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[Page 76]

Will not be forgiven ever

This happened in July 1944, in the black days of the fascist occupation of our town. Over 40 years ago Jews were standing here, on the town outskirts, near the railroad crossing, defenseless and helpless, in front of the big hole in the ground. They gave their farewell to life, surrounded by the machine-guns of German executioners and police.

The hole in the swamp 25 by 4 meters became the mass grave of martyrs. They were brought here from the Jewish Ghetto, which was nearby. They lived there almost a year in shacks behind a barbed wire, if one can call this starving existence and inhuman labor a "life".

There were almost 1,300 prisoners - mostly professionals - some of who managed to survive the September massacre of 1941, when over 4,000 innocent Jews were exterminated, children, women, elderly people. People said that one of the groups attacked their executioners and, though most of them died, some managed to escape.

According to the documents, during 1941, 2,400 more Jews were murdered by fascists. The total number of Jews killed in the region during the occupation was 7,670. The only reason for their extermination was their Jewish descent. This was genocide.

Just a few managed to survive that terrible time. All of them after the escape from the Ghetto and from the execution found safety in their friends' houses, who saved Jews risking their own lives and who helped them to find their way to guerilla forces where they fought the hated enemy. Not all of the Ghetto prisoners realized that the only way to survive was to escape. The ones who remained in the Ghetto, were condemned. Starvation, illnesses and hard labor paralyzed their will. One of the few survivors, Evgeniya Moiseyevna Tribun (Shundikova) told me that a policeman forced them to destroy gravestones in the ancient Jewish cemetery. Except for that, the guerilla movement in Podolya just started, its flare was in its peak in the second half of 1942. After the war the monuments were constructed to the victims of Polonskoe and Poninka and the execution sites were fenced. Only the mass grave near the railroad crossing at the Kirova Street and workers' settlement, was not developed. Unfortunately, it was unknown to the majority of the town's population, and those who knew kept silent, not doing anything to commemorate the victims. This is impossible either to understand or to justify. Some Pollonites who lived nearby, even witnessed this crime. But nothing passes without a trace. The time finally came, and this horrible human tragedy, one of the black pages of this town's history, became known to the entire community. A lot of effort was made to develop the place, to build a monument and a metal fence.

One of the town's workers voluntarily planted over 50 birches near the gravesite.

There is an old folk wisdom, which is passed from generation to generation: "Who spilled innocent blood, will be never pardoned".There is no pardon to murderers.

[Page 78]

The Tragedy of the Black September

This autumn month of 1941 will never be erased from the memory of dwellers of Polonnoye, an ancient Jewish town. Now this is a town of the Khmelnitsky Region in the Ukraine. During five centuries dozens of Jewish generations lived, toiled and raised children on the land, called by its famous poet, Peretz Markish, "blessed".

Five decades ago, in the black days of the occupation, fascists started the horrible action of the extermination of the Jews of Polonnoye and the regional villages. More than 4,000 of them, women, children and elderly people, were executed within several days by fascists in the Railroad Forest. More than 2,400 people are resting in 6 mass graves, one of which contains remnants of slashed children, in the woods near the workers' settlement Poninka. Part of Novolabun's Jews were killed in the forest near this village. The last 1,270 martyrs of the Polonskoe Ghetto, which existed for 10 months on the site of a granite mine, were brutally killed on June 25, 1942, in the wilderness near the railroad crossing. These mass graves of 7,670 perished human lives are a never healing wound in the town's history, which will never heal itself in the people's memory. Just 11 Jews and interfaith-marriage children managed to survive those horrible years. Few survived till our days, saviors and saved. I want to call their names: the former teacher Anastasia Ivanivna Boriskina, who hid her Jewish friend Maria Shafranskaya; brother and sister Stepan and Anastasia Ribachuk from Poninka, who together with their parents saved the barber Yakov Bagula; brothers Grigory and Nikolai Yanyuk and their relatives, who, risking their lives, for one and a half years kept in their house sisters Evgeniya and Maria Tribun, who escaped from the Ghetto. Pole Anton Baginsky managed to save his wife Evgeniya and daughter Galina. The young brothers Anatoly and Boris Timoshenko, but not their Jewish mother Evgeniya Druker, were saved by their Ukrainian father's relatives, who bribed the police.

September 27th in the regional Culture Hall there was a memorial meeting, dedicated to this sad anniversary. There were over 200 people from Riga, Moscow, Tashkent, Uralsk, Odessa, and Kishinev, who were relatives and friends of the deceased. They were people of all nationalities - Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Poles - all who cared about the tragic fate of their fellow villagers, who remembered their martyr's death and would never forget.

This was the first time since after the war that the Menorah was on display in that majestic Hall. The biblical saying was written with huge letters over the wall: "We will beat our swords into plough shears; the people will never raise their swords and won’t study war any more." There were 7 memorial candles lit before the meeting. Local authorities, industry and Jewish community representatives gave passionate speeches.

The author of these lines told the people about five centuries of Jewish history of the town, about outstanding people who were born here. Alexander Gitel chanted Kaddish. The Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish languages sounded there for three hours. Songs were sung and poems were read. All the saviors and saved received souvenirs from the ceramic factory - a Bible and flowers.

S. Bentsianov

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