The Partisan Gavriel Avshanka
Gavriel Avshanka was a very close friend of mine only in the last pre-war years. We all loved him dearly because of his open-heartedness. He was strong, healthy and full of the joy of life, always ready to help a friend in a time of need if at all possible.
On the third day of the outbreak of war we left our home, Ciechanow, and together with him and his family ended up in the distant Stalingrad steppes.
A few months later Avshanka and his family left the village in which we lived temporarily, and went to Rovno in western-Ukraine. They probably thought they would live better there, but to their great disappointment, they were fooled.
Immediately after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, in June 1941, the whole territory of western-Ukraine was occupied by the Germans. The suffering of the Jews immediately began: ghettos, yellow patches, then the annihilation. In the city of Rovno alone eighteen thousand Jews were murdered.
Gavriel, when he beheld the bloody enemy, decided not to forfeit his life so easily. He went to the forest and joined the partisans, where Jews and Russians fought together against the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers. They carried on for many months in the forests in the vicinity of Sarny, always on the move. Many times there wasn't even a crust of bread to eat. The partisans decided to send out a few chaverim to search for some food and also to get some medication for the sick and wounded partisans. Volunteers, amongst them our Gavriel, came forth. He didn't like to be left out of the action. They set out.
In the dark of night the partisans went to the nearest village, where all were asleep, in order to force the village-elder to give food for the partisans. They surrounded the house of the village-elder. Gavriel knocked on the door. Steps were heard, the sound of a lock turning, and at the same time there was a shot from a revolver. The shot was deathly for Gavriel. In spite of his strong, herculean body, he could no longer utter a word when the chaverim came to his aid. His eyes were shut forever.
The partisans took revenge for their murdered friend. Two grenades were thrown into the dwelling from which, after some shooting, large tongues of fire started to break out. The well-aimed bullets of the partisans didn't let anyone get out alive. After seizing the necessary food, the partisans took the dead body of their friend and returned to their base. At the open grave they all paid respect to the fallen hero.
This happened in the village Matzienlis, not far from the city Sarny, in April 1944. A few days later the territory was liberated by the Russian army.
Shlomo Zalman Kahane, with the nickname Yuzshek, I knew from before the war. He was the son of very poor parents; his father, a tailor. He worked in Ciechanow
From his early days he dreamt of a free, just world, without exploitation of one person by another, of a world where work would be a pleasure, not a hardship. In order to reach his ideal and principles, he joined the ranks of the communist youth movement that was illegal. He knew that he had chosen a long and difficult way, but the belief in a better tomorrow was very great for him and no difficulties scared him.
In the fight against the Polish fascist government, he gave most of his best young years cooped up in prison, constantly suffering, yet he didn't break down, always was full of the joy of life and beliefs. The secret police didn't leave Kahane alone and he was forced to leave Poland and left for Paris.
There also, Kahane didn't have an easy life. He had difficulty getting a work-card. Finding living quarters was also not easy and in addition to this there was the problem of how to earn a living. Shlomo Zalman worked late into the night and still made time to be active in the professional union to improve the living conditions of the workers.
When the Germans occupied France, Yuzshek, in spite of his poor health as a result of his imprisonment in Poland, threw himself, together with his French chaverim, into the underground fight against the enemy.
After the victory over the German mass-murderers, when everyone started to breathe freely once more, Kahane was already very sick. He had to go into a sanitarium where, full of belief in the struggle for a better tomorrow, he died in July 1946.
Ciechanowers in Paris paid their debt to this idealistic fighter against Nazism and fascism and took his bones to the brother-grave of the Ciechanow landsmanschaft.
Menakhem Kalenberg, son of a religious family, was well-known in Ciechanow. He attended a yeshiva in his young years or in the Bais Hamedresh studying Gemara. For many years his father didn't occupy himself with earning a living. The mother provided for the family.
Menakhem, as a loyal son, helped his mother carry her heavy burden.
I knew Menakhem from my earliest childhood years. We were neighbors and also learned together at the cheder of Rebbe Zachs. Later, our paths parted. I went to the Povshekhner School, but for Menakhem's parents this was like turning him into a goy, and he remained in cheder. Still, every time we met, in addition to a good-morning, we would always have something to talk about. In general, Menakhem was a happy fellow and loved people.
Longer, hard years passed. In 1946 I was in Lodz. There I discovered that my chaver Menakhem is sick. Naturally, I went to visit him. At that time he was staying with one of our landsleit, Dinche Krimke. Great was his joy when he saw me. We exchanged memoirs of our war years.
Almost in tears, in his customary hoarse voice, he said: You see, if our folks wouldn't have been so foolishly misled in 1939, and they would have escaped to Russia the way we did, we wouldn't be so lonely, and they would also have survived the war. The first days of the war I begged my parents to leave Ciechanow. I had a feeling that we must run away. They didn't want to listen to me, however. I therefore said goodbye to them, took my tfillin and left the place of my birth; went to far-off Russia and worked there. Afterwards I was also mobilized into the Russian army. That was already at the time when the Germans began to retreat.
In one of the battles, already on the cursed German soil, I was wounded and sent to a hospital, but to the present day I suffer with my legs.
And now, Yosele, he continued, after I didn't find any of my family in Poland, I dream of going to Eretz Yisroel. I'll find suitable work and be able to live amongst our own people.
When he spoke these words, his pale face regained color and beamed.
Destiny, though, did not want Menakhem to reach Eretz Yisroel. En route to the land of his dreams, and in Paris, he got seriously ill and entered the Jewish hospital. He sent searchers for his landsleit, but when the emissary came to chaver Melotzker, who immediately went to the hotel, it was already too late. The sick one had died a day before (May 2, 1948).
On February 23, 1949, the committee of Ciechanow landsleit in Paris published the following announcement in the Parisian Freier Press (Free Press):
Committee of Ciechanower and surrounding area landsleit invites all members and friends to honor the two Ciechanow landsleit SHLOMO KAHANE, former resistance fighter, and MENAKHEM KALENBERG, former soldier in the Red Army, who are being buried in the brother-grave of the Ciechanower landsleit and of those in the surrounding area, February 25, 9:00 a.m., at the main entrance of the Banye Cemetery.
This announcement serves as an invitation.
Honor to their memory
SHLOMO KAHANE AND MENAKHEM KALENBERG OF CIECHANOW HAVE THEIR BONES BURIED IN THE BROTHER-GRAVE
Two of our landsleit are being buried in the brother-grave, February 25, 9:00 a.m. These are SHLOMO KAHANE, very well-known in the 11th (lager) under the name Yuzshek. In spite of his poor health, he took an active part in the underground movement until he was confined to bed. One year after the liberation he gets torn away from us.
MENAKHEM KALENBERG left his home town Ciechanow after the arrival of the Germans and enlists in the Russian army. Fights from Stalingrad to Berlin. In Berlin he gets wounded and has a leg amputated.
In 1948 he arrives in Paris. He enters the Rothschild Hospital, where he dies in a short time, after much suffering.
Honor to his memory
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