attacked the unprotected Polish population from all sides, turning the area into a butcher shop. Hundreds of dead bodies lay in their own blood.

This was a horrible blood bath. The blood actually curdles in the veins when remembering. Those who ran to the forest and those who already were among the trees were attacked by the Banderowces on horses with short axes and half rounded knives in their hands. They cut, howling, whistling, shouting, cursing, laughing, neighing; crazy from blood and from the lust for murder. Shooting was heard from afar – the remainder of the Polish self–defense group was defending itself.

I ran with my husband and other hidden Jews and Poles – we looked for somewhere to hide; ran, driven by instinct and not because we wanted to save our lives. Who needs such a life and who needs such an evil world? Let us leave them the earth for the two–legged animals, for the Banderowces, Bulbowces [members of Taras Bulba–Borovet's gang] and others, whatever they are called – along with the Hilterists. Let them dance on the grave of the world, that will become their grave – on their grave. What is death when we live every day with it, when it [death] looks at your back and bares its teeth at you? Yesterday, today, tomorrow – one dance of death: with axes, with scythes, with knives. Death has already changed its name – now it is Hitlerowiec [followers of Hitler], S.S.–men, Banderowce, or tens of other names. The Germans shoot, the Banderowecs – behead, slaughter, torture…

We trudged in the forest with the Poles for several weeks. Everything repeated itself, [everything] with which we had experiences after the

[Page 167]

slaughter in Otowa and even worse. All of the farmhouses were burned; no stacks of hay, no pits. There was no place to open a door. There was an entire regiment of Banderowces in the forest. We lay as if dead; we did not move. Thirst tormented us more than hunger.

Then we already had great experience with where to hide. When we hid, we needed to be fewer [people]. A group of us separated from the others and what would be would be; we went “blindly” away. We had a lucky break: we came across a group of partisans and said to their commander, a starszyna [corporal], that if he wanted to, he could shoot us. We would not withdraw from them.

I do not know how the events would have further developed, but at that moment, several Razwiedczikes [scouts]–partisans dressed in authentic uniforms of the Banderowces with their “trident” emblem (three wolfish teeth), in caps returned from spying and announced that some 15 kilometers from there they had met a group of Banderowces who happened upon their tracks and that as soon as the partisan division moves from their spot, they will be attacked from both sides and annihilated.

Listening to the report, the corporal changed his decision. He told us what was happening and asked that we be armed with sticks and that we should go in the direction of the Banderowces under the leadership of a few partisans.

The corporal declared the Banderowces as our task – when they are certain that you are the partisan detachment, they will let you nearer to them. Our partisans, who will be with you,

[Page 168]

will open rifle fire on them so that they will be convinced that you are the real partisans for whom they are searching. You will throw yourself resolutely at the bands with a scream of “Hurrah.” At the same moment we, the partisans, will throw ourselves at them from the other two sides and make a ruin of them.

Thus, we went out in opposition to death. We went three kilometers; we confronted “them.” The Banderowces opened heavy fire on us. They were on horses. Before they realized what was happening, one of the partisans fired a red rocket into the darkness. The partisans threw themselves at the evildoers from all sides. The bandits turned their horses around and we only saw their backs as they escaped in great panic.

A little later, the partisans gathered together and we with them. There were many victims among us. We already felt like part of the group, like participants in a victory. The leader summoned two of our group and said to them:

– You can only go across the train line with a fight. The trees have been cut down along the train line and the Germans shoot at everyone moving close to the rails. Also, we will not penetrate without casualties. You can count on this.

We trudged for 20 kilometers [12.4 miles] according to their instructions, according to the landmark signs that he had given us. At the chopped–out forest edge we began to run. The Germans ostensibly shot. However, they thought we were real partisans and wanted to avoid a real battle. We ran across the rails and ran several kilometers through the forest without pausing for breath. We had to run to a small river, cross to the other side over a small bridge and there began partisan land. And where it was partisan land, we were afraid that not only would there be Banderowces, but also Germans.

[Page 169]

In short, we met partisan patrols. We were welcomed with friendship. We were permitted to enter the farmhouse. They fed us well, even though they were very poor. However, we also had to leave here, because large divisions of Germans appeared here from time to time.

We started to wander further. We met an old peasant woman and she immediately recognized that we were Jews.

Teyerinka [dear ones], she advised, run away. Do not think that only good people live here. Come, I will show you the way to a partisan guard.

We trusted her and went with her. The partisans knew her; they did not stop us. From “security,” we arrived at a central partisan base. From there, new candidates would be sent from there to partisan divisions that had just been formed. Ostriadn [detachements] named for Wanda Wasilewska, Kaszcziuszka, Budjani and many others arose there. There was a mixture of peoples, Russian, Ukrainians, Poles and many Jews. In truth, very many Jews. The men were armed and the women, often with entire families, were located in a specially created camp.

When the partisans would change their bases, they informed us of where we had to go in advance. The partisan center was located in Dolsk, near Pinsk. The front actually was here. Here, it can be said, a war of position was carried out; the partisan brigades on one side, the Germans on the other. The partisans blockaded the Germans near Pinsk, not permitting them to leave the area.

In March 1944, the German airplanes hung over the area day and night. They bombarded the partisan positions ceaselessly. The German breakthrough at the front succeeded at the so called “Krulewski Canal.” The partisans did not leave the family camps to God's care. We

[Page 170]

walked together over the roads from White Russia. My husband and the other refugee men were with the partisans and we walked or rode on wagons on the side of the road.

We already were people and not persecuted animals who were denied the right to live, to breathe, to walk around the earth. However, we were exhausted, sick, emaciated; we were the first victims of typhus. The way was not a peaceful stroll. The Germans would often attack us from the air and many of us died on the country road. There were people among the civilians who could not walk on their feet; other partisans would come and carry them on their backs. My husband carried a rifle on one side and carried me on his back. I was in a state of complete exhaustion; my gaze was foggy. I constantly had a dark green fog in front of my eyes. My temperature would reach 40 [104 Fahrenheit]. Thus, I moved with the partisan masses on the back of my husband. Thus, we moved through fields, swamps and forests in the direction of Rafałówka [Rafalivka] to the area that had already been liberated by the Russian Army. Hundreds of partisan victims remained along the sides of our route.

In Rafałówka, the voyenkomat [military commissariat) gathered the remaining partisans, sent them to the newly formed detachment near Kowel – on the other side of the front line. My husband was integrated into the army. Rafałówka also was constantly being bombarded. Just as before, I had not wanted to live, but now I had a strong desire to live. And now I had to separate from my husband. My heart told me that we were parting forever. I knew, however, that he had acquired courage and he said:

[Page 171]

– So now I will have the opportunity to take revenge: for the annihilated Jews of Kolki and Otowa, for the unlived life of our son.

All of the young people from Kolki, from Otowa, Dombrowiec, Alik who were with us and survived, transferred from the partisans to the army. Several women, also including me, went in the direction of Kiev because we were told that our men were located there.

This is truly a different chapter – how naked and barefoot, without a groshn to our souls we fortuitously reached Kiev with the troops. We did not find our men there. We wandered around Kiev hungry and with empty souls until we were sent away to a burned out sovkhoz [Soviet state–owned farm]. It was bitter and dark here, too. The houses – without roofs, with smashed windows. However, it was warm. And here I met Germans again for the first time. However, Germans who did not shoot. Germans, for whom one did not have to be afraid; Germans – prisoners of war, who said, “Good morning,” took off their mütze [cap], walked around dressed in their uniforms, received food and were well–treated.

Why did they have such good treatment?! Such human respect? We had no one to take care of us. They were taken care of; they would not extend their feet here…!

With a few other women, we decided to try to return to Rafałówka – we had left the addresses there to which our husbands could write to us. They did not permit us to leave our work at the sovkhoz. We ran away at night. The road west was more difficult than to the east. We “traveled” with tens of trains. We were thrown out of one train; we entered another one. We traveled little by little, station by station, just to get nearer to the place from which we had left – to Rafałówka. A trip on the steps, on the roofs of train cars or between them. Finally

[Page 172]

we arrived. As soon as I entered the house to whose address my husband was supposed to write letters to me, I immediately read of the “fateful sentence” on the faces of my acquaintances. Yes, there was a letter for me. One letter informed me that in July 1944 my husband fell in a heroic death on the front, in the fight with fascism.

I read the decree on their faces and yet I could not tear my eyes from the paper. It was as if my heart had stopped, I remained standing as if congealed. After all of the terrible torments, after such a stubborn fight for life – such a quick death, such an end?

I remained alone. How can I tell you how a person feels in such a situation? It makes no sense. Tens of thousands such [people] have survived. But has not there remained sticking in their throats and in their heart the question, why such injustice?! Is the human life really worth living that we need to pay for it with such sorrow and pain and suffering?!

Life is stronger than death. I am in Israel. I am married for the second time to Sender Buslik, to a man who lived through the same things as I. I have children. I have grandchildren. My husband was a revenge taker. I also was a revenge taker. The enemy wanted to erase us from the surface of the earth. He did not succeed in this. Our people still live [despite the spilling of our] blood. We have taken revenge; I have borne a new generation. They, our children, will be our heirs. The chain will extend and extend into the future to spite all our enemies.

There will be a celebration on our streets, a celebration into the next century…


Trnaslator's Footnote:

  1. “Menakhem” in Hebrew means “consoler.” Return

 

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