Translated by Janie Respitz
Lake Lushi (Lake Lūšiai) is 15 kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide. It is connected through a small river to Lake Dringis (Lake Dringykštis).
On the other side of the lake there is another small river that connects lush to Lake Zhemiane (Lake Žeimenys) , which leads to Zhemanie (Žeimena) River which runs through the towns of Kaltinian (Kaltanėnai) and New-Svencionys (Švenčionėliai), until Podbrodz (Pabradė) where it flows into the Vilieh River.
An intensive lumber transport was carried out through these lakes and rivers and employed a lot of people. All winter, the lumber was brought from the forests to the shores, and in summer they were loaded on to barges and boats and brought to towns and villages.
Around Paliush, the sandy shores were lined with pine trees that grew on high hills. Nearby, there were large forests.
The settlement Palushi, got its name because in Lithuanian, Pa means – on the other side. Pa – Lushi, on the other side of Lake Lushi (Lake Lūšiai). They helped build the new Church that was very holy to the surrounding population. Prayers were held there every day. Religious Lithuanians came from the surrounding villages and tried to settle as close as possible to the church.
Jews from the surrounding area also came to this town , where they helped develop the fishing industry, became middle-men in buying and selling lumber and opened inns, restaurants and various stores. Jewish artisans also settled in Paliush and earned a living providing services to farmers and workers.
The first group of Jews built a Prayer House. Every Shabbes and holiday, not only would the town Jews come to pray, but the Jewish farmers from the surrounding villages.
In 1861, when planning the railway from Warsaw to St. Petersburg, which had to run through Vilna (Vilnius), Niementshin (Nemenčinė), Svenciony (Švenčionys) and Paliu (Paliūniai), the Jews from Paliush and other nearby towns tried to avoid having the train line run through their villages. They had influence as (in the end) the train station was built four kilometres away in Ignalina.
Time showed that the Jews from Paliush made a mistake. The train station played an important role in the local economy and Ignalina began to grow and Jews from Paliush Palush moved there. In time, Paliush became smaller.
However, Jews of Paliush loved, worked and did business here. Among the wealthiest Jewish families was Shmuel-Yose (Shmuel-Yosef) Gilinsky and his children: Zalman, Boruch, Dovid, Motl, Yakov and Bertha (Basia). This family was successful in lumber and fishing.
Near Paliush there was a village called Meiran (Meironys). Lazar Gavenda lived there. Together with Shmuel Yose (Gilinsky) he leased the lakes. He was connected to our town. He prayed in our House of Prayer, had good friends and was counted among the wealthiest men in town. His son Berl (Later known as Barney Gavenda) emigrated to America (Peoria, Illinois), became a great philanthropist and brought a lot of honour to our town.
Moishe Gilinsky, Khone Garber, Avrom Gilinsky, Lipe Gilinsky, Itze Yose Gilinsky, Khlayne Hirsh Gavende (Chlono Hirsh Gavenda) from Shakarva (Šakarva), Fyeve(Feive/Feivel) Gilinsky, Zalman Gilinsky and many others were admirable in there good deeds and character, with heart and soul. Many of their children emigrated to America, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Until today you can find Gilinskys and Gavendas in these places. They were from Paliush, Meiran (Meironys), Gavik. The families that did not emigrate, merged with the town of Ignalina
The last Mohicans of the lakes, rivers and lumber merchants took their prayer houses and Torah scrolls and continued to build a Jewish future until the wild Hitlerism (Nazism) arrived and obliterated all the towns and villages that stood near the Zhemiane River (Žeimena River), New-Svencionys (Švenčionėliai), and buried everyone in the mass grave in Poligon.
Children! Grandchildren of the town of Paliush and surrounding communities do not forget the mass grave in Poligon!
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
As soon as the Germans occupied Ignalina, they immediately sent the Jews to different workplaces. They were sent to work in Gupa, but they mainly worked on the railroad, others worked repairing roads outside the shtetl, to chop wood and to bring it from the forests.
I alone worked in unloading rocks, which the Russians, who were here earlier, prepared to bring to Russia. One time they brought us 26 arrested Communists, which they found hidden amongst the folk of our shtetl. None of them had any idea why they were labelled Communist. They worked with us a whole day and at night they were taken away. Together with them, without warning, they took me with them. The police threw us in a cellar and locked us up. My mother found out about this and ran to the police and pleaded with them for my release. This was 11:00 at night, an hour later, about 12, they released the other prisoners and took them to a nearby forest and shot them.
This was the first big Aktion(massacre) in Ignalina. A short while later, they enclosed us in a separate Ghetto. Then I started working laying rail road tracks, which led in the direction of Vilna. My workplace was about 20 kilometers from our shtetl. Every evening we had to walk home. It is understood that we arrived home in the Ghetto very late in the evening.
Friday, Erev Shabbos, when we arrived late from work, the Ghetto was surrounded on all sides by policemen. We felt that there was a great panic in the Ghetto, it was already quite late and no one was asleep.
We immediately learned the events to follow will bring only chaos. Christians came and told us from a good source, that all the Jews were to be transported the following morning to Poligon. People ran from house to house and still no one had a plan to bring forth. One person said we should run away, another said that nothing could or would happen, we were panicking for nothing. Most of us were paralyzed and were resigned to go to Poligon. Probably, one said, this is our destiny.
Knowing about this Idea, I immediately decided to escape from the Ghetto and was determined not to go to Poligon. I made a plan with several friends and we decided to go to Postov, where brother in law Feive(Feivel) lived with his family..
In the middle of the night we quietly left the Ghetto. We took side roads out of the shtetl in the direction of Meligan.
It was extremely dark and none of us knew the exact direction. We knocked on the door of a peasant and begged him to show us the road.
Luckily, he was a friendly person and showed us and directed us to the right road. We left him and again we only took side roads, when suddenly we heard someone chasing us. We wanted to run, but it was already too late. A group of Lithuanian bandits encircled us with revolvers in their hands and brought us to a nearby village and there they locked us up in a stall. In the morning, they threw us out of the stall, and brought us to Meligan. There they held us in a cellar.
It was then Shabbos, and the Jews from Meligan were praying in the synagogue. About 10 in the morning, the door from the cellar opened, and Jews from the shtetl were thrown into the cellar with us, still dressed in Tefillim on their heads.
It seemed they were brought directly from the synagogue. A few hours later they threw us out into the street, several wagons stood there. The bandits told us to get into these wagons, and we noticed that they were taking us in the direction of New Sventzian. When we looked around, we saw that there were about 100 wagons all going in the same direction. This was an organized transport and amongst us we knew Jews from Haydutishok and Shayatishok. They brought us to the Baronover woods and forced everyone into the military barracks of Poligon.At once, I noticed that the Jews from Ignalina were already there, and I wanted to join them. But they didn't let me.
Everyone spread themselves out on the floors. I spent a restless night. I had an intuition, that to remain in Poligon means Death. I promised myself to do everything possible and escape from here. I planned this with several friends and we did not wait another evening. We escaped through the window. We all ran in the direction of the forest. The police shot at us. I ran like a wild animal and succeeded in reaching the forest. It was very dark that night, but I noticed no one was behind me. I was left alone in the forest, not knowing where to go or what to do. I came to a stream and walking along the banks, not knowing where I found the strength to continue. Suddenly I came to a bridge and not far away I saw a peasant farm. How can I approach this farm and knock on the door? An elderly Christian woman came out and told me that the little shtetl, Kaltinian, is close by.
I decide right away to go to Kaltinian and then in the direction of Ignalina. Meanwhile, it got light outside and I had to get off the road, to hide in a ditch under a large tree.
I heard everything very clearly from the passersby on the road: it was a Sunday and the Christian peasants were going to church, walking or riding. I heard their conversations: they all spoke about the Jews. One said: all the Jews that were brought to Poligon will be put to death. A second peasant said: It is well deserved! All the Jews deserve to die! All these years they sucked our blood, live in fine homes, eat and drink, and now they must pay for this!
I lay in the ditch until it got dark again, I crawled out of this confined space and started to wander. I walk, but I do not know where to go. My vow was to go as far away from Poligon, from this Death! I continue on, and suddenly I see a house of an old Christian acquaintance of mine. I knocked on the door and identified myself. They wouldn't let me enter the house. I tell them that I haven't eaten for days, but it doesn't help. They don't want to give me even a little water.
It's very difficult. This is unexplainable. I go further, hungry and thirsty. I am thinking to myself, if I continue a little further to the town of Bizun, my old friend, Michal Kapusta lives there. I wander in the direction of this small town, hoping he remained unchanged(personality). He would certainly take pity on me and give me something to eat and perhaps allow me to rest for several days at his home.
Opening the door, Kapusta was very frightened, but he allowed me to enter his house. He opened up to me about his secret: he was hiding Dina Levine and her 2 daughters. He also allowed me to hide with them. For several days I stayed hidden together with the Levines.
One day Kapusta came from Ignalina and told us that the Jews that were hidden and then captured, were shot together with those Christians who hid them. Kapusta was too scared to let us stay with him longer. We had no alternative, and we had to leave his home. The Levines decided to go to their Christian acquaintance in Drisvietz, and I decided to go to Petrova, to Mudin(en).
Mudin welcomed me in a very friendly manner, and led me to the stable. I spent the night and in the morning he came to see me in order to tell me that the Levines were caught the previous night, were brought to Daugelishak and were shot right away. That was very lucky for me, that I didn't go with them. At Mudin's I remained 5 days. On the sixth day he came to me, just like Kapusta, and begged me to leave. He was very frightened to hide me. I didn't have any choice, so I continued again. I remained in the stable until dark, then started walking. This time I promised myself to go to Vidz. In Vidz I was told that all the Jews in Poligon were murdered. In Vidz I remained for 4 days only, and then left for Kazian, where I met my cousin Tuvia Solomyak. From there I left for Postov. There was a Ghetto in Postov, for useful Jews. They smuggled me into the Ghetto and made me a Postover(gave me an identity card). Several months later, Tuvia Solomyak also arrived in Postov, and here we met again. Meanwhile, for Postov, those same dreadful days were soon to come. We learned that the Jews from Yodi and Miar were also murdered and the entire region was living in fear and panic. We felt that these were our last days of living, our end was near.
One day there was an alarm. We were told that the entire Ghetto of Postov was encircled with policemen, so Solomyak and I immediately realized the end is near, so we quickly left Postov and went back to Kazian. Meanwhile, Solomyak reminded himself that not far from Kazian he knew a friendly German, and despite the odds, he decided to look for him.
The German saved us and put us up in his barn and every day he brought us food. We stayed here about a month, in the barn and in the forest. Very often we noticed that peasants came to the forest to chop wood and this frightened us. We didn't want to be seen. We thanked the German for his friendship and kindness
And decided to turn back to Vidz, where Jews were still working at different jobs.
Actually, this is how it was.. Arriving in Vidz, they caught us and immediately sent us to work in a camp in Podbrodz. There we worked in a sawmill.
From Podbrodze they sent us to Dukst, but we didn't remain there very long. An order came, that all the Jews should be sent to the Sventzian Ghetto, from where we would be sent either to the Vilna(Ghetto) or the Kovno(Kaunus Ghetto).
Arriving in Sventzian, we found the Ghetto in such a terrible condition. No one knew what to do. We had 2 solutions: one for Vilna, one for Kovno. No one knew if the conditions would be better. I had a feeling, that we should not go to either place. We have to flee!
I arrived at the conclusion, together with Solomyak and the brothers Moishe and Leibl Korb, to leave the Sventzian Ghetto and return to Ignalina Ghetto and hide there amongst our Christian friends.
We departed, the 4 of us and we arrived back at Kapusta. This was April 23, 1943. The roads were muddy, our boots were torn and we were trodding through the muddy waters. At last we arrived at Kapusta. He was not so happy to see us, but we stayed in his shed for one day only. The next morning we said our farewells. The Korb brothers left by themselves, Solomyak and myself decided to go back to my friend, Mudin in Petrova.
Mudin didn't open the door for us this time, he was very scared and therefore we had to continue our journey. We felt so abandoned and in despair.
We decided to go back to Sventzian, and to join the others and go either to Vilna or Kovno.
We passed several small towns and we didn't hide from anyone. On the way back, we met peasants on the roads who looked at us like we were idiots. How dare the Jews walk in broad daylight without fear??
From Sventzian they brought us to the Vilna Ghetto. I was fortunate to have work the entire time until liberation, in these conditions, I survived and was spared from death.
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