Monday, February 13, 2006

Tales from the Old Country V - My father's story

My father's father was drafted into the army to fight against Finland in 1939. He was wounded and was recuperating when the Germans attacked in 1941. He was immediately drafted again and was sent to the front.

Meanwhile, as the Germans were approaching, the family was trying to decide what to do. We had a relative who was in charge of the Kiev train station. He came to the house and told us that we needed to evacuate immediately. He was sending trains West to the front lines and when they came back, there were Jewish refugees that snuck onto the empty trains. They told of terrible massacres and atrocities that were happening with the German advance.

My great grandfather Yankel did not believe him. He said - "The Germans were here in 1918, and they weren't so bad at all. I did business with them." My grandmother Chana took a different tack. She said - "Yankel, if you want to stay here and do business with the Germans, you are welcome to do so. I'm packing up our family and we are all leaving." Needless to say, Yankel decided to go. With the help of our relative, the family was given space on a freight car that was leaving for the Ural mountains. Only my great aunt and her family decided to stay. Her daughter caught scarlet fever and she was afraid that the girl would die on the train. They were killed in Babiy Yar.

The family spent several years in a small town in the Ural Mountains and returned when Kiev was liberated in 1943. They had heard no news from my grandfather at the front since the first few days of the war. He is officially listed as missing in action, but we believe that he died in the terrible battles around Kiev during the first few months of the war.

When the family returned to their old apartment, a neighbor told them that my grandfather came back looking for them but they had already gone. When the Germans devastated the Soviet Army, many of the Ukranian and Russian soldiers took off their uniforms and came back to the city, blending in with the rest of the population. But for Jews there was no other option but to fight to the death. So my grandfather probably went back to the front where he was either killed or captured. Perhaps he was murdered in Babiy Yar.


Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

: ( That's incredibly sad... So many people lost...

February 14, 2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Yes, it's amazing that people can move on with their lives. I mean, I never thought of my grandparents as abnormal or depressed or whatever. They seemed just as normal as anyone else. How they could survive all that and not be completely unhinged is beyond me.

February 14, 2006 12:44 PM  
Blogger Stevin said...

My family also comes from Ukraine, from Kiev. They immigrated to America in the 20's.
Personally, I think that Jews have been blessed with an extra measure of toughness when it comes to dealing with loss. We've lived with it for thousands of years.

February 14, 2006 2:38 PM  

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