I asked them if they saw my wife but they saw nothing. Gitel, David's wife, was a very clever and energetic woman. She said, We must run now past the train tracks. If we pass the tracks, we will laugh at the Germans. From afar, we could hear the sounds of explosions and shooting. I told her that I was not planning on running but that I had to find my wife and child. In my opinion, it was too dangerous to run now since the Germans probably had found out that we escaped and had put more patrols. However, Gitel would not listen to what I was saying. There was no convincing her. They said their good-byes and I was questioning at that moment, What if they are right? What if my wife also went across the train tracks? I decided to go with them. I ran and caught up with them. The train tracks were not far, at the edge of the forest. By the area around the train tracks were trees and bushes that were cut, so now you could see everything. The Germans did it for the guards so they would have an easier time spotting the partisans. I heard shots from the direction of the train tracks and I said to Gitel, Listen Gitel. There are many shots. Nevertheless, she was very sure in her opinion saying that this was an illusion and that the shots were coming from another direction. The children looked very scared like little fawns. Their clothes were too short and too tight. They had grown up in the camp. Their teeth were knocking from fear. I saw a shadow of a person walking on the train tracks. Quietly I pointed out the shadow to Gitel, but she refused to pay attention. Her husband, David, said, How good it would have been if we were on the other side of the tracks already. At least 150 meters away from here. The sounds of the shots stooped and everything quieted down, Gitel said, Now is the moment to run and cross the train tracks. She did not wait a minute. She spoke and ran. She was first, walking as if she was the main officer. Behind her walked her son Natchkah. Again, I explained to her that if she wanted to cross the tracks, she must crawl. Nevertheless, she walked erect because it was hard to crawl on the frozen ground. Unexpected, there was a shot, and Natchkah started crying. Abbah, Eemah! Immediately, I fell to the ground in a puddle that was slightly frozen. With my hand lifting the gun so that it would not get wet. I yelled to them, Lie on the ground! No one listened to me and everyone ran to save the son. Now the killers had a clear aim. I could not see anything, but I heard voices saying, Save! Save! With the rest of my strength, crawling, I returned to the forest, hurt and wet. When I reached the forest, I started running away from the place. Now it was getting much colder and my wet clothes started freezing. I ran from one bush to the next. All of a sudden, I heard a sound of someone running on the snow. I listened and I heard a voice of a child saying, My hands are very cold daddy. Will we find Mommy and Ruben David? When I approached them, I saw that it was Yitzchak Alperovich. He was digging with a shovel. What was he doing? I don't know. When he saw me, he was so shocked that he threw shovel, took his child, and started running. I yelled to him, Yitzchak, why are you running? He recognized me and came to talk to me. I asked him about my wife and child and he asked me about his wife and child. We stayed under a bush whispering questioning what we should do. I told him what had happened to David the tailor and his wife.
I warned him not to go to the train tracks. All of a sudden, we heard the
sounds of German voice, Rashkas Slinchas. We started running and I
lost Yitzchak and his child. I did not hear any more German voices but I could
hear many shots that were getting closer and closer. I lied there all by myself
and a thought came to me. I never shot my gun. What if the gun does not work? I
must try. Among all the shots, no one would hear my shot. From all the
ammunition that I had collected through time, I was only able to take seven
bullets. I pulled the trigger and shot. The gun worked. From near the train
tracks, I heard sounds someone walking and someone saying, God, what did
you do to us? Mommy and daddy, your situation is better. You already live in a
better world. I tried to see who it was. At first, I saw a shadow on the
snow and slowly I saw a short person wearing boots with a dark coat and messy
hair. It was a woman who was limping. All of a sudden, I recognized Dinkah
Spektor. She stopped, confused, and scared. She fell on the ground saying,
Where am I? The snow around her was red from the blood coming from
her leg. The blood kept coming, so I took my shirt and tore the sleeve and put
it on the wound. I started covering her bloody footsteps and transferred her to
another location. She told me that together with many of the camp workers, she
already passed the train tracks and on the other side, they met German soldiers
who shot all the escapees. She told me who ran with her and who she knew was
killed. How she survived, she did not know. Instead of running to the Kurenets
area, she somehow returned to the other side of the tracks back to Vileyka. She
did not see my wife and son. I put some snow on her wound. Quietly, she
twitched from pain. I thought that I should take the other sleeve and put it on
her wound. Unexpected, I heard more steps, quick steps. I peeked from the
hiding place, it was Doba Alperovich. Her jacket was open and her hair was
messy. I yelled to her and she stopped but couldn't see me. I yelled to her
again and she saw me and started crying from excitement. She also thought that
she was on the other side on the way to Kurenets. Lacking any energy and
depressed, we decided that when night came we would cross the tracks. From the
bushes, we could see the road. I saw some people riding bicycles. I crawled
closer to the road and saw that it was a farmer that I knew from the Soviet
days. He greeted me, Hello, and told me that I must quickly go to
the other side of the forest since the Germans were coming to this side. He
blessed me and quickly departed. I returned to the girls and told them. We
decided to somehow go near the road to Molodetchna. Dinka had horrible pain.
Doba and I supported her and walked toward the road. All of a sudden, we heard
horses running, and the sounds of Belarussian and Latvian voices. We fell on
the ground in the bushes. I held my gun ready. We could see them. They were
policemen. We all decided that we would commit suicide if they caught us. Dinka
was begging that she should be shot first since she was wounded anyway and
would not survive. Doba was begging that she should be shot first. Dinka was
shaking so much while talking that she sounded as if she was stuttering. We
were all watching the killers' every step hence we would not fall in their
hands alive. I was almost ready to use the gun, but Dinka stopped me,
Maybe you should wait a minute. Doba said, They are coming
right by us. What are you waiting for? unanticipated, I saw the police
going in our direction turn to the right. They continued looking for people in
a further direction from us, so now we had some hope of escape. Finally, we
could not hear their talking. It was getting much darker and the air was
We were lying on the ground quiet and scared. Could the Germans be searching so
late at night or could it be Jews? We were very fearful. From afar, we could
see the barracks with the red flag and swastika. We could see two shadows going
toward the barracks. It must have been the watchmen returning from the patrol.
Then we saw the running people returning to where they came from, stopping in
certain spot and searching for something. For some reason, in my heart I was
very sure they were Jews who were lost like us. I started running and the girls
tried to catch me being fearful that they would lose me in the dark. The two
shadows must have heard our sounds. They stopped, as if they hesitated, I
stopped and waited too. A woman's voice started calling, Don't
shoot! It was like an electric shock going through my body. I recognized
the voice, I could not talk for a second. I then yelled, Rosa! My
son immediately recognized me and yelled, Abbah! He ran to me and
we all started hugging and crying from excitement. The second shadow was of
Batshevah, the wife of Yitzchak Alperovich, with her children. Doba and Dinkah
started hugging Batshevah and her children. I told Batshevah that around 5pm, I
saw in the forest her husband with her son but I had lost them. I carried my
little son. He hugged me very tight and said, Now we won't leave you
daddy. Now we will be with you. Somehow, he felt much safer now,
believing that I could protect him. Life seemed much dearer now, I had a reason
to live and fight and try to get out of here. The tracks, the tracks. How could
we pass the tracks to the other side? It was already 1:30am. I tied my son on
my back using a big kerchief that my wife had. My hands were free so I could
use them if I needed to. While we were walking, my son whispered to me that the
Germans caught his mother and him but somehow his mother convinced the guy that
they were not Jewish and he let them go. They went to Navashevah's house, but
she did not let them in. We crawled all around looking for a way to cross, but
they watched the tracks everywhere.
|Chavi Sarah née Babiniyar and husband,
We knew we should not stay there. The distance from there to the barrack was about 50 meters. All of a sudden, we heard a loud bark, it was the horrible dog that many of us were bitten by. We ran and we somehow managed to get to the wooden barrack. We found the opening in the floor. We entered the hiding place. Now, I had time to think and I realized that the children were hungry and tomorrow they might cry from hunger and we would be found out. I decided to leave and find some food. Next to the barrack was a home of a Christian woman that many times helped me, therefore I decided to go to her house and give her my watch in exchange for some food for the children. I left the hiding place. The sky was full of stars and it was freezing. Slowly, I reached her house. I stood behind the window and I could hear someone coughing. Again, I had a pang of envy of people who could sleep quietly in their home. I started knocking on the window. No one answered. I knocked louder. All of a sudden, I heard steps of people walking on the road. They stopped and I heard them talking German. They said, Where was the knock? I was frozen. I stuck my body to the wall and stopped breathing. When they moved, I entered the yard and, in a little storage area without a door, I hid in the hay. The Germans came in the yard. They lit the place with an electric light. They quickly looked everywhere but finally left. I decided to return to the hiding place. I took two ice balls so people could drink. Everyone was very happy to see me and said that somehow we could withstand the hunger. We lied there hugging each other and we fell asleep.
I kept having nightmares seeing pale tortured children surrounded by SS with rifles. I saw fires on Myadel Street. I saw a woman running with a baby inside the fire looking for a hideout. I saw my mother and my mother-in-law coming to me saying, Don't run in this horrible time. Hide. I saw my mother-in-law lighting a candle saying, Good week to you. Good week. May you be blessed. The sounds of wooden planks being taken up woke me up. Not far from here were Christian homes and residents would come to the barracks to take pieces of wood for their fireplace. We lied e very quietly hardly breathing. Even the children knew the danger and they put their little hands on their mouths so no one could hear their breathing. We lied this way without food and drink, only snow.
My wife did not let me leave to get food. She also had a dream where she saw her mother who told her that we must wait until Saturday and then we will succeed in our escape, consequently that is what we did. I held the watch in my hand deciding that exactly at 11pm we would leave. I took the children out of the hiding place like a cat taking her kittens. They could not stand on their feet from lying there for so long. But, their behavior was exemplary. They waited patiently with no food for days. Much worse was the situation of the women. When they finally got out of the small space, they fell on the ground and almost fainted. I put snow on their faces to wake them. I knew that in the condition they were, we could not proceed far, so I decided to try my luck again.
I left them there and went through the cemetery to the house of Navashevah. They were not asleep yet in the house. I was afraid to enter the house thinking that maybe they had guests, I stood at the corner of their home waiting for them to close the gate. When Navashevah saw me she instantly crossed herself as if she saw a ghost. From fear, she fell on the ground but quickly controlled herself. She hugged me with excitement and started kissing me. She took me to her barn and entered her home to tell her husband to put the children to bed so that they would not see me. Her husband was very happy to see me. He let me enter their home as if I was their son. I told them that I could not stay long and must get something for the children to eat. When they found out that my wife and child were safe, they could not hide their excitement and they started crying. They apologized and said that there was no way they could let them hide in their house, but it had caused them a lot of guilt. They put bread, butter, eggs, milk, soap, and underwear in a little bag. I wanted to give them my watch, but they were insulted. They told me that almost every one of the escapees who ran to the tracks was killed. We kissed and said our good-byes.
After the war, they told me that the neighbors saw me when I had come to the
house and told the Germans. The Germans beat them very badly, and their
daughter was sick for many months because of the beating. I brought the food
and everyone jumped on it like hungry wolves. Quickly, I tied my son to my back
and gave him two pieces of bread to hold. Like this, we left. A train passed
the tracks. We waited for a short time and quietly passed the tracks. It was
another cold bright night. We quickly moved away and we passed a body of a Jew
with a child of about six all naked with their hands on the ground. Until
today, we still do not know who those people were. All night, we walked around
looking for familiar roads by using the stars for direction. All of a sudden,
we saw from a hill the white brick home with a little window slits and we
realized that we were once more near Vileyka and this was the jail.
After walking all night, we passed by Kurenets from afar. I only saw the sharp top of the church. We could also hear the sounds of the carpentry that used to belong to Chaim Zokofsky who was killed with the 54. We passed there as if we were smugglers. This was the town where we were born, the town that had a lively Jewish community for many generations. I knew the names of the villages where I could find some survivors from Kurenets. It was Katlovetska, Naviky, Starinky, and Rusuky. They were about 15-25km from Kurenets. If we would have used the main road, we would have quickly reached the villages, but we had to use fields and the forest path and at no time used real roads. Our feet were beat from the strenuous walk. My son's feet, who I was carrying the all time, were frozen from lack of movement.
Finally, we approached the village Starazi. We stopped at the edge of the village next to the Christian cemetery. We decided to rest there amongst the gravestones. I left my group and went to find out information from the villagers. I found a little home at the entrance to the village. I could see from the window that the only light was from a kerosene lamp. Around the table sat two children and their father. A woman was giving them dinner. I knocked on the door. When they opened it, the heat almost shocked me. The farmer immediately recognized me as a Jew and said, What do you want Jew? We have not bread for you. The Kurenets Jews do not give us any rest. They beg us for bread all night. Where are we supposed to get so much bread? How long will you bug us like this? He told his wife to give me a few potatoes. I told him that I did not want food but that I wanted to find the way to the other villages. The goy was surprised. What Jew does not take food offered to him? At that point, I did not know that the Jews in the forests had become beggars.
I had thought the forests were full of partisans armed with ammunition. We were sitting in the Christian cemetery waiting for late night when the villagers go to sleep and maybe some of the Kurenets Jews would go there. Suddenly, we heard footsteps. Quiet and unsure footsteps. We saw two men walking cautiously and stopping every few feet. I was lying with the gun in my hand, wondering who these people were.
I heard Yiddish. I was excited. When they saw me, they became very scared and
started running in different directions, leaving their bags there. I yelled to
them, Jews don't run! Jews don't run! They came back. I could not
recognize them at first, though when they started talking, we recognized them
at once and we hugged them. One wore a hat with no brim. His hair was very
messy. He had a dirty messy beard. They both wore short torn jackets tied with
ropes and their feet were covered with rags. One was Dania Sosensky. He was
dressed a little nicer. On one foot, he had a laptza and on the other foot, he
had a boot. But Daniel Alperovich, the son of Chaim Abraham, ( who was later
caught alive by the Germans on May 1, 1943 when he was sick with typhus. He was
then taken to Vileyka and they cut him with a saw into two). At this point,
Daniel Alperovich looked awful. Who was saved? We asked. Both of them told us
that they would immediately go to the village to get some food and get
something for us too. Later, they would take us to the forest and we will find
out who was saved. You must be very hungry, they said. Daniel
Alperovich took out of his bag a frozen latkah. He divided it into two parts
and gave it to the children. After a short time, they came back very angry. The
villagers did not want to give anything. They carried the children and the rest
of us followed to the forest. Very soon, we would be there, they
encouraged us. After walking 10 km, we reached with our last energy the
forest. The yearning of so many Jews that the killers got before they were able
to complete this journey.
|Ze'ev Rabunski with others from Kurenets after the war|
|An unknown Rabunski family member who visited Kurenets
in the 1950s
[he was a high rank official in the communist party]
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