MEIR Shub., Lithuania
Photo: MEIR HOLDS PHOTO OF HIS MOTHER, MURDERED BY THE NAZIS.
Born in 1924, Meir S. studied at the Yiddish-speaking Shalom Aleichem school in Kovna, Lithuania, graduating just two days before the start of the war. He managed to flee to Russia ahead of the advancing German Army. After the war, Shub earned a doctorate and taught philosophy. In the 1980s, he wrote to people in the West requesting Jewish history books, devouring works by Dubnow, Graetz, Zinberg and others. Then, in 1991, with Soviet tanks ensconced in Vilnius, he bravely began building the Jewish Studies Department at Vilnius University. Later he became a founding faculty member of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
Now, retired, very ill and almost totally deaf, Shub, 83, needs medications that cost many times what he receives as a pension. His wife, Katya, is also sick.
During World War II, Shub fought bravely in the Russian Army’s 16th Lithuanian Division, also called the “Jewish Division.” He was severely wounded, but he managed to reach Berlin, where in victory he carved on the Reichstag wall, “And here in Berlin am I Meir Shub the Jew from Lithuania.”
She was 3 months old in 1922 when a pogrom broke out in her Belarusian village. As a band of anti-Semitic thugs stormed her family’s home, her mother quickly stashed her under a bed. When the intruders entered the room, cutting up the feather pillows with bayonets, her mother prayed that
her baby wouldn’t cry. Miraculously, the entire family survived. And so her mother renamed her “Chai”, meaning “Life.”
During World War II, Galina served as one of the Russian army’s first women aerial gunners and as a bombardier mechanic, working on American planes delivered to Russia during Roosevelt’s Lend Lease policy.
Now in her late 80s, she’s confined to a wheelchair, her legs mangled and twisted, disabled with multiple ailments, she rarely leaves her apartment because she can’t navigate the staircase.
Despite her infirmities, she cared for her bedridden husband who had suffered a stroke — feeding, washing and repositioning him; changing his linens; and reading to him from Jewish newspapers — for the last 13 years, with no outside help. She is ill herself, yet she cried to God to stay alive so she could continue tending to him.
When The Survivor Mitzvah Project sent her $300 and she was able to buy a washing machine, her life improved; she was no longer exhausted from washing all her husband’s clothing and soiled bed sheets by hand.
And when he died last August, after languishing in a coma from a second stroke – (a period of time that found Galina praying that she herself would die, because she no longer had the strength to lift him and take care of him) The Survivor Mitzvah Project sent another $600, enough to pay for her medications and his burial and tombstone.
Now Galina has a renewed sense of hope for her future — for the chance to relax and to read and memorize her beloved poems about Victory Day — “I didn’t think I could survive it, but now I want to live a little,” she said.