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History of the Vysotsk Ghetto

Dedicated to my children Ronit and Gil, may their candle shine and in memory of my parents Aaron and Gitl and my brother Yehuda of blessed memory

In spite of my profound distress and emotional strain I regard it as a duty to myself to record in writing the history of the Vysotsk ghetto. Few of us survived. As one of the few who did survive I have a duty to do this in memory of all the victims of our shtetl, in memory of my friends who were killed and in memory of my parents, to whom I also owe an additional debt for the care they took to bring me up in a Jewish– Zionist path, even though my education in a Hebrew school was only possible for them through great financial sacrifice. I have to do this also for my children, so that they should know and remember what the new Amalek[362] did.


The Vysotsk Ghetto and its liquidation

Vysotsk, the little shtetl where I was born, lived its own 'usual' life within the barbed wire fence of the ghetto. The complacency of the Jews of the shtetl was such that all the rumours that spread regarding the liquidation of the Jews in the towns and shtetls, far away and nearby, were met with deaf ears and disbelief. Even the streams of refugees from the surrounding area, and in particular from David-Horodok, did not undermine this complacency. The residents of the shtetl explained away any news regarding pogroms against Jews and liquidation of shtetls and whole towns with a thousand different excuses. The blame was placed in particular on the local 'Goys' of each town and shtetl. The 'Goys' of Vysotsk were 'good Goys' in the eyes of the people of our shtetl. People had confidence in them, certain that they would not allow such a thing in our shtetl. It is true they put up with great suffering, indeed imprisonment within the ghetto, life deprived of everything, the oppressive work, the constant 'contributions' in money and the equivalent of money. They did indeed suffer a great deal from all these, but with all that there was great hope, a hope bound in the certainty that despite everything they would remain alive. We should remember that the rumours concerning mass murder of all the Jews had not reached our shtetl at all. This innocent community, like other communities in Poland, was misled by false promises and lies.

I was a young lad in the best years of my life. In spite of the poor knowledge of the electricity trade I possessed at the time I worked as an electrician in the shtetl. In this capacity I had the right to go out freely from the ghetto. I came into close contact both with the 'Goys' and with the Germans, in whose apartments I did repairs, or repaired the electrical installations. One day as I was walking along the streets of the shtetl, carrying on my shoulders a special contraption to climb electrical poles, a young 'Sheygetz'[363] came up to me and began chatting with me. During the conversation he became very interested as to whether there was a battery charger in the power station and whether in principle I would agree to charge batteries for him in exchange for the appropriate payment. He introduced himself as a resident of the village of Khochyn, which was near Vysotsk, saying that he needed the batteries to operate a radio set. I agreed to his proposal and began to charge batteries for him. In exchange for this I received food and even monetary payment from him. It seemed this 'Sheygetz' liked me and he explained to me who he was. He was one of the residents of the farm ('khutor') near the village of Khochyn, serving as a go-between

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between the Russian partisans in the surrounding area and the Soviet army soldiers roaming in the forests who, through his efforts, were brought to the partisans. He needed the batteries to operate the station for transmission and reception. So fate brought me into contact with the man who saved twelve of us.

One day this 'sheygets' came to me, very agitated and nervous, and informed me in prosaic simplicity that the day after tomorrow they would 'liquidate' the Vysotsk ghetto, following the ghettoes in the other towns and shtetls which had already been liquidated. He did not in fact stun me very much with this piece of news since in my heart I felt the bitter end coming, but the very words 'the day after tomorrow' had their effect. The essence of the proposal he made me was simple: to gather young healthy men, escape from the ghetto and come to him, and he would bring us into contact with the partisans who were in need of young people.

I was in great turmoil. This proposal meant saving my own life and that of some of my friends. Could I accept this offer? I was disturbed by many considerations. In the end responsibility towards the community in general prevailed over private considerations; apprehension for the community and for my family was stronger than the temptation to secure my own life, because if I were to go missing the community first and foremost my whole family would pay for it with their possessions or their lives. The situation was critical. I did not reveal the matter to anyone except my parents, even though I warned my close family about the approaching disaster.

We made plans, did various things, prepared identities with Christian names. But none of this saved us from the bitter fate. In our family it was decided that in the evening my mother and my younger brother would go out of the ghetto and hide with a 'Goy' friend for the night, while we, the men – Father and I – would go out in the evening to the Jewish herdsmen, who were looking after the German herds of cattle near the shtetl. If nothing happened in the morning all of us would return to the ghetto the next day. But if in fact it did happen I would ensure Mother and my brother were brought there with the help of the young sheygetz from Khochyn.

My uncle Bertzio did the same thing. His wife and his children were sent out of the ghetto to the mechanic who worked in his flour mill. He himself came to the meadows where the cows were pasturing.

We found ourselves about two kilometres from the shtetl and were able to get a good view of the bridges that stood at the entrance road to the shtetl. No special movement could be seen. Some of us dozed off while the others stood guard. It was a peaceful and normal evening. Towards midnight we heard a single shot. We stood on the alert in tense anticipation, but in the absence of any further shots we imagined this was only a random shot of no significance. As became clear later, the shot was aimed at my mother, killing her on the spot.

This is what happened: the daughter of our 'Goy' friend, with whom my mother had hidden, brought a Ukrainian policeman to the place where the Jewess was hiding. The policeman took my mother, my brother and my mother's cousin, who was accompanying them, and brought them to the door of the German commander of the ghetto to receive instructions. The commander became angry, shouted and ordered the policeman in German to put her in a cell. But the policeman didn't understand German, aimed the rifle at my mother and killed her on the spot.

This was the single shot. Whereupon the German commander exploded, shrieking at the policeman for what he had done, because this was likely to reveal their satanic plots for the next day. Our relative and my little brother were locked up in a cell. This event was the cause of the liquidation of the Vysotsk ghetto being delayed by an additional day.

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The dawn was bright. Those of us in the pasture-land knew nothing of what had happened. When it was morning my father and my uncle Bertzio were called. They did not reveal to me what had happened. At noon I also knew about my mother having been murdered. I decided to make use of my acquaintance with the Germans in order to obtain my mother's body and bring her back for a Jewish burial. The Nazi commander's answer to my request was a decisive rejection. He said that his grandfather had been killed in the war and he didn't know where he was buried. An order was given to release my brother and our relative from the cell. We learned details from them about what had happened. So my mother was not brought back for a Jewish burial. What we knew was that she was buried somewhere by the bank of the river Horyn near the bathing beach.

Grief-stricken, exhausted, broken and crushed by the day's events we gathered in our house for Mincha[364] and to say Kaddish[365], as had been the custom in our community since time immemorial. My brother, who had been released from the cell, came home ill with dysentery and with a temperature. We had to call out a doctor to help him. Saying Kaddish for my mother and calling a doctor for my brother did not happen, for exactly at that moment horrors began to rain down nonstop on that serene Jewish community.

From the direction of the bridges motor vehicles with Germans began arriving in the shtetl, and at dusk the ghetto was surrounded by Ukrainian and German policemen. There was no possibility of escaping from it.

I clearly remember one young Jewish woman shouting: 'The Germans are coming!' This was right in the middle of the Mincha prayer. I remember how in an instant the house emptied of the people who had been praying in it. Only my father, my sick brother and I remained. I was dressed in the same clothes I had been wearing when I fled the previous day. This was the first time in my life that I wore high boots. I tried to persuade my father to escape, but his spirit was so broken and the disaster had so stunned him that on no account would he budge from the house. He committed his fate with that of the whole community.

I shall never forget the scene when my father came into the kitchen, took out from a drawer a long kitchen knife, stuck it into my right boot and said to me: 'Escape and avenge'. This scene stunned me completely. Every minute was crucial. Before I had decided on my next move my father grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, opened the door and pushed me out: 'Escape, look after yourself.'

I was thrown into the deserted ghetto street, in which only a few figures were to be seen slipping away in the dark, which had already settled. I then came to the decision to escape to the area of pasture-land where we had been yesterday. Sentries stood around the barbed wire fence of the ghetto, but I had nothing to lose. I came to the yard of my grandmother's house, within the grounds of which the fence of the ghetto passed. The mill and the large house were outside the bounds of the ghetto whilst the small cottage, where my grandmother and my uncle Bertzio lived, was close to the cemetery fence and within the ghetto. I was so confused by the turmoil and the fear into which I had been thrown that I did not even go into my grandmother and uncle's house.

I came to the fence, wanting to cross over to the other side. A Ukrainian sentry who recognised me stood erect in front of me. He called 'Run! Escape! Tell Bertzio he should escape too!' These were the words of a guard, a servant of the Germans, in whom there remained a human soul. My feelings were confused. I handed myself over into the palm of destiny. 'Thank you! Thank you!' I mumbled to the guard. 'Bertzio isn't at home any longer.' In that I was indeed correct: Bertzio >p> [Page 114]

was not at home, but his wife and children, seeing that nothing had happened that day, had gone home towards the evening. Neither I nor Bertzio knew that and were sure they had stayed in their place of hiding.

So I slipped away through the barbed wire fence, going in the direction of the mill and from there downwards beyond the stream, which I crossed without taking my boots off. It was only after some time, when it was of course already too late, that my natural senses returned to me and I could think with composure about where I would go and what I would do.

I came to the pasture where I met a number of Jews, some of whom were working with the cows and some of whom had come there in order to escape. We stayed there until after midnight. There was even an argument as to whether we should abandon the cows and run away or whether, if nothing happened, the community was likely to suffer if the herdsmen had abandoned the cows. Towards morning a number of other people arrived and told us about what had been happening. Then it was decided to run away from there, come what may.

We moved to the nearest forest via the houses and the fields on the other side of the river. It was the Rechitza forest. We were there when dawn broke. We decided to remain there for the day, without knowing what we would do from then on. There were twelve of us: Nisan Borovyk, Feybl Pivovuz, Bertzio Lykhtnfeld, Dovid Beygl, Ze'ev (Veve) Shtoper, Natanel (Saniu) Lopata son of Meir the carpenter, Sender Gelman son of Feybl, Shleyme (Syuma) Goldshteyn son of Yenkl, Aaron Sheynman, Chaim Khaznchuk, Dovid Durshteyn (the name of the twelfth I have forgotten).

Silence reigned until the early afternoon hours. We were even hoping we could go back. Towards midday we heard the first shots of a machine gun. This was the sign. Each person's silent look at his neighbour expressed more than would have been possible to express in words. Each of us knew what was happening at that moment to our children, to our families and to all our loved ones. People did not cry. At that moment it seemed they felt what I was feeling.

And I, what was I feeling? I had no feelings, I did not cry and did not say anything. My heart turned to stone. In my soul the fire of revenge burned without ceasing. Then I reached the decision: only by joining the partisans would I be able to get revenge. Shots followed shots. Individual shots were also heard among the sounds of the machine gun.

As we found out later, these were the shots that rained down on the group making the noise, dispersing and running away across the river Horyn. After so many years it is difficult to describe what was happening within each one of us in those fateful moments. A kind of frozen apathy took hold of us, a petrifying of the senses.

Towards evening we decided to run away, but where to? There were no specific ideas. The only thing that was clear to all of us was that we had to get as far away as possible from the shtetl, in case there were searches in the forest looking for Jews who had escaped. I put forward the proposal that the 'sheygetz' from Khochyn had made, without taking any responsibility upon myself. I was hoping that he would at least succeed in linking the younger ones to some brigade of partisans. The proposal was accepted, and we went on a long circuitous route in order to get to the ferry over the Horyn, of which my father had formerly held the lease.

The journey lasted two nights. At midnight, on the eve of New Year 5703 [1943], we came near to the ferry. On the other side of the river we were a little safer because that was where a chain of continuous forests began, running hundreds of kilometres. We arrived at the outskirts of Khochyn. I and one other approached the house of the 'sheygetz' from Khochyn, whose name was Aleksey.

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We had not expected such a welcome at all. He led us to a thick grove surrounded by swamps, informed us about the surrounding area, helped us build temporary shelters from shoots and branches and, most important of all, brought us food. We came to an agreement with him that until he managed to bring us to the partisans he would provide us with food in exchange for ready cash and gold, which some of us possessed. He carried out his work in real mortal danger. In fact he was the person who taught us and instilled in us the belief that there was a possibility of being saved and remaining alive. But during this time problems were growing. The money had run out, winter was approaching and there was a need to look for some sort of accommodation.

Each one of us began to make his own plans. The group began to break up. The first to leave the group was Gelman who went back to Vysotsk, where he hoped to find shelter with their neighbour, Kopchik the doctor and brother-in-law of the priest. He did in fact get there. They sheltered him in the attic of the barn. Later they informed policemen who took him to the cemetery and killed him. When we heard this a great mourning fell upon us.

My uncle's son, my neighbour and my closest friend, Syuma Goldshteyn, decided, contrary to our pleas, that the farmers who had been his father's tenants in the khutor[366] of Libonitzk would surely give him shelter and look after him. What happened to him we do not know exactly. The only thing that is clear is that on the way there he bumped into a policeman. He began to run away, whereupon the policeman shot him.

The third who tried his luck was Natanel (Sanyu) Lopata. He also met his death on the way. This was the end of three of my friends, with whom I had spent the bulk of my life. We were friends, we were neighbours and finally also brothers in suffering and sorrow.

Perhaps I have my two uncles, Bertzio Lykhtnfeld and Uncle Beygl, to thank for the fact that I remained alive. I learned in their company and from their experience of life.

Aaron Sheynman also left us. We did not see him again. The same happened with Dovid Durtsheyn.

If my memory does not fail me, our number shrank by half. In the winter we moved to a pine forest, dug a trench in the ground, covered it with earth and with branches, camouflaging the surrounding area. This is how we lived.


With the Partisans

I do not remember exactly how we got hold of our food. Chaim Khaznchuk and Nisan Borovyk, who made their living sewing for farmers of the neighbourhood, supplied us with a large part of our sustenance. Partly we got food by sending one of us to farmers in the surrounding area. Once, in the winter, we even went to Vysotsk along the frozen river.

Our main aim was to join the partisans, about whom we had heard from farmers in the surrounding area. Here it is worth noting that the area in which we found ourselves supported the partisans and was hostile to the Germans. It remained therefore a partisan enclave, in which the Germans did not set foot. This enclave continued for thousands of kilometres, through forests and villages, roads and bridges to the north, south and east. The various partisan brigades formed a link between themselves along these roads, coordinating their operations and the places where they camped.

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The Germans took action against this area by bombing the villages from the air and burning them. They also surrounded villages in order to find those whom they denounced as partisans. The simple farmers of the area had many stories to tell concerning the partisans and their activities. The farmers themselves suffered twice: on one side from the Germans, who regarded them as partisans or collaborators with partisans, and on the other side from the partisans who forced them to share their food with them etc. These farmers also wished for salvation and redemption.

This is how, in the spring of 1943, I arrived in the village of Ozery with a partisan unit. I adapted to the conditions of the place, and after a number of days we left the forest and roamed eastward, towards Ukraine. I was the only Jew in the unit but did not feel any discrimination towards myself; I was one among equals in all respects. Perhaps one can put that down to the fact that I was the only Jew. The general rule of not accepting Jews remained in force. We bumped into Jews hiding in the forest who wanted to join, but they were met with an outright refusal.

After some time we found out that we were approaching the partisans' airfield where aeroplanes dropped weapons. Sometimes aeroplanes also landed there to unload freight. After two weeks we were equipped with the best of modern weapons: new automatic sub-machine guns with magazines of 71 bullets, heavy and light machine guns, light mortars and above all stocks of ammunition and explosives. From then onwards the emphasis was placed on the use of explosives and on sabotage in the rear of the enemy.

I passed a crash course in sabotage and was appointed assistant to the saboteur. The main aspect of our missions was to sabotage railway lines and trains, but we did not spare the roads or other German vehicles. The area where we were operating had become a hell for the enemy. Not a day passed without heavy damage.

After the chief saboteur was blown up in a work accident, together with railway lines which he had mined, I was given the role of saboteur. My first mission was to mine a road along which German commanders, accompanied by a heavy guard, were to pass the next day in slow-moving armoured vehicles. The whole company entered an ambush. They fired shots at those who had survived the explosions. Not a single man from the enemy forces came out alive following this action. After that setting mines under the railway line became my daily routine, and almost every week I mined two or three places. This is how we moved from place to place. We destroyed, blew up, burned, killed, plundered and robbed. Our operations and the operations of our comrades, the other partisans, brought real benefits. The enemy was cut off from the rear, the supplies ceased to arrive on time. The Red Army looted their installations. The famous counter-attack in Stalingrad began and the retreat of the Germans from Russia.

My uncles, Bertzio Lykhtnfeld and Dovid Beygl, joined other partisan detachments. We were therefore separated from each other. Their situation was similar to mine in almost every respect. Dovid Durchin also joined the partisans but was killed in action. Aaron Sheynman heard that Dovid Shtoper (Yoshkes) was on the other side of Vysotsk with a group of people and that their situation was better, so he moved there. In the end he was killed. Chaim Khaznchuk died in the forest following an illness that attacked him. Together with Nisan Borovyk we brought him for a Jewish burial, in accordance with religion and custom, under a high tree on a hillock in the area of Khochyn. Nisan Borovyk remained in the area of Ozery and joined the Jews of Ozery and others who had been hiding in the area for some time. Also Feybl Pivovuz remained in the same area. And so we were separated from one other. Each went his own way.

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Following Liberation

The times were changing. The Germans were on the retreat from Russia. The front line came near where we were operating. Our sabotage actions increased. We moved ahead of the retreating Germans, at the same time constantly carrying out sabotage in their rear. It was my fate to take part in the liberation of Vysotsk, although there was no battle there. The Germans had left the place immediately on our approach. In general they withdrew in one go from all areas of Ukraine and White Russia. They entrenched themselves in Brest Litovsk and Kovel, drawing a line of defence along the River Bug.

I remember something else - how surprised the mechanic in my uncle's flour mill was when I went to see him in Vysotsk. I did not remain in Vysotsk for long. I went to the fraternal[mass]grave . In the shtetl I heard that my Uncle Beygl and other members of the family from the village of Ozery were living there.

A new danger began to lurk, threatening the lives of Jews in the areas surrounding Vysotsk and in the whole of Ukraine. There appeared gangs of Ukrainian nationalists under the command of Bandera (who were called 'Banderovtzy'). They demanded the establishment of an independent Ukraine on a nationalist-fascist basis. Luckily for us the Russian authority stamped on them hard, but at the grass roots they had the upper hand. Their actions in the regions where the partisans had formerly held sway found an echo and support among the residents who had suffered a great deal at the hands of the partisans. Playing on the sentiment of hatred of Jews, on which they had raised their flag, the Banderovtzy found a fertile soil. So, following liberation, after sufferings and much hardship, my uncle Dovid Beygl was killed near Ozery by the Banderovtzy. Following liberation the partisans had appointed him representative of the civil authority in the region. Relatives of our family from the village of Ozery were killed together with him.

I knew that there was no place for me in Vysotsk until the establishment of a firm civil authority. I therefore escaped to join the partisan brigades of the Red Army that began to come and strengthen their position in preparation for an attack on the line fortified by the Germans along the Bug. I was therefore enlisted into the Red Army and placed in the first front 'as a partisan who did much for the homeland'. We remained there for a number of months. Following a period of great anticipation the attack commenced. The enemy was pursued relentlessly and retreated in a hurry over the River Visl[367]. My luck ran out. In the battle for the little town of Chełm[368] a bullet hit me in my shoulder and I was taken away from the front.

I came back to Vysotsk on roads which were not really roads. A civilian authority had already been established. In Vysotsk I found my relative Manya Lykhtnfeld from Ozery. With her was the family of another Jewish doctor. They had been with Bertzio and the partisans. Bertzio was then at the front in East Prussia. After a short stay in Vysotsk, and in view of the danger from the Banderovtzy, whose operations against the authorities were growing, we decided to move to a larger Jewish centre. We therefore left for Rovne where we decided to wait for Bertzio in order to make aliyah to the Land. On May 1st 1946 we left Rovne on our way to the Land.

  Ze'ev Shapir (Veve Shtoper)
New Year's Eve 5723 (1962), 20th anniversary of the catastrophe


  1. The giant Amalek was an enemy of the Hebrews (Gen. 36, 12-16) return
  2. Gentile man return
  3. Afternoon prayer return
  4. Prayer for the dead return
  5. Russian: hamlet return
  6. Vistula return
  7. East of Lublin, Poland return

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The house of the Nisn Lopatyn family

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In Destruction and Anguish

[Gitl Fialkov (born Vysotsk December 1889, died kibbutz Na'an December 1981) wrote her account in Yiddish. This was translated into Hebrew by her son, Arie Fialkov. Both the Yiddish original and the Hebrew translation were included in the Vysotsk Yizkor memorial book. The following is an amalgamation of the Yiddish and Hebrew versions, each of which includes a significant amount of material not found in the other version. Text in italics is found only in the Hebrew version, whilst text in bold is found only in the Yiddish version.]

A few days after the outbreak of war between Soviet Russia and Germany all the people working for the authority – officials, teachers, policemen – packed their things and left. Several Jews, mainly young ones and communists, went with them. The Jews of the shtetl were bewildered and asked the Russians in alarm: 'Who are you abandoning us to?' The Russians reassured them and answered: 'Don't worry, we shall come back to you soon.'

The shtetl stayed without anyone in charge. The Russians had withdrawn from the shtetl and Germans had not yet appeared. Alarm gripped the Jews, who were afraid of the Goys, but the representatives of the Goys reassured them. In fact nothing bad happened to the Jews at the time. The shtetl was waiting for the arrival of the Germans.


Germans in the shtetl

One Sabbath the news spread that they were coming. The Jews cleared out every suspicious item, they burned Russian and Hebrew books, they erased any sign of their contact with the Russians. A Jewish German-speaking woman was found who dared to go out to greet the Germans with bread and salt. But they did not come on that Sabbath. It was some days before a small group of Germans came. The Goys went to the outskirts of the shtetl to greet them with bread and salt, in accordance with tradition. The Jews did not dare to meet them. They stayed in their homes, their hearts beating in fear. Through the gaps in the shutters they saw a well-known hooligan, an attendant in the wash-house, accompanying them [the Germans] and making friends with them. We knew that he was seeking their company through hatred of and incitement against the Jews.

Not many days passed before the Germans established the local authority. They relied mainly on the local Goys. The Germans did not themselves bother us over much, but their Goy employees began to bully us. Every day new decrees, one after the other. A head count was conducted of all Jews in the town. All their possessions were registered meticulously. The Jews were forbidden to move freely from one place to another, just as they were forbidden to buy and sell freely. The eating of meat was forbidden. All food items were handed over to the authority and the Jews got what they could in secret. The synagogues and prayer houses were confiscated and converted into grain warehouses for the local authority. Any public gathering was forbidden. The minyan[369] gathered in secret, underground. The Jews were forbidden to walk on the pavement. But so far not that much importance was paid to the decrees. One day a decree was issued requiring a white and blue ribbon to be worn on the arm. Also all Jewish houses were to be marked by a Star of David. Several months later, on the eve of Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] at the beginning of 5702 [September 1941] the Star of David was cancelled and each Jew was obliged to wear a yellow patch on the chest and on the back.

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The Goys exploited the new situation and began plundering. At first they would come into the Jewish houses carefully, later they became bolder and went about their business freely, rummaging in the cupboards and in the chests, grabbed whatever took their fancy and disappeared with the warning not to tell a thing to the German authority. The Jews complied, not saying anything out of fear of revenge by the Goys. The main task of the local police, which was recruited immediately from among the local White Russians, was to make the Jews' life a misery. They would pester us on various pretexts in order to extort money and goods. They would force their way into a Jewish home on the pretext of looking for refugees etc., demand ransom and the Jews, having no choice, would hand over the money and keep quiet. From time to time the Jews would collect sums of money or valuables and give them to the Goy police, without the knowledge of the Germans, in order to keep them quiet. But the bribe lost its effect after only a few days. I remember one night there was a knock on the door, my husband opened the door and a local Goy, who had recently come up in the world, came in, with him ten militiamen with guns in their hands. In the house were concealed refugees from Horodok[370]. The Goy shouted at us and warned: 'They've come from Horodok, but soon the devil will take you all.' The next morning, when the community heard about it, the Goy was given a beautiful cupboard, and that is how he was kept quiet for a few days.

After a few days the Jews in the shtetl were drafted for public work. Every Jew was required to give up half of his time to work for the authority. In a family with two workers one worked full-time on government work and the other was 'free' to work for his family or his home.

The work consisted of carrying stones from one place to another, leveling out heaps of sand beyond the town, breaking ice on the rivers. The craftsmen worked in the workshops given over to military purposes: building, carpentry, blacksmith work etc. In addition to the regular work groups of Jews were frequently required for oneoff jobs. Every evening the community made a list of those going to work. Early every morning the workers gathered at the community house, were registered and taken away to work.

According to the order from the authority, the Jews were organised in a community. At the head of the community stood a community council, which mediated between the authority and the Jews. Through it the authority's orders and instructions were carried out.

At the disposal of the community council was a group of young Jews who served as a kind of Jewish militia and carried out all the orders of the authority relating to the Jews. They too wore a ribbon on their arm. The Jewish police caused us no end of trouble. The Jews continued to get food through trade and their working contacts with Goys and amongst themselves. Craftsmen continued to go to nearby villages and do their work there: carpentry, building, shoemaking etc. In exchange they received food. Anyone going out of the shtetl needed a double permit: from the community council and from the local authority. The Goys who provided employment obtained such a permit quite easily for the Jewish craftsmen.

Despite all the hardships the situation of the Jews in the shtetl was a little 'better' than the situation of the Jews in the surrounding towns and villages. Incidents of murder, death by starvation and arrests rarely occurred in the shtetl. No wonder the shtetl quickly filled up with Jewish refugees. 170 of them, women and children from Horodok, found shelter with us. Their husbands, the heads of the families, were taken away by the Germans, not knowing where they were going. There were also 150 Jewish inhabitants of neighbouring Goy villages who sought refuge with us. The community billeted them on the Jewish families; in every house

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there were several refugees and sometimes whole families. Many of them got food from their hosts free of charge. Men and women endeavoured to collect food for those who were accommodated separately. After a while a kind of soup-kitchen was set up for them so they wouldn't die of starvation.

One day it was decreed that all the Jews had to leave the shtetl and move to Stolin. This is how the story goes: the authority discovered that a young Jewish man, a communist, was hiding in the shtetl. They demanded to know where he was but nobody handed him in. They threatened the shtetl with killing but still the man was not found. All the people were ordered to leave. One Jew (one of the wealthy ones) went to his loft to get some provisions for the way. That is how the man in hiding was found and the decree was cancelled.

A year later, from the surrounding towns and villages, there came terrible news of murders, starvation, torture, arrests and of new ghettos being established. In the shtetl it hadn't been that bad so far. The Jews were becoming very worried about their fate. So as not to provoke the authority people obeyed and carried out orders promptly. The Jewish militia was on guard, making sure that nobody – God forbid! – offered any resistance to the authority. So the truth is the militia became an accomplice in every act of degradation and torture.

In the month of Av in the year 5702 [July/August 1942] the ghetto was established in our shtetl. Several side streets were surrounded by a barbed wire fence and the Jews were forbidden to go out of the ghetto. From the ghetto there was an exit to the river that lies beyond the town. Every departure from the ghetto for work or food required a permit.

The ghetto remained for six weeks before it was liquidated, together with its inhabitants… Living conditions in our ghetto were more comfortable than in other ghettos. They were not too strict with us and we used to go through the wire even without a permit, moving around freely outside the ghetto. For the time being there was still food. There was not yet any murder or torture of our Jews. The situation gave Jews the hope that they would somehow get through the bad days and survive, to be redeemed… But from every corner one heard about ghettos being liquidated, of many Jews being murdered. The Jews heard it, they trembled and yet they deluded themselves that it would not happen to them. The Goys, acquaintances and friends, offered them reassurance… The fear was really deep, but so was the hope that would very soon prove to be a false illusion.


The Slaughter

Two weeks before the massacre in Vysotsk the Jewish ghetto in the neighbouring town of Dombrovitz was liquidated in a mass-murder. We knew about it, and the fear grew that the day of our slaughter was approaching. An order came that all Jews should remain in the shtetl. If no-one dared to go out nothing bad would happen to anyone. But if any Jews were to disappear all the remaining Jews of the shtetl would be punished. The community council believed and led others to believe that it was so and that everyone must obey the order and not go out of the shtetl. Jews who were working in the villages, hearing about the mass-murder in Dombrovitz, remained where they were and did not even return on Sabbath as usual, fearing destruction. On Friday night the militia visited all suspect Jewish houses, and where someone was missing they gave a strict order to bring back the missing person. That Sabbath my husband didn't come home either. Hearing about this the militia knocked on the door late at night, but I didn't open it. They threatened to break the door, but I didn't answer. However my tenant opened it. They came, searched the beds and, not finding my husband, forced me to go to the village and bring him back. I didn't have

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any choice, got up early on the Sabbath morning and went off to the village, ten kilometres from the shtetl, and returned together with my husband. He thought that we, the whole family, would come to him in the village and thus be saved. And several others thought the same. But the militia forced them to come back into the town. After about ten days the calamity happened, and the slaughter of the Jews was carried out in our shtetl too.

Two days before the slaughter we, two families, packed some of our things and planned to go out into one of the villages. We went out into the yard, ready to go on our way. At this moment a Jewish refugee from Warsaw, who was living with us and did photographic work for the authority, tried to prevail upon us to stay, because a friendly Goy had assured him that he would always let him know in advance of any danger, and if there really was a danger he would himself leave with us. And so we went back into the house.

The next morning the refugee was told by an acquaintance of his, a Polish woman, that they were already digging pits for the Jews beyond the shtetl and that our destruction was approaching. The Warsaw refugee went away and told the Jewish council everything. The council tried to find out if it was true. The Goys, wanting to mislead them, said that they were only war trenches and nothing more. This was Tuesday, one day before the general slaughter in the shtetl. That day German vehicles with artillery of all sorts came into the shtetl. In charge were just six Germans. All the rest were Goys from the surrounding area… From the sound of the vehicles we understood that 'something' would happen in the coming days.

Anshel Fialkov


On the evening before the day of the slaughter, on the 27th day of Elul in the year 5702 [9th Sept 1942] the community did not receive any work assignments. A great fear reigned in the ghetto. We lay down to sleep and our hearts were beating in fear. At night our tenant, the photographer, went out to find out what the situation was and brought bad 'news'. We got dressed and sat, gripped with fear. He went out again and calmed us down: 'The street is quiet'. We went back to bed with our clothes on.

The tenant was on guard. From time to time he went out. Finally he came back, passing on to us the news given him by his Polish acquaintance that the slaughter was being prepared for the next day. When he was reproached for not having told him earlier, as he had promised, the Pole replied that he himself did not know about it until then. But later it emerged that the Pole did indeed know earlier but he betrayed everyone.

We began to pack our things in order to run away, but it was already too late. Anyone who tried to go out of the ghetto that night was shot on the spot. That's how six Jews were shot, trying to run away. At dawn Jews tried to break out of the ghetto, but it was surrounded on all sides by local armed police who lay in wait for any Jew trying to escape. That is how, early that morning, Hannaj Lopata was murdered, in front of her two little daughters, on the doorstep of her house, as she was trying to get out. That is how, soon afterwards, a young man was murdered. Through the window I saw men and women with small children in their arms, as well as teenage boys and girls, trying to break through the wire. When the Goy policemen turned their guns on them they all went back into their houses.

Suddenly, in great panic, people pushed their way into our house. The room was full of people, old and young. From the outside policemen stuck their guns in the windows. A great wailing and lament broke out. One woman cried out: 'Jews!

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Nothing will help us, we must go to the slaughter! Some of those assembled, including me and my family, went out through the lower door into the yard. (It was an enclosed yard at the back of the house) I said to my 18-year old son at once: 'Stay there in that corner, perhaps you'll be able to escape.' To begin with he was stubborn, not wanting to leave us, but after pleading with him for a long time he went out, but soon came back, saying that at a particular place, close to Sender Kaftan's house, you could bribe the militia and get out of the ghetto. I gave him what I had on me and he went out. A few minutes later he returned saying there was no choice, he would go to the market place where all Jews were going. Perhaps there he would be able to get away. He took a long knife, filled his pockets with food and was gone…

I haven't seen him since then… I was told later that he was among those who fled the slaughter, jumped into the river and were shot by those pursuing them.

The panic on the street increased. Terrified, people ran, pushing their way into the houses. Our house, in the centre of the street, was overcrowded with people. I and my 16-year old daughter went down into the cellar and with us were many of those who had gathered in our house. Soon the cellar was also completely full. My daughter and I stayed there in a fenced-off corner used for storing potatoes. One mother, a refugee from Warsaw, stuck her two children in our corner, among the potatoes. Meanwhile the police came into the cellar, apparently after they drove the Jews out of the house, and ordered people to leave the cellar and if not they threatened to shoot. Everyone left the cellar and we were the only ones to remain in a hidden corner. Also with us were the two children. Their mother told the police that there was nobody left in the cellar and she had got out with everybody else. A few minutes later the police returned, stood at the entrance to the cellar and ordered us to get out, threatening to shoot. We didn't answer them. They left, went into the house, up into the loft, where they searched in all corners and hiding-places (we heard all this while we were in the cellar) and then they went away. About an hour later the police appeared again at the entrance to the cellar. They wanted to put the light on but they didn't have any matches. They threatened to blow up the cellar with a mine. We lay there quietly without uttering a sound. They went away again and again they came and this time, after more threats, they fired shots into the cellar, but they missed. And we remained still, holding our breath and trembling in fear. That day groups of police and soldiers, Germans too, were constantly coming into our house and searching in every nook and cranny. From our hiding-place we heard them climb into the loft, look in the oven and underneath the oven. When it became quiet outside my daughter went into the house, packed all the family things that were particularly precious to her: pictures, addresses, mementos, and returned to the cellar.

When it was dark the two children decided to get out of the cellar and go to a Polish woman that they knew, certain that she would take them into her house. After all she was their best friend and all their belongings were hidden in her house. I tried to prevent them from going, but they wouldn't heed my advice. Because they looked like Poles they believed that nothing bad would happen to them. The eightyear old girl really did look like a Goy. They didn't know Yiddish, whereas they spoke Polish well. I fed them and they went on their way. After a short while the little brother came back, shocked and in tears. In answer to my question 'Where is your sister Lyusa?' he told me that they had run into a policeman who ordered them to stop and that he, the boy, ran off to the Polish woman. His sister stayed still, hoping to persuade them that she was Polish. But they murdered her on the spot. He came running to the Polish woman, but she didn't want to take him into her house and he therefore went back into the cellar.

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At night the hours crept past. What was going to happen? Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow they would discover our hiding-place and murder us, but going outside was filled with mortal danger. So what should we do? And so, sitting in the cellar, confused and desperate, we decided in the end to go out, despite everything that might happen. We went out in the knowledge that we were going to a certain death. Out of doubt and fear, when we went out we didn't dare to take the boy with us. He in the meantime had fallen into a deep sleep.

Teybl, Aaron-Shmuel and Feygl Fialkov


We got out of the cellar, went quietly through one yard, then into another yard, and as we were about to go across a lane between the yards we heard a command in Ukrainian: 'Stop!' We froze. An armed Ukrainian policeman came up to us. He immediately ordered my daughter to take off her coat and choose between two deaths: standing, with her face to the wall and her hands up, or lying down, with her face turned to the ground. I began begging him to have mercy on my daughter. I wanted to hand over to him what I had, valuables and money. But he hardened his stance and ordered me to put down everything I had, took my daughter and me, one hand on either side, in order to take us - so he said - to the Germans. He took a few steps then stopped. Again I begged him to let us get out of the ghetto, he raised his gun and hit me with it. I called to my daughter: 'Let's try to run away', and I was already beginning to run. But seeing that my daughter wasn't moving from the spot I turned to her and, not knowing what I was doing, I began shouting for help… Hearing my cry, armed policemen gathered, and there we were surrounded already by not one Goy, but many Goys. We gave up immediately. All around us bloodthirsty policemen and us, two Jewish women in the middle… My daughter said to them: 'Come to our house where lots of clothes are hidden, and other valuables. We'll give you everything, just let us get out of here.' They agreed. We all went back to our yard. While we were negotiating regarding the hidden things, suddenly my husband appeared, I had no idea from where. It turned out that in the turmoil of that morning my husband hid in the corner of the cowshed and lay there the whole time and, now that he heard our cries, he came out of his hiding-place. So now all three of us were together. We dug in the earth until our things were discovered. Meanwhile the local policemen went away and only the first policeman remained, waiting for his loot… He was pressing my husband to work faster, threatening to dig a grave just for him… A chest of clothes was pulled out and the Goy chose what he liked and carried

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as much as he could on his shoulders, ordering us to walk in front of him and he would lead us out of the ghetto. We didn't trust him and begged him to set us free. But he didn't agree and we had to go in his company. All three of us marched in front of him and he, with his gun raised, behind us. While we were walking he shot but missed. I didn't know if he did it on purpose or not. After a few minutes we stopped again, and again I begged him for mercy, to let us go free. But he ran up to me angrily and hit me with the gun. From the force of the blow I fell to the ground and remained lying there, powerless. My husband and daughter continued walking with the policeman, who pressed them to go faster. After a few minutes I heard two shots pierce the air. In my bitter heart I realised that my two dear ones were no longer living.


Wandering from place to place

I lay on the ground for a long time with terrible anguish in my heart and didn't know what I should do. For a while I thought of getting up, going up to the murderers, letting myself be murdered and putting an end to my troubles… I dragged myself to a nearby cowshed and remained lying in a pile of hay. After a short while I stood up and proceeded to go in an opposite direction, precisely the direction that leads from the ghetto to the open street. In the darkness of the night I detected human bodies scattered around. I touched them. They were dead bodies. I passed a small pile of fresh earth and next to it people's clothes. I realised that this was where the people who had been shot first were buried.

I reached the barbed wire that closed off the ghetto, tried to get through and couldn't. I tried to crawl underneath, got injured and again failed. Finally I managed to crawl through. Now I was outside the ghetto in the open street, where not long ago Jews used to live. I trudged my way in the darkness as far as a neighbourhood at the far end of the shtetl. I knocked on the door of a Goy I knew. But when he saw me he was scared, too frightened to let me into the house, because anyone who hid Jews risked punishment by death. He advised me to go to the neighbouring village. In my torment and confusion I didn't know where my feet were taking me. After a short while it became clear to me, to my astonishment, that I had turned back into our shtetl. I didn't see anyone on the way and nobody saw me. I turned round and walked towards the village. After an hour of walking around at night I reached the river. I knew that the river was shallow and one could cross it on foot.

Arie Fialkov on his visit to the shtetl as an emissary from the Land, with his sister Feygl and his brother Aaron- Shmuel, by the bridge, winter 1939

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I went into the river in my shoes and clothes, certain that I would be able to cross it easily, but how astounded I was when the water reached my neck. I tried to go back, but the current dragged me forwards. I swam across the river. Then I realised that I was lost. I swam back across the river. Wet, exhausted and crushed, I dropped under a pile of hay and lay there till dawn. At dawn I went on my way again and reached the village of Prasaduvke. I knocked at the door of a Goy I knew. He didn't want to let me in the house. I went off to another Goy who immediately took me in, gave me other clothes till mine dried out. He gave me food and drink and led me up to the loft. I stayed there for two whole days, then his wife came to me, bringing me my dry clothes and asked me to go. She was afraid. I went off to look for shelter in another village, Rudnya, eight kilometres from our shtetl. I knew many Goys in the neighbourhood and where they lived. A Goy I knew led me to a wood nearby and there I met my sister's daughter. The two of us stayed in the wood for two days. But we were too exposed to passers-by, and the owner of the wood was scared of leaving us there for longer and ordered us to move. We left the wood and went our separate ways.

My sister's daughter trudged from one Goy to another and no-one took her in until she met a Goy she knew who tricked her and handed her over to the Nazis, and in the shtetl from where she had escaped she met her death.

I hid in the loft of a cowshed belonging to a Goy. After about four days his wife came to me and asked me to go away because she was afraid. I wasn't able to argue with her but I asked to see her husband before I went away. That Goy, Yakob, a good and merciful one, who knew my husband well, knowing that if I went out of my hiding-place I would certainly be murdered, advised me to move to the other end of the loft, hide there in the hay, and he wouldn't say anything to his family. For four weeks on end I lay there, and none of the many people in the house knew about it (except for the head of the family himself). He alone took care of me, brought me a piece of dry bread once a day – and sometimes also a little water. He wasn't able to bring more out of the house, or else it would be discovered.

Early one morning, after four weeks of lying in the loft, the Goy came to me in alarm and ordered me to leave his place because the Germans were conducting a search nearby and it would be bad for everybody if they were to find me there. At that time the Germans were searching for food supplies and also cattle. I climbed down from the loft and hid in the garden among high beanstalks. When it became dark I left my hiding-place and hid with another Goy I knew (also one of our acquaintances, who had promised me that if I had to leave my first hiding-place he would take me in). After a few days he led me away to his brother-in-law who lived alone four kilometres away from the village. On the way he had second thoughts and advised me to go by myself to his brother-in-law and hide in a barn. That's what I did. In the morning the Goy came across me in his barn. He was very angry and ordered me to clear off at once. But his wife begged him to let me stay there till the evening. In the evening, having no other option, I went away to the first Goy where I stayed for four whole weeks. I climbed up to the loft by myself. In the morning the Goy ran into me and simply said that his old father, who was sleeping downstairs in the cowshed, must not find out about me. He continued to feed me with dry bread and water. That was my only food during the months I was in hiding.

And again after several weeks my saviour turned to me and asked/ordered me to leave his house. I asked for a few kilos of salt for the road. At that time salt was a precious commodity and only rich Goys were able to get it. This peasant was rich and had plenty of salt. I hoped to find shelter in exchange for the salt. He brought me a small sack of salt and in the night I went away to the Goy I was with before. In exchange for the salt he hid me for two days and once more ordered me to leave. I

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went back to my good Goy. He was one of those who were unable to forsake their fellow human beings. He advised me to go up to the loft of his uncle's cowshed and he, my saviour, would continue to feed me as before.

I went into his uncle's cowshed and lay down in a pile of hay. After about an hour the farmer came to feed his cows but he didn't notice me. After he went out I hurried and climbed up to the loft, and 'my' Goy continued to feed me with bread and water. He would come in the evening, climb up the ladder near the roof, knock quietly, and I would stretch out my hand through the hole that I made in the thatched roof, take the dry bread from his hand and water too, but not often. Occasionally he would bring the bottle of milk that his wife gave him when he went to work in the field and he himself would make do with bread. Through a small, unnoticed hole in the thatched roof I would see him when he passed through the yard and sometimes I would rustle in the thatch of the roof if I wanted something, and then he would come to see me.

Workmen were threshing the peasant's cereals. When they finished they brought all the hay to the loft where I was lying. They pushed and pressed the hay in, not knowing that anyone was there. Afterwards they climbed to the top and trod back and forth on the hay. I only just managed to release myself from the hay that was piling on top of me to the point of suffocation…

I lived like that in the loft for three weeks, and nobody, apart from my good Goy, knew about it. One day he came to me and announced sadly that he was finally forced to refuse me help, he could not look after me any longer.

I got up very early and got down from the loft. When the owner came to feed his cows and suddenly caught sight of me he was trembling in joy and fear at the same time. He asked me if I was alone or if there was anyone else from my family with me. When he heard that I was the only one left he burst into sobbing and tore out the hair on his head in sorrow. He immediately brought me food but at the same time announced that I must leave his house in the evening because he was afraid. He sent his daughter-in-law to me, whom I knew well. She was very glad to see me and did not let her father-in-law send me away. At the same time she warned me not to let the old woman, her mother-in-law, catch sight of me. In this house at that time lived the old parents-in-law and she, the daughter-in-law. Her husband was serving in the army.

I returned to my hiding-place in the loft and stayed there for three whole months. One day the old man, the owner, ordered me to leave, or else he would be forced to hand me over to the village administration. I told him he could do with me as he liked because I was sick of life and suffering and it was better for me to die… When the daughter-in-law learned of this she came up to me in the loft and swore that she would not let her father-in-law hand me over. She continued to feed me, and the Goy who helped me in the past brought me bread.

One day the old man climbed up and said: 'Well, it is safe for you to go out now, the Germans have gone away and there are no longer any police in Vysotsk.' Hearing this announcement, my head began to spin and I fainted. The first terrible thought was: I'M THE ONLY ONE LEFT'. And the thought tormented me ceaselessly, and - why just me? I opened my eyes and saw my good Goys standing there, trying to cheer me up. I was about to get up and go home to my house… But they stopped me: 'Wait a bit, we'll find out if it's true…' It turned out that it was still too soon.

And it happened that suddenly my support was cut from under me. The Germans took away the old peasant and his horses as well as the young man. When the old man returned the wailing grew. They were sure that the young man and horses would not come back. One day he came back, followed by German soldiers.

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They began rifling about, searching the house. They took for themselves any valuables they liked the look of. They searched the loft, the cellar, the cupboards and in the cowshed under the spot I was hiding in. From where I was I could see them well. They were three tall Germans. Armed, wearing sheepskin and helmets. One of them was about to go up to the loft. But the others objected. They ate and drank greedily and when they were about to leave the young man and his wife begged them to release him and take the owner of the horses in his place, as he was their owner and knew best how to deal with them… After some discussion the Germans gave into their plea, the old man left with them and the young one, who stayed at home, remembered me and brought me my portion of bread THAT VERY SAME EVENING. The disappearance of the old man and the horses made life more difficult for the young wife and also aggravated her attitude towards me. She began to show impatience as far as keeping me was concerned. One night I left the loft and went to the Goy who had previously given me shelter for two days. He himself was not in, his wife meanwhile hid me in a bale of hay in the yard until her husband got back. I got into the bale and stayed there all night. Early in the morning she took me into her tiny, poor home and kept me in the corridor under a large box. When her husband came she begged him not to drive me away. In gratitude I gave them several of my clothes and also promised to give them my winter coat when summer came. They were very poor peasants and needed my present very much.

A hiding-place was fixed for me between the large box and the wall. Twice a day I was given baked potatoes. Bread was not to be found at their house. At that time the German retreat was beginning in this area. The militiamen, sensing the weakness of the Germans, left and joined the partisans. The peasant said repeatedly that he was keeping me only because the Germans were no longer in the area but if they returned he would be forced to send me away.

After two weeks in this house had passed I went off to a peasant who still owed my husband money for a carpentry job. This was two kilometres away. Through the window I noticed strangers in the house so I didn't go in. The Goy, sensing there was a stranger outside, took an axe and a piece of iron and came out, thinking there were robbers. I went up to him and made myself known to him. The minute he saw me, he threw down his weapons, greeted me heartily and burst into tears. I couldn't control myself either and I too sobbed loudly. And so the two of us stood in the dark night, crying. He let me into the house and gave me as much rye as I could carry. He strongly urged me to stay the night at his house, but I didn't want to because his house was right by the side of the road. I loaded the sack of rye on my shoulder and went on my way. When we parted he said to me that if ever I needed anything else I should come to them and they would give me whatever they could.

One dark night in the month of Adar in the year 5703 [Feb/March 1943], the period of melting snows, I had to go back and cross, on foot, a partly frozen river, with water flowing on top of the ice. I got lost. My shoes filled with water. My feet kept slipping on the wet ice. My sack kept dropping and got wet, and with every attempt to lift it up I kept slipping and falling. I kept walking, dragging the sack behind me, getting up and falling, getting up and falling all night. I changed my clothes, climbed up on to the oven and returned once more to my shelter behind the large box in the hallway.

One evening the Goy returned from the village with news: the Germans were back. He ordered me to leave his house at once. I asked him: 'Well where shall I go?' 'Anywhere you wish' was his reply, 'but you must get away from here.'

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Where to?

Where to? – I went outside. It was dark, late at night. Near the house lived a Goy whose mother I used to know. I entered the yard quietly and went up to the cowshed loft. Early in the morning when the peasant came in to feed his cows he saw me and demanded that I leave his house at once. It was rumoured that a search for partisans was going to take place there today. I got up to go. The peasant's wife took pity on me: 'Where will you go now, in daylight? They will find you, lead you into the shtetl and murder you there.' When I answered that that was precisely what I wanted the Goy said: 'No, if you've stayed alive this long it's a shame for you to be murdered now. There, in the nearby forest there are Jews. They are living in shacks. They move from one place to another, running away from the enemy… You must go to the Jews in the forest.' But how was I to reach them now, in broad daylight? The Goy brought his sleigh into the barn. I lay down in it and the Goy placed a load of hay over me and drove me away on the road from the village of Puznya. By the side of the forest he took me out, led me into a copse beyond the village and told me to wait there until it got dark. Then I should go into the village, and the Goys who traded with the partisans would lead me to the Jews in the forest. I stayed in the copse the whole of that day. In the evening I went into a cowshed belonging to a Goy I knew in the village. The Goy, when he saw me in the cowshed, was very grieved over the death of my husband and my children, whom he knew well, but he didn't want to give me protection or shelter. He took me to a neighbour's yard, advised me to stay there and said he would be back in the morning to guide me to the Jews in the forest. In the morning he didn't keep his word. I dragged myself from one Goy to another, to no avail. As I was going around the village a woman, a Goy, called to me from one of the houses, inviting me to come to her place. Despite my fear that perhaps Germans were there and that she would betray me - as happened with many other Jews - I did go to her, thinking that sometimes one should stop worrying, and if my suspicions were right that would be no bad thing. After all, one needed to be rid of this wretched life and have done with it once and for all!

Going into the house I was astonished to see in front of me a young man from my shtetl. He was the one who had noticed me earlier through the window and asked the woman to call me in. There are no words to describe what came over both of us in this encounter. I had been wandering alone among Goys and hadn't seen a Jewish face until now. Crying, we told each other everything that had happened to us. He, the young man, had already been in the forest with a group of Jews, he had left them and come to hide here. I asked him to take me to these Jews. For some reason he didn't want to. (When I came to the forest afterwards I was told that his protectors, the Goys, handed him over to the famous Ukrainian hooligans, the Bulbovtsy (named after Taras Bulba[371]) who bound him and tortured him – indescribable tortures. They tore off pieces of his living flesh, tore out his tongue, chopped his nose off and finally cut off his head and hanged his body in the middle of the village).

In the meantime the peasant came in and ordered me to leave immediately. So I walked around aimlessly. I met another peasant whom I did not recognise, but he recognised me and invited me to come to his house for a few days. But only in the evening would he come and take me. On my way I came across a deserted house without windows and without a roof and I went into it. Immediately afterwards two dogs and a young Goy burst in. He knew me and let me stay there till morning. I stayed in the deserted house, trembling with cold and damp and looked through the window at the dark night. Suddenly, not knowing from whom and how, blows fell

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on my head, one after another. I felt blood running from my head and face on to my clothes and hands… In shock I called out in the darkness: 'Why are you hitting me?' Then they stopped hitting me and went away.

Injured, tearful and weak, I came out of the house and dragged myself to the village in the dark. Suddenly there appeared in front of me a Goy, a stick in one hand and a coat in the other. He at once ordered me: 'Throw off your coat, such are the times we live in.' I said to him: 'Why did you stop at smashing my head? Why didn't you murder me?' 'No,' he said, 'I'm not going to murder you but give me the coat now.' I took off my coat and threw it to him, together with some other small things that were in the pockets. (It was the same Goy who hit me in the dark and took off his coat to avoid being recognised).

I went into a peasant's house to wash my head and face, but the blood kept flowing and the peasant was hurrying me to get out. I went into a second peasant's house, the peasant's children began to cry and make a fuss, frightened by the look of my injuries and the blood… The peasant let me into somebody else's barn, shut the gate and went away. Tired and exhausted I lay in the hay and the blood kept streaming. I took out of my pocket little pieces of soft bread, tried to stop the hole in my head but this didn't help. The blood kept streaming through the bread. I struggled for two days with the weeping wounds until at last the blood stopped flowing. My hair, the bread and the congealed blood stuck together and blocked the holes in my head. But this was not the end of it. With every crumb of bread that came off, yellow puss and blood burst out. It took half a year before the wounds healed.

Morning came. The peasant came into the yard and I heard him say to his friend: 'It seems someone was here during the night.' He began searching the yard, in the hay and in every corner. He came to the spot where I was hiding but didn't notice me. I stayed there until midday. Then the other peasant, the one who had brought me here, was supposed to come and take me to the Jews in the forest. This is what he had promised me but he didn't come. I went out of the yard in broad daylight, walked into the village and asked people to take me to the forest. None of them obliged. I sat on the side of the street without energy or sense of direction.

So for a whole week I continued to move from one barn to another. Nobody wanted to take me in, for fear of the Bulbovtsy who were going round the villages, and any Jew who fell into their hands was tortured and murdered. One woman, a Goy, who couldn't bear to see my troubles, got up, dressed me up in her own clothes, put some bread in my pockets and asked her daughter, together with a friend, to lead me to the Jews in the forest. She told us that the Jews were on the move all day long in the depths of the forest and that they only returned to their shack at night. I should go to their shack and wait until they returned in the evening.


In the Forest

The three of us, the two Ukrainian girls and myself, set off in the direction of the Jews in the forest, a five-kilometre walk from the village. It was a thick forest, the ground was covered with deep snow and outside winter cold and frost prevailed. Not a living soul anywhere, no signs, and we were walking through deep snow among the tangle of the frozen trees. We came to the shack. The girls left me there and I went into the shack where I had a shock: a dark, black, empty and deserted shack. Next to the walls some straw was strewn about, apparently as bedding. In the middle were scattered remains of burning logs. The opening was blocked with a sack of straw. The trees were rustling, snow, cold, emptiness and fear.

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I sat all day waiting for evening to come. Night came. The night hours passed by and nobody came. Sleep did not come. In the early hours I heard voices of people approaching. I thought they were the Jews of the shack coming 'home'. They were indeed Jews but from another shack, from a nearby forest, escaping from a Bulbovtsy attack on their shack. Many of them had been murdered, many had fallen along the way and these, the survivors, tired, injured and exhausted, came here – a 24-kilometre walk - as fast as they could, looking for shelter. I handed them my bread and potatoes and that helped them recover. Among those who had run to the shack was a woman who, during the attack, lost her husband and her 19-year old daughter and she and her 15-year old and 8-year old daughters escaped alive. When they ran away the youngest daughter got lost and the mother thought that she was already murdered, but after three days the daughter was found by Jews and they brought her to the shack to her mother. For three days the little girl was lost in the forest without food or drink until the Jews, searching for the dead in order to bury them, found her. From talking to the Jews it was clear to me that the previous inhabitants of the shack would not be coming back because the existence of the shack had been revealed and it was too well known to the local Goys and the gangs of murderers. They made a new shack in another place in the forest. I attached myself to the group and lived with them in their shack.

One day we went out to the nearby village. It was known that a group of partisans was in the village. As we got near the village a peasant bumped into us. With a whistle in his mouth he alerted his comrades. We were soon surrounded by a large band of armed robbers who ordered us to stop. The majority of us managed to escape and just I and three Jews were stopped by them. They ordered us to drop our bags and began questioning us: 'Where are you from? Where are you going to?' As they were talking they pointed their guns at us, about to shoot. I went up to one of them and asked him: 'Tell me, where are you from?' He answered: 'From Kharkov'. I asked the second one and he replied that he was from the village of Zamrotsyenya. I asked him if he knew someone called Anshel (my husband). 'Yes,' he said, 'I knew him well. He used to work in our village as a carpenter.' When I heard he knew my husband I said to him: 'I am his wife,' and I begged him to let us live. They searched our packs, took the boots off my companion, took our best clothes off us and let us go free. This was a gang of Bulbovtsy.

We got back to the rest of our group and together walked to our destination. We were certain that the Bulbovtsy would come after us and murder us. We got to the village quite early and bumped into guards. We didn't know if they were partisans or murderous Bulbovtsy. They led us into some barracks where many armed peasants were sitting. We sat, prisoners, until their commander came and set us free.

For three weeks we were in the forest. There we met a woman from Dombrovitz with her son. They were unkempt and emaciated, lost in the forest. Her whole family – her husband, she and their seven children, of whom the youngest was 11 years old – were out in the forest. On the way peasants had robbed and beaten them and they escaped naked and bereft of everything. In their night-time wanderings a daughter got lost. Her husband and two daughters were captured. The woman remained with her four children: two sons and two daughters. They set up a shack in the forest. They were joined by a Jew they didn't know, and at night they would go into familiar villages to look for food. One night after walking for four hours, as they were returning to the forest after searching for food in the village, they noticed a huge light in the forest and as they approached it their eyes grew dark: their shack was burning and the remains of their three children, together with the remains of the other Jew, were scattered around in the fire. They had been murdered and on

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top of them the shack had been set on fire. The mother and her son gathered individual limbs from the bodies of their dear martyred ones, concealed them in a side-channel, covered them with leaves and departed from the place of grief to look for other Jews, and that is how they met us. The end of the family is that the one remaining son was mobilised into the Soviet military, there something happened to him and he was arrested. The mother, after much wandering, stayed by herself in the shtetl of Rafalovka (Volyn).

One day we heard a lot of noise coming from the direction of the village. It turned out the Germans had come into the village and, following a battle with the partisans, were in control of the village. We withdrew to another village, Svarichevich [Svaritsevichi]. From a distance we could see the village burning and the villagers running in panic into the forest. We wandered into the forest, not knowing where to camp. A friendly peasant advised us to go deeper into the forest because gangs of Bulbovtsy were roaming around in the vicinity. Only a few days ago they had murdered forty Jews in the vicinity, among them a woman from our shtetl. He promised us he would come back and let us know by whistling when the danger receded and the Bulbovtsy had left. We followed his advice and went deeper into the forest and stayed there for five days until the potatoes were finished. The Jew from our company, Asher Bitchik from Puznya, with his son and another person, Kopl from Dombrovitz, went out and got near the track that runs through the forest in order to find a shepherd and ask him what was happening. It was their misfortune to meet a band of Bulbovtsy who captured them, harnessed them in front of their carts and drove them like horses… That is how, in celebration, they brought them into the village. There they were bound with ropes and thrown into a stable. The three men struggled with the ropes, tore them off and escaped. But they were captured again by a Bulbovtsy guard and murdered after prolonged suffering and torture of various sorts. Limbs were cut off one by one. That's what the Bulbovtsy did with their Jewish victims.

Reb Asher Bitchik from Puznya was a dear Jew. I remember how one day after Passover, on a beautiful summer-like spring day, as we were walking along the side of the forest with the green fields in the distance, he said: 'Dear God! The world is a world, the trees are blooming, the fields are green, but we…' and he burst out into uncontrollable weeping. He was very devoted to three orphans, his sister's children. When he divided the small portion of potatoes he would give himself less than he gave the youngest, the nine-year old. The day before his death I washed his upper shirt for him. I boiled water in a small hole, threw the shirt in it and poured the water over the shirt on top of a hot stone so that it would be washed well from the dirt… He shaved, put on the clean shirt and went out … to his death.

The third one to be murdered with him was Kopl from Dombrovitz, a shokhat[372], who would pray with great devotion every day beneath a tree. He also had holy books which we found in the homes of Goys. From time to time he would go to his father's grave there in the forest. He celebrated the eve of Seder of 5703 (April 1943) together with us in the forest, under the open sky. Reb Asher collected some ground bark from a farmyard, baked over a fire a kind of dough as a reminder of matza[373] and he, Kopl, read to us the whole of the Haggadah[374]. During the whole of that hour a soft snow was falling and we sat with our feet wrapped up in rags and our eyes were full of tears over the story of the Exodus from Egypt…

The friendly Goy kept his word; after two days we heard his whistle and the barking of his dogs. We told him about the end of the three Jews from our company.

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The peasant burst out sobbing and tore hair from his head, so great was his grief. He had come especially to warn us to save ourselves but we didn't hear him. There were only six of us remaining, without a single adult male: three orphans, the woman with her young daughter and myself. Those who had been murdered had up until then been our protectors and guides through the depths of the forest. Now what would happen to us? We wandered in the forest until we came to the village of Zolotye, six kilometres from the forest. We heard that in the village there were partisans under the leadership of Misyura. This was a partisan unit under the leadership of a young peasant-partisan who was famous for fighting the Germans and for defending Jews. He was a simple peasant from Ozersk, I knew him and had once been in his house. Many Jews were in his unit. When they heard about the death of the three Jews they sent people to look for the remaining Jews in the forest, and that's how we met them and went with them to their village.

There, in Ozersk, I also met Dovid Shtoper (Shleyme's son) from Vysotsk. During the days of the Nazi occupation he served in the Jewish militia. A proud Jew, he managed to escape with his family into the forests. From time to time he dared to come into the shtetl, dig in the yards of Jewish homes and take out various things and trade them in for food with the Goys. The Goys said to each other that the shack in the forest was full of goodies and they plotted to rob it. One night they approached the shack and shot at it from a distance in order that the people inside would run away… Everyone did indeed run away, they came with a cart, loaded everything up and left. Dovid Shtoper could not rest. He wanted to know which of the Goys had done it. He went up to them quietly. A young boy followed him. Suddenly the boy saw Shtoper surrounded by Goys, searching him. It seems that that is how Shtoper met his death. His wife was saved and she too, after a long time of wandering, arrived in Italy and from there to Eretz Israel.


And again regarding The Slaughter

In the partisan unit I met someone from Dombrovitz who had been in Vysotsk at the time of the slaughter and who had managed to escape from the death pits. He told me all the details of the slaughter.

Early on the morning of the slaughter all Jews were ordered to appear at the market place. The Jews sensed the danger and did not rush to fulfil the order. The Goy policemen began to drive the Jews from the streets and from the houses. With rifles in their hands they went from house to house and drove the Jews to the spot that had been decided on. (That is when our house was filled with those escaping the murder chase.) At the market place outside the ghetto the Jews were arranged in long rows. At the sides of the street machine guns and cannons were placed in readiness… The first to be taken were 100 Jews from the first row, on the pretext that they were being taken to work. Around an hour later another 300 Jews were invited and they too were accompanied by armed policemen. Nearing the place of death they understood at last what was awaiting them: death by shooting, straight into the pits that had been dug. The local rov began to recite the confession and after him the local doctor. Immediately there arose a great cry of lament and resistance and many began to run away. The rifles and machine guns all around began to work. The cries got even louder. The Jews who were waiting in fear at the market place, hearing the cries and the violence, also began to run. There was a great deal of noise and cries and a stampede in the direction of the nearby river. A mass of policemen and armed Goys went after those who were running away, shooting at them with their rifles. The Jews who had escaped jumped straight into the river to swim across it. But the Goys fired after those in the river. It was a horrible picture, impossible to

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describe. In terror Jews jumped into the river, and met their death swimming, some on the surface of the water, some under the water and some of them at the side of the river. The water in the river was really red from the blood of the Jews who were shot. Even those who reached the other side of the river were hit by the fatal bullets. Anyone hiding among the trees on the other side of the river was murdered later when they went on the search for food. 23 Jewish girls who managed to swim to the other side of the river roamed among the trees for three whole days and not having any protection or aim they returned to the shtetl, hungry and exhausted, and there they met their death.

The remaining Jews, who didn't manage to escape to the river, were led to the pits beyond the shtetl and there they were shot.


With the Partisans

The partisan unit wandered in the forests. They would stop at one place for a few days and then move on. While on the move they would carry out various acts of sabotage and attack. We were not accepted into the camp, where there were only armed fighters. We used to follow the unit wherever they went. We would rest some distance away so as not to be noticed. Jews from the unit would come to us to let us know on the quiet when the unit needed to go on its way. We would get up and follow them from a distance. Mostly they would move at night. Every night they covered 20-25 kilometres, through forests, rivers and ditches in the cold, wet weather of the end of winter. With them they dragged a whole transport of calves and cattle. All this moving about exhausted us to the point of death.

One night we came into the village of Vichivka. The unit went into the village and we, 200 Jews, stayed outside the village, hidden in ditches and among trees. The partisans got drunk and sank into a deep sleep. That's when the Bulbovtsy attacked them. First they cut the telephone lines to prevent them from getting help. That night many of the partisans were murdered and wounded, as were some of those who stayed outside the village. The bullets flew over our heads like rain. We scattered in all directions. I and four other Jews ran for three whole days. Hearing that the Bulbovtsy had pulled out we went back into the village, and there we were told that the Bulbovtsy had taken over the village, taken many of the partisans prisoners and confiscated their weapons, food and their cattle.

A mother, who also had with her two daughters and three grandchildren, as she was running away from the attack she fell on to the ground and sensed that she was lying on top of a human body but she didn't know that she was lying on the dead body of her daughter who was torn to shreds by bullets from a repeat-action weapon. A grandchild was also murdered in the attack.

The partisans quickly recovered from their defeat. Soviet aeroplanes supplied them with guns, and with that they re-organised and renewed their actions. Again on the move, they undertook acts of sabotage and we, the Jews, continued to follow them, protected by them.

One day, in the village of Lusetska [Lasitsk], the Jewish doctor Erlykh came to us (before becoming a wartime doctor he was an optician in Dombrovitz) from the partisans and announced to us that our unit was now setting out on a longer action lasting ten days and that we, the Jews, should wait here for their return. Many weeks passed and they didn't come. Meanwhile news reached us regarding gangs of Bulbovtsy and also German soldiers on the rampage in the vicinity. We left the village. On the way we met a caravan of Poles with their womenfolk and children. Behind them were Gypsies. The Poles were also running away from the Bulbovtsy.

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(The Germans didn't do them any harm) So we followed the Poles and rested near them in the forest.

Days and months passed by. Rumours told of victories and the approach of the Soviet army. The Germans were retreating. The whole area was in a state of lawlessness. In the deserted forests and villages battles raged between the partisans and the Bulbovtsy. On the whole the partisans were gaining the upper hand. Villages passed from one side to the other. Other villages were burning. We found ourselves in the line of the moving front. So it went on until at last the whole area was liberated and the front moved further away. That was in the autumn of 1943.

The Poles came out of the forests and drove away. Jews also began to appear in the villages, alone and in groups. Others also settled there. The terrible period of the forests, which for us lasted for 8 months from March till November 1943, came to an end. For many months we didn't wash and didn't change our clothes. Only occasionally, at night sitting around the fire, did we take off our clothes to dry them. Only the youths, who went into a village to look for food, would return with a shirt or a pair of trousers which they had taken from a farmyard.


With Liberation

The forest period was over but we couldn't rest yet. I and several other Jews came into the village of Nimovitch. We entered one of the houses together. A typhus epidemic was raging in the area, and I too lay ill for three weeks on a hard bench, without any kind of medical aid and only a pile of straw for my head. No food touched my mouth, only water. When I got up from my sickbed, weak and exhausted, a peasant woman came to me and suggested I should knit gloves and socks for the partisans and earn my keep that way. I agreed and for my work I received food and lodging.

The front was not far from the village. Six kilometres away was the river Styr. On the other side were the Germans and on this side the partisans and the Soviet army. From time to time the German troops broke through the front and crossed the river. The Red Army troops drove them back. One Friday there was a commotion in the village: 'RUN AWAY!' The Germans had come across the river and were getting close. I wasn't yet strong enough after my illness. It was bad, wet weather following the end of the snow. All the Jews of the village gathered and went away to the shtetl of Rafalovka – 120 kilometres away.

With us there, in the village of Nimovitch, were also the three orphans who had been orphaned yet again following the murder of their uncle Reb Asher Bitchik from Puznya. Theirs was a bitter fate; after the months in the forest they were covered in sores and boils. The youngest of them, Aarele, nine-years old, embarrassed by his sores, lay a whole day, sad, covered in rags. I heated up some water and, very carefully, washed round the sores on his hands. There was no soap to be had. One day I went with his thirteen-year old sister and twelve-year old brother to beg for food nearby. A Goy took pity on the little boy and suggested that he should stay with him in his home, tend his cattle and he would care for him and give him food and clothes. The little boy agreed, as did his sister. The boy would get up early in the morning at 3 o'clock, go out and tend the cattle until 9 o'clock, he would eat and sleep a little and again go out to tend the cattle until it got dark. In cold days he would go out in the morning until it was dark, but even then it wasn't easy for him because the local boys made life very difficult for him.

I would go together with his sister to visit him. He would throw himself at us with hugs and kisses. The boy was very lonely among the Goys. He begged us to bring his younger brother to him because he was missing him. Once we brought

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him, and when the two little brothers saw each other in the distance they ran and threw themselves at each other and kissed and hugged until it was hard to separate them.

When we left the forests we took the boy and came with him to Nimovitch. None of the peasants were willing to take the boys into their homes because of their running sores. We brought them into a barn, where they lay separately. Barefoot and naked in those cold days. The girl would come to us to sleep and then she would return to the barn to her little brothers. That was the fate of the orphans. Heaven and earth should cry and lament their fate.

In Nimovitch we sheltered together at the home of a widow whose husband had been murdered in the fighting. She wasn't able to manage her household. She took us in, and in return we worked in the yard and in the home. Day after day and night after night soldiers, then partisans, would come in and out. We fed her four children, looked after the cowshed, chopped wood and cleaned the house, which had been neglected. In that house Hannah Feldman from Linka gave birth on a bench over a bit of straw. Together we walked the long road to Rafalovka, the newly born baby swaddled and bound to its mother's bosom. The mother held on to me on one side and on to her husband on the other side. That's how we marched. The baby would cry loudly and our companions, angry with the parents, demanded that they leave the baby behind. When we got to Rafalovka the baby had hardly a drop of life left in it, not wanting to eat or drink. After about two months it recovered. After about eleven months, when we got to Pinsk, the baby was circumcised.

We walked non-stop for seven days and nights so as to get farther away from the Germans who were getting nearer. Half way there we were walking on the ice of a river which was beginning to melt. Our feet would step into water and this is how, cold and having passed through many dangers, we came to Rafalovka. On the way were scattered dead bodies of Germans, and also limbs mixed with pieces of aeroplanes, victims of the Soviet bombs.

In Rafalovka we returned to a civilised life for the first time. We looked like wild beasts or cavemen, wrapped in rags. We stared in wonder at trains which we had not seen for years. Here there were trains and buses going regularly between the towns. There we saw thousands of soldiers marching back and forth. In sealed carriages Ukrainian Bulbovtsy, who hadn't wanted to serve in the Red Army, and deserters from the front were being transported. German prisoners looked out of the carriages, tired and dejected. In the station some of those who were departing picked crumbs of bread off the ground. We felt no pity for them. We said: 'If they fall into our hands we'll tear the living flesh off them, in revenge for everything that they have done to us.'

The shtetl was partly destroyed. It had suffered from frequent air battles and bombardment. Every so often there were dog-fights in the air, bombs fell, making a terrible noise, houses were on fire, people, torn into pieces, crushed and killed. We had no confidence in the morrow. We, a group of twelve Jews, fixed a ruined house and lived in it. The Soviet authority allowed us to take as many as we wanted of the potatoes left in holes in the ground by the Germans. It was very hard work taking the potatoes out of the hard frozen ground, not having anything to dig with. Suddenly a bomb fell close to our flat. People were killed, houses destroyed, windows and doors were blown out of our flat and the ovens were smashed. A brick fell on my head. Only by a miracle did I survive. We went out into the street … devastation, impossible to describe. Houses collapsing, pieces of wood and bricks flying about, the air thick with dust and so dark you couldn't see each other.

I stayed in Rafalovka for six months. During the day in the shtetl and at night in the nearby forest. The German aeroplanes bombed a lot at night; some of the

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inhabitants of the shtetl also went in the forest, in order not to be in the shtetl at night.

With the liberation of Pinsk by the Soviet army I made my way there. Jews from the surrounding area stayed there together. Of the Pinsk Jews themselves there were only 18 who came at that time. After liberation no Jew was safe in the shtetls. That's why they tended to concentrate in the larger towns.

Young people found work in the town or got jobs with the authority. Those Jews arriving from elsewhere had to rely on trade, which the NKVD[375] strictly forbade. Jews would ask: 'How are we supposed to live?' The NKVD turned a blind eye. I began to work in order to earn my keep and also in order to forget my misfortunes. I baked rolls and sold them in the market.

Jews were afraid of returning to the shtetls. The Bulbovtsy were still on the rampage on the roads and in the forests. Jews were being murdered as they travelled to their shtetls. I myself didn't visit our shtetl. I was the only one left, my loved ones all gone. Who would I go to, and what for? What would I do with my house? I knew that only one Jew went back to our shtetl. One thought brought him there: to avenge our blood that had been spilled. He wrote to me that I should not go back to the shtetl: 'It pains the eyes to see it'. He wrote to me about my deserted house, without windows, without doors and its ovens smashed. The Goys were repairing it, he didn't know for whom.


On the Way to Eretz Israel

The repatriation of Polish citizens began. I registered as a Polish citizen in order to be able to get out. Two large convoys of Polish citizens left on their way and I missed them. My turn came with the third convoy, the departure of which was postponed several times. Rumours were doing the rounds among the Jews that it was possible to get to Eretz Israel direct from Poland without any trouble. From Łodź one would travel to Romania, and anyone who had 50 roubles in gold could travel from there to the Eretz Israel. I worked hard and saved 50 roubles in gold so that I too could get to the Eretz Israel, to my sons.

The people who were travelling in convoys were allowed to carry as many belongings as they had. The government paid for the journey. There were Poles who came back with plenty of goods, weighing a few tons. There were some who took horses and cows with them on the wagons. When they registered me they asked how much weight I was taking with me. I replied: 'I don't have anything.' They wrote down one hundred kilos just the same.

As the third convoy was not leaving I looked for other ways to get to Poland. I made my way to Kovel on all sorts of roads, and from there to Łodź with a group of 25 Jews. That was in the month of Tammuz in the year 5705(June/July 1945).

Abandoned and alone I didn't know where to turn. When I told some Jews I had children on a kibbutz in Eretz Israel they advised me to turn to a kibbutz in the city. So one day I went to the kibbutz. There were young people there who greeted me warmly. One of the managers of the kibbutz told me he knew my sons in Israel. He asked me to come again the next day because 'someone' from Warsaw was coming and he wanted to ask his advice as to what should be done with me. When I came the next day I noticed a tall man with a moustache, who was surrounded by the other kibbutz people. When he saw me he came over to me, shook my hand and asked how I was doing. This was Antek[376]. He listened to me attentively, encouraged me

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and promised that they would look after me. I would go to the kibbutz frequently. It was pleasant sitting there among the young people. They asked me to eat but I didn't want to. I was worried in case the food wasn't kosher.

After about two weeks Itzchak Ts [Icchak Cukierman] returned from Warsaw. They called me over to the kibbutz. In those days I had a parcel stolen from me and I was afraid to go, leaving my belongings without anyone watching it. A man from the kibbutz came and asked me to go. He would look after my things. I came to the kibbutz and they began to take care of all my concerns. After a few days I left on my journey, with the aim of reaching Italy. Hannah G., a girl from the Khalutz[377], was allotted the task of taking care of me on the way.

A long, wearisome journey began, through countries and across frontiers, by train and by car and on foot. We were on the move for four months, stopped at refugee camps and continued travelling. In the large towns there was always someone to look after us. I can no longer remember the names of all the stations and places we passed through. At one border crossing we were turned back. Many tried to cross a second time. They were turned back. Again they tried. We too tried to cross the border over high and steep mountains but we didn't make it. We were taken back in wagons, like prisoners. But in Keppenberg we bumped into Greek Goys who were returning from work camps in Germany. Their aim was to go to Italy first, in order to travel from there to Greece, their homeland. They were, it seemed to me, the only ones among the Goys we came across who met us with joy and friendship – 'Jews! Jews!' They used to quarrel amongst themselves but they treated us well. They asked us to sing Jewish songs. They asked us to let them accompany them as Greek Jews. They also did their best with the British. They knew we wanted to get to the Land. Indeed it was with them that we reached Bari, in Italy.

In Italy we stayed in the UNRA[378] camp and there they looked after us. The whole way I was together with girls from the Khalutz. Not wanting to part from them I went with them to the training kibbutz in Maria di Leuca. I knew that Jewish soldiers from the Jewish Brigade were also taking care of my immigration to Eretz Israel. One Sabbath a soldier came to the kibbutz, with a pack on his back. He entered the dining room and asked for Hannah G., the one with whom I had travelled all the way from Łodź. After a short conversation it became clear that it was me he wanted. He brought me a letter from my children in Eretz Israel. When he said goodbye to us I wanted him to take letters back for me. He told me: 'You will be there before me.' Indeed, after a few days my travel to Eretz Israel was confirmed, together with the large convoy of children.

When I came to Bari to make my arrangements I met the Greeks, who hadn't sailed yet. They cheered us in fraternal joy. They knew that the people who returned from small towns were due for immigration. One Thursday, November 9th 1945, my wanderings were over. Our ship, an English military one, arrived that day to the shore of Eretz Israel. I came down to the shore and my eyes were looking for my children, who had remained there and were waiting for my arrival.

  Gitl Fialkov
(Ghetto Fighters)


  1. The quorum of ten men required for reciting prayers in the synagogue return
  2. David-Horodok, Belarus return
  3. In fact Ukrainian People’s Revolutionary Army followers of Taras Bulba-Borovetz (1908-1981) return
  4. Ritual slaughterer return
  5. Unleavened bread return
  6. Story of the Passover return
  7. Narodny Kommissariat Vnutryennikh Dyel (Russian), Soviet State Security return
  8. Antek was the nom de guerre of Icchak Cukierman (1915-1981), a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the main link between the Z.O.B., the Jewish Fighting Organisation in the ghetto, and the Polish Home Army. After the war he emigrated to Israel where he co-founded kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot return
  9. Pioneers return
  10. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration return


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