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“If There's No Water It's Because The Jews Drank It” (cont.)

At first, we enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy in Lithuania. We used to get together, and a letter that I sent to my childhood friend Hene-Bailke in Eretz Yisrael expresses just a little of what we felt then. Letters used to arrive from Israel, which were absolutely “swallowed up” by us. But again the harsh decrees descended upon us, and we suffered difficult years. Stalinism imposed its beastliness.

I married Tuvia Gudelsky [son of Michael] from Ponivezh, who had also gone through the tribulations of the war. He and his brother Grishka volunteered for the 16th Lithuanian Division, and fought and took part in battles. Grishka fought and died in the difficult battle near Alexeyevka [during the Battle of Kursk-Orel]. Tuvia is the sole survivor of his big family.

We were married in Vilna and there our children Tolik and Misha (Naftali and Michael) were born. I worked in responsible positions there, but Eretz Yisrael had always been our ideal. I knew that I would get there in the not too distant future. In 1966, my two sisters from Israel, from Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, Rachel Vitkin and Rivka Shteinman, came to Vilna, and I can't find the words to express what we felt at our meeting. In 1972 we met again, but this time in Israel. The dream of my youth was fulfilled.


Meeting of the Shub Sisters in 1966

Tzila (below right), Rachel (first on the left) and Rivka (below, with glasses)


I remember a special meeting in Vilna with Rochel-Bailke Kruss , the daughter of Hesl “Der Beiglech Beker [Hesl the bagel baker]. And this what she told me: During the Soviet period she was a student at the teachers' seminar in Vilna, and when the war broke out, she and her friends, among them Chaya Roznikowitz, fled and tried to get to their parents' homes in Zarasai. Then a Lithuanian guard fell in love with her and took her under his wing. During the war they lived in Dusiat in Rivka Aires' house, and after the war they moved to Zarasai. I visited them at home together with Zelig Yoffe. Then Rochel-Bailke told us her story, how she had taken on the identity of a Gentile and thus survived.

Sara Weiss (Slep): I've learnt about Rochel-Bailke from Yerakhmeil Korb's diary[7].

In 1991 I met her in Mariampole where she was living with her husband. Rochel told me about Yerakhmeil Korb who gave her and her four friends [Chaya Roznikowitz and Ida Lanzner from Zarasai and the sisters Eta and Tcherna Bravo from Salok] shelter in his house in Ignalina. While in the ghetto of Švenčionys [Lithuania], Rochel helped Korb and his family – “she moved heaven and earth for us” – as Korb wrote in his diary - and then with the help of her Lithuanian friend, who was a guard there, she helped them leave the ghetto. Before the liquidation of the ghetto, this Lithuanian helped Rochel leave and found shelter for her. They got married and have three sons. She changed her name to Berute, but in all her letters [in Yiddish] to me she signed her Jewish name: Rachel.


Rochel-Bailke Recording Yiddish Songs
Mariampole 1991

[Courtesy Sara Weiss-Slep]


When her parents – Hesl “Der Beiglech Beker” and his wife Teibe - returned from their exile in Siberia, Rochel cared for them. They lived to a ripe old age and were buried in the old Jewish cemetery in Zarasai.
Hesl Kruss and Teibe nee Schmidt Gravestone of Hesl and Teibe Kruss
The Old Jewish Cemetery, Zarasai, 1991

[Courtesy Sara Weiss-Slep]


A Letter from Tzila to her Friend Hene-Bailke in Eretz Yisrael[8]

Dear friend from my childhood, Hene-Baile! [Vilna, 1946]

The memories of our childhood have given my breath back to me. My thoughts brought up the memory of the happy days of childhood, with no worries. Memories of the good childhood years arose, and after that the hard years, filled with worry, mourning and sorrow. Years of separation. That was the effect of your letter.

I recalled how much we played at Hene-Bailke's, and so many years have gone by since then. I can barely think that this is reality and not a dream.

Hene-Baile, I thank you for your letter. I am happy that you are living well. With regard to me – they have probably already told you. I obviously went through more than a little… I lost those nearest to me. So many people perished, and of course it's impossible to make peace with it. The wounds are open and don't heal. But life makes its own demands, and we must continue the chain to spite our enemies.

Together with the Russian people and with the help of the Soviets, to whom we owe so much, we are building a new and better life. At present I more or less have all I need. I work and am living not badly. But more than everything I miss my relatives, of whom so few remain. I miss my little nephew, whom I would so much like to hug and kiss, and my niece, who is already a big girl and I don't even know her.

Write more about yourself, your husband and your son. I am interested in all the details. What's with Beinish Yudelowitz? Where is he and how is he doing? And his sister Nechama?

Regards from Chana Pores. We are together just like sisters. She is my closest friend. She got married not long ago, and she has a very good husband. She sends you her heartfelt regards.

Yours, Tzila



  1. [36] Korb, Yerakhmeil. How the Shtetlach, Salok and Dukshty, Perished, pp. 424-427, in Yizkor Book of Rakishok and Environs, Johannesburg, 1952. Return
  2. [27] Henia Sneh's private collection. Return

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