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[Pages 143-144]

How I Survived

By Boris Ulman, Son of Leah and Zelig

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan


Some individuals from our city have already recounted the story of the murders of Zelig Ulman and the members of his family at the hands of the Nazis. Zelig's son Boris was saved by chance, since he wasn't home at the time of the killings.

This is Boris' story.

While my family was murdered, the Germans searched for me. They did not find me since I was hidden at Leib Sherman' house. Many people were afraid to give us a place to hide because the police had informed the community that anyone who would dare to give us a shelter would be killed along with his entire family.

On the day they massacred the Jews of Braslav, I was at home. At a very early morning hour Hirsh Fridman came running to my house and screamed, “We must escape, they are killing everyone!” Once again I ran to Leib Shermans' house and hid in the basement hideout that Leib had made for his family. After some time passed, we checked outside; I came out of the hiding with Nehamka Sherman. We saw wagons filled with bodies of young women who only the day before had been sent to Slobodaka to clean the army buildings. We also saw Moshe-Baruch being led by the police officer Kizlo. We returned to the hiding spot. The next day we heard an announcement in Yiddish by a Jew from the city of Druya (his name might have been Reiboish). Following the orders of the Germans, he ran between the houses and called out for the people in hiding to come out. The day of the massacre was over and the Germans had promised that they wouldn't kill any more people.

We went outside. I met with Leib Zeif with his two children, the Friedman family and others. Police hurried us along and ordered us to go to the Folk Shul to register our names. Nehamka and I feared the registration. We ran away to the cemetery and we hid there for a long time. Afterwards we left in the direction of Opsa. On the way we encountered some local farmers. They were afraid to give us shelter, but they gave us food and told us that in Opsa there were still some Jews. We were in Opsa some time, and from there we moved to Vidz. Along with many Jews from the Svencian area, we were all forced on to a train. After some time we found out that the train was headed for Ponar (We knew by then that it was the killing field for most Jews from the Vilna area).

When the train arrived in Vilna on the way to Ponar, a few of us were able to jump off and run away. We had no choice but to hide in the Vilna ghetto. In the ghetto we started to organize an underground unit and were able to collect some weapons.

Here I must write some words about the heroics and bravery of Tevka Bilak, a beloved young man of our town, who like me had run from the train that would have led us to the killing field of Ponar. Together we arrived at the Vilna ghetto and I was near him on the day he attempted to smuggle a weapon into the ghetto and was caught by the ghetto police. He was interrogated and they beat him violently trying to get information about others in the unit. He refused to say a word! Even Ganes, the leader of the ghetto, could not believe how brave he was. They beat him to death.

Since we had no money to buy weapons, we (together with the Fogel brothers) decided to make a business out of smuggling weapons and the like to the ghetto. Many Jews wanted weapons and paid good money to those who would risk their life getting them. One day we were to meet in a hidden place with a Jew and deliver a pistol to him. At the meeting, Jewish police descended upon us. I succeeded in escaping but the two brothers were caught and sent to jail. After some days our unit was able to escape from the ghetto into the forests. On the way to the area where the partisans had a camp, we had to find food. We had no choice but to show our weapons to farmers in the area and order them to give us food. They went to the Germans and told them about us. We had to split into two groups and flee.

Eventually our unit encountered a Russian partisan unit, but they confiscated our weapons and sent us to a family camp in the woods where other Jews were also placed. (Hidden camps were set up in the forest for Jews who escaped from the Nazis)
After some time the partisan commanders arrived at the camp and took Motka Vishkin and I as fighters in their unit. At the beginning, our group had only seven people but within a short time our numbers expanded to 120 fighters. We were able to take some revenge for the killings of our dear family and friends. We blew up many German trains and we participated in many actions against the collaborators. We excelled in these missions and we were recognized for our bravery and received many medals and awards. We also helped Jewish families who were hiding in the family camps in the forests.

It is my desire to say something of Abrashka Ulman, a son of our city. He was able to escape from the ghetto of Braslav on the day of the massacre. On the way to Slobodoka he was caught by three police officers. He wrestled with them with all his force and without a weapon he killed two of them and only the third succeeded in shooting and killing him.

My wife Tonya was hidden for three months with a Polish family by the name of Nidobiddeski, despite the fact that one of their family members was a police officer in the ghetto of Braslav. The liberation of the area by the Red Army took place in the summer of 1944. As soon as we met the Red Army, Motka and I traveled to Braslav. We found others who had survived; amongst them were Mendel Maron and Mishka Fisher.

My order was to guard the German POWs in the shtetl of Postov, but after two weeks I volunteered for the Red Army and I served there until 1949.

Family members who perished;

Matle Ulman was born to Zelik and Liza Leah
Manya Ulman was born to Zelik and Liza Leah


Boris Ulman (first on the right) with a group of partisans


Translator note

I received an email from the family of Boris asking me to translate the chapter.

Here is some of what they said; “Hello my name is Jeremy Schulman and Boris was my wife's grandfather. He passed away last year….”

“Thank you very much for translating this. I am actually sitting next to his wife ( Boris'widow Tonya) and she appreciates your help. Your work shall be rewarded as someone who will never forget what they did to our people….”

Boris Ulman was born in Braslav on 2 May 1924

He passed away in Atlanta on 18 Feb 2006


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