Translated by Sara Mages
(from the righteous people of the world)
It is my obligation to memorialize in Chortkov's Yizkor Book, the Polish woman, Mrs. Uhrynska, one of the righteous people of the world, who saved my life.
She was a poor, modest, and good woman, and so, she remained even today. A blind faith led me to her poor hut near the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Skala. I arrived there after Chortkov was cleaned out of her Jews. When I told my rescuer, that I was left alone, without a mother a father or a friend, and without any money in my pocket, she took me to her home, like a mother who was embracing he lost daughter. In her home, I found shelter during the hardest six months (August 1943 to March 1944). Even though, life was hard at that period of time, this wonderful woman did all she could to help me, and encouraged me not to give up. She shared her meager piece of bread with me, gave me a clean place to sleep, cared for me, and loved me like a mother.
After I spent a week at her home, I discovered that she was hiding a young Jewish woman in her attic. Three months before, the young woman was shot during the Ninth of Av pogrom. A bullet hit her nose and her eye. She was brought to the cemetery in a wagon. After the wagon dumped its load of dead bodies in a large pile, and left to bring more, she recovered, crawled between the gravestones and hid there. At nightfall, she arrived at Mrs. Uhrynska's hut, bleeding and blind in one eye. And there, she found shelter until she was liberated.
I must mention, that for her crime of hiding and saving Jews, my rescuer could have paid with her own life. If her Jews hatred neighbors found out that she was hiding us, they would have notified the authorities. Many like them, hunted and killed Jews with their own hands. In a time, when non-Jews residents were robbing and killing Jews, almost daily, this wonderful woman sheltered Jews. Both of us did not have any money, but she never asked for a reward, or for a word of thanks for helping us. She has done her work secretly and with dignity.
Mrs. Uhrynska lives now in Poland and her letters to us are full of love. What a pity, that there were only a few wonderful people like her
During the horrifying days, that we experienced during the Nazi occupation, when depression and gloom enveloped us from all sides, there were a few rays of light that broke thought the darkness. They encouraged our hearts, gave us hope and the will to survive For me, one of those lights appeared in the form of a Ukrainian woman by the name of Anna Aksenczuk, from the righteous people of the world.
She lived with her family in Vidnanka. She had in a little farm with a small vegetable garden, and sold her produce in the ghetto. Once, I had a chance to buy beans from her. While we were talking, I mentioned our difficult and hopeless situation. She told me, that if I ever find myself in a dangerous situation, I should run and hide in her place. So, when trouble came, I ran to her home with my two-year-old daughter. A day later, my brother joined us. The three of us hid in a two square meter pit, that was dug in her barn. We hid there from June 1943 until the city was liberated by the Russians in March of 1944.
She took care of us all that time, without getting any money. Simply, we did not have any money or anything worth money. No one can put a price on the great deed that this woman has done. We must not forget, that she risked her life, every day and every hour, knowing of the punishment for the crime of hiding Jews and saving their lives. There was a curious side to the situation, that worried us at all times. The woman's son was second in command in the Ukrainian police. He used to visit his mother every week, not knowing about the Jews that she was hiding in her barn. The woman was sure that her son would never risk his life, or his status in the police department, because of a few Jews.
During the times that we were hiding in the barn, the whole area was meticulously searched. It was a miracle that we were not found. Out of fear that we might be discovered during one of those searches, the woman was taken ill for three months. But, she took care of us during her illness, sending food to our hiding place with a little boy. Also after we were liberated, she kept on helping us with food and clothing.
I keep in touch with her, writing her letters, but I strongly feel that it is my honorable duty to mention her name in Chortkov's Yizkor Book. May the name of this woman be remembered with all the names of the righteous people of the world, for glory and respect.
During my stay in the ghetto, I directed all my energy towards one purpose: to find an honest Catholic man, so I can build a bunker in his home a for myself and my family. In 1940, during the Soviet occupation, I happened to meet a Polish man by the name of Viktor Kotowich. His father was a hunchback coachman by the name of Kotek. In 1940 Viktor worked for me as a porter. He was an honest man, and for that reason, I helped him to earn a living. During the Soviet rule it was very difficult for a laborer to live on his salary.
In 1941, I met Victor again when I was working for the Germans. I was given an order to find an honest Polish coachman, who won't steal the horse's hay. So I recommended Victor for the job. I arranged for Viktor and his family to move into the home of Vilzi Perelmoter on Mizkvitz Street. In return, Viktor and his wife Yozia agreed to let me build a bunker in their home for my family that included, my wife, my daughter Shushana and my father Aaron Yoseph of blessed memory. By the way, during the Nazi occupation I financially helped Viktor and his family.
For most of the time we lived in the ghetto. Later on, we lived in the concentration camp that was run by the criminal Peter Tomenak. In 1943 it was clear to us that the end was near. I sent my wife Netalia my daughter and my father to the hiding place in Viktor's home. I remained in the camp, and it was a miracle that I survived. After the Akzia of 17.6.1943, I escaped and moved to the bunker. Zosia Stekel, her mother, Selek Smyok (the pharmacist) and Monder Niberg (who now lives in Canada) came to stay with us. There were ten of us hiding in a bunker by the size of 2x1 meter and the height of two and a half meter.
The Kotowicz family took good care of us. Every day they brought us a newspaper with news from the Russian front. They were hoping, that the news that liberation is only a few weeks away, will revive our hearts.
I must mention, that Viktor's wife, who worked before the war at the home of Dr. Riechstein, found out the her two daughters Blanka and Marilka were still alive. In March of 1943, she risked her life, traveled to Lvov and brought the two girls to live with us in the bunker.
At this time, the Kotowicz family live in Walow near Worclaw. Even today, we are still sending them help. We will never forget the goodness of the people who risked their lives save ours.
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Updated 15 Aug 2020 by OR