The Return to Poland after the War
(July 1948 December 1949)
The road to Poland:
In July 1948, I left Russia together with my friend Meir Suresky. At first we had to travel to Moscow and from there to take a train to the city of Brisk where all the people, who intended to return Poland, gathered. On the way to Moscow we stopped in the market in the city of Gorky. After nine years, in which I haven't seen an egg or milk, I ate there a hard-boiled egg and its taste was like the taste of heaven. When we arrived to Moscow, we realized that there isn't going to be a train to Brisk. The cashier said that the international night train to Prague will stop in Brisk, but we had to pay more money to travel there. Immediately, we decided to add the necessary money that was left to us from our wages. That night we traveled in the most luxurious international train: there were sleeping cars with beds, carpets, music, and a conductor in a white jacket that passed from car to car and told each person when to get off the train.
When we arrived to Brisk, we had to wait at the camp's gate for two days until we received the appropriate bureaucratic approval to enter. We stayed in the transit camp in Brisk for several days and slept on bunks in locked rooms. We received food there, but obviously, I didn't get there hungry.
After a few days in Brisk we left on a freight train in the direction of Poland. Before I left Russia I stocked up on a package of tobacco even though I don't smoke, because I knew that it could benefit me on the way. And indeed, I soon found a use for it: all the passengers in the car that I traveled in were Polish Gentiles, and in light of my experience and my familiarity with humans up to that time, I had the feeling that when we get to Poland they will start to harass me. Therefore, I divided the tobacco between them to earn their trust. This action really helped: when the train stopped in one of the stations, a Pole appeared by the car's door and boasted that he killed all the Jews. He teased me and called me to come out so he could show me where the Jews were murdered. I told him to climb to the car, because I knew that inside the car I'll be able to overcome him after I tipped the Gentiles to my side. Meanwhile, a Polish officer arrived to the area, and I complained before him that the Gentile is conducting propaganda against the regime. The officer chased him and arrested him. That trip to Poland was also difficult because the Russians closed the only opening to the car. Only after we arrived to Poland the car's door opened for the first time
We arrived to Poland at the end of July 1948. The first stop in Poland was in the city of Terespol, and the next stop was in the city of Biala Podlaska where all the people who were released from camps in Russia received Polish documents
At that time there was an agreement between the various Jewish parties that operated in Poland - Gordnia, Hashomer Hatzair and Dror-Borocov. According to this agreement, each time released prisoners arrived from the camps in Russia, a representative of one of the parties came and offered them to join his kibbutz.
At that time, the various Zionists parties established kibbutzim in Poland in order to train for immigration and settlement in kibbutzim in Israel.
When we arrived to Biala Podlaska it was the turn of the representative of the Dror-Borocov movement to recruit people to his kibbutz. He offered me and to my friends to join his kibbutz in the city of Kłodzko in Lower Silesia, near the Czech border. I expressed my consent to join the kibbutz together with my friends that I met in Brisk, but I told the emissary that before I join the kibbutz I intend to visit my city Szczuczyn to find out what happened to my family. The emissary expressed his consent.
But first of all we were taken to Warsaw to register in the records of the Jewish committee (comitat). All the Jews, who survived the war, were registered there. I added my name to the list. I searched the lists for the names of my family members, but unfortunately I didn't find them.
At the same time we were given clothes that were donated by the Joint. I received a suit, shirts and shoes that didn't fit me
From Warsaw I traveled together with other kibbutz's members to Klodzko, and from there I immediately traveled to Bialystok, the largest city near Szczuczyn. I traveled with my friend Meir Suresky, who came from the same area in Poland (he originated from the city of Knyszyn, not far from Szczuczyn), to find out the fate of our families. We arrived to Bialystok on Saturday morning and started to look for Jews. When I saw a man carrying a Tallit, I approached him and asked him if there were any Jews from Szczuczyn in Bialystok. He told me that he knew the Farbarowicz brothers, who survived the war because they were expelled by the Russian to Russia a few days before the outbreak of the war because they were wealthy.
The same Jew walked with me to the local synagogue where I met Leibki Farbarowicz. Leibki was very happy to meet me and invited me to stay at his home during my stay in Bialystok. Later, I also met his brother, Moshe Farbarowicz, who sold houses in Szczuczyn after the war. Moshe asked me to travel with him to Szczuczyn to testify about a particular house that he wanted to sell. His brother Leibki advised me not to do it because it was very dangerous. At that time, anti-Semites Poles, who belonged to the AK movement (Armia Krajowa), were active in the area and also murdered Jews several years after the war.
I listened to Leibki's advice and didn't travel with his brother. Later, Leibki told me that his brother only wanted to exploit me
In Bialystok I also met another guy, Moshe Golombek, who dealt with illegal transactions of foreign currency. He offered me to join his business and make money. I didn't accept his offer, first because I didn't want to enter shady business, and secondly, because I wanted to immigrate to Israel.
When I was in Bialystok I managed to locate my uncle, my mother's brother, Ezri Kova, in New York. It was through a woman, a survivor of Auschwitz, who told me that she has a sister in New York. I asked her to ask her sister if she knows my uncle. It turned out, that she met him at a wedding. I sent him a letter and a correspondence started between us. He didn't know the fate of my family but he had several pictures of my parents and me in my childhood, and he sent them to me.
I also learned in Bialystok that my father's cousin, Golda Begish, survived the war after she lost her husband and two children. She immigrated to Australia in 1947.
Apart from these relatives, I was never able to find any information about the fate of my family and my community. Later, I learned the details of the fate of Szczuczyn's Jews during the war from a person that I met in Israel when the book about Szczuczyn's Jews was written (see the appendix at the end). I never learned the exact details of the personal fate of my immediate family.
For many years, when I walked in the streets of Poland, and later in the streets of Tel-Aviv, I often looked around hoping to meet someone from my close family who've survived the war, but my hopes were dashed again and again
After spending a few days in Bialystok, I had to keep my promise and return to the kibbutz in Kłodzko. Moshe Golombek bought a train ticket for me and for himself to Łódź. Before boarding the train he pretended that he had to take care of something and asked me to hold his case. In my innocence I agreed to take his case. I didn't know that it contained a large amount of foreign currency. If I was caught I would have to sit in jail for a very long time, as if I didn't spend enough time in jails in Germany and Russia. Fortunately, I wasn't caught.
In Kłodzko, all the members of the kibbutz, men and women, lived together in a residential building in the city center. We had a common mess hall where we ate together. Each one of us worked in different jobs the city, and the income was collected to a joint fund and sent to the center of the Dror Borochov movement. In exchange, we received various food items
such as canned goods, sacks of flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee and powdered milk. There was a counselor in the kibbutz that took care of all the matters.
In Kłodzko I worked in ironing clothes in a cooperative named Gwiazda (star in Hebrew). It belonged to Jews, members of Poalei Zion Small movement [the left wing of Poalei Zion movement]. I had to stand with a heavy iron and iron for 8-10 hours a day. With the first money that I've earned I hurried to buy glasses after nine difficult years without glasses. In addition, I also went to the dentist to take care of my teeth, which were destroyed during my stay in the camps
During my time in Kłodzko I learned about other townsmen who survived the war: in the city of Dêbica, which is close to Szczuczyn, lived the members of the Perla family (the mother's maiden name was Studnik). They survived the war because they were deported to Russia. I visited them and they received me with great warmth. They gave me clothes and dressed me from head to toe. Since then, I visited them every opportunity I had. Later, they immigrated to Israel.
In city of Wroclaw, which is also in the same area, I found additional survivors from my city. They were the members of the Goldman family who also survived because they were deported to Russia at the beginning of the war. I visited them and they treated me very well.
Meanwhile, the Poles allowed some people from the kibbutz to immigrate to Israel, in accordance with an agreement to send young men for recruitment into the Israeli Army. At that time the War of Independence took place in Israel. The young men underwent military training in the city of Bolków, and many of them were taken to the battlefield as soon as they arrived to Israel. Quite a few of them even paid with their life
In November 1948, the last group of young men left for Israel, and then, the authorities banned the departure from Poland. Since I came to Poland relatively late, I wasn't included among those who received permission to leave. I didn't know when I'll get permission to immigrate to Israel, but I looked forward to it.
In December 1948, due the reduction of the number of people in the kibbutzim, the center of Dror Borochov movement decided to close a number of kibbutzim and transfer two of them - Kłodzko and Wałbrzych - to the city of Łódź. I moved together with my friends, who remained in Poland, to the kibbutz in Łódź
The kibbutz in Łódź was located in a number of rooms in a residential building in the heart of the city. It contained about 30 people, men and women. All of them were survivors of the camps, mostly from Russia. We worked in various jobs in the city and we ate together in the kibbutz's dining room. Two couples were created at that time in the kibbutz and decided to get married. At that time I wasn't busy thinking about marriage. I decided to postpone the thoughts about marriage until I got to Israel.
Immediately after I arrived to Łódź, I was appointed by the movement's center as the cultural director of the kibbutz, probably because I looked like I came from a cultural background.
|Yitzchak in Łódź at the age of 28|
In Łódź, I also worked in the same cooperative named Gwiazda. A short time later, I turned to the cooperative's management and told them that I'm a milliner by trade and I can sew hats from pieces of fabric that were left from the sewing of coats and suits, and they just need to get me a special machine for sewing hats and helpers. I also added that they can also benefit from that. They accepted my offer and brought me a special machine and two helpers. I sewed hats from that day and until I left Poland. I worked in the method that I remembered from home, which included a stage of ironing the hats with steam. I was very successful in my work and sewed a large number of hats every day.
In January 1949, the kibbutz's counselor immigrated to Israel and I was chosen by the center to take his place. I agreed to be a counselor under the condition that I'll be allowed to continue with my work.
As a counselor I changed some of the previous arrangements: I canceled the ban to wear a tie and the ban to dance ballroom dancing that existed until that time. Moreover, I sent a member to buy tickets for those who wanted to attend in the dances. I also organized an Oneg Shabbat [Joy of Sabbath] every Friday, and gave lectures on various subjects.
The most important change that I have made was in the economic arrangements: until I was appointed as a counselor we were required to transfer all the money that we earned to the movement's office. They controlled the food and the clothes that the Joint sent us, and sent us food products such as: canned meat, jam, flour, rice, powdered milk and cocoa powder. They ran the budget as they saw fit, and occasionally used the movement's funds to go on vacation.
I thought to myself that if we manage the budget on our own, we'll be able buy a few basic needs for ourselves in addition to the kibbutz's basic supplies. That way, we'll not immigrant to Israel penniless like the members who immigrated before us. I knew that no one would take care of us in Israel, because most of us were the sole survivors of our families. I invited two other members and we calculated the budget that we needed each month. We decided that each member will acquire for himself a suit, shirts, shoes, pajamas, pillow and a blanket with the remaining money. And so it was. Many members came to consult me about their purchases.
The people of the center, who received the details from a tailor named Haim that we've added to the kibbutz, weren't happy with the new arrangement. They complained about it, and I told them that if they don't like it, we can manage without them. I argued that they never took care of us properly. They never came to us explain why the kibbutz was named after Borocov, or to organize Oneg Shabbat parties for us. They were very angry at me and severed the relationship with us. So we parted from the movement. Toward our journey to Israel, they made peace with us, and asked us to help them to liquidate the center, and we agreed to do so
At that time I joined the Łódź's choir. The choir was conducted by Shaul Berezovsky and we sang in Yiddish and Polish. We performed in a number of festivals in Warsaw and Wroclaw, and our choir was considered to be one of the best in Poland. Before I immigrated to Israel I managed to register to the Łódź Conservatory. For me, singing was a way to unload some of the tension that built up in me for many years
|A group photo of the choir in Łódź (22 April, 1949)|
Another way, in which I unloaded the tension, which accumulated in me at that time, was through small acts of mischief: I developed a habit to jump off the tram or climb on it while it was still moving. Once, I jumped into a moving tram and all the frightened passengers started to make the sign of the cross. Maybe it was my way to tempt fate. Also other guys that I knew used to do various acts to relieve the tension: there were those, who burned paper money before passersby, or they used to be in places where they shouldn't be. We all carried a heavy emotional burden from the period of the war.
In the middle of 1949, the Polish government decided to eliminate the kibbutzim. I received an order to dismantle the kibbutz, and that each of us should look for another place to live. I argued that we lead a lifestyle that fits the communist regime, similar to the Kolkhoz, we don't pose a threat to the regime, and therefore we don't have to evacuate. We managed to stay in the kibbutz until we immigrated to Israel. The police conducted a number of searches, but they didn't find anything to accuse us with.
The Jewish communists pressured us from a different direction. They wanted us to stay in Poland. I was promised an apartment and various benefits, but I wasn't tempted by their offers. I had a clear goal - to immigrate to Israel
By the end of 1949, the Polish authorities started to allow Jews to immigrate to Israel. I was in the second group that received permission to leave Poland. That was the end of my one year and five months stay in Poland after the war.
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