Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: After the Senkevychivka Ghetto Destruction (Part 5: 1942-1943)

This is the fifth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This talks about how she survived after the Senkevychivka Ghetto's destruction.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, and here.

I took my mother, and I took her to a family that I knew--the son was communist, and the whole family was against the Nazi regime.  The son told me that since I spoke fluent Ukrainian and Russian, he could get me a passport so that I could live on "Irish Papers" which is what they called false papers.  You had to become an actor and lead someone else's life.  I told him I had a friend, and I needed a passport for him as well.  He said he could steal a set of papers for my friend (my future husband), and he would be able to get a blank set of papers for me.  I would have to use my thumbprint on the papers, and we picked a name--Marina Karamenko, from Zhitomir, Russia.  I had to only speak Russian and forget that I spoke Polish or Yiddish.  I tried to give him some of my fabric as payment.  He didn't want to take it, but I insisted.

Meanwhile, my mother told me about a Polish man who lived by himself in the forest.  She asked me to go and ask if we could hide there.  He was so isolated, it would be a good way to stay unnoticed.  He told me he had relatives in Poleshe, near Pinsk, which was far away.  He told me that we could go together and become his mistress, and I should let my mother get killed by the Germans because she was too old.  I told him I didn't come here for that, but I came to get him to help myself and my mother survive.
I knew a Ukrainian man who knew where my future husband was, and he told me that he was alive.  I had left a note with him for my future husband, telling him where I was going to be.  He knew this Polish man better than I, and he knew he was a lady's man.  So once he saw that Polish man's name, he came immediately there to make sure I was safe.  He came to the windows, and he saw my arguing with the Polish man about saving both me and my mother.  And I didn't like how he was talking to me.  He figured that if I said yes, he would leave, and I'd never know he was there.  But when he heard me fighting back, he came to my rescue.

Just then my (future) husband knocked on my door and told the Polish man he was with the partisans.  He knew my husband from before and said, "You know, I'm trying to save this girl, and she doesn't want to accept my proposition."  My husband didn't want to become an enemy to this man, and he said, "The man is so nice, why don't you accept the proposition.  In the forest, you'll have to sleep on the wet ground with no food or shelter."  He also asked the man if he had a map and food.  When the man went back to his storage room, my husband and I made up that I'd say that I should go with him, but that my husband would try to push back so as not to become an enemy.  So we did that, and eventually we left together.  We knew he was an enemy, and we could not come back there again.

My husband knew another Polish man, and he went there, and I went back to my mother.  She was bitter about how that Polish man treated me.  I started wandering around from place to place at night time, and some people would give bread and others wouldn't give anything.

One time I passed by a house at night.  You'd always listen to how many people were in a house before you knocked.  I heard voices at this house--and I knew the lady from before the war, as she had been one of my father's customers.  I looked into the house, and there was a lady on her knees praying to icons saying, "Save all those poor people who are out there with no food or shelter.  Guide and protect them."  I knocked on the door.  She opened the door and was in shock that her prayers had been so quickly answered.  This woman was very poor.  But still she gave me shelter and a piece of bread and some milk.  I knew she didn't have much.  I told her to give this to her children.  She said that her children had a roof over their heads and didn't have to run, but I had to hide.  She insisted that I eat a little.  The next morning I left because I thought someone had spotted me and I didn't want to get her in trouble.

I soon got back in touch with my husband, and he suggested that my mother and I move into the same place as him.  There was a daughter in this house who wasn't all there in the head, and she told my husband that she would hide him if she would marry him after the war.  And she wanted to save my husband, and her father would listen to whatever the daughter said, so he was safe there.  They hid him in their barn and would give him food.  Without telling the man and his daughter, my future husband took me in along with his sister and his brother David.  (The younger brother Shlomo had gotten killed with the parents that day on chol hamoed Sukkos in the ghetto.)  They had dogs, and I got to know them by bringing them the bread I was supposed to eat.  The food they brought for him, he shared with all of us.  Finally the Polish family realized that there were other people there and told him he had to leave.

At that time, I went back to the communist boy who had gotten passports, and we picked them up.  I arranged that my mother stay with a family, and she would sew for them.  Soon, the Germans and the Ukrainians went around the village looking for Jews.  My mother had to leave the place--but I wasn't there because I thought she was safe.  For 3 days and 3 nights, she was hidden in a pile of snow, without any food.  After that, she went to find shelter with different Ukrainians.  One of them was the enemy of Jews.  He had wild dogs so Jews couldn't come near.  But this was the man whose life my grandmother had saved earlier when she made him medicine.  He passed a message to my mother that she could come to him.  She had no choice, and she went.  He treated her royally.  He covered her with fur coats in the attic and brought her bread and milk.  She sewed for the family, and she stayed the rest of the war there.

I remembered that the lady who had been praying had blind relatives in another village.  They also used to come to our store.  They'd go to homes and people would give them things.  They'd sell those things to us and then get merchandise.  I knew they were very good-hearted people.  There were a small percentage of good people.  I went to this family, and they said, "Sheva's daughter!"  They welcomed me warmly and put food for me on the table.

I didn't know where my future husband was at that time.  It was already bad weather and snow.  He had met a young Ukrainian man who suggested they go somewhere to warm up, and he told the Ukrainian man he was trying to find a place to get boots made for his wife.  The Ukrainian man knew a place.  They went to the place, and they warmed up.  It turned out to be the house with the blind people where I was!  I froze when I saw him.  The Ukrainian man left, but my husband remained.  That day, they told me that perhaps I could find some work since I spoke a good Ukrainian.  So I went out to look for a job.  My husband came out and told me that if I found a job to think of him too.  He went back to the house, and the man started to talk to him.  He said, "You know, I took a liking to this girl.  I'd like to take her home and marry her."  The blind man thought he was a Ukrainian.  So he tried to tell him, "She's a city girl; you're from the village.  She has a stepmother, and you don't want that kind of trouble.  Forget about her."  The man told me to stay, but we both left together.

Then a Czechoslovakian family gave a the name of people in Nowe Dwor to my husband--it was near Kovel.  It was a long way to go and took us days to get there.  There, they took our identification, and we didn't sleep the whole night.  They brought the papers in the morning, and we thanked G-d.   They told us where we could get work.  It was a big mansion, and they took in young people to work.  I was assigned to feed and take care of food for 50 big pigs and 50 small ones and clean up after them.  We had to drag the potatoes from a cellar and fill a 3-ton iron stove.  You put in the potatoes, fill up with water, and let them cook.  After that a big wooden thing you'd put the chopped potatoes in.  The leftovers from the wheat and rye (tiny little leaves), you'd cover with hot water to get soft and then mix with the potatoes.  Then the bad leftovers from the flour was good to feed the pigs, and you mixed it all together.

One time I stole a potato for me and husband to eat.  Because the pigs ate better than us.  One time the manager's wife came in, and she said that she heard I drained off the water without having the potatoes fall out, and she asked how.  We showed her--and the boiling water went straight onto my feet.  In front of the barn was a big hill, and I'd carry the buckets with food for the pigs.  On the way back, I tripped on the icy hill with my face on the ragged edge of the bucket, and I cut my right eyebrow open.  Blood was running everywhere.  With both of these injuries, no doctor or medicine.  And I had to go right back to work.

One night I was dreaming, and I started yelling in Yiddish.  The woman in the house had a small baby and had woken up and heard this.  She reported us--that my husband was saving a Jew.  My husband talked them out of it--because he knew these people were stealing from the Germans' storage.

Coming up:  Moving onto Ostrov.

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