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Like a Hometown

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Mordechai Slivkin

** Webmaster Note: The following is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov as sponsored by George Zilbergeld. Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).

LIKE A HOME TOWN 

I will bring up dear Vladimirets as the memory of a home town, even though we were residents of the nearby village Andrukha.  The distance between these two settlements was about 7 kilometers.  I spent many of the days of my childhood in Vladimirets.  I learned in its various cheders, and I was connected to it by bonds of love.  During the period of the Soviet conquest, I learned in the Jewish public school there.  My uncle, David-Yaakov Slivkin, was a resident of Vladimirets and our families used to visit each other.  Thus, we were involved with the Jews of the town as if we were actual residents.

Andrukha was a large village and it served as a center for smaller villages, such as Pechenki, Voronki, Uzhiro, and more.  The Jews of Andrukha had their own synagogue, and the residents of the smaller villages would sometimes come there on holidays to pray with the congregation.  There was no cheder in the village where I was born.  In general, the children were sent to learn Torah elsewhere.  But one of the homeowners brought a teacher to his home to teach his children; the teacher lived in his house for a time.

Our family in Andrukha had many branches.  Of the twelve Jewish families living in Andrukha, five of them were related to us.  In addition to businesses involving merchandise and groceries, in which every one of the local Jews had a hand, each family also kept several cows, managed a small holding such as a vegetable garden, an orchard, and more.  These families were established and well-to-do, and they had many children.  In our home, and also in the homes of my uncles Moshe Slivkin and Yitzchak Slivkin, for example, there were eight souls each.  My Aunt Nechama, Mordechai Weissman's wife; the family of Chaim-Meir Slivkin and the family of Shlomo Weissman lived here also.  This was a united community of deep-rooted people, healthy in body and soul.  Among their sons were those who excelled when they grew up and became famous, even among the goyim, mainly my cousins Boaz-Rachum, Leibel and Pinchas.

When the Russians left our place, these uncles of mine saw what was coming and secretly prepared weapons for a time of trouble.  The weapons – two Polish rifles and a pistol, along with ammunition – they received from two Jewish soldiers who returned from the Polish army, which had already fallen apart.  In general, the Ukrainian residents of Andrukha did not exhibit a bad attitude toward the Jews.

One incident is engraved in my memory of a plot against the local Jews.  It occurred with the withdrawal of the Russians from our place and was not done by the local goyim, but rather by goyim who came from other places.  However, their plot was foiled in time.  This entire story sounds somewhat strange – but it did happen, and it can symbolize the ties of brotherhood between our village and Vladimirets, since the rescue from that dramatic trouble came from Jewish Vladimirets.

One day, a gang of rioters arrived in the village Pechenki and demanded gold and jewelry from the local Jews.  Generally, at that time the Jews hid their valuables, giving them to the goyim to protect.  When the gang came to Pechenki, the local goyim told them that the few Jews who lived in their village were very poor and that there was nothing to be taken from them.  They suggested that they go to Andrukha, where there were really rich Jews.  So the gang left Pechenki and turned toward Andrukha.  For the purpose of camouflage, they wore uniforms of the Ukrainian police, and as such, they hoped to carry out their work more easily.

When they came to Andrukha, the disguised goyim spread out among the various homes of the Jews – two in each house.  They arrived in the village at two or three o'clock in the afternoon.  It was a very strange operation.  It is hard to know what their precise plan was, but they did not begin to rob anyone immediately; they sat in the houses and didn't allow anyone to leave.  It is possible that they were waiting for nightfall, and it is possible that they had some other plan.  The Jews of Andrukha regarded the arrivals as policemen and did not suspect them.  But Moshe Oster's wife somehow found out that the arrivals had come from Pechenki and that they were not really police, but wild men of violence.  She snuck out of the village and ran on foot to Vladimirets to notify them there of the situation and summon help.  When she arrived in Vladimirets, she immediately went to Yaakov Eisenberg and caused a great panic.  Yaakov immediately contacted his friend Andrei Mocha, the head of the Ukrainian police, and told him what was happening in Andrukha.  Mocha drafted a large group of police and they went out to Andrukha to see the situation first-hand.

I remember that it was a pleasant summer day, and I had planned to go with several other lads to the landlord's park, there to spend time playing games.  Life in the village was still being conducted as usual.  But when we saw that police had come to the village and that they began spreading out to the homes of the Jews, we decided to stop our game and each of us went home to see what happened from nearby. 

When I got home, I stood outside for a while, wondering whether I should go into the house or not, and then I saw one of the disguised policemen, who asked me: 

"Are you a Jew?"

And when I told him that I was a member of the family in this house, he ordered me to go inside immediately and not to run around outside.  This fellow was a tall goy armed with a rifle and bayonet, and of course I was afraid to refuse him. 

When I came inside, I saw that everyone was very tense – the goyim had not yet done anything bad; they had only forbidden the members of the household to leave.  It was as if they had placed a blockade on the Jewish families.  When I came in, Abba asked me:

"What did you come for now?  Couldn't you remain outside?"

We sat there for some time.  It was a strange situation; nobody knew what would happen.  The two "police" sat and talked secretly to each other.  All of a sudden, through the window we saw three men in uniform approaching the house.  These were Andrei Mocha's police, who had also arrived in a large group and spread out among the houses.  The arrivals shouted toward those sitting in the house:

"Ho, comrades, come here!"

When one of the two went outside, two of the police who were coming fell upon him and took away his weapon, while the third one stood ready, with his rifle aimed toward the window, at the goy who remained inside.  In a few minutes, they also overcame the second "policeman." 

Afterwards, it was told that one of the "policemen" who sat in Yitzchak Slivkin's house shut himself into one of the rooms and refused to go out until they threatened to shoot him, and then they took him out.  All of the men who were arrested were gathered next to the fork in the road, at the crossroad.  They requested that the police drive away the Jews who had come to watch.

Now, we also came out of the house to find out what happened.  All kinds of stories were told – for example, it was told that in Weissman's house one of them sat and sharpened his bayonet the entire time, just for the sake of inducing fear.  My cousin Leibel, for example, told us that the entire time he wanted to sneak out of the room in order to get his pistol from its hiding place, but they watched him with seven eyes and didn't allow him to go out.

In comparison with other places, the fists of the Germans were almost not felt in our village.  The Germans arrived in the village about eight days after the above incident.  Only a few Germans came, riding on motorcycles.  They had no special contact with the Jews.  They only called to several of the goyim who lived in the village and appointed one of them as the head of the village.  After that, they went to several Jewish homes, looked here and there, and left the village without harming anyone.  Nevertheless, we were tense the whole time. 

I remember that one day – this was already in the winter – we suddenly heard the sound of cars in the village.  We understood that Germans were coming.  All the Jews began to hide and run away.  I also fled, and hid in the house of a goy, the shoemaker, whose house stood near the forest.  We were afraid that they would draft us for forced labor and send us to Germany.  Special taxes were not imposed upon us, but we participated in the taxes that had been imposed on Vladimirets.

One day, Jewish police from Vladimirets came to us to collect our portion of the tax imposed on Vladimirets.  This time, it was a tax of furs, and we gave two furs.  Another time, they claimed shoes and we gave materials for footwear.  Subsequently, we also participated in contributions of gold.  At that time, people were praising the Polish priest from Vladimirets.  According to these stories, the priest brought his own gold watch and chain to Yaakov Eisenberg and asked him to also accept his portion as a sign of solidarity with the suffering Jewish population.

After ten months, approximately, in the month of April 1942, the news arrived that all of the Jews of the villages were to be moved to Vladimirets, and that we were included.  The news was received by the village head, Philip Bazaka, who had a very good relationship with the Jews.  His kindnesses were revealed mainly after the slaughter, when he gave a great deal of assistance to Jews who were hiding.

It was one of the first days of spring when Philip informed us that they were moving all of us to the ghetto in Vladimirets.  The news awakened a great fear.  We were connected to the village of our birth, where we had seen days of contentment and prosperity.  Each one began to pack his possessions and tried to take most of them, but the possibilities were limited.  We left Andrukha without the escort of Germans or police, only because they didn't worry that we would flee somewhere.  They knew very well that we had no choice.  For example, three wagons were allotted for our family's use.  We loaded them with food and even furniture.  We left at about 9 o'clock.  The trip passed without event.  Our entire family was settled in Shmuel Rosenberg's house. 

In Vladimirets, there was no ghetto in the accepted meaning of the term.  We were not surrounded by barbed-wire fences.  What indicated the life of the ghetto to the outside was the yellow patch, the prohibition against crossing the street, and the appropriation of the synagogues to be used as storehouses for crops.  In comparison to other locations, there was less suffering here.  Many regarded this as the fruit of the contacts that Yaakov Eisenberg had with the chief of police and other goyim.

Many were drafted for forced labor, including me.  I was then 13‑1/2 years old.  I had to go to work.  Every day, I woke up at 6 and went to the Committee [Judenrat] building to see if I was listed.  The list was posted in the building, and on it were the names of those who had to go out to work.  Most of the time, we received the news that we had to go out from the police. 

At first, I worked at cleaning the streets – pulling out weeds from all of the paths.  Each worker received a certain section and he was obligated to clean it.  These jobs were filled mostly by young lads.  After that, I worked for a time in the crop storehouses in the synagogue.  The Germans received a crop tax from the villagers, mainly rye seeds and barley.  They gathered the crops in the synagogues.  The seeds were poured on the floor, and in order to aerate them so that they wouldn't get moldy, they had to be turned over every once in a while.  We did this with wooden shovels.  Here also, we worked with almost no supervision.  The guard, to the extent that they did guard us, was supplied by the Judenrat.  Many people wanted to do this work, and for a good reason – the workers in the synagogue succeeded in hiding a few seeds in their clothing and brought them home to their families.  We would go out to work wearing boots, and this allowed us to hide a lot of seeds.  We tucked our trousers into the tops of our boots, and by doing so we enlarged the receptacle for hiding the seeds.

The hunger in the ghetto made its signs, and then a public kitchen was opened.  The kitchen was in Yaakov Slivkin's house, opposite the Judenrat.

There also was a temporary synagogue in that building.  The kitchen supplied only the noon meal, mainly soup.  Every day, about 100 portions were given out.  Chava Eisenberg was the head of the kitchen.  This was the result of Yaakov Eisenberg's blessed initiative.  As far as I remember, at that time people spoke about the connection he had with the owners of the flour mill, who supplied flour to the kitchen.

Our family had no need for the kitchen.  We had connections in Andrukha, mainly with our friend Dennis Russin, a resident of the village who occasionally brought food products to Vladimirets.  Dennis would come to the main street, stand for a moment next to the wicket of the yard, look here and there down the street, and when he saw that it was the right time, he would quickly go inside, leave the products he brought and go out immediately.  Sometimes, when the guard in the street was increased, he would go by way of a side street and leave by way of the wicket.  It was forbidden for Jews to walk on the main street, and not only that – it was also forbidden for them to look out a window facing the street.  Therefore, we were ordered to glue paper over the windows up to the height of the upper pane.  Only the upper pan remained exposed without being covered, to let in some light.

Our family's situation improved when my sister Teibele went out to work in the village as a seamstress.  This was a legal job, and it was done according to an agreement between the Judenrat and the Germans.  This also opened an opportunity to smuggle food into the ghetto in various ways. 

The Germans in Vladimirets were few, and control there was mainly in the hands of the Ukrainian police.  It was forbidden to go out of the house before 6 o'clock.  Once, Mordechai Weissman from Andrukha went out at the wrong time.  He was seized and brought to the police, where he was very cruelly beaten. 

The situation got worse.  Rumors reached us from afar that there had been mass murders.  But in Vladimirets, the Jewish version of life still went on, in spite of the limitations.  People gathered for prayer in private houses instead of the synagogue.  These congregations were full and the prayers came forth from broken hearts.  The rabbis prayed in the prayer room that had been established in Yaakov Slivkin's house, and there was one young lad there who was the Rabbi's assistant.  His family name was Katz.  He had a lovely voice, and on the Sabbaths he would teach Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] to a large congregation.  It was enough for him to explain only three or four verses – the explanation was given in a pleasant tune and with various parables.  Everyone was mesmerized by his knowledge; they found in it a bit of comfort and were able to forget their troubles.  When the Jews would gather for public prayer or learning, they would also talk about the situation.  Engraved in my memory is a saying I heard in the synagogue, spoken euphemistically:  "Im zeinen areingefallen 9 fligen in tcheinik" – in other words, "Nine flies fell into the kettle."  And the explanation was that somewhere, nine German planes had been downed.

There were no actual partisans as yet during that time, but the name "partisans" already was circulated, and people held onto this name as a hope that finally, we would be rescued from the claws of the Yekkim [Germans].

At that time, Abba worked loading wood next to the kaleika [railroad tracks] of Vladimirets, and he told us that one day, a young villager came, who spoke Russian with the workers, and said: 

"I know that it is forbidden for me to talk to you.  They might see me here, but you should know that we will return."

The goy was wearing a long coat, and they saw that under his coat, he was carrying a weapon.  The man came out to them from the forest, and when he finished speaking, he returned to the forest and disappeared.  They regarded him as miraculous.  The man also appeared a second time.  This time, his words were more specific.  He spoke about the need to organize and revolt.  There were disagreements among the Jews. Some of them said that it was foolish to talk to him and listen to what he said – perhaps he was a German agent pretending to be otherwise.  But there were some Jews who saw him as a type of messenger on behalf of the partisans.

There were also other revelations – born out of deprivation and days of trouble.  In Vladimirets, at that time, there was a Jew of about 50 years of age, who arrived there from the village Burobya.  They called him "Yitzchak der Burobyer."  This Jew spent most of his time fasting and praying.  He believed that the suffering that we were enduring was the suffering of the Redemption.  To him, all of our troubles were none other than the footsteps of the Messiah.  I remember that once I saw him standing with a group of men, and he was preaching to them like a seer of old:  We must show pride and calmness.  With the eyes of my soul, I see that out of this suffering the Redemption will come.  But in order to speed its coming, we must fast and pray."  He spiced his words with verses from the Tanach [Bible] and the Talmud, in order to prove their truth. 

As far as I remember, people did not relate negatively to "Yitzchak der Burobyer."   The bent and broken, oppressed Jew was thirsty for any ray of light, and therefore he would also find comfort in words that were far removed from reality.  Other than that, der Burobyer's statements were not confused; his verses were always quoted properly and were brought in the proper, logical place, and therefore he awakened feelings of belief in the hearts of his listeners.

A month before the elimination of Jewish Vladimirets, days of great fear passed over us.  Two German soldiers, from those who served in Vladimirets, were shot and killed between the villages Pechenki and Andrukha, and their weapons were stolen.  The Jews immediately locked themselves in their houses and tensely awaited what would happen.  Many Germans were brought from Rafalovka and Sarny for operations of retribution, but Vladimirets came out of the matter safely.  The Germans took revenge only upon the nearby villages.  They burned houses and murdered people.  When the army returned from this excursion of punishment, they passed through Vladimirets, but no one was harmed by them, and again, life entered its ordinary path.

When this occurred, we were under the threat of death for two days.  At that time, it was unknown who had attacked the Germans.  But they were secretly searching for clues linking this event with stories regarding partisans and that same miraculous man who came out of the forest and spoke with the workers.

Later, when we were in the forests after the massacre, rumors abounded that Lieutenant Shitov Alyosha was among the initiators of this action.  Alyosha was a Russian prisoner who had escaped from the hands of the Germans and found shelter with one of the villagers in the area as an agricultural worker.  At that time, the German army began to hunt down the deserters.  Many of them obtained weapons and began to conduct secret sorties in ambush against lone Germans who they came across. 

Neither the prophecies and good intentions of "Yitzchak der Burobyer," nor the sparks of hope awakened by those miraculous fighters who wandered in the forests, were of help – the tie of strangulation was tightened.  The Germans indeed tried, until the last moment, to delude the people and camouflage their schemes so as to make their bloody work easier for themselves. 

In Vladimirets, a spirit of awakening and disquiet arose several days before the massacre.  This was mainly so among the group of youngsters who worked in the Russian kolkhoz  [communal farm] that the Germans had let remain so as to gain agricultural produce.  At the time, the Germans drafted strong, talented young men to work and they were employed at this kolkhoz, which was located in the landowner's holding.  Among this group, I remember the Sussel brothers, Pinchas Slipak; Moshe Slivkin's son Pinchas; Yitzchak Slivkin's son Pinchas; Leibel Slivkin, Rachel Metikowitz; Teibele Slivkin; Eliezer Dik; Hershel Kamin; Asher Guz – all these were strong, young people who went out to work every morning without any guards, equipped with special exit permits, and returned home toward evening at 4 or 5 o'clock.  The members of this group were like a unit in themselves, which kept its own secret.  That was the attitude toward them in the town.  There was a feeling that they did not accept the situation and that they were conferring how to preempt the evil with deeds.  I know that one day my cousin Pinchas, Moshe Slivkin's son, came to his parents and told them specifically that he was planning to flee from the town and go out to the forests.  I remember that his parents received this news in a very dejected mood. 

"For whom will you leave us, Pinchas?  For whom will you leave us?" they answered tearfully, and he seemed to recoil from the plan.

But now, four or five days before the destruction of the town, when the news arrived that they were digging large pits nearby, the decision of the members of the group was already final – they would not be led to death.  The group also formed a plan which was not carried out – to set the town on fire on all sides, and cause panic within before the Germans could organize the death parades.  By doing that, they wanted to hurry the Jews out of the town to the forests, and also to prove their opposition.

I remember that a few days before the day of destruction, Leibel Slivkin came to us and said specifically that it is possible that the members of the group will go out to work and won't return home.  He told his parents that he had to remain in the town for some arrangements, of which we knew nothing.  According to what he said, he couldn't stay home with his parents all the time, but he ordered us not to go far from the house, so that at the right time he would be able to be with us.  What Leibel's tasks and plans were actually mean nothing – now, it doesn't add or subtract from them.  What is important is that there were young people in this group who consulted with each other and wanted to act at a time when fear and helplessness ruled around them.

I first heard the news about the digging of the pits at the time of prayers.  From then on, a sort of deep sleep fell over the town.  What remained in my memory is a kind of running around of people who were trapped in a trap of fire and their eyes were torn, trying to see from where their help would come.  The news spread very quickly in the ghetto, and from every house there arose voices of mourning and weeping and the recital of Psalms.  I also remember one who believed in miracles, "Yitzchak der Burobyer,"  who ran between the houses, calling: 

"Yidden, shrekt zich nisht, is vat botel veren di gezeira" ("Jews, don't be afraid, the decree will be cancelled.")

The ghetto lived in the tension of days of emergency and bloodshed.  During the nights, there were attempts to flee.  At that time, Leizer the butcher was shot and killed.  There already were ambushers organized around the town.  A day or two before the destruction, the group of young people went out to work and they did not return to the ghetto that evening.  Leibel did not go with them.  He was going around among the houses as if he had planned something.

That same week, four young men who had been rescued from destruction in the places where they lived arrived in the Vladimirets ghetto.  Two of them had fled from the Lutsk ghetto during the elimination action; one was from a town near Lutsk, and one was a lad of 14 who had fled from the ghetto in Dombrowica at the time of its destruction.  The Germans knew of this boy and they didn't harm him.  They allowed him to wander in the Vladimirets ghetto, certainly with the intention that when the day came, he would be killed with all the rest.  The Germans did not know about the other three.  I saw them in the public kitchen.  The oldest among them was about 20 years old, and he gave the impression that he was a very strong, courageous fellow.  The other two looked weaker and younger than him.  They told us about the destruction of the Lutsk ghetto and the murder of the Jews.  Even though their story reached us during the days of the news about the digging of the pits, there were some Jews who argued and asked:

"Perhaps the Jews of your town did not act properly and the action came in revenge?"

The young men stayed in Vladimirets and the Germans did not know they were there only for a short time, about two days.  Then they discovered them.  They beat the oldest of them until his soul left him.  They shot his two friends and killed them.

On the Thursday of that week, the Germans informed us that the next day there would be a roll call of the population.  Such roll calls had been already conducted in the past, but now each one found a connection between the roll call and the digging of the pits.  During the night between Thursday and Friday, no one slept at all.  Everyone sat and waited.  Chapters of Psalms and silent voices of weeping filled the town.  I also was awake the entire night.

That Friday morning – at 7 o'clock – I wanted to go to my Uncle Yaakov Slivkin, who lived near our house, about 50 meters away.  When I left the house, the wicket of the yard, which overlooked the main street, was open.  That very moment, a Ukrainian policeman passed by, and with him was the boy from Dombrowica.  The boy saw me through the wicket, and he said to the policeman: 

"Here, here!"

The policeman looked at me, called to me and said:

"Go with this boy to the police station and cut wood there."

I didn't want to go far from the house that morning.  I also worried that my parents wouldn't know where I had disappeared to, and I began to beg and make excuses and pretexts to escape this work:  I told him that I would come later, that I would just go to tell my parents, that I hadn't yet eaten…the excuses did not help.  The policeman honored me with a strong blow in the face and shouted:

"Don't roll your tongue around so much.  Go quickly to the police station.  If you didn't eat, they will feed you by us."

I went with the boy.  For a short distance, the policeman accompanied us, and after that he left us alone. Before he left, he ordered us again to go straight to the yard of the police station.  When I saw the policeman go away, a spirit of rebellion arose in me and I said to myself that I would go home, no matter what.  I began to look here and there, to see if it was possible to escape.  The fact that at home they didn't know where I was caused me actual confusion.  I looked for a way to escape, and I didn't find one.

When I arrived at the crossroad, I turned into an alley in order to go around the row of our houses and return home from the back.  I left the boy from Dombrowica alone and began to run to the alley, but suddenly a Ukrainian policeman appeared and began to shout and call to me to stop.  He was already aiming his rifle at me.  I saw that there was no purpose to running away and I stopped.  Meanwhile, I heard that the boy from Dombrowica was telling the policeman that I had been drafted to work and that I had run away.  When I approached the policeman, I received a punch in the shoulder, and he ordered me to go immediately to work.  Now, there was no possibility of escape, and so we arrived at the police yard.  The fact that the boy had pointed at me when I was in our yard and after that even told the policeman that I had run away, awakened hostility toward him in me, and I couldn't look him in the face.  So we entered the police yard without speaking to each other.

The yard was full of wood.  Many policemen were walking around there.  We were given a saw and two axes, and we began to work.  We worked the entire time in silence.  First we sawed, and after that we continued with chopping.  I worked and worried the whole time about my family and their concern for me.  I knew that in a little while everyone would go to the roll call and my parents didn't know where I was.  Now, I didn't have plans to run away again.  Here it was as if I were in a trap.  The yard was surrounded by a high fence, and only a single narrow passage led to the main street.  While we were still working, a young policeman approached us and said: 

"Stop working and go to the plot where the roll call is to take place." 

I hurried out of the yard.  I went first, and the boy from Dombrowica followed.  The street was empty.  The gathering place was nearby, about 100 meters from the police station.

When I came to the plot, I found only a few people.  From here, I saw the street, which was being filled from minute to minute with people coming toward us.  Many of the people coming were wrapped in talitot [prayer shawls] and white kittels [surplices] like on Yom Kippur.  They walked, family by family together.  Many cried as they walked, but secretly.  And here, I saw my family, and my sister Teibele, who had been brought back the day before from the village where she worked.  Now we were all together.  Ima and my sisters stood and cried.  The sound of weeping was heard from every corner.  People stood next to each other, as they do at times of parting, hugging and kissing.  Here, Leibel also arrived.  He stood next to me and said to me and his brother Chaim,  

"Be prepared.  If there is a chance to run away, don't hesitate – run.  If there is such an opportunity, it will be best to run away through this alley, toward the fields and the forest."

Meanwhile, the German major arrived.  This was a very tall, fat Yekke.  He was famous for his cruelty.  He used to beat prisoners until the blood would bubble out of their flesh.  Next to him stood the representatives of the Jewish community – Yaakov Eisenberg and Natan Tscherniak.  The plot slowly became full.  Suddenly, the German announced that all those who had a profession should line up on one side, and those who don't have a profession should line up on the other side.  I remember that Abba called to Teibele: 

"Why are you standing?  Go over there.  You have a profession!"

Everyone knew what it meant to be among those without a profession, and in a moment, the entire plot became a whirlpool.  Everyone began to run around and push.  A wave of people suddenly pushed toward the major.  This filled him with a terrible anger.  He quickly lowered his rifle and opened fire toward the crowd.  At the same time, a few more shots were heard from outside the plot.  Bedlam ruled.  There were cries of despair and calls of "Shma Yisrael" and terrible pressure.  When the shots were heard, the entire crowd moved backward like a wave.  The members of many families were cut off from each other.  I also lost my family in the confusion. 

I saw that people had begun to run into the alley, but in the direction of the alley, the crowding was great.  Around the gathering place there was a fence.  With a jump, I crossed over the fence and began to run toward the fields.  I arrived at a well, and I saw that a policeman was standing behind the well.  I recognized him.  His name was Shama – he had a reputation for being a good man, who didn't harm Jews.  He did lower his rifle toward me, but I continued to run toward him.  When I came closer, he lowered his rifle and wanted to grab me with his hand, but I got away and fled, and he didn't shoot after me.  To this day, I am of the opinion that he only wanted to appear as if he was faithfully fulfilling his job, but he didn't really intend to catch me.

I ran over the fields toward the forest.  I passed the Jewish cemetery.  When I came close to the forest, I heard at a distance as if someone was calling my name, but I was confused and mixed-up, and I didn't answer the voice.  Afterwards it became clear to me that these were Abba and my three sisters.  They tried to run to me, but I didn't see them.  I didn't sense that they were there, and I continued to run toward the forest and go deep inside, as much as possible.  In the forest, I met my aunt and her daughter, and now there were three of us together.

Now, I was the guide.  We decided to go to Andrukha, but in order to find the right direction, I had to find a point of reference.  I knew that I would be able to locate myself according to the train tracks.  We decided to look for the train tracks.  It was already afternoon when we reached the tracks.  We didn't go really close to them, but we stood at a short distance from them. 

"If we go in this direction," we said, "we will get to Antonovka; and if we go in this direction, we will get to Vladimirets." 

Our calculations were correct, and toward evening, we arrived near the Vladimirets station.  We now made a large detour inside the forest.  We crossed the road leading to Zubaki, and again we were near the train tracks.  We continued to walk.  We were very hungry.  But we came closer to Andrukha.  We approached one of the villagers, whose house stood at the edge of the village.  He gave us bread, but we didn't go into his house.  We found a hiding place in a field of potatoes.  We lay in this field all night and all the following day – that is:  the Sabbath.  During the entire day we heard goyim telling jokes and laughing in a nearby field, during the harvest.  The world was going on as usual.

In the evening, after the Sabbath, I decided to go to our friend, the goy, Dennis Russin.  My aunt and her daughter went to another goy.

I went to his house indirectly.  In one alley, two goyim came toward me.  I jumped over a fence.  On the other side of the fence there was a thick tree.  I attached myself to the trunk.  The goyim came to the place where I had crossed the fence and stopped.  They just stopped there at random, and continued their conversation, but I held my breath.  I thought that they sensed my presence.  In a few minutes, they went away and continued walking.  I reached Dennis.  There was light in his house.  I decided not to approach the window now, because there might be strangers in the house.  I entered his neighbor's garden.  I hid in the garden behind a pear tree that I was very familiar with from days gone by.  From there, I watched Dennis' house all the time. 

When the light was extinguished, I waited another short while and approached the window.  There was a dog in Dennis' yard, and I was very worried that he would start to bark or even attack me.  It was an actual miracle that the dog did not bark at me.  I knocked lightly on the window.  Dennis approached, and he recognized me.  He didn't say a word; he only signaled to me with his hand that I should go to the door.

He brought me inside.  He gave me food and spoke to me quietly, in a merciful tone.  He explained to me that there was a great danger in remaining with him, because he had millstones and it was forbidden to keep them in one's possession; it was not impossible that the Germans would conduct a search in his house.  Therefore, I had to find a safer place.  But I could come to him at night, and he would always help me.  I told him about my aunt and her daughter, who were hiding at Lukowitz' house, and that I intended to meet them there and find a place to hide in the forest.  And that is how it was.

The three of us hid in the forest, and Lukowitz knew where we were located.  I was afraid to walk around in the village to come to Dennis.  So I went out at night, and dug potatoes from the field.  This was our main food.

One night, Abba visited Dennis.  He welcomed him, brought him into the house, and first of all, let him eat until he was satisfied.  After that, he wrapped a loaf of bread and other food into a bundle.  He suggested that he come back on Thursday night, and he would prepare food for him for several days.  He warned him not to walk around at night in the village because of the danger.  After all that, he said to him:

"Now we will go to Lukowitz' house, and there they will tell you where your son Mordechai is to be found."  And he told him about my visit with him a few nights ago.

"Why didn't you tell me immediately that my son was at your house?  How could you leave this news until now and not to tell me immediately?" asked Abba, with emotion and surprise. 

"I did it on purpose," answered Dennis.  "If I had told you immediately when you came, you would have certainly gotten excited and ran to Lukowitz before you ate and before you rested a bit.  I decided, therefore, to delay my news until you ate and rested."

Abba immediately went to Lukowitz, and there he was informed of our secret location in the forest.  That same night, Abba came to the forest, and now I found out from him the fate of my sisters.

Abba had fled from the gathering place together with three of my sisters, among them my sister Rachel, who was 11 years old.  In the forest, Abba was grabbed by goyim who stripped him of his clothes for the sake of brutality and left him in only his underwear.

The night after the Sabbath, Abba passed by the Polish settlement Khoromtsy with my three sisters, and they arrived not far from a house that stood all alone in the forest.  My youngest sister Rachele began to cry.  She was very hungry and wanted Abba to get her some food.  Abba decided to go into the house and ask for something.  He entered the yard, and my sisters remained outside next to the path, waiting for his return.  A few more girls from Vladimirets were with them.

In the yard of the house, Abba met two Poles, brothers.  When one of the brothers saw the form approaching in the dark, he became a bit frightened and said to his brother:

"Look, it certainly is a bandit coming to us?" 

"That's not a bandit," laughed the other brother.  "It's a Jew who was stripped of his clothes and they left him in his underwear." 

When Abba heard what they said, he immediately understood that it was dangerous to remain there, and he began to withdraw from the yard.  He was facing the Poles and he walked backwards.

The girls, who had heard the conversation in the yard, were very frightened and they immediately ran away from the place and hid in a field of potatoes.  Abba went out of the yard, and when he didn't find the girls, he began to run back and forth and call, "Rachel, Golda."  Meanwhile, he had distanced himself from them and again, he didn't find them.  The next day, Sunday, all of the girls were seized and brought to Vladimirets, and there they were murdered.

After several days of wandering in the forest, we met my cousin, Yitzchak Slivkin's son Pinchas, who was with the group of young people who had worked at the holding and had succeeded in fleeing from Vladimirets the day before the destruction.  Pinchas told us that one night, they had met three armed goyim in the forest.  One of the goyim lowered his rifle and aimed it at the group, but our youngsters were too close to them and the goyim were unable to manoeuvre.  Moshe's son Pinchas grabbed the goy's rifle and took it out of his hands.  The other goyim were frightened and laid themselves down on the ground.  The youngsters also did that.  The armed goyim began to shoot, and Pinchas returned only one shot, because unfortunately he only had a few bullets.  He hinted to the youngsters to get away from the place.  Pinchas had obtained a pistol from a Pole, whose name was Bulis Zavadsky, as well as ammunition for a rifle.

After some time, this group split up.  Moshe's son Pinchas and Yitzchak's son Pinchas remained together, and Avraham Sussel and the others separated from them. 

Avraham Sussel's group made a terrible mistake one day, which brought about their end.  One night they went out to a village that was near their hiding place in the forest, and they took food by force from the residents.  This deed aroused all of the people of the village against them, and they decided to take revenge.  The villagers began to follow them, until one night they found them all asleep and murdered them. 

Moshe's son Pinchas was seized by four goyim.  He energetically objected, but they overcame him and tied him up and took him to Vladimirets, where he met his death.  Only Yitzchak's son Pinchas remained alive. 

Chaim Slivkin, who now lives in the United States, told us when we were in the forest about his brother Leibel, who remained in Vladimirets on behalf of the group and at its request.  According to what he said, Leibel also ran away from the gathering place, and Chaim saw him lying dead in the field.  The murderers' bullet reached him as he fled.

Everything that happened to me and my father in the forests is a very long, tragic story, and if I had been asked to tell it all, I would not be adequate.
 


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