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Survival in the Wild & in Partisan Detachments

From: Yad Vashem testimony

Author: Reuben Baril

** Webmaster Note: The following translation was generously provided by Diane Moore.  We have presented it here exactly as it was translated for us. 

[Note from Diane Moore: This is an account from Yad Vashem, told by Reuben Baril and written down or redacted by someone named Shapira.  It is in Yiddish script.  I have attempted a translation, but there are many places where I can’t read the handwriting or can’t find the words.  My notes will be in brackets. The use of an ellipsis (three dots) indicates an unreadable section.]

Heading from Yad Vashem:

Baril, Reuben, born May 4, 1905, in Vladimirets, Rovno province. [Trade?] Stayed alive with his whole family, a wife and two children.  Lives now [1948] in Landsberg. [May refer to Landsberg Am Lech, a DP camp.]

Survival in the Wild and in Partisan Detachments

 It was two days before the massacre of the Jews of our town, that is, August 27, 1942.  When I found out that they were digging graves behind the town, I went five kilometers away, with my wife and two children, to a peasant, Andrei, whom we had known before everything changed.  Trying to leave the shtetl, we were caught by two Ukrainian policemen.  But we managed to ransom ourselves out of their hands for two watches, because one of the policemen was an acquaintance of mine.  We arrived at the home of the peasant, who took us in, of course, being well paid [.....] 

On Friday, after the shooting, the peasant came with the bad news that they had murdered all the Jews, even the workers that the killers had wanted to leave out, but who chose to share the fate of their neighbors.  The peasant told us that he ran too much risk in keeping us, and could not continue. He advised us to go to the woods, and he would bring us food.  Having no other choice, we went into the woods.  For a week we lived there in great hunger, eating only berries; the peasant brought no food. 

Once my son went back to the peasant to ask for food.  He gave him a bit of potato, scarcely enough for one person. 

Our situation was hopeless, desperate.  I couldn’t watch the children die of hunger. I would lie with my head covered and cry, unable to endure the misery of the children.  I considered hanging myself.  The children understood my thoughts and kept watch on me.

Once while standing guard, I discerned four Ukrainians with our peasant in the lead, riding on horses in our direction.  The peasant had led them to kill us, in order to be free of us and have the use of all our belongings.  At the same time I saw in the distance two Jews from our town, who had surrendered themselves voluntarily to the Germans.  The Ukrainians captured them and shot one of them.  The other one ran away.  [I think it says he lived and tells where he ended up. ]

Realizing the situation, I shouted to my wife and children, “Run!”  And we started running, oblivious of our weakened condition.  They ran after us and fired at us.  Still we managed to escape into the woods.

We stayed in the woods till nightfall, and then we went two kilometers away, to a Pole who let us in and gave us a piece of bread with a cucumber.  He let us rest until two in the morning, and then woke us so we could go on.  Suddenly a Jew from our town, Shlomo Appelboim, came in with the Pole.  He kissed us joyfully, because he had heard that we’d been shot.  He soon left us; he was looking for his son, from whom he had gotten separated.

We went twelve kilometers farther, to a village called Radzishon.  We went past a town where Germans were quartered.  On the way we met peasants. [Can’t read this; I think they were looting.] As we were walking, my daughter fell in a ditch and I barely managed to pull her out of the water alive.  Because of the child, we had to stop at a peasant’s house, an acquaintance called Amsunciuk, who gave us food and took us to another peasant. 

That one told us that Ukrainians that day, with his son at the head of them, had caught a Jewish family called Chonie from the village of Chinocie and turned them over to the Germans, who beat them up and then shot them. The Ukrainians had received clothes and boots as a reward.  Seeing that we were in danger from this person, I decided to put him off the scent.  I said to him that we were going to turn ourselves in to the Germans.  He led us out and on the way he asked us not to stray, and maybe we’d save ourselves. 

When the peasant left us, we turned off the road, deeper into the woods, and we came to a Polish colony called Ruta Stepanska.  We went in there, to a Pole we knew.  He didn’t let us in, saying “This is your fate, ordained by God, and I can’t perish along with my family for your sake.”

So as we were going to our end, I asked a Pole, Tomasz Zawadski, where there was deeper water.  He was surprised and asked why I wanted to know.  I told him the whole truth, that we were going to drown ourselves because we had no other way out.  The Christian was indignant and said it was sinful and we should not even think of such a thing.  He immediately gave us his food, which his wife had brought to him where he was working.  (He was secretly distilling whisky in the field..)  Then another Christian came, Josik Turowsky.  They led us out of the woods and consulted together where to hide us.  Suddenly we saw Poles close by.  We scattered and we were alone again.  But in the evening Albiniuk Turova came and gave us a blanket and a basket of food.  Another person brought potatoes, a third brought more food; but each was very cautious in helping us.  [I think it says they didn’t ask us to pay. ] 

The children started knitting sweaters for the peasants.  Winter was coming on.  The peasants built us a booth in the forest  [name here?] on an island that was surrounded by mud and hard to get to. [Translator’s note: Vladimirets and its environs are not far from the Pripet Marshes.  Some of the stories in Sefer Vladimirets talk about how damp and unhealthy these woods were to hide in.] When a police raid was heard of, we were moved for the time to another place.

Once Tomasz Zawadski came running to tell us to save ourselves.  At midnight a couple of Poles came and led us to a second hut.  The Germans had heard that in the region there was a detachment of 20,000 partisans.  A hundred policemen and three German gendarmes were coming to investigate if it was true.  They asked a peasant (who happened to belong to the partisans, who were based not far away) and he answered, “Where are you going?  There are 20,000 partisans in there with tanks.”  They ran away.

Right afterward “fur hats” came to that place, a detachment of 12,000 men.  I ran off to report it.  But they tried to catch me and my son, and inadvertently we got separated and ran further into the wood.  The partisans then got hold of the village magistrate, Masurkovitz, and warned him to do right by us.  After that he treated us much better.

 After three days the detachment left and in the village we set up a system under the commandant  Setow , which included us. [ I can’t read the next part, but he is now working with the partisans, who give him a cow and a horse and cart, so they can get away if necessary.  Something about cows and peasants and partisans. ]   

In the village of Chinocie there was a storehouse of grain and a mill.  We surrounded the village, and threw some grenades at the police.  Several were killed, and the rest ran off.  We got 20 guns there, and some machine guns, cut the telegraph lines, and burned the post office and the station.  A watch was set up and we controlled the area.  Five thousand Russian partisans came from [ somewhere.  Sentence about commandant, commissar, twenty parachutists.]

We were now about twenty thousand.  Our group, led by Szitof, was made up of Vladimiretsers.  It was used as a radio station.  It was a connection with Moscow, which sent parachutists at night, signaled by our fires, to deliver weapons. [They had much more ammunition than before.  The peasants carried out orders from the partisans.] 

At the end of 1943, there was a massacre at two Polish villages, Czajkow and Berezina.  We got an order from Moscow to [do something about these villages.  R.B. with nine others was sent to Czajkow. A Pole brought them word that there were people there who had taken part in the massacre, the Bulbobaczi [Ukrainian Nationalists, known for their violence against Jews & Poles].  The partisans started to run away but got into some kind of conflict with the Bulbobaczi. The women and children were sent away to Byelorussia and we fortified ourselves for a defense.

[There is a whole paragraph here about partisan activities that I can’t translate.  They were still fighting the Bulbobaczi, who caught and tortured some of them. ] We were in the Pinsker marshes until the end of 1943.  There we waited until our detachment came with arms.

An order came that the women and children should retreat to the Russian side [because of murderous retreating Germans.] They led us through the wilderness for two days, until we were reunited with our detachment.  Then came an order to cross the Bug River and [carry out some operation there.] So as I was a “family man”, I wasn’t sent. 

In April, 1944, we were liberated, near Pinsk, by the Russian army.  On the way back to my home town, [ he was involved in a fight against the Bulbobaczi again].  I worked until July, 1945, and took a lot of revenge on our bloodthirsty enemies.  In August I was back in Poland with my family, [some time in Lodz], we left Poland and came here. [Note: He eventually emigrated to Israel.]

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