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Through the Eyes of a Child (cont.)

The War

        I vividly remember the day of June 22, 1941. It was a sunny day. I looked at the sky and noticed a “silver” bird flying over the town. I pointed out the bird to our housekeeper, but before I finished my sentence, a huge cloud of black smoke rose over the town and the sun disappeared. The war had begun.
        My memory is visual and fragmented. These fragments were pieced together later with the help of my mother. My three older brothers, my uncle Abba Strachanski, and a group of other young people decided to leave the town immediately and follow the retreating Red Army. My father, mother, younger brother Boris, and I stayed in Lyntupy. Our housekeeper Amelia lived with us and did not want to leave until my mother told her it was becoming too dangerous for her to stay with us. She left for Svenciany to go to her sister.
        Immediately the local people who hated Jews formed their own police force and started collaborating with the Germans. The Jewish adults were forced to go to a day labor camp. One day I was left at home alone with an older girl. My parents locked the house. We were trying to play when, all of sudden, we heard a loud noise, the door flew wide open, and a group of men with rifles burst into the house. They started running through the house, smashing mirrors, taking everything they could possibly take, leaving empty rooms and two little girls hiding in the corner.
        Then, I believe it was at the end of November, they came again. This time they came to take my father away from us. I was in bed when my father came to say goodbye to me and hugged me close to his heart. They sent him and his brother, my Uncle Moshe, to jail in Vileyka. My mother started looking for a way to save their lives. She collected some valuables and went to Vileyka, where she managed to see the head of the German gendarmerie. She was fluent in German and begged for the release of my father and uncle. He took the valuables and made promises. The next day, on December 13, 1941, my father and uncle were executed.
        Soon the ghetto was formed and Jews were forced to wear yellow stars. We remained in our house, and four or five other families were forced to move in with us. Unfortunately I do not remember their names. Meanwhile my oldest brother Liepe, who had become separated from the group and lost his way, decided to come back and join us in the Lyntupy ghetto.
        I cannot remember exactly at what point it was announced that most of the ghetto population would be transported to Svenciany. Only some families, those considered to be useful for the labor camp workforce, would be allowed to remain in Lyntupy. Since Liepe had studied electrical engineering, they decided to use him at the power station, and we stayed with him. We had to move to a building right in the center of the town.

sve1446i.jpg Ilana Milikovski Hochbaum, Lyntupy 1993 [23 KB]
Ilana Milikovski Hochbaum, Lyntupy 1993

        Several families had to share one room. I remember we had a corner of the room right by a huge window. Nearby were two other houses occupied by Jewish families, thus forming a “mini” ghetto.
        Food was scarce and there was no medication. My little brother Boris, who was so jealous of me during the happy times, forgot what sibling rivalry meant and became my protector. He used to sneak out of the ghetto to get food and also ointment for the rashes I developed due to the dirty conditions.
        We had relatives in Postavy and my mother decided to send me to my Aunt Resil (Rashe) Strachanski, who was a dressmaker and was getting food for her work. My mother found a villager who agreed to take me there. There was one other family who left Lyntupy for Postavy, Ruven and Khanah Milikovski and their two daughters, Renya and Lena.
        I do not remember how long I stayed with my aunt. My mother told me that while I was in Postavy, she dreamed that my grandmother came to her and urged her to bring me home, so my mother decided to bring me back to Lyntupy. At the same time, Basya Rudnitski, the aunt of the Milikovski sisters, also decided to bring the girls back to Lyntupy. Shortly after we returned to Lyntupy, the Postavy ghetto was liquidated.

sve1446j.jpg Memorial in Postavy [30 KB]
Memorial in Postavy

The writing on the memorial says:
In memory of those who perished at the hands of
the German-Fascist invaders on November 21, 1942

sve1446k.jpg Memorial in Postavy (another view) [23 KB]
Memorial in Postavy
(another view)

        One day, very early in the morning, my mother woke me up. Through the window, I noticed that the sky was pink. My mother told me there was gunfire and something was burning. When I came closer to the window, I saw a “live fence” surrounding our three ghetto houses. The “fence” was formed by Lithuanians holding their rifles and pointing them at us. Three Lithuanians walked in, found my older brother, and told him to follow them.
        They went outside. My mother pulled me away from the window and pushed me behind her. Shots were fired. Some people who witnessed it told us that my brother was wounded and managed to get to the other house. The Lithuanians followed him, again told him to leave the house, and shot him. They say my brother's brain was scattered in the street. The people around us were in shock. My mother grabbed me and was frantically looking for my younger brother. She could not find him. My brother Boris used to tell my mother not to worry about him. He would say, “When they take us to the execution place, they will aim at the adults. I am little, I will pretend I am dead, and then I will escape.”
        My mother ran into the kitchen and opened a hatch in the floor that led to the cellar. First she dropped me into the cellar and then she followed me. Other people in the room did not want to hide in the cellar because they thought the Lithuanians would find us anyway. Even so, those who were so skeptical placed cut wood on top of the hatch to hide the entrance to the cellar. We heard what seemed to be millions of footsteps and shouts, and then we heard people leaving the building. Later we heard the sounds of hammers, when they sealed all the doors tight. Then all was quiet.
        I do not know how long we sat there, but it was very late at night when my mother told me that we had to get out. I did not want to leave the cellar, because I thought I was safe there. It was not easy to lift the hatch with the heavy load of wood on top of it. There was a woman hiding under a mattress in the room. She heard us and came to help but refused to follow us.
        We could not get out through the door; it was nailed shut. We ran to the window. It was a huge window, sealed for the winter, but part of it was designed to open to let in fresh air. My mother crawled through the window and fell on the ice. She lost her shoes on the way. She pulled me out and we ran. People were peeking through windows and quickly hiding behind the curtains. My mother ran to the local priest, whose name was Father Pakalnis. We knocked at the door. His housekeeper opened the door and told us to leave immediately, but Father Pakalnis overheard our voices and asked us to come in. He was happy to see us alive. He told my mother he owed his life to her because my mother had protected him from being sent to Siberia by the Russians. He told his housekeeper to take us to the cellar and keep us there until things quieted down.

sve1446l.jpg Ilana Milikovski Hochbaum in front of the Catholic Church (Kosciol) in Lyntupy [26 KB]
Ilana Milikovski Hochbaum in front of
the Catholic Church (Kosciol) in Lyntupy

Father Pakalnis lived in one of the houses on the right

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