Maria Waldman

ON BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN OF WAR WHOSE CHILDHOOD WAS SCORCHED BY THE WAR

“Oh, war! Oh, war! Be damned!” – these sounds still ring in my ears. The words of the verse excite my memories of those terrible days of the war years. The sound of the alarm bell, the freight cars trembling on rails, the exploding shells whistling like thunderstorms are chilling our hearts and souls, they will remain in our memory forever.

On August 1st, 1941 the Nazis invaded my home city of Uman in Cherkasy region, Ukraine. My father was a military man, so he was immediately drafted to the Red Army. In the evening he said goodbye to us – his small children. I was 3 years old and my brother was only 18 months old. Father hugged and kissed us, and wept because he had a feeling, he would not return home alive.

Thanks to my mother's brother who was working at the military office and oversaw the evacuation of the population, in particular - the Jewish people, we fled urgently, without things, in our summer clothes. At first, we got to the village of Nizhne-Cherkesskoye in Stalingrad region where my mother got a job at a bakery. But our more or less peaceful life did not last for long. Year 1942 came, and the Nazis approached to Stalingrad. All the refugees had to be evacuated. We got to a remote village in the hungry Kazakhstan prairies. We lived in poverty. The six of us were living in a hut: my mother with two children, my grandmother and my aunt with her young son. During the summer we worked hard on the scarce land, and the autumn harvest was sent to the front. The refugees gathered wheat and rotten grain on the field. Winter came, and with it cold and hunger that led three children to the cold furnace.

Once a day came when there was not even a crumb of bread in the house. For two days we did not eat anything, and my grandmother prayed and asked for help from the dead. And suddenly, my brother Sasha asked our grandmother Rivka: “Granny, why wouldn’t your dead family give us at least a piece of bread?” And then my grandmother called him “aglutton”.

In the evening my mother came back from work with my aunt and brought a small piece of bread, only 100-120 grams. The children kissed the bread as if it was something special. Thanks to my mom and to my aunt we survived then. In spring, 1944 we returned to our home liberated town of Uman.

The children of that war are the latest generation of survivors in the terrible years of hardship during the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War. They merit special attention, because their hands restored the destroyed national economy in the postwar years. We cannot forget the past! Without it we’ll have no present and no future...

 

From Joseph Skarbovsky’s book “The Children of the War Remember the Taste of Bread”, Vol.2, Israel: Studio Fresco, 2016.