by Sara Amas née Burko
Translated by Sara Mages
I'm here, in Germany,
In the place my destiny brought me,
Far from my Hebrew homeland,
Far, far, in exile.
I'm in the far west, in Germany,
Wake up, my mother, wake up,
Small is my room here, small and meager,
Translated from Yiddish by Yisrael Erlich
The Department of Testimony Collection
Title page of Sara Amas' testimony
Sara Amas née Burko
Translation by Sara Mages
My name is Sara Burko. I was born in Rafalovka in 1925. I was in Rafalovka when the war broke out.
Question: From the entrance of the Germans until the liquidation of the ghetto?
Answer: At first the villagers attacked us and took all our belongings. The atmosphere was very unpleasant because there was a dog in the yard, the dog started to run wild and father quarreled with the gentiles who tried to catch the dog. Then, a few weeks later, we were put in the ghetto. Fortunately for us our house remained inside the ghetto. All the Jews were rounded up in the ghetto and our whole family was together. I didn't work because I was under the age they took to work. I had a sister who went out to work. A young man, who fled Poland, lived with us, that is to say, out of pity, because he had no home. This is how we lived in poverty and fear. From time to time they took my sister work. My father and sister were given half a loaf of bread for a day's work.
Question: What did your father do?
Answer: We had a big store, a butcher shop.
Question: The financial situation?
Answer: Was not bad.
Question: Did you have any difficulties in the ghetto?
Answer: We had nothing. We were happy that we had a huge yard and we grew vegetables in the yard. We had fruit trees. We existed from this and from what given to us in the distribution. The situation was very unpleasant because every time the Germans came to town they asked for beautiful girls to sleep with. The Judenrat always had problems with the Germans which girls? to whom to give and what to give? The decision was very difficult. Because the young man was with us, or because we had the neighbor, they didn't hurt us, not me and not my sister, because I had an older sister. If they attacked or something, we always ran to the neighbor's yard. In this way my sister and I were saved from all this. This is how we lived until the day of the liquidation of the ghetto.
I remember that the atmosphere wasn't very pleasant because there was no contact between the villages. Mother started sewing us backpacks from kitchen towels and put soap and all sorts of things inside. She also baked pita bread. The atmosphere was very unpleasant because shots were heard every now and then. There were rumors that whoever manages to escape and is caught he's immediately shot. Somehow notes arrived in the ghetto, that whoever manages to get out of the ghetto should try to take kerosene and rags with him. When he arrives, he must set fire to a barn so that there will be a fire nearby. They'll be busy with the fire and the Jews will be able to flee the ghetto.
I also took an oilsoaked rag and matches with me. I was at home until 03:00. The atmosphere was horrible and gloomy because they want to kill us for no reason. I asked my father what time it was, and he said: we should strive to live and not think what time it is. We were told that anyone who could run somewhere should run away. We were dressed in little dresses and coats. When we run away we'll have something.
A widowed woman, who had several children, lived with us.
Answer: No, gentile. She lived in our house in two rooms and had a separate entrance. She was a widow. I don't remember when it was. Anyway, she came after work and she said: you're very good. Once, when the children were hungry or something, you fed them through the window. Come, I'll try to take you out of the house. I parted from my mother and she took me.
Question: Why you?
Answer: What I said. She told me, that I gave food to her children, because of that. There was no other reason. My little sister was blond and I was dark and the challenge was to be blonde. I parted from the family. My grandmother gave me some kind of an apron and said: maybe you'll succeed with it. They made me Tzpelach, tiny braids.
Question: When was that?
Answer: On the first day they closed the ghetto. If they murdered them on the sixteen, then it should be on the thirteen.
Question: Meaning, a few days before that?
Answer: Yes, before. It was the first day.
Question: So she took you out?
Answer: We started to walk. She was Polish, but she was married to a Ukrainian that I didn't know. She started to walk in the ghetto through the yards in order to get out of the ghetto. On the way a gentile met us. He didn't know me, but he knew my sister. I continued to walk with that gentile woman in the direction of the railroad tracks, and from there in the direction of the church, to get out. We got closer to the train station and crossed the tracks. The church was out of town. We started to walk on a narrow path. Suddenly, they start running after me shouting, Zydowski, meaning, Jew. At the edge of the field I saw a Christian girl who was harvesting buckwheat which was veryvery low. Since they started to shout, and there were two very small pits there, one was already open and the other full, and I saw that they were running, I lay down and hid.
Question: She noticed?
Answer: She didn't notice. She knew me quite well. I studied with her for one year at the Polish school, in the Powszechne, and I knew her name. The Germans didn't find me. The gentile woman stayed. When the Germans didn't find me, they left. Then they came out of the yard. Maybe they were the parents of the girl who was harvesting, or neighbors, who saw that I was hiding there and started to shout in Polish: Jew, it's enough for you to be on our land! We've suffered enough from you! They'll kill you! Of course, I was very miserable. I went out to the path and saw the Christian woman who took me out of the ghetto. She gave me a talisman as a gift, the Madonna, and said: Say: God, do as you please. She parted from me and I continued to walk in the direction of the church, but I was very scared because I saw that I was being chased. I was afraid to enter the church. On the other side was a forest and this area was very muddy. I entered, not far from the church, into this forest which was all mud. I decided to lie down.
I lay there until night. When I saw by the light of the moon that it is already night, I decided to go somewhere, in some way. I started to walk and I was very scared because there were birds there that rose up and didn't fly far. I got used to the night light and kept walking. I walked diagonally because I didn't want to enter the paths on which people walk.
By the way, when I left the ghetto my mother and my grandmother said to me: don't say that you are a girl, say that you are married. Then, I still haven't figured it out.
I continued to walk until the morning light came. One of the children of the gentile woman, who took me out of the ghetto, worked in a Polish village that its name was Vyrka. That's what I remembered. I wanted to go to some Polish village that would tell me where to go. I decided to go to Vyrka. On the way I didn't want to ask older people and tried to ask children. Indeed, I met two girls. I told them that I wanted to walk to Vyrka, and asked how to walk there because I'm already on my way.
The girls were my age, and maybe a little older. They said to me that they were walking in the same direction and I should go with them. Of course, I was very happy. I came together with the girls to a big house that was in a crossroad. We entered the house and the girl introduced us. The mother was kind and gave us a drink. One girl had to continue to walk in some direction. The daughter remained.
Answer: No. not Ukrainians. They were Mischlinge, Ukrainians and Poles together. The mother of this girl was probably veryvery smart. After we finished eating, and she heard all the lies I've said, that I was married and I was walking to look for something, she sent her daughter out of the room and took me aside. She said to me: Listen, you were lucky that you met my daughter and entered my house. You cannot continue to walk. The town of Stepan isn't far from here. Today they killed in Stepan and there is a curfew around.
They killed the Jews and you have nowhere to go. Don't wander around. There are roadblocks and they'll simply kill you. No one will believe your stories. You were lucky that you came here. What can I do for you? Stay here with me, in this house until evening. She explained to me that she couldn't keep me because her house is at a crossroads and policemen and Germans enter all the time. She has older children and they have friends. I'll wait and she'll keep me downstairs. She told me to sit on the floor so they wouldn't see me. I'll wait until evening and then she'll bring me to a Polish village, to a very nice house and very nice people. And so it was.
In the evening they brought me to a village that its name was Ozan. In this house was couple and it seems to me that there was also a girl. They received me very nicely. They were Poles who came after the First World War. They received me very nicely and gave me food. The house was more cultural. It was, I think, Tuesday. They kept me until the Aktzia, on Saturday.
Question: The Aktzia in Rafalovka?
Answer: Yes. They traveled every day to Rafalovka and they probably knew.
Question: What was the distance to Rafalovka?
Answer: It was ten kilometers, maximum, so I guess. They kept me and I was with them and they demanded nothing. They let me eat and I was with them in a small room on the side, in a tiny barn. When they killed the Jews and it was on Saturday, they said: they eliminated the whole ghetto and the situation is very bad. There are notices that if they find a Jew with someone, they would kill the whole family. We want to do a mitzvah, but the family is closer. People are walking around. Go.
Before I left the ghetto one of the Jews we called refugee bizhenets, told me that there is a priest near Kostopil who gives false certificates to Jews and helps them. I intended to go in the same direction. I asked how to get out, but they didn't know what to say to me. That night I left. I had a coat and first aid from home. I was, as they say, still a human being. I even managed to send a note home with someone. I know that they got it because my friend, who remained alive, said that she met my little sister and from her words it turned out they probably got the note. I kept walking at night and I don't know how, during the day I didn't wander around.
I kept going and came, I think, to the main road leading from Pinsk. I've been told that I was getting closer to Lutsk. I didn't see a soul. I didn't see anything, just the dirt road. Suddenly a cart carrying grain approached me. They were really disgusted by me because they thought I was a predatory animal. They asked what I was doing here, and I said that I was walking to a village called Tachmenu and I asked if it was still a long way to Tcshmanu. You'll have Tachmenu wherever you go they told me. They've already seen that I'm neither an animal nor a predator.
I continued to walk all night, on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday I didn't know where to go. I walked a little through the forest. I saw a river and on the other side a huge forest and further up a small house. I saw traces of a motorcycle or bicycle and I realized that there are Germans. At that time residents weren't allowed to own vehicles. I decided to enter the first house by the river. My legs were swollen because I was already walking barefoot through the fields and I had real wounds.
I entered that first house. The gentile woman was very kind and even gave me water to wash my feet and gave me something to drink. The food she gave me was without salt. I gave her something. Suddenly, while I am eating at her house, a young man came in. He may have come to collect taxes or he was from the council. He met me and waited patiently until I finished eating and getting dressed. I started to leave and he grabbed me by the hand and said: you're coming with me. Next to the house was a small garden and on both sides were small paths. I walked with him to the end of the fence, to the end of the path. At the end of the yard I asked him: why are you leading me. As he held my hand, I let go of his hand and continued to walk the same way I came from.
Question: He didn't walk after you?
Answer: No. He didn't walk after me. The forest was on the other side and I entered directly into the forest. I was in the forest, in the mud. I saw that I couldn't pull my leg out and couldn't walk anymore. If the Germans will chase me, they wouldn't go so deep into the mud. Either a bullet will hit me, or a bullet will not hit me. I cannot walk. That's how it was. After a few seconds they started firing and started shouting. I stayed there all night.
I started to slowly free myself and started walking back the same way. When I started walking the same way, it was not the best time because it was Sunday. At first, I walked forward all the time, and suddenly I walked backwards, and that was a sign that I was Jewish. On Sunday, towards evening, the shepherds went with the flock and I was afraid to walk. I always tried to stay off the road so they wouldn't see me. The shepherds caught me, beat me and stripped me of everything, everything. I still had several gold coins in my bra and I only had one coin left. Even the bra strap was taken from me because they said it was good for laces. I remained naked. At night I kept walking, maybe I'll enter to some house. It is very unpleasant to walk naked, especially at night, and it was cold. I approached a house next to some village. I saw flax that they were drying. Since they didn't want the dew to wet the flax, they covered it with some simple cloth, sacks or something else. I removed a few sacks and covered myself, the bottom and also the top.
I walked and thought that maybe someone would give me something. There were times when I approached a house covered in sacks.
When I left home my grandmother said to me in Yiddish: Mayn kinds, if a dog barks at you don't be afraid, lie on the ground. When you lie down it'll not approach you, it'll bark and leave.
It turned out that I had to use this method. I went to the house and the dog barked endlessly, but I needed someone to help me. The dog barked and barked, the homeowner came out but he didn't see me because I lay down. I asked him to help me. He saw that I was half naked, so he said to the dog in Polish take her! So I saw that this person wouldn't give me anything. I kept walking.
Eventually, I came to a village and it was a khutor. I knocked on the door and on the window of a house and said that I wasn't crazy. I no longer had to introduce myself as a Jew. I asked that they wouldn't take into account that I was naked and I asked for help. It was a young couple who had not been married long and they took me inside the house. They allowed me to get dressed and gave me a piece of cloth, a pair of thick linen pants. That evening, and at night, I sewed a dress for me, like a dress for a doll, and it was my cover.
It was the same again and I was already very desperate. I started walking on at night. During the day I sat in a pile of hay made for the cows. I went inside and sat like that. I always went out in the evening, or early in the morning, to ask for a piece of bread. I wanted, no matter what, to arrive to that gentile woman. At least they'll bring me to a Jewish grave and not kill me in the yard, next to some road. My goal was to get there.
I arrived to the gentile woman that I came to the first time. Her house was at a crossroad. On the way I met the woman who took me into her house and brought me to the Polish village where I stayed for three days. I no longer looked like a human being because I hadn't combed my hair or bathed and my hands were dirty. No one brought me into their house and I was only with God and myself. My legs were very swollen from walking. Eventually, I got to her. She saw me and didn't recognize me. I told her I didn't want anything from her. I just want her to bring me to the place where they will kill me next to the Jews, and bring me to a Jewish grave among the Jews. Apparently, she was a very good human being. She started talking to me just like a mother, with emotion and understanding. She let me eat, and she let me bathe, and she held me. She started explaining to me that I was a little girl and the future before me. The war will end and there will be no such hardships. I must be patient and I'm lucky I found her daughter and came to her. She saw that I was very desperate and told me that I could stay with her. I also couldn't walk. After she saw that I was so desperate and I didn't want to stay with her, because I explained to her that one way or another I should die, she gave me bandages with yogurt to cool my swollen feet from the harvest in the fields, I had real holes, like in a grater.
She couldn't keep me in her house, so she took me to some forest and told me that she would bring me food two or three times a day. I should sit there and in the evening I'll come to her house. She's going to be happy if I stay alive. I don't know her name. She brought me food twice or three times a day, and with that she brought me bandages from small cotton towels with cold yogurt for my feet. I was with her for a few days until it healed a little.
It was a grove of pine trees and there were rats there. I've never seen so many in my life. I became familiar with all their life. When I recovered she told me: I cannot keep you in my place because I have a Jew from Stefan and I have no more space. You should go back to Ozan the village that she took me to. There, no one will keep you but no one will inform you. They are good people. Each time you should enter another house. That's how it was. I said goodbye to this woman who accompanied me a little to the village. She gave me encouragement and hopes to continue.
I was near this village and again sat next to a haystack. I was harvested when it was green and was left to dry for the cows. This is how I wandered around. On Sunday, when I entered a house, the woman told me: you can enter the dairy because there are good people there. I saw that I had no choice I must go and ask for bread. I went to the dairy, meaning, to the homeowners. I entered and asked for a piece of bread to eat. There were three girls there and they started to shout in Polish: what a beautiful Jewish girl, what a beautiful girl! They shouted to their mother to keep me and take me to her home. That's how it was. They kept me in their house. Since it was morning, and they brought milk in, she put me in a locked room under the window, because if someone peeks in, he wouldn't be able to see me. I was there for a few weeks. At night they gave me the option to sleep in the house. I woke up early in the morning and climbed to the barn. There was a very big barn there. I asked to let me knit for them so I wouldn't eat for free, and that they would give me a job. They gave me knitting, I knitted and it was good. At night I slept in their house and in the morning I went out to the barn.
I dreamt a dream that the Rabbi of Stepan came to me. I didn't know him or see him. I wasn't there. I dreamt that the Rabbi of Stepan brought me a cross full of flowers, a long cross, meaning, big with wildflowers of the field, with stalks of grain full of stalks. He held it in his hands, like a bouquet of flowers, and said to me: take it, it'll help you. I got up the next day and said it wasn't good. He only had a good name in Rafalowka, his son was with us. I thought to myself: what do I do in case the Germans or the police enter? How can I help myself? The barn was diagonally and I was up. I started thinking what I should do. This is what came to my mind: here, right next to the wall, I'll make a hiding place. If someone will climb the ladder to the attic, he will not see the empty dishes. I worked hard for half a day and went all the way down. That's how I made a pit in the hay, until I got down.
The next day I woke up, the daughters brought me food because they went out to work in the field. This was the time when they took out the potatoes and the autumn was pretty cool. When they brought me the food I put the food on the edge because if someone climbs the ladder to the attic, he will not see the empty dishes that I put next to the ladder. When they left for work they quickly took down the dishes in which they brought me the food.
One day, they brought me food but forgot to take down the dishes. They also cleaned the house because they left for work. One of the daughters ran up to me shouting. The Polish name I gave myself was Genia. They shouted at me: Genia, hide somewhere because the Germans and the police are here. I went straight down to my hideout and saw what was happening. That's how it was. The police went straight up. As they went through the house they found the homeowner's sword. He was a soldier in the First World War. With this sword they stabbed and stabbed the hay.
Question: They didn't know that someone was there?
Answer: No. They first climbed up and found my dishes. They entered from one side and went down from the other side. There were two entrances, one to enter and one to go down on both sides. I was able to lie down and see the whole situation in the yard. In the evening I heard that the homeowner had been arrested. It was day time and I couldn't go out. The situation was not pleasant, they took the father and there was a lot of tension in the house. I lay down. I knew, according to rumors, that they weren't looking for Jews, they were looking for bicycles. Someone informed that they had a bicycle and for that reason they stabbed the hay. When they found the dishes, they began to ask if there were any Jews there. Then I heard that the homeowner was released and it was before evening.
Question: He didn't tell them?
Answer: No, they didn't find me. I know what he told them, but they released him. I remember that they said that they gave a lot of pork and food. They released him before evening. How long could I lie there? When I heard that they left, I climbed up to the attic. I was scared and trembling a lot.
In the evening he entered and he knew I was there. They didn't find me, He apparently denied. The main thing, he started yelling my name: Genia, Genia! I knew it was his voice. I approached him and asked what had happened. He said to me: what did you think, and where did you hide?
I told him what I dreamt the day before. I told him the whole story. He gave me a kiss, meaning: you see, you'll be one of us. I was with him for another day and stayed for that night. The next day he came and said to me:there are good people in the whole village, but we can no longer keep you. Whatever house you enter, they'll let you eat. Everyone will point to a house that you can enter.
I came to a house where there were three women. The men were married. I asked for work and everything was good and beautiful.
They didn't let me sleep in the house and told me that there are three piles of grain in the yard. They are fenced so that animals and cows will not be able to enter them. There's a ladder and I can sleep there. A Jew from Rafalovka, one of the refugees, sleeps there. He tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. His daughter, who was mute, was raped and murdered. He lies like a log and you shouldn't be afraid of him. You have to lower the ladder so that no one can climb, and tomorrow morning we'll bring the ladder.
I climbed up, lay down, and didn't talk to him because I fell asleep. Suddenly, I found myself on the ground over the fence and couldn't get up. Where am I? In what world am I? I don't know how I fell. I felt uninjured. I picked up the ladder and climbed back up. I began to explain to the Jew, but he didn't answer. The next morning I entered the house and told the gentile. He said to me: look, you are really holy because you're not injured! You'll stay alive, Maria is watching over you.
In the evening, when they brought me into the house for a short time to eat, the old father started to exchange stories with me. He said to me: I don't want you to be a Christian now. You must convince yourself that the Jews will accept Christianity and will be JudeoChristian, just as there are Hungarian Christians and Russians Christian. This cult will accept Christianity. You see what the war brings. Once the Jews accept Christianity they'll have no problems, but now you are a Jew and we'll take care of you. You're on the right track.
I finished the work there and wandered from house to house. Later, I entered a veryvery poor house. I also finished the work there and again I was in the yard, in the forest, in the grove, in the field. It was already very cold and someone gave me something for the feet, kind of rags. I was in some grove and in that grove they made vodka. There was a relatively young man there. He asked for details about me. He said to me: maybe we'll take you. I'll talk to my wife. The next day he said to me: come home with me. I'm married and I have a child. He told me such a story: this is his seventh child and every child they had died at the age of nine months. He doesn't have other children, he only has this baby and they are worried about him. The priest told him that if he'll save a living soul, a human being, the child would live. He added: come to us, we don't have a big house, stay with us.
I came there. His wife was beautiful. He had a tiny calf and a piglet. At home, when they opened the door, there was a barn with the piglet, he had nothing. The gentiles told me that he was very poor and he had no wood to heat the house. He went to look for wood every day to keep the house warm, but they kept me for a long time, almost all winter. What they ate, I ate. I slept upstairs because they had a fireplace and I was actually warm.
One clear day I left the house early in the morning to use the bathroom and some Jew came in. He knew me because I was from Rafalovka. He told me that our neighbor, to whom we escaped when the Germans came because we were afraid they would rape us, knows that I escaped and he'll do anything to keep me alive. He said to me: 'I'll arrange that the neighbor will come to see you here. I don't know what kind of a connection he had with the gentiles in the area, and the connection with the people of Rafalovka.
Question: He recognized you?
Answer: He recognized me. First he brought presents to the homeowners. He walked with my father's fur. He told them to take care of me and they wouldn't be deprived. What he told them exactly, I don't know. Anyway, I saw him and had the impression that he really wanted to help. He went home and I stayed with the same gentile. Then, I learned from this Jew that there is another Jew in the same village, not far away, and has no clothes. Since I had a contact with the Christians I went to get him some sort of shirt. He now lives in Hadera [Israel].
I saw him and gave him the shirt. We parted. I walked again from house to house. This was a time when I couldn't stay with Zelinsky because of the relations between the Poles and the Ukrainians. There were attacks on the Poles. We were forced to go to a bigger village. I've been told to go to Mrs. Marian. There, they'll give me a job. I combed my hair and they took me to the field and let me clean the manure with a pitchfork.
The village was big and the house was also big. Every evening people came from the isolated houses in the area. All the women were in the house. They heated water so that if they attack us, we would pour water on them. The men went out to guard. Among other things, a gentile woman told me that not far away there is a tunnel with Jews and that a little girl remained. When we started talking it turned out that she's my friend. Mrs. Marian was very nice. I told her that she is my friend and asked her to bring her to me. She didn't object. There were good people, also Poles.
She brought my friend. My friend's skin was wrinkled, like a pine tree, because she was in a tunnel and they probably used coals to keep warm. We put her in a tub of water and both of us, the woman and me, worked hard until we cleaned her. She was brown for weeks.
Question: Is she alive?
Answer: Yes, she is alive.
Question: What's her name?
Answer: Chana Brezniak.
Question: Where is she?
Answer: She is in Givatayim [Israel]. She works in Bank Hapoalim.
Question: So the Ukrainians started raging and burning villages?
Answer: Yes. We arrived as far as Rafalovka. The gentile woman, who took me out of the ghetto, from our house, told me: if you want, you come and sleep in my house. Whenever you want, come to me.
I decided to go with Chana to the partisans. We went to the forest not far from the cemetery. We waited all night until early in the morning, and saw no one, not even the partisans who were Chana's relatives. I saw that it was already a day and told Chana that there was no point in being there. We are girls from Rafalovka, everyone knows us and they'll catch us in the daylight. She said that she was staying, and I said that I'm traveling to Germany with all the Poles. As I've been until now I'll continue to be so.
I started to go home, to the gentile woman who took me out of the ghetto. I walked around and, of course, I knew all the side roads. Across from us was the neighbor's house and a policeman stood there. He started to shout, girl, girl! The gentile woman, who lived in our house, opened the door and began to shout: my daughter, my daughter! and I was saved again because the policeman would have caught me. She put me in her apartment, that is, our house. She gave me a headscarf, put me in bed and just made me an opening so I could breathe. She put on me all the beddings she had in the house, pilespiles. In the evening, I didn't see her, but I knew when the train was leaving. I wrapped myself in this headscarf, the famous headscarf I got, and started walking towards the train. I got on the train. Someone probably knew me. We started traveling. A beautiful funny episode: We arrived in Sarny, a Jewish woman, who studied at our school, approached me and told me that there's another Jewish woman and her name is so and so. The three of us traveled in the same train with all the gentiles. Where we didn't know. To Germany, to work. On the way we heard that they wanted to bomb the train, but they knew that there were Jews in it and they didn't bomb. Inside the train I was able to teach them to pray as Christians and how to cross. It was also very important because the Provoslavs cross from left to right and the Catholics from right to left.
We came to Dresden, me and these two friends.
Question: They survived?
Answer: One is here in TelAviv, Scheinbaum.
Question: You came to Dresden?
Answer: We came to Dresden. The third friend found he sister's maid. Her maid's husband was killed because he hid Jews. The friend decided on the way to take the maid's name. Fate wanted, and this is really a very rare case. When my friend said her name, the maid jumped, but she wasn't stupid and kept quiet because she understood the situation. The maid said, never mind, we'll be like sisters. These two friends joined the maid as a family, as sisters, on her name. I was left miserable and alone, without anyone. We couldn't talk to each other because we were afraid. None of us had documents and also the Poles didn't have documents. I went into the office, I was asked all sorts of details and who I know. I gave all my information, that I'm Genopeva Dzikanska. The woman who registered me went out and asked who knew me.
Question: From where did you take the name?
Answer: I had a cousin whose name was Genia, and I understood that I needed to add another name.
Question: Why Dzikanska?
Answer: Because I found out that I'm wild. I invented the name from the imagination. Since I was like a savage, I gave myself the name Dzikanska. She received all the details from me and went out to the place where all the Poles sat. She asked who knows Genopeva Dzikanska. This friend, who is in Canada, is a typical dark Jew. She got up and said that she knows me. She had a great cover the maid with her mother and children. She got up and said: yes, I know her from the church. That's how I got the documents and that's how I stayed in Dresden. They were taken to Chemnitz, the friend with her maid and others.
They left me in Dresden and I didn't have any cloths. I still had the dress I sewed like a doll's dress. When we came to Germany, we were in a Polish camp, and then they brought us to a work place, to a slaughterhouse Schlachthof. We all sat like in a roll call. A big and tall German came. Coincidentally he was good to me later. He chose me and said: this little one is cute, small and skinny. She can work next to this gentile woman. He chose two more. Luckily, one of these gentile women lived in our town and was one of the girls from our school. She was in our house and knew me. They said that I was already theirs.
I came to the camp and only went out to take what they were giving clothes or first equipment, and see my hut. In the yard I met the forest guard from Rafalovka. He called me by name and said I was Burkovna's sister. I dared to say to him that I'm now Genopeva Dzikanska. He said: don't be afraid, I'll take care of you. And so it was.
We worked in the slaughterhouse. First they gave us the letter P Polish.
Later they changed and gave us the letters OST. Even the Poles weren't allowed to sleep together with the wives. The women were in a separate camp, and the men in a separate camp. I was in the same room with his wife and we also slept in the same bed because it was a double bed. I was on top and she on the bottom because she was older. Even before they separated us I never went out on Sunday. First because I had no clothes, second because I was afraid, and third I knew who I am.
They came to me he and she and said to me that it is not good that I stay in the hut on Sunday. I must go with everyone.
Question: There were many Poles there?
Answer: Of course.
They dressed me. She gave me a shirt and a skirt. I don't know if she gave me shoes, but, anyway, she tried to give me something from her clothes. She fitted her clothes on me. That's how I started to be with them.
Question: They didn't suggest that you go to church with them?
Answer: No. No one prayed. There was a period that I also went to pray, when I was in the village with the Poles. I said in my heart: If there is God in the heavens, the minute I kiss Jesus, I'll die, or a thunder will fall on me. But it didn't happen.
Question: A few words about this camp about the life.
Answer: Everyone received two slices of bread 100 grams.
Question: You were hungry?
Answer: I wasn't hungry because I worked in the slaughterhouse and this German was very good to me. I worked in the kitchen where they also cooked for the German staff. We me and the two Polish women who worked there were given the food the Germans ate. The boss, who was a very nice German, didn't know I was Jewish and treated me just like a little girl. Where we had to do hard work, he didn't let me do it. He always took women who were stronger than me. He always let me weigh the bread for the prisoners, to the English prisoners. They also got chocolate with the food. They always threw a little chocolate to me. I stole meat or sugar and always brought it for the Poles or for the prisoners. My heart didn't allow me to discriminate whether it was a Jew or a gentile. There was a war, the minute I had a piece of bread and a prisoner came, of course I gave him the bread or the meat. That way I wasn't hungry, but at the camp, we were given two slices of bread, a portion of margarine for a week and a portion of jam for a week. Everyone ate where he worked and, so to speak, it was a sidedish for breakfast and dinner.
Question: Was it possible to leave the camp for the city?
Answer: No it was not.
Question: Was there a guard?
Answer: There was no guard, but we weren't allowed to leave.
There was a veterinarian in the slaughterhouse. By chance I have pictures of the slaughterhouse. He told me I was of Jewish descent. I tried not to speak German at all because I was scared. I told him that I know my mother, but I don't know who my father is. I don't know what it was, whether the desire to live or that a higher power pushed me, because I always had an immediate answer. When I told him that I don't know who my father is, he stopped asking.
When I came here, I was here with professors, and I was with Professor Sheba. I told him, and he said that it was a very big bluff. He wanted to guess or something, because there is no identifying mark on the ears that I'm Jewish or nonJewish. This German treated me very nicely. He had a son who fell as a pilot. His wife always brought me clothes. For Christmas she brought me a gift because she saw that I had no clothes. Anyway, she dressed me. Each time she brought me something as a gift. She dressed me, because I was completely without clothes.
Question: When did you arrive to Germany?
Answer: It was in August 1943.
Question: How long were you in Germany?
Answer: Until liberation.
Question: What else can you tell about life in Germany and about you as a Christian?
Answer: There were people I tried to help a lot, but it may be that jealousy ate them too, because I was beautiful. Young men came to exchange books with me and they didn't come to the others. They may have been jealous. Besides that, there were exchanges of letters with my friends, who were elsewhere. They said that there's a Jewish woman. Suddenly, I received an anonymous letter from a woman who came from the hospital, such a note. It read: you cannot be among the enemies you're with. They want your life. Try to get out of this camp.
Question: it was a hint?
Answer: They came to work in some hospital and there they were told that there's a Jewish woman. She was Russian and may have been Jewish. I don't know. She understood and that's why she wrote me a few words that we should meet to exchange books. We met and I really knew this young woman. She gave me directions on how to escape and how to leave this camp, the Polish, to another workplace. It was thanks to her. I really was very devoted to the Poles, among others.
Question: On whom was the hint?
Answer: The hint was on me because there were no other Jews there.
The guard told me that he asked not to talk about his daughterinlaw. He has a son in France and I'm his daughterinlaw. If something happen to me it'll cause harm to everyone. I was with his wife who got sick and died. I took care of her. The Germans, in any case, were veryvery smart. When I entered and said that I am the daughter, they said: how can you be her daughter, you have different last name and she has a different last name! I said: my mother is married for the second time.
I always had something to answer, they always let me enter to her and no one was allowed to enter. She really died next to me. Her husband greatly appreciated me because I took care of her to the last minute and didn't leave her. He also treated me nicely from the first moment.
I just don't remember exactly how I managed to move to the Russian woman whose name I don't know exactly. I became very friendly with her. She was a teacher in Russia and older than me. I moved to work at the hospital.
I entered to work at the hospital together with her. I have a poem I wrote at that time, a few words and the two letters. So we were given a room in the cellar. I were together, we had a common room and worked at the municipal hospital. There were nice people in the hospital. As the Russians got closer, this friend decided to go towards the Russians. So she traveled to Breslau.
Question: She knew you were Jewish?
Answer: She didn't know I was Jewish. Maybe she assumed that I was Jewish. When we both went for a walk we always talked anonymously, as if each one knew and understood, but without saying what the origin is. Once she told me that she had a Jewish friend and she loves Gefilte Fish.
She traveled to Breslau and I remained in Dresden. I went through all the bombings in Dresden, I survived the big bombing and injured in the second bombing. I wasn't actually injured, but got wounds because they didn't get us out of the dirt. The most important thing, when the Russians came they said they had to operate on me.
Question: When was it?
Answer: It was when the war ended, in 1945.
For some reason, this hospital had to move to another location and they also took me. The Russians moved us to Sommerfeld I had a blood problem and told them not to operate on me. They said: first we operate and then we'll see what happens. Indeed, they operated on me twice. Even though the war was over, I didn't want to tell anyone, and I had no one to tell, that I was Jewish. I didn't meet Jews. I still had documents before. Of course, when I went for the surgery I didn't want to die as a Christian I wrote a letter. This was my approach: if I return to the same bed, I'll find my letter, if I die they'll clean and find the letter. Then they'll now I was Jewish. I found the letter.
I was in Sommerfeld. It was already quite late and so far I haven't met any Jews. Later, Sommerfeld [Lubsko, Poland] was passed to the Poles and there was a change of government. Then, the mayor came to conduct a population census and among others he also found me. His wife was very generous and after I recovered they invited me. Since I was in such a situation they couldn't take off my clothes. They cut off all the clothes I had brought to the hospital, and again I was left without clothes. The mayor's wife brought me clothes and when I recovered they let me stay at their home. Of course, they lived in a German house and gave me a small room.
They helped me. I went to the same hospital to change bandages and they helped me to continue my studies. They gave me a doctor to advance me in my studies, so that I might be able to attend school at the beginning of the school year I was with them and they told me that I could go to Warsaw to study.
There was a family meeting. This mayor had a brother who was a pharmacist. Every Sunday they gathered at his home for afternoon tea. When there was pogrom in Kielce, and somewhere else, I was also in the family meeting. Then they said to me: Miss Genia, what do you say about it? When Jews are beaten, it is not for nothing.
Question: They didn't know you were Jewish?
Answer: They still didn't know I was Jewish. Then I told myself: I shouldn't be here any longer. I remembered Herzl and said: one of the two, either I'll be a Christian or I'm a Jew, and I'm going to Israel. This isn't a place for me. I didn't reveal to them, and didn't tell them, and indeed I traveled to Poland. I got off in Lodz because at that time the transportation wasn't good. Then, the first time, I came across Jews. The meeting with the Jews wasn't the most pleasant because they didn't believe me. I married my husband because they didn't want to accept me as a gentile, and then they gave me an exit permit. As soon as I got married, a week later they took me straight out of there.
From Lodz they sent me to Sosnowiec and I arrived to some place in Czechoslovakia. The authorities caught us, searched us, and sent us back. Later, they brought us to Germany, illegally, to some place. I came to Leitheim and from there I came to Israel in 1946.
The editorial note: The testimony, as written by the interviewer Yitzhak Alperovich, and registered in Yad Vashem, was received from the witness, Sara Amas née Burko, for publication in the Yizkor Book for the Jews of Old Rafalovka, New Rafalovka, Olzarka, Zloudzk and the vicinity.
We publish the testimony in this book with slight modifications.
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