KARTUZ-BEREZA 1993 YZKOR

 

Chapter VIII - D

 

SURVIVAL

By Moishe Bernshtein

 

 

In a morning of summer in 1941, the airplanes of the Nazi murderers sowed death and destruction on Poland and surrounding towns. I ran with fear in panic and was hurt by the splinters of a bomb that fell near my house in Bialystok where we lived at that time. In the year of 1939 Bialystok was a cultural and spiritual center. The fragments of the bomb ripped my clothes. My eyes and my face were filled with blood. I had the feeling that my life was coming to an end, and that would be the end of the curtain of gold that was embroidered during my many years of dreams and yearnings. I fell bloodstained together with the destiny of the Jewish people. Germans with their system of blitzkrieg began to organize a Ghetto for Jews, with rude actions against them. They prepared lists of people and looked for them everywhere. The Jewish population was the prey of fear and disillusion... I felt a deep pain and a strong necessity of being together with my family, and looked for a way to escape from this place that seemed a hell.

 

One night as I was beside the train station, I saw trains full of weapons and Germans running from here to there. I broke into one of the freight cars that I thought was going to Russia. Today I cannot understand where I got power and courage. I hid myself in the car full of machine guns and boxes of ammunition. The anxiety of going from Bereza was so strong that I did not understand the danger that I was in and by what innocent youthful sensation I acted. I could not imagine what kind of events were waiting for me, and where my destination would be.

 

As the train moved, the noise was so deafening and I did not know to which place I was traveling. Also I did not know if I would reach that place alive. I was hungry, tired and depressed even as I dozed. Strong explosions aroused me and I tried to look through one of the cracks. My eyes discovered many dead people, people hurt in all sides, screams and cries for help. I still tremble remembering this vision. A bomb reached the train. The car in which I was together with other cars flew into the air and the remains were spread all over.The screams of the wounded were on all sides, and the noise of the explosion of the bombs was deafening. Hundreds of people ran and they fell and they fell and they crawled, myself among them. I heard voices in German and in Russian, but I did not know where I was and I was afraid to speak to anybody.The sense of survival took over me and I saw a group of tree a little bit away from this tumult. By running and by crawling I reached the trees and I leaned back on a thick tree trunk. My soul was not with me.

 

During the evening, when there was some silence, with my remaining strength I began to walk in the direction of the tracks of the train. I was only acting by some instinct that made me walk along the path parallel to the road.All that I felt was that I wanted to escape, to escape, to escape.I am sorry to say that I did not forget any detail of the psychological and physical pains that attacked me and they didn't abandon me. Maybe one day I will be able to tell everything in much more detail.After a long night, the instinct of escaping took me to a parked train with its boxcars loaded with cows. With my last strength I crawled into one of them and slept. I woke up when the train began to move. Until today I do not know how far it traveled until it stopped. I heard voices in Russian. I jumped off the train and discovered that it had arrived at a great kolhoz in deep Russia, a place called Novi-Borsi where they already had many Jewish refugees. A new link began in my life and, with a lot of fear; I discovered what I had ignored.

 

I found different kinds of work, and I lived in the house of a peasant who I helped in his work. Little by little I became accustomed to my new situation, and to the routine of life in the kolhoz. Then I decided to travel to a city of the district, called Saratov. I walked around the city without any objective, and without knowing what would be my destiny from now on. Suddenly I heard talk in the street that Soviet forces had abandoned Kartuz Bereza after fierce combats. I lost consciousness, fainted and fell dismayed in the street. When I recovered, I was in a shop. People began to ask me: who I am, where I came from and where I was going. There was a Jew that took me to his house that served as center for refugees from Poland.

In that city I lived until year 1945, when the war ended. Alone, without any information, I registered, as did many Polish Jews, to return to Poland with the hope of returning to my house in Bereza. We were informed that was not any possibility to visit Bereza in Polish Russia. We went by train and arrived in Krakov after many movements. There, in the train station, they were some Jewish young boys that were mobilizing youths to go to a Kibbutz, which was the way to emigrate to Israel. I was taken to an achsharŠ (preparation place for the entrance to a Kibbutz) of the Dror movement that was located in a big house in Krakov. We were there until we began to go, avoiding migratory controls, through the snowy Alps to Italy and Germany.Finally we arrived in a port and embarked on the immigrant ship called HatikvŠ.

 

When we neared Israel, the British stopped us and they sent the ship to Cyprus. We were there a year and half until finally we arrived in Israel. I enlisted in the Israeli army and I began to rebuild my life.

 

I won't try to describe all my difficulties of adapting to life in Israel. Maybe some day I will also tell this in detail