Evgeniya Berdnik

Berdnik1

 

Born in 1933 in Tiraspol, Autonomous Republic of Moldova to a family of clerks. Graduated from Pedagogical Institute in Kishinev.
Worked as a teacher and librarian.
Immigrated to Israel in 1990

My memories

In September 1941, nine months before the war, my father bought me a "Urkaina" piano. My parents dreamt that I would become a musician. I remember the 1st of May, 1941, I was eight at the time. I performed in the second part of a concert in the large hall of the music school I attended. I played music from the Children's Album by Pyotr Chaikovsky. Many grown-ups would say "Zhenya is gifted, she has a perfect musical ear and is a very promising musician".Berdnik2

On June 22, 1941, just after I turned eight, the war started. It ruined all our plans, hopes and dreams. When the bombings started, my family and neighbors decided to move to Odessa. We used to seek shelter in the basement of one of the neighboring building.

I remember one awful day all too well: as the whole family sat in the shelter, a bomb hit the adjacent house.

The rattle was overwhelming. I almost fainted with fear. I laid on the floor and pressed my hands over my ears so hard that I could not hear my mother calling me. Everyone thought I had died. My mother became hysterical.

Very soon, we had to flee Odessa (Odessa was occupied on October 16, 1941 by the 10th Division of the Romanian paratroopers).

We continued our way from Odessa, further: five children and grandmother on a dray-cart. The grown-ups just walked along with us, on foot. In this manner we crossed the entire Ukraine, trying to outskirt the cities of Nikolaev, Herson, Melitopol, Mariupol.

The German bombs targeted strategically important sites, while we were passing a lot of railway stations and airports. The sky would ablaze with rockets and spotlights. We often sought shelter in trenches and hencoops. We escaped death by sheer miraculouseness and finally, reached the first safe haven. It was at the village of Temirgoevka, close to the town of Armavir, Krasnodar region, where my family settled in a house with a dirt floor.

The locals, Ukrainians and Russians, sympathized with us. The adult refugee women would work in the fields side by side with local farm women. They would gather the harvest of melons and watermelons. The children, together with the grandmother, gathered brushwood for cooking and heat.

One time, my aunt overheard a horrible conversation: the Cossacks planned to murder a Jewish family and take the scarce items the Jews managed to carry.

In September 1941, the Germans got very close to the village, approaching Armavir when, while collecting brushwood, we saw German planes with swastikas flying very low over us. On that day, we all agreed that we had to move on.

There were a lot of people in Armavir who wished to flee. My family only managed to get a place on an open platform of a freight train. Other refugees headed to Central Asia. During stopovers, locals would give refugees packaged of food which contained bread, boiled potatoes and eggs. If not for them, we would have starved to death, since we spent more than a month wandering. I still shudder inwardly at the memory of the many children who died from cold and infection. My mother did everything in her power to save me – she would wrap me up in a blanket and carry me – an 8-year old girl - away from dead children.

By the end of Autumn 1941, we reached the next destination in our journey - the town of Andijan, Uzbekistan. We shared a tiny two bedroom apartment with four other families. I attended school there and we stayed until 1945. I would babysit my little sister, who was born in 1942 to help the family, especially when my mother became ill with a severe case of malaria.

In 1945, my family returned to Kishinev, where I finished school, graduated from the Pedagogical Institute and later worked as a teacher and librarian.Berdnik3

From "Memory book" of Volunteer Society of Holocaust Survivors, Beth-Shemesh