Were you taken to the ghetto? (cont’)
Although we tried speaking to them and reminding them that our parents had given them part of their property, they threatened to call the authorities. We begged and pleaded but to no avail. We didn’t get anything from them. Nothing. Not shelter, not a piece of bread and not even a cup of water. We were expelled!
We left the doorstep completely disillusioned and without any idea where to turn. From opposite the Czerwinski sisters’ house on the other side of the lane, we could see the four pillars of a haystack. We decided to climb one of the pillars and disappear beneath the straw roof. Even if someone climbed to the top of the haystack we thought we would be able to crawl deeper into the hay like worms. If we had food and water we could stay there until the winter or maybe even until March or April. By then the hay would be just about used up and our hiding place would be revealed.
We waited until it became totally dark and the area was quiet. Then we carefully came out of our hiding place. We climbed over the fences into the remote neighbors’ gardens. We moved slowly into a huge vegetable garden, searching for vegetables that could be eaten raw. We also hoped to find a hand pump or a well where we could get a drink of water. After we pulled a carrot we returned the soil back the way it had been so it was impossible to know that a carrot was missing. The carrots were sweet and juicy. After each of us consumed five or six carrots, we approached the green pea plants and were astonished to find ourselves face to face with our Jewish friends. They waited for us to come near. They wanted to know what was happening because just like us, they didn’t know.
Can you tell us about liberation?
We didn’t sleep all night. We waited for dawn, planning our way to the city. First we wanted to go to our houses. Maybe there would be a miracle and someone from our family would be found there. It was still dark when Mr. Raduchowski appeared. All night we had prepared ourselves for this moment. We descended the ladder. Mrs. Raduchowski and her son Michael were waiting for us. We embraced and kissed them, wishing them lots of health and all the best. We said countless thanks. Mr. Raduchowski tried to remind us that in his possession was all kinds of property from our families. He hadn’t used any of it so as not to arouse suspicion. “These are your things; you are entitled to take them whenever you wish,” he said.
We hadn’t worn our shoes in a year and they no longer fit. We started walking. We immediately had difficulty. We couldn’t allow ourselves the luxury of rest. We wanted to leave the area before sunrise. We continued despite the pain in our legs. When the sun started to rise we reached the main road. For the first time in three years we walked toward our houses on the main road without fear.
We approached our houses. They were desolate. The Ukrainians had taken away every piece that was made of wood. The door and window openings were empty, the wooden floors were uprooted — no doubt the Ukrainians dug there to search for valuables. We didn’t find any surviving relatives. We were alone, we had no one.
Old friends of our family tried to help us out. In addition, we felt gratitude to and admiration for the soldiers who liberated us, and to the people who gave us food.
One day a postcard arrived from the town of Kolomja. It read as follows: “My cousins Jozik and Salek, I can’t describe to you my happiness in hearing of your survival. I know that you are left with no one. I’d like to invite you to live with us.” It was signed “Pola and Celek Najder.” There was no end to our joy: a family relative was saved! Celek Najder was the oldest son of our father’s sister. He was an officer in the Polish army. He was 12 years older than we. We decided right away, without any hesitation, to go to him.
When we arrived in Kolomja, Pola fed us and gave us fresh clothing to wear after we showered. They were very nice to us. We remained with them for a while and then I decided to join the Polish army.
The Book “A Jew Again” was published recently by Shlomo Adler; ISBN # 978-965-550-403-3. For purchasing information please contact email@example.com
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness