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The story of Bushke and Chaia nee
Katzovitz WE REALLY WANTED TO STAY ALIVE
Translation of Yizkor Dalhinov pages 387-405
Translated by their cousin; Ron Deutch and Eilat Gordin Levitan
Chaia July 1941
The war started all of sudden and the way it begun was totally unexpected by us. Even though shortly before the summer of 1941, the ambiance became very ominous and the preparations for a battle became obvious to all who recognized the hasty buttressing by the Soviets army (they occupied the area in September of 1939 after the partition of Poland). As the Germans attacked, pandemonium broke out. No one knew what to do and nobody even speculated that the Soviets legendary Red Army would collapse in such a short time. The situation was particularly difficult for Dolhinov since it was located near the Old Russian border (the border between Poland and the Soviet Union prior to 1939). The Border was immediately nailed shut and our family had mixed feelings about what we should do. My oldest sister, Buske was off at college in faraway Grodno. The family was reluctant to leave Dolhinov; we were hoping that she would get in touch with us. We were disinclined to leave and become refugees for many reasons. My mother Chana was married to Yaakov Forman. My father (her first husband) was killed in 1924 while crossing the Russian border to sell items to the Communists. The memory of his murder added worry for us in crossing that border. Still we had many discussions about what we should do. Some of us said that Since old Leibe Forman (the father of our Step Father) had such a great and fast horse we should join about half of the Jewish residents of the shtetl and cross the border with them. It turned out the attempt was futile, when they reached the border that night they were sent back. Many waited there for a few days. Sadly only a few single people with no families were able to snick across the border. The rest returned to Dolhinov.
The image of the first German unit entrance to Dolhinov is very prominent in my memory. Two or three tanks came to the town. We lived in the central market in a location that had perfect view of the towns comings and goings. Hundreds of thrilled Christians from the town and the neighboring farming communities came to the Market place to celebrated the liberation from the Communists. The women greeted the Germans with flower bouquets. Excluding me there were no Jews visible outdoors, it seemed like I was the only Jewish person watching them.
The Germans immediately reorganized the local civil government. They put one of their guys in charge. They organized a civil police unit to assist them. Some of the local Polish and the Belarusian residents became part of that police. The entire Jewish population with no exception became outlawed. We lost all civil rights. A Judenrat was created to communicate between the Jews and the Germans and financial rules that were set to harm the Jewish people were soon implemented. Jewish homes were all painted with the words Juden in huge letters. Jewish people who were found outdoors were kidnapped in order to perform hard labor. Some of them never returned, they were beaten and killed.
Dolhinov started to be crowded with Jewish refuges from nearby towns. As soon as the Germans entered towns in the area across the old border, places that were part of the Soviet Union for many years, the Germans killed their Jewish residents. Many Jews from Pleshntzitz escaped and relocated to Dolhinov, they were warned in time of the impending massacre in their town. The towns people opened their homes to the refugees. Every Jewish home had guests, we had a few staying in our home. We had a young Girl from the Galperin Family and a youth from Pleshntzitz. Leibe Forman also moved in with us. All Jews were required to wear yellow Jewish stars both on the front and on the back. The order to wear yellow Jewish stars came on the Jewish day of fast of Tisha Beav and every Jew in town fasted that day!
Every day came with new orders against us.
Fear and terror enveloped every Jewish home. It was very dangers to be seen outdoors. We forced ourselves to stay locked in our homes. We were very fearful since we (Jews) were not permitted to walk on the sidewalks. Instead we were required to walk in the center of the roads. Fearful of being seen, the backyards were now used to get from one place to another. All The Jewish inhabitants left one window in each house un-insulated during the winter in order that they could jump out and escape when needed. We also started selling most of our possessions to buy food. Bushke I was in college in Grodno. The city was at that point of time on the border with Germany. I remember that late at night a horrible missiles attack stunned us. The entire city was tremulous from the explosions that came from the sky and from all directions of the land. Already on the second day that the war started the Germans arrived to town and occupied the dormitory I lived in and made it their headquarters. The College became their center of operations. I knew that I must be with my family. I needed to obtain an identification card in order to catch a train. I would not be able to travel anywhere without one. Every train was checked. I went to a professor who I knew who now was ordered to work for the Germans. He was very kind and I was able to obtain tourist papers from him and that enabled me to get on a train going north. I was sitting in a train car wearing a yellow star, a Christian woman who set next to me strongly suggested to me that I did not need to wear it. You are not Jewish she said, Take it of (I did not look Jewish). Taking it off, I was able to make my way safely back to Dolhinov. I was very happy to be with my family, for better and for worst as long as we are together. We knew that things were going to be bad, but in our worst nightmares we did not anticipate how bad things were to become. We expected that a set of rules would be implemented and we will greatly suffer financially. But we could not imagine murders and organized annihilation of women, children and old. As we gradually realized that every day there is a new retribution and additional restriction imposed upon us, the indication that our end is near became harder to ignore. We knew that we must run and take cover. it would be the only means that we could save ourselves from undisputable death sentence. However we had to acknowledge the bitter recognition that there was no route of escape for us. I will never forget my mother constant worries and plans for each and every one of us. Mother went to one of her Christian friends and begged her Bushka does not look Jewish, could you please take her in? I will pay you. The answer was no, the woman did not want to take the risk. Harboring a Jew was punishable by death to the entire family.
I must make clear that the German policy was to isolate each Shtetl and prevent communication amongst the Jews so that each town would not learn what was happening elsewhere. Despite the prohibition on all communication Rumors began to circulate that Jews in the neighboring towns were being mutilated and exterminated. However the facts were not clear. We did not know about the massacres in Molodechno, Vilejka, Miadel and even in Kurenitz on the 14 of October in 1941 (during Simchat Torah). Walking or riding out of our town even a few kilometers away was most dangers. A rumor spread in town that a few Jews left for the nearest town and they were found, tortured and then executed.
A STORM IS RAPIDLY APROUCHING
In the weeks between Purim and Pesach, in the middle of March, 1942 we heard more rumors of mass executions in shtetls near and far. We conclusively recognized that mass executions were to be our prospect in the near future. Where could we find a shelter? everyone asked.
My mothers brother, Abba Gitlitz, remembered that his house had a small basement that was years ago packed and shut. He secretly re-dug the entrance to the basement under his house and the family began sleeping there. We knew the techniques and the chronology of the massacres in the area. First the Germans would come at a late night hour and surround the towns from all directions and early in the morning the massacre will start. It happened just like that in Dolhinov;
On March 28, 1942 the Germans surrounded the town. Abba told our family to immediately go to the basement. Mother, my two sisters; Little Sara and Chaya, abbas two older sons and the Shaingart family- the neighbors from across the street- went inside the basement. Abba put a water container in front of the secret door to hide the place from view. Abbas wife would not enter since their little baby David was crying and she feared that the baby would give away the hiding place. She instead ran to a Christian woman and gave her a fur coat and promised to give her a gold watch if she would hide her and they would not be found. The woman refused to let her enter. Eventually she was found by the Germans and was killed with baby David. The Christian woman still requested the watch from Abba. When nighttime arrived Abba, who hid outdoors, knocked on the door, he then opened it and called us to get out, since the Germans left. We crawled out of the basement and felt emotionally broken when we realized that many people were killed. We knew that it was only the beginning. Winter was very cold that year and some, who were hiding outdoors in the fields, were severally frostbitten, if they had survived their feet would have had to be amputated. Abba toes were frozen. We discovered that the Germans had executed 700-800 of the Dolhinov Jews on that day.
A ghetto with no illusions
Chaia We collected the bodies from the streets and the backyards, their homes and their hiding places, and buried them in a common brotherly grave. The survivors became shadow like creatures. The fear from what we recognized were imminent atrocities against us, kept us awake at nights. People worked hard for the Germans hoping that they would be saved and the Germans promised the Judenrat that no more actions would occur. We all knew that we could not trust that promise; still the will to survive was very strong. There was only one case of suicide by a person who returned home after the massacre and found out that his entire family was killed.
In April, all the Jews received an order to move to a ghetto on a small part of Borisov Street. I still remember the parade of Jews being forced to walk with a few meager belonging to the ghetto.
Prior to moving mother worked tirelessly to burn our belongings so that the Germans and their local collaborators would not obtain them. All the fireplaces in town worked overtime so that as many belongings could be burned prior to the deadline to relocate. Families were crowed into a few homes in the ghetto area with each room containing at list one family. Our entire family together with the Riar family and a refugee from Lodge lived in one room. The Schreibman family, mothers brother; Shimon Gitlitz and his family and Rachel Katz (Shimons sister in law) with her baby moved into another room. Two single people resided in the kitchen. The same kind of crowding was in all the homes in the Ghetto. The ghetto was surrounded by a wooden fence and barbed wire around the fence. Outside the ghetto stood the local policemen. The Judenrat forced some of the ghetto Jews to watch us from the inside. While in this house we discovered that the little shed in the back of the house had a door which allowed passage to the to the area outside of the ghetto that the Germans did not know about. At list we all were assuming that they did not know about it. We decided to use it on a later day when we would need to escape. However, all of our family members who attempted to get out through the gate during the second massacre were killed, as I will tell you later.
On April 29, 1942, a communication was clandestinely announced in the ghetto that the Germans surrounded the ghetto and many SS units and Gestapo units came to town. We scurried to a different hiding place, which was prepared by the Schreibamn family and was used by them and their children during the first massacre. The hiding place was below a balcony roof and we had to drop deep down from the ceiling to get 9 people into this spot. Mother, my two sisters and I, Gita Gitlitz, the wife of Shimon Gitlitz (mothers brother) with her two sons, Gitas sister Feiga Shriebam with her daughter entered this site. All the men did not go into the hiding place but instead attempted to escape through the gate door and some decided to hide in a pile of cut woods. In the morning of April 29th, the Germans entered the ghetto and commenced with their butchery. The Christian neighbors went from house to house to uncover our hiding spots for the Germans. When they would discover one type of hiding place they would look for the same kind in other homes. We heard screaming and pleas from the discovered Jews followed by gunshots, explosion of grenades and silence. We lay in our hiding place frozen with fear avoiding even a whisper. Time passed and time and again we would hear cries and screams that ended with gunshots.
My mother whispered to us at one point;
If we are to be caught we should not cry my daughters, we should not beg them for our lives since it does not help anyway, we should not expect mercy from them. We should die with our self respect and dignity knowing who we are.
Then she stopped talking; we heard some of the local policemen entering our home. They went to the attic in the lower side of the house. The Schreibmans were a fairly wealthy family and many of their possession were located there. The neighbors and the local police went there and began looting; they did not call the Germans. They were so busy looting that we were not discovered and survived that first day.
Resembling descending autumn leaves .
Bushke When night came it was relatively quiet for a short period, they must have been tired from all the looting and killings. However, the Germans returned the next morning and discovered some new hiding places. They even checked homes that were already checked the day before to see if anyone returned. Shortly before the evening set, the neighbors again went to the attic near our hiding place. We overheard someone say; it looks suspicious They began knocking on the walls and we heard someone ask for an ax. We feared the worst. Yet subsequently we heard an argument ensue
What are you doing here brigade number four? and then
It is our territory we are brigade five get out of here.
The first group left and a bugle sound occurred shortly after calling all the Germans to get together. We were safe again after the second day. We knew our lives were in danger and we should leave that night, as the Germans would come back with their axes the next day. We all came down and headed for the gate door but it was locked. We now knew that the men in our family were killed that day including; my step father; Yakov Foreman and Aronchik and Nachman Gitlitz (the sons of Abba Gitlitz, the brother of our mother), mothers other brother; Shimon Gitlitz and Feigas husband and son; Chaim and Chilik Shreibman. Later we found out that our Grandmother Feige (nee Deutsch) Gitlitz was killed. Aunt Chaia-sora, and her son Gadlya Eidelman were also killed. There was no time to mourn. We took with us a few loaves of bread and succeeded to leave the ghetto during the night.
After leaving the ghetto we decided to find the Christian farmer; Peter in Yashkova. Our first cousins; Shimon Gitlitzs children, were hiding in his farm during the first massacre and we knew that we could trust him. It was getting late and dawn was coming up, so we hid in the bushes knowing that we could not be seen during daylight hours. We were all scared of getting caught, as there was a young boy nearby tending sheep. Mother said while walking, You see my daughters, there is so much hatred and carnage around us. If anyone stays alive, the only place for us to go is Eretz Israel. We thought of that statement as a commandment. In the dark that night we succeeded in finding Peter. Peter cried and hugged us all.
Peter hid us in a haystack barn even though he knew he was risking his life. He allowed us to stay with him for a few days. We returned to town to find only 400 were left alive out of the 5000 (including refugees) Jewish inhabitants who lived there just a little more then a month before. There were also a smaller number of homes that they let us use. We learned that some single people ran away to the forest and we decided to do the same.
Only Abba Gitlitz survived from all the men in mothers family (he hid in the forests). We asked him to organize and lead us to the forest since we now had only women and children amongst our group. He said that he had no strength or desire to live since he lost his wife and three sons and he did not want to start again. We all felt sorry for him not so much for not being able to convince him to come with us but mostly for his lack of will to survive and the depths of his despair. We learned later that he was killed after a few weeks. The women in our family were very terrified to go to the woods by themselves. Mother asked Shimon Katzovitz, the brother of our father (Our father died when we were young children), to take our family out of the ghetto. He agreed to take only 2 of us with him. He took my sister Chaia and I (Bushke) along with his daughters; Mindel and Shula. Reluctantly we left the ghetto and the others behind and headed for the forest. A woodsman who knew our uncle helped us. We would hide in the forest during the daylight hours. We were very frightened all day long and were terrified that the sheep herdsmen would see us and report us to the Germans. At night we would cook on a fire with the help of the woodsman.
Stories circulated amongst the farmers about many Jews hiding in the forest and many bonfires lit by the Jewish townspeople who now lived outdoors. The woodsman was worried that the Germans would realize that the Jews are hiding in the forest and they would discover us. He did not ask us to leave, but he seemed very uneasy. The woodsman was promised money if he would continue to communicate with us after we leave the area. There were other Jews from Dolhinov near us; our relative Avram Eatcha (Dimenstein) was one of them. He joined us and now we were six people. We discussed what to do and decided that two people should return to the ghetto to bring some food, supplies and money for the woodsman so that he would permit us to stay a little longer. I (Bushke) was selected by the Jews in the forest to go to Neiki (originally a settlement of Jewish people who served in the czars army for many years) to see if the people who lived there could help us. They selected me since I did not appear Jewish.
I decided to go, I put a Farm Girl scarf on my head. I crossed the train tracks and discovered that there were no Jews left in Neike and we would not be able to stay there and I immediately returned to our hideout. Several towns people who met me suspected that I was Jewish. The towns- people searched around the train tracks for Jews and we knew that we must leave the area soon. One night a heavy Rainstorm came and we were drenched down to our bones. Our few possessions became wet as well and there was no place to hide. The next morning while we dried ourselves in the sun Avraham Yitcha began to worry that we would become sick. Who would take care of us when we will get sick? A death sentence is hanging over our head. Lets go and die amongst the Jews.
It was one thing to talk about a Jewish community but another to find one. We knew that most of the shtetls in the area were at that point Jewish Free the only place we did not know about was Kurenitz. Chaia decided to go with Avram Eatche to Dolhinov to bring some money for the woodsman so he would be willing to check the surrounding communities to see if Jews survived in any. And we decided to remain there for now.
From Dolhinov to Kanihinina and back
to the woods.
We arrived to the ghetto in Dolhinov aiming to go back to the forest as soon as we collect some supplies. As it turned out I did not go back. Here is what had happened;
I arrived in Dolhinov and found my mother, I told her about our life in the woods; I told her how we feel like chased animals. We constantly have to hide and move from place to place, and there is no shelter from the elements, we are permanently outdoors.
Mother said dont go back to the woods, it is to hard for you the lifestyle there. Work for Germans in the Kanihinina camp. The people in that camp seem to be treated well and so far they did not have any mass executions there. I listen to my mother and registered with the Judenrat to be sent there. We left for the camp a few days later. My mother must have had a vision
A few days after I left, on May 21, 1942 the Germans came back to Dolhinov to liquidate the rest of the Jews in Dolhinov ghetto. Only a few Jews were able to escape to the forest all the rest were slaughtered. When I heard about the massacre I became very worried for my mother and my little sister Sara for many days.
In the camp we were afforded showers once a week, received bread and cooked foods and life there seemed a little more privileged by compression to life in the forest. The winter was cold and rainy with the spring arriving late. Yizhak Klorin used to say, You know why G-d made it so rainy this year? It is because Jews are outdoors in the forests.
Avraham Feinsilber was the Jewish leader of the camp. He would decide where to sent us to work. At the camp, men would mostly set supplies on German trains and the women mostly did the cleaning for the German officers. The camp consisted of one big building near the train station. The building was surrounded by barbwires.
One day while I was working, a Christian woman came to the camp. When we met she reminded me that she was Liza, our former housekeeper. I asked her about Dolhinov.
All the Christian inhabitants of Dolhinov became wealthy they confiscated the possessions that were left by the Jews.
After some weeks in the labor camp I had a most strange encounter. A young, naïve looking, man clandestinely appeared one night in our camp; he was dressed in Soviet uniform. His name was Yuzik Blacher. He had a distinct look; his eyes were burning with passion under a very high forehead. The people who were in the camp for many months told me amazing tales about him; he was an Estonian Jew, who came to our area with the red army at the end of the Soviet Union rule. With open mouths we listen to his stories. He told us that many young Jews from Dolhinov and other shtetls in the area had joined the partisans and other former residents of Dolhinov with their families were hiding in the woods near the partisans camp. He told us about Timchuk who became the hero of Dolhinov. Although Timchuk was not a Jew he did all that he could to save people. Prior to the German invasion, he employed many Jews in the soviet kolchose Serbitz that he managed. He now became a leader of the Partisans and helped many families in the forest. I learned from the Estonian that he met my mother and Sarah in the forest and that my mother begged him to go to the camp and help me escape and join them. All the people from Dolhinov decided to escape. The people from Krivichi decided to stay for now.
The Estonian helped us to escape from the camp and I joined my mother and my little sister. The Jews of Dolhinov who escaped the massacres were all living in the woods. We were very happy to be together but still very worried since no one knew about Bushke. Here is what my mother told me about the last days of the ghetto in Dolhinov; The Christians were watching the ghetto. Every night they put bonfires in an attempt to light the area to disclose any escaping Jews. One night they could hear a grinding machine approaching the ghetto, rumors spread that it was a bone-grinding machine for the Jews who were to be killed. They knew that they must escape. Mother and Sara told Gita Gitlitz and her sons and they escaped through the passage door. Before they left they urged Sara R. to join them, she refused saying; Where am I to go? Who is to say how old I should be when I die? People could die in their forties, they dont have to wait for their sixties she and her husband must have assumed that their son would be saved since he was the only professional mechanic in the area
While Gita was leaving the gate she could hear the father telling the Germans about the sons qualification to no avail- the last thing she heard were the gunshots.
Once they got out of the gate they were all confused in the dark and they proceed in the fields in different directions. Gita and her sons ran in one direction and mother and Sara scurried in another. Mother and Sara found themselves in the Jewish cemetery. There they stumble upon Zlata Dokshitzi and her daughter Chaia. They hid together in the fields for many weeks eating only barley. They had to move to a different hiding place when the fields were mowed so they proceeded to the forest. One night they saw shadows behind the bushes were they hid. It turned out to be other Jews from Dolhinov. amongst them was Israel Radoshkovitz. The four women joined them in their hideout in the forest. In the hideout they found Gitta and her sons who ran in the other direction on the night of the third massacre. Gita told them that they hid in the fields for many days and since she and her sons were starving they headed back to Dolhinov to give themselves up. Leibe Radishkovitz who was the nephew of Gita, ran into them near Dolhinov and brought them back to the forest. When Gita and my mother reunited in the forest they all felt rejuvenated to continue the fight to survive. (After the war Gita Gitlitz immigrated to Israel with her two sons. Her son Israel immediately joined the army. He was killed at the age of 19 during the 1948 War of Independence.) .
As I could not go to Nieki I decided to go to Kurenitz since I heard that there were still many Jews there. (The final massacre in Kurenitz was in 9- 9- 1942.On that day1040 Jews were killed. a few hundreds Jews escaped to the forests) Avram Dimenstein joined me. We walked there the entire night. We arrived to kurenitz early in the morning and we were taken by some Jewish families to reside with them in spite of the fact that everybody subsisted in the most deprived circumstances. It was also very dangerous for them to take us since we were not registered in Kurenitz. The police was looking for unregistered people.
One day while walking in a field on the outskirts of Kurenitz a horse and buggy passed by me. Someone yelled my name. To my great surprise it was Abrasha Feinsilber from Dolhinov. He was sick and came to see a doctor in Kurenitz. He told me that mother and my little sister were living in the woods and that Chaia escaped from the Knahanina camp to the woods to join them. He suggested that all Dolhinovites who resided in Kurenitz should go with him to the Kanihinina camp that was run by the German army and not the Gestapo and subsequently was not inspected vigilantly. He could arrange for a job for us since we could replace the Jews who worked for the Germans and recently escaped from the camp. From there he said, it would be easier for us to escape to the woods.
One night we left Kurenitz and snuck into the camp.
Our situation improved in the camp. We knew that it was only temporary but every day we were sent to work in a different location. I mainly worked in the fields.
I kept hearing stories about the guy from Estonia who was leading Jews to the woods from the camp and from some ghettos. Some of the young men in the camp wanted to join the partisans. A few of them left with the Estonian in order to talk to leaders of the partisans about the possibility of being accepted into their ranks. We were fearful in camp when they left that the Germans would realize that they are not there and kill us all as a punishment. But they returned safely with good news. We received a green light to leave the camp.
We started planning our escape. The only Jews from Dolhinov who were with me in the camp were the once who came with me from Kurenitz. From Krivichi there were; the family W. , Eliezar Showd.and others. Every one planed to escape, consequently something occurred that made us carry on the escape at an earlier time then we originally intended. One day German troops came to the camp from Vileyka with the Gestapo. They left after a short time. We knew this was not a good sign. Some of the Germans who we worked for told us that they received orders to move and another troop will come to the camp. We knew that the signs were pointing to our impending annihilation. We decided to escape during that night. We escaped to the woods that night during a patrol changeover. We broke the wired fence and ran to the forest. We did not want to leave without Abrasha Feinsilber who we knew would be killed for letting us to escape so we waited for him in a near by forest. We became very worried since he did not come for a long time. All of a sudden we saw a German officer running sweetly to our direction. We froze with fear. And then we realized . It was Abrasha Feinsilber!
He was held by the highest German officer and was not able to join us sooner. The German officer suspected that we will try to escape and held Abrasha since he assumed that he is our leader and we will not leave without him.
Abrasha was able to overpower the German officer when he went to the bathroom and took his uniform and gun. Fearing the Germans and their dogs that were coming we now separated and quickly ran to the area of the partisans camp before morning would come.
A few days later I learned of the tragic death of Abrasha who saved so many of us and facilitate our escape. He and did not have time to change his clothes. He ran into a small unit of partisans and since he was wearing the German uniform, the partisans killed him even though he tried to explain that he was a Jew and had helped many Jews to escape. (Possibly a partisan wanted his better gun?)
A Journey passed the enemy lines.
I must confess that my sister and I should apologize for not remembering dates of when most events took place.
I clearly remember the dates of the massacre, however so many years later I dont remember how long I was in the woods with uncle Shimon Katzovitz, and when Chaia left us, or how long I was in Kurenitz or when I met Abrasha and arrived and left the camp.
You would assume that arriving to the partisans camp would solve all our problems. It was not so at first. The Partisans did not allow us (non fighting Jews) to live with them but being near them made us feel better protected from the Germans. There was no food for us at first, and I was almost starving. I had no strength to move. Finally a piece of meat was given to me, which helped. We did not have winter clothes and were living in the forest. Among us there was no consensus as to how to proceed. The partisans decided to move us to an area passed the Russian front. We walked 1000 kilometers, during the nights, through fields and forests; we walked in one long line in total silence. I was always in anxiety fearing that the person who was walking in front of me would become lost in the fog. We slept outdoors during the cold and rainy weather lighting bonfires for warmth, even though the partisans who led us outlawed it for feared that we would be discovered. We finally arrived in the Partisan controlled area. During the nights, the local farmers were very helpful and took care of us and shared their little food with us. Early one morning, we met several Russian soldiers from the red army. The soldiers helped us to cross through the front area. They were dressed in white and the soldiers could hardly be spotted through the snow. We could hear bombardment and we finally arrived at a little house in the road in the Soviet side of the front. All the partisans left us and the young Jewish men were taken for training to in order to afterward join the fight against the Germans. The women and children remained waiting.
One day it was our turn. They took us to the train station. We sat in the various cars and the train moved forward. German planes continuously dropped bombs on the tracks. It was blind luck that no one was hurt during the train ride. Finally we arrived in a town across the border near the Russia Front. Once again they divided us among the local residents and we stayed at their homes. There were relentless explosions through the night. The house where we stayed was out of harms way.
Chaia One day, I was away from the family camp in the forest near the Partisan base. I wanted to see my mother so I went for a visit. When I returned, I was told that a unit of Partisans stopped by. They were very well dressed with winter clothes with much ammunitions and silencers. I was told that they just passed through the front lines and arrived in the occupied area. Amongst them there was a young man from Wilejka who studied with me in high school. It was David Koplovich. We knew him well in Dolhinov since every summer vacation he would come to visit his relatives who lived in Dolhinov. David told us some very good news. He said there are cracks in the front line where the Germans are now fighting with Russia and through them it is possible to cross over and to escape deep into unoccupied areas of the Soviet Union. This was over the end of the summer. In our camp, there were many families and it was already numbering a few hundreds. They became a real burden on the fighting partisans. The partisan unit was headed by Uncle Vassia (nickname). The second in command was our savior Timzuk. I will never forget the slogan that Timzuk frequented;. We must rescue the Jewish survivors. He was constantly concerned vis-à-vis us and tried to help in whichever way he could. As time passed, a committee of the leaders of the partisan units in our area together with the Russian command decided to transfer the non-fighting forest inhabitants across the enemy lines deep into the Soviet Union. They determined that the young men would be trained in the Soviet Union and subsequently be included as soldiers in the combat effort. Others who could help in the war effort would replace workers who joined the battle. The rest of us would be transported deep into Russia. The day they decide on for the start off of the lengthy expedition was the day the Germans attacked the inhabitants of the forest. German units arrived with enormous force and encircled the section of the woods in the vicinity of the partisans camp. They launched their bombardment and the partisan units returned fire. The partisans recognized that they are greatly outnumbered and begun an organized retreat. One unit would provide cover as another unit retreated. Previous to the commencement of the battle we were already standing in an organized procession eager to leave for the long journey. Everyone ran in a disorganized fashion in a fright as soon as we heard the explosions. Relentless fire came from all sides. Some Jews from Dolhinov were wounded, including our little sister Sara. A bullet entered her cheek. Another who was injured was Mordechai Hadash who had a bullet in his leg. Also Briana Katz who was in that point of time in her seventies. ( Briana Katz went through all versions of hell, until she arrived in Israel to her daughter Bella Levine in Kibbutz Daphne. She was fortunate to live many years into her nineties.) The beautiful Chaia Shulkin who was a partisan was killed. She was extremely brave and the last link of the renowned family; Shulkin. Together with her, a Jewish woman from Minsk was killed. The surprised attack by the enemy caused a delay in our departure. After two weeks, in the middle of August 1942, we finally left. The head of the procession and the leader was the Partisan Kissolov. He was known to many of the survivors of our town. Mother and our little sister Sara were transferred as a result of the wound to the care of Dr. Kottler in the medical unit. Obviously they didnt go with us. They left three weeks later.
Mordi Hadash who was wounded had to stay in the forest with his wife; they did not survive. At this point I had to separate from Mother and Sara and proceed by myself. We also did not meet Bushke and we did not know what had happened to her. I left with other people of Dolhinov; we walked through forests and fields that were covered with snow. We walked for many nights and days a distance further than 1000 kilometers away. We walked only at night time, from forest to forest, through small back roads far away from the main infrastructure that were patrolled by the Nazis. During daylight hours we hid in the forests and tried to catch some sleep. We had very limited amounts of food. All we ate were a few baked potatoes each day. Usually with no salt and sometimes we would just cook them in muddy water. The march continued for many weeks. Our shoes were totally torn from walking during the rain, via marshland and mud. Many walked barefooted in the frost and the snow. It was our circumstances for many days until we reached Vitbesk. . When we arrived there, we learned that the Partisan Units controlled virtually the entire area. From here on we were guests of the local population. We slept in their homes and they shared their food with us. Ultimately we came to areas that were free from the Germans. Sometime in the beginning of 1943, we finally arrived to the town of Padochi, which was on the Russian front. Instead of crossing we decided to sleep there that night. We were separated into three groups. I was with the 3rd unit and we arrived for the last night rest and were the last to leave. That night was the night the Germans re-conquered the town. The first unit was lost and everyone was killed. The second unit and our unit had time to escape. Tragically Jews who survived all the massacres in town and went on a long arduous journey passing through enemy territory, found their death in Padochi on the day they were going to cross to the safety of the Soviet Union.
We knew we had to continue. We separated again. Many went far, far away deep into Russia. Others found jobs closer to the border. Our entire procession separated into small units. I was by myself in Russia. I only found mother and Sara during the summer of 1944. After the Nazis were expelled from the area of Dolhinov. I wrote to the town Mayor. Mother also wrote to the civil government there. As soon as I found out where they were I immediately traveled to be with them. Bushke was not with us and we did not know where she was. In 1946, in either Brichbach, or Lodge, we were re-united with her and we proceeded to reach the place mother determined we should live in during the very dark days when we walked to Peters house. We arrived in Eretz Israel.
Epilogue At this juncture appear the conclusion of our journey and our mutual story. Our tale came to some termination although it mostly reached a fresh beginning. Much more is absent than is told and there is to a great extent lack of continuity in this story. We recognize our duty to carry on and tell about our journey. Particularly to tell the chronicles regarding our extraordinarily determined and courageous mother. Nevertheless our contribute to the book of our community;
Eternal Flame, Remembrance to Dolhinov arrived to a finale.