BORISPOL, UKRAINE – February 2005
Hello! I received your letter and $20. Very big thanks for your help that you’ve given to me. For your kindness, let G-d give you great health, prosperity, longevity and happiness from your children, and everything, everything good. Let G-d help you and your children everywhere and all the time with kindness. Amen.
You are interested in my childhood. My mother gave birth to me in a town called Polessoe, Russia, although my father is from Poland – from the city of Krakow. There was a war in 1914 with Russia (NB: in 1914 Krakow was in the Austrian Hungarian Empire), he was taken to the front and then he was captured. After the war he went home and then fell in love with my mother. He courted her for 3 years but she was afraid to marry him, because he was a stranger. She was afraid she would have to leave her home and go to his homeland. That didn’t happen. (They stayed in Russia). They got married and had a first child, a son in 1920. My father had a sister; she lived in Krakow, and was a physician. She wrote letters to my father from Poland. One of the letters was intercepted by the authorities (the Communist Authorities) and they called him in and said he must not receive any more of these letters from Poland. There were such times in 1930s and 40s! They were the worst times — (Stalin and his purges) â€“ people were taken to Siberia and disappeared without a trace for no reason. So of course (because of this fear), all her letters were returned back to Poland unopened. Then my father’s sister wrote a letter to the Rabbi. She described my father’s face, that he was a tall man with dark hair and big ears. The Rabbi knew who she meant and called my father and showed him the letter from his sister, and my father said, with tears in his eyes, “I want to take it so much but I cannot take it.” There were such times!
In 1929 I was born. But 9 years later in 1938 my brother died when he was 18 years of age. Tragedy doesn’t come alone [NB: a Russian saying]. In 1941 came the Great Patriotic War. My father was taken to the front. Everybody was panicking. How to be? What to do? Where to go? There was one elderly Jew (Hebrew), named Label der Prafer. He was a fortune teller. And when the minute comes to him he will tell you everything. He will tell you what your name is, how many children you have, what there was in your past and what there will be. Before the war there were many people who would come to him with their problems. When my father was taken to the front, Label came to us and says to my mother, “Take your daughter and leave.” My mother asked him, “But how about you?” And he answered her in Yiddish, “My children can leave but I cannot. My wife lies paralyzed.”
The Military Authorities sent a horse drawn cart with a driver for evacuation, (NB: because the father was a military man and they were Jews they were evacuated to the East). We made it to the town of Nezhyn. There was a railroad station. We were put in cattle cars. There were very many Jewish families from different places in these cars. We made it to Voronzeh district. We were put in the villages where we were made to grow tobacco. That’s how we lived for two months. But the Germans were advancing rapidly. And again they put us in cattle cars and we didn’t know where they were taking us. We were riding those cattle cars for the whole month. There were many stops and at every station our train would stay for a long time. There was only one track and the military transports were going in the opposite direction towards the front. We were waiting for the railway to become clear to take us further east.
The German’s were bombing us on the way. We heard the terrible noise of the airplanes. We were running out of the cattle car across the tracks and embankments and we lay on the ground without moving. But the Germans would shoot at us from the airplanes with machine guns and would strafe us. There were wounded and killed among us. But G-d had mercy on myself and my mother.
The train went further slowly and we made it to Central Asia, district of Tashkent, county of Bayut, in communist village where nobody owns anything and everyone works as slaves. And so we worked as slaves. It was Soviet Farm #1. We picked cotton. My mother worked in the field gathering the cotton. I was at school. After school I’d go to help my mother in the field. The weather was unbearably hot. I was often sick. I had typhus, and then had malaria. The climate wasn’t compatible with me.
In 1942 we received notification that our father had died — at the biggest battle of tanks in the War — on the Kursk. I became an orphan and my mother a widow. My mother started having heart problems and was taken from the field to the farm itself to work at bringing the cotton in. It was also very hard labor but what could we do? That’s how we lived for three years.
In the end of 1943 our homeland was liberated from the Germans, so my Mom and I, in 1944 left for home. The Jewish families who were evacuated gradually started returning. Our house was whole (not destroyed ) but everything inside was robbed. But this can all come back, can be replaced. But those who didn’t leave like us and that was the majority of people “ all were killed in Chzoykah. There were 4 enormous mass graves. Our schools took responsibility for maintaining those graves always cleaned them, painted the fences, and on a Victory Day (May 9) we always would go with flowers and wreaths to visit those graves. Somber music was playing, but can all that resurrect the dead? Here lie two of my best girlfriends, friends from my childhood, Manya and Fira, all our neighbors and acquaintances, everyone we knew.
When we came home from evacuation, the local inhabitants (Ukrainians) told us that before the Germans came, Label had buried his wife and when the Germans occupied our Shtetl he told them “You Germans will go very far, but you will run back very fast.” For that prophecy, a German pierced his head through his ears with a bayonet and hanged him. Label, of blessed memory – Let the earth be a feather for him.
So I went to the evening school and during the day I worked as a telegraph Morse Code operator. Two years later I graduated from high school. Then I went to Technical Medical school in Harkov (Ukraine) and the faculty of Stematology (Dentist) and became a dental assistant. I worked at that job until my retirement. And then there was a “treat” in the form of Chernobyl — A Nuclear disaster.
That’s how I lived, always worrying. That’s how it has gone in my childhood, my teenage years and then when I am old, they told me that I have to be evacuated from Chernobyl and once again I am forced to leave my home, but what could I do?
I am very, very much thankful to you for your help and the money you send to me
and your daughters help and kindness to me. This is a big, big help. But what can I send to you? Let G-d give you health, happiness, prosperity, joy, and longevity. Amen. I kiss you and embrace you.
Forgive me for writing such a long letter