** Webmaster Note: The following
translation was generously provided by
Diane Moore. We have presented it here exactly as it was
translated for us. Golda tells of the days
of the occupation, how the Poles helped hide and save many Jews,
and how even Jews in hiding were able to help the partisans and
the underground war effort.
IN MURDEROUS HANDS
The Russians had already started pulling out of the town, and I
went on working at the hospital, as a nurse. Besides me there
were other Jews -- Pola who worked as a midwife, and the Jewish
doctor Buchko. All the other workers, especially the nurses,
Russia. Now, in the confusion
of evacuation, they were all preparing to leave, and they came
to me and begged me to go with them. To tell the truth, I
greatly desired to flee, but my father wouldn't let me. It
happened the same way with other Jews; they stayed in the town,
afraid to leave the place. There were those who fled with the
refugees, but after sufferings and misfortunes they returned,
since the Germans bombed the escape routes.
The evacuation left our town for weeks without government, and
now the Ukrainians showed us what violence they were capable of.
It was the Sabbath, and as usual a gentile woman came to milk
the cow, and she whispered to us in secret that the Ukrainians
were preparing that night to attack the Jews in the town. She
had revealed this secret, she said, only to us, and she begged
us not to tell the other Jews. We did not want to believe this
could be real. We went, of course, and told many of our friends,
although we feared to be seen as sowing fear in the community;
however, we quickly realized that the secret was already known
Toward evening the Jews closed themselves in, each in his house,
and as it grew dark we heard gunshots and breaking glass in the
town. Songs of robbers and music of riot B to this rhythm the
evil people set out to hunt us. Some among them disguised
themselves and weren't recognized, but the great majority did
their bloody deeds openly. First they turned to the houses of
the well-to-do, those who had angered them in business dealings,
and began by plundering. Jews were beaten and girls were raped.
Our only protection was to close the shutters and pull down the
shades, only peeking through the lattices to the outside.
It was on a Sunday that a number of Germans on motorcycles
entered Vladimirets. The first thing they did was to seize
Mordecai Dik and cut off his beard. They drove him through the
street and treated him brutally. The same day, they appointed a
Ukrainian mayor, and a Jewish Council and police.
Months of horror went by and we didn't know what had happened in
other communities. In ours, Jews started getting mobilized for
forced labor. Women and girls were sent to dig potatoes out of
the pits where they had been stored in the winter. The police
supervised this work carefully, in case anyone, God forbid, held
out a potato or two. Once in this inspection they found a couple
of potatoes on Feigele Wachs, and for that she was savagely
I also worked in the hospital. The head doctor was now Astapenko,
who was just a barber-surgeon before, and was considered a quiet
Christian and well liked. Now he revealed his real face --one of
the worst tormentors. I used to talk to Paula Bas, and we
wondered how a man could hide his nature like that.
The situation got worse from day to day. Hunger and fear. From
time to time the leaders of the Jewish community would proclaim
special prayers and fasts. People pleaded with Heaven and waited
for a miracle, but the miracle was not forthcoming. There was
now terrible news from other towns, about extermination-actions,
but they were not easy to believe. One day two Jews came from
the town of Alik,
saying that all the Jews there had been massacred, and only they
had escaped. "Save yourselves, because your day of destruction
is coming; the murderers will deal with Vladimirets Jews along
with all the others", they warned us.
With lightning speed the frightful news spread through the town.
Everyone knew of the disaster, but still people tried to find
"It's not possible that they killed the Jews of Alik just like
that; probably they didn't behave as they should have." So the
convinced optimists argued, but in the end they concluded that
it was not by chance that the Jews in that place were wiped out,
but it all happened according to a system and a plan.
People were now going around like shadows; everyone knew that
our end was near. Many of us sought advice on how to run away
and save ourselves. But no wise man was found, who knew how to
Two weeks before our day of destruction, I was fired from my job
at the hospital. At that time I was sent, like others, to
Antonovka, to work on the bridge that they had built over the
river. From dawn to dark we worked. At noon we got a little
soup, a mixture of chaff and water. Whoever got lucky and found
a potato in the soup was very happy. The overseers were German.
We worked there for eight days.
One evening they told us that the next day we would be taken
back to Vladimirets. We were counted and locked into wagons. A
feeling of doom overwhelmed us. We knew that this was our last
journey. Many of us screamed out the windows. When we came into
Vladimirets, they lined us up in rows and led us into the town.
I will never forget how my father looked at me and called out,
"My daughter, why didn't you run away? They have already dug
graves for us. Why did you come back?"
Crying bitterly, I replied, "No, Papa, I couldn't run away. I
want to go with you, together."
Heartrending cries were heard from every house. No miracle had
come to pass and there was no glimmer of hope. One asked
another, "Why? Why are we punished like this?" I see the
pictures in my dreams, and it's hard for me to write about it; I
still dream about everything that happened to us, and still weep
in my dreams. My father went about in those days in his white
kittel and wrapped in his tallit. We cried, and our murderers
rejoiced. Those were nights of drunkenness and revelry for them.
We already knew that the next day was to be our last. All our
family had gathered in our house, we said our farewells, we
asked each other's forgiveness for sins we had not committed. In
our house were my sister Chava, her husband and their three
children, Matele, Devorale, and Friedele, who was a baby only
two weeks old. I went over to her cradle. My heart was torn. My
sister wrapped her tiny child in a blanket and said to her,
crying, "Forgive me, my child, that you haven't even seen the
world. It's not my fault."
The older boy was only six. He went to the closet and put on a
little shirt over the one he had on, and said, "With more shirts
maybe the bullet won't go through me."
How hard it is for me to write these lines. But I want the naive
words of our innocent doves to be remembered always. My sister
Sheva with her two children -- her son Nathaniel who was
murdered, and her daughter Devoraleh, who was saved. My
sister-in-law Rachel with her son Mosheleh, and also the Borak
family and the Shwartzblatt family, all of them were with us in
the house. Their last words were like a vow that what the
enemies did to us should never be forgotten, and whoever
survived should take revenge on them.
They began driving people our of the houses. Now we came to the
place that was called "The Linkes". [Note: Other
accounts talk about being taken to the main square,
Linkus Square.] We were
surrounded by Ukrainian police. Curious gentiles had come to
watch our misery. There were few Germans there, but the power of
resistance had been choked out of us.
The murderers now announced that all professional people should
stand to one side. By this they implied that the professionals
would live, and this was only to confuse us. Pandemonium broke
out in the square. Everyone argued to be included among the
professionals. The Germans fired shots to restore order. The
various police also started shooting. The terror and confusion
in the square increased. Many people began running from the
place. I started running too, not knowing where, and my sister's
daughter ran with me; she is now in Israel. We ran
to a potato field, and hid among the bushes there all day. We
were about a kilometer away from the mass graves, where they
took the Jews afterwards. We heard the cries of our beloved
martyrs, and the shots.
We didn't think we would survive. Tomorrow, we thought, our fate
of death and annihilation would find us. We lay there all night.
Early in the morning we left the field and went into the forest.
On the way, we met a gentile who said to us, "No use hiding, we
won't supply you with food. We'll catch you like dogs. If you
want, I'll tell you what's already happened to the Jews in
He told us the dreadful truth: how they had separated the women
from the men, how they had stripped everyone naked, and shot
them. How they had thrown many children alive in the pits, and
torn them to pieces with grenades. "A lot of the Jews," he said,
"were buried alive; even now you could see the dirt moving on
the graves." With a sort of murderous lust he told us all this.
We were not human beings after hearing these things, only
wandering shadows. Like shadows we roamed the woods, and
encountered some gentiles, one of them a friend of mine in days
past, who took everything we had, clothes and all. That wasn't
enough for them, and they ordered us to carry it all into the
town for them. I recalled that there were thirty gold rubles
hidden in my house. I started pleading with the gentiles, and
awakened a little mercy in them. After I told them about the
money, they let us go and went away.
Now we realized that there was no rescue for us. We decided that
the next day we would go to Vladimirets and turn ourselves in to
the Germans. We were frozen, hungry, and despairing. Also with
us was Teibl, the daughter of Yosef the swindler, and her baby,
who never stopped crying.
My brother Leibl was in the forest too. With the help of a
gentile, he had left the ghetto a few days before the
annihilation. He had agreed with his wife that she too, with
their baby, would come to him in the forest. And there was the
voice of the baby crying. Leibl followed the sound. "Perhaps
it's my baby," he thought. And thus he came to us.
My sister Sheva's daughter and I went deep in the forest with
Leibl and on the way we found Mendel and Golda Burko with their
two children, Moshe and Rachel. We discussed what we should do.
We were afraid to go to the gentile's house, and we decided to
hide in the shrubbery, each in a separate place, so there would
be less danger of all of us being captured together. A Polish
acquaintance called Malovski was good to us in those days and
brought us food from time to time, and news from the town. At
night we went to neighboring villages and got potatoes and
turnips from the fields. We baked the potatoes in a bonfire.
Early one morning as we were building the fire to cook potatoes,
there were shepherds nearby with their flocks, and they smelled
smoke and came into the woods looking for us. We all fled and
hid ourselves. I didnít have time to get away, and had no choice
but to climb into a spreading thickly-leafed tree, and from
among the branches I clearly saw the faces of the two murderers.
My heart was silent within me; I imagined that this was the end,
that very soon they would capture me. I heard their
"We've lost them," said one. "That's five kilograms of salt
Five kilograms of salt -- that was the reward for a Jew captured
in the forest and brought to town. The shepherds moved around
very near me; they went on looking and didnít notice me.
Thus we had to distance ourselves from that place. In the
evening all of our band gathered again and decided to go deeper
into the woods, far from here. The same day, we encountered
Charna Pinchuk, and decided to be together. The men went out by
night and brought back potatoes; the forest was our home.
Once our Polish benefactor came and told us that the Germans had
put out word to all the wanderers in the forest, asking them to
come back to the town and promising that no harm would come to
them. We were not persuaded to believe them, of course, having
been taught by plenty of experience. One day Charna got up and
said that she had decided to leave us; she would go to look for
her husband who had fled from the gathering place. Her heart
told her that he was somewhere in the forest. Our entreaties
were useless; she would not change her decision. Her mind was
made up, and she answered us: "You have nothing to fear! Even if
I'm caught and they torture me to death, I won't hand you over."
These were her parting words to us.
Two hours later, the Pole, Malovski, came to us in haste and
told us that Charna had been caught and taken to the town. We
knew we would have to leave our place at once. Malovski took the
trouble to arrange a haystack for us, and there we stayed a
while, and then, since our hiding place was known to the
gentiles, we left there and looked for another place. We know
now that Charna resisted terrible tortures for two days, until
she was killed.
Meanwhile winter was coming on; rain and snow made our situation
worse. We were afraid that the snow would reveal our tracks, if
the Germans came out to look for us. We built a shelter and
stayed in the forest; what choice did we have? Shulamit Nisman
found us too, with her mother and her sister Hannah.
From time to time I used to go at night to a gentile woman I
knew, to bathe, and stay at her house till the first light. The
gentile always said to me that I didnít look Jewish and if I
were among gentiles they wouldnít recognize me. She urged me to
come to her house in the daytime too, to do various jobs, and I
did so. I usually worked in a field near the road to town. One
day the mayor passed that way, along with several policemen.
They saw me working in the field, and didnít recognize me. My
heart died in me, and after that I resolved not to work in
daylight any more.
Shulamit's mother was ill and died. The forest was very damp and
unhealthy. We were obliged to set out from there and look for a
My brother and Leibl and Mendel had some pieces of cloth. A poor
woman agreed, for pay, to make a shelter on the roof of her
ancient, dilapidated hut. The peasant put straw over the cloth,
and we gathered in our new dwelling and organized it with great
care. It was forbidden to move around more than necessary,
because every movement shook the ceiling. Coughing was also
forbidden; any whisper from us was heard below. In the morning
the gentile woman brought us potatoes, our food for the whole
day. We stayed there a couple of weeks, until police arrived at
her house and told her that suspicion had fallen on her, that
she was hiding Jews. We heard this conversation from the roof,
and were sure that this time we couldnít escape. But the Polish
woman had a daughter, clever and very good-hearted. To take the
policemen's minds off us, she started filling their ears with
compliments and seductive words. Thus the women succeeded in
diverting the police to the neighborsí houses. We used the
respite this gave us to jump down from the roof and flee to the
forest; fortunately for us the hut was near the woods.
We wandered from forest to forest. From a place where we spent
our day, we were gone by night. We were ragged, tattered and
barefoot; filth and lice devoured us. We came to a wood owned by
a Pole named Klibowsky. I knew the man from the days when I
worked at the hospital, where he had been a young patient with
pneumonia. At that time I cared for him with great devotion. He
remembered, and sought now to return my kindness. Many in his
village were now ill, and I would go with him to help them B to
give injections, set up cupping glasses, and so on. Everyone in
the village knew about our group, but none of them dared to hand
of over; the situation of the Poles was terrible too, and that
made us brothers in trouble.
The Ukrainians were organized now into groups whose aim was to
destroy the Poles too -- to kill them and burn their property.
This fate befell the village; it was destroyed and burned. In
those days we heard rumors that there were partisans in Dobrin
and that some Poles from a nearby settlement were preparing to
join them. We decided to join their group. We arrived at their
settlement, and there we met many Jews, all from the forest. The
Polish colonists set up a shelter for them in the settlement,
and a system of trenches around it. We were gathered under cover
at night in a granary near the forest.
One night, before we had fallen asleep, we heard the shout of
"hora" -- the war cry of the Ukrainians. We fled from the
granary and ran to the other side of the settlement, to hide in
the shelter. In the next few minutes we saw that the granary was
on fire. The women gathered in the shelter and the men went out
to the trenches. That night several Poles were killed. The
attackers destroyed and burned, and we feared for our lives
until the dawn.
The Germans objected to the actions of the Ukrainian gangs, and
they arrived at the settlement to deal with the situation. At
that time we were in the shelter. I happened to go outside and
they saw me. Terror seized me, but fortunately it had not
occurred to them that there were Jews there. They interrogated
the Poles, left them a few weapons, and went away. We
immediately gathered our whole group together to decide what to
do next. Some of us wanted to stay in the settlement, but my
brother Leibl was strongly of the opinion that we should get
away at once, because the Ukrainians would attack again, and
this we did. And indeed the next night the Ukrainians came back
and attacked the settlement again, and any Pole they happened on
We decided to abandon this region and go to the parts that were
under the control of the partisans. We had to go forty
kilometers; we made the journey by daylight, through fields and
forests. We even passed close to Vladimirets station in
daylight. There we met a gentile woman we knew, and when she saw
us she began to cross herself; she seemed to believe that we had
risen from the grave.
It was at midnight that we met the first outposts of the
partisans. They questioned us and permitted us to come into the
forest. The next day we were stunned when we saw who these
partisans were. There were many of the police from Vladimirets,
who had a hand in the murder of the Jews. But we had no choice.
In there ranks was also a young man from Vladimirets, Pinchas
Shlipak, whom they murdered afterwards. He and four gentiles
were sent on a mission; the gentiles returned from the operation
and Pinchas did not. They said he was killed in the course of
the mission, but we knew it was their doing.
We stayed there some weeks, until an attack was organized on us
and we left that place and went beyond
Pinsk. We heard that there were real
partisans there, under Soviet leadership.
The road was hard and long; the journey took about a week, but
our situation improved when we got there. We ate our fill of
bread and even had something to add to it. Only salt was scarce.
We found Jews there from Sarny, Rafalovka, Stepan and Lodova,
and even from Warsaw.
We stayed in one of the villages, called Dalsak. In the
surrounding woods there were large encampments of partisans. We
set up bonfires at night, and planes came and dropped
parachutists and weapons. We women knitted scarves for the
partisans, and thus had our part in the war effort. For a while
we were quiet, until the Germans began major attacks on the
village and the woods. The villagers abandoned the village
during the daylight hours, taking their flocks and coming to the
forest. They went to ground in the woods, and so did we.
Thus things continued
until March, until that night when we woke in panic to flee from
the place, because the retreating Germans were approaching.
Outside was open country, the earth frozen and slippery to walk
on. The convoy of refugees extended over ten kilometers. We
walked only at night; by day we hid in the woods, from the
airplanes searching for us and strafing the roads.
Vladimirets and other towns were liberated. The front moved
beyond Kovel. We were in Russian territory. For perhaps a week
we walked, until we came to Rafalovka.