Shlomo Rogovin was the oldest son of YITZHAK AND RACHELLE ROGOVIN from Vishnevo
From Nachum Alperovitz story; .....We had a relative in Vileyka named Mandel's ( Shlomo Rogovin, son in law of Mendel Alperovitz from Kurenets) who was a merchant of bicycles, radio equipment, and even had one motorcycle in his store- that was a new commodity in our area at the time.
Vileyka was a more modern town than Kurenets and it had a printing house that was owned by a Jewish man named Flexer. Flexer was very successful and decided to open a second store to sell bicycles. Rogovin was very upset, and decided to open a printing shop in retaliation. He bought printing material, and stole the best worker from Flexer, a man by the name Abraham Markovitz.....
from; Three years/ by Yitzhak, son of Nethka Zimerman
9/9/1942.....There was the Rogovin family from Vilejka, and the family of Yosef the son of Motel Leib Kopershtook. Sometime earlier, Zev Kopershtook had been murdered. So now Yosef would go to sleep at his parents home in the central market, but his wife and children would sleep at Mikhail's house. On this particular morning, Yosef didn't return and his wife, Rachel, was very worried. While we were standing at the entrance to Mikhail's house, we saw from the market-side, Mishka Takchonik's sister, a Christian woman, approaching. When she came near us, she yelled at us, "Why are you standing there like that, stupid Jews? Didn't you hear what is happening in town? Quickly, hide! Half of the town's Jews are already murdered, and you are standing here as if nothing has happened."
We started running.....
.....My wife whispered to me, "Itzhak, are you asleep? Someone is walking here. Could it be the Germans? How could it be that they would chase us at night in the forest?" I whispered to her, "We must not move. If we lie down, they won't see us in the dark, but if we move and try to escape they'll see us." So we lay there quietly listening intently. We heard sounds of steps, and then a voice of a child, "Mama, mama." Immediately we understood that these were our brothers, and I cried out, "Jews, come here." It was our neighbors Mikhail Alperovich from Badanova, his wife and two children, The Rogovin family and the husband of Zelda, the daughter of Chaim Michael. We sat together discussing the situation, suggesting where we should go. They were all very happy to see me since it was well known that I was, since my teenage days, a traveler. I used to join my father in his travels around the villages and forests, and my experience, they realized could be very useful now. Deeper in the Forest We rested a bit, but since I was chosen as the guide, I encouraged them to move ahead rapidly. To sit here, next to town, was extremely dangerous. We had to distance ourselves from any populated areas and go deep into the forest. Our assumption was right. Many days later, I was told that on the same day the Germans had caught Herschel, the oven-maker, and his family, eight souls, in the forest not far from Kurenitz, and killed them all. I didn't have a compass, but my senses guided me in finding trails that would take us to the deepest woods. When we got about five kilometers away from the town, the woods became very dense and it was almost impossible to walk. We were scratched and hurt from the tree branches, and we had to carry our young children in our arms. That's where we were at dawn, when rain came down and drenched us. It was our second day without food. When we left home, we only had one piece of bread, and we'd given that to our children. All that day we stayed in that area, and at night we decided to go to the Sakovitz village to ask for food. Mikhail had a Christian friend in Sakovitz by the name of Ivan, who used to work for Mikhail in the days of Polish rule. Earlier, Mikhail had given him many of his possessions to store in his house for safekeeping. Now Mikhail wholeheartedly believed that if he came to Ivan, Ivan would be very happy to see him, and would do whatever he could to feed us with the best that he could offer. But Mikhail didn't know how to get from where we were to Sakovitz, so Rogovin and I joined him to show him the way. For a long hour, we walked through the thick woods until we found the village. We walked through the fields so that the villagers wouldn't see us. We knocked on Ivan's door. When he saw us, he looked extremely scared, as if we were ghosts that had come from the grave. He murmured, "Have pity. Quickly run away from here. In God's name, run away and save yourselves and me. There are many Germans in the village. If they see you in my house they'll kill me and you together." Mikhail and Rugbin were ready to run, but I was not so easy to trick, so I just stood there and said, "We have no reason to save ourselves, and you must give us bread. We have nothing to lose. Better we die from a bullet than from starvation." Knowing the soul of the beast, it was clear to me that begging would not suffice. So I continued, in a threatening voice, "If you won't give us bread, we will burn your home and your possessions. We are people with a death sentence hanging over our heads. We have nothing to lose. You must know that we intend to keep our threats." Ivan the Christian farmer looked at us in terror. He brought a huge loaf of bread. It could easily have weighed as much as eight kilos. We left to return to our families with the supplies. We trudged on for miles and miles through the forest, we got lost for a short while, but finally, we found the women and children. We also brought water in bottles, and we divided the food and the drink amongst the group. This experience was an important lesson for me. It was like a candle that lit my steps through our journey in the forest. We had to be strong in spirit. We couldn't afford to give up or to be depressed. Even the shadow of defeat could kill us. We spent that night in the forest. The next morning, which was the eve of Rosh Hashanah, we decided to move forward. My plan was to reach the Pelita, a place were Leib Motosov had a factory prior to WWI. While we were walking, Mikhail decided to separate from us and to go to the village Kalin. There, he said, lived a gentile that he had given the rest of his belongings to, and who had promised to help him whenever he needed aid. So Mikhail and his wife went to this man's home. We were later told that when the man saw them, he murdered them with his own hands. We continued without them. It was about ten in the morning. The sun slanted through the tree branches, and a deep silence filled the woods. The towering pine trees swayed with the wind from side to side. The sound resonated like the hum of a devotional prayer. The sounds of birds were heard everywhere, echoing in the woods. How we envied the birds that were free to sing and call each other, while we were here, whispering, walking on our tip-toes, lost and fearful, not knowing what danger zone we might reach next. All of a sudden, I smelled smoke. In panic, we leapt into the bushes, fearing that there were people nearby who might see us. Our eyes were searching, our ears were listening, and our minds wondered what the origin of this smoke could be. Could it be shepherds from the neighboring village that made a bonfire in the woods? Or maybe it was Jews who had escaped? All of a sudden, I saw a group of people, gathered a short distance from the road. It was Israel Alperovitz, our town's butcher, his wife Chaya, their son Yosil, and the wife of Zondil their other son......
Where Are We Going? We were three families traveling together. The Rugbin family, Israel Alperovitz family, and my family. We all wondered where exactly we were. The children were lying quietly, saying nothing. They were not a burden. It was as if they understood that we were in a world of horrible occurrences, and that they had to be responsible and acclimate themselves to the situation. We were thirsty and hungry. I estimated that we were somewhere near the village Hob. I remembered that near the village there was a little river, named Maentenna. From my estimation, we were also about three kilometers from the village Stidiyonka. The villagers from Stidiyonka were known as very cruel gentiles. So where should we go, to Hob or to Stidiyonka? In Hob I also knew there were many isolated farm houses, and that lessened the danger, so we chose to go to Hob. We held hands as we walked so that we wouldn't get lost in the darkness. It was the middle of the night by the time we reached the river. We didn't have any cups or anything else we could drink from, so we all fell to the ground and drank directly from the river. From there, we walked through the fields and headed towards the first farm we encountered. There was no light in the house. When we knocked, the farmer asked, "Who is there?" I answered, "Itzka from Kurenitz, the son of Netka from Shvashzapole". He knew me before the war. He approached the window and gave me half a loaf of bread and some onions. We went on, to another farm, and there they also gave us half a loaf. We took some vegetables from the garden, as well as a big gourd that was next to one of the fences, and with all these supplies we returned to the women and children that were waiting at the edge of the river. It was getting very late. We didnÕt have a watch, but we knew it was after midnight. We entered the woods, but couldn't find our original spot. For three hours we roamed around. All of a sudden Israel said, "My dears, I have no energy to continue. I'll stay here." He was much more tired than the rest of us because he didn't eat the bread, so we stopped and lay down on the ground, bundling up with each other. When we woke up, it was already light. A plane flew over the woods, and the sound was unbearable. We realized that today was Rosh Hashanah. Israel put on the talit, stood next to a tree and prayed. He announced that we must pray for all of our townspeople. When he said this, we all started to cry, and we couldn't console ourselves. ...
...This was the first big cry after fifteen horrible months. We cried for all that had occurred to us. When the sun set, we continued our journey. We walked towards the village Tzavolitkes. When we were about three hundred meters from the village, we met with more of the town's surviving Jews. To my surprise, my sister Rivka with her husband and children, my brother Hilka with his wife, and the daughter of my other brother were among them. I never imagined that anyone of my family survived. They, in turn, had never imagined that I had survived. They lived on Mydell Street, at the spot where the murderers started the killing spree. Once again, we stood there crying, and then continued our journey. Now we had twenty-seven people among our ranks. We entered the village. It was clear to us that as Jews, we belonged to the night. The night, from now on, would be our day. The gentiles didn't dare leave their homes at night. They feared the dark. In this village, we got some bread and onions. That night, we rested in an area between the villages Varoniyatz and Tsavolitzkes, in the middle of the forest. The night was cold, the forest was very dry, and we were dying of thirst. We squeezed plants and sucked their juices. All of sudden, Rugbin remembered that in one of the farms there was a villager that owed him some money for a sewing machine he had bought. We searched for the house of this gentile, and he gave us bread and a pail of milk. We went to him before nighttime. He refused to let us in, telling us to wait outside, and after a short time he brought out the food. He suggested that we never come again, in the daytime, only at night, and he was very astute in his suggestion. We brought the bread and milk to the children, and lay down on the ground to sleep. It was very cold and we couldn't sleep well. We heard the howling of a pack of wolves. They came closer and closer. We were not really scared, but we wanted to get rid of them, so we took some dry branches and lit them with a match we got from the villager. It was a small bonfire, but sufficient to make the wolves disappear. It also warmed us, and made it easier for us to fall asleep. At dawn we awoke, and put out the fire, erased all signs of human population, and traveled to another area. There we ran into a villager from Veronietz who was searching for his horse, which had run away at night. At first we were very scared. Could he be a German agent? But as we continued talking to him, we realized he was an honest and righteous gentile. He told us that we must not stay there. He urged us to go to the Pushtcha, an area deep in the woods, where we would find Jews from the village Nyka who had escaped, and had been hiding there for two months. He started crying and said, "What do they want from you? What do they want from you?" He took bread out of his bag and gave it to the children. He showed us the road to the Pushtcha, and told us that we would also find some Partisans there. "Go there," he said, "and God will be with you." When I think today about this meeting, it warms and encourages me. But on that day, we were cold and suspicious of him, and when he left us, we were scared that he would send the Germans to catch us. In the Deep Pushtcha The Pushtcha was an everglade in our area, measuring about twenty kilometers long, and twelve kilometers wide. There were huge pine trees crowding the area. No man had ever walked in the deepest areas of the Pushtcha. Hundreds of tree limbs lay on the ground where they had fallen during storms, and had been lying there for dozens of years. It was a strange world, dark and wild, a habitat for wolves and wild pigs, foxes and snakes. Not even the villagers of the surrounding area dared to enter the forest. They would travel only to the edges of the forest. There were areas of swamp that one could only walk through in winter, when the swamp froze over. But we were now drawn to the deepest part of the forest. We stood fearfully at the edge for a moment, and wondered, "How could we live here, how could we come and go and find our way?" But even that night we had to stay in the Pushtcha with the children and wives. We walked to the villages Bodka and Talets to obtain some food. Those were the closest villages. When we returned we made a bonfire. We felt much safer, now. We assumed that the Germans would not come there to look for us, even if they knew that Jews were hiding there. They would assure themselves that we would die anyway from starvation and disease. Still, we didn't want to rely totally on our assumptions, so we decided to go as deep as we could, and to watch our step. For now, our main goal was to meet up with the Partisans. On our second day in the Pushtcha, we did just that. We looked at them with tremendous gratitude, as though they were angels from heaven. They greeted us warmly, and joined us. They were dressed very poorly and carried old weapons from WWI. They didn't have much ammunition, only a few bullets. They gave some bread to our children, and were curious to hear of our situation. It seemed to us that they meant well, but they could hardly help us. They had a radio and they told us about what was happening in the world. We sat with them for two hours. They told us about the battle of Stalingrad, they explained to us how to survive in the woods, and they told us in no uncertain terms, that we must never stay in one place for too long, we must change our location a few times a day. They also suggested that we speak quietly because there was echo in the woods, and that we had to whisper and learn signals. They also taught us how to whistle like a common forest bird, and said that if we lost each other, we should use that whistle. We started our long journey in the Pushtcha. We went all around, lengthwise and widthwise, so that we were never in one place for more than a few hours. Throughout our journey, we met many surviving Jews, and they told us details about the slaughter in Kurenitz. From there on started our daily struggle to survive in the Pushtcha, a struggle full of trials and tribulations, a struggle that our horrible fate forced us to face, a struggle that had no comparison or precedent in anything we'd ever heard of, read of or even imagined in our worst nightmares. Generally, the Belarusian villagers in the surrounding areas were sympathetic to us. We received handouts, both from the ones that were behind us ideologically, and the ones that weren't. Some gave out of pity, others gave fearing that we would burn their homes. As time passed, we realized that asking for pity was not as effective as scaring the villagers. We took long pieces of wood and made them look like rifles and, in the dark of night, we went to the villages and threatened them with our "weapons." We also used rough voices and harsh language so that they would think we were Partisans. Our journeys to the villages were ridden with danger. Even the villagers, that we asked handouts from, might have murdered us. Any gentile that would bring a Jew to town, either dead or alive, would receive a bag full of salt as a reward. Salt was a very precious commodity at that time. Sometimes, on our way back from the villages, we weren't able to find our resting places. One family, returning from the village, couldn't find us for two days. Finally we ran into them and brought them back with us. There were many men that acted as policemen for the Germans who lived in the villages around the forest. Among them were included some true murderers.....
from In the Vostok territory
By Abraham Aharon, son of Naftali Alperovich
....during that point of time, we all saw the Vostok as a haven from the brutal life in the forest, here in the forest we were hiding from the Germans and their collaborators, we had been living in little huts exposed to the elements, while winter was approaching. The Vostok we were told, was controlled by the Russian partisans. People prepared for the departure for days, both emotionally and physically. The partisans gave each group a few guides and the Jews stated preparing bread, toast, salt, shoes, and especially lapses(type of Shoes the farmers wore). The ones that could afford the lapses prepared two or three pairs for the very long walk. There was a Jewish shoe maker from Krivichi, he was sitting in his hut in the forest all day preparing shoes.
I was among the very first group to depart the Pushtza. With us, there were fifty-four people, most of whom were from Kurenets. Some were also from Molodetchna. The Shochet from Krivichi, the Rogovin family from Vileyka. We had a guide, a partisan with a rifle. We came to say good-bye to our dear neighbors, Zadok, and the girls. That proved to be very emotional parting.
Among the people from Kurenets who I remember going with us, were Michail Gurfenkail, Yoshka and his sister Feiga Alperovich, the children of Mendel, Hilka, son of Netta Zimmermann and his wife Freidl., Reuven- Zishka and his wife Marka and their children, Motik and Abraham, Shimon, son of Zishka Alperovitch, Yenta and her sister Rachael Dinerstien, Archick, son of Gutza Dinerstien, Chetskel Zimmerman, (later changed his name to Charles Gelman), my sisters Raicha and Relka, and myself.
During the days of the Soviets, 1939-1941, I was a teacher I was a teacher in the little town of Kriesk that was located between Ilya and Dolhinov, I was very familiar with the area that we were going to go through, so I took upon myself the mission to guide our group. When we crossed the train tracks near Neyaka, all of a sudden, we saw five rifles pointing at us. They pointed but did not shoot. It turned out to be the partisans. I asked them how they knew not to shoot. They said that our language saved us. "We heard that you were speaking Yiddish and by now we can clearly tell Yiddish from German."
There were five partisans. They were waiting for the German train to come by, so they could plant explosives. They said that when they were done with their job, they would meet us in the forest near Sosenka and help us. We passed the way peacefully and reached the forest by Sosenka and I must confess my "crime". During a few minutes that the group took for rest, my two sisters and I fell asleep. When we woke up, we saw that everyone had left. It was around three in the morning. I was supposed to be the guide! We quickly ran and somehow found the rest of the group in the dark.
Light came and we sat in the forest to wait for the partisans. Around three in the afternoon, only two of them arrived. They told us that during the mission, the three others were killed. When nighttime came, we crossed the river Viliya in the most shallow area that we could find and reached the village Zabalota. This was one of the villages where I used to teach. I knocked on the door of my old landlord and he received me very graciously. This area, was clear of German at that point. The Germans were patrolling only in specific central locations near the train tracks but in the village itself, there were no Germans. I walked across the village, remembering the days when I would be greeted as a very respected person. Theyd harness their horses for me and treated me like I was an important personality. And now, I crossed the village secretly and in fear.
My landlord agreed to come with me to greet the rest of the people in my group and he told all of us that at that moment, there were no Germans in the area, but that we should be very careful and watch our steps. He told us a horrible story of what happened a few days prior. Seventy Jewish people, escapees from the town Mydell, walked across one of the villages in the area and had stolen two lambs from a farm. The Christian villages reported the incident to the Germans who were patrolling the nearby area and during a time when the group was resting in the forest, the German police surrounded them and killed almost everyone. Only a few had managed to escape. He once again warned us that we must go only at night time and very quietly at that.
We were dressed very poorly and if these days were like the regular old days, it would have been very funny. But at this moment, we were surrounded by a world of horror and tragedy and humor was hard to come by. Still, there was one person who received his fate with good spirits, at least outwardly. This was Michail Gorfenkel. He had a towel tied around his head and another towel tied to his waist. He carried a small bag for putting the goods he begged for into, but he was always in good spirits. His good spirit helped not only him, but the rest of us. I remember him saying was, "One thing that I wish for myself right now, is for someone to take a picture of what I look like at this moment. After the day of victory, if I survive, I will enlarge it and put it in my bedroom, across from my bed." But Michael did not get either wishes. He never got a photograph and he did not survive.
I also remember Artzik Gutzes Dinerstien. He had a huge fur coat that he never separated from. When we were walking through the forest, we felt very sorry for him. He kept tripping over his coat. But we were very jealous during the cold nights. After many, many troubles and wandering, we passed the old Russian-Polish border, the border prior to 1939. We passed near Pleshentznitz, about 10km from Poloshnitz. A few days later, the first snow fell. We didnt dare go to the local homes. We slept in the forest. The weather was very cold and only one person had the appropriate clothes: Archick, the owner of the fur coat.
I still remember the suffering of the children of Zishka and Rogovin. During the night, we would go to the villages. I always chose Michael as my partner. I would leave my sisters in the forest. The area we arrived at was almost all at the hands of the partisans and villagers were very scared of them. Michael would tie a stick to his shoulder and in the dark, the villagers thought he was a true partisan. This was not the only tactic that Michael used to get food. He used to sing songs to the villagers. He would sing the song, "Katyusha" or "Yasili Zvatra Vyana" so the "rifle" would scare them at night and the songs would soften them and even get them excited, so they would usually give us good items. I liked Michael a lot. Even in the darkest hours, he was in good spirits. And in songs and jokes, he could overcome the difficulties and spread joy to his surroundings. Sometimes we would even forget our troubles.
One night, when we crossed a village, Michael told me, "You know, Abraham, I am really getting tired of eating only bread. Lets go catch us a chicken and prepare us some chicken soup." So we went to a chicken coop and tried to get a chicken. As it turned, there were more geese then chickens in the coop, and in the dark, we caught a goose and he started making very loud noises and woke the entire village. Michael had no choice but to let go of the goose and run. We both ran for our lives. When we reached the forest, Michael said, "I could never imagine that a chicken and a goose could live in the same room. During this war, all order and life rules had changed. But I would never give up and one day I will bring back a chicken to the forest, although I really crave a goose at the moment , but geese dont know the rules of danger and can bring disaster."