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Eternal Testament: Memoirs of a Partisan

On the road from Myadel to Niviyeri

Stalyuk's wife returned home riding on a black horse, carrying two girls dressed in farmers' clothing. It was my daughter, who was now 18 months old, and the daughter of my brother-in-law, Natashka Istrin, who was five years old. I couldn't wait to take my daughter in my arms and hug her. When we went in the house she told me how lucky she was to be able to take the girls and not be seen. She also gave me a letter from my brother-in-law, Zelig Istrin, that at 10 p.m. he would bring out all the Jews of Old Myadel.

At 10 pm I left with Mitzia Friedman to welcome the escapees. It was a dark and rainy night, and there was a non-stop storm. After getting halfway, we heard loud sounds of people walking and yelled out the name of my brother-in-law Zelig, who I knew would be at the front of the line. Immediately the line stopped and once again I yelled, and when he recognized my voice he ran to me with the rest of them behind him. I hugged my brother-in-law and then we took the entire procession to Niviyeri. Shortly we were in the village, and only now do I realize what a huge mission I took upon myself. All together we had 144 people, mostly old and children. The young men and women didn't survive. I divided them into three groups, one group of 50 I would take east with me immediately. I would temporarily leave the second group in the marshlands between Nayivery and Dumosalvia, in granaries. The rest of the people would be divided for a few days among the loyal farmers, and then the Estonczik would take them east later on.

At a late night hour I left with my group toward the forest of Malinovka and Hodaki. Two days after, all the groups who came with me were added to a group of 150 people that the partisans were taking east, past the front and into Soviet territory. I decided to leave my little girl with me, and I gave her to a farmer by the name of Olga Samonik, from the village Bobrova. The group that left with the Estonczik faced a terrible tragedy. I don't know exactly what happened. Was it a bad judgment by the partisans who took them? But after two days of walking, the procession crossed the river Vilya near the villages Kamyin and Bakonik and decided to rest during daytime, without posting a lookout. Near them was a Polish shepherd with his flock by the name of Jan Ruzayetski, from the village Kamyin. When he realized who they were, he immediately went on his horse to Dolhinov and brought with him the Germans and the police. After a short time, they arrived while the group was sleeping. They opened fire, and only a small number from that group survived. Many old people and children perished.

A few days passed and I found out that the atriad was organizing demolition teams for sabotage missions in the area. I demanded to be a part of it. The commissar smiled when he heard me and immediately agreed to let me take part. Once again he asked me to choose three other fighters, so I took the Estonczik, Kolke Doroshniko, and Mikhail Yitzhak Friedman. On the evening of October 17, 1942, we arrived by the train tracks between Parafianow and Krolevshtchizna, near the village Paraplishtz. At ten, Doroshniko and I approached the train tracks. In minutes we placed a large amount of explosives on the right side of the track. We returned to our position 50 meters away, with the detonator and waited for the train. We heard it coming. When it came near we saw the little light from the first car, and immediately we pulled on the rope (?) and ran. We heard a huge explosion. We ran for 5 km, running until we arrived at a village where we went to sleep. We couldn't wait to hear what had happened. We sent one of the villagers to see the results of our work, and he came back to tell us that there had been a huge amount of destruction and that many Germans were killed and wounded. The effect, it seems, was tremendous: not only had we killed many Germans and damaged or destroyed much equipment, but railway traffic had also stopped for fourteen hours.

The twenty-eighth of October was a happy day. Our atriad moved from the Roskovsky forest to near Niviyeri. We put our base near Karikriznovka, on an island that was known by the villagers as Viyaski Ostrov. I, with my three friends, along with a group who came from Groboki, settled in the marsh area into granaries. There were about 10 others from Dolhinov, others went east, but I was very happy to meet with them.

On the evening of October 31st, 1942, I was called to the headquarters of the atriad when I arrived I found all the commanding officers there. I was asked to sit. Sokholov let me know that a decision was made that part of the atriad would become a national unit that would consist entirely of Jews, and that I would head that unit. We were given ten rifles. We already had five at that point, and also three that needed repairs that had come from Globok. From this point I walked very fast, as if I had extra energy from somewhere. Immediately I made a list and gathered eighteen people and marched them over to headquarters. The commanding officers called the names of each one of the troops and immediately they stood at attention and received their rifles. They added ten other veteran fighters. All of us were extremely excited and I swore to myself that my unit would be a symbol and example of loyal fighters for all Soviet partisans.

I returned to the headquarters and Sokholov, the commander of Nardony Mastitya, let us know about a big operation that the entire atriad, with the addition of the new atriad which was headed by Markov, who was still inexperienced but had a large amount of ammunition and troops. We were told that the next day, on November 1 at four in the morning, the entire atriad would attack the Germans near Myadel. Troop A, headed by Sashka from Rozkov, and guided by me, would enter Myadel secretly through the Niviolsky Cemetery. We were to quietly capture the German bunker there and incapacitate the Germans there. From there we had to go to the gendarme and police station in a two story house, and there secretly and without having anyone discover us, we must wait for Troop B, which would open fire on the Lithuanian troops who were located in the two-story home of Alperovicz.

The first part of my mission was to transport the three Troops of Company A inside the town and try to control the guards without making any sounds. The town was very quiet, as if everyone was asleep. We didn't even hear a dog. Our forces went to the locations, we yelled at the gendarmes and the policemen, "You are surrounded, fascists! Give up!" Immediately they started shooting with every weapon they had. I saw an armed German coming toward us, then Dantzov and I shot him. We kept waiting, but others didn't come. All of a sudden, a messenger came and told us that the commandant of the atriad said that the third troop must temporarily leave the area. We must take anything that could be used for burning and go immediately to the house where the police and the gendarmes were staying, while the other two units covered us. We were to ignite all the houses in the surrounding area, which would then force the Germans to get out of there.

I made a quick decision that we didn't need the entire troop for this mission. I sent Mikhail Yitzhak Friedman and a few men to a nearby field where they could find bales of hale to transfer to the area around the house, and then burn all the nearby houses. It took only 15 minutes and the houses started burning. All of a sudden, I saw that at the top of the church, the Germans were shooting at the people who were collecting the hay. I commanded my unit to open fire on the church tower. I then took Biyanish Kuzinich and another three fighters to put some bales of hay by the church tower to burn it. Then we entered the outpatient clinic of the municipal hospital that was used only by the Germans. We took a large supply of medicine, first aid supplies and dentistry supplies, and then we lit the place on fire.

All the houses around the police station were now on fire, as well as the church and its tower. All of the units now set up positions surrounding the enemy, waiting for them to escape the burning area. Shortly they started running out and we shot them.

Still, the mission was not a complete success. We couldn't come near the Gestapo's Lithuanian and Latvian volunteers since there was constant, heavy fire in their area. Their situation made it more difficult to get to them, for they were in a building that was built out of cinder blocks and the roof was made out of tile. The building contained 125 killers that had the best weapons. They shot at us from every window, and even from the basement. There was one attempt by Company B to get near the house and throw grenades, but it was a failure and immediately three partisans died from enemy fire. For two hours we tried, but we couldn't do it any longer since they were able to notify a unit in Postov that had armored vehicles. At around ten in the morning we could hear the sounds of their vehicles.

Markov's atriad was waiting for the enemy 10 km from Myadel, so the first tank was destroyed by the atriad, but the force was too big, and we knew we must leave immediately. Sokholov announced a retreat of all our forces, but without panic. Although we had to leave five of our troops who were killed since there was no time to take them off the battlefield. The minute I heard the order to pull back, I asked Mikhail Yitzhak Friedman what would happen to the Jews who were still left in the ghetto. He said from what he knew there were still about 86 people, 15 or 16 families, whom the Germans used as specialists. They were made to work for them in jobs like feeding the chickens, cleaning the horses, and other jobs. I knew that they had a death sentence hanging over them. Amongst them was my sister-in-law Shosha Hadash and her five children, whose husband was killed among the 22 young people killed in the first month of the war. I decided to try to save them. I didn't ask for anyone's permission, but I took my two friends, Mitzia and Bianish Kuzinitz, and immediately we ran to the ghetto.

When we arrived we realized that the barbed wire surrounding the ghetto and the fence was not cut, so we knew there must still be some Jews in the area. We broke the barbed wire and the fences with our rifles and jumped inside. Immediately I ran to the window that was covered with sheets, and with my rifle I knocked it in and yelled, "What are you standing here for? Do you wish to die without trying to save yourself? Pretty soon they'll come here and slaughter you like sheep!"

I looked inside and saw on the floor many people were lying down. Some were known to me, some were unknown. "Get up! Run for your lives!" I yelled. "Immediately run to the marshes of Yarmuling, to the Cemetery of Nivisolaiki."

When they heard my shout they started running and escaping. The same as I did, some others did at homes nearby. So this is the way the battle ended. From our side there were five dead from Company B. Amongst them was one Jew from Minsk by the name of Kissel. We also had 13 wounded. The enemy had 33 killed and many wounded. Also there were many (an unknown number) who were killed among the Germans coming from Postov. I felt particularly happy about the 90 Jews that we had gotten out of the ghetto. I was sure that if we hadn't gotten them out they would have all been killed. Some of these Jews could join the partisans too.

During the retreat I passed by a house where a woman who we called Litovka lived. She was half Polish, half Lithuanian. This house was home to one of the cruelest families. The day the 22 young men were killed, she ran all over the streets yelling, "Now the day of revenge on the Jews has come! Let's kill them all so they won't contaminate the town!" I couldn't let it go. I turned back to her house, feeling waves of anger invading my body, preventing me from following the order to immediately retreat. I yelled to open the door and she opened it. I shot her immediately. She fell at the entrance of the house, dropping in a huge puddle of blood. But she was a lucky bitch and she survived. She was respected and adored by the Germans: they took her on an ambulance to Vilna where she had an operation to take the bullet out of her limbs.

The next day, all the officers gathered. Koznitzov, the commissar of the atriad (the politruk), read the order of the day which expressed the deep thanks to all the fighters that did such a great job during the battle. Among the first to get special respect was my troop, and I received a medal, The Red Banner (Flag?) medal. After the war I received it, signed by the head of the Russian Partisans, A. Golky. On the fourth of March, 1942, #982516.

The need to get revenge on all the killers without uniforms who were running free, people who were our neighbors in yesteryear then who later became our killers, could not let go of me. So I used every free day I had to get revenge. First, I asked the commissar to let me find the killers in the village Kamyin. The commissar said, "If we will spend this time taking revenge, we will have to punish about 90% of the population for collaborating with the enemy on the killings. You can go to Kamyin and bring Jan Ruzietski here, but you must not kill him. All I will allow you to do is to beat them up so they will remember that they must respect human beings." I understood his message.

I took with me ten fighters, and we arrived at Kamyin around midnight, but when we knocked on the door of Ruzietski's house, only an old woman was there. I found out that now he was not sleeping here, that he usually slept in Dolhinov. So instead we went to the Novtisky families. They were the people who took the clothes off the dead people they found in Myadel. When they opened the door we ordered them to put lights on and to return everything that they took off the dead Jewish bodies. At first they denied everything, but after we beat them, they started returning things. They brought from the storage place behind the oven clothes that were stained with blood, boots of little children, dresses of women. So we started beating them harder and harder. Three of them we found out later died from the wounds.

A few weeks later, we got revenge on the killer in the village of Dubricka by the name Ignolia. His crime was that in the summer of 1942 he encountered a young Jewish woman from Dolhinov by the name of Reza Musia Schmerkovicz. She had escaped from the ghetto, and when he caught her he beat her up, stole her money, tied her up and tortured her. Then he took her to Dolhinov and gave her to the Germans and the policemen who continued torturing her until she died. We knew also that his daughter had taken part in the robbery and the transfer of the Jews to killers. In February of 1943 we knocked on the door of the killer and again an old woman opened the door and told us that he was sick. I told her that we had a doctor with us who would cure any illness, and showed her David Glasser, who looked like a Red Army commissar. Ignolia was leaning on the oven with his head covered by a wet towel. I ordered him to get up, but he said he was sick with typhus and could not get up. Menashe Kaye and I pulled him by his hair and David Glasser started counting while we beat him with rubber bats while I explained to him why were giving to him this punishment. The next day we found out that 25 policemen in seven cars came and took the killer and his daughter to the hospital in Dolhinov but Ignolia died a day later.

In the middle of March, 1943, I was appointed as the commander of the medical unit, not far from the village Lishinski. In a large house there they had established a sort of hospital to take care of the wounded and sick people from the brigade. Dr. Sigelov, a Jew from Minsk, was the medical director and his helper was Kotler, a Jew who had been able to escape from Dolhinov. I was given 12 partisans with weapons and we had to take care of every need of the wounded, from clothes to food to medical supplies.

Everything went fine until May 15, 1943. On that day, we found out that a large force of the enemy was concentrating in Dolhinov and Kriviczi. All day long new forces arrived in the area. Amongst them were also Ukrainian traitors and Vlassoviches (troops headed by General Vlassov, who betrayed the Soviet Union and took all his troops in the first month of the war in 1942 and joined the Germans). This entire huge army was sent to take care of the partisans. So on the 19th of May, 1943, the fight against the partisans from Minsk to Smolensk to Vilejka, Dolhinov, Kriviczi and Disna and other places began. We fought fearlessly but finally had to retreat to the marsh area between Bihimvol and Borisov and Poloczek. So now there were 16 partisan brigades in the area of Palik and Domzherevicz until June of 1943. Once again we had a problem of collecting supplies for such a big force.

Before the retreat, on the 21st of May, 1943, we started pulling back with the hospital from the forest of Lishinski to the area of Palik. Every day new wounded troops were added. Our brigade, Nardony Mastitya, took defensive positions on the 31st of May on the left bank of the river Brazina. The hospital unit with all the wounded was situated on an island surrounded by the marsh. This was a very convenient place since it was almost impossible to get here, but once again there was a problem of food. We had a very small supply, only about 30 kilos of beans and about 20 kilos of dry bread.

On the evening of June 1, 1943, we knew that we had to leave. The Germans were coming closer and we couldn't stop them. We decided to divide the wounded and the watchers into three groups. The severely wounded had to be left in the area, underground with Dr. Sigolov. The second group of lightly wounded were taken to another island with Dr. Kotler taking care of them. The third group consisted of the very lightly wounded men who could still walk, and the rest of the troop that was watching them, went with me to the deepest of the marshlands. So with me I had ten wounded people who could walk, and a few others, non-combatant partisans, amongst them my friend Mindel, Leib Schreibman, and Leib and Israel Rodoshkovicz, and the niece Nehama, a refugee from Sharko Lish Sitzna. Also coming with us were the two women who worked in the kitchen, Dora Sussman and Sila Solovyechik. We took with us some of the beans and dry bread and went on our way.

After a short time we didn't know exactly where we were. We went inside the marsh without a compass or a map, and with barely enough food. The enemy shot from all directions, and we were standing deep in water. We walked to one direction and if we heard shots from there we went in another direction. We heard shooting in every diretion, and like this we walked for 19 days.

By the fourth day we were practically starving. On the fifth day we came to an island where there was a lot of grass. So we devoured the grass (which was very bitter) but it still it didn't stop the hunger. We forced ourselves to continue walking. Finally, on the 19th of June, 1943, all the shooting stopped and with help I climbed on a tree to see if we could see any signs of human life, maybe some smoke. However, I was so weak that I fell on the ground. Minutes later I said to everyone, "We must continue. Although we don't know where we should go, if we stay still we will die of starvation."

I took a stick to lean on and with all my might I started walking, and everyone followed behind me. I decided to go where I thought was southeast. I knew from memory that the river Berzinov was nearby. We passed the entire day of June 20 like that, and we still didn't find the river. There was a total quietness in the swamp. It was as if it was a huge, never-ending cemetery. In the evening we arrived at a very muddy forest, and I thought it must be near the Berezino River. We sat on the ground and lit a fire and took some dirty water, boiled it, drank it, and then slept.

Finally, on June 25th, 1943, we came to the area between Lashniki and Kraznow to the base. We found out that our old hospital in the forest had been burned by the Germans along with all of the atriad's other buildings. So now we started building everything anew and gathering all the wounded. We found that everyone had survived in spite of the starvation. Everyone in the units of Dr. Sigelov and Dr. Kotler were fine, a few even recovered and went back to fighting. Now I was busy with taking care of the wounded. The entire brigade suffered few losses during that bitter battle in the area of Palik. When they came back I found out that on June 4, 1943, on the third day of the blockade they managed to break out of the ring of surrounding Germans and they only suffered a few wounded who were sent to me.

Now that I was the head of the hospital unit, I was pretty much in control and I could do whatever I wished, so I decided to take revenge on more of the killers. First on my mind was once again Jan Ruzetski in the village Kamyin. We found out from the villagers that he could usually be found in his aunt's house in Kamyunka. Early in the morning we found him at home. When we got to the house his aunt was awake and there was a young man, about 20 years old, who was sleeping. I asked the woman who he was, and she said it was her son. I told her that if that was her son, she would be punished too. She started crying and said that he was not her son, that he was the nephew of her husband. She said that he was afraid to stay in his village so he slept in her house. I took a rope and tied his hands behind his back and took him to a villager in Bakunin and asked him if he knew if this was the guy who called the Germans from Dolhinov. He and everyone else in the area said that this was the one, so now that we had no doubt, I said to him, "You can choose your death. If you will confess immediately we will shoot you. If not, we will cut your flesh off." He kept quiet, so we took him to the river, to the place where the Myadel survivors were killed. I gave an order to tie his legs and open his hands which were blackened by the rope. We threw the other side of the rope on the top of a pine tree and pulled it up. So now he was tied to the tree upside down. We collected some of the torn pieces of clothing taken from the Jews killed because of him that we were still able to find in the area. We gathered some dry sticks lit them on fire. In a few minutes, he turned into a flaming torch. He was burned next to his victims' graveyard. We stuck a document to the burnt pine tree that said, "Revenge of the People."

A few days later we visited the village Parodnik near Kriviczi. This was the first visit of partisans in the area. Until then, all partisans had avoided the area because Kriviczi, which was only 1 km away, had a big force of Germans and their helpers. After they killed all the Jews in the shtetl, they used the village as a road to get to the train station at Kanihanin.

Despite the danger we decided we must take care of the killers, the brothers Mamek Skorot (or Mamek and Skorot?). Avraham Friedman, Bianish Kuzenitz. Zanka Muhammad, and Dinka Treykovski went with me. We came to the first house of the village, "Auf machen!" (?) I yelled. Immediately the door opened and they turned on the light. We ordered them to close the drapes. First we demanded that he return the gold teeth of Hana Katzowitz, which we knew he took out of her body with pliers. They tried to deny it, but we kept beating them. We only beat the two men; the women and children we left alone.

The killers opened graves, amongst them Hana's, the widow of Ishaiau Katzowitz and also the sister-in-law of Rabbi Malkiel Paretzi (the last rabbi of Kriviczi) who was annihilated with the rest of the community in 1942. The brothers opened the graves of her and her children. We received this information from Herzl Rodoshkovicz and Aron Shulman from Kriviczi who were also partisans with the brigade of Kirov.

Now we had to find the killers of the Jews of Dolhinov: Mikhail Proclowicz and the evil brothers Tarahovitz; men who showed no mercy, not even to children. We first had to do some investigating about how we could go to Dolhinov and when and where we could find the killers. Varovka, a villager who hated those killers, found out that Proclowicz had returned to his ranch in Dolhinov. Originally he was too scared to stay there, but after a year had passed and no one had come to repay his evil deeds, he assumed that even the Jewish partisans had forgotten him. Since neither his house nor his family members suffered any consequences, he returned to his home after a year of wandering.

One clear and cold night in December of 1943, Gershon Yafeh and Biyanish Kuzinitz and Dimka Traikovsky went with me on a sled. As we knocked on his window he opened his door dressed in a fur coat and boots. Immediately we ordered him to go inside with his hands up. We turned on lights, and when he recognized us he started shaking. He begged us not to shoot him, but he saw that his death was coming. I asked him how many Jews had he killed and where were all the possessions that he had stolen from his victims. I ordered him to return everything, saying, "If you will return all that we want, we won't kill you. We'll just beat you up."

He called his wife and told her to return all the possessions from the hideout, which he'd buried in a deep hole in the ground, which was covered with snow. We sent one of our men with her to check on it, and we found a large amount of robbed possessions about a hundred meters from the house. I became furious. I yelled, "Confess and tell us how many Jews you killed! How many mothers asked for mercy for their babies?" I started cursing at him violently and uncontrollably. I was crazed. "You must take responsibility and die the death due to an evil and wretched person." I shot him in his head and he dropped dead.

Now it came to the most important mission, the hunt for the biggest murderers, the brothers Tarhovitz. I had a personal vendetta against them. The blood of my mother was on their hands. They took part in her killing and this is how it happened: the day after we raided Dolhinov in 1942, my mother with the two daughters of Katzowitz, Gashka and Nyakha, escaped from the Ghetto and walked in the direction Pogost to the forest where we had our base. The two brothers, together with the head of the police, found out and chased them on bicycles and were able to find them. They returned them to town while beating them and torturing them along the way. After hours of this torture, they were taken near the Jewish cemetery and were shot.

That was not the only murder that they committed with their own hands. They killed many before and after this incident. I saw with my own eyes how they chased the family of Shimshel, the family of Shalom Dukshitzi, and Nehama Leviczi's with her children and other relatives. They were tortured and beaten and I will never forget it. But how could we reach them? They lived at the very edge of Dolhinov and to reach them you had to go through the entire town, next to an old stone fortress that was garrisoned by German troops. Like an angry dragon it spit out fire at all who came near it, and we did our best to avoid it.

Finally I found an opportunity. In the middle of February of 1944 I was called to headquarters. Yoskov, an officer at headquarters asked me to get food and other supplies to the headquarters since they were waiting for very important people to arrive and they had nothing to feed them. It was a difficult time at that point to achieve such things, but after thinking for a minute I said to Yoskov, "There's only one complicated way I can think of for achieving this mission. Since there is no food in such amounts near our base, we cannot do it in one night, but we what we can do is go to Dolhinov and we can surely find food there. But I must have a group of fourteen to sixteen fighters. I can take four from my hospital unit, so I'll need ten to twelve fighters from headquarters. With such a force we can overwhelm them and bring back a large amount of supplies."

The idea pleased him so he gave me permission. He assigned 12 well-armed men headed by Major Tzonkov to go along with me and four from my unit, and left for Dolhinov at six that evening with four sleds harnessed to fast horses. Around 10 in the evening we arrived in the outskirts of Dolhinov. After a short visit with Varovka to gather infomation about the town, we left. At 11 at night we arrived near the large home of the Taharovitz brothers. We put two snipers facing the center of the town to cover us, and immediately we went to work. We ordered them to open up the door, turn on the lights, and to pull down the drapes. Then we made them open up the cowshed and horse stables, which were tightly shut with heavy iron bars. I ordered six of the troops with me to take all the livestock out of the cowshed and stable and to herd them in the direction of the forest. Four men took on the sled all the possessions in the house. It took us half an hour to complete the job, which included four cows and six first-class horses. In the sled we gathered bread, lard, flour, salt, kidneys, beans, and also pillows, blankets, sheets, which had all been robbed from Jewish homes. Before we left, I ordered the Taharovicz brothers to go outside. They were dressed only in their underwear and barefoot, and just as they ordered their victims during the slaughter to run, I made them run in the freezing winter night.

After we left, about half a kilometer from town, a steady stream of fire from the fortress came upon us. They shot at us with automatic weapons, but it was harmless fire. It couldn't reach us since they had no idea where we were headed. They only heard from the wives of the killers that we were most likely heading to Pogost. So without much thinking, I ordered everyone to go on a side road. Immediately we shot the two killers dead. We sat in our sleds and after shooting in the direction of the enemy, we ran away to headquarters. So like this I revenged the blood of my mother and many other Jews who were killed by those evil and cruel men.

When we returned to headquarters, they were very happy to see the food and the supplies and I was assuming that all was well and like that I returned to the hospital. However, the next day early in the morning I was ordered to come to the headquarters of the brigade. When I entered the ComBrig, the head of the brigade, Pokrovski, and Misonov, commander of another brigade that was responsible for the area around Kriviczi and Dolhinov was also there. Immediately I saw they were looking at me in a way very different way than they had yesterday, and I realized that Misonov came here only for me. I jumped to stand at attention and saluted, and announced that the commander of the hospital unit was present as ordered.

"Who gave you the permission to shoot two citizens, peaceful residents?" Asked the leader of Nardony Mastitya.

"No one gave me permission," I said. Then, after thinking for a while I added, "My conscience and my need for revenge gave me liberty to do that. I only did what was my duty, which was to get revenge for my murdered mother and my people who fell at the hands of those two cruel, evil murderers who you called peaceful citizens. They killed my mother, my sister and Jewish brothers. They were wading elbow-deep in the blood of Jews. I had to do it, and I did it as a loyal son to my mother and my nation."

He called his assistant, Kanzow and ordered him to take my weapon and put me in a prison cell until the investigation ended. Stoically, I gave my pistol and under guard I was taken to a prison cell. In the dark mud house, where three other partisans were held prisoner, my heart was aching, but I felt complete with all that I had done. I thought to myself, "Even if they decide to put me under partisan trial, I shouldn't be panicked. I have many, many good friends among the leaders and I have a large amount of achievements with the atriad and the entire brigade. Even in the worst case, if for political reasons or to make an example of me they decide to sacrifice my head and spill my blood, even then, I fulfilled my duty to my mother and my people. I will not be afraid. I will look them straight in their eyes before my death."

While pondering that, after a few hours they opened the locks of my cell and I was called to see the head of the Special Unit, Grishenko, my friend and comrade since he had been one of the wounded in the hospital of the brigade. The same as I was liked and looked up to by all the wounded and sick who we took care of, I was loved and cared for by him, since immediately I took care of all the capricious needs that the patients had. We smiled, always wishing to aid them and to lessen their pain. Even before I talked to him, I felt strongly that he didn't wish me ill and that he would emphasize my achievements, my service to the people, and my kind regard to the wounded. I knew that my connections would be my shield and my deeds would be my armor against the charges. He asked me for every detail and wrote it down in his file. But before he took me back, he said , "Don't be scared, Segalchik. You must not be worried. Everything will turn out ok."

Once again the doors were opened and I as taken to the office of the ComBrig. Here there were about ten of the top leaders of the brigade. Everyone came to decide what to do with me. Immediately as I entered, a commissar of the brigade by the name of Propieczko, who was formerly in the Red Army and was now sent to us from Moscow, started lecturing me about my crime. "Your crime was very severe as far as the political managing and morals accepted by us. Even if those men deserved a capital punishment, you were forbidden from doing it in such a way. The way you did it vilified the image of our cause and its struggles in the eyes of the population, which is being oppressed by an invading force. I have no doubt that you deserve the most severe punishment. Talking truthfully we must put you through a quick trial here in the field, and I have the authority to give you a summary execution. But when I look at your past, which is clear of all crimes and I take into account all your great deeds and achievements in the fight of our Soviet Union, and consider your service to the brigade of partisans that you belong to, we have decided to forgive your huge crime with a warning that you must never in the future do what you have done." Immediately my pistol and the rest of my ammunition were returned to me.

I returned to the base of the hospital and the heavy shadow of this trial (field trial?) was behind me. I had completed all my personal revenges against the killers of my people, but I still made a vow that I must never forget, and that I should think about every move that I made. From now on I would take care of the wounded, and this is what I did until the happy day of liberation on the 26th of June, 1944. The day we united with the Red Army in the forest of Palik.

In returned to my hometown of Dolhinov, which was now "Free of Jews", together with a few of my fighting comrades. Most of the town had been burned and there was not one Jew left. In spite of it all, we felt honored and proud to be there. Everyone's heart was crying to see the devastation of a town that shortly before had been lively and full of vitality. It had once excited our hearts with its colorful character, giving us once-youthful dreamers hopes a better future, but now it lay under my feet, burnt and silent.

Alone, I walked along the ruins. Nothing was left of my mother's house except for a few blocks. Like this we walked around, a small number of Jews, members of the partisans. The Jews who immediately returned to town were Leib Shreibman, Leibl Flant, Avraham Friedman, Gershon Lankin, and David Mirman. A few days later arrived Yitzhak Radoshkovicz and David Kazdan from Plashensitz, followed by others. Already in the first days we organized a Battalion of Punishment. I was head of it and we looked for the Nazis and their collaborators. Now it was their turn to run and hide. Leibl Flant was appointed as head of the police. Many from the gendarme and the collaborators and Gestapo people were now hiding in the forests. Originally when we recognized Gestapo people we shot them, but soon the authorities ordered us not to shoot them, telling us that we would pay dearly for such things. Now everyone had to be put through a trial, so we changed the system. In Kriviczi there was a prosecutor from the NKVD so we followed the new orders and brought the criminals and killers to trials. We had good communication with the NKVD prosecutor, which made our job easy.

So like this we stood, a few Jews, lonely and mourning, but also full of anger at our people's killers and the collaborators who would inform on the Jews and incite the killings. We remember and we will remember until our dying moment, every Dolhinov and local area youth that helped to fight the enemy and fell in the battle. Amongst them, Mulke Koritzky, Haya Shulkin, Hyena Shulman, Zalman Friedman, Mordechai Gitlitz, Mordechai and Mina Hadash, Shimon Gordon, Matityua Shimhovitz from Horodok, Shimon Kiednov from Kriviczi, Shimon Meirson, Gershon Meirson ,Mashka Dimmenstein, Avraham Itzhak Shuster, Yisrael Ruderman, Zelig Kuznitz, Mitzia Friedman from Postov, Hanoch Friedman, Faber Levin from Radishkovicz, Yisraelski from Radishkovicz, Itzhak Einbender from Kurenets, Binyamin Shulman from Kurenets, Shpreyergan from Plashensitz, Faber Rodnik from Radishkovicz, David Glasser from Dokshitz, Menashe Kopilovicz. Honor and glory to their memory. May their souls be melded in the bouquet of living (?). We must remember them in every memorial, and our revenge also will be the revenge of their blood. The revenge quieted for a moment the open anger that boiled in my blood, but late at night, all alone, my soul was restless. I knew nothing of my wife and my little girl was not yet with me. I wanted to leave the town, but I didn't know when or where I would go. I still had a duty there, and I felt that my wife was alive and that she would one day find me. But only after half a year, at the beginning of March of 1945 was I able to leave town.

Meanwhile I continued my work with the NKVD in the town. Slowly there were ten families that returned to town. Some were in Siberia, others in the center of Soviet Asia. Some of the families never returned. Others returned and lived in other areas in the area, but I'm sure others will tell their stories. As they came, everyone had a strong desire to leave the area to go to Poland, which was a gateway to other destinations. There was an agreement with Poland and the Soviet Union that anyone who was a former Polish citizen would be allowed to now leave the Soviet Union to go to Poland, so everyone went there, but no one thought of staying in Poland. It was just a station on the way to other places.

I knew that revenge was not a long term mission for me. At the end of October 1944 (?) I was called to the SlaSoviet, which was the town committee in Dolhinov. The head of the committee gave me a postcard and said, "Segalchik, your wife is alive!" With great excitement and with shaking hands I read the postcard which was written from Stalingrad, and my heart took flight (?). I immediately answered but didn't receive a response and again we were disconnected. At the beginning of December of 1944 I finally received another postcard asking if I was still alive. She was now in Yaroslav and the communication was easier. I started arranging for her to return. As a worker for the NKVD I was given permission to go and I brought her back. I found out that my father-in-law had died in the forest while among a camp of those who had fled Myadel. My daughter, who I left with farmer friends was returned to me. She was returned before my wife came so I put Briana Katz in charge.

Briana Katz, a woman in her 70s, was saved from one of the actions. She succeeded in escaping from town and hid with a Christian woman farmer in the village Miltzia. She stayed there for a long time, but when the woman said that she couldn't take care of her anymore, she came to the forest since she had heard that there were Jews from Dolhinov hiding there. Amongst them there was her nephew Gershon Yoffe. She was amongst the partisans near Malinkowa, and she was ready to go with a big group of Dolhinov Jews past the front lines and into Soviet territory, but the day that they were ready to leave there was a surprise attack by the Germans. Briana was wounded during the fighting and was left amongst the bushes in the forest. The enemy did not see her, and like that she stayed there for a few days.

The partisan atriad retreated during that attack to the forest but returned after a few days. One of our scouts by the name of Dobiniewicz found her and told us about a wounded woman in the forest. Avraham and I immediately went there and found her lying down with a bullet in her leg. Immediately we brought water and we found some first aid materials from a farmer. We washed her wounds and took care of her. She said to us, "If you want to keep me alive and save me, you must return me to a farmer in Miltzia." So we took her that night on a wagon to that village, and told the farmwoman that she must take care of her and keep her alive. The farmwoman made the sign of the cross and swore to us that she would do whatever she could.

After one month we came to visit her and she was in better shape and able to walk. We took her to our base and appointed her to work as a non-combatant cook under the supervision of the partisan Saponov, who had been an officer in the Red Army. And like this she passed her days during the war. Eventually she immigrated to Israel and had about 20 grandchildren. She died at a very old age in a kibbutz among loving children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and kibbutz members.

Imprisonment and Trial

Until 1948 I served in the NKVD that was led by Goroshkov. I as well as other Jews were treated very fairly and with much trust by the management of the NKVD in the area as well as in Minsk (the Belarus capital). This allowed us to keep a political reputation that was squeaky clean. On the other hand, the local militia showed clear signs of anti-Semitism, but our relations with the NKVD prevented us from experiencing any direct harm from this anti-Semitism. However, in 1948, Goroshkov left the area when he was appointed to another post, and Kaviljuk became the chief of the NKVD in our area. He didn't have a very strong personality or great influence, but he was still easy to get along with. Since he liked to drink, he delegated most of the jobs to assistants, but he didn't stay in this position for very long. A new head was appointed and after that our situation changed. Slowly they started demoting us. In Minsk, a man from Gruzia (Georgia) named Tzanova, who was an associate of Stalin and Baria, was appointed to the head of the NVD (Ministry of Internal Security) and he was responsible for all of the officers in Belarus. He made trouble for all Jews, but particularly for us, and anti-Semitism flourished everywhere. At the end, this Tzanova was shot after Stalin's death.

With the change of the political climate, I was fired from my job in 1948. I was called to headquarters and asked by the chief if all of the details that I had given when I had to fill out the questionnaire were correct. Then I was asked when my sisters and brothers had left the country, and I told him that they had left before the war. I gave him all the information he wanted. Later he called me in again and said, "Segalchik, you're fired. The last instructions we received from central headquarters were to fire anyone who had relatives outside of the country." Clearly this rule hurt the Jews, especially those in important positions.

Shortly after that, someone instigated another investigation. After I built my house in Radishkovicz, people were envious and suspicious. I saw the house of my father-in-law in Myadel, and as a former partisan I was able to get wood free of charge. To hire people was not expensive at the time, and once in a while I was helped by a German POW who worked for us taking care of horses. Part of the case against me was the abuse of POWs for personal enterprises.

So, my wish to have a decent home caused me to now be a prisoner in the Soviet Union. I lost my freedom, I lost my right to be a free citizen in the state that I gave my life to while fighting the Nazi enemy. After receiving my sentence in Minsk, I was transferred to a prison in Gormel. This was only a temporary holding tank. There were thousands of people there, including many Jews. I was lucky I stayed there for only a short time. From there I was sent to Arkhangelsk, a town near where the Devina River flows into the White Sea, to work in a hard labor camp. Afterwards I was moved to another camp in the area, and we worked very hard. While there, I befriended a prisoner who was a barber who offered to teach me some basic barber skills, telling me that you never know when you might need them. We would take and carry wood pieces from the river in a bridge building project, and sometime later, about 400 prisoners including me were sent to Murmansk.

For a short time I continued on the bridge building operation, but I decided to befriend the barber in this area who was a nice man. I gave him a present and he took me to work with him. I worked with him for a year and a half, so my circumstances greatly improved although I was still a prisoner.

Meanwhile, my wife and my children (now I had a son too) were left without even minimal financial help. They were about to get kicked out of the house I had toiled to build. A sole woman with a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old son. My wife protested and at the end only half of the house was confiscated by the authorities. They let her stay with the children in the other half. But how could she supply the children with food and other needs? Here my loyal friend Leib Mindel helped us a lot. He supported my family through all the years that I was in prison, and always made sure to send me food at the different prisons and hard labor camps where I stayed. My friend, Leib Mindel, could not rest. He kept trying to improve my family's situation. After much pondering he decided to approach Timczok, who had a high position in Minsk (some central planning agency?).

The commissar of Mastitya, a dear friend, saved me. He angrily questioned Mindel on why he didn't come sooner. Immediately he wrote a request for a pardon to the President of the Soviet Parliament (the Supereme/Superior Soviet?) citing my exemplary fighting record while with the partisans during the Great Patriotic War. He also described all the awards and medals that I had received. Timczok received a positive reply shortly after and he immediately called Mindel and informed him of the news. Mindel sent me a telegram and two days later we received the announcement in the camp. I was called to the head of the camp on May 1956 and released from the prison where I had been since 1949. So I returned to my home, my wife, and my children in Radishkovicz. I started bargaining with the people who lived in the other half of the house and finally I got them to leave. Again I was a homeowner and I started working, but very soon we all realized that life there was capricious and that we were always in danger. There was no future for us there, not in Radishkovicz, not in Dolhinov, and not anywhere in this area. Not even the place of my birth and uprbringing, Dolhinov, could keep me there, for at that point I only visited it on days when there was a memorial to the martyrs.

At the end of 1956, once again there was a permission granted for people who were residents of Poland prior to 1939 to return to Poland. Immediately we asked to get permission, but it was not easy. The Belarusian authorities didn't permits to any Jews in the area until 1958. A few Jews left from Radishkovicz and today they are in Israel. I didn't want to wait for my turn so I sold my house in 1957 and moved to Vilna, the capital of Lithuania, since citizens of Lithuania seemed to have had an easier time in leaving. I was not able to receive a permit to live in Vilna, so I registered in Novo Vilejka, which was very close to Vilna. I rented an apartment in the resort town of Volokopa (?).

I started taking care of the needed passports and papers and a Jewish friend helped me receive the appropriate documents from the person who headed the passport division. As you might guess, I had to bribe them. Finally, at the end of November 1957, we were able to leave Vilna for Poland. We stayed for one month in the repatriatza point and then we were sent to Vorstlav/Breslau, where we rented an apartment. To get a free apartment we were supposed to go to Zinov but we didn't want to wander around.

Finally, on October 20, 1958, we arrived in Israel. It would be very difficult for me to express the deep emotions I had when I arrived in the country. A few years later I had a successful farm with cows and other livestock. With the hard toil of my wife and son we were very successful and I was able to give an education to my children. It seems like everything was fine. We were well-established as farmers in the Moshav. It seemed that no dark clouds would come to our lives. We would see happiness in our children and grandchildren. But this was not to be. I became very sick, terminally ill. I had to sell my place and move to a desert climate in Arad. Still, here I will hold to my country until the last day that is given to me. I will continue communicating with my partisan friends, my brothers in arms who gathered here. We will all continue to gather for memorials for the martyrs of Dolhinov, Myadel, and other towns in the area. We will not forget and deny the past. It will be alive in our very beings for eternity and we will plant a seed of its memory that would be grounded in our children and grand children.

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