Studied in Irkutsk, graduated from medical school, worked as a pediatrician and chief physician at the Railway Hospital, served as a deputy on the City and Regional Council. Awards include: Outstanding Health Worker, Honorary Doctor of Russian Federation, Honorary Railroad Woman. She also received medals for labor achievements. She lives in Ashkelon.
TO MY DARLING MOM, WITH THANKS!
I remember running at night through the forest to the railway station, from where the last train with evacuees was to leave… We were a family with five children, the youngest only three months old. My aunt, the baby’s mother, handed the baby girl over to another woman as my aunt had no milk; the woman nursed both her infant and my cousin.
The journey through the forest: lots of old people and mothers with children. The image is fixed in my memory as if in slow motion: a young woman running through the forest – tall and beautiful, with long hair down to her waist, loose and streaming in the wind. She is holding a bundle in her ams. Suddenly, she hears a squeak, leans over the bundle, and beholds – a puppy… The expression of horror on her face is absolutely indescribable. That same instant, in front of my very eyes, her hair turned white. She ran through the woods screaming, “Vitenka, Vitenka!!!,” beating her breast inconsolately, and tearing herself away from the people who grabbed her. It took a great deal of effort to get her onto the train. Those who were near her later said that her house had been destroyed by a direct hit from a bomb. The baby was still at home…
The train progressed slowly, moving only between air bombardments. During one air raid, we scrambled and ran from the railway embankment into a nearby copse, in search of shelter. During another of the bombings, a falling soldier covered my brother, Borya, with his body; the soldier lost a leg. Immediately after the “all clear” signal, my mother threw off her blouse, tore off strips and applied a tourniquet to the soldier’s terrible wound. Only then did she pull Borya out from underneath him.
During another air raid, Mom, who had been elected elder in our car, slammed the wagon door shut and declared, “If we’re doomed to perish, so be it − but if we survive, it will be our good fortune. At least we won’t be injured by the shrapnel!”
And then there was an unreal silence when the van door slid open and a horrific scene was revealed to us: half the engine and the first wagon had been destroyed by bombs, as well as the entire tail section of the train. Our wagon was the only one to survive in this hell. People were crying and hugging my Mom, overcome with happiness at being alive…
My Mom was quite young at the time – she was only 27. At every station along the way, she would try frantically to find us some food. At one stop they managed to get candles which were set down between the rails and lit in order to heat food for the baby; when there were no candles, milk in the baby bottle was heated in turn under our armpits.
There were no washing facilities along the way. We were tormented by lice which created an unbearable itch, and we scratched ourselves incessantly. After yet another bombardment, we found ourselves awaiting the formation of a new convoy train. Bathing arrangements were made for the soldiers – and we were also allowed to wash at the sanitary inspection point. It was summer and the heat was intense… what sheer bliss to be able to stand under the spray of water!
On one occasion, the soldiers brought my mother a magnificent gift for us – a bucket of eggs and milk: an incredible luxury! At the station, two boys approached the car, dirty, exhausted, in rags, their skin covered in scabs; they were completely emaciated. It turned out that they were the two Chuvash boys – brothers only a year apart in age. They had lost their parents and had been living in the forest, surviving on berries and leaves. Mom brought the lads into our wagon and fed them and we took them into evacuation with us. We thus acquired another two brothers who would become part of our family. When they reached Irkutsk with us they first attended a seven-year school, then went on to study at the technical institute and at 18 were drafted into Army service… And my Mom was their lifelong MOMMY!