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Chana Shafran (nee Pozner)
From a book by Yeudah Cheres, The Town is Burning, p. 74
Chana grew up in Molodechno to a mother whose family lived in the area for many years, and a father who came to the Molodechno area from Warsaw.
Here is a short version of a story from the book:
Since my father came from Warsaw and could speak Polish fluently, he was very active in public life in Molodechno both with the Jewish and the Polish people. He had close relations even with the Polish priest. On October 25th, 1941, this relationship proved crucial since the priest saved our lives. On that day, they gathered all the Jewish men to be killed, and the priest helped my father, sister and I escape the death sentence. My mother, who was waiting at home, was caught and killed. My sister Lyuba, my father Mordechai Pozner, and I escaped and eventually we arrived to the Vileyka camp, where we worked for a year and a half. All the Jews were housed in a big barracks, which was surrounded by barbed wire. The only entrance to this ghetto camp was with the clearance of the German officers. As we were getting ready to run away to the forest [around April or March, 1943?], a Christian man who came to get bullets for the partisans, which the Jews hid in a piece of wood, was taken by a German policeman. When we heard they took him, we assumed that any minute they would come and kill us all. My father ran from the place where he worked as a welder together with Kopel Spector from Kurenets. He came running to where we working and immediately told my little sister Lyuba and I to join him. We escaped through a hole in the fence and walked quickly to some streets until we reached the house of a Polish woman named Mrs. Simkovich. Mrs. Simkovich was originally from Molodechno. She was a very noble woman. She was the owner of a pharmacy in Molodechno, and her house was near our old home, and our parents became very friendly with her. Now she promised that she would help us.
My father explained the situation to her in how the Germans were looking for us. She quickly took us to her backyard, and from there we went up to an attic above the cowshed. We hid there inside a pile of hay. We hid there for three days. Mrs. Simkovich would sneak in and bring us a little bit of food every night, a little bit of baked potatoes and milk. She not only endangered her life but also the lives of her children since in her home lived an officer of the SS, as well as a local policeman.
After three days we knew that we had to leave. We all left separately. A tragedy occurred when we were almost at the end of Vileyka: my little sister was taken by a young Belarussian guy and he brought her to the Germans. We never saw her again.
After much trouble, and many dangerous situations, we reached, after two days of very difficult walking, the forest. We passed through a village that was all burned down. I think its name was Zoltaki. There we encountered a partisan who interrogated us about who we were, and when he found out we were Jews, he took us to a group of Jews who had escaped earlier from the ghetto in Vileyka. After a long walk, we finally got to the Puszsta deep in the forest. We were completely exhausted and we were brought to a Zimlanka [an underground dwelling, completely hidden but very much like a real house with beds, furnaces, etc.]. This was first time in our lives that we had seen such a strange building. After a few minutes, a bearded man came out of this Zimlanka and he introduced himself as a Jewish refugee from Kurenets, Shalom Cheres. His oldest daughter, Roshka, explained to us where we were and told us the names of all the villages, and explained life in the forest to us, letting us know what to do if we encountered villagers, or if we heard any shots, if there were any blockades, etc. I have no words to describe the freedom we felt during those moments. Finally there was no barbed wire or ghetto fences that kept us in, always fearing. Here the vastness of the forest seemed like an ideal hideout for Jews who were being chased. Here there was almost a feeling of exhilaration during the first days in the peaceful atmosphere of the forest. We sat around the campfire and ate baked potatoes. We all exchanged stories of the horrors that we had experienced. Eventually we moved to another forest near the village Margi. The person who took us there was Lazar Torov. The next day after we arrived, we heard shots and the family who we stayed with suggested that we leave since the Germans were in the forest. We walked to another area and slowly we started getting used to life in the forest.