Piotr Holtsman

THE LIFE WASN’T BETTER AFTER RETURNING HOME

At the end of June 1941, the German aviation began intensive bombings of Kiev. My father was called up to the front. My mom, Tasia Holtsman, my sister, my grandmother and I were evacuated to Dagestan. On the way our train was subjected to bombing by the German aircraft. My grandmother was wounded. A month later, in August, we arrived in the city of Makhachkala. We lived in a big barn together with other people. In 1942 the Germans began to attack the North Caucasus. Every night the city was subjected to bombings. We were hiding in a cellar. Then we were loaded into oil tankers and transported across the Caspian Sea. On the way the bombings continued.

We were brought to the desert of Jibal. We lived in tents. My mother and sister used to go a distance of several kilometers just to find drinking water. After some time, we were sent to Uzbekistan in freight cars. That is how we got to the Fergana outskirts. We lived in caravans.
Soon my grandmother died of her wounds. My mother and my eleven-years-old sister worked at a factory to get the bread ration cards. I was five at that time.

For days I wandered alone in search of something to eat. My sister became ill with malaria. In Fergana we received the notice of our father’s death. Then we learned about the tragic death of our relatives in Babiy Yar. After the liberation of Kiev, we returned home. The return was very long and painful along the devastated land. We were transported in freight cars. We had a constant feeling of hunger. Upon our return we learned that our apartment was occupied, and all the property was looted by our neighbors. We received permission to live in the attic of another house where we were suffering from cold and rats.

Thus began a many-year struggle for survival.

 

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