Concordia University MIGS

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June 29, 1943

A Letter from the Ukraine

Tshudin, 1941. On a particular Sunday morning, at 9 o'clock, Fraydeh enters my room and is completely taken aback. "You are still sleeping and haven't a clue as to what is happening outside?" "Well, what is happening?", I asked. "There's a war! Germany and Russia. There's bedlam out there on the street. People are running all over the place. The officers are packing up their families and are driving away in their trucks. It's unbelievable. There's an absolute panic and you are sleeping?"

I sat motionless as I couldn't quite grasp all that she said. I peeked through the window and yes, all kinds of things were happening on the street. I immediately dressed. I wasn't able to eat, and as far as cleaning up was concerned, forget it. Another time, perhaps. For that brief period of time that we still remained at home (between one and two weeks, I think) neither the house was cleaned nor the beds made. I simply didn't have the energy or patience for such matters.

I went out onto the street. The first person I saw was T. Sahraranuk (?), the premier. He turned his head away. He didn't want to see me. And he always used to be so friendly and would stop to chat.

For starters, we began putting together knapsacks. In case the front would be where we are, we would be evacuated, or perhaps we might even want to escape with the Russians. At any rate, we would be ready, and so we prepared a number of rather large sacks, not for purposes of carrying, and placed inside each a number of items. We also prepared four knapsacks for each of us to carry on our back, each of which contained essentials -- a pair of underwear, a towel, soap, toothpaste, shoe polish (I am now adding this: I just couldn't imagine that we would be left without anything, particularly shoes that would not require polishing), a fine comb, aspirins, cotton, bandages, and so on. In case we lost one another and became separated, each would be left with these essential items. As the people around us noticed what we were up to they too began making similar preparations.

In the afternoon we saw the first enemy airplane. A number of us were standing on the street and looking about. Suddenly we heard firing. We were extremely frightened and immediately headed for the fence near the trees. We thought that the firing was aimed at us. We subsequently discovered that the firing was simply to disperse us. (Even Morris the dog was frightened. He lowered his tail, gazed at us, and barked twice).

We really didn't know how to proceed -- either to bring our belongings to Gentiles we knew, or perhaps even to move in with them. We lived near a stream and that was an area, it was said, that would surely be bombed.

In the evening, we handed over the duck and chickens to Flora, who used to tidy up our club house. We agreed to meet at 4 o'clock in the morning both so that I might also bring over some linens as well as become acquainted with the exact location of her dwelling in case we actually had to go there.

On Monday morning, at 4 o'clock, Flora and I headed out towards her place. We both carried the linens. It was quiet outside and there were no people to be seen anywhere. Just as we were in the middle of a field, and surrounded by absolutely nothing, an airplane appeared and began to fire. We were both very frightened. There wasn't a fence, or a tree where we might seek shelter. I had somehow heard that if one were in the middle of a field under such trying circumstances, then the best thing was to fall to the ground. So I yelled at her to dispose of the linens, and to dive into the grass. And I did likewise. Once the "bird" flew away, we continued on our way. I had a bit of a snack at her place, and then, with great fear, I headed home. When I returned, I could see that Fraydeh was very scared. She regretted that she had allowed me to leave, especially when she heard the firing from the plane.

It was early June. The weather was beautiful, and the garden was in full bloom. We simply couldn't sit still at home. There was a table on the balcony and we would eat outside. In fact, however, we had very little appetite. There were endless canon blasts from early morning till late at night, and the doors and windows would shake continually. The front was actually so very close in Liboka, Crasna and Vikoff. We lived in a very nice German house that the Soviets gave us. It was on Strashnitzer Street.

We would sit on the balcony and listen to the "music" of the front which was so near. In my mind's eye, I could see Eliku, dear unfortunate Nuteleh, Kopell Shotz and a number of other dear ones, and others that I didn't know so well, and I could only wonder about their predicaments and the dangers that confronted them at the moment. And at that very moment, a plane flew by and began firing. Once a bomb fell near the train and killed a young child who was playing outdoors. Our entire day was spent listening to the news on the radio. Everyone was dejected and depressed. People would meet and ask: "What have you heard?" "What do you think is going to be?" Each tried to provide the other with courage. Surely, Moscow would not allow this to continue, we thought. They will...and so on. Gradually, we cheered up a little, though we remained deeply frightened.

One day, I found myself at Yetti Greenberg's, sitting near the radio. The room was filled with people, and all were depressed. The conversation centred around politics. The thunder (from the canons) was considerably louder today, and the street was packed with military personnel who were on their way to the front. It's impossible to stay cooped up indoors, especially since all of the action is outside on the street. Yetti is pressing clothes. She does so exactly while simultaneously exuding a sense of calmness. I stand and watch her. Surely one of us is not normal, I say to myself. Is it me or is it she? Where does she find the patience, especially now, to become so absorbed in cleaning and pressing? So I can't help wondering what would happen if I lost her as I have the others? Her attitude is that the wash has to get done. I concluded that she was a very fortunate person for having the capacity to not appear to be as concerned [about her predicament] as me. My thinking was, "Who knew where we'd find ourselves tomorrow, and who knows where the laundry would end up tomorrow?"

On Tuesday morning, I went to the office to bring Modja. Here's the secret that she tells me: "Come evening, the Red Army will withdraw." Upon hearing this, I suddenly froze.

Modja and Kopl were dear friends of Fraydeh and myself. They were Polish refugees who had recently arrived in Tshudin, and they lived on Strashnitzer Street opposite us. They were two very intelligent people, especially Modja. She looked much like Fraydeh, our cousin, and was just as affable and intimate. That Sunday, when the fighting erupted, Modja returned from Liboka. Kopell was mobilized there. She was very dejected and felt as though she had parted with him forever. We welcomed her to our house so that she shouldn't be alone under such dire circumstances. She ate at our house, and slept there just as though she was part of our family. In light of her information, that is, that the Russians would withdraw come evening, my first thought as to escape from Tshudin. I didn't know what worried me more: the bombing --we were so close to the border -- and the Rumanian Army that would follow, or the goyim who might instigate a pogrom. Perhaps it was a combination of both of these.

I informed Fraydeh of the news and also explained that I didn't want to remain in the town. Until things calmed down, I preferred to be in Strashinetz and from there we might even wend our way to Chernowitz, if that were possible. I certainly didn't think that father wouldn't listen to my advice. And so I together with Fraydeh, explained to them in some detail that, in the meantime, we escape from here as quickly as possible. Also, it wasn't our intention to offer them too much time to reflect on the matter. On our way home, we met Kan, the head of the forestry office, as he was preparing his wagon to return to Strashinetz. He and several others were doing this in great haste. According to our calculations, this was pretty much the last opportunity to leave. We were planning to do so on foot, but what were we to do wasn't well conceived. I was able to work up enough courage to ask him to take the aunt along. Although he wasn't that pleased by the suggestion, he couldn't refuse.

I entered the house. My folks were eating and weren't aware of our plan or of the news in general. We didn't have much time to waste, as it was already 4 o'clock. Why are we leaving? Where are we heading to? they suddenly began asking. We didn't choose to answer simply because there wasn't enough time. We just presented them with the plain fact that it was critical to leave at this time. As she was dressed, I covered the aunt with a coat, handed her a knapsack, placed her on the wagon and basically said, "Go." I then went into Tiak's house. The Soviets had also provided him with a house on Strashener Street that formerly belonged to Germans. He had a broken wagon and a horse that limped. I handed him as much as he asked, so that he would take us to Strashinetz. In other words, the plan was for him to transport our belongings and we would follow by foot. I had Father go ahead of us slowly, until we were loaded. The aunt had already left. Tiak's was the last wagon to be had.

Fraydeh went to the Rosenblatt's to say goodbye. Unlike her, I didn't have the courage to do so. Everyone was so confused and I just didn't know how to deal with this situation. People couldn't seem to understand that we were leaving. They thought we were crazy. Where was there to escape? Wasn't there a war in Strashinetz as well? Won't it just be the same? How is it possible just to pick up and leave a house at such a time? And I wondered that perhaps they were right. Where were we running to? Perhaps conditions there will be worse than here. And yet something pushed me to leave.

Fraydeh returned from the Rosenblatt's. Mrs. Rosenblatt, she said, was in a deep state of despair. She was prepared to leave for Chernovitz but simply didn't want to abandon everything. He, the husband, said, "If you want to leave, go with the children." Quite understandably, they weren't prepared to do this - to leave alone at such a difficult moment. "Yidl," she said, "is my angel of death."

We loaded the wagon to the hilt. Fraydeh was determined to fill the wagon completely and added as much as was possible. I rushed her. I couldn't quite grasp why it was necessary to take everything. Did she even know where we were heading, or what the outcome would be? Where we'd end up? She took as much as possible and the rest was left. We took the cat and the kittens onto the balcony and left them with a plate with milk and some bread. The door to the chicken coop was opened and we left a lot of corn. We shut the gate. Morris, the dog, wanted to follow us. Why should he be left behind to remain in charge? Modja and I were forced to throw stones at him to send him back. He simply could not understand how we, of all people, were pelting him with stones. Finally, he sat down and sadly watched us leave.

I gave Chaikeleh Greenberg the key to our house. She ran after me in despair. She was afraid to remain in charge in case the place was robbed. "What should I do with it?" she asked. "Throw it away," I answered and I left my folks behind who were already some distance away. "Where are you going?" she yelled after us. "I really don't know," I answered, and didn't even turn around to look at her. She gazed at us for as long as possible. Occasionally I'd turn around to see her and did so until she finally disappeared. Had I known that this was the last time I would see her, I would have departed under much warmer circumstances: after all, she was one of my dearest friends.

As I turned around for one last time, the town looked absolutely deserted. Although it was still light outside, no one was on the streets. And if someone were seen, they looked absolutely beaten.

A number of people followed us, but there was no longer any means of transportation. On the next day, they returned to their houses. Shikeleh returned from Budenitz. He was homesick. Sheah Mozes and Peppi Holinger, along with their child, had almost reached Strashinetz. She was shot, and the child was wounded. He tried escaping by hiding under a bridge.

Modja, Fraydeh and I walked rather quickly, moving increasingly farther away from the town, until we finally caught up to Father and the wagon. As we arrived in Strashinetz, I thought that conditions would be improved. No such luck! People were scurrying about with their packages, and belongings of various shapes and sizes. Everything was in a state of panic. An order was issued for all to evacuate to Chernovitz Street. We were heading for Zisman's who lived in the town's center, at the head of Chernovitz Street. The aunt was already there. By now it was dark. Fraydeh, Modja and I placed our bedding on the floor. This didn't work out very well at all, but it didn't really matter because I wasn't able to sleep. And I simply thought. I just thought how this was only the beginning of our wanderings. We were close to a street and we could hear the hustle and bustle of the deserting military.

The other day, that is Wednesday, my folks decided that Fraydeh and Modja should go to Tshudin. Everything there was left in a state of disarray. The chickens had to be fed, and Fraydeh's satchel with the outfits was left there. We had to take out as much as we possibly could. The aunt badly missed her dress, which was left hanging in the closet and asked that it, too, be brought.

I was very opposed to this plan, but no one wanted to listen to me. I actually fought with myself, but I couldn't contradict them. I argued that I'd be happy if I could come out of this confused state of affairs alive, even if only with the clothes on my back. I don't know why I was more frightened than everyone else, probably because I have always been a timid (fearful) type.

Fraydeh and Modja left amid considerable panic -- everyone was running hither and thither. I was standing with Zisman in the yard. Suddenly I hear a bang -- such a loud explosion which lasted, it seemed to me, moments long. I know only this much: we were standing at one end of the courtyard, and I suddenly found myself at the other end and we were both holding onto each other. That's the kind of impact it had. It uprooted the electrical lines from the town which were opposite the Zisman's. All of the windows were blown out of the surrounding houses. Some buildings were, in fact, demolished. The noise and the confusion were just horrible. There were rumours that the bridge would be blown up and Fraydeh and Modja are in Tshudin. How would they cross back over the water? Also, it was decided that they (Fraydeh and Modja) should spend the night there and return the following (Thursday) morning because it was difficult to go and return in one day. You can't imagine my despair.

It is now afternoon. They are there! They had turned back! They had gone as far as Budenitz, four kilometres before Tshudin. An officer there, sitting in a trench, was listening to the telephone. They asked him if there was enough time for them to reach Tshudin and return. He thought they could manage to get there, but it'll be too late to return. So they turned back --tired and broken. They had punished their feet for 24 kilometres and all in vain. We were sitting in the house. Suddenly an airplane passed overhead. Some Russian officers came into Zisman's. One of them asked what we were dong there. We live here, we answered. So he says, "You are still young, and if you want to stay alive, leave here," because as they said, in Ukrainian, "Things are going to be bad here." As it was, we understood that the situation was bitter.

Zisman threw his fortune (so to speak) into the cellar and we also threw in our belongings, left with our essentials, and got as far along on Chernowitz Street to Aryeh Vatelmacher's. On Wednesday morning he had loaded a wagon and headed for Chernowitz. He wanted to take us along as well, but father wouldn't hear of it. I was pleased enough that he (father) came as far as Strashinetz. Aryeh handed us the key to his dwelling. When we got there, we made ourselves as comfortable as possible. He lived at the home of an elderly couple -- very nice people. Shmelzer was their name. Wednesday -- no food or drink -- we waited in fear. We slept through the night. All was quiet meanwhile, the military was retreating. In the morning, two young boys that we knew came by with a wagon. They were en route to Chernowitz, and asked us to join them. I was willing, but father wouldn't hear of it. He wanted to wait another day, he said, and then return home. The boys left.

Flames were already visible in the town's center. Firebombs had landed in the beautiful large buildings. The town's center was on fire since Wednesday evening. It was horrifying, and just impossible to go onto the street. The smoke was thick and choking. Fraydeh still wanted to retrieve our bags from the cellar, but that wasn't possible because the house, too, was on fire. At night, once again, a terrible panic descended. People are running in all directions with no particular destination in mind. I was in favour of heading towards Chernowitz and finally everyone agreed with me. We prepared our knapsacks and set out. We are already quite along on the hill toward Chernowitz. We would slowly make our way there. It was hot and the knapsacks were quite heavy. Father and the aunt were already resting. Hundreds of people were dragging themselves in both directions. One says, "Go," and another says, "Don't go." Night was approaching and we returned to the Shmeltzer's.

This is when the "story" really started. I will never forget that night in the basement for as long as I live. There was an incredible fire of guns just as though it were hailing. It was as though we were at the very front of it. Not far from us, on the hill, were the Russians with their dug - in machine gun to stop the Rumanian military. The Rumanians were in Strashinetz just before the bridge. The others fired in one direction and they, from the other direction, returned the fire. All of this took place above us.

This situation prevailed as though forever. It didn't stop for five minutes or even for one. It was night time. As soon as the thundering ceased, we could hear the whistling and the terrible thunder of a bomb. The walls actually shook and the lamp was extinguished. We were extremely fearful. And this lasted for the entire night. It's impossible to adequately describe the fear. We sat huddled and bunched up together on the sacks -- Fraydeh, Modja and I -- and we trembled. Father cautioned us to move away from the door, and suggested that we sit near him, more over to the side.

I thought to myself that very soon the house will simply collapse and cover us. I began to lose hope. There was a mighty battle taking place around us. The walls were shaking and we were all sitting in the dark, and I was thinking about you, my dear folks and about Matis. You wouldn't ever know where our remains were located. It was all so very painful but there was nothing to be done. Father wondered why he had allowed himself to be persuaded to escape to this particular place; in Tshudin, he said, we would have been spared. We wouldn't have had to run away as everyone there remained. Perhaps he's right, I thought to myself. I simply didn't know the situation in Tshudin.

Father told a story about Baal Shem Tov. It is typically the case, he said, that when in danger, to relate stories of our saintly ancestors. When he finished the story, Fraydeh asked him to continue. For a moment, we forgot where we actually were, despite the fact that the gunfire and bombing continued. The time dragged on. It was 12 o'clock, then 1 o'clock, and then 3 o'clock, and we found it increasingly difficult to lie on those sacks.

The night was interminably long. There was no possibility of sleep. At around 5 o'clock the gunfire waned until it was completely and unusually silent.

It is now daytime. We slowly begin to move onto the street. Father went upstairs to pray. I don't hear him at all. The older Shmeltzer also went outside to the gate. The first Rumanian military detachments arrive. The old man, not knowing better, wishes to welcome them in a friendly manner. As they come closer, he tips his cap and greets them by saying "Welcome." One of the soldiers yells at him, "Escape, old timer, get back into your house." And he, a frightened man, returns to the basement. He said, "Until today, I wasn't afraid, but now I'm terribly frightened." Old lady Shmeltzer was inside preparing for the Sabbath. After all, it was Friday morning. Fraydeh helped father pray. We suddenly heard a knock at the door. A soldier broke the door down and we (those on the top floor) hurriedly escaped to the basement.

We can already hear the soldiers greeted with hurrahs outside, but also that the goyim were beginning to rob and plunder. We can even hear them moving about the house. Undoubtedly they will soon discover the basement. Suddenly we hear firing on the street. We hear lamentable yelling and screaming. We gaze at one another, become increasingly pale, and we are so afraid of what's happening. And here we sat for the entire day, though it felt that it lasted an entire year. As far as food was concerned, there wasn't any. In any case we didn't have an appetite.

We can hear the firing and also other Jews yelling. They are firing in the basements, onto roofs, in order to chase out anyone who was hiding. The goyim are robbing. We hear them running in the yards trying to catch the hens, and drive out the cows. Soon they will see the basement and will appear here. The lady next to me simply doesn't want to stay put, and she jumped up at every possible moment. She wants to see what is happening upstairs. Grabbing her skirt, I say, "You should be pleased. You might be able to save your life. Forget about the things upstairs. Where exactly do you want to go under such dangerous circumstances?" She seems prepared to agree with me, but only for a few moments and then she jumps up again. Again, I have to restrain her. This scenario repeated itself throughout the day. The old man also said to her, "Please don't go. For the first time in your life, why not listen to someone younger than yourself?"

She actually listened to me for the entire day, until just before evening. Suddenly she jumped up, and before I could turn around, she was on her way upstairs, and wouldn't allow herself to be held back. The old man hurried after her and both went outside. They were immediately captured, and we heard them pleading for their lives. The sounds became increasingly faint. Suddenly there was a terrible cry followed by a shot. It was already quite dark in the basement. Actually, there wasn't any light during the entire day. That couple never again returned.

I was scared out of my mind. We held our breath from sheer fear. To this day I can still hear that terrible cry. Father said that it wasn't them. They were, he said, led down the street. I agreed with him, but thought that perhaps he realized how grave the situation really is, or perhaps he was simply trying to comfort us. We waited. I surely expected the soldiers to return for us because they saw the cellar door. What were we waiting for?

It was now Friday evening. Father prayed to himself very quietly. He finished. There was nothing to eat. We are hungry, tired, and broken -- as though we are living in hell. It seemed as though we'd been in this cellar forever, and that we would never leave. I searched everywhere and around the window, and finally found a piece of mameligah (corn meal cakes) and half a glass of jam. I broke off tiny pieces, which I dipped in the jam and distributed to each person. We hovered together on the sacks and packages next to one another. We had not changed our clothes since last Tuesday. It was very quiet during the night, but from time to time we could hear firing. There was firing both onto the rooftops and into basements, all for purposes of scaring and chasing the Jews.

Early Saturday morning, a neighbour whom we hardly knew arrived and said, "Escape however you can. There's no point in sitting in this basement as everyone is being shot. They'll come to plunder and they'll catch you."

We came upstairs into the yard and headed towards the street. We couldn't see a living soul. The scene was impossible to describe adequately. People were simply scurrying. Opposite the field was standing a piece of the church that was struck by a bomb the previous night. We entered a house but no one was there. Everywhere windows are shattered and the houses are empty. Where are the people? Even beyond the town, there wasn't anyone to be seen. Perhaps if we moved closer towards the town, we might find someone there. We might try reaching the shoichet's (ritual slaughter) house. He was father's dear friend.

We didn't all move together. Absolutely nobody is to be seen on the street (it was still early morning). First we send father and then the aunt. If they see someone in the distance, they are instructed to enter a yard immediately. A few minutes later, Fraydeh, Modja, and I, each carrying a few packages, also proceed. We are silent. The houses are empty. They were ransacked. A woman lies on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. I recognize the body -- it is Mrs. Shmeltzer. We step around her and continue. There's still quite a distance to go. And because we're so afraid, everything seems that much longer. As we're walking in this manner, I see from a distance, from the right side of the field, that a soldier is marching with two young boys who are carrying packages. They're approaching us as we're walking. What do we do? We must quickly duck into some place because it's impossible to retreat. The soldier has already seen us and we can only hope for a miracle to escape.

On we go. How will all of this end, I wonder? They are on the same sidewalk, just a bit ahead. I started walking slowly so that we wouldn't overtake them. The boys saw that we were Jews and kept looking back. One of them stopped for a second and called, "Where are you going?" (if I understand correctly). I stopped walking and pretended as though I didn't understand. But Fraydeh didn't clue into what was happening and she came after them, asking, "What do you say?" I grabbed her by the sleeve, held her back, and as though without moving my lips said, "Shut up." The soldier also looked, and entered the yard not far from Litman the shoichet. We had to move along and didn't even turn our heads to look. We hear two shots ring out.

To this day, I still can't explain how we managed to keep alive. Perhaps the soldier was mixed up and thought that we were Christians carrying bundles of plundered goods? Had he arrived a few minutes earlier and seen father and aunt, he would have never taken us as Christians.

We came to the shoichet's. He had already left. The house was in shambles. Father and the aunt were there -- that, for me, was most important because I wondered whether they even managed to reach it there? The home-owner (female), a non-Jew, instructed us to proceed further. We begged her to hide us somewhere, in the attic or anywhere, but she didn't want to hear of this. As it turned out, they had already rounded up a few Jews from here -- she didn't know where and she had been warned that if Jews were found at her place she, too, would be shot. Our pleading didn't help, and we were chased away.

Her daughter came running along and told us to run away immediately. Two soldiers were on their way. She motioned to us to escape to her garden. Five of us together in one place -- it was so very difficult to hide. And the soldiers were already in the courtyard. I didn't quite realize what I was doing, but before I turned around I found myself standing on a young tree, a short one and not very thick (I must have climbed it like a cat). I am now separate from the others. I only know the direction in which they ran.

I was standing on a branch where there was a place for only one foot, and I had to hold on with both hands (as though I were crucified), one foot on top of the other, and I had to keep changing feet. Sure enough, a soldier entered the garden with the gentile's daughter. Did he notice us? Did they show him where we were? I didn't know. "Where are they?", I hear him asking her. She answered pointing in the direction where the others ran. (They were standing near the tree). I closed my eyes so that I shouldn't attract them by my glance. "How many?", he asks her. "One Jew (Zid) and four women," she answers. The soldier proceeded further into the garden, in the direction in which they ran. The jig is up now, I thought to myself. It's too late for them. I shut my eyes and want to block my ears (but I had to use my hands to hold on), so that I should neither see nor hear what will surely happen very soon. But the soldier soon returned empty-handed, stood near the Gentile, looked around with regret, and said (as much as I can recall today) that he would soon start to shoot, and then he left.

I didn't realize where I had landed. As it happened, the soldiers had settled in this Gentile's place. They kept entering and leaving and just sitting around the yard. This garden served as a through-way to the other gardens and houses. I knew that I must not budge from my spot.

I stood for a few minutes (on the tree) and noticed that Fraydeh was approaching. She obviously wasn't aware that I was standing on the tree, or that the soldiers were in the courtyard. She must have thought that I was still at the Gentile's and wanted to call me.

Upon seeing her, I became petrified. She was on her way to the fire without realizing it. She wasn't standing too far from me, so I called quietly to her: "Fraydeh, Fraydeh, go back!" She seemed to hear me, but couldn't ascertain the direction of the voice and turned back. I can only see where she was heading, but not where all were hiding.

I stood for about ten minutes and, once again, Fraydeh was returning. I felt as though I was about to explode. I began to yell again (it is possible to yell quietly): "Fraydeh, get out of here." She didn't know that soldiers were in the yard. She couldn't understand why I was chasing her away, but she obviously appreciated the importance of turning back. What can I tell you? Two minutes elapsed and again Fraydeh returned. I again began yelling quietly to draw her attention. She noticed me on the tree and beckoned me to follow her. Apparently they had secured a good hiding place. I whispered to her, "You'll come during the night and take me then. There are soldiers in the yard. Escape!"

Again she returned, took just a few steps, and I could hear them yelling at her, "Hello." I was convinced that it was all over now. Father and aunt would have some wait till we returned. Fraydeh turned around, and was left standing there looking extremely pale. I almost could not control myself. She was noticed by a soldier from a distance who asked, "Where is there a drinking fountain?" He thought she was a Christian who lived in the neighbourhood. Fraydeh maintained her cool and answered: "There," and pointed towards a house. She returned around and left, as she was getting a bit further away, he called once again for the direction of the fountain.

But Fraydeh was no longer present, and this upset him. It didn't take very long and I heard gunfire very close to where I was. I heard a second soldier yell out, "Who is firing there?" Meanwhile the first explained about Fraydeh; that is that a Jewish person had disappeared and that it was his pleasure to fire several shots into the garden. And now I began considering the possibility that a bullet might even strike me. Meanwhile, the second soldier told the first to leave the gun. "It's my weapon," he said. The first soldier stopped shooting.

(When I saw her with father several days later, and described to him what transpired, he said that my grandfathers had been watching over me.)

Saturday afternoon and it's almost dinnertime. My mouth was so dry and although I hadn't thought about food, I would have appreciated some water if only there was some available. How long would I have to stand here with my hands held in the air? It was a very long summer's day. Slowly, I had to change the position of my foot so that the branch wouldn't even move and I wouldn't be heard. My arms were also beginning to ache, but there was little I could do. That one day felt as though I had been standing on the tree for an entire year.

I heard the soldiers returning to eat. I wasn't able to see them because the yard was hidden by a shed.

A tall officer entered the yard (I'm not familiar with the insignia on uniforms). He took off his jacket and sat down to rest by my tree. I held my breath and turned my head. I shut my eyes and thought. Now, whatever will be will be. I gazed in a different direction and noticed a leather jacket lying on the ground. Looking at it more carefully, I realized it belonged to Modja who, I saw, was lying on the grass, not far from where I stood. I didn't realize how close she was to me. I, of course, reckoned her to be with Fraydeh. I figured that she would soon be spotted by the soldier, especially since he was so close to her. He continued sitting for a while longer and then departed.

I was so thirsty that my throat was parched. I noticed that there were onions and carrots planted nearby. My plan was simple: as soon as it turned dark and prior to Fraydeh's arrival, I would climb down and pick a few carrots for myself and for Modja. There was a small hole with some filthy water. I planned to have one or two sips.

The day felt as though it lasted an entire year. My eyes were shutting by themselves. I was so tired standing on one foot. If only it were night and Fraydeh would arrive. What I wouldn't give for an opportunity to lie down and forget my fear.

I thought a lot about you, my dear folks. In a day or two when calm will prevail, and I should I survive this experience, I will send you a very long letter describing my experiences here.

Meanwhile, a light summer rain was falling gently. Beads of water had accumulated on the leaves. I attempted to reach any leaf I could grab to lick it, and to thereby quench my thirst, even though the dirt on them filled my mouth. The sun had once again begun to shine and the leaves dried up. I felt as though I were about to expire.

Suddenly a soldier jumped over the fence near Modja and noticed her. Modja lifted herself and he, ironically, asked whether she was asleep. She didn't understand Rumanian, and I didn't hear her answer. Then he looked in my direction and I was sure that our eyes met. And I was now certainly convinced that the end was in sight. Instead, he passed by me in the yard and quickly returned with another person. They spoke to her rather quietly. At one point, I overheard them asking if she had any money. Evidently, they didn't see me at all. I suppose that it was out of sheer fear that I was convinced that he was looking straight at me. As it happened, he was looking toward the fence to make sure that nobody was approaching. Otherwise there is no logical explanation because the second person left quite suddenly and the first remained with Modja. I leave it to your imagination to realize what transpired. But he didn't shoot her. I closed my eyes and shuddered. When I heard him leave, I noticed that Modja was standing next to the small tree.

I can barely record what I have lived through. The fear and he pain will remain forever. My dear friend Modja! I thought to myself that even though he left her to live, she was so devastated that she'd never be able to recover and be the same person that I knew.

Modja stood there leaning against a tree. She was no longer hiding. It was now irrelevant as to whether or not she was seen. She stood in this manner for some time, and then she approached me and stood absolutely silent. It was still light outside. It was as though the sun exposed Jewish tragedies. I said to her quietly, "Go, Modja, return to your hiding place, so that no one will see you. I'll come down when it'll turn dark and Fraydeh will come for us." I asked her again to hide. She no longer cared, she answered, one way or another, but she did listen to me and hid. There wasn't any tree that she could climb. There were several young trees but not any tall ones suitable for climbing.

In the evening I heard some terrible yelling and shooting from the direction where my folks were hiding. I heard the very same from the street -- people were yelling, and canons were fired. I then heard an excruciating yell from a woman, "Father is dead!"

Who knows what has happened to my folks? If Fraydeh failed to appear this evening, I would conclude that there probably wasn't anyone left to come for me. Standing in the little tree, I decided not to surrender. I more or less saw and heard what was happening around me. To give myself up meant a certain death, and I was determined not to do so as long as I could last on this tree. Perhaps the pogrom would subside, and then I'd try making my way through the forest to those peasants that we knew. However, I hadn't a clue as to what happened in Tshudin. As for simply giving myself up willingly to what was certain death -- absolutely never!

It was already dark outside. I was surrounded by silence. I descended from the tree. My throat was extremely parched (from days of neither eating nor drinking), I pulled out two carrots from the garden. I was unable to wash them, so I just brushed off dirt.

It was dark and quiet. A cloudy moon showed its face every so often. We sat under the tree -- huddled together -- and waited. We didn't speak of what happened nor of what could happen to us later. We simply sat and waited. I felt that it was very late. We were very tired and sleepy. There was silence all around us. Not even a rustle.

Fraydeh was still unaccounted for. She wouldn't be returning, I thought. I then considered whether anyone was even left to come judging by last night's violence. I quickly erased that thought from my mind. After all, she came three times during the days and now when it was quiet shouldn't she come? Modja suggested that we proceed further into the garden, where there were empty houses. Perhaps we would find them there. At least there we'd be able to sleep a little and rest.

We began to creep quietly into the gardens, but it was difficult to see. It was extremely dark. Suddenly, a dog barked and a shot rang out. We could hear Rumanian spoken in a house. We turned back, sat under our tree, and waited.

No sign of Fraydeh. It was very late. Our eyes kept closing -- we could barely keep them open. I simply couldn't understand why she didn't arrive. If she were alive, she would surely come. Once again we set out in the same direction. Modja called out quietly, "Fraydeh!" No reply. It was late at night and not even a rustle could be heard. We crawled back quietly, and passed by a bush. Modja said that this would be a fine hiding spot, that we should lie down here, and that no one would even think of coming here during the day. She also inquired how it was possible for me to stand on the tree for so long?

I didn't want to remain near that bush, so we returned to the tree. There we sat down, and held onto each other because it was chilly. We tried to make each other more comfortable. I'll never forget that night with Modja as long as I live. We repeatedly asked each other: "You're not cold? Are you lying comfortably?" We held onto each other and covered each other as much as possible with the coat. Modja wanted to take off her leather coat to cover me so that we'd be comfortable and warm. And I wanted to do the same for her with my coat -- as if we both sensed that we were spending our last night together. And in that way we both dozed off. As soon as I fell asleep, I dreamt of a pail of water and I was drinking continuously. I never realized how exhausting thirst could be.

It was just beginning to get light outside when we were awakened by a shot in the distance and by the howling of a dog. I climbed back into the tree while Modja remained on the ground. I was so tired that I was barely able to keep my eyes open. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a lamenting cry, a pleading kind of call from a woman that tore at my heart. And meanwhile Fraydeh hadn't returned; most probably, no one had survived.

Within a short time, the two mean Gypsy-looking soldiers returned. They were sporting moustaches and their eyes were filled with hatred. I was very terrified that I was about to fall. They passed right by where we were hiding yesterday. They checked the bush where Modja had suggested we hide. Not finding anyone there, they turned around. I thought that the danger had now passed. They didn't see us, but in the last second they caught a glimpse of Modja. They started yelling at her. She sat up and approached them with her head bowed. They encouraged her to move along more quickly. They took her.

When I saw this, I immediately abandoned my plan to go the forest in Tshudin. I was just going to give myself up. There was no point to continue without Modja. I was absolutely convinced that everyone had perished and that she was the only person I had left.

As soon as they left the garden, I climbed down from the tree and went into the yard that belonged to the Christians. I had to pass by that direction. I was already quite hoarse. My throat was quite tight. The woman was surprised to see me. I asked her for a bit of water. Instead she poured a cup of coffee. I thought to myself that if I should be shot, then at least I will have had something to drink. I wandered towards the street, because she informed me that of the Jews who had survived, all had been assembled in the Jewish school.

Not a soul was to be seen on the street. Neither military or civilian people were around. I alone was there. I couldn't spot a trace of Modja anywhere. As I approached the center, I saw a group of military people in the distance. They looked at me in amazement as I approached them so nonchalantly and greeted them with, "Good morning." Among them was a young officer who asked where I was heading. I motioned in the direction where I believed the Jews were. "You are Jewish?" he asked. "Where have you been till now?" "I've been with the Jews that were rounded up but somehow I was left behind." He asked the others for the whereabouts of the Jews and was informed that they were at the Jewish school. I indicated that I knew its location. We walked together. I was barely able to decipher where I was in light of the surrounding devastation.

As we walked, I asked about the purpose of having rounded up the Jews. Was it to shoot us or to send us to a camp? To a camp, he answered. That answer pleased me. My reasoning was that if we weren't to be shot, I would soon be reunited with Modja. And I was convinced that she would be overjoyed to see me as well.

As we approached the school, a police officer searched those that were brought in. I carried on my person some Russian money, a watch, a ring, a nice wallet, and some other small articles. The officer let me in. Inside the school there stood another sentry. Again the same, and the officer allowed me to pass through. When we reached the interior of the school, we took leave of each other, shook hands, and he wished me the best. Were he to have sent along one of his soldiers, I might have been led elsewhere and probably robbed of my possessions.

As I entered the school, I noticed that there was virtually no room to move. It was packed with women. I was stunned that there were people still alive, and I began running to the various classrooms searching for Modja. Since the corridors were so congested, I was forced to push my way through one classroom to another. I met Chaya Tresser, Ch. Schneider and D. Lenger. I asked about Modja but they hadn't seen her. Nor would they permit me to continue on my way as they now began questioning me as to the whereabouts of my folks, and so on and so forth. I ran away from them. I was certain that Modja was still around.

I began pushing my way through the masses of people. I carefully examined each face. Perhaps I'd be lucky. People were upset over my pushing. But I wasn't concerned about this at all. I was unable to locate Modja. I was rushing about all over the place, upstairs and downstairs. I couldn't understand what happened. After all, if they hadn't shot her, then surely she would have been brought here. Once again I ran into the classroom where the few people left from Tshudin were gathered. I asked if in the meantime Modja had appeared. She hadn't.

Slowly I began to understand what must have happened to her. And I must admit that until now that possibility hadn't occurred to me. I lay down on the floor, face down, and began crying uncontrollably. It was as though my experiences of the past few days simply were released by this crying. Evidently, I concluded, I no longer had her as well.

And this is how that Sunday passed. Those who had been rounded up since Friday had survived without any food. I checked my pockets and found some onions that I picked that night when i climbed down from the tree. I also had a piece of bread that the Christian woman had given me. I meant to give myself in. The women begged me for this food as their children hadn't eaten since Friday. The women were assembled in the high school, while the men were in two synagogues. In addition, of course, there were the several hundred who had been shot in Strashinetz. Additional persons were continually brought in who were injured and bloodied. There was a young girl with a bullet in her foot, and another with one in her back whose body was burning up with fever.

Night time approaches. I still couldn't find a place to lie down. I had never experienced such hunger and exhaustion in my life. There were a few school benches, but they were taken. However, there was one bench, not the kind upon which one sits. It was one where books are stacked. It was extremely narrow and slanted. Everyone lay down like slaughtered lambs after nightfall. There was nothing to eat. It was dark and no one even had a match.

The place was scattered with strewn bodies, and there wasn't even a spot to rest. The air was sickeningly thick. We were even afraid to open a window because the guards outside kept shooting in the air.

I placed my coat under my head and lay down on my side, as the bench was too narrow for me to lie on my back. I was sure that I'd fall off this narrow and slanted edge once I fell asleep. Every once in a while a shriek could be heard coming from one of the classrooms. Soldiers came to visit with flashlights. They lit everything up, and if they saw a ring or a watch or earrings they pulled them off and invited themselves on any young girl who appealed to them. And when the shrieking began in one room, others in the other rooms, not knowing exactly why, also began to shriek. It was dark and there was much panic. Shots were regularly fired outside to help ensure quiet on the inside. At dawn, people began to rise. Anyways, these "comfortable" beds were not conductive to sleeping any longer. People began to calculate and to share with others the number of "sacrifices" they endured (in their families) and to bemoan their fate. I didn't do any such counting, but was convinced that none of my family was left.

I wanted to go into the yard to breathe some fresh air -- at least to wash my face -- to enjoy a bit of water, but the door was locked. On the other side stood an eighteen year old shaygetz (a young non-Jew) from the pre-military who guarded us. At around 9 o'clock, he would do us a great favour and let us out for a few minutes. An older lady who knew him, begged to let her have a bit of water and tried passing by without his permission. He began beating her with a stick and chased her back inside.

The washroom sewers were blocked up, and the dirty water began to overflow into the corridors where people were sitting on their packages. If one had to go to the washroom. they had to walk in the dirt (sewage). All of the rooms and corridors were filled with a stifling air. The women became hysterical and were screaming, fighting, and crying all day.

It was already Monday and there hadn't been any food since Friday. Women who had a bracelet, ring, or earrings would offer these to the soldiers. In return, they would request the soldiers bring a bit of corn meal or a few beans from their already plundered homes, and which they were able to cook in the yard on two bricks (which served as a stove). We were gradually allowed into the yard, and peasant women occasionally came to the fence and offered some food. Unfortunately, they demanded only Rumanian currency, and would not accept the Russian equivalent. But who among us possessed such currency?

Two soldiers drove in during the day. They spoke with us and offered some comfort -- they asked where we were from. One soldier remarked, "What I saw in Tshudin, I never want to see again for as long as I live. I walked up till here in blood" as he pointed to his knees. And he spoke about a beautiful blond girl with golden-like hair and how she cried and pleaded that they should first shoot her, even in front of her father, instead of forcing her to submit to their violation of her. I knew that the girl was Erna Hassner. I could only imagine what was happening in our town. My God, how is it possible to put up with all this? And the excuse used by the Rumanians was that Jews had fired on the Rumanian army from the rooftops. That was the excuse. If so, then they weren't to blame for their actions. Since the Jews had shot, they were forced to arm themselves in order to respond accordingly.

While I experienced other pains, the one I didn't feel was hunger. I sat on a bench and was dejected all day. It was already Monday. I hadn't seen Fraydeh, father and aunt since early Saturday morning. I could only surmise that the very worst had befallen them. Strangely enough, having reached this conclusion, I felt a little better. My eyes welled with tears. I lay down with my arms outstretched, and just allowed myself to cry. Suddenly I felt someone was tapping my shoulder. I looked up. A lady handed me a piece of bread with some butter. I thanked her. I wasn't crying from hunger; I had more legitimate reasons for my tears.

(Meanwhile I refused not to finish that piece of bread with butter; it had been two to three days since I had last eaten.)

They seemed to take pity on us in the afternoon, and a bag of hard dried beans was thrown into each classroom. There was now dried bread as hard as rocks, which had been left over from the time of the Russian army. Perhaps they might have been possible to eat this with some tea, but where was tea to be found? We dipped our bread in water which made it edible. And people just went mad upon seeing the bread, for it was as though they had never seen bread before. There was yelling, screaming and pushing, and it was impossible to get people settled down. A decision was reached to designate a special area in each classroom for the distribution of food, along with a person in charge. A list of names of those present would be drawn up, thereby determining the required portions of bread. It didn't seem to take very long before I was spotted. I really didn't have any patience for this and would have preferred to be left alone. On the other hand, I couldn't turn them down, and accepted the responsibility of allocating the portions of bread.

It's Tuesday morning. Amidst all my troubles, I can't help noticing the tremendous dirt and filth which surrounded us. We neither had a change of clothing, nor any combs. We couldn't wash, or even rinse our hands and face. And if we could wash, there weren't any towels. I concluded that we would undoubtedly become very ill. In fact, there were already sick people on the top floor.

It was raining. People were pushing to get closer to the window. I couldn't understand what was happening. Where was the problem? I heard that people were being chased, among them persons from Tshudin. I immediately headed for the door. There were indeed people being chased. Some were injured. They're from Banila, Krasna, and Derunter. And among them were some from Tshudin -- Dr. Wald and his wife who was seven months pregnant. She was bruised and injured. There was Azuh Moses with the bandaged head, Dr. Mentshl and Mr. Gutman, the teacher, with his son and daughter. They had been hiding. As soon as she saw me, she ran over, embraced me and began crying. "Where's your mother?" I asked. "She was shot," she replied. "All of Tshudin was shot!" She burst out crying and ran away. She had to stay with the rest. I was shocked by the information. Was this even possible? Did this really happen?

I went to the second floor, hoping to find a familiar face. I ran into someone from Strashinetz, a niece of the Kent family. Upon seeing me, she ran over and started crying, and listed the people she had lost. I thought to myself that she used to have such a large family in Tshudin and she was now crying over their demise. She enumerated some of the material possessions that she had lost: a golden chain, and a lot of jewelry. I turned to her and said "To hell with your jewelry. Why are you crying over this? Others are crying over loved ones that they've lost, parents and children! And you're crying because of some jewelry?"

Suddenly there was panic. A high-ranking officer appeared and issued an order that all were to go outside into the courtyard as they were, without any packages. There was bedlam, as all were frightened and wondering whether were would be shot. And others were screaming. People were quickly pushed out into the courtyard. I was standing out in front. At any rate, I didn't have any packages and so I didn't really mind being pushed around. I noticed that nearby was a young woman with a compress on her head. She placed her arms around another person and began to dance and sing. Evidently, she had a nervous breakdown. Another woman, standing in a corner, sighed lamentably, "Where are my children?"

While standing amid the pushing, I noticed a woman who kept staring at me. She asked if I happened to be the daughter of the ritual slaughterer from Tshudin. "Yes, I am his daughter. But how do you know me?" "Well, you look much like your sister. And you should know that your father, and sister and aunt are still alive. They're at my house." (Well, can you even imagine how I felt upon receiving this news?) I asked how she knew they were alive, since she was not there? She explained that they had been at her place for several days. "As for myself, I'm here only since this morning. I left my house to check up on the chickens. They saw me and brought me here. If your folks only knew that the firing had ceased, they too would venture outdoors, plead and probably be brought here. But they're so frightened. However, they needn't be, because no one will find them where they are. Much of the house was destroyed by a bomb. And as for you," she continued, "they couldn't possibly believe that you are still alive."

Upon receiving this news, I decided that I'd have to bring them here, especially since I had heard that anyone found in hiding would be shot immediately. When I asked where she lived, she drew a diagram leading to some God-forsaken place. I had no idea if I would ever even find it. So what to do now? How could I reach my folks to bring them here? It wasn't possible to do it alone. I would have to ask a soldier to accompany me. Meanwhile, I had heard that soldiers were in the habit of taking people to where they wanted, and that they felt no obligation to return them to the camp. And how could I be certain that I wouldn't meet up with a soldier who robbed? I imagined the following: we'd reach our destination, he'd see that my folks were hiding, especially an elderly Jew with a beard. He would disregard the fact that people were no longer being shot and would shoot. No! I couldn't chance it with a soldier when the situation was so uncertain, with the town destroyed and with the complete absence of people on the streets.

I decided to wait. Actually there was a very pleasant watchman at the gate, an elderly gentleman with whom I had spoken several times. I decided to explain the situation to him and to invite him to accompany me. Meanwhile, it was Tuesday night. As it happened, just when I needed him, he wasn't around.

Darkness fell rather quickly. The sky was covered with very dark and ominous-looking clouds. There was a terrible storm accompanied by a violent wind. It was raining in sheets. The conditions were indescribable. It had been raining this way, on and off, since Sunday. It stormed each night. There was lightning and thunder. Simply put, a rain of this magnitude hadn't been seen for some time. It rained in this manner all night without any interruption. Also at night yet more people were brought to where we were, people who had been rounded up in the neighbouring villages. They were soaked, naked, and without any shoes. They recounted horrible tales. According to the farmers, they said, the rain was symbolic of the problems facing the Jews. There was an actual flood in Tshudin and the crop was lost. According to the farmers' stories what accounted for the famine that year was that all the Jews had been destroyed. Those were the kinds of stories that were circulating.

I couldn't sleep at night. When I arose on Wednesday, at dawn, the older watchman was still not there, nor did he arrive later in the day. I was beside myself, because I knew that they (my family) were in danger as long as they remained in hiding. Later I heard a commotion in the yard. Some people ran to inform me that Fraydeh and the aunt were here. I ran out to the yard --the aunt was crying bitterly. Fraydeh, on the other hand, was shades of green and yellow. (I couldn't see how I looked) The very first thing we did was embrace and kiss (the dead had arisen). A watchman was checking their packages and baskets. As it happened, father was already at the synagogue with the other men. They brought some food which they found at the Jewish woman's house and, in addition, they had two satchels with some of our belongings. At this point, my only wish was to see father, or to somehow let him know that I was alive. But how? Some people were going from one synagogue to another, but did not venture out alone. We were allowed to sit in the yard to our heart's content. Strashinetzer people brought some provisions and were cooking outside on two bricks. A woman boiled a kettle of water and treated us to a cup. The three of us were shaking. Each took a sip as though we were drinking the most delicious cocoa. We hadn't tasted a drop of anything warm for three to four days. I thought to myself -- if only I could bring father a little boiled water just so that he could enjoy this little pleasure.

Two days passed by. I begged the people who arrived from the men's camp (synagogue) to inform father that I was here, but I wasn't sure if they did. One morning -- the guard at the gate was a well-intentioned soldier -- I asked him to accompany me to where the men were stationed because I wanted to see my father. We would return immediately, I promised., He said that when another guard would spell him half an hour he would accompany me. And so it was. Fraydeh joined us because she, too, wanted to see father. I took some bread along (and why did we have to go along with the bread?) Upon arriving there, we embraced (back alive from the dead).

The men's quarters were much quieter than the women's. But they were much more beaten. We didn't spend very long there and quickly returned. When we reached the gate, I handed my watch to the soldier. He was so decent a person that he actually couldn't believe that I was giving it to him to keep. In fact, I could have got away without giving him anything at all. What I didn't realize was that this episode was but the beginning of what was to follow for a period of several years, and that the watch would have been of use to me on different occasions, either to sell it or to exchange it for bread. I thought that we would be soon be free and that I would simply buy myself another watch.

We were in the school for a period of ten days, with very little food. We were exhausted from lying on those "comfortable" beds, and wearied from both the confusion and the dirt. Suddenly an order was issued that all persons indigenous to the area must exit outside. They were led to two streets -- a ghetto -- where they would henceforth live. The remaining persons were to head to Vishnitz and Vashkritz. Confusion and noise reigned! For the Strashinetzer -- significant news. We were told to get our belongings and to head for the yard. Several wagons arrived on which they were loaded along with a few sick persons. The rest of us followed on foot.

The streets were teeming with action. I ran quickly to the men's area to fetch father so that we could head together for Strashinetz. But Fraydeh asked, "What will we do here in this burned-out city where there's already a famine? Voshkevitz is a better off neighbourhood." I arrived where the same confusion greeted me. I searched for father everywhere, in every corner, but I couldn't find him. I asked around but to no avail. So I thought to myself: we probably crossed paths. He probably went to our quarters using a different street and they were probably waiting for me there. I ran back breathlessly. It was already late afternoon and I heard that one transport had already left. I returned and Fraydeh and the aunt were waiting. "Where's father?" they asked me. And I was so certain that he was already with them. We were unable to make any sense of this predicament and so Fraydeh and I both ran to the men's area. We took different routes -- I along one street and Fraydeh along another -- so that we shouldn't miss him. When we arrived -- again the same confusion. And again, father wasn't there. I asked everyone about the Tshudiner shoichet. Hadn't anyone seen him? They didn't know his whereabouts until finally some acquaintance blurted "Your father? He left with the first transport. I saw him myself."

We ran back to our camp. The aunt was waiting. Where's father? We were beside ourselves. We couldn't afford to wait any longer. The last transport was leaving and couldn't delay. We were terribly confused. A Jew all alone! How would he be able to survive alone? Who knew where his transport would end up? We were like lost sheep who were being herded in any which way. This was the manner in which parents were being separated from their children, and so on. This was how a lot of families were separated, never again to reunite.

And so reluctantly we left on the very last transport. Our driver had a sour disposition. We were forced to walk quickly. He beat whomever he found with his stick. We tried to remain in the center, because he walked by the sides and the back. We helped the aunt by bracing her on either side so that she would be able to keep up. It was just terrible for the elderly and the weak who could not maintain that pace. The wagons were mainly loaded with baggage and our few packages. And as for us, we could not stop wondering about father. Who knew what kind of driver he had to contend with, and whether he was able to keep up? Perhaps he had been shoved or even beaten? If only we were together, we would have been able to look after him. We would have made sacrifices for him, if necessary.

We traveled in this manner until night time. Suddenly a woman from Cherish had the inclination to give birth, which meant that her wagon stopped at the last house. This was near an open field. As it happened, a midwife lived there and that was where the driver dropped her off. Some two days later both she and her child were sent back to the camp.

We continued along. The sky was filled with dark clouds. There was a storm, and twigs and branches lay broken. It was pouring and there was no place to hide or even to seek shelter. We plodded along and saw, in the distance, a large barn. We had to reach that point for that was where we would sleep and then continue in the morning. Besides the rain, it was soon night time. Meanwhile, I heard that a previous transport had also stopped there. In my absolute wildest imagination, I considered the possibility that my father might be there as well. We were driven into the yard, to the barn, absolutely soaking wet, and what do you think I saw? Father was walking in our direction. We were overjoyed to see him -- you can't possibly imagine. Now guess! What were the very first words he uttered? What did he say? You'll never guess: "Do you, perhaps, have a radish? I'll be able to wash and make the appropriate blessing? So calm, just like he was at home, having washed and about to sit at the table. He didn't appear confused at all. It seemed most natural to him that we were there. Were it not for the storm, perhaps we wouldn't have stopped and his transport would have ended up elsewhere, as would we, and we would never have reunited. Well, this was his nature under all circumstances -- very very calm just as I was the opposite. He seemed so unaware of the frightful circumstances that we encountered.

During that very first moment when he asked for a radish I actually felt like laughing. Unfortunately, I had passed the point of being able to laugh, and I was a little resentful. And I said, "Perhaps you'll hold off on the radish until we find some shelter? Is this the most important thing that you have on your mind?"

We entered the barn. Father had saved us a little room (people were pushing all over the place). We spread our packages, and rested. And as though it were today, I remember distinctly what I said: "Let me tell you, father, if we survive these troubled times, with God's help, given the very first opportunity, I will write to the family in America. I'll describe what happened and how you approached us, as though nothing unusual had occurred, and that you asked for a radish. I want to warn you that I plan to do this, providing that we escape. How is it possible for someone, under such terrible circumstances, to separate from his own family, and drive away in another transport, when he could have waited, or come to us, as did others to their families so as to remain together? Had we not arrived, what would you have done all alone in these difficult circumstances?" (There were, in fact, such unfortunate situations where elderly persons were forever separated from their families. These were terrible tragedies.)


Additional Recollections, 1989

For some time, the above pages were lost. Now, in 1989, I will see how much I can recall and add to them. Matis always urged me to record the entire set of experiences (especially since what I had written in pencil was, by now, barely visible) and to deposit the work at Yad Vashem. There was a dearth of material from Transnister (Ukraine).

When I asked Fraydeh why she hadn't returned that evening when I was perched on the tree, she answered that she had been mortified by the soldiers whom she saw during the day. As such, she lacked the courage to come by. She also said that they were convinced that I had moved elsewhere, given the shooting and yelling they had heard. And also, she added, I was envied because, it was believed that my ordeal had ended.
We were taken to Vashkoitz. It was incredibly hot and people expired from sheer thirst and from hunger. I had lost the use of my right hand from having to stand on the tree as though I were crucified, one foot on top of the other, my hands spread out, and barely holding onto branches. I was sure that I'd be left handicapped. (Keep in mind that there was neither a physician nor a hospital where I might go for assistance). But I gradually regained the use of that hand.

We didn't remain in Vashkoitz very long. We slept in a number of empty houses, although some families were yet hiding in them. From there we were chased to Bessarabia and to Yedinetz. There was a camp there. The journey was horrible. When I turned around, it was impossible to see the end of the long volley of transports. For the most part, we were chased through fields so as to avoid the villages. When we did occasionally pass a village, all that was observable were empty vacant Jewish houses, with gates and doors wide open. Occasionally, written in Yiddish on the side of the house was, "The site of a mass grave!" If we passed a well, those who were first in line were able to drink. But there was such a push to reach the pail that more water was spilled than remained for drinking. And before we knew it, we were again chased and forced to proceed without any water at all.

We were stopped on a mountain without any trees or leaves for shade. Neither was there a well. We were left with blisters both on our lips and on our feet. Moreover, we didn't meet a single soul from our town, simply because there wasn't anyone left to meet -- aside from Mrs. Venger and her two young boys and Malvi Knoier and her mother. Her father and brother had both been shot in Tshudin and Malvi and Mrs. Venger had hidden themselves and escaped jail.

As we were chased through the forests, I noticed a young blond girl who was lying there naked. If only the forest could speak! A soldier arrived each evening and took Malvi with him. She would return in the morning with some bread for her mother. The words that Malvi said, "I will never forget, I didn't recognize Clara because she was so beat up."

And we continued to be chased and herded. It was extremely hot and we were more thirsty than we were hungry. When I spotted a muddied stream, I immediately ran over to drink. But Fraydeh wouldn't let me. Nonetheless, I just had to take a few sips. As it happened, there was a well in the Yedinitzer Camp. It was poisoned. People became ill and children actually died from drinking the water. When it rained it was as though it were sent by God and I drank as much of that rainwater as possible.

The chase continued. It was autumn. There was a cold rain with a bit of a wind and the snow began to slowly fall. We continued to walk for entire days in the muddy fields of Bessarabia. People would fall to the ground as they were unable to keep up. And though I was so very tired, I could see a house in the distance that belonged to a Gentile, and I heard the barking of a dog. And I said to Fraydeh, "If only I could become transformed into a dog. How lucky that dog is, as he's lying under the balcony. He is neither wet nor afraid of anyone. And more than that, he is being fed." (Several years later, Rogel* wrote a poem titled "Small, Grey Cat" which was reprinted several times).

The very first thing I did upon my return from the Ukraine was to run to that tree where I hid to save my life. It had already grown.

This, then, is the story of how we left our home for the Ukraine. A completely different chapter of this larger story relates to the years that were actually spent there. Unfortunately, I lack the energy to recall those experiences.

Koineh Schachter-Rogel, 1989


Note: Joseph Rogel, the writer’s late husband, was a poet.

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