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Nachum Alperovitch: Thus it Began
Chapters from the Underground
Edited (in Hebrew) by Aharon Meirovitz

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan (granddaughter of Nachum Alperovich’s first cousin; Meir Gurevitz) 

There is strong evidence that during World War II many Jews fought the Nazi annihilator and did not go to their deaths like sheep as was commonly thought. Considering the hardships the Jews encountered; the hostile environment and the methods the Germans used to tricked and controlled the Jews by consistently promising to “let them live” if they were "useful and obedient", the evidence of courageous resistance becomes obvious. As someone who experienced the evils of those days as a teenager in my hometown of Kurenets, Likewise, afterward in the forests with the resistance, I can bring many examples of the heroic stands by Jews. Even if the resistance was not always shown in a physical form, they treated the enemy with open hatred and contempt.
I was told about our town's residents Zusia Benes and Leah (daughter of Chaim Yisrael Gurevitz) Benes, an old couple. The day the Germans came to seize them to be slaughtered, they burned their wooden home and jumped in the fire, consequently, the Germans did not get to touch them.
Leib Motosov and Leib Dinerstien encountered similar fates. They jumped in the fire wearing their talits saying, "Here oh Israel!" before the Nazis had a chance to shoot them. All the examples I have used so far are of people who were old and could not physically fight the Nazis, I have no doubt that if they would have had the chance, they would have fought them fiercely.
Moreover, if I mention the older townspeople, I must mention Chaiale Sosensky, a teenager of about 14 or 15. When the Germans came to obtain her, she scratched the faces of the policemen with her nails and prophesied the day of revenge. I was told that she was severely tortured but continuously cursed the killers.
2. Picture of Chaiale Sosensky
On those days of horrors, the Jews of the town were not allowed to have contact with each other, so we don't even know the extent of revolting, particularly in the cases of families who did not survived. However, even the little that we know makes me feel deep respect for my townspeople. Another tale I must tell is that of Israel Alperovich.
Israel was a deeply religious Jew. When he escaped with his family to the woods, he continued keeping Kosher. He starved for many days but did not allow himself to eat the bread and other food brought from the villagers, fearing that the food was not kosher. Israel only ate potatoes that he baked in the fire and, eventually, he died of starvation. I see much heroism in his deed: he never lost his spiritual essence and his deep beliefs. When I compare his final journey to the journey of the many thousands of Russian POW's who while passing trough our town fought each other to get to food that was thrown to them by the Nazis, I can particularly respect him.
Another resistance was from Arka Alperovitch, who attacked a policeman who was taking him to be killed. Arka managed to strike the policeman in the head and take his rifle away; he escaped to the fields, but other policemen killed him.
Yankaleh Alperovich, the son of Orchik and Maryl showed another example of bravery. I will tell about his act of bravery later.
3.. picture of the mother of the author; Pesia Alperovich (daughter of Nachum Kastrell)
First, I must tell you about my mother in a few sentences. Her resistance to the enemy was heroic and lasted throughout all of the days of the Nazi occupation until the German killers took her from her hiding place to her death. Even there, she never stopped cursing them and despising them. She spit in the face of one of them and hit him with her skinny, tired hand. For that, they killed her right on the spot. Days later, the villagers that saw the incident were still talking about it. They were amazed at how brave my mother was.
Most of these heroic occurrences were spontaneous, but the story I am going to tell you about is that of organized, thoroughly thought resistance that was done by a small number of teenagers.
We were members of the youth movement "Hashomer Hatzair" in Kurenitz, even in the days of the Soviets; we worked in secret on our commitment to the youth movement. The group numbered only about 10 to 12 people; it was small only because it had to be underground. During the Nazi occupation, when people realized the existence of our resistant band, many, years older then we were, implore us to let them join our troop.
The active members of the troop in 1941, when the German invaded our area were; Yitzhak (Yetzkaleh) Einbinder age 16, Benjamin (Nyomka) Shulman age 15, Shimon Zirolnik, Zalman Gurevitch, the brothers Elik and Motik Alperovich, Chaim Yitzhak Zimmerman, and I. Later we were joined by; Berta Dimenstien, Noach Dinnerstien, Josef Norman and others. I was 17 at that time. The only survivors of this group were Zalman Gurevitch, Yosef Norman, and I. Yetzkaleh Einbender and Nyomka Shulman were renowned in their heroic deeds and their complete commitment to fight the enemy. Yetzkaleh received many high medals after his death.
Our strong commitment to fight the enemy came from our involvement with "HaShomer Hatzair", the Movement slogan was "Brave and Strong". For us it was much more then a slogan. It was our way of life and our motto. Additional important rule of the Movement was absolute commitment to lookout for each other. 
4. Picture of Hashomer Hatzair in Kurenets, Nachum Alperovich Picture 7.jpg] 
HaShomer Hatzair commandments were; to help each other, to live a life of purity both in the physical and spiritual sense, to cherish nature, to love Eretz Israel, and to train to be farmers in our homeland. This way of life was encouraged and attained by journeys throughout the forest and participation in summer and winter camps alongside youth from other towns.
Those youthful experiences helped us, especially during the hard times of the German occupation. 5. Pictures of the Alperovich Family 
I was drawn to " HaShomer Hatzair" since a very early age, following my older sisters’ example. My oldest sister, Hannah, was one of the first youths in our town to join the movement. Later, my sisters Henia and Rachel joined the Movement too. Hannah spent many seasons in training camps. She yearned to become a "Chalutza" and was waiting for years for a permit to leave for Eretz Israel. Her dream was finally realized in 1938, still without a permit. Using fake papers, she reached Israel on a boat of illegal immigrants.
I was the only son--we were one boy and five girls. Our mother was very brave and clever. In 1917, she was very committed to the Russian revolution. Although she was married at the time and with two young daughters, she deeply believed and fought for communism. Eventually, she lost some of her zeal for communism.
At our house, my mother's brothers (Castroll) were often mentioned. Two of her brothers left for America before I was born, one of them had a candy store. His financial situation was not great and I remember that in one of his letters he wrote, "I have a sweet business with a sour income." My mother's other brother in America was Chanan Castroll. He was the secretary of the Communist party in New York. In 1938, he was a member of a committee that went to Moscow, and people said that he even met Stalin! Hence it must have been a familial trait the interest in political action.
Father, on the other hand, was very different--quiet and much more cautious. Maybe his somber encounters in youth made him cautious. When he was very young, he immigrated to the US, but was not satisfied with the way of life in the U.S, after a short time, he returned to the town.
Mother was very involved with the youth movement, and sometimes I felt that if she were younger, she would have chosen the path of the youth movement. From this, you can probably gather that I never needed to rebel against my parents even though outwardly it seemed that their lifestyle was similar to the rest of the town's Jews. Half of our house that stood in the market center was for our personal use, and the second half was a store for fabric.  6. The Tarbut school, Nachum Alperovich Picture 6.jpg] 
My education was the common education in the shtetl. First, I went to a Cheder, and later to Tarbut school were we spoke only Hebrew, there I finished four grades. There was no fifth grade, so the next year we had to continue our studies in a Polish public school. When the school year started, I was tested, but failed the test considering I barely knew Polish it was not a surprise. Instead of putting me in fifth grade, they wanted to put me in third grade. The teacher and headmaster in the school was a Polish man named Mataras. Mother, who was fluent in Polish came to Mataras and told him that I knew the material, it was only the language that I was weak in. Then she started talking Yiddish to the principal and repeated everything she said earlier, but in Yiddish. Mataras said, "How are you talking to me, Madam? What happened to you?" "Nothing happened," my mother said in Polish, "I was telling you the same things in Polish, a language you know well, in contrast now I said it in a language you have no knowledge of. This is my son's state. He knows the material; he just doesn't know the language. If you allow him, you will immediately realize that he will be a good student, and in time will overcome the language barrier."
Mataras was very impressed with my mother's cleverness and accepted me to fifth grade on the condition that I would work very hard the first half of the year, and then he would reevaluate the situation. When the first half-year came, I was still unable to overcome the language barrier so my mother went again and asked to prolong the period; he gave me another half year. By the time the end of the year arrived, I was one of the best students in the class.
It was well known in town that Polish people love gefilte fish--especially the way the Jews make it. Therefore, at the end of the school year mother made some delicacies from gefilte fish. She brought the "Jewish gift" to our Polish headmaster, who was so kind to me. Our families became friendly from that day. We also had friendly relations with the Polish teacher for math, Mr. Scrantani. He was very happy with my progress now that I could speak the language and would always test me with math riddles--a subject that I was very able to perform. In 1936, I graduated from seventh grade in the Polish school.
I was very capable with technical skills. These were financially hard times in town. Father was hardly able to support the family, now he suggested that I should get a profession so I would be more independent and be able to help the family. Father started working as an accountant in the lending establishment, Gmilut Chesed. However, that still was not enough so we decided that I would go to work as blacksmith in the neighboring town, Vileyka.
I worked at an establishment that belonged to a Christian man. In that place, there was another young Christian man who was constantly drunk. One day, he came to work and started torturing me. He took a container full of gas, started pouring it on the ground around me, and threatened that he would light it on fire. I ran out of the establishment and returned to Kurenitz. My parents decided that I should never go back there and that I should look for another profession.
We had a relative in Vileyka named Mandel's who was a merchant of bicycles, radio equipment, and even had one motorcycle that was a new commodity in our area at the time.
7. Picture of motorcycle
Vileyka was a more modern town than Kurenets and it had a printing house that was owned by a Jewish man named Flexer. Flexer was very successful and decided to open a second store to sell bicycles. Mandelis was very upset, and decided to open a printing shop in retaliation. He bought printing material, and stole the best worker from Flexer, a man by the name Abraham Merkovitz.
I had an aunt in Kurenitz, my father's sister, Reshka Alperovitch. She was a very capable woman and well known in town and even outside of town. She was a widow, and beside of taking care of her home, she ran a store that was renowned all over the region. Aunt Reshka said that in her opinion it is much more respectable to work in a printing house than to be a blacksmith. Since my aunt's opinion was much respected by the rest of the family, I joined the workers of the printing place as an assistant along with another young man named Yosef Norman. After Yosef was trained and learned the profession well. Flexer offered him a large sum of money. He started working for him, so now I was the only worker in the Mondavi printing house that was under the management of Abraham Berkovitz.
We had a contract for three years. The first three years I was supposed to get five "units of currency" per month. In the third year, I was supposed to get ten. Therefore, I started working six days a week, and on Saturday, I would return home to my family and to the youth movement that was very important to me.
Amongst my friends in the youth movement, I was much respected since a person that was able to support himself as a laborer was looked up to. I, on the other hand truly wanted to continue my studies but there was just no opportunity to do that since my parents needed the little help I could give them.
During those days, my good friend from the youth movement, Motik, son of Reuven Zishka Alperovitch, was studying in the Vileyka high school. Motik would visit at my job place many times and would always say how jealous he was that I was able to accomplish the proletariat commandment of being productive, and he, on the other hand, must study. He said, "For you, everything is good. If I could only exchange situations with you?" I wished to exchange situations with him. Our printing press was electric, but you could also manually move it either by hand or by feet. Motik would come many times to help me and was very excited when I let him use the arm or foot piece which made him feel like he was part of the labor force. Eventually, I was so experienced that Abraham Berkovitch would let me run the place all by myself.
Even a few years before World War II, we could feel that the spirit of anti-Semitism was growing in Poland. Next to the meeting place of HaShomer Hatzair lived a Christian male nurse named Solkevis. Encompassing his home, there was a fruit grove. Many times while we were playing at the yard, a ball dropped in the garden. Any time we tried to retrieve our ball, his son would start fighting with us. He hated Jews. There was a funny story about Solkevis. People said that once he came to visit a terminally ill person that he could not find a cure for and decided that he has contagious disease. Solkevis started screaming for the house inhabitant not to wait, immediately they should take the sick man out of the house and bury him.
Kopel Specter was the leader of our troop, so whenever we got in trouble with Solkevis's son, he would stand halfway between the son and he and us would somehow manage to stop the fights. One day, I went to get some water from the well near Smorgon Street. The Christian, Pietka Gintoff, saw me, he took my pail that was full of water and dumped it on the ground. I was furious, I took the pail and whacked Pietka on his head. He immediately fell on the ground. A gentile that saw the fight started screaming, "A Jew killed a Christian boy!" After a few minutes, Pietka got up and the Christians who gathered around saw that he was okay. All the Jews that came to see what was happening had to calm down the gentiles. So there wouldn't be a bigger fight.
Kopel would plan our activities and teach us about socialism and Eretz Israel. He would teach us to sing Hebrew songs and Chasidic songs, and we danced many folk dances, the most popular of which was the Horah. Our meetings were not only held in the school, but also in the fields and in the forests. Particularly, we liked to walk to the big boulder, which were two huge rocks in the middle of a field that we always wondered how they got there.
Sometimes, Elik and Motik Einbinder would invite us to the barn that belonged to Reuven Zishka, their father, and there we would hold the meetings. During our vacation, we would walk to the village, Mikolina, near Dolhinov, a distance of about 20km. There we would spend many days in what we called either our summer camp or our winter camp. We would meet members of the HaShomer Hatzair from the Dolhinov Ken (unit), from the Dockshitz ken, and the Krivich ken .
7.. Picture of Motik and Elik with Shimon Zimerman
During the winter, we would go to Ratzke to sled. Ratzke was a tiny town, it was probably named after the river that was on her border and she was most famous for her hills, to us, they looked like mountains and we called them the Ratzkelberg. In the evening, we walked in groups throw town, many times the young Christian kids liked to trick us by putting barbed wire on the road and some times we would get hurt. One time, Pesach, the son of Pinke Alperovich the town's butcher, caught one of those Christian boys who was getting ready to put the barbed wire down. He punched him very hard. Pesach was a very good-looking boy, very strong and brave, and we were all very proud of him. This scared the Christian kids, and after that, they stopped bothering us. We were especially proud of Pesach, since his brother Tevel was a member of our troop.
In our meetings, we would discuss events that happened very far away from Kurenets. In 1936, we had big arguments among the members regarding the situation in Eretz Israel. This was during the bloody fights with the Arabs. We argued whether the Jews should take a compromising situation with the Arabs to keep the peace or they should fight.
We were all about 13 or 14 at the time and for some of us, it was difficult to obey the rules of HaShomer Hatzair. One of the most dedicated members was Shimon Zirolnik. He was a very serious and kind person, and would always follow the rules and keep a pure lifestyle.
When I was 13, for my bar mitzvah my mother gave me her father's tefillin. I was named after my mother's father, Nachum Castroll. Nachum was a Shochet in Kurenitz for many years. He turned blind when he was old. Just before he died, he said to mother that if he would be lucky enough to have a grandson in Kurenitz (he had other grandsons in the U.S and the Soviet Union), she should name him Nachum and he will inherit his tefillin.
I was very disappointed when my mother gave me the tefillin. When my friends their bar mitzvahs they got new tefillin that looked beautiful, and mine was old and shabby looking. Mother kept explaining how important it was to keep the tefillin. That it was a tradition that passed for many generations in our family. Finally, I was convinced, and by the time I read the Torah and Haftorah, I could already appreciate the importance of the old tefillin. I argued with my friends and won the arguments that mine was superior. Just about those days, the youth movement, Beitar, was getting very popular in town and we fought with them for the recruiting of new members.  A new spirit in town. World War II started and the Soviets came to our area (of now Belarus) after the partition of Poland. Many members of our youth movement believed that the Soviets would understand our nationalistic desires, particularly our youth movement's desires, since it was based on Marxist ideology.
Particularly excited amongst us were Shimon Zirolnik and Nyomka Shulman. Nyomka was 14 at the time, already a deep thinker, brimming with energy and a leader type. Both of them had hoped that the Soviets would help us accomplish our nationalistic desires as Jews. Nyomka and Shimon started studying Marxism very tenaciously. Nyomka even read Marx in German to be sure that he did not miss any of the intent. When the Soviets had just arrived, there was a feeling of comfort for some of us. The Christian boys who used to bother us were very quiet now. No one was allowed to say the word, "Jeed." The judge that came to our area from Russia was a Jew and I must say that the political committee was working hard trying to educate the public. We, the members of HaShomer Hatzair, would gather in Nyomka's' house no more in secret. We would talk and argue. Some of us even had girlfriends who were Russian (not Jewish). In general, there was much more communication amongst the Jews and Russians. I had new opportunities for education particularly since prior to the Russia arrival I was a proletariat, a laborer in a printing place consequently my situation was very favorable now. As I told you earlier, I finished seven grades in the Polish school. I could be accepted to the public high school to fifth grade.
The elementary school in town now became a high school. Many of my friends were accepted to fifth grade, but some of us who stopped our studies prior and were about 16 and 17 were much older than the rest of the students who were about 14. Some of the teachers were Polish but few came from Russia. Now, many students came from Russia from territories that, prior to the war, belonged to Russia. Some people among us thought that there was no sense to study since we soon would be 18 and would have to serve in the army. There was a huge difference in capabilities between the Jews and the non-Jews. The Jews were all very good students and, in no time, there was a big gap. Other than studies, the school also had many social activities now. There was singing and dancing and we had many lessons on Communism. My biggest desire those days was to continue to study medicine, but that was a long-term dream.
During the summer vacation of 1940, I went to work for the train station. My job was to check the tracks; the train tracks were made of wood and there was iron on top of them. I had to check that the wood was not rotten. The tracks would get affected by heat and cold so I had to be very diligent in my job and report the situation to a Christian, named Bogdonyuk, who was the head of the train station. At that time, they started widening the train tracks that had previously belonged to the Polish territories since they were slightly narrower than the ones that the Russians used. Therefore, I was traveling on a little bicycle from Kurenets to Molodetszno, and I would check things and report to Bogdonyuk.
I did my job so well that they suggested that I should go to Leningrad to study in the Techniyon. I came home and I told my mother that I got an offer. My mother asked me, "Why the Techniyon? You always talked about being a doctor." At that time, we had a renter who was responsible for the communist propaganda in the region. He was Jew named Israel Guzman, and he suggested that if I could finish the ninth grade in high school until my time in the army, he would arrange for me to go to medical school. At that time, people from the Polish area were allowed to finish high school only graduating from ninth grade, unlike 10th grade, which was more common in Russia. I listened to Guzman, but I thought it would be impossible in the time that I had left before I have to serve in the army to finish four grades. Mother did not agree with me. She said that I could study very hard during the summer and learn everything needed for sixth grade, so the next year I could go to seventh grade, and then we would get postponement to finish ninth grade. Guzman agreed with mother, so I immediately discontinued to work on the tracks and started preparing for seventh grade. Most of my friends also did the same and by the time the year started, we were even able to help some of the Russian students who were not so good in their studies.
The days of "honey" do not last long
The first weeks of the Soviet rule seemed like days of honey. However, this period was done with in no time and many troubles came subsequently to the town population, particularly to those "richer Jews" such as the merchants. Many of the Jews were imprisoned and some were sent to Siberia. Our hopes that the Soviets would recognize our nationalistic desire disappeared. In town, were many Jewish soldiers from the Red Army and they would tell us stories that in Russia, they lack nothing, they had everything they desired. One soldier who fell in love with a Jewish girl from the town would say in Russian, "Me yee vosof emiem," meaning, "We have everything." The clowns in town would say what he means is the word "mayeem" is water in Hebrew so they do not lack water in Russia. Of the true situation of the Russian people we would learn from the way the soldiers behaved. They would buy anything from any merchant in sight. they would even agree to buy two left shoes with two different colors! Shortly, the stores were empty of all merchandise and even the local residents were waiting for the merchants to arrive from Russia. Now, it would come to the cooperative store and the merchandise would be divided amongst the residents who would stand in lines to get the rations. The payment for the supplies was originally with both Soviet and Polish money, Soviet rubles and Polish zloty. The cooperative stores opened in a few places in town. The Soviets made a few stores into one big store. Our house that was part of a store was taken. It became component of a cooperative of leather goods. The smell of the leather spread all over our house and it was very hard to breathe. All day long, people would come to these stores to shop. No one knew what products would be found on a particular day. The main seller was a Jew from town, Moolah (Shmuel, the son of Yehoshua Alperovich). He was a true comedian and would have all kinds of stories to tell. We would come to him and ask in Yiddish, "Moolah, mas vin hind kind?" Moolah would answer, "Today only balalaikas." One day, Moolah said that they sold many locks, but there was only one key to all the locks; still, everyone was ready to buy the locks.
The authorities fired teachers in the school. This was the situation of the headmaster, Mataras. To supplant for the fired teachers, they brought teachers from the Vostok and some local residents became teachers. One was Yitzchak Zimmerman who was called in town Ytza Ckatzies', meaning Yitzhak son of Yechezkel. Ytza was known as a very learned man. He became our teacher for Russian studies. He was renowned amongst the students and the teachers alike. He was a very educated man, knew the Hebrew language very well, and would win any argument. He had a good voice and was very involved in the synagogue. The teacher, Josef Scrantani, continued teaching. He taught mathematics. His wife became also a Russian teacher, but their situation was very difficult. Scrantani became sick with tuberculosis but continued smoking. I, myself, did not smoke. I was not allowed to according to the rules of HaShomer Hatzair. However, I had an easy time getting cigarettes so I would buy cigarettes and come to school to give them to Scrantani pretending as if I, was trying to stop smoking. The fact that I never saw anyone from the Scrantani family stand in line for cigarettes or anything else made me think that I should do something for them. We really believed that sugar had a heeling effect. During the Polish days, there were posters saying, "Sukiari keshpeh," meaning, "Sugar makes you strong." Therefore, I decided to get a large sum of sugar for Scrantani to compensate for the fact that I was giving him cigarettes that I knew were bad for him.
My sister, Henia, worked as a checker in the restaurant in Vileyka. I approached her, told her about Scrantani, and asked her to sell me two bags of 1kg each.
Although it was much more expensive to buy it there, my financial situation was good so I did not mind paying a higher price if I did not have to wait in line. Henia gave me the sugar. The next day, I approached Scrantani's wife. She was very excited when she received the sugar and said, "You don't know, my dear, how we appreciate your deeds. At the same time, I think how things have changed. In the old days, I would have been extremely insulted if someone had tried to help me like this, but these days things were different. I cannot express how wonderful it is that you care for Scrantani so." I paid for the sugar with 32 rubbles. She assumed that I had stood in line and paid me 20 rubbles. I said that I only paid 10 rubbles so that is what she gave me. Scrantani, who was a Polish Christian, told Mataras (who was also Christian) about what I had did for him. Moreover, the reason that I am telling this story is that they were very helpful to us in the days to come.
Amongst the Christian villages, there was hate of the Soviet rulers. Many of the villagers who had horses were forced to work for the Soviets. There were also rumors that soon they would establish Kolchozes and they would take away the farms including the cows and horses and bring them there. So now, many of the villagers tried to get rid of their horses. They would bring them to the meat market and sell them very cheap. They would pretend that the horses were sick, slaughter them, and take the skins to sell to the government. The rule was that in order to establish that a horse was sick, a veterinarian had to assess the health of the horse. Sometimes, the veterinarian was paid under the table, so many healthy horses were killed. Many of the Jews and the local authorities were involved in this practice and were eventually caught and sent to Siberia. Similar to horses were cows and other livestock. Those days, many cows were sick with tuberculosis, but many people pretended that healthy cows were sick with tuberculosis so that they could sell the cows for meat and leather.
At that time, I remember that my parents bought another cow to add to the one cow we had prior to that. We bought it from a Christian farmer named Kostya. Truly, the cow was healthy, yet when they checked her, they said that she was sick with tuberculosis. Moreover, she must be slaughtered immediately. Kostya and his wife were very honest people and came to us saying that when they brought the cow to us she was very healthy therefore, she turned sick more recent. They told us that as a consolation they would give us a one-year old calf. At the end, we did not agree, but we became very friendly with them.
Father the enemy of the proletariat.
At just about the same time, someone told on my father that he used to be a "major merchant." So on his identification card, it was put that he was an enemy of the proletariat. It was not enough reason to send him to Siberia, but he was limited in his ability to get a job and was only allowed to do menial work. Father, who was only middle class merchant who had worked in accounting for Gmilut Chesed, now had to start doing manual work. He would go to work with one of the Gentiles from town, Meetzkovsky, and would be his assistant in building furnaces. Father would hand to him the bricks and other materials. Meetzkovsky was a very friendly person. He could speak Yiddish fluently, and when he spoke it sometimes, his language would be much nicer than that of the town's Jews. Not only did the Russians confiscate apartments and stores, but also the synagogue that was called Beit Hamidrash, where the Mitnagdim prayed, was confiscated. There were other pray-homes. Two belonged to the Chassidim and there was a Minyan of the rabbi where only the most religious of the Chasids would pray. The synagogue they confiscated became a community center. There were meetings and speeches, and even movies would be shown there. The Jews took out all the bible books and the head of the community center took out the beautiful beema so that the place would be larger inside. Now, most of the townspeople, Christians and Jews, would come there to watch movies. The older people of the town would tell how the beema was originally made. In 1924, one of the former town's residents Max Shulman, who immigrated to the US and became very rich. Max arrived in town and gave a vast sum of money for amongst other gifts, to improve the synagogue and put in the beema. He even brought a painter from Vilna to paint unique scenes for the beema.
Father, in those days, was dreaming of becoming a farmer. , If he had to do manual work, he decided to get a parcel to farm. At that time, anyone that lived near by a land parcel was told that he could get the land next to the house if he wanted to be farmers. Therefore, father decided to register to get such land. Amid the persons who were granting the land was a Jew from Russia. He abruptly whispered to my father in Yiddish, "Da oom vah ava rhysm. Af laka tif din art," meaning, "Here you must know that a person who owns some land ends up being buried in the land." Father immediately understood the meaning and decided to return to his job with Meetzkovsky.
Aunt Reskah's house was also confiscated and now it became the home for the Russian authorities and my aunt and her children had to leave. The same was the fate of the house that belonged to the Einbinder family, the parents of my friend Yetzkaleh.
* Test TimeThe meetings of our Youth Movement became increasingly covert. Therefore, in many ways this began our underground activities. The core of the Youth movement for us was our leader Kopel Spektor although he didn't spend much time in town. Kopel finished his Techniyon studies in Vilna with very high grades. When the soviets realized his skills, they sent him to work in Molodetszno where he had a lab. He was working on an invention. He made something to do with trains.
He was beloved by all of us teenagers and we waited impatiently for the times he would come to Kurenitz. At some point Josef Kaplan came to town. He was one of the principal leaders of HaShomer Hatzair in Eastern Europe and now he came to communicate with us and tell us how we could still immigrate to Palestine. He told us we should go to Vilna. From there people would go to Japan and from there somehow to Palestine. Our friend Chaim Yitzhak Zimerman went to Vilna to inquire about it. It was very difficult to reach Vilna that now was on other side of border; therefore, he had to pay large sum of money to bribe someone to let him proceed. When he returned to Kurenitz with the information needed some of us prepared to leave for Vilna. However, soon after Vilna became part of the Soviet Union and this plan was not viable anymore.
One time the chemistry teacher was trying to do an experiment with dangerous chemical and since I was experienced at such things, I told him this was dangerous. He told me "if you are so scared go to the back benches. I immediately did as he told me. I was right and the teacher while doing the experiment got a burn on his face. The next day I showed the class how to do it in a safer way. Therefore I got a good grade, but was sent home for bad behavior being disrespectful to the teacher.
Mother came to the high school to talk to the headmaster the next day. He was from soviet Russia and he was a Jew, by the name of Fishkin. She said " there was something wrong with my sons' behavior but the punishment was too strong. Everyone admitted that there was something wrong with the way the teacher did the experiment, not only wrong but also dangerous. Nevertheless, despite the mistake the teacher is staying in school. My son who is sorry for his behavior is taken out. Is that justice?" The principal was convinced and I was let back into school.
Mean while since I planed to skip some grades I had to bring note from doctor that I can withstand such difficult task. A Jewish doctor named Cyrynsky came to our area in 1937. He was most respected by all. He was very helpful to the poor people. I went to see him and asked for a note. He tried to convince me not to take such a difficult task and asked me why I was in such a hurry to skip grades. I explained the fact that I was older and eventually he gave me the permission. So I took the difficult tests and managed to get into eighth grade in high school in Vileyka. In the evening I would go for classes for ninth grade so one time, the head of the education department in Vileyka came to see me during a test he sat in the classroom. When I finished the test, he came to me. He said "what grade were you in last year?" I told him "I was in 5th grade". "Can you explain if you were in 5th grade how are you in 9th grade. In Russia, there was one person named Lomonosov that was able to do it. You must try to be like him."
Now, I was emotionally prepared to study medicine one day. Some years before I had another great desire. I was studying Spanish because of the civil war in Spain. The war of the Republicans against Franco appealed to the workers all over the world many volunteers came to fight, and I dreamed of volunteering and that’s why I studied Spanish. Finally we reach June 15 1941 I graduated the ninth grade as I needed to do. My sister Henia would say that she was ready to clean floors so we will have enough money to send me to medical school.
The way it began
To run or not to run?
I was able to enjoy my vacation only for a few days. I felt that now my dreams can be realized and a bright future is waiting for me. Then the fateful moment of June 22 1941 came, the day of the attack by the Nazis, their invasion of the USSR. That day at four in the morning the German planes bombed the train tracks in Molodetszno. People said that there are many wounded and killed there. Even though there was obvious pandemonium all around us, the authority in Kurenets tried to come us down and promised that very soon the Germans will be annihilated, so we shouldn’t panic. Still many of us thought we shouldn’t stay that we must escape east.
People started arguing about what we should do. Should we run or stay? There was a library on Vileyka Street with many books in Polish, Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. For unknown reason, someone from the Soviet authority ordered to destroy the library and all books were thrown out to the street. I looked at the books and how ironic, amongst them I found a Spanish- Yiddish dictionary that I looked for so much a few years ago. I took the book. I was hopeful at that point and sure that the red army would overcome the Germans very soon. Someone that saw me with the book laughed at me and said, "this is an unreasonable time to learn Spanish now that the Germans are coming you should be learning German". Guzman, our renter, on the other hand was very sure that the red army would win soon. He said to me "we'll push them out. The red army will show the awful nazi that they are not dealing with the Polish army anymore."
A few days passed and the Germans were going from one victory to next and the soviets were retreating from our area. Now the pandemonium was everywhere. Mother told me that it would be better if I would run away to the east. She prepared supplies for me. I didn't know what she put in the bag she just gave it to me and said, "Run away my son, run east. The situation is very bad". Many started leaving town, in the neighboring community Ratzke that had about 15 Jewish families; I met with Meir Mekler, Abba Narutzki, and the son of David the shoemaker. I also remember a few of the policemen and members of the soviet authority there. We rested near Ratzke about 8 km from our town. A soviet officer came to us, told us that the situation in the front is improving, so there is no reason for us to run east, and we should return to Kurenets. We didn't trust him and decided to wait there a little longer. It was around noon and we got hungry. I opened the bag for food, but I found out that mother instead of food put many cigarette boxes. Again, I realized how my mother was very clever. Although she knew, I was not smoking. My youth movement had rules against it, nevertheless she knew that cigarettes are worth more than money. She was thinking about my future. Therefore, I gave some cigarettes to one of villagers who gave me food in return. I shared my food with a girl from Kurenets that was with me.
Most of the people that were with us didn't accept what the officer said and continued going east. The girl and I decided to return to town. We reached the village Bogdanova that was 4 km from Kurenets and since it was already dark, we decided to sleep there and go back in the morning. We slept under a tree, it was nice summer night, and in the area, there were many fruit trees.
In days of peace, the Jews would lease those fruit orchards. Early in the morning, we were awakened by the young villager that took their cows to pasture. They must have thought that we were lovers. We got up and returned to town. When we returned we were told those few policemen that we met in Ratzke also returned but didn’t stay long. They immediately left to go east. Therefore, the evening of June 25 1941 there was no one left from the Russian authority. Everyone went east.
That morning when I passed by house of aunt Reshka that was two years before confiscated by soviet authority, I decided to enter, there was no one there. The house was in a total mess. I found many papers, document, and ids with pictures, so I took many of those documents saying to myself "who know what the days will bring maybe it can help me some how". I also went to Chaim Sotzkover's house that was also confiscated by the soviets prior to the German invasion, and there I found a lot of papers and I took them too. I returned home, hid everything and went to rest. I was very tired and fell asleep immediately.
The town was now with no rulers. The villagers from the surrounding villages started coming to town planning to rob the soviet stores and the Jews. An amazing phenomenon occurred and that gave us Jews, a little encouragement. The Christians inhabitant of our town organized a committee to prevent the villagers from robbing our town. Shortly after we found out that they were doing it because they didn't want our possessions to be taken by others.
Dr. Shostakovitch that later was German sympathizer now was with the Jews, organizing patrol of Christians and Jews and we started a watch all around the town. This patrol lasted about two days and then the Christians residents started robbing the soviets supplies and a few of them took supplied from the Jewish stores. In addition, some of the villagers managed to come and rob our homes too. I remember something funny that occurred that if it were not such hard time, it would be a good comedy. One Jew, Zalman- Neta Wexler Who was very sneaky and clever, when the gentiles came to rob his house, mixed in with them and pretended to be one of the robbers and managed to "steal" some of his own possessions.
On 28th of June 6 days after the war began, a few Germans soldiers entered the town. They came from Vileyka Street riding motorcycle and cars. They stopped for a while in the corner of Vileyka street and Smorgon and continued passed Dolhinov street. The gentiles gave them flowers and milk. Amongst them were Kasick Sokolovsky that was holding a rifle in hand, Pietka Gintoff, and Pelvic. The three were later collaborators and killer of many Jews. Some Jews observed the arrival of the German soldiers and I was among them. The fact that they cross-town and didn’t strike anyone encouraged us, someone said, "they passed and didn't cause us any harm, maybe the monster is not so bad".
At 11 in morning, tanks came to town. Now there was ominous predilection. The soldiers’ first question when they met us was "how many Jews are in town?" One of the people who were standing there answered. A Germans said, "too bad too bad they’ll all have to be moved out of here". Still some Jews said; "don't take it seriously, he is just talking". Others said that during W.W.I, the German invasion was good for the Jews.
The picture of the Germans approaching Kurenets and the gentiles giving them flowers and milk was printed in one of the German newspaper. The tanks went through Myadel Street to the market center and went east to Dolhinov. At 1 PM, there was an order by the German that everyone that has weapon must return it to the authority. Two young boys, cousins, with the same last and first name- Shimon Zimerman, returned the weapons. When they return it, they were murdered.
Fear spread all over when we found out about it. Even the ones that thought the Germans would be okay, from the memories of WW1 were asking, "What should we do ". They tried to find a reason for the murder of the two boys. Since the two murdered boys were members of our youth movement and our good friends, we were all shocked. Nyomka came to me very upset and said we should do something. Therefore, we decided that we should all meet with Kopel Spektor and decided what to do, and this is how our underground activity started.
Kopel said that we must meet in secret place so we met by the swamps behind the bathhouse. A place crowded with bushes that could not be seen from the main road. So here we met Kopel Spektor, Nyomka Shulman, Yitzkale Einbender, Zalman Gurevitch, the brothers Motik and Elik Alperovich, Yechiel Kremer, Shimon Zirolnik, and I . It was clear to us that in the coming days, death can come from any corner. We vowed to fight. The question was how to fight how to get weapon. Our ideas were still unclear. Someone suggested that in our situation, there is only one option. Jump on police, kill him and take his weapon. That was they way of underground. Shimon said that other than physical fight, we must also have political fight (poster) Propaganda. We must make flyers to distribute among the villagers, and tell them to fight the Nazis invader. He told me that I should organize it. I used to work in printing house.
As we came out of bushes, we met Josef Zuckerman who was much older than us, he told us that a few days ago when Russian left he saw one of them passed through the swamps threw a gun somewhere. He showed us where it was. We looked for it and found it, it had three bullets.
Although the two Shimon cousins were killed cruelly, still people try to not judge the Germans. They wanted to see it was out of ordinary case and that not foretells of future. People whose homes were taken by soviets now returned t so that looked to some as a good thing. It was July 1st, when the Germans actually entered the town and put officers there. The 1st comment that day was all the male Jews must go to the towns market to register. Anyone that won't come there will be killed immediately.
When we came to the market, we were told that we must chose Jewish committee Judenrat that will be our communication w the authorities. A refugee from Austria by the name of Shuts was elected a head of committee. He came to town in 1939. He was a thrown out of Austria and was hit badly. When he came to our town he had wound on head but found a place here and he became German teacher in Polish school and physical education teacher. He was respected in town and German was excellent so was appropriate for the job. The SS men that this occasions, the Jews have no rights. From now on, we were ordered to do whatever told. We have to wear a yellow tag, must not cross the street, must not go on the sidewalk, but we had to walk in the middle of the street, like horses. No more were we allowed on trains or cars. There were curfews at night from 6am to 6pm. We were not allowed to be in-groups of more than three Jews. We were forbidden to have communication with gentiles. When the SS man ended his speech, he ordered us to disperse, and everyone left.
A few days later, the German army started coming to town. There was a never-ending parade of troops driving or walking through Vileyka to Dolhinov at night. It was impossible to cross the street that was filled with German soldiers. It was very difficult to take cows to the pasture during the daytime, so we got up early at 6am when there were few soldiers. We would somehow manage to cross the street to take the cows to the pasture. We used to take the cows to an area abundant of grass. I would usually take the cows and stay all day to 6pm and then I would make the cows run quickly to get back to our yard. On the way back home, I had to go by the house of Motka Alperovich. Now the Germans had taken his house, so this part of the walk was very dangerous. At that point, we were ordered not only what not to do, but also what we should do from now on. There was an order that every time we see a German, we must take our hats off and greet him in respect, in recognition of superiority.
One time when I passed by German, on purpose I didn't take hat off so they beat me mercifully. Next time I decided to be smarter and walked without a hat. When they caught me this time, not only did they beat me up, they shaved my head and gave me a shaved in shape of cross, one ear to other, forehead to neck. My mother cut all of my hair. The third time, I was wearing a hat and took it off when they came by. When they saw that I was baldheaded, they figured I was a Russian soldier, who escaped from being POW, so for that he would kill me. He was holding a gun and another German passed by and said to other guy, "Look this is a perfect example of what Jews look like. You shouldn't kill him. This time when the time comes for no Jews, he can be an example of what Jews look like, with long nose." They laughed and let me go. Even when I think about it today, I cannot believe how sure they were about their victory thinking that there would one day be no more Jews left. Sometimes my father will go with the cow and he experienced the horrible treatment. This was on Kosita Street, not far from the train track. Some German soldiers came off the train and when they saw him, they called for him. When he went to them, they beat him severely. He returned home but didn't tell anyone what happened. Later that day, he told sister Rachel that she met some German who treated her well like a human, father got upset and took his shirt off and showed us his back of injuries. We were shocked and immediately gave him first aid. He told us of his memories of Germans from WWI. Even then, one day he was almost killed and it took a miracle to get out alive. From then on, we started avoiding taking the cow to pasture and most of the time we would take grass from the field and bring it home for the cow that stayed in the barn. Not far from our home, between the house of Wexler family and the house of Yitzhak Moshe Meltzer the hater, there was a line of stores that were used in the soviet times as supply rooms. The Germans continued to use the supply rooms and they put flour and other supplies there. Now they made the Jews carry the sacks full of flour. One time, when I was carrying a sack on my back, I unintentionally touched a German that stood guarding us and the flour from my clothes came onto his uniform. He was very mad and started screaming and told the other German standing there, when will I get new uniform. I was in other battles for the homeland in Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland and always, they would give me new clean uniform. So when will I get one in this war with the communist? His friend said that the day of victory will come and he'll get new uniform, but until that day, this Jew will clean it for you. I had no choice, I took a brush and clean his uniform and knelt to clean his pants.
We decide to fight
A few weeks passed since the announcement of the new rules. Many people suffered and we only know a little of the suffering. One day at 9am, we gathered at the house of Nyomka Shulman. Yitzhak Zimerman, who was much older then us, was member of HaShomer Hatzair from 1928, was also told of our plans. Nyomka Shulman had a very old and blind grandmother and she had her own room. Her room was always dark and she seemed as if she was not aware of the present. All day she would reiterate a passage. She would say the passage in the Soviet times as in the German days. "God in heaven please help every Jew and keep every one healthy and safe." Despite the fact that she seemed not aware of what was around her, in her passage you could hear something of the horrors outside the room. Occasionally the old women would leave the room but even when she sat in the corner, we could discuss everything she was ignoring the outside world. So now we met, five people, there were Nyomka, Itzka, Zalman, Shimon, and I to discuss what to do. We all realized that the situation was getting worse and we must not sit and do nothing. To get weapons was a intricate assignment and we didn't even fathom what to do with the weapon once we got it. However at this time we were more troubled with how to obtain it. Someone said that near the river between Poken village and Myadel, not far from Chaim Zokofsky carpentry, there was a rifle. At that time, German took Zokofsky carpentry and it was dangerous to walk around it at night or morning. Regardless we decided to check the spot.
Mother was told about it and she suggested she would help. Zalman and I went with mother. We pretended to be collecting grass for the cow. Mother thought that if she joined us we would appear less suspicious. We paced on all sides as if collecting grass and after a while we found the rifle, we took the sack that we had and put the rifle in the sack laden with grass. The sack was to short and the rifle stuck out. So part of the way I put it under my jacket, finally we reached home. When father saw the rifle, he became worried. He said that we are taking tremendous responsibility on ourselves. We are playing with fire. Dad was a traditional Jew even prior to the war but now he became intensely orthodox. He said "whatever God decided for us, will happen and we will not change his will". He would continuously say this passage. Father was now taking part in every funeral in town and at this time, there were many funerals. One day two young guys, one was Mendel the grandson of Leib Motosov, the other, Mendel, the grandson of Chaim Velvel, the owner of a store for metal work, were sent to work in Vileyka. The order for their new job came from the Gvint Commissar. On the way to work, they met Shernagovitz, a local policeman that worked for the Germans. he killed them both on the spot. One gentile from nearby villages found the bodies and brought them in his buggy to Kurenitz. Leib Motosov, the grandfather of one of the youths, who was a very intelligent man, was mourning and extremely distressed, "What is the reason here? There must be some logic in things." he said, "They were ordered to go to work by the Gvint commissar. Each one was holding a saw and ax ready to work as they were ordered." Nevertheless here comes a policeman and kills them. This is a crime that Gvint commissar could not ignore. We must complain".
Father believed that everything was decided in heaven, he told us "we could never understand the reason why things are. Moreover, there's no reason to complain to Gvint commissar. It will just open the mouth of Satan". This was in the first month of German rule. People didn’t believe that things that are more awful are going to happen. Moreover, that they will happen almost daily.
The rifle that we found near the river was hidden in our attic. The rifle had no bullets. Nevertheless, the ingenious Nyomka Shulman said; "even if we have no bullets, it's worth something. If you meet a police, you point the rifle at him, he won't know that you don’t have bullets. The policeman will hesitate and you might be able to overcome him and take his own weapon". That day we managed to get a gun from a villager from Volkovishtzina by exchanging some salt and this gun was hidden also in our attic. In a meeting, in Nyomka's grandmother room, Shimon suggested again that we should start propaganda and showed us that he already did something for it. He brought a frame where we can arrange for a flyer specially made frame that could be used to make flyers. That same day I almost was killed when I walked through the market that was usually empty. I heard the voice of German watchman far from me. He told me to stop, yelling, "why didn't you greet me?" He started readying his weapon to shoot. I knew that if I try to run he'd kill me. Therefore, I started to tell him something, lucky for me an officer came and the soldier changed his tune. He screamed "bloody Jew get away don’t come near me." I was still afraid that if I did as he said and ran he'd shoot me. For some reason, the officer permeated me to go home. I didn't know why the first one was upset and I didn't know why the second one let me go. Therefore in a hurry, I left the spot.
In the meat market
The victory of the Germans in the front brought many prisoners of war to town. The meat market became a station for the transferring of thousands of POWs who continually passed through town. There was barbed wire around meat market and watchtowers with lights at corners. POWs would stay one night and would transfer west. Many of them would die there in the meat market, they would be buried right there, and the next day there was new group of POWs. Many were wounded and starving and they kept an extremely inadequate sanitary condition. The gentiles, the residents of the surroundings towns would stand at side roads and throw food to them, potatoes, and fruits. They had a lot of compassion for them. The POWs would run to the food and started fighting each other to get something. The German that hated any disorder would hit them and threaten the people that gave them food. "If you want to give them food, it has to be in orderly manner" they said. The officer would constantly yell, "there must be order. You must collect the food in one place and we will divide it amongst the POWs." Many of the Jews brought water from the well and the river by Dolhinov Street. The POWs that were wounded badly would be killed prior to arriving at market. However, some badly wounded POWs would be brought to the other market in buggies. The gentiles did what they were ordered and put food in one place. The Jews and non-Jews would take the wounded of the buggies and lie them on the ground as told. We were ordered by Germans to put the head in one straight line. At first, we didn't understand why they cared if they were in straight lines, but soon enough, we learned the reason. The officer stood across from their headlines with an automatic rifle, opened fire, and killed all of them.
One day a German officer caught me and Yechiel Kremer, the son of Yekutiel Meir who was much older then me, and we were ordered to wash the car of one of the officer. He told us "if I find out that you didn't clean it well or sabotaged it, I'll kill you like dogs." This was on Dolhinov Street not far from meat market. He ordered me to take the wheels off and clean them, at first it was hard. To take them of, but eventually we did it. Then officer demanded that we would take the seat covers from the inside of the car and clean the inside. He was teasing us saying "we are going to Moscow and I must come there with clean shiny car." When I was done with the job, I asked the German officer if I could go to eat. While we were standing there, I saw what was happening in meat market. When I was done with the job the officer decided to send us to work with the POWs. When we walked there, we passed a garden in front of the Polish house. I saw that in the bushes close to the sidewalk there is a weapon. So carefully, I moved the weapon to a more hidden place in the bushes. When we reached the meat market, we were told to help with the distribution of food to the POWs, the gentiles collected it in one area. Amongst the POWs that were brought to the market, I saw a young Jewish man from Ratzke named Hoinsihof. I saw that he threw a note on the ground when he saw me,
With his eyes, he signaled to pick up the note. I did it and saw the first two lines, He was begging me to let his family know he was here. I threw the note to the side immediately. One of the Germans saw and thought I was the one drawing the note. I explained to him I saw it on the ground and was curious. He didn't believe me, put me next to a wall, called a guard, and said to him; "aim to the head". Nevertheless, a second later he changed his mind thinking maybe he was wrong and instead of "fire", he yelled, "halt" meaning stop. The soldiers put their weapons down. He asked me "are you going to continue to spy?" I couldn’t say a word my tongue was paralyzed. With the stick he had, he hit my hands and that brought me back to reality. I explained that I didn't write the note. I'm not guilty. He listened to my defense but still ordered me to lie on ground and hit me. Eventually I fainted. They spilled water on my head and I woke up. Now he let me go home but reminded me I must return to work the next day. It was already dark and I managed to crawl from the market to my home. My whole back was full of wounds and blood was pouring everywhere. My mother put dressings on wounds and although situation was bad, she was happy I was alive
The POWs continued to pass through town, the situation was heartbreaking, and one day we met at Nyomka and talked about the POWs how we can help them.
We decided to do something. We went to the Judenrat and demanded that the Shuts will send us to work in meat market. While we were working there, some of us managed to give the POWs clothes. When we left a few to escape with us. Among the escapees was a man that later on was code named Vlodia and became one of the underground leaders in our area. The sight we saw in the meat market was horrible. It was so crowded that some POWs couldn’t find place to lie and rest. During the day the place was enveloped by flies, the heat was unbearable, and at night, it got cold. The POWs who still had some capabilities managed to cut pieces of wood for little fire to keep warm. I can never forget one of the POWs from what was left of uniform I could tell he was an officer. He managed to get water, he washed and changes clothes. He arranged a fire pit to warm himself. One German was looking at him the entire time, and didn't like what he saw. He approached him from behind and with great force, hit him on back with rifle. The officer collapsed lifeless.
Even at that point, some believed that the soviets would overthrow the Germans. Our group would discuss the subject but we didn’t know how to help the Russians. Shimon Zirolnik would particularly talk about it, he believed that the day of revenge would come soon. Moreover, the Nazis would be annihilated in a short time. In the meat market, the Germans put electric light so they could watch the POWs at night. The villagers brought food and clothes since they felt pity for the POWs who many times walked around almost naked. The clothes would be put in one pile. They were rumors that among POWs many managed to get clothes and then mix with people that came to work and escape. I was prototypical Jewish looking and the POWs knew that they needn't fear me. I was approached by one of POWs and asked how he could escape. I pointed to clothes and he understood my sign and managed to escape. One night the electric power was cut off and there was darkness. People were whispering in secret that it was done by Dania Alperovich the son of Chaim Abraham that worked in carpentry of Chaim Zokofsky. The carpentry was right next to meat market and the electricity lines were going through the carpentry. Among the escapees that day were two POWs who managed to reach the Ungerman pool. When they realize that someone was following them they hid under bridge and there they were found and murdered.
The flyers
It was the end of august and the nights became colder. We still met at Nyomka's house and still didn’t know what to do. Shimon was very excited about the POWs that escaped. He said that some were experienced soldiers and they could help us with the resistance unit. He suggested that we will make flyers and maybe they will reach some POWs that escaped and are now in hiding. Meanwhile he improved the printing press still there was a problem. We didn't have letters to be used for the printing.
Josef Norman, the man that I learned to print with, was working in the printing press that was now in the hands of the Germans. Therefore, we decided that I would meet with him and tell him our plan. Maybe we can get the letters from him.
The first days the Germans entered the Vileyka district, they ordered all the Jewish males from Vileyka to come to a certain place. From there, they took them to a bridge next to the river and murdered them. The few that didn't show up as the German ordered managed to survive. Now many Jews of Kurenets were taken under watch of the police to Vileyka to do different jobs; cutting woods, cleaning streets, Park and other work. I was also taken. One day when I was near the printing place, I found the courage, entered the building, and met Josef. I notified him promptly what I wanted, whispering for him to collect a few letters for me. When I came 3 days later, he gave me a little package with letters, papers, and black ink. We manage to meet few times and eventually I had lot of letters and printing materials to accomplish the mission.
The Germans at that point were not watching us strictly. If they were suspicious of anything, they would just kill us on the spot. That’s why it was doable. My mother helped me. She took piece of clothes and sewed lines on pockets and that’s where I held the letters. In each pocket, I had a different letter. We thought that if there was a danger moment, we could immediately use the cloth as apron and wouldn’t look so suspicious. One day when we returned from Vileyka to Kurenets and I had little package from Josef. The German started taking us to different location. I was very worried, but soon we realized that they wanted to show us something- two gentiles they hung for robbing someone. They wanted us to see what happened to all that disobeyed. After that, they let us go home. When I went home, I saw that they also hung someone in town center 4 robbing.
We dug hideout in the ground and in there; I hid the letter and printing materials. Except for my cousin Zalman, no one knew where we are making the printing material. Even our own troop members did not know. We decided that if anyone would get caught its better if they didn't know where it was. At that time, the house of Nathan, my uncle, also became the center for our meeting. Nathan that sensed that we are doing something dangerous was very fearful. Nathan's wife, Batia nee Ayeshiski was sick, she was in a nursing home when the war started. She tried to go back home, but she died from starvation on the road. Nathan felt very responsible for his orphaned children and was fearful that what Zalman was doing would cause danger to his other children.
At that time the Germans printed flyers to the villagers saying," farmer keep your bread don’t give it to the criminals. They will eat it and then they would hurt you and burn your farm. Keep your bread for German army that released you from communism." As an answer our first flyer was written by Shimon Zirolnik, it said "farmer keep your bread for yourself and your heroic brothers that fight the horrible conqueror. Don't give one seed to Germans. Death to Hitler". We printed about 100 and distributed them in various places. Our Shimon was able to see the first flyer but a few days later Shimon didn’t come to the meeting. We found out he was imprisoned, together with him a non-Jew farmer was taken and also another town's resident imprisoned, our town barber Leibe with the beautiful voice. When he would cut hair, he would sing beautiful songs. After a period, we found out that the Germans murdered them and it was horrible blow to us, We so loved Shimon. If I mention the barber Leibe, I must tell in a few words about him. As I told you while he cut hair, he would sing songs. I still remember one of his songs that he sang in Russian. He would sing it with deep _expression, and it would go like this." I will die I will die they will bury me and no one will know where my grave is and no one will know to come to my grave. But one morning of spring a nightingale would see it and sing." How ironic is the song, could Leibe ever imagine that this song would faithfully tell what was going to occur?
During that time, there was little underground activity in our area. There were rumors the Russian parachuted some troops and they managed to burn many German supply rooms and that’s what the Germans were referring to in the flyers regarding the criminals. Our own flyers were found by Jews from the town and this gave them hope that there is underground. Someone even showed me a flyer. Zalman Gurevitch that had many friends among the villagers helped a lot with the flyers. He knew who should be informed. Moreover, he knew who could distribute it amongst the population.  No Secrets The desire to do something, to fight, existed in many Jews, but the possibilities were close to nil. As far as us, our small group, we were particularly united since we had a similar past with strong ties to the youth movement. Added to it was our being so young and still believing in the impossible. At times we had emotional pleas from older people as well as very young to join our company. I remember how once, Shimon Alperovich, the son of Zishka (son of Shimon), came to the house of Nyomka Schulman when we gathered there. Shimon was much older than we were and he was a very respected person. And now he approached us sounding very worried and not knowing where to receive help. He asked us to let him join our group. In Yiddish he said, “Fragst nit anmir” or “Don’t forget me”. He was almost begging. [Later on he joined the partisans and died fighting.] Also very emotional was the plea of Araleh Gordon, son of Shaptai, brother of Riva and Mikhla, who was much younger than us, still a child. He asked us to join. We said to him, “Araleh, do you have a weapon?” And Araleh naively and with a hint of embarrassment said he didn’t have a weapon at the time but he knew how to play the mandolin. He tried to explain to us that for the resistance there was a need for social life and until the day he received a weapon he could be an entertainer. Until today I feel excitement when I remember his plea. We were sure that our resistance unit was secret and soon it was clear to us that there were no secrets in our world and that many knew about our unit. We still had a very unclear idea as to how we would resist, and many would come to us urging us to take them into our ranks. [Araleh was Gordon killed while hiding from the Germans (in a tree?)]
Chaim Zukovsky owned a tartuk (?) and a mill (for carpentry) that had been taken away by the Nazis, and now an Army officer managed it. Someone told us in secret that the officer was actually a decent man, a unique person who disliked the Germans’ behavior towards the Jews. To us it was an unbelievable phenomenon, particularly remembering our neighbor Shernagovitz, the killer who killed Jews daily, so to find a person among the Germans who was such a righteous person was a true miracle. We were told that once when the drunken Shernagovitz approached the area aiming to torture the Jews who worked there, the German hid them inside a cold boiler and saved them from being murdered. We somehow found out that this German was willing to sell weapons to the Jews. I don’t remember now who gave us this information, but we found out that he was willing to sell a Nagan with seven bullets for ten golden rubles. We gave the money to Yankeleh, the son of Chaim Zalman, so he could give the money to the son of Lazar Shlomo, who had contacts with the German man, and he bought the weapon. When we sent someone to Lazar Shlomo to transfer the Nagan to us, he refused to give us the weapon, so we decided to trick him into returning the weapon. Some of us approached his house at a night hour when there was a curfew. We pretended to be Germans and yelled, “Juden arouse!”
We gave them enough time to run, and when we found out that they had hidden and the house was empty, we put a note where we said if they will not give us the weapon, the consequences would be severe. We sent Yankeleh the son of Chaim Zalman Gurevich, and he also wanted to keep the weapon for himself after receiving it, but after some threats he gave it to us. I point this out to you to show how many wanted weapons so they could fight the Germans.
The Germans kept demanding money from the Judenrat. Some of the members of the Judenrat were dishonest and took some of the money for themselves. In our home there was a new couch and carpet that we bought before the war for my sister Henia who was about to be married. When the war started, Henia’s groom was taken to the Polish Army and died during battle between the Polish and the Germans. One of the Judenrat people who was the very worst among them, knew about the sofa and the carpet, so now he demanded that we should give those things to the Germans who asked for furniture and carpets. My sister Henia was very much against it. These things were very dear to her as a reminder of her dead groom. And she asked that they should be left with her. The Judenrat man slapped her and took her things by force. When I found out about it, I came to the Judenrat and I said to the man, :You must know that we will never let you, a Jew, slap another Jew. It’s enough the way we are treated by the Germans.”
He answered, yelling, “What do you think? Do you think I am afraid of your gun? DO you think I don’t know you own a gun?”
“It is not a secret I have a gun,” I replied and pulled out my weapon. He must not have thought I’d react so fast and he went pale and never came to our home again.
The head of the Judenrat and some of its members were new arrivals from other towns. They were not always decent or honest, and it wasn’t the rescue of the community that was first on their minds. The people who were the public servants before, whose names were famous for dedication and good deeds, like Zalman Gvint and others like him, clearly knew that being a member in the Judenrat meant that having to fulfill the wishes of the Germans, and they could never accept such a job. Zalman Gvint, who was experienced with pharmaceuticals, this time established an enterprise, together with Nathan Gurevich, to make chemicals for soap, shoe polish, and ink. They also suffered much at the hands of the Judenrat, who demanded their products. Leib Motosov had a place in the deep forest before the war that made turpentine and tar. He knew all the little paths in the forest. HE also clearly understood that the Nazis would soon annihilate us. So he came to Zalman Gvint, who agreed with him and suggested that they should escape to the forest, where he knew many of the villagers in the area and he thought that since they were friends they would help him. They started planning their escape. I also remember that my mother in those days talked a lot about leaving the town and escape to the forest. While everyone was planning such an escape, a tragic event took place. Some families who escaped to the forest, among them Zishka Alperovich’s family, secretly from everyone, escaped to the forest, but someone told about them and the mutilated bodies where brought to town. It was a huge disappointment for all that dreamed of going to the forest, and momentarily shocked everyone and caused them to postpone their plans. Nyomka Shulman, who was very energetic and a go-getter, was still full of excitement and plans. He was the leader of our group, and he came with an idea to uplift the spirits of the people. We did something that was dishonest, that we should not have done. We made a pamphlet of encouragement, filled with imaginary events that had no basis in reality. In this pamphlet we wrote that the wonderful Red Army pushed the Germans out of the Polaczek area and soon would free our entire area. We ended it with writing, “Death to Hitler.”
There was a rumor that something might happen in Polaczek, but to say that the Germans lost there was a greatly exaggerated statement. Anyway, the Jews found great encouragement from this pamphlet and conversed about it, especially Motl Leib Kuperstock, who used to have a flourmill. He would stand in the synagogue amongst the Jews spreading the rumors that the pamphlet had come from the Soviets. They beat the Germans, he would tell everyone, and were going through Polaczek. And this had to have been done by planes, he added, and since we were only 120 km from there, it would not take long until they arrived at our area. Motl Leib was very interested in politics and strategies. There was a time when he lived in the US, and he knew how to add certain sentences in English that greatly impressed the people, the residents of the town. Amongst the people who conversed with him, there was someone who took his samples and said he really knew that the retreat of the Soviets was only a trick, and they would quickly show the Nazis their might. For some days they were conversing like this, but there was a great disappointment when nothing happened. We felt bad for what we did and from then on we decided to write only real news.
Time passed and Noach Dinestein (put picture here) from Vileyka joined our group. [PICTURE OF NOACH DINESTEIN]. He was older than us but was once a soldier in the Polish Army. In 1939, when the Germans and the Polish fought, he was drafted. After a battle with the Germans, his unit suffered greatly. He was somehow able to escape and he came back to our area. When the Germans killed the man in Vileyka near the bridge on the Vilia during the first month of the war in our area, Noach somehow escaped from the place and arrived at Kurenets. Here he taught us how to use weapons and trained us in other military operations. The Code Name is Volodia
[PICTURE OF VOLODIA] One day I was told that a Christian person had come to our house and asked for me. She later returned and met with me. It was a young village girl who looked much like a Christian but she was really a Jewish girl by the name of Bertha Dimmenstein from the village Khalafi, a little village near Vileyka. I Didn’t know her earlier and had no idea she was Jewish. She showed me our first pamphlet and said that she knew there was a secret printing press in Kurenets. I was very worried and I pretended to know nothing about it. I continued being worried when she told me she belonged to a group of young villagers who organized themselves to fight the nazis. She said that these young villagers wanted to meet us since they knew we were also an underground unit. She also told me that she had a text that was ready to be printed by our unit. She said to me that if I could print the text it would be proof that they could rely on us and they would get in touch for later missions.
She said she would come back the next day and take the pamphlets and they would distribute it on their own. The text she gave me was very similar to what we had written. It was asking the locals to organize against the Nazi invaders and unite with the resistance. I was very confused and didn’t know if I should trust her. I called my friends for a meeting. Amongst them were Eliyau Alperovich, Itzkaleh Einbender, Zalman Gurevich, Noach Dinestein, and Nyomka Shulman at whose house the meeting took place. We met in the dark room in their home. Once again, the question arose if there was someone tricking us. Some thought positively, some thought negatively. I thought that we should wait for a moment, but Nyomka Shulman finally won. He said that there was no reason to wait, we must print the pamphlet. So, already that night I sat in our hideout and joined letter to letter and after a short time, the pamphlet was ready. I only printed 20 copies. I thought that to prove our loyalty and reliability that this was sufficient. All the time I was very fearful that Bertha would arrive with someone from the authorities, and a big rock came off my heart when I realized she had come alone. I explained to her that I could only print 20 pamphlets. Bertha took it and promised to return shortly. Many years later, when I met Josef Norman in Israel, he told me how Bertha had found out about me. Bertha, who knew Josef from Vileyka and knew that he was working in the printing house, thought that Josef might know something about those secret pamphlets. So when she met him, he told her about me. He knew that she was very reliable and didn’t hesitate to give her all the information. And this was how she found me.
Shortly after, Bertha returned and told me that their unit was ready to join with us for missions. She also told me that eventually they were planning on going to the forest, and there start fighting the Nazis. She also asked me if we had any weapons. I told her that we had only two rifles. I didn’t tell her about the guns. She suggested one of our people should come to them. The meeting would take place in the village Volkoviczina. At the entrance to the village, she said, there was a small building, a Christian prayer house. She said that one of our people should there during a certain night, and there he would call a certain code word which would let him into the house. The code word was Volodia.
Once again, we met. The energetic Nyomka insisted that he should be the first messenger. Nyomka went during a late night hour and met with one of their people. The guy suggested at this point we should keep our group small and not add any members. Most of our energy should be put in collecting weapons and food to be ready to go to the forest. During that meeting the man told Nyomka he must never come to Volkoviczina without being first contacted by them. We would receive orders from them,. And Bertha would be the main contact. Most important, from now on the code word would be Volodia. Nyomka slept there, and the next day, early in the morning, he returned to town and told us all the details. At about that time I was told by Josef Norman saying he could not give me any more letters since they realized that something was not right at the printing press, and they thought something dangerous was going on.
At this point, the Germans only killed single Jews in Kurenets, here and there in small numbers, and life continued like that until Simha Torah in 1941 when they killed 54 Jews of Kurenets.  The Fifty Four During the days in years of peace and quiet are called the Days of the Torment. The synagogues were filled with people praying. Most people seemed a bit frozen. They didn’t scream or cry. To the people on the outside it seemed as if people had put up some kind of barrier, but it seems that in the synagogue, this barrier was broken. The tears and the cries were heartbreaking, and the line of the people who said kaddish for the dead was very long. The people in our group who were secular in nature, also went to the synagogue. The management of the old carpentry mill of Zukovsky called Kopel Spektor since there was something wrong with the main machine there. Maybe now it is time to talk about Kopel. [INSER PICTURE OF KOPEL]
There was something kept very secretly. During the Soviet days, Kopel who was an engineer and an inventor, worked on a machine to automatically load coal to keep train engine fires going. It was almost ready to be patented when the war started. In the train station in Molodetszno, Kopel had a laboratory where he had all the papers that had to do with his invention. During the war between the Germans and the Soviets, he went to his laboratory and burned his papers and inventions so they would not fall into the hands of the Nazis.
Back to that Simha Torah… As usual we went that day to Vileyka. At first walked the women, and I along with the men walked at the back. We passed by the village Zimordra, and all of a sudden, two policemen from Kurenets and collaborators with the Nazis, Pietka Dovsky and Pietka Gintov, who studied with me at the Polish school, appeared and ordered me to return to Kurenets. I felt that there was some danger facing me, so I asked, “Pietka, why do you stop me? We used to be friends.”
“Satan is your friend,” Pietka answered, “Not me. Come with us.”
SO I was brought to town and put in the store of Itzka Leah’s, the place the police now used to keep prisoners. When I got there I met other Jews from the town, amongst them Kazdan, Chaim Zukovsky, Zev Rabunski, and others, more than 20 people. Once in a while e they would bring new prisoners. We looked outside the windows and saw they had collected the families of the prisoners. One person who was with us said he was arrested for the red flag found in his home. During Soviet days, everyone had a red flag, and he forgot about it. Now he was taken to the prison along with his flag. Some of the prisoners started screaming that for this flag, everyone would be killed. They wanted to take the flag, rip it, throw it on the ground and cover it with their shoes.
While talking about it, the police came in and took out ten people. We watched through the shutters as these people were given the hose and marched away. Once again people wondered what was going on. Some said they were being taken out for a job. Chaim Zukovsky, who was badly beaten and depressed said they were not being taken to work, but were being taken to dig their own graves. All of a sudden the door opened and to the room and into it came a German Oberlieutenant who called me by name. He took me outside and told me that I should point to my relatives who were standing outside. “This is my mother and those are my sisters.” I pointed to my mother, Rohaleh, Rashkaleh, and Doba.
“Take them and go home,” the officer told me, and I was ready to do it but all of a sudden he hesitated as if he changed his mind. “Jew, you still need to receive some beatings.”
I lay on the ground in the presence of my mother and sisters, and he beat me many times. Finally he stopped and ordered me to leave. I could hardly get up, and left with my mother Rohaleh. I had no idea why I was taken out of the prison room and separated from the 54 Jews who were residents of our town who were murdered that day. After they got the hose, they were made to dig their own graves as Chaim Zukovsky foretold while we were in there. When we got home, my sister Doba said she saw me being taken out of the people who went to Vileyka and she recognized my life was in danger, so she left the group of girls and ran to Kurenets. As soon as she got home she told my mother what happened. They knew it was a very dangerous situation and they had to do something immediately.
Without hesitation they immediately went to the Polish teacher Mataroz to ask for his help. In town people already knew that the Germans were planning on doing something against the Communists. They decided that my father and my sister Henia, who were known as communists, should escape and take the cows to the meadow. So when they came for them they couldn’t find them home. Rohaleh and Doba asked Mataroz, who liked me very much from when I was student, and who was now the mayor of the town appointed by the Germans, and they told him about my imprisonment. As soon as they left Mataroz, they were taken by the police, as well as my mother and Rashkaleh, and it was Mataroz who decided to save us all from our deaths. Two days later I went to Mataroz to thank him for what he had done. At that point we were all heartbroken over what had happened in town. He asked me to sit down and I told him I could not sit down since my back had awful wounds from the beatings I had received. When I thanked him he said I shouldn’t thank him, and that I should pray to God and stay a human being as I had been in the past, and stay decent despite the tortures that occurred every day.
I was strong in my wish that for thanks we should give him some materials from the old store we used to own. Materials could be used for suits for him and his son. He was very much against it and got mad at me. I was very embarrassed and didn’t know what to do, so I suggested something else. I asked that he should receive our cow since our lives seemed to be pretty much over with or without a cow. He answered that he agreed to take the cow since we had such troubles even trying to take it to the meadow, but he had one condition. He would take it if we would receive half of the milk from the cow each time he milked it. I said to him that this could cause him great troubles as the mayor of a town sending milk to a Jewish family. At the end we reached an agreement and gave him the cow. Secretly, in all sorts of ways, he was able to transfer milk to us. Now I know how he saved me from certain death: after Doba and Rohaleh visited him, he went to the German officer, who was conducting the murder of the 54 people for being Communists. He told the officer of how I helped him during the Soviet days by giving sugar and food to the teacher Skarntani, who was anti-Communist, and that I had helped him when he was very sick and put myself in danger. This proved I was anti-Communist, so I could not be blamed for Communism. The officer accepted his opinion, and this was how I was rescued.
The Jews were shocked at the killing of the 54 who were supposedly Communists. Everyone was talking about how the 54 men, women, and children were taken to the forest of Lovitz, and there they were ordered to dig their graves before they were killed. The Christians, especially the villagers who were present told many stories about the killing, especially the brave stand of Yankeleh Orchik’s (son) Alperovich. When Yankeleh stood at his open grave, he asked the officer who was ordering the killings, “IF you kill me because I am a Jew, there is nothing I can do since I am a Jew and this is my faith. But if you kill me if I am a Communist, you should know the Soviets sent my father to Siberia since I am an anti-Communist. Can you really believe that my father who is being tortured in Siberia is a Communist?” The officer decided to release him as well as his younger brother. The Christians who were watching admitted that Orchik Alperovich was sent to Siberia.
They also told about Tevel Alperovich, the son of Pinhas the butcher. Tevel, who was a very strong and good looking man, was able to escape from the killers but he encountered Volodka, the son of Mishka from the alley. With a hoe in his hand, he hit him on the head and wounded him. Then he called the Germans to kill him. The reason why the Christians would gather in such places to watch the killings was so they could collect their belongings such as clothes, shoes, etc. Some of the Christians would. Some of the Christians would sing while the Jews were being taken to their deaths. They made a song singing, “Zhydi, zhydi, tzerti. Kali vas femerti”, which means “Jews the son of Satan, die already! When? When?” During their singing they would sometimes throw rocks at the Jews and curse them. Many of the Jews in town wanted to believe the Germans; that this murder was meant only for Communists. They were hoping that now all the murders would be done with, but our group, as well as many others in Kurenets, knew that this would not be the end, that it was only the first in systematic killings, and our desire to fight increased tenfold. 
For My Benefactor, Mataroz Once again, I visited Mataroz. Mataroz, in his true nature, was liberal. As far as the Jews, he tried to help, and this was not unknown by the Belarussian population, and they greatly disliked him. One of his opponents was the son of the felcher, Surikvas. There was a certain rumor that the son secretly put in Mataroz’s office a picture of Pilsudski, and told the German police that Mataroz was secretly organizing Polish resistance. The Germans imprisoned him but he was somehow immediately returned to become mayor. [Reminder: the Germans killed him with his family]
I came to Mataroz after he asked me to come to him. He immediately told me that murder is facing me everywhere I go, and that he would try to help me. Further, he said, “You must know that between wishes and ability there is a big distance. I truly wish that all my students will survive, but what can I really do? As far as you are concerned, I suggest you come to the school as a laborer doing cleaning and cutting wood for the fire, as well as operating the furnaces.”
At that point he was no longer head of the school, but since he was mayor he was able to do it. He was also in cahoots with one of the teachers. He still said to me that I must be very careful to be there only when the school was empty of students. I later found out that the person he was in touch with was the wife of Skrentani, who was a teacher in the school. Skretntani himself worked for Mataroz in the municipal building, as head of the food distribution department.
I was told to be in school in the afternoon hours until the time of curfew, when I was supposed to be home. Mataroz said that since danger faced me in every direction, it would be easier to escape from the school in times of extreme danger than from places where Jews were plentiful. Further, he said he would try to get me a special permit was worker of the municipality, so I could work outdoors even during curfew hours. Once again he emphasized that in case of an action where they would kill the Jews, I would have to hide in the school. There would be a greater chance of survival there since it was unlikely that they would look for Jews in the school, there was a huge basement with many secret corners that I could hide in. He also gave me a letter to take to the police which asked for permission to work at night since I needed to clean the school after the students left. When I entered the school I only found Baliznuk, who was known as the most evil torturer. :How do you think this will help you? With such a Jewish face, how to get a permission from the police?” He started laughing.
“Before I would ever get a look at the permission you might receive, I will shoot you with a bullet and the permission will not bring you back to life.” Still, he gave me the permission.
In the school worked a Polish woman that explained to me my duties. She was generally kind to me but she was very fearful that my presence in the school would hurt her. She begged me that I should be very careful and to make sure that no one would suspect that she hides a Jew at the school. Every time she had a hint of danger she would quickly tell me to go hide in the basement.
The first day after finishing my work I didn’t stay at school. I went home with my permit. This was a late night hour, I passed quietly the market, and saw not one living soul; no Germans, no policemen. When I told my friend about it, someone said that even the Germans were afraid to walk around at night and we felt some pleasure in knowing that. I don’t know if it was smart but I always held my gun with the three bullets, but I didn’t know if they were viable. I was thinking that if someone bothered me at night, I would draw the gun and this would hopefully be enough. One night I remembered that I hid a knife in the gardens near the school. I went there and found it, and took it to our cowshed, and there I covered it in a rag and hid it.
Nights passed and no one bothered me. The only person that seemed to follow me with her eyes was was my mother, who stood by the window and looked out from behind the shutters to see if I was coming. Only when I arrived could she sleep. She begged that I stay in the school and not come at night. One night, when I returned home, all of a sudden I heard a shout of, “Stoi, stoi!” which means “Stand! Stand!” I Was very scared that someone was shooting my direction. I went in the gardens behind the homes until I reached the middle synagogue. I went to the central floor where the women sat, and slept. In the morning I came home and found my mother very fearful. As it turned out she didn’t sleep a wink that night. She also heard the shouts and thought that maybe I was killed. The next day we found out that this was a drunk policeman who yelled at a pig to quiet down. When the pig didn’t listen, he shot it. From that night on I stayed in the school’s basement, and only when morning came did I return home.
In the basement I found a small tool that could be used for counterfeit money. I thought that I might be able to use it to counterfeit ID cards, but for the meantime I left it there. Zalman Gurevich was able to connect with Kostya from the village Litvinki. He was the son of Januk. Anyway, he sold Zalman a gun with a few bullets.
The winter of 1941-42, was a very difficult winter. The hope that the so-called Communist Jews would be the last to be killed proved wrong. One day the Germans came from Vileyka and kidnapped some Jews, and demanded they take their clothes off . Half-naked they put them on cars and drove them through town. The Jews in town were told that they must pay large sums of money in order to avoid their killing. The large sums were paid. On another day, the killers Egov and Shernagovitz, played a bloody game. They killed 13 Jews, amongst them the rabbi of the town Rav Moshe Aharon Feldman. He was a gentle soul, pure and honest. His death was very torturous. They broke his arms and legs, and his entire body until he passed away. His body was put for days out in the main market until finally the killers allowed the Jews to bring him to burial. Our group continued to meet, fully knowing that our fate was written and our situation would become worse and worse. As I said before, many tried to join us. Amongst them Shimon Alperovich, who eventually was added to our ranks. When I speak of that, I remember the image of Arczik Shulman [great-grandfather of translator], the father of Nyomka, who was a tanner in his profession. He knew very well what we were talking about in the dark room in his home, but never, ever tried to say anything against it. We felt very much that in his quietness there was a full agreement with what we were doing. One day, Lazar Shlomo said to him, “Arczik, don’t think for a moment that I don’t know that your son came one night behind my home to scare me. You must know that those children, and amongst them your son Nyomka, are playing with fire.”
In those days it was enough for one tiny ember to spark a great fire that could engulf the entire community of Jewish Kurenets. He was referring to the time we demanded that he return the gun that we had bought. Although Nyomka’s father, Arczik, told us about the meeting, he was not complaining. He told it to us only for informative purposes.
Mataroz also arranged for Nyomka to work for the municipality. Nyomka became responsible for the warehouses where the food was stored. During the wartime, the town had no money and payments were done with an exchange of food 
A Tale of a Mouse and a Tartar As soon as Bertha found out that Nyomka was responsible for the food warehouses, she decided that this could be used for our missions, so once in a while, someone would come from Bertha’s group to Nyomka and would take food supplies secretly to Volkoviczina. This took place shortly after Mataroz was imprisoned one day and later released. Bertha told me there were rumors he would be imprisoned again. They found out that someone was spreading rumors against him. Anyway, sometime around January of 1942, or maybe February, on a Sunday that was very cold, I collected papers and put them in a container near the furnace. I didn’t pay attention, but while I Was transferring the papers to the furnace, a big mouse somehow went in and when I threw the papers, he started burning and the smell became horrible. Although I opened the furnace, it didn’t help, so when the students came back on Monday the smell was horrible. Mataroz called me to his office immediately.
“What happened?” he asked me when we were alone. I told him about the mouse, and while we were conversing he told me he heard a rumor that Nyomka was taking certain provisions from the warehouses and transferring them to underground elements. He was worried about the idea of Nyomka putting himself in such danger and not keeping our secrecy well enough. While talking he asked me all of a sudden, “And what about you? IT is clear in such situations you will not be able to continue working in school. Are you also thinking of joining some underground group?”
I was not worried about Mataroz and I was very honest with him. I said I belonged to such a group and I urged him to join us. He immediately answered, “My dear, our ways are very different, and what is appropriate for you is not appropriate for me. Our ways are very different.”
I answered, “Our ways may be different, but our enemy is the same enemy!”
He looked at me with a sad _expression and said, “Go, child, and may God take you on the right route. But remember to be careful and not to burn any mice. To Nyomka Shulman, tell him to be very careful too.” [About six months later, in the summer of 1942, the Germans killed Mataroz and his family
At that point I would stay in school at nights and during the day I would write pamphlets for Bertha. As soon as my mother would see me put my boots on, she knew I was going to a place other than the school and ask me, “Where are you going, Nachum? You must tell me.”
I tried very hard not to tell her and explained to her why it was important she not know. “As I told you before about the time I found the old Soviet IDs in the apartment of Aunt Rashka’s, [which was used as the headquarters of the Soviets from 1939 to 1941], I used one of the IDs with one of my pictures and used the name Hantieb (a Tartar name) and I kept working on saying my name and information in a Tartar accent.”
My mother, who knew of my doings and very much agreed with me that I should help the resistance asked, “What do you need with these fake IDs? They will not help you, they ill only cause you trouble.”
“Look, mother, there is much value in these fake names. If I am killed an they find this ID, they will think I am a Tartar in the service of the Soviets and they will not come to Kurenets to as questions. But in case I am only wounded and they torture me, they might come to you and it’s better if you don’t know any information.”
MY mother accepted my explanation and didn’t ask anymore. The other people with Bertha were Ivan Sirotzin, Basilik, Yorka Balashov, Matyo Kevitz, Nikolai Sirotzin, Sovatz, and Zina Bitzon, all non-Jews. At this point, all we did was print pamphlets and talk about going to the forest. At that point we had already printed 20 different pamphlets. We waited impatiently for the winter to pass, and the dream to go to the forest was postponed..
As time passed, the partisans in Volkoviczina were enlarged. At the head of the group was Volodia [codename], who escaped from the POW camp in Kurenets, and now worked for one of the villagers.
In the month of February of 1942, we were invited to meet the partisan troop. One night Itzkaleh Einbender, Nyomka Shulman, Zalman Gurevich and I, were invited to come to Volkoviczina. We arrived at a small forest at the edge of the village, and there we met with Volodia, the head of the troop after saying the code word “Volodia”. He urged us to collect weapons and to ready ourselves to go to the forest at the end of the winter. He also told us to prepare clothes and food, but to keep everything very secretly. After he found out that I was the one responsible for the pamphlets, he said that they were planning on writing a periodical newsletter, and for that the supplies I had would not be enough, so he urged me to go to work at a printing press in Vileyka, where I might be able to confiscate some more letters. He also urged us to give them all the rifles and weapons we had so they could keep them for us until we moved to the forest. We sat with him for half an hour and then returned to Kurenets. We went in a roundabout way so they couldn’t find us. Through the fields that took us to the forest of Tzavina, and then we separated and each one went to his home, back to the daily tortures of our lives.
Nyomka continued to transfer products to the Volkoviczina group, and Bertha would visit us and tell us news she had heard on the radio about the situation on the front. One Sunday we once again went to Volkoviczina and returned at a very late hour. We used the fields by Smorgon Street and not Vileyka Street. Vileyka Street used to be the street that people took long walks on. It had old cedar trees, and it would take you to Jewish Vileyka. But now there was no more Jewish Vileyka, and Vileyka Street was also out of our reach as Jews, since now the German police was situated there, so we returned home in a roundabout way, and arrived in the village Tzavina. Itzkaleh, Nyomka, Zalman, Yorka Balshov (a non-Jewish partisan from the Volkoviczina troop) and I. Yorka came from the Vostok (the east, Soviet territory). He was a serious young man and very dedicated to his job. When we arrived near the Tzavina village, we heard sounds of singing and dancing. A party was happening in one of the homes. Itzkaleh looked through a window and realized that that amongst the celebrators was Pietka Gintov, one of the policemen who was one of the evil and ugly killers. Itzkaleh came back that this was a good time to pay Pietka what he deserved. He was ready to go in and do the deed. Yorka was very much against it since Itzkaleh would be easily recognized and this would endanger all the Jewish residents of the town. He volunteered to do it, since no one knew him and the town would not pay for it. So he went into the house with a drawn gun, and since he didn’t know what Pietka Ginta looked like, he asked, “Who here is a policeman?” Someone was able to darken the place immediately. Itzkaleh immediately ran, trying to ID Pietka in the darkness, but Pietka was able to escape, as well as well the celebrating people who thought that there was a big partisan troop that had come there. Itzkaleh was at first very mad that he was not allowed to do it the way he wished it, but Yorka said he shouldn’t take it so deeply, because even if we didn’t succeed now, we would succeed later, and even if we didn’t succeed, we learned something from it. We could see that the policemen were scared to death of the partisans, and this was something we should not forget. 
Letters and Shrift teller (?) It seems as if the Nazis would choose Jewish holidays on purpose for their evil deeds. The holy day Purim was approaching, and the cold was horrible that year, but despite the fact that we had no more wood to burn in our furnaces, the idea that the German Army was suffering this cold on the Russian front pleased us greatly, especially since we found out that there were certain battles where they were defeated. But then came Purim, and our pleasure in knowing about the German defeats was eclipsed by our huge tragedy. During that day, the Germans killed the last of the surviving Jews of Vileyka, and many of the Jews were brought in for forced labor, amongst them Jews from Kurenets. The information was brought to us by Zina Bitzon, a woman who belonged to the partisan group in Volkoviczina. She said they would bring workers from Kurenets to Vileyka, and she suggested that this would be a good time for me to be accepted into the printing house in Vileyka. Soon everyone found out about Vileyka, and the Judenrat told us that the German authorities demanded certain professional people, amongst them carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, furriers, metalworkers, and others.
Our family was very worried for the fate of my sisters Henia and Rochaleh, who worked and lived in Vileyka. We knew that Rohaleh worked for the Germans in the post office, and Henia worked for the group of painters by cleaning their rooms and cooking for them. We hoped they had escaped the killing, but soon we found out that they were both murdered. My sister Henia who was so close to me, who said she was ready to wash floors and do everything so I would be able to study and improve my life, was dead. My sisters Henia and Rohaleh, my beloved sisters, who in their lives and in their deaths did not separate. How my heart cried for them. [PUT PICTURES OF ARCZIK? And Henia and Rohaleh?]
My mother, who was heartbroken, begged Doba and I to go to Vileyka and find a job. I didn’t tell my mother or my sister of my plans to work in the printing press. Many of the Jews of Kurenets came to Vileyka to be taken to work. Some of them had no profession but hoped they would be lucky and get accepted there, thinking that might save their lives.
We arrived in Vileyka in the afternoon and we were put in front of the Gvitz Kommissar Schmdit. Together with him was his assistant Handl, who said to us, via the interpreter from Kurenets, Schatz (an Austrian Jew who arrived in Kurenets and was now the head of the Judenrat in Vileyka), “Shoemakers, go to this site. Carpenters to this site. Tailors to this site…”
Handl never once mentioned anything about printers. I was very confused and didn’t know what to do. My sister Doba kept nudging me quietly and said, “Why are you standing here and waiting? Go and mingle with the professionals.”
Finally Handl called me and asked what my profession was. I was very confused and said, “Shrifashettler” which in German meant, “Author.” I thought at that moment this was the right name for someone who puts together letters in a printing house. The word “Shrifashettler” made Handl very mad. He started screaming at me with disgust, mocking me. “Du bist ein shrifashettler? Ah. Ein shrifshettler bist du?” I was sure that my fate was sealed, but immediately I started correcting myself, explaining that I fixed letters in a printing place. Handl quieted for a minute and was pensive, then all of a sudden said, “Tomorrow to the printing press.”
That’s how it was. The next day I was accepted as a worker in the printing press.
The tragedies that befell my family when we found out that Henia and Rohaleh were killed were unbearable. My father received it as a sign from the sky, and he cried bitterly before God when he prayed the kaddish for them. I remember that one day our Christian friend Kostya from Diaditz, came to us to take part in our mourning. He once again clarified that he would always help us and his house would be open for us, even if it would endanger him we would be able to hide there. We gave him some of our belongings. Clothes and supplies for him to keep. We knew that he was an honest man who was telling us the truth and that we could always rely on him. I found out about Kostya’s visit when I came on one Sunday for a vacation. We would work for six days, and on Sundays we would receive time out to go to Kurenets. We were taken both ways by policemen. The reason why they wanted us to go to Kurenets was so we could clean ourselves and change clothes. The Germans wanted to keep certain hygienic conditions.
My first day of work at the printing press was a difficult day. When I entered and told that Handl had sent me there, I was greeted by the manager of the printing house, a Christian by the name of Byelosov. Other than my friend Josef Norman, there were two other non-Jews who worked there. One was Nikolai Lazar, and the second was Matvei Matvievich, who was once a Soviet POW who somehow was able to get a job there. There were also two Christian girls, Manya and Sonia, who helped with the printing but who mainly kept the place clean. So as soon as I came there, Byelosov looked at my boots and said, “You have nice boots. It would be a good idea if you gave me your boots since the Germans will murder you and take your boots anyway.”
I answered, “I don’t care who will take my boots after I die, but in my lifetime I will not give them to anyone.”
Matvei was a very gentle and spiritual person. You could see it from his _expression. He thought I was a remnant from the Jews of Vileyka, who at that point had all been killed, and whispered to me, “After what happened here, why are you sitting here and working for them? Why aren’t you escaping to the forest?”
When I heard what he said I became worried. Despite his face that appeared very gentle, those were difficult days and it was hard to know where troubles might come from. Who knows? Maybe he would spy after me and trick me, I thought. So I looked at him quietly, as if a person who didn’t understand the hint when he said “the forest.” Secretly I told Josef Norman about the plans and why I was sent there. Josef once again emphasized that it was very dangerous, that they might notice that letters are missing. As I continued working there I discovered that Byelosov was not a bad person, he was just a chatterbox and didn’t mean ill. When he asked me for my boots it was just chatter, and it contained no evil.
Most of the work involved printing announcements, letters, and accounts of office supplies for the Germans. Most times the letters were in both Russian and German. The German letters were smaller than the Russian ones, but since we wanted the printing to be pleasant and not uneven, we added something to the letters and I became the specialist in this. I also became more fluent in German during this time. Truthfully, the other workers in the printing shop did not know any Germans. Often I was sent to the Gvitz Kommissar to see him and his assistant Handl, or to Kiborik, who was the education officer, and I became the go-between. They gave me materials to print and they received the ready materials from me.
Each day when I was done with my work I would go to the ghetto in Vileyka and stay there until the next morning. It wasn’t the usual ghetto, but this was the place where they kept the Jewish workers. It was located behind the public park and the municipal hospital, close to the Jewish slaughterhouse from the years before. The place was not truly guarded. There was not a fence, and Schatz was responsible for the guarding. Schatz used to be the head of the Judenrat in Kurenets, and now was situated here in Vileyka. Also there was my sister Doba, and also Kopel Spektor with his brother Eliyau, and his two sisters Esther and Dinka. Kopel was very, very close to his family, and now never separated from them, and this is how we explained to ourselves his not being so close to us at this point. Once in a while, Handl, the assistant of the Gvitz Kommissar would come around and torture whoever he encountered. I also felt, every once in a while, his beatings with the stick that he always held in his hand. One time he hit my hand so hard that I thought it became paralyzed. I feared I would never be able to move it. The people in the ghetto were tortured not only by the German head officer like Handl, but by every German. They were all permitted to treat us as they wished. Zalminka Alperovich, the son of Masseh Alperovich, brother of Rivka Gilat who is now in Israel, used to work for a German who would torture him and beat him mercilessly, so much so that we were worried about his survival. One time he returned to the ghetto all beaten up and wounded, in horrible shape. But the next morning the German came to the ghetto and demanded that Zalminka be sent to him, and no one else. Many tried to explain the horrible situation of the young boy, but the German just became enraged and said, “I will make him well” and he drew out his weapon. So with no choice, Zalminka got out of the bed and went to work. Who could ever dream that during these days that this Zalminka who was so tortured would one day escape from the ghetto and arrive at the forest, and from there go to the Red Army, where he would get his revenge on the German killers, something I will tell you about later. Most people in the ghetto of Vileyka suffered greatly. Other than the people from Kurenets, there were remnants from other neighboring towns. Many of them were very depressed. I remember our Motik Alperovich, who was with us. Even when his heart was very bitter, Motik used three words to describe the situation, “Seiz nicht gud” (?) The situation is not good. HE was a member of our partisan group and there was hope at least that we might leave for the forest.
When I worked next to Matvei, I saw that amongst the many letters he kept in his drawer were many Red Army buttons with Soviet emblems of the hammer and sickle. I am sure that he meant for me to see it, but still I pretended that I was not paying attention. One day, Josef Norman found in the printing house the original announcement that ordered all the Jewish men in Vileyka to come for a roll call that ended with all of them being taken to the bridge and killed. When we looked at the paper we saw it was signed with the Polish name Sapieska. During the Polish times, Sapieska was the head of the Vileyka archives, and as soon as the Germans entered he became the mayor. Josef showed me the paper and I thought that it might be historically important so I took it and hid it somewhere. I think that this paper, amongst others, helped at the time when the Soviets came after the war, during Sapieska’s trial which got him sentenced to ten years in prison.
One time the Gvitz Kommissar came and said we should take some printing materials off the trucks. When I came to take it down, he said to me, “This is my material, and I am telling you that if there is anything missing or imperfect, you will pay with your head.”
I don’t know why Schmidt made me responsible for these materials that were brought from Oshmany, where they had a printing house that was now closed. We did as we were told and took all the printing materials down from the trucks and into the printing house. Amongst the other things we found a box filled with letters and I immediately realized I could take from this box without making them suspicious. One day, Itzkaleh Einbender came to the printing house was not watched and told me that the partisans from the Volkoviczina group were asking about the letters since it would soon be time to go to the forest. I said that probably soon I would be able to bring something. Under the Nose of the Germans We found out that in the yard of the Gvitz Kommissar there were many letters for Russian print from an old printing house that had been used by the local daily paper in Vileyka, Salinskiya Gazetta, during the Soviet times. Since I would often go to the Gvitz Kommissar for transferring materials, I decided to make good use of my visits there. The guard knew me well and didn’t bother me. Bertha met me near the yard of the Gvitz Kommissar and we both entered as if we didn’t know one another. Bertha, who appeared non-Jewish, and acted in a way that was filled with self-confidence, exuded trust and the guard didn’t even check her. Bertha put a note in my hand and continued walking.
When I had a chance to look at the note, I realized it was the text for a flyer, with an instruction that it should be printed very quickly. I couldn’t figure out what Bertha was planning. Did she mean that I had to now leave for Kurenets and make this with the letters that I had kept there? Or did she want me to print this pamphlet right here in Vileyka? At first I considered the possibilities of printing it in Vileyka, but I couldn’t find a way at first. Slowly, I came up with a plan. I discussed this with Josef Norman and we realized that going to Kurenets was impossible, so I decided to go to the manager, Byelosov, and I said to him that I was very worried since I found out that soon there was going to be an action where they would kill the Jews in Vileyka. I begged him to let me sleep in the printing house. Byelosov, who was a devout Christian, had a job as the choirmaster and a deacon (?) and many times he used the printing press for the Church. The Germans had no knowledge of what he was doing. Byelosov thought about it for a second and then said, “Well, if you want to sleep here maybe you can print some things for me. I immediately agreed and I decided to use this opportunity. I would fix on the same form the Byelosov job and our pamphlet. When I was finished with it I would separate it.
Josef Norman also asked to stay in the printing house since he was also a Jew, so it would seem natural he would want to join me. The young girls, Manya and Sonia used the printing house as a permanent location of sleep, and as soon as they fell asleep on some tables, we started working, right under the Germans’ noses. First we prepared the form for Byelosov, and then our pamphlet which was very short. Byelosov asked me before he left that once I was done with printing I must separate all the letters so that no one would catch him. So as soon as I was done with the printing, I immediately separated the letters and started cutting the papers, separating the ones that belonged to us from the ones that belonged to the Church. I hid our pamphlets in the print house and waited impatiently for someone to come and receive the materials.
It wasn’t a large amount of material. I somehow was able to inform Bertha but she must not meet me at the Gvitz Kommissar but to come to the yard behind the print house and wait there. SO that is what happened. She came when it got dark and I got her the package.
The relationship between the workers in the printing house was good. There was a sort of good socializing amongst them. Lazar and the two young women joined Byelosov in singing often. A very special person was the POW who I talked about. Once in a while he would still ask me why I didn’t join the partisans and say, “What are you doing here? I am a Russian and it’s not as dangerous for me to be here. But you are a Jew. You have no future here.”
I could see that he was truly worried about me. Obviously he had no idea about my connection with the Resistance, so he was pleading with me, thinking he would save me if he taught me certain things about the forest. He also taught me how to make fake stamps for IDs and how to put letters in a round shape. He was a very gentle person. He had some kind of infection on his hands and he was very careful not to use the public soap. He would very carefully cut a little piece of the public soap for himself. Soap was a very precious commodity, and one day, Byelosov realized that pieces of the soap were cut, and he started yelling, “Who is stealing our soap?”
Matvei didn’t hide the truth. He admitted that he took some of the soap and showed Byelosov his hands that had their infections. He explained doing it fearing that his infection could spread to others. Byelosov would not accept his explanation. He was very mad and went to the German who was responsible for us and told him about Matvei stealing the soap. The German hit Matvei very cruelly. Eventually he was kicked out of the printing house and sent to Germany.
Now we continued working with Lazar, who I still couldn’t figure out. I wondered if he had anything to do with Matvei getting sent to Germany. I decided to check out his character. Since he told me that his brother-in-law was a watchmaker, I asked him to give my watch to his brother-in-law to get it fixed. Bertha suggested that if he is not to be trusted and maybe cause us trouble, we should get rid of him. By getting rid of him she meant killing him. During those days, if someone was killed all of a sudden, no one would check the reasons. So when Lazar didn’t bring back the watch and days passed, we didn’t know what to do. Lazar promised me that on Sunday when he would be in the village, he would ask his brother-in-law to hurry up, but his brother-in-law was very busy.
When he returned on Monday, still the watch was not with him. I said to him to just give me back the watch, whether it was ready or not. But he said the watch had been taken apart. When I told about it to Bertha, I realized it could all end very badly, but lucky enough, just then, Lazar brought back the watch and he proved he was not a bad man. So I notified Bertha and I was happy that he was not hurt, since someone worse could have been sent there.
On Sunday, I decided to make a short pamphlet while I did a general pamphlet for the Germans. I was sure that on Sunday no German would come to the print house. I was just about ready to print the pamphlet, when to my great shock, the Gvitz Kommissar, Schmidt, with another high-ranking officer, entered the print house. I was shaking and I felt as if I was standing over a huge chasm. So all I could do was to drop it all of a sudden, as if I was careless, and that is what I did. The entire form fell with a loud noise, and the letters spread all over. Schmidt immediately came to me and hit me for being so careless and said to me, “You must work carefully. Do not do any stahanov (?) here.”
I started gathering the letters and mixing them up, especially the letters from my pamphlet. All of a sudden there was a sound to stop the work. Now I wasn’t worried anymore that they would recognize the letters. Once again I was hit by the Germans before they left, and they said, “Be more careful. Don’t do such a lousy job.” Then they left the printing house.
Those were the days between Purim and Passover, and I Spent almost all my time in the printing house in Vileyka. I found out that once again, they killed 32 Jews in Kurenets. This took place on the 6th day of the Hebrew month of Nisam, 1942. The killers were not Germans, but collaborators from the local area. One was from Kurenets and the second from the village Kastzinevitz. This is the information I found from Yehezkel Zimmerman, the son of Yitzhak Haitze’s (son?) Zimmerman.
Yehezkel Zimmerman is now known as Charles Gelman, and he wrote a book in English about his experiences during the war.
The two Christian hoodlums were policemen for the Germans. They were Shernagovitz and Balzinyuk. They went as they said to create a Polevanya, meaning a hunt. One of these killers was a student of Yitzhak Zimmerman in the public school in 1941, but these so-called privileges did not help Yitzhak. He was the first to be killed by them. The daughter Ethel tried to escape but didn’t go far. They caught her and killed her. The second daughter, Minya, was shot while hold her baby in her hands, a baby just a few months old. She fell in the snow, in a pool of her blood, and died immediately. The baby, Shimshon, fell on the snow but was not hurt. Feyga Zimmerman, the mother, saw the whole thing from the window of their home. She was in shock and practically fainted, but still she was able, after a short time, to go outside and take the baby from the snow. But Feyga Zimmerman was not able to stay in the house. She took the baby to Zalman Mendel Tsipilevich, who was distantly related to her, and there she stayed with the baby until the day of the annihilation of Kurenets, 9/9/1942. 
I would like to say more about Yitzhak Zimmerman. He was a very learned Jew with an excellent memory. He was a deep thinker who understood the depths of ideas, and was very articulate and able to explain everything to his students in a very clear and simple way. People who knew him said he was an amazing mathematician, and was also very proficient in Hebrew grammar. All his knowledge was gained auto-didactically. He didn’t have any formal education. In addition to that, he had the most beautiful and clear voice, and he was used in the synagogue as a servant of the public, where he would pass before the Ark.
Yehezkel [Charles Gelman], his son, was at that time in the Vileyka ghetto with the other Kurenetsers, and knew nothing of what happened to his family. But people looked at him strangely and he understood that something happened, so he left Vileyka for Kurenets and found out the awful tragedy. He met with his mother and his nephew, and together they went back home to mourn his father and his two sisters. Yehezkel wrote that the piercing cries of his mother could have made the blocks of his house melt. During that time he also met with Artzik Dinestein, who was also known as Artzik Gatze’s, and he told him that he, together with other Jews, went out and collected the bodies of the 32 martyrs and buried them in the Jewish cemetery. Artzik told him that when they checked the pockets of the people who were killed, they found in Yitzhak Zimmerman’s pocket, a detailed list of all the 54 martyrs who were killed during Simha Torah that year. The list included the names of the people, their parents’ names, their ages, etc. Surely, Ytizhak Zimmerman hoped that there would be a day when the 54 martyrs would be brought to a Jewish burial and their headstones would be put on their graves… Leaving for the Forest
Since the beginning of April of 1942, the underground unit from Volkoviczina urged us to come to the forest and establish a permanent newspaper from there. Since we had a lot of work in the printing house, and I knew I was about to leave, I suggested to Byelosov to bring a young woman from Kurenets who was in the labor camp to help in the printing house. I gave her a great recommendation, and said that since Matvei left, someone needed to replace him. The reason why I wanted a Jewish girl to come there was so she could help Norman and I take letters and also to keep an eye on the Christian girls while we were printing the pamphlet.
The girl I recommended was Riva, the daughter of Shaptai Gordon. She was full of energy and self-confidence, and I knew that she would be very good at the job. But it wasn’t enough for her to want to do it, and for Byelosov to ask for her. We needed permission from the Gvitz Kommissar. So Riva went to Schatz and asked him to recommend her. Schatz knew her well because when he came to the area of Kurenets, he lived in Riva’s parents’ home and liked them a lot. So he went to do as she wished, and after Schatz pleaded her case to the Gvitz Kommissar, she got her position. Schatz had no idea we would use her for the resistance.
Riva was very good at her job. She was able to transfer letters to the yard near the printing house, and Bertha would meet them. Riva would always sit by the printing press while we were doing pamphlets. She would clean the area, volunteering so that the Christian girls would not have to do anything, leaving us to print without worrying about them seeing anything.
Riva stayed at the printing house after I left the area, and many years later when I met her, she told me that when they asked why I left, she told them that it was hard to know and that it must be that I was murdered when I went to visit Kurenets. She stayed there until October of 1942, Eventually they organized an escape from the Vileyka ghetto, and the first to escape was Riva , with a group of ten young men, She was the only woman.
At the end of this group was Shimon Zimmerman, later the husband of Riva, and Yehezkel Zimmerman (Charles Gelman) the son of Itzha Haitze’s. With them was Tevel, the son of G’daliyahu the blacksmith, and Lazar Shlomo and others.
At this point I was still printing pamphlets as well as some materials for the Church. Since the nights were still long in April, I could do much work, but still I was always tense, despite the fact that the Germans didn’t usually come there at night. One night, after I printed some things for Byelosov and also short pamphlets for us, one of the Christian women for some reason started cleaning the printing house. Once in a while she would come near me so I had no choice but to drop the form and mix the letters. I had to wait for her to finish and it took a long time, and then once again I joined the letters and finished the job. In our part it was mainly favorable news from the front. The next morning, Bertha came and took all the pamphlets.
Amongst the pamphlets I did in Vileyka, there was one that called for the residents who worked for the German police to join the fight against the Nazis. It said that the Germans had lost many battles in the Russian front. We announced that if they wanted to find the partisans, all they would have to do was go to the forest with the announcement and a weapon and they would be accepted by the resistance. We signed this pamphlet with the words “Death to Hitler!”
Beautiful spring days came and the snow melted. We could see the days but since we were indoors we really did not experience them. The non-Jews in the partisans kept asking us if we had sufficient weapons, papers, and letters so we could join them in the forest. They were not ready for all the Jewish members to join them, but they wanted me to come so I could start printing the newspaper. Since I needed more letters, I remembered the letters that I saw from the old Soviet print house. I told Byelosov about it and said we should ask Handl for the letters since many of our letters were not functional anymore. Byelosov sent me to Handl to ask for them. I explained to Handl that Byelosov sent me to collect those letters for our job, and he told me to choose the letters that were in good shape so I could take them to the print house. Handl ordered me to weigh what I was going to take so that everything would be exact, so I sat there for a whole day so I could examine the letters, and I took a bag of about 30 kg of letters.
When I showed the bag to Handl he forgot about weighing it. I hid them near the print house and I gave Byelosov only a small package of letters, saying that most of the others were non-functional. The people from Volkoviczina came the next day. Yorka Balshov took the letters back with him to Volkoviczina. The Germans had their eagle symbol on a stamp and we thought that we could make a stamp from it if we added the appropriate words in a circle around the eagle. SO I brought the raw material to Kopel, who was amongst the skilled Jews that the Nazis needed. There was also a dentist there. Kopel took from him some plaster and he was able to somehow make a print with the eagle and the appropriate letters. Now we had an official German stamp that we hoped to use for the resistance. Since the labor camp was crowded with many Jews, it was impossible to hide from them such an operation, and someone started yelling that because of this stamp, everyone would be murdered. But someone else yelled to him, “Tell me, do you really believe that if we didn’t have the stamp they would keep us alive and not kill us?”
Kopel Spektor was well respected, even by the Nazis. One time, when they were repairing a toilet in the German headquarters, the different technicians were arguing which way the toilet should be prepared. Should it be the French way where you pull a string? Or the English way where you press a button/lever for it to flush? Since they all respected his technical skills, they called Kopel and asked his opinion. Kopel, who didn’t lose his sense of humor said that there was also a Russian system, in which there was no need at all to flush, since the toilet is not in the house but the edge of the yard. The Germans loved this answer and they all laughed, thinking of how backward the Soviets were. Kopel made them so happy that they gave him cigarettes.
In reality, Kopel Spektor did everything he could to help people who were going to fight the Germans. He was the head of the committee that had planned the escape from the camp to the forest. They were an underground group. One of the other heads of the committee was Jona Riar, from the town of Ilia. He was able to steal a gun from one of the German gendarmes, but when he tried the gun it had some kind of defect and Kopel Spektor was able to fix it in no time at all.
When I think of those days I remember how we all wished to get revenge, and every little bit of revenge would please us. In Vileyka, there was the daughter of Doctor Shostakovich from Kurenets. He was born in one of the villages nearby, and now, since the Germans came, he became their assistant, and maybe because of his collaborating with the Germans, his daughter now received an important job as an editor for them. Lazar, who worked with us, fell in love with that girl, and would often go to bring the prints we made from the printing house. Despite the fact that it could endanger us, we were so angry and revengeful that we would change the letters and make, as if by mistake, errors that would say something nasty. That would make us feel a little bit better, that we were able to embarrass her in some way.
At the end of April, I was told that I should go to Volkoviczina to meet with Ivan. The letters were in his attic, and he asked me to check what we could do with them. While I was checking the letters and separating them, the Germans came to the village to get some chickens. I immediately hid, but I could see the Germans looking. From where I was hiding, I also saw one of the soldiers making love to a local girl from the village. At the end, he gave her a loaf of bread as payment, and a big smile lit up her face. Finally, the soldiers left and I was able to get out of my hideout and continue with my job. During that meeting, Ivan informed me that the next morning I had to go to the forest with two other people. We decided that Zalman Gurevich and Elik (Eliyahu) the son of Ruven Zishka Alperovich, would join me. Meanwhile, Itzkaleh Einbender went to Vileyka and spread a rumor that I had been murdered. A decision was made that if Schatz, the head of the Judenrat, would start investigating, and Itzkaleh would kill him. My sister, Doba, worked in Vileyka for the German officer Riddle, putting together clothing for the soldiers, and also helped them make packages to send home that basically consisted of pillage from the Jews.
Monday morning, while I walked to Vileyka, together with Itzkaleh, I transferred my rifle with three bullets to Itzkaleh Einbender so he could threaten Schatz if needed. Near the village Zimadora, I decided to leave. I fell off the little bridge, and a policeman who saw me asked what had happened to me, and I said something was wrong with my shoe, and that I must fix it. They continued walking and I stayed there as if fixing my shoes. As soon as I saw them passing, I ran to the forest nearby, and there I sat the entire day. When night came I went to Volkoviczina, where I met Yorka Balshov, who told me that Zalman Uri, and Elik are ready and that we would leave that night.
Weeks later, Itzkaleh told me that Schatz was very helpful and spread the word that I had been killed, in spite of the fact that he knew I had really left for the forest. More than that, Schatz said that if he could only do it he would join the partisans in the forest. Doba also told me years later that Itzkaleh and Kopel Spektor came to her and told her not to worry for my escape, and that no one would hurt her for revenge. 
The Dream of the Forest I met with Elik and Zalman Uri as well as the other partisans. They had the printing press deep in the forest area. This was the end of winter, the beginning spring. The ground was wet from the melting snow and the rain that came often. I was very tired and naively I asked one of the partisans who seemed knowledgeable in the ways of the forest, where can I lie down to sleep for a bit. “A good question,” answered the partisan, mockingly. “In the place where you stand, that’s the place where you sleep, either lying down or standing.”
So that’s how it was. The place where we stood we would close our eyes, and since we were so tired, we were able to sleep while standing. The head of our unit was a person by the name of Andrey Ivanovich Volinitz [INSERT PICTURE].  He was a very pleasant man from a village near Vileyka. Zalman Uri Gurevich knew him well. His sister worked for Zalman’s family as a housekeeper before the war. The reason they used a housekeeper was because Batia Gurevich, Zalman’s mother, was sick and needed help with the house chores.
The place where we rested was in the forest near the village Tsentzevitz, not far from the ranch of Luban. We had much food supplies. Eggs, potatoes, flour, butter… The area was one of marshes. At this point they didn’t use us Jews for any missions. We were only used in guard positions, since they were afraid that since we were Jews, if we were caught as partisans, the entire Jewish community would pay for it.
The first Sunday we spent in the forest, many of the partisans went to a dairy near Tsintzevitz to take some food. The guard of the dairy asked them to beat him up so the Germans would not suspect that he collaborated with them. They also took a horse and a carriage, and brought with them some alcohol. When they returned, most of them were drunk and fell asleep while we were guarding them. This was in the early morning hours, and all of a sudden I saw a shepherd not far from us. I did not know that he was the partisans’ contact. In his hand he held a horn made of an animal’s horn. All of a sudden he started making loud sounds with the horn, and he announced that the Germans were approaching. There was a big commotion. Everyone ran from the place and the whole camp spread about. We could hear many shouts of the Germans, and then there was quiet. We, the three Jews, also ran some distance from the camps, but when it turned quiet, we returned to the camp in the marsh areas. We didn’t know what to do next since there were a lot of supplies. Elik decided that he should watch the supplies while the two of us went looking for the partisans. Elik had a hunting rifle in case people came. So Zalman and I went to look for the partisans. All of a sudden we heard an announcement, “Comrades, where are our people?” It was Volodia, one of the heads of the partisan unit. While we were talking we heard heavy fire. People were running all over the forest. In one place we saw a large group of Germans approaching the area. We saw there was a large fir tree that was very thick, so we hid in the branches and very fearfully we waited to see what would happen. The Germans came very near us and we could hear them talking, saying, “There must be some near here. We must be careful lest they surprise us and attack us.”
“Maybe we should bring some dogs with us,” said another soldier. And that was all we heard as they walked farther way.
We sat there on the branches of the fir tree for a long time. It was mostly quiet but once in a while we could still hear shots. When evening came we came out of the tree and looked at where we left Elik that morning, but we didn’t see anyone there. We continued towards the road between Karlietza and Kurenets. All of a sudden we heard dogs barking and Volodia said that I should go check the place. I went to check but found nothing. I was very tired and sat for a minute, and somehow I fell asleep. All of a sudden I woke up and didn’t know where I was. I stood and started looking around, and I saw a shepherd with cows. When he saw me he became very scared and tried to run. I approached him and told him not to worry. I asked him where was the village Karlietza. He pointed to a few homes and said that was it. I sat with him to talk and he told me in a village named Uzla, the partisans had burned the big mill and that there were police forces on that bridge, and the guards kept changing. I was very hungry, and the shepherd took some meat from his bag and shared it with me. I wanted to give him something in return, but all I had was a lighter for cigarettes, so I gave that to him as a present, and then we parted.  
The Unit is Spreading I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to look for Zalman and Volodia, so I decided to try to get to Kurenets, and from there I tried to contact them. Carefully I passed the ranch of Luban where there were still some Jewish workers, but I didn’t enter. I kept walking and got to the village Diyadich around 8 in the morning. There had already been daylight for hours and all of a sudden I heard the sound of bicycles coming behind me. To my great shock it was the two evil policemen from Kurenets whom I knew very well. It was the son of Polevick and the second was Belzinyuk. At first I wanted to jump to the forest and hide, but it was too late, so I decided to just act naïve.
“Why are you walking around so early in the morning?” one of them asked.
Since I had papers showing I worked at the printing press, I showed them my permit. They immediately said, “If you work in Vileyka what are you doing here in Luban?”
I told them I visited my sister who worked here and decided to sleep here, and that I was on my way to Vileyka. They asked me if I saw any partisans in Luban. They seemed to be very busy with their own problems, and they didn’t really pay any attention to me. They were talking about the partisans who burned some buildings and took cows and other livestock, and they gave me back my permit and continued on their bicycles to Kurenets, and I walked behind them. Since I was near the village Diyadich, I decided to visit my family friends, the family of Kostya, where we once bought a cow. Now much of our belongings were hidden, so as soon as the policemen disappeared, I went there. Anyway, as soon as I arrived in Diyadich, I saw that there were Germans with weapons shooting towards the forest, so I couldn’t continue. I went to the home of Kostya and Agassia. They were scared to see me and told them a lie that I was in Luban and told them I had come back and I was just here to visit them. They told me about partisan activities in the area, and how the Germans were searching for them. They worried that the Germans might find me, but still they gave me food. “In any case, I had already prepared a hiding place in my barn, in the hay,” Kostya told me, adding, “From that barn there is a secret way to the forest. So go there and rest. If you will see that the Germans are coming, run to the other side, to the forest, to live.”
I entered the barn and lay down in the hideout. Shortly after, I heard people talking in German. It was a bunch of soldiers who had come to get water for their horses from the well in the Yard, but they were not looking for anyone, and they left. I was so tired that I fell asleep, then woke up in the afternoon. It was quiet.
When it turned dark, Kostya’s wife came in and brought me bread, honey, butter, and milk. She said this would be a good time for me to leave since it was dark. Further she said that the Germans might come again tonight to look for me. Although I promised her to leave when it would get a little darker, as soon as she left I fell asleep again and I stayed there until the morning hour. I was very embarrassed that I didn’t do what they wished, so I didn’t come to say goodbye. I came out of the hidden way and continued towards Kurenets. I passed by the village Litwinki, and arrived to the end of Myadel Street, a place where we used to call Der Shvashtzapola. The first person who I encountered was Zinia, a member of the Judenrat. From him I found out that our Elik Alperovich was killed in the forest, and in Kurenets it was not a secret, and that everyone knew we had left for the forest. He further said, “You only bring troubles for us.” He told me that the Jews paid a huge sum of money to Silak, a Christian villager, so he would not tell the Germans that the person who they killed was a Jew from Kurenets, something that would mean the destruction of the entire Jewish community. Silak was a forester who was very familiar with the area. He was a collaborator with the Germans, and he would guide them in the forests when they would chase the partisans. He was the person who brought the Germans who chased us, and he witnessed the killing of Elik. We found out from Silek that Elik fought fearlessly but the Germans caught him while he was standing guard. They caught him and interrogated him. It must be that during the interrogation he decided to scare them, saying that the partisan camp had hundreds of people with heavy weapons and grenades, and machine guns. We understood that he did it so the Germans would not continue looking, but organize themselves, giving the partisans enough time to escape. After the interrogation they killed Elik. Silek, who witnessed this, was the father of two of our friends from school. He would often visit the home of Ruven Zishka Alperovich, the father of Elich, so Silek knew Elich very well. When he found Elik, he didn’t tell the Germans who Elik was, and for his silence, he received money. He was the very first person to reach the parents of Elich and tell them of the death of their son.
I left Zinia and arrived at home. Soon after, the mother of Elik came to our house to ask me more details about the tragedy. Meanwhile, Zalman returned, and for now our activities ceased. 
What’s Ahead? From that point I had to be very careful since there was a rumor I was killed. I tried not to be seen, but still I had to meet with people and to decide what would come next. We met again at Nyomka Shulman’s house. To this meeting came Motik Alperovich, the brother of Elik Although we felt a deep mourning, to the outside we acted as if we were frozen. All we talked about during the meeting was what we should do next, and how we should continue, since the short journey in the forest ended with a question mark. We all came to the conclusion that there is only one choice for us, and this was to escape the town and go to the forest. We decided to go to the forest to wait for information from Volkoviczina at this time.
As far as my family, we realized that the central market where our house was located was a very dangerous place, so we moved to an empty apartment in the alley. We kept moving from our new apartment to the old one. My father particularly liked the apartment since it was next to the rabbi minyan, where my father often went to pray and to open his bitter heart to express his distress with passages from Psalms. Father, at that point, became deeply religious. He said he believed that God decided everything, that our fate was sealed and there was nothing we could do about it. I knew that Bertha already left and was in the forest, and now she didn’t come anymore to contact us. So I decided to go on my own during the night time to Volkoviczina and try to meet with Ivan find out what we should do. I came to the edge of the village but I was too fearful to enter. I was hoping to meet with someone, but no one came around so I returned with empty hands. During those days, I met with a girl from Dolhinov. Her name was Bushka nee Katzovitz. She used to visit often in Kurenets since she was a member of the Hashomer Hatzair and we knew her well. This was the first time since the war started that I saw her. What are you doing here, I asked her, very surprised.
Bushka told me her torturous story, a story that was very common to most of us. At that point, most of the Jews of Dolhinov were killed, but Bushka and her sister Chaia escaped to the forest. However, the situation was difficult there so she decided to come to Kurenets. I brought her to my house, and my mother was happy to take her and she stayed with us for a while. Eventually she went to the Kenanina Camp, a place where survivors of slaughtered towns were taken for forced labor. Eventually she escaped and went to Russia. Now she lives in Israel with her two sisters.
Once again, I went to Volkoviczina, and on the way I met with some members of our partisan unit who stopped in the village Ivanovitz to meet with Matyokevitz to get instructions. Matyokevitz volunteered to serve in the German police as an agent for the resistance. He wanted to find traitors and to get information about the plans of the Germans. In his command they attacked a police patrol of the Germans that watched one of the bridges on the Vilia River. This took place when Matyokevitz was watching the river. When the partisans arrived at the bridge, they killed the other guards and burned the bridge and took two machine guns. After this attack, Matyokevitz had to hide from the Germans who realized his loyalties and started looking for him. We didn’t know about his involvement in this mission, and we went directly to Ivanovitz village and to hear information. This was during a late night hour, and when we entered the village we encountered the wife of Haikovitz, who used to own the ranch there. It seemed that she stood there on purpose near the home of Matyokevitz, to warn us since the Germans were watching the home of the Matyokevitz family, looking for the son they were very suspicious of. We found out that she had been standing there for many nights, on guard, to warn anyone who came to the village about the dangerous situation. I am sure she saved us from sure death. Not only that, she immediately took us to her home and gave us food and drinks and also gave cigarettes to the people who smoked. Years later, when the war ended, and I came to the area, I looked for Mrs. Haikovitz, wanting to thank her, but I was told she went to Poland. When I was in Poland I also looked for her but could never find her.
When the Germans realized that Matyokevitz was not to be found, they imprisoned his father and interrogated him. At the end they hanged him. Once again we didn’t know what we should do. We received no instructions, and then we received a note. We found out that the Germans didn’t discover the letters that were located near the place where Elich was killed, and they were now in the possession of the partisans. Once again I went in the direction of Volkoviczina and met with Bertha. A partisan that I had never met before, Lomka Verebayov, was with her. He asked me if I was ready right now to go to the Vostok, meaning to the east to the area that was still in the hands of the Soviets. I didn’t know what to say. My friends sent me there so I could tell them the situation. How could I just leave them? Anyway, I didn’t like Lonka. Before I even had time to answer him, he asked, “Do you have a weapon?” I was naïve and showed him my gun. He took it from me and refused to return it. Instead he gave me an old Colt with no bullets.
“Why aren’t you returning my gun?” I asked him.
He said, “Now it’s my gun.”
I felt that Bertha was uneasy with him and a bit scared. Once again he asked me if I was ready to go to the Vostok. I answered, “From here I cannot go anywhere. I am connected to some comrades and I have to return and give them a report about our situation. We will all go together when we are ordered to go.”
The place where we met was located near one of the bridges where there was a train track running between Kurenets and Vileyka. All of a sudden Lonka said to me, “You know, I would like to know if you are at all suitable to be a partisan. Are you able, for example, to put explosives under the bridge of this train track and blow up the bridge? You must understand that only if I watch you can I test whether you are suitable to be a partisan. I explained to him that up until now I had not blown up any bridges, but I was sure it was not so complicated if he explained to me how to do it.
Lonka gave me the explosives he had, and also the fuse that was only about 30 cm in length. He further explained that 30 cm was sufficient for only 30 seconds, so I would have a very short time to run from the place after lighting the fuse.
“After you blow up the bridge, you can return to your friends in Kurenets and wait for our instructions.”
There was no constant patrol on the bridge. Only once in a while would there be a patrol that checked the place, so I took the explosives and quickly went under the bridge. I did what he told me to do, and as soon as I realized that the fuse was burning, I started running with all my might away from the bridge. Those seconds seemed to me to be like an eternity. I was so nervous. And only when I heard the explosion could I relax. At the same time, there were other bridges that the partisan unit blew up. Amongst them the bridge of the train tracks in the direction of the town Kriviczi.  
Don’t Be Together I returned to Kurenets feeling both excitement and some disappointment. I didn’t meet with my friends because I was sure that the Germans would hurt the Jews. I sent my mother to talk to my friends. I discussed the situation with her and said that I must part. My mother thought that the fate of the Jews was already sealed and most likely only very few would be able to save themselves. In her opinion, the only way that we could survive was if we were far from one another, because together we would all be worried about one another and it would hurt our chances. She kept repeating the words, “We shouldn’t be together. Maybe if we are separate, someone might be saved.”
I must say here that every time a rumor started that the young people were escaping to the forest, someone in town would say how this would cause the killing of the entire Jewish community, since the Germans would use it as a reason to take revenge on the Jews. So now when my mother begged me to run away, I reminded her of what her peers said. She said, “Son, you are as experienced as all of us. Do you really think that the Germans need excuses to murder Jews? Run away, son, don’t listen to all this nonsense.”
She told me that even the first time, when we went to the forest, one of the Judenrat people came to her and said, “Don’t think for a minute I don’t know about the preparations of your son to go to the forest. This can cause the entire community’s destruction.”
My mother said to him that her son was already an adult who could stand on his own right, and that he didn’t need any permission from her to do whatever he wanted to do. “Further,” she said to him, “if you want to hear my opinion on what he is doing, I must tell you very openly that it is very good that he is doing that, and I so wish that I could do the same thing.”
Despite the fact that she urged me to go, now when it was finally a reality for her, she was very emotional. Her eyes filled with tears, but she was very strong in her commitment to walk with me part of the way. Her mother love was very strong, stronger than any rational thoughts. So when I left, she walked with me. We walked through Kosita Street. I was barefoot, holding my boots. It was very warm and pleasant weather, but when we came near the train tracks, we saw that there was some kind of commotion by the German army, and soon we heard shooting. The shooting was not in our direction, but still we decided to return home. When we entered our home I realized that one of my boots was lost. I decided to go to my friends and tell them the information since the Germans seemed to be busy in another area. I was only able to find Nyomka Shulman. I told him how we needed to leave town immediately. I also told him about Bertha and the bridge, and I said that we needed to go to the forest and I asked him to relay my message to other people, and immediately I went home.
When I entered the house, I saw my mother talking to a young Christian girl. It turned out to be Zina Bitzon, whom I hadn’t met before, but I knew her name. As soon as I entered, she said the code “Hantiev”, which was my fake name. Zina was also a contact with the partisans. She told me that she had come to take us to the forest and we must leave immediately. She said that Ivan was also in town and he would take the weapons that were now located in our second apartment in the alley. Zina said we must get some food supplies, and clothes, and personal weapons, and we must leave immediately. Whoever was not notified now would be sent for at another time. Mother went immediately to Nyomka and she found out that he had only been able to contact Itzaleh Einbender so far. Zina was very nervous and impatient. She kept repeating that time was running out and that we could not wait. She instructed us that when we walked we should walk some distance away from her, but watching her all the time. She said that the three of us should not walk together, but each one separately until we were some distance from town. We should not take off our yellow stars. When we started walking, I saw at the corner of Kosita Street and Dolhinov, Perla Einbender, the mother of Itzkaleh. She knew that her son was leaving for the forest, and she stood from afar looking at him with a quiet but sad _expression. Who knows what she was thinking during those moments? Every time when I remember this occasion of us leaving the town, I remember Perla and her sad _expression. [Perla, her husband, and their other children all perished.]
That was the afternoon hour. We had no time to find our other friends, so it was only the three of us. I didn’t even have time to really say an appropriate goodbye to my parents since Zina was in such a hurry. We walked as we were told, watching for Zina. When passed the train tracks, all of a sudden, Zina disappeared, but we continued towards the village Kosita. All of a sudden we met with the partisan Lonka Berbayov, the leader of the unit, and there were 15 people with him.
“It’s very good that you came,” he said, and we joined his unit. Now he was a little more personal, and continued going on the edge of the forest. Then Lonka ordered us to enter the forest for a short rest. Here he showed us a bag filled with the letters and other printing materials like paper and ink. Here I would like to say that the Christians had a great respect that in my opinion was a bit overblown, to the subject of pamphlets. Lonka divided the materials amongst the different people, and said that as soon as we got to an appropriate spot for printing, we would print some pamphlets for the local population so they would feel that the partisans in the area were alive and active. We Are the Masters here
We continued walking and met with a partisan by the name of Hubjanksi. I was excited to find out that Hubjanski had found one of the pamphlets that I had written and that was how he came to be with the partisans. He used to be a policeman in the German service before joining the partisans. There was another partisan by the name of Kolbosin, who had a Czechoslovakian rifle. A short time later we met with Matyokevitz. He had a rifle and binoculars. They all walked around with their weapons unsealed. We were not used to that and we saw it as very dangerous. I think that Matyokvetiz sensed our fears and tried to calm us down. He said, “You must understand that here we are the masters and the Germans are the ones who are scared of us here.”
When we arrived at a bathhouse near a village, Lomka said that this would be an appropriate place to prepare a pamphlet, so we wrote something in the standard wording. “Don’t Give the Horrible Anything! Help the Partisans and Join the Ranks. Death to the Nazis” We also wrote some news from the front, some of it true, others made up. We also announced that we were the partisans who had blown up the bridges. Shortly the pamphlet was ready. Sun set and night came, and now we entered the village. This was an out of the way village far from any road, and the partisans had a party where they had evetzerinka and handed out pamphlets. Everyone was singing and dancing, and Lonka made a speech where he called on all the young people to join the ranks of the fighters. We, the Jews, did not enter the houses, worrying that someone would recognize us and inform the Germans, leading them to take revenge on our families and the Jews of Kurenets. The party continued until 11 in the evening, and then we continued on our way. The village was near the river Vilia. Before we left, we took a lamb from one of the yards. Some of the people were already across the river, and others were still on the other side, when all of a sudden, shots were fired. Kolbosin, who walked next to me, was wounded. His rifle was also shattered and became dysfunctional, so he threw it. HE was wounded both in his hand and stomach, and he started running to the river. I entered with him, helping him. His condition became more grave. Nyomka and Itzkaleh were already on the other side of the river, where together with the other partisans they started shooting back to cover us, which helped us get across. Kolbosin’s predicament was dour and he begged us to kill him. “Kill me. Why do I need such torture? Just kill me and end it all,” he kept begging.
I tore my shirt and a piece from someone else shirt and made bandages. I covered his wounds and took care of him. He kept begging us to end his life, saying that if the Germans caught him alive they would torture him so badly and he didn’t want to experience it. Lomka made a decision that two would stay with Kolbosin and the rest would go east, and that’s what we did.
Once in a while new fighters would join us. It went on like this for days. We’d enter new villages and take food. Hudjanski was originally a native of Tservitz, a little village near Katzinovitz. Tservitz was really just a ranch that belonged to his uncle. Lomka decided to reach Katzinovitz first since Hudjanski said he had some weapons hidden in Tservitz, enough weapons for all of us. We didn’t go the usual way from Kurenets to Katzinovitz, meaning west to east, but we went in a roundabout way that took much longer.
Hudjanski who knew the area served as our guide, and he told us that right after the first World War when the area was near the Russian-Polish border, his uncle was a smuggler who knew the area very well. When we arrived at Tservitz, the uncle became our guide, and when we got to a certain bridge, someone opened fire on us. It turned out to be Polish residents of the area. One of them got up and yelled, “Why are you shooting and who are you shooting?”
But he was killed as he was saying it. Once again they returned fire and Hudjanski’s uncle was mortally wounded, so now we were without a guide. We walked around the town of Dolhinov, which at that point was without any of its Jews. All had been annihilated.
We rested nearby and then left in the direction of Pleshensitz. Once again, we made some pamphlets, and once again new fighters joined us and eventually we were joined by Bertha. At that point, one of the officers decided that Nyomka, Itzaleh, and some other fighters and I should go to the area of Borisov near the marshes where the partisan brigade Dyadia Vasya was situated. Dyadia Vasya was named for the head of that brigade, Vasya Narinaski. This brigade contained two battalions, one named “Revenge” and the other “The Battle”. We walked for three days until we came to the brigade that was in the midst of the marsh areas. Vasya himself was the first to welcome us. His first question was whether the printing press was functional and if we could start with the job. Once again I saw how important it seemed to them to print. I answered I could start right now.
They sent us to rest and to get acquainted with the new place. There were thousands of partisans in this area, and they were of different ranks of leaders. They also had a hospital with many doctors. Here we met with a native of our town, Ita Gilberstein, who was renowned as a brave fighter. [She was later killed. Her sister survived and she is in Israel.]
The partisans lived in huts made from tree branches. They also had tents and many zimlankas built in the ground.
It was a big settlement in the middle of the forest.
I showed the commander samples of my pamphlets and he was very complimentary. He asked us information about how long it would take, and what sort of productivity we could maintain. I told him that we could make thousands of pamphlets a day, even in such primitive conditions. That made him very curious.  
On the way to the Vostok We found out that in this camp there was a unit of 18 people that were also making pamphlets, but they had very low productivity. With their supplies it took a long time. I met with one of those people who turned to be an old Jew. It seems that our coming to the place made them upset. They saw us as competitors and decided to give us trouble. We didn’t suspect anything. We were very encouraged by the warm welcome from the head of the brigade. My letters were all in the packets of special material that my mother made for me, and I hung them nearby in the place we slept. When I woke up in the morning and looked for the letters, my eyes darkened. The packet was torn and many of the letters disappeared. We only had a few letters left and we didn’t have the entire alphabet, so now when the commander asked me to start with the pamphlets I was in a very embarrassing situation. I didn’t tell him the whole truth, but I said that I had lost many of the letters and I was not able to do anything at the moment. He didn’t make any investigation. He said that we could join the fighter group that did the usual type of job: guarding, blockades, and others. I received a rifle where you had to load each bullet separately. Itzkaleh and Nyomka also received such weapons. I remember a conversation I had at that point while I was sitting next to a small bonfire that I started. An officer came near me. He was friendly to the Jews. He sat next to me and asked, “Why are the Jews going like lambs to the slaughter?”
It didn’t seem that he wanted to mock us, he just wanted to understand. He said that he had seen where a hundred Jews were taken to be killed by ten Germans, and not even one of the Jews tried to hurt the killers. Not only that, not even one of them was crying or begging. Like lambs to the slaughter.
I said to the officer that I could answer him if I could also ask him a few questions. “Look at those hundred Jews that are taken by ten Germans. More than half are women and children, and many of the others are old and sick. It could be that some men could have fought, but they do not because they don’t have weapons and because of a collective reason. They think that every such thing would cause the killing of thousands of Jews as revenge by the Germans, and there is no weakness in the fact that they are not crying or begging. I see strength in it.”
I told him about the resistance by Arke Alperovich, who hit the policeman who took him and was able to take a rifle from one of them. I described this in the first chapter of this book. Now I wanted to ask him questions. How could he explain that a few Germans were able to take thousands of POWs through a very long road? These POWs were soldiers in the Red Army. They watched as the Germans would kill anyone that was not able to walk. All of these people were men who knew how to use weapons, yet no one seemed to be fighting, and very few were trying to escape. And they were in a friendly area, where most of the population was Belarussian. He didn’t really have an answer to what I said, and he accepted my explanation.
Shortly after, we were called to the head of the brigade and he told us that we were going to join a group going east, past the front lines, near Witbesk. There we would go to the other side, to the east, where we would receive real weapons and also printing materials. On the way there, he said that we would encounter many wounded people and refugees and we should help them as much as we could. So we left, along with other Jews like the Meyerson brothers from Dolhinov, the Schuster brothers, one whose last name was Kremer, a man named Bakshatz, and some non-Jewish partisans. On the way east I met with the mother of Bushka Katzovitz from Dolhinov, who I encountered in Kurenets. Her name is Chana nee Gitlitz Katzovitz Forman. She was there with her youngest daughter, Sarah nee Forman, who was about ten years old. She was wounded during their escape. There was a bullet in her right cheek. Earlier I dreamed of being a doctor, and now I tried to take care of her as much as I could.
The leader that guided us was Captain Latishov. We kept transferring from one unit to the next. Itzkaleh befriended a Russian partisan and they became like brothers, and his connection with Nyomka and I suffered. Itzkaleh was blond and didn’t look Jewish. His personality was not typically Jewish either, but he was a very decent and honest person and was extremely courageous. Nyomka and I kept our friendship. Nyomka was in very bad condition and needed assistance, though spiritually he was very strong, physically he had many problems. He had eczema that spread through his entire body. Also his boots were too tight, and since we walked so much his feet were filled with blisters and cuts. We traveled about a thousand kilometers, most of it by foot. Once in a while I changed boots with him, since mine were a little bit bigger. This was the month of October 1942. We knew nothing of what occurred in Kurenets. It took many months to find out that in September 9, three days before Rosh Hashanah, our dear family members were killed, and most of the community in Kurenets was annihilated. It started getting cold and it was raining, but there was no snow. We kept walking towards the front. Itzkaleh seemed to me to lose all respect for the paperwork, as he called our pamphlets. Ever since the other Jewish unit sabotaged us, he only wanted to fight with weapons. Although I loved Itzkaleh, who was my childhood friend, I didn’t think like him.
The front was near a town by the name of Vilich, which was located close to a big lake in the area of Smolensk-Witbesk. We hardly had food and many could not take the walk. All the areas where we walked were under German occupation but partisan groups informally controlled the forest and the marshes. Once in a while we would hear shots, but we never knew where they came from. Amongst us was a group of refugees, women and children that walked with the fighters.  
Despite the fact that I kept busy with combat operations, I saw a very important part of the war effort in propaganda. I aimed to go past the front where I could find an appropriate printing press, and then return to the partisan area, and not just to any partisan area, but back to Vileyka and Kurenets. We arrived to a place where there was a German blockade the night before, where the entire group that tried to pass was killed. We met with a few people from the brigade Ditzkova, and they suggested that whoever wanted to join them could receive real weapons and they don’t have to pass the front. They didn’t want to take any women, children, or wounded, but they wanted to take us. I didn’t want to join this new brigade. I felt I could have stayed with Dydia Vasya, so I was determined to go back to Kurenets and I didn’t need a new brigade. Nyomka and Itzkaleh shared this opinion, that we should return to Kurenets and Vileyka, but other fighters joined the new brigade. They gave us a rest for a few days while deciding what to do. All of a sudden, during night hours, they ordered us to go to the front. We went with women and children in the dark. Then there was gunfire, not directed exactly at us. For a few minutes there was panic but shortly the situation improved. One Jewish child whose family escaped Myadel started crying, and a partisan was ready to kill him to quiet him down, but somehow the child quieted down and we started running. Each one held a child and we ran fast through the area that was filled with bunkers of the German Army. We succeeded in crossing the dangerous area peacefully. I think the success was due to the dark night, which had no moon. Our group consisted of fifty people, among us there were Jews from Dolhinov and Myadel, also some non-Jews from other places. There was even a non-Jew from Crimea, which was very far from this area. Even when we succeeded in getting to the eastern part of the front, controlled by the Soviets, we still carried the wounded, the sick, and the children. But the farther we went from the front, we encountered Soviet citizens and they were really concerned about the state of the wounded and they helped us. As soon as we encountered Soviet officials, they stopped us and decided where each one of us should go. They separated us into people who could help in the fight, and others who would be sent farther into the country. Since we were sent to the headquarters to fight, we didn’t know the fate of the other people, the women, children, and wounded who came with us. Upon arriving at the deployment base, they decided who would go back to the front and who would go for more training. The Demolition School
Nyomka and Itzkaleh were sent to demolition school and I was ordered to wait. All of a sudden they started investigating me and the others who were not sent yet, and they asked us if we knew the partisan Walter Hans, who had been with us through our wandering. I knew him, and he was known among us as a dedicated and brave fighter who was always volunteering for dangerous missions. I looked up to him and I even admired him. Walter told us he was a Jew and a native of Germany, and he had suffered greatly at the Nazis’ hands, and that it was time to repay them. He spoke perfect German and he also spoke Russian very well, but he didn’t speak any Yiddish. Still, it seemed natural to us and it didn’t surprise us. Walter joined the Ditzkova Brigade and as a member of that group he came with us to the front, to help bring the women and children across. When Walter returned to the Ditzkova Brigade from the mission, a Russian partisan saw him. This Russian had been a prisoner in Kovno and recognized him as a member of the Gestapo in Kovno. The partisan immediately informed the headquarters. Further, he said that he was taken to be killed together with a friend by this Walter, who was a Gestapo member, and the friend was executed, but he was able to escape. Upon hearing this testimony, they arrested him and began investigating. They learned that Walter was a fifth column planted in the brigade. He was supposed to pass the front and arrive in Moscow, where he was to spy and make contact with other German spies. I don’t know all the details, but I know that Walter was executed.
Like I said before, like many others I admired Walter for his dedication and bravery, and I truly believed he was a Jew. Since I could prove myself with all the flyers that I had kept from the different missions, they accepted the fact that I really was not involved with him and they told me the details of Walter'’ crimes.
Meanwhile, Nyomka and Itzkaleh were sent to Haburtshuka in the region of Smolensk for demolition school. Once I was cleared of any connection with Walter, I was sent to the school too. I was told that I should learn more about demolition and as soon as they could organize a printing house, they would send me there to run it.
When I left the area they gave me food sufficient for one week. Bread, a little bit of butter, flour, sugar, tea, and a few eggs. When I arrived at the school I didn’t let them know I had food, so here I received food for another week.
When I arrived there, I joined Nyomka and Itzkaleh and seven other guys from Dolhinov, and the food was used by all of us. This was in December of 1942. The weather was pretty cold and windy. We would train in the snow with all sorts of weapons that the Soviets supplied. Some were German weapons that had fallen into Soviet hands. We were taught how to use explosives, how to lay mines and how to disarm them; it was very serious training and every day we would train for more than ten hours. Itzkaleh and I were excellent target shooters. Nyomka did everything in a very dedicated way and with deep devotion, but his physical situation was very bad. He had eczema on his entire body, and it bothered him greatly.
We were not only busy with training. Amongst the ten of us, the ten Jewish guys, there were especially strong ties since our conditions were pretty difficult. Each one of us carried a wooden spoon inside of our boots, and during the meals, we would take our spoon out of the boot and put it in the common soup that was given to us. The soup contained mainly water and a very small amount of meat and potatoes.
Since I was very depressed because of the incident with Walter, I hardly tried to get any food. I would just get some liquid and the guys would make fun of me, saying, “Tomorrow we will make zatzirka, so you will have no choice but to have something to eat.” (Zatzirka is a soup made out of flour.) Many times we would talk about our friends from Kurenets and Vileyka. To make us feel better, we would mention how Motik would say during the hard days in the ghetto in Vileyka, “Hever, seiz nit gud” (Things are not good). So whenever someone would complain about the bad conditions, we would say, “What is new? Our Motik said the same thing a year ago.”
We found out that the main headquarters was planning on organizing a new partisan brigade to be sent near Molodetszno, which was near where we came from. They planned on taking about 100 people trained here, and the rest they were hoping to use local people from the villages in the area. We decided to ask the headquarters to let us join that brigade. AT first, Itzkaleh said that there was something un-kosher about a true fighter asking to be sent to the area he came from, thinking that a true fighter should go where ever he was told, without sentiment. But eventually he joined us and asked to be sent to the area where he had originally come from. We came to the headquarters and explained how we knew a lot of information about the area and that we could be helpful. Despite that, it seemed we left very little impression on the guy who was assigning troops. He said we must finish our training in demolition, and then they would send us out somewhere. So we returned to our training.
Nyomka, whose situation became worse, could now not tie his ammunition to his waist since the eczema was now very bad. He was told to go to the hospital, but he refused and stayed. Itzkaleh was filled with a desire for revenge, and he could only truly feel he got his revenge with weapons. It seemed he was ashamed that much of the resistance he participated in so far was a paper resistance as he called the type of missions we had (printing pamphlets). The entire group of ten Jewish fighters that I belonged to was excellent in its abilities, but shortly after we asked to be sent to Molodetszno, I was called to the headquarters and was told that I must go to another assignment. They didn’t tell me where I was going. I was given new weapons and said goodbye to Nyomka and Itzkaleh. I climbed on a big truck that was ready to go, and I went far, far away.
[Put Picture of the Partisans in the forest between Poloczek and Lapel; sitting from right to left: Shimon Alperovich (son of Zishka from Kurenets), Zeev Kalminsky from Dniepetrovsk.
Standing R to L: Unknown, Dina Makarov from Asuatz, Rachel Dinestein from Kurenets, a guy from Smorgon, Dr. Meir Shirinsky from Kurenets, unknown, Yente Dinestein from Kurenets.] 
From Place to Place
Together with two other guys, we traveled for many hours in a truck filled with papers. We went through marsh areas, and the roads were very difficult. When we couldn’t cross the wetlands, we would cut woods from the forest and we would lay them on top of the water, and that’s how we passed. Though it was winter, the land was wet and not frozen, so many times, the truck got stuck. Finally we arrived at a village and here I found out they were making a mobile printing house in the front. IT was the kind of printing house that was always ready to be transferred. Everything was put in trunks, some were closed and some were open. There was a printing press, letters, and everything else that was needed. There was also a permanent house that stored different supplies.
Before the war, this was where the Army printed the newspaper of Witbesk by the name of Witbesky Rabutzi. There was also, on the others side of the front, a Germans paper by the same name giving the Nazi version of the news. The town of Witbesk itself was occupied by the German army, and many times they would shell the area where we were located, so once in a while we would change our location There was a member of the staff of the newspaper by the name Shikarda, with his driver, Schmidt, both of them were of German descent and they were Volga people. They were very loyal to the Soviet authorities and were treated with respect and trust. One night when the shots came very near our area, we were ordered to leave immediately and the trucks were ready to go. When we arrived at a bridge on top of a river, it seemed as if the bridge would not withstand the weight of the trucks, and there was an order to burn the trucks so they would not fall into enemy hands, and the order was sent out to continue on foot. But Schmidt was stubborn and said we should attempt to transfer the trucks. A miracle occurred and the trucks drove over, and the bridge did not collapse. This brave act by Schmidt became known and he received a lot of praise. At the end we found out that the people who shot at us were only drunken German police.  
It was January of 1943. After driving from one place to another we were now at the front. One day I was working at the newspaper and then I was told that someone was waiting for me outside and asked to see me. When I went out my eyes filled with tears. Itzkaleh was standing outside. With excitement he told me that he was sent to SpetzGrupa which was an elite demolition unit. We met for a short time. We talked about Kurenets, whose fate we still did not know. We so wanted to go back there and fight for the area. We parted with hugs and kisses and promised each other that whoever arrived in the area of Kurenets first would help the members of the family of the other as much as he could.
We felt, at that moment, that Witbesk was foreign to us, and our ties to Kurenets were very strong. We had deep feelings for every piece of land, every road and forest that were known to us in our home town. The places that made us want to fight, this was our last meeting. We never saw each other again. This meeting made me feel very lonely, and once again I came to the officer above me and asked to go back to the area where I had come from and where I could e used in a better way. But once again I was told that we couldn’t choose where to fight, we had to fight wherever we were ordered to. 
After the First Mistake
A short time after I parted from Itzkaleh, I encountered three very young guys from Kurenets. One of them was Nyomka, son of Berlman the barber, second was Yakov, son of Chaim Zalman Gurevich, and the third was Shmuel Alperovich, the son of Orchik and the brother of Nyomkaleh, who I described earlier in the chapter about the 54.
They told me of the annihilation of our holy community, three days before Rosh Hashanah, on 9/9/19422. From them I also found out that of all my family members, only my sister Dova survived and she was now in the forest. The news hit me very hard. I was extremely depressed and lonely and couldn’t find any rest. One night I took my weapon and left. Not really knowing where I would be going. I kept walking, but at one place I encountered the police and they forced me to return. In spite of my desertion, the head of the newspaper understood the reasons for it. He realized my bad emotional situation and gave me a few days of rest. Slowly I returned to work, and eventually things became better. Since a girl by the name of Yadviga, who was very professional, decided to quit her job, she taught me how to organize a page on the printing press, and soon I became responsible for designing the layout of the paper.
We kept moving around the areas of the front, near the towns of Witbesk and Smolensk. I remember that one time we were told that half an hour from where we were located, they were showing the movie, “A Ray in the Clouds” by Vanda Vasilavska. I walked by myself the many roads until I arrived. Not many people came to see the movie, and the audience also had to run the movie, changing the reels every few minutes. Despite the fact I was very tired, the movie affected me strongly. It wasn’t the plot itself, I was too sleepy to really follow it, but the fact that there were still movies in the world and they were being watched, gave me hope of better days to come.
At that time I met a young man named Marek Shapira. He was from the town of Hormel. Even before the war his life was very difficult. HE was practically on the verge of joining the criminal underworld. Now he worked for us, he was a good-looking man filled with energy. He could sing and dance and was very generous. I greatly liked him. At one time, he was responsible for putting letters in the press. He once put a speech by Stalin and he missed some words. The head of the newspaper accused him of doing this on purpose, but Marek said that these words didn’t appear in the handwritten version. Marek was fired and I tried very hard to help him. I shared my food with him. He was for a while accepted again for work, but finally was fired… Letters The newspaper once in a while received permission to use a plane to send materials and supplies to the partisans past the front. There was even some postal service. The person who made the order to use a plane for postal purposes was Stulov, a high-ranking officer in the Red Army who was secretary of the party in Witbesk and was also responsible for the printed materials. On those planes they would also fly doctors, so they could take care of the wounded and sick people in the front. I decided to use this service, since as a worker for the newspaper I had easier access to it.
One time I found out that Dr. Shirinsky from Kurenets, the one who some years before had given me the special permit to take the test so I could skip some grades, was now a member of the partisan brigade Otkina Atriad Nikolayeva. [translator: I talked to this Dr. Shirinsky’s grandson in Germany. The grandson of Dr. Shirinsky and Rachel nee Dinestein, we will look for the grandson’s name.] So I decided to send a letter to Dr. Shirinsky. Together with the letter I sent him blank paper, which was very precious in those days. This paper could be sued for many purposes. It could be used to roll cigarettes and it could be exchanged for other things. To explain to you the value of paper in those times of the war, in the schools in Russia at the time, the students would use newspapers to do their homework.
Sadly I didn’t receive any answer from Shirinsky, despite sending many letters. But one day I received a letter from my childhood friend Motik, the son of Ruven Zishka and the brother of Elik. As it turned out, Motik was in the same brigade as Shirinsky. The letter made me so excited and was so dear to me that I constantly read it until I knew it by heart. And here I am reciting the translated letter:
Hello to you, my comrade in the fight, Nachum. In spite of the fact that you never, ever in any of your letters wrote to me, your friend, Motik Alperovich, I can’t resist writing a few words to you. I assume you don’t know that I exist here. I have some sad news. I found out that our friend Noah Dinestein fell in the battle. It was about two months after my brother Eliyau was killed. Also, our contact with the partisans, Bertha Dinestein from Kalafi, was killed, and Nyomka was killed after he put explosives on a German train. That is about it, as far as our friends. Here with me is Shimon Alperovich, son of Zishka, as is Shirinsky. I am in good condition and am now a soldier, but I still miss very much the old days that will never return.
Do you remember our old friendship? In life you encounter situations and conditions you never anticipated. We used to be so naïve. Nachum, it could be that I will not be lucky to return to Kurenets, but maybe you will be lucky and return there. DO not forget to get revenge for all that was done to us. One day you will meet my cousins Eshka and Bushka nee Kremer, please help them as much as you can.
Your friend,
I spilled more than one tear reading that letter and kept it as a very dear possession.
In 1960, in Warsaw on the way to Israel, I visited the Israeli consulate there and showed the letter to the secretary of the consul. He said that he wanted to show it to a relative of his who was a writer. He promised to return the letter to me, but until today, the letter has not been returned to me.
Anyway, back to 1944. I responded to Motik’s letter and I even sent more letters to him, but I never received an answer. Many years later, when I came to Israel and met with Avraham Aharon Alperovich who was with Motik in the forest I found out why Motik didn’t answer any of my other letters. Avraham Aharon Alperovich’s story was recorded in Megilat Kurenets. He told me of the condition of the partisans around Polacheck during the retreat of the Germans. At that point the Germans’ objective was to clear the forest. That was the only mission at that point that they were able to do well at. In three rings they tightened up the area. The first ring contained Belarussian and Ukrainian soldiers fighting for the Germans, the second was Polish and Latvians, and the third was German. Thousands of partisans were killed during that blockade, amongst them several from Kurenets who fell in battles. Avraham Aharon Alperovich said he encountered Motik during battle and he was gravely wounded in his two legs. HE told me that Motik was beloved by everyone, and they refused to leave him there. They wanted to do everything to save him but he begged them and demanded he should be left. “I am already lost,” he told them. After throwing all his grenades at the Germans, he used his last grenade to kill himself.
I cried when I heard the story of my childhood friend and member of our resistance unit, Motik. Avraham Aharon also told me about Zalminka Alperovich, the son of Moshe the brother of Rivka, whose torture in the Vileyka Ghetto I told you about. He was able to get out of the ghetto and escape to the forest. He was beloved by the partisans. In the brigade where he was a member he became the contact person. When he met with Avraham Aharon suggested his transfer to his brigade with the other Jews from Kurenets so they could all be together But then the head of Zaminka’s brigade heard this suggestion he said she could not let go of Zalminka. He said, “You will see him after the war.”
Still there were some battles where they fought together, side by side. In one of those battles, the partisans were surrounded by German tanks, and Zalminka would constantly run in front of the German tanks to throw grenades at them, but you couldn’t stop him. At the end of the war, when Avraham Aharon lived in Kriviczi, he received a letter from the Soviets thinking that he was a relative of Zalminka’s. In the letter they wrote glorious words about the bravery of the boy Zalman Alperovich, who couldn’t be drafted in the Red Army, but he volunteered because he so wished to get revenge on the enemy of his people. He fell in battle in Prussia as a hero of the Soviet Union and after his death he received two of the highest awards of the Red Army, and the bravery of this young man should be an example of the greatness of serving in the Red Army.
With regards to the death of Bertha, I heard a rumor that Lonka Verbayov murdered her. During a battle between the partisans and the German Army, Lonka was number one and Bertha was the number two shooter. At one time during that battle, all the bullets of Lonka were done and he decided to leave the place during the battle, despite the fact that Bertha could supply him with more bullets. But Bertha pointed her gun at him and forced him to stay in the battle. People say he never forgave her for that, and at the first opportunity, he killed her. Further, people said that Volinitiz, who greatly respected Bertha, later killed Lonka. I don’t know, however, if these are just rumors or are true facts.
As the war ended, there were a few places in the Soviet Union where they made committees to look for friends and relatives. Also the Red Cross took part in such actions. I sent many letters to such committees to ask what had happened to the remnants from Kurenets, Vileyka, and Dolhinov. From one of the committees I received an answer that Meir Meckler from Kurenets, who left Kurenets together with me on the day the Germans started the war with Russia. I met him in Ratzke after escaping. I quickly sent a letter to him, and he told me he was in the area of Gorky where he worked at a tractor factory. HE also sent me addresses of others from our town how had survived. HE also asked for information on every other surviving Jew from the area.
Although at this point the Germans were retreating, I was wounded during a shelling. I was hospitalized and near me was a Russian soldier who was badly wounded but who had a clear memory still. We started talking and he asked if I had relatives in Gorky. He said that he had received communication from a woman who worked with him and he said her name was Alperovich. MY parents had told me we had relatives in Gorky [the relatives in Gorky were a brother of his father by the name Itzhak Salomon Alperovich, who had two daughters. Anyway, this man said that the name of the girl he knew was Mira Alperovich and he gave me her address. After a short time I received a letter from her saying, “Dear Partisan, I tried to find the roots of my family. At this time I could not find links to your family, though I may be your relative even if there is no clear connection.” She added a small package to the letter with some candy.
I was very surprised to receive the package, unopened, because supplies were so limited at the time that I expected someone would have stolen the food. Anyway, I kept in touch with Mira, and after the war I visited Gorky, where I found the brother of my mother from the Castrol family. He was by then an old Jew, 70 years old. I also met with Mira during that visit.
In June of 1944, the Soviets started an attack in the front in Witbesk. The area fell into Soviet hands, and the Red Army kept pushing west. During those days, the Katyushas became very famous. They were a new Soviet weapon, and they might be the reason that the Germans lost so rapidly. Everyone would talk about the miracle Katyushas that were standing at the top of the trucks, facing the front, and would shoot twelve rockets from twelve different tubes at one shot. So these Katyushas hit the Nazis hard, and one town after another was freed. Amongst them Kurenets.
At that point we were already in the city of Witbesk, with all the printing press. There were two rivers that meet in Witbesk, the Dvina that the town Dvinsk is named for, and the Vesiba. The town was empty of people when we arrived, and it was burning. The Germans blew up all the bridges when they retreated. Many of the residents of the town who didn’t escape east and stayed in town were collaborators with the Germans, so now they retreated together with the German Army. As soon as we arrived, I Was sent to check the printing presses that the Germans had used before. I found that the Germans had destroyed most of them before leaving, but I Found lots of supplies that I transferred. I was also told to look for workers, and at that point they didn’t care if the workers were collaborators, and I was told that right now we needed to use them and we could worry about punishment later on.
I was able to find a very experienced man named Sazunov. He was very excited to meet a Jew. HE kept telling me of how thousands of Jews were annihilated in Dvinsk and Witbesk. He said he would see the Germans take them in boats to the deepest place in the river, and there they would either blow up the boat or capsize it. Whoever tried to save himself was shot. There was another worker taken there who would get very made upon hearing these stories, saying, “Why are you only talking about Jews who were killed? There are plenty of Russians who were killed.”
It greatly irritated me to listen to this worker, and I said, “There is a big difference between me, a Jew, and your, a Russian. I am sure that when you saw a Jew being killed you helped the killers. But when I saw Russians being hurt I aided them as much as I could.”
Although the man was corrupt, he was very good technically, and for a while we used him, but finally he was sent away and we received someone else.
There were many supplies left by the Germans in different places, but they put mines all around the supplies. But since I was trained to disarm mines, I was able to get the supplies. 
 To Kurenets The authorities suggested that I should be the head of the police in the area since the situation in the area was anarchic. But I didn’t agree and asked to be released from my job so I could go to Kurenets. I knew that when I arrived in Kurenets I would not find any Jews, but each person from my town that survived became very dear to me. Not far from where I was, I found a girl from Kurenets Merka Zimmerman, who had written me a letter asking for help, and since I in a financially good situation, I helped her. Near the printing press was a hospital, and there I met a Jewish doctor who was the head of the hospital. He was married to a female doctor. They had no children and we all became very close.
There was no electricity at the time. During the night hours we used a generator to provide power for the printing press. I let the doctor use the generator during the daytime to provide electricity for the hospital, and that is how we became close. Since the doctor and his wife had no children, and they knew my parents were killed, they asked to adopt me. But despite the fact that I really liked them, I couldn’t do it. I told them that the war was not over yet, and besides our friendship was more important than such a formal act.
At that time, I found out that Josef Norman, my friend from the printing house in Vileyka, had survived. I received a letter from him and we started a regular exchange of letters and we tried to arrange a meeting in Vileyka. I worked for the Witbeski Rabutzi, but there was another newspaper that was printed in Witbesk, by the Army, and we kept in great contact with the other press and we helped each other. This was in September of 1944, and I found out that a truck from their newspaper was going to the town of Polaczek. I asked for permission to go with them, and I received a few days’ vacation. I left Witbesk with a heart full of fear for what I would encounter. The truck that took me was filled with paper and the roads were very damaged by the war, and in one place we had an accident. I remember telling the people who were in the truck with me and said, “We went through this whole war and survived, and now we’ll get killed in a truck carrying paper?”
But we survived and arrived I n Polaczek, and from there I found out in the main station of the town that there was a train going to Molodetszno, but it would not stop at this side station. So I entered the station anyway and told the head of this station my story, and I said I will give him some papers that were still a very hot commodity if he could do something to stop the train right there, or even make it go slower so I could jump on it. It was late at night and he went towards the train with a red lantern, a sign that they should stop. The train stopped for a minute and I quickly went on top of the platform. It was an open train car, and it too five hours for it to arrive at Kurenets. When the train arrived near Kosita St. in Kurenets, I jumped off and ran away, fearing someone would chase me to ask questions.
It was a dark day in autumn and it suited my dark heart. Externally I looked like an army man with my green uniform, but this shiny green did not express my mood in seeing the dark vistas, where once my hometown stood. Everywhere I saw empty fields where only chimneys stood, and also some broken buildings that had been made from cinder blocks. All of the homes that had been made from wood had been burned to the ground. I once went across land that once had been gardens for homes, and arrived at the area where synagogues used to be. This place was also empty of buildings. Across from me stood the central market that was now empty and desolated. Only on the western part of the market did I see one home still standing. It was our home, which had been made of blocks. I couldn’t understand why it was still standing. I wanted to go there, but my legs felt paralyzed, but finally I was able to walk and slowly I approached the house and entered. I cannot describe the meeting with my sister Doba, my only sibling who survived here, out of the whole family, except for my sister Hanna who left for Eretz Israel before the war. For a long time we sat there crying. During that day I met with other remnants of our Jewish town who had returned from the forest. Some of them escaped from the ghetto in Vileyka, amongst them was Dinka Spektor, the sister of Kopel. They told me of the last days of the Vileyka ghetto that was known by the Germans as the Ghetto of the Useful Jews. They told me information about what happened in the ghetto after I left. I learned the Vileyka ghetto existed for seven months after the annihilation of Kurenets. I found out information about Kopel Spektor and his activities in the ghetto. Kopel was very helpful to the young people in escaping the ghetto refused to join them at first since he feared that if he escaped he would endanger the people who stayed in the ghetto since he was so important to the Germans and knew him so well and used his technical skills. He decided to wait for the day when all would escape, and he became one of the organizers. Then he worked tirelessly to collect and fix weapons for the day of the escape. One time he was asked to fix some locks on a door in the supply depot of the Germans. While he was fixing the lock, he saw that in this depot there were many weapons and ammunition, so he immediately made copies of the keys so he could secretly get some weapons out of there for the use of the partisans. Kopel was able to repair many dysfunctional guns and to replace missing parts so that they would work.
Kopel was one of the organizers of the escape. They contacted the partisans in the forest and there was a Christian man who would arrive in the ghetto with his horse and buggy and would bring wood for furnace, and they would hide the weapons on his buggy as he was taking out the wood. Then he would take the weapons out to the forest to hide them. They would do this by making holes in the wood and hide the weapons and bullets inside. They called them their Revenge Tablets. Originally, some young people escaped. Amongst them was Riva, the daughter of Shaptai Gordon, and later her husband Shimon Zimmerman. After they escaped they joined the partisan brigade that was headed by Shaptzenko, and they asked him to get the Jews out of the ghetto. But Shaptzenko said that first they must prepared weapons for them, so Shimon got in touch with this person who would transfer the weapons. His name was Januk and he was from the village Vilovitz, but his nickname amongst them was “The One with the Yellow Beard.” The person who arranged the permission for him to get into the ghetto was Schatz, who was responsible for the workers in the ghetto.
Anyway, this Januk arrived in the ghetto a few times and was successful in transferring the weapons. Shortly before the day of the escape, the 18th of March, 1943, he came with a letter telling them that on Saturday, the partisans would send horses and buggies to the forest behind the train station. Everyone was very excited, but then a woman saw a policeman coming towards Januk, and then took him to the police station. This woman thought Januk was arrested and started screaming soon the Germans would come and kill everyone. This was in the afternoon and the Germans were resting. All the Jews of the ghetto were very panicked, and they decided to use this time to escape. Many, many people were killed during that escape, and amongst them was Kopel, his brother Eliyau, and two of his sisters. My sister Doba escaped from the ghetto that day. At that time she worked in the warehouses in Vileyka for a German by the name of Rydel. She worked separately from the other Jews, and her job was to fix the clothes brought over from annihilated Jewish communities. Once in a while, Doba took some of those clothes and shoes and gave them to Jews in the camp who were ready to escape, and also to people who were already in the forest. Doba herself had some clothes ready for the time when she would escape. Anyway, she had everything ready for her to be taken, but during that day, March 18, she didn’t know anything. It turned out that she was going to the train station with some clothes that was getting ready to give to Gershon Eiyshiski who worked in Vileyka near the train station. Gershon was somehow able to transfer the clothes to his relatives who were already in the forest. At that point she found out about the escape and she took her clothes and started running with the rest of them. She quickly put on the long coat that she had prepared ahead of time so people would not recognize her. After some hours of running, the long and warm coat made her running very difficult. Also, carrying a bag of clothes was very difficult, so she threw it away. The escapees who passed on the way and recognized the clothes as Doba’s were sure that she had been killed. So when they arrived in the forest, they told the rest of the people that Doba was killed. When she came there eventually, everyone was greatly shocked to see her alive.
Later on, Doba told me about the fate of my parents. During the day of the annihilation, my father was with other Jewish men in the prayer house that we called the rabbi minyan, and from there he was taken to his last walk. My mother and my youngest sister, Rashkaleh, who was 16 at the time, together with 6 other women, were able to escape during the day of the annihilation. They arrived at the village Poken, and hid in the barn of Tkachuk, a resident of the village. They hid for three days. When Tkachuk realized there were people hiding there, he notified the Germans. They came there and caught all the women. The Christians who watched it said that my mother fought the Germans. She cursed them and spit in their faces and slapped one of them. So she was the first to be killed, then they murdered the rest of the women. I had two grenades with me. The story was very painful to hear, and I decided that night to go to the village Poken and to get revenge on Tkachuk for the blood of my mother and sister. I arrived at a house where the person told me Tkachuk was living. I left a grenade at the door, thinking that if someone would open it, it would explode. But when I left the area I all of a sudden asked myself, “But what if not Tkachuk but someone else opens the door? And is it really the right place? Is it Tkachuk’s place?” So I returned and took the grenade off and left the area. I realized that the memory of my mother and Rashkaleh left such a deep hurt in my heart that no revenge would make it heal. My heart filled with emotion, and I threw away the two grenades. I returned home, to the only home that survived of all the homes in the market. Our house. From that point we stopped talking about the tragedies and we became frozen. I still needed to go to the village Dyaditz, to visit my Christian friends Kostya and Agassia, who were true friends. My sister told me that Kostya brought back the possessions that our family had left with them. Kostya and Agassia received me with much warmth. They kept bringing glasses filled with vodka and we drank it as a sign of our friendship. They said that they would do whatever they could do for us. I told them that there was nothing that I needed and I only wanted to thank them for all that they had done and all that they had wished to do for our family.
With the years that passed, slowly we found out the fates of different people during the annihilation of 9/9/1942. Years later I found out from Yehezkel (Charles Gelman), the son of Yitzhak Zimmerman Z”L, about Zalman Mendel, the tailor who was his relative. His mother, Feyga, together with her grandson Shimshon, who survived an earlier killing, were hiding in his house. On the day of the killing, Zalman Mendel, who was a sick man, as well as the mother of Yehezkel with the baby who was less than a year old, knew they could not escape to the forest. Before the annihilation, Zalman Mendel was known as a very able person and the Germans used him for tailoring and shoemaking, and the house was filled with shoes and clothes and Zalman would work day and night as a laborer for the Germans. Fearing that someone would steal the Germans’ belongings, police surrounded his house at all times. Still, there was a hideout in the house, where the daughter of Zalman Mendel, Dishka, and her husband, Hirshel, the son of Elhanan Alperovich the butcher, lived. They were still very young and they planned to go to the forest. But since the place was surrounded by police, they decided to hide there, and when the opportunity came, they would escape to the forest. Anyway, they were able to hide there, but when finally they decided to escape to the forest, they had to move a big bureau that was covering the hideout, and the policemen who watched the door heard it and caught them and killed them.
There was also another person from the Dinestein family who was able to hide with his family during that day. He begged his family to come with him to the forest, but they refused. He expressed to them that in the hideout they would die for sure, but to no avail. Although he showed them he was able to leave and come back, he left them there to die. HE was able to reach the forest, where he stayed for some years, walking around as if there was a curse put on him. There, in the forest, he found his death.
After a few days I went to visit Joseph Norman. This was October 1. We also encountered Lazar, who used to work in the printing house. At least externally he looked happy to see us. He said to us, “You must think that I didn’t know about all the secret pamphlets you printed. I knew already then that you belonged to some partisan unit that was working underground, but I am not one to idly talk. I saw everything but I knew how to keep quiet.”
We suspected that he was lying, but we didn’t confront him. In Vileyka we also met with Volinitz, one of the partisans met during my walk to the front, to the Vostok. During those years he became a high-ranking officer. He became the commander of a full brigade of partisans. He became known as the partisan who freed Vileyka from the Nazis when the Red Army started to come near Vileyka. The rumors were that the town of Vileyka was given to the Red Army by the partisans as an area free of Germans. From Volinitz we heard much about Itzkaleh Einbender and Nyomka Shulman. “Brave fighters, they were,” Volinitz said, “and this Einbender was a true hero. Can you imagine? 18 trains this guy derailed! From this you can imagine how many Nazis he killed.”
I also heard about the bravery of Itzkaleh from other people. From all the Jewish members of our partisan unit, only Zalman Gurevich and I survived, but we were not together. After some time I moved to Molodetszno, and Zalman was in Smorgon and later in Poland. As I later found out from Zalman, he met Itzkaleh when he returned to the area, where he stayed for more than a month. The story could be found in Megilat Kurenets. From that story we find out that he also came to the town of Kurenets and did many missions together with Zalman, against the collaborators. Itzkaleh was known as Dvitka, and his bravery was renowned, and many collaborators feared him. During the summer of 1943, after derailing a train, Itzkaleh, together with members of this unit, went home with other members of his unit to Dolhinov, to celebrate the success of their mission. One of the villagers who saw them went to the Germans and told them about the party. German soldiers surrounded the house. Itzkaleh was able to escape from the house, but while he was retreating, he was shot and killed. After his death he received the highest awards from the Soviets.  
A Fateful Meeting Years passed, and in September of 1947 I was invited to a cousin’s wedding in Minsk. The house was filled with guests. During the party I met a girl by the name of Tzila. She was younger than I. Like me, she went through the hellish years of the war, she lost relatives and friends, and she escaped from her hometown and hid in the forest through periods of cold and starvation and other troubles. Now she was in Minsk, in accounting. We started dating each other. Although it was hard to admit that in Soviet Russia I wanted to go to Israel, I told it to Tzila. I told her that I had a sister there that left before the war, and my second sister left Russia on the way to Israel. I found out that Tzila was actually born in Eretz Israel. During the First World War, before she was born, her family lived in Pleshensitz. At the end of that war, during the battles between the Polish and the Bolsheviks, the family was in Dolhinov, and they stayed there during the time when the Polish took charge of the town Since Pleshensitz was now part of the Soviet Union, they could not return there. The only way they could think of going to the Soviet Union was from another country, but not from Poland. So they decided to go to Eretz Israel, and to one day go from there to the Soviet Union to be with the rest of the family. But ten years they lived in Haifa, and Tzila’s father, who was very able, found different jobs. So Tzila was born in Israel, but when she was about six years old, the family left the country and went to the Soviet Union. The reason they left was because her mother became sick and could not handle the warm climate But despite some of the difficulties they encountered in Israel, they still had a deep love for the country, and Tzila was fluent in Hebrew, and even knew some Arabic.
Some months later we decided to marry. In October of that year, we arrived in Pleshensitz for our wedding. Our party took place in a private home, and we served bread and salted fish, and of course some vodka. We sang in Russian and Yiddish, but still my heart was saddened knowing that not one of my family members was there. After drinking some vodka, I started singing in Hebrew, songs from distant days, days of school in Kurenets. The songs of Byalik. The father of Tzila joined me, and his eyes filled with tears. From that day on we became very close to each other. I moved with Tzila to Molodetszno where our children were born. Here we found out about the establishment of Israel. We were excited when Golda Meir came to the Soviet Union as an ambassador for Israel. On the other hand, we suffered the anti-Semitism and the trials Jewish doctors (who were accused of some conspiracies). As Jews we knew the Soviets were spying on us. We always had to be very careful. I would like to tell a story that happened to me.
In 1948 I received a letter from my cousin Moshe Alperovich, from Israel. Moshe was the son of my Aunt Rashke, the sister of my father. Moshe, together with his mother and sister Sarah, were able to escape to the forest during the day of the annihilation. But Rashke died there from starvation. After the war, my cousin Moshe went to Israel, and the letter supposedly came from Tel Aviv and was written in Yiddish. The return address was Shderot Rothschild Street, Tel Aviv. Tzila and I were very excited. In the letter was written that he was married and had a daughter, and even had a drawing by a baby. Although we so wanted to have a contact, when we thought about it, we became very suspicious. First, how was Moshe able to find our address? And the fact that so soon he was a father to a girl who could draw with a pencil seemed unbelievable. I knew that he had only left Russia two years before, and he was not married then. So we never answered the letter, knowing that it must be a trick. As later we found out, Moshe Alperovich only married in 1952. It must have been that this letter was sent by the secret police, who waited for my answer. 
Quiet Hatred Amongst the people who worked with me in the Molodetszno printing house was Marek. Once in a while, he would announce loudly, “Whatever our Alperovich here says is not really important. I wish I could read his thoughts, because his thoughts are what are really important.” Implying that what I said and what I thought were two different things.
I was greatly upset by his constant teasing. I remember one day, it was nothing in particular about that day, it was during our break on an ordinary day. Although it wasn’t a holiday, people would still drink. Then they wouldn’t know how to keep their mouths shut. There were very few Jews left in Molodetszno, but even the very few didn’t please the other residents. A young Jewish guy passed by, and he was naturally overweight. Immediately one of the writers of the newspaper started saying to me, “Tell me, what is the name of this man. I’m already writing a satire about a Jew that is a parasite living on the account of others and never knew what starvation was, even at times when the entire Russian population was starving. This man is very suitable for the satire that I am writing and I want to use his name so it would be appropriate.”
This was in the 50s, when there was great hate for the Jews in Soviet Russia, during the time of the Doctors’ Trials. Many times you would encounter conversations amongst the population about how they were scared to go to doctors since most of the doctors in Russia were Jews, and they betrayed the nation. In the winter of 1953, my wife Tzila and I went to a health resort. They would have cultural activities at the resort, and a Soviet colonel came to speak about the technical advancement of Soviet Russia.
At the end of the speech, it was usual to ask questions, and people felt that they showed their loyalty to the Soviet Union by being interested in the subject and asking lots of questions. Since many of the people who were present for this speech knew nothing about technology but still wanted to show loyalty, they asked questions that had nothing to do with technology. Since the Soviet system was that you had to answer the questions, whether or not they were on the topic, and not dismiss anything, he answered them. Most of the questions had to do with the so-called Jewish betrayal. At the end of the speech, someone came to me with a worried sound in his voice and said to me quietly, “I would like you to know that I have a very important political position in this area, and I am not supposed to tell you this, but I would like to ask your forgiveness for the questions in regard to the Jews that these people asked here. I am sure that times will change and the Soviet people will show a nicer side of their personality. This ugly wave of hatred will subside.”
Although I surmised that the man was really honest with me, I Still had to be very careful as a person who appeared very Jewish, and it was very hard for me to really rest in this place where the atmosphere was so hateful.
There were also Jew-haters in the printing house. There was one mechanic who was very talented at his job, his name was Katzan. In 1946, I was the head of the printing department in this printing house, and here as well as in Vileyka, Riva nee Gordon Zimmerman from Kurenets worked with me, and lived in one of the rooms in the printing house. Since the nights were very cold, she collected some discarded papers to burn in the furnace in her room. When Katzan saw her holding papers, he started looking at the ones she took and decided that some of them were of value, and went to call the police to inform them of her disloyalty to the USSR. Riva came to me to tell me what had happened. I told her to immediately go and burn the papers in the furnace, and I went to the telephone room to talk to Katzan. I informed him that his job was t o take care of the technical side of the printing side, but was far as the papers, I was the one who was responsible for it, and he should not get involved in it. I also informed him that I told Riva to take the paper and since the papers were already burned, as I had informed him, Katzan knew there was nothing he could do and he didn’t contact the police.
In 1948, my wife went to visit her parents in Pleshensitz, and I had my lunches in the cafeteria-style restaurant in Molodetszno. I took my soup and sat by the table, and a drunk Christian man kept saying loudly, “Bey zidov say rasia”, meaning, “Beat the Jews and save Russia.”
Another person in the restaurant said to him, “Why are you yelling like this? Here is a real Jew sitting here. Beat him up and save Russia.”
Immediately the drunk approached my table and tried to pull my soup from me. I took a flour pot that was on the table and hit him on his head. The drunk man shook and fell on the floor. Immediately people in the restaurant started cursing me, and some wanted to beat me up in revenge for the comrade who fell. I Felt I was in real danger, and I Was very lucky that Andrey Volinitz entered the restaurant. HE was well known as a hero of the Soviet Union and beloved by many. As soon as he found out what happened, he pushed the crowd aside and came to me. HE shook my hand and hugged me and told the people, “You must know that this Jew fought with me as one of the most loyal and dedicated partisans.”
The spirit in the restaurant immediately changed. The drunk man was taken out and now everyone wanted to be our friend. They tried to give us vodka, and they wanted to appear open minded.
Obviously there were other people who were honest and open minded among the Russian population, people like Kostya and Agassia, and Bakatz, the citizen of Kurenets who proved his good deeds toward the Jews, and endangered himself by staying with them through the toughest days. One of the most sensitive deeds done by this righteous Bakatz was when he invited some of the remnants of the Kurenets communities as soon as they returned to town from their forest hideouts, and gave them the big Torah book from the synagogue that he saved in his house through all the days of the destruction of the community.
IT was very hard for me to visit my hometown where my family was killed, but still I had a desire to see Bakatz and to talk to him. I felt as if I was going on a pilgrimage to a holy man, but I delayed this desire for pilgrimage for a long time. The son of Bakatz worked in the Molodetszno post office. I met him often and always tried to show the feelings of our deep love for his father., which existed in all the hearts of the remnants of the Kurenets Jews.
Bakatz belonged to the Baptist sect that believed in a life of piety and purity. He was very old by the time I came to him. He lived in a little village near the water mill that once belonged to the Jew Mota Leib Kuperstock, who perished with his sons Zeev and Josef, and their families. When I expressed my admiration for all that he did, he said to me, “Considering the horrors and the travels he witnessed, what he did was so small that there was no need to thank him. HE further expressed thanks for the heavens that kept him from being engulfed by the evil waves of hatred for Jews that swept amongst the rest of the population.
I sat him for a while and then said goodbye. In 1950, I visited Kostya in the village Diyadich, and he told me something that happened eight years before in 1942, which seemed to affect the life of Kostya now. What happened there was that after our first partisan mission when Elich died, I found myself in a very depressed situation. I went to Luban to look for Noah Dinestein from Vileyka, who trained us in military action. I couldn’t find him there, but when I returned to Kurenets with my gun, I passed by the house of Kostya and I saw that two armed men were trying to take the cow from him. I pretended to be part of a partisan unit and scare them, and they left the area. So now Agassia told me that a relative came to visit them from a far away place, and Kostya went to the Kehanina train station, but he didn’t return and it was a long time and he was worried about their situation. I asked for permission to check the situation, and I had to take a day off from work. I went to Kehanina station and approached the police there, but we could not get any information. It was as if he had vanished without a trace. So I had no choice but to return to Molodetszno, and Agassia came to Diyadich. Then she said Kostya had returned home in a very bad situation, being beaten up and his toes were blue from being frozen. What happened was that in Kehanina, two men who pretended to be policemen came up to him. One of them, he thought was one of the people who had attacked him eight years before. During this encounter they took everything he had, beat him, and pulled him the snow. They took off his boots and he was left alone, barefoot in an open field.
It took him a long time and help from people he encountered for him to finally arrived at home. He was in a very bad condition and taken to as hospital in Vileyka. They had no solution but to cut his toes, and he was in the hospital for many months. When he finally recovered, I was able to get him a job in the printing house, where he became the carpenter.
So now I would see him daily in Molodetszno, and I was very happy to help take care of him. 
The Secret Ring
Every day I dreamed of the time when I Would leave Molodetszno for Poland and from there go to see my sisters Hana and Duba in Israel. Many times it seemed to me a dream I would never accomplish, so I continued to work dedicatedly in the printing house.
Generally, I treated the people I worked with with camaraderie and good will except for those who showed open anti-Semitism. If I had to be truthful, since the war ended, I acquired very few true friends. In my heart I was saying goodbye to the place and didn’t allow myself deep friendship. But the one person I Felt very close to was Vlodia, a member of our partisan unit from the days of Volkokviczina. Vlodia was only his codename when he was with our unit, but his real name was Danilotsky. Vlodia lived in Molodetszno. He was a friendly man who was very honest and truly loved the Jewish people. It was a constant love that was unusual in those days in the Soviet Union.
Vlodia, as I said before, fell as a POW to the Germans during the first few days of the war and was taken with thousands of other POWs to the market in Kurenets. When he arrived there, some Jewish members of our partisan unit (which would be formed later) helped him escape. Later I met him when we were in the area of Luban and Uzla where Elich Alperovich was killed, but since that time when the three of us hid in a tree from the Germans, I didn’t encounter him again.
Vlodia belonged to the brigade of Volinitz and he was the commissar. HE continued in a similar job after the war, serving in the department of propaganda and education in the region of Molodetszno.
Vlodia very much lived in the past and all that happened during the war was still alive inside him. He loved talking about those old days and recalling the missions of the partisan units. He would tell of the dedication of the Jewish fighters and telling of their large part in all the missions.
One day he asked all the surviving members who were still in the area to go to Volkoviczina, the base of many partisan missions. For me this was a very bitter memorial for the time of the annihilation of the residents of Kurenets and the surrounding the area, and in spite of his excitement about this, I could not take part in it. Although I didn’t take part in this nostalgic mission, our friendship still remained strong and he still saw me as his confidante.  
In the year 1948, there was much talk in the USSR of the new treatment of the authorities for the different nationals, and it was decided to give the variant nationalities some independence. This was manifested by taking away the political jobs of those who came from other areas, and then giving them to people who were born in the area. So Vlodia’s job as politruk for education and propaganda was taken from him and given to a Belarussian. Vlodia was very bitter, and I think in many ways he wanted me to express the way he felt to Volinitz, the hero of the Soviet Union, who was from here and very popular and loved by the public and the authorities. He figured he could help him keep his job. But eventually the plan to take his job away was canceled and he returned to work there.
Since Vlodia mentioned many times the names of Jewish people who took part in the fight, others would say to him, “I’m getting tired of you talking about Itzaleh Einbender and Nyomka Shulman, Bertha Dimmenstein, etc. as if they were the only heroes of the Soviet Union.”
But these complaints didn’t stop Vlodia. He never changed his mind about the part Jews took in the resistance, and he constantly mentioned in conversation a need to write stories about it in the paper. He wanted to collect all the names and detailed information of the members of the resistance, Jews and non-Jews. So Vlodia wrote detailed stories about all the missions of the unit and gave them to the secretary of the Communist Party in Molodetszno.
The secretary was not very excited about the article and said, “This is very strange. The Soviet people fought heroically and sacrificed themselves, and now people come around and try to stick this heroic Russian bravery on to the Jews.” Until 1953, Vlodia was not able to publish this information, and they didn’t even return his original material.
In 1953 they started investigating me, and I am sure it had something to do with Vlodia’s story, since in his essay he wrote my name as one of the members who was still alive in Russia. In the investigation they kept asking me about my missions during my days as a partisan and why I decided to work in the German printing house in Vileyka and to serve the enemies of the Soviet Union. During the investigation I kept repeating the story and the explanation as I wrote here. I emphasized that it was not my idea but that I wasn’t as a member of the partisans, but I could not convince the investigators until finally Vlodia sent a letter to the investigators explaining how I helped the partisans by printing pamphlets and by going to the forest, and how I was instructed to go to Vileyka by the partisans. After the letter they go of me, but Vlodia continuously tried to get the story published.
In 1956, I went with my wife and children with Vlodia’s family to vacation near an amusement park. They had a shooting range in this place where you had to shoot five bottles that stood next to each other. When they saw me shooting, someone yelled to me, “Let’s see what this Jew can do” in a mocking voice. Five times I aimed and each time, I made a bottle fall. Vlodia became very excited and said, “Yes, yes, we knew how to fight. But who wants to hear about it?” HE ended the conversation with a hint of disappointment.
During that year, my wife went to the market with Mikhla the daughter of Shaptai Gordon (nee Alperovich?) the sister of Riva. She had heard from her something very exciting, which filled us with hope, something about the dream that we couldn’t talk about, the dream to immigrate to Israel. Mikhla told her that she received a letter from my cousin Leah nee Gurevich Shogol which said that she was able to go to Poland, and there she found out that the Polish authorities let everyone who lived in Poland before the war return there so families could stay together. In the letter she hinted that there was a possibility of emigrating from Poland to Israel. So, one night we met at the house of Mikhla and Leibl the son of Alte Zimmerman from Kurenets, and we found out that many of the Jewish families who had survived Kurenets are also trying to leave Russia through Poland. They decided that I should go to Moscow to the Polish consulate and ask for permission for four families to go to Poland: Moshe Alperovich’s, Mikhla and Leibl Zimmerman’s, Riva and Shimon Zimmerman’s, and mine.
Here I must tell you that my cousin Leah Shogol (the daughter of my first cousin Nathan) did much to help. Since there were family ties, she asked to unite the families. In the Polish consulate in Moscow, I didn’t encounter any difficulties. They seemed to want the citizens of the former Polish state to return, but then I had to go to the Department of the Interior. It took a long time for the four families to receive permission. Here I would like to talk about David Katz. In 1945, the printing house head, Leiblin, asked me to find a job for a Jew by the name of David Katz who had no profession. He was a native of the town of Kerve near Molodetszno, and during the war he lived in the forest. On the day he returned to his town after the victory, the residents of Kerve attacked him and tied him to a tree and started beating him. They treated hi with brutality and accused him of being an American spy.
When the police came by, instead of imprisoning the thugs, they imprisoned David Katz for being an American spy. When Leiblin, who was involved in the Communist Party found out about it, he talked to the authorities on behalf of David and explained that he was a very simple man who could only speak Yiddish, and it was totally irrational that he could be an American spy. So now I gave him a job to mix the chemicals. Katzan, who I mentioned before, was a true anti-Semite, tortured David on a regular basis and was ready to kill him. One day I found that the pail used to mix the burning lead was filled with water, and if it had been put in the boiler, it would have exploded and killed the person who was in charge of it, who was David Katz. After a short investigation I found it was Katzan who had filled it with water. I immediately called him and said that it was totally unacceptable. “I can tell you this because during the days of the war when I was fighting the German tanks, you collaborated with them and you fixed their tanks.”
A few times David was able to escape the beatings, but one time at the Molodetszno train station, a few men jumped him and beat him up. He went to the hospital for several days and when he left, he was blind in one eye. He could no longer work in mixing the lead, and we found him a job cutting paper. But soon David and the rest of us realized we had no life in the Soviet Union. He immigrated to Poland and then to Israel a long time before I was able to reach the area. 
Parting The year was 1957, forty years since the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviet newspaper policy was to write about the anonymous heroes of the nation, and Vlodia felt he could accomplish his old dream of publishing the stories of our old partisan unity. He asked for the exact names for the Jews in our unit. I told him to use the names they were known as amongst Jews such as Itzhak Einbender, Binyamin Shulman, Eli Alperovich, and so on. If we used those names, we don’t need to mention that they are Jewish; people would just know.
Vlodia contacted the central archive in Minsk, where you could find info on the different partisan units, and then he expressed his wish to write the story. TO my surprise they were very receptive to this idea and gave their full assistance. So after a few days, a few workers from the Minsk archives arrived in Molodetszno and met with Vlodia. They said they should visit all the places tied to those events. We left in two cars from Molodetszno with the three people from the archives of Minsk. First we went to Kurenets to the house that once belonged to Nathan Gurevich, who was already in Israel at that point Now the house was situated on Smorgon St., which became renamed Partisan St. This house was one of the only ones left in the market, and now it was the Partisan St. Two Russian teachers lived there. At first when we went there, the two teachers were worried that we had been sent there by the authorities to confiscate the apartment that now belonged to them. When we explained to them our true mission they relaxed. We told them that during the war there was a resistance unit that fought the Nazis that had come there. They said they encountered things in the apartment that surprised them. They found the double walls in the attic, and in certain areas, the floor was collapsing. I explained to them that this was the house of my uncle, and the area that was collapsing was the cow shed, and that under the ground there was a hiding place where I printed the pamphlets against the Nazis, first for the unit in Kurenets, and later for the unit that started in Volkoviczina. As I was telling the story, I remembered that many years ago I had hidden a knife that I found in our cowshed, covered in cloth. Although 16 years passed, I wanted to find it. So we started digging in the cow shed and I found it. The knife was all rusted. After telling them some more details, we continued on our way.
We visited the mother of Motyokevich, a member of the Volkoviczina fighters, in the village Ivonzovitz. As I told you before, the Nazis executed her husband since they weren’t able to find her son, who had been sent by the underground to work for the Nazis as a police officer, and at that post he managed to kill some Nazi policemen.
We also visited the place where Elich Alperovich was killed, and there I told them about Mrs. Haikovitz who waited for us and notified us that the Germans were in town, thus saving our lives. Once again, Vlodia wrote the story and gave it to the publisher of the newspaper in Molodetszno, and once again he was told that there was too much about Jews in the story. He then gave the story to another newspaper, Znanaya Nyunisti (The Flag of the Youth) and they had a full page story and in its center was a picture of the wooden home of Nathan Gurevich, and also pictures of a few members of the partisan group, amongst them my picture. The material was edited by Irena Magzis, and Alexander Harkevich, who was a Russian.
They edited it was they wished. They mentioned the names of all the Jews who took part in the fight except for Zalman Gurevich and Josef Norman, who had left the Soviet Union. They made it clear that Jews were the main part of this unit. After the piece was published, Irena Magzis was investigated and fired. Shortly after, they printed the same article in the daily of Molodetszno, Salinskaya Gazetta, but in this article they didn’t put my picture. At that point I had already asked to leave the Soviet Union for Poland, so it made me unworthy, although the head of the newspaper said it wouldn’t be right to put a picture of someone who worked for the paper. This was in 1959. As soon as people found out I was going to leave the USSR, Vlodia came to me and said, “You shouldn’t do it. Now that you have become known in these articles in the paper, you could affect your future greatly.”
Volinitz also came to convince me to stay. I couldn’t tell them that my true aim was to go to Israel, but I explained that I was born as a Polish citizen, and that I wished to return to my nation. But they were both disappointed and parted from me with great excitement. This was November of 1959. During the last evening of my work with the printing press, they had a celebration where they showed much love and respect for me. That evening I also said my good-byes to Kostya and Agassia. They cried quietly while we separated, remembering the strong connection to my family. Kostya said to me that he was ready to go after me to the ends of the earth. While we were sitting in our apartment, all of a sudden, a big group of young people who worked in the printing house came in to say their good-byes. They brought a garushka and vodka bottles and started celebrating. They said they left in the middle of work to send me off. I begged them to go back to work, and I promised to stay and let them in when they were done.
At around midnight they started to come, singing and dancing and drinking as only Russians can, and they stayed until the morning hours. And this is how we left the Soviet Union.
We stayed more than a year in Poland, an in 1960 we arrived in Israel. Afterword
Many years passed and I was an active citizen of Israel, but still in my dreams Kurenets kept coming back to me. I kept meeting natives of Kurenets, amongst them natives who settled the village Kfa-harif. In one of my many visits to this village, I came to the house of Abba Nerutsky, and during conversations about the old days of the Second World War, Nerutsky told me of his experiences. His stories were so amazing that no imagination of a writer could come near it (fix?).
I would like to mention here something about the killing of the 54. I wrote about our meeting when he was about 15 years old when we escaped from Kurenets, in June of 1941. He told me how his family wanted to make sure that he would survive, and urged him to go to Russia past the old border. After he separated from his father and the rest of his family, he went alone with a small bag on his back, away from the town, and when he arrived to the edge of Dolhinov St., the street that would take you east, a Jewish resident of the town saw him from his window and came out. He called to him in a mocking voice, “You are also escaping from town? If I, an adult, will live, we will find a way to work it out with the Germans. I don’t panic and escape, so what reason do you have, a young and healthy person, to spread fear and rumors of disasters? Go, you wild guy, go home. Don’t unnecessarily plant seeds of fear among the population.”
Abba ignored this respected elderly Jew’s advice and left the town. And for that he could now sit with me and tell of all that he experienced during those years of the Holocaust. But so many years before, who knew what would be right to do? So I must point here that this confusion was natural in those horrible days.
After four years of escape and service in the Red Army, disease and other troubles, Abba Nerutsky returned to Kurenets as a young man of 19. As soon as he heard that Kurenets was free, all he wished was to return there. Although he was told that there was no reason to return to Kurenets, that he wouldn’t find anyone alive, he still knew he must arrive there. As long as he didn’t do this wish, he would not be able to rest. So for twenty days he traveled in different freight trains until he arrived in Molodetszno. During those days and nights he rode through desolate towns where everything was destroyed. From Molodetszno he took another freight train to Vileyka and jumped off the train when it sopped for a minute. Then he took the old, familiar road between the two towns, the one with the cedar trees. “When I arrived at the place where the town was once located, I saw a desolate and destroyed field filled with broken homes, and I could only see the famous cloister that belonged to them, coming up from the ground. When I arrived at the place that was once the central market, I found that it was empty of homes and people. This was the early morning hour and I was all alone. I sat on a hill of destruction and started crying, not knowing what I should do with myself. While I was sitting there crying quietly, a Christian man came to me and in a voice that had much empathy he started talking. I found out that this was our Bakatz. At this point I didn’t know of his generous deeds for the Jewish community of our town. He told me of what occurred here during the war years. He tried to console me by saying that there were other remnants who had survived and gathered here after returning from the forest.”
Abba Nerutsky told me that he later encountered members of his distant family. He met Itzhak Zimmerman and his wife Rachel with their two children. He became like their son, and they moved to the house where he was able to recover and find a job. Now Abba told me a story about the killing of the 54. I always felt I belonged to those 54. It was only through the intervention of Mataroz that I was able to survive. Despite the fact that I was able to survive many times the close encounters with death, this incident with the 54 was the most prominent in my memory. Abba Nerutsky told me that together with other survivors, amongst them Meir Mackler, they took the bones of the 54 from the killing field after 15 years and brought them to a Jewish burial. This took place after he became a resident of Vileyka, where he married and worked in the warehouse. He told me about the first year after they returned from the forest, how they met for Yom Kippur in the house of Ruven Dimmenstein, and prayed deeply and cried desperately. When he moved to Molodetszno and later Vileyka, he kept coming to Kurenets to visit the graveyard. One day when he came to visit, a villager who knew that he was a Jew originally from Kurenets, told him that she came from the village Kalinn and that when she went to the forest near Mikolinova to gather mushrooms, she arrived to the area where they had originally killed the 54. The woman said, “I went to gather mushrooms, but then I arrived at the place where the graves of your brothers were located. A huge fear came over me. I saw in the ground, near the graves, many bones of people.” When Abba Nerutsky investigated the story, he found out that the residents of the area kept coming to search the graves, thinking that there might be some valuables that had been buried with the people. Immediately, together with Meir Meckler, the searched the graves and found out the woman was telling the truth. So they gathered the bones and returned them to their graves without saying anything to the authorities.
Every year on the ninth of the Jewish month Av, they would gather with the survivors and go to the cemetery in Kurenets, where they would mourn the dead. One year during the ninth of Av, he found that the graves were open again and the bones were thrown, so once again they gathered the bones and returned them to the graves. In the year 1957, during the ninth of Av, many came to Kurenets. The Fiddler family came from Vilna, and one Jew came all the way from Arkhangelsk. During that day they had a meeting to discuss what to do. They decided to take the remnants of the 54 from the killing field and bring them to a Jewish burial in the old Jewish cemetery of Kurenets. Since many of the Jews were planning to leave the Soviet Union and go to Poland, they knew that this was the last chance to fulfill this commandment, and it should not be left undone. They decided to do it secretly, and not notify the authorities who would not allow such an undertaking.
During the day they hired a horse and buggy, and Abba, who was responsible for the warehouses of Vileyka, brought some new sacks made of burlap and digging tools, and quietly went about doing their holy mission. They divided themselves into two groups. One group dug the original holes, and gathered the remnants into the sacks. The second group went to the old cemetery and dug two graves, one for men, the other for women. “We did it,” said Abba, “with broken hearts and our bare hands. We did it on purpose that day, so we can touch without any filter from our dear ones. Many tears were spilled during those hours, and as much as we could, we separated the bodies of men from women according to clothes that they wore and other signs like long hair and braids. We did it very carefully. Amongst us there were some women. Chanka Minkov, or Chanka Nehamasheina’s (as she was better known) and her daughter Masha. Tzirka Shklir, Zelda (nee Botwinnik) Alperovich (The second wife of Orchik) from Rakov, and Nachamka Zimmerman. They were amongst the people who gathered the bones. Amongst the people was Yankeleh Orchik’s (Alperovich), who was one who was taken with the 54 who I told you the story of how he was able to escape and in the forest help many to survive. Nachamka Zimmerman was able to identify amongst the bodies, the bodies of Pesia Yente Zukovzky, the mother of Chaim Zukovzky and Dvoshel Zukovzky, the gentle soul, the talented Kurenets teacher who founded the youth movement Hashomer Ha’zair in Kurenets. Nachamka was able to recognize the clothes of Pesia Yente, who was hiding at her house together with her son Chaim when the Nazis came to take them, and recognized the clothes she was wearing when she was taken away. People said the clothes survived all those years because of something special in the land in the area that kept them in good shape.”
After they gathered all the bones, they took them to the Jewish cemetery and covered the new graves with earth. They recited mourning passages and left the area, hoping that the authorities would never find out about what they did.
But the authorities did find out and started investigating them, emphasizing that this could cause disease since they had used their bare hands to transfer the bones. Abba answered to them that if they were so worried about the public health situation, why were they not concerned about the many times the graves were opened by the villagers who didn’t use any special care when they exposed the dead bodies in their treasure hunts. “On the other hand, we, who did it out of special commitment to our dear ones, you now find a reason to complain and to punish us?”
Abba said it to them in a very bitter way. He said that amongst the investigators there were some sensitive people who understood him and this whole affair ended with no complications. Since most of the people left the area to go to Poland on their way to Israel, they had no time to put gravestones in the cemetery. Since I didn’t take part in these events, and I feel much guilt and see it as a failure on my part, I would like to end my story with this chronicle. I would like to add that in my chronicles I would like to bring up not only brave deeds, but also our failures and our inability to fight during those horrible days. We shouldn’t be ashamed to express it, because without reporting it, something of the dark atmosphere of those days would be denied, and we would not get a true image of the time.  
(Nachum Alperovich Picture 1.jpg: Nachum Alperovich was sent by the partisans to work in the German printing press in Vileyka) 
(Nachum Alperovich Picture 2.jpg: story from the newspaper Flag of the Youth about the resistance. Nachum Alperovich is the 2nd from the bottom. The house was Zalman Gurevich’s.) 
(Nachum Alperovich Pictures 3-5.jpg: 3 parts, each in Russian and Hebrew… top: In the little town of Kurenets in Belarus, the town that is located on the road between Molodetszno and Lake Narutz, at Partisan Street #1 there stands a home not different from other homes. Now the family of the teacher Moskvitzeva lives here. They arrived here a short time ago. When they first came, they found strange things in the cowshed that was adjacent to the home. They found a deep area that had been dug out under the floor, and they also found a double wall in the attic. They were very surprised and wondered what was the reason for it. Now this is what happened here some years before: 
In the dug out area under the cowshed, a small oil lamp burned. There, Nachum Alperovich was located. He had stains of printing dyes and he was sweating. His hands moved quickly, in nervousness looking for letters. Slowly the letters became words, and here is the first pamphlet: 
Farmer! Keep your bread. Don’t give one seed to the fascists. Help the partisans. The first victim of the unit was Ilia (Eliyau) Alperovich from Kurenets, and this is what happened: The partisan atriad rested after a mission. Ilia Alperovich was the guard. When he realized the Germans had surrounded the unit, he fired a warning shot. There was a bitter battle and the atriad retreated. The shots stopped for no clear reason. Afterward we found out that Eliyau was caught and wounded, and he purposely told the Germans that there was a very large force of partisans, about 250 people, with the most modern weapons. That was why the Germans stopped shooting and retreated, leaving about 40 of their people killed. When we returned to the base we buried in military honor young Ilia. Only a few of the unit’s members were lucky and survived to see the day of liberation. Heroic deaths amongst the members of this unit were Zina Bitzyon, Vladimir and Nadzadeh Sobol, Bertha Dimmenstein, Victor Sokholov, Yitzhak Einbender, Yora Bilshov, Binyamin Shulman, Nikolai and Alexander Sherutzin, Noach Dinnestein, and other heroes, sons and daughters of the Soviet nation. Amongst the survivors, Piotr Mikhailovich Donilotskin, the secretary of the propaganda of the party in the town of Molodetszno, Nikolai Motyokevich, an engineer and an architect, Nachum Alperovich, a chief typesetter of the district, Ivan Sherutzin, a member in the Kollhoz named for Yakov Kolles in the Vileyka district, and Mikhail Basilik, the guide of the firefighters in Molodetszno.