Evacuation and Escape

Leningrad Blockade

Rozet (Yudkina) Hanna


I am Hanna Rozet (née Yudkina). I was born in 1925, in the town of Kolyshki, Liozno district, Vitebsk region, Byelorussian SSR. Our family (my parents, two brothers, my sister and I) lived there until 1937. In 1937 our family moved for permanent residence to the city of Vitebsk where we lived until the beginning of the war. When the war began, our family hoped it wouldn’t last long, and we returned to our native town of Kolyshki. We were called refugees. In the beginning of July 1941, the town was occupied by the Nazis, and the days, wrapped in the “new order” web, began. The fascists organized their police council, appointed the elder and started their Nazi version of the «Jewish question» solving. Just the next day, the Jewish homes were marked with crosses and the Jews living there were obliged to wear a yellow stripe with black six-pointed star on it, on their clothes. On July 12, 1941 all local Jews, as well as the refugees from Vitebsk and other places, were moved into a ghetto. The ghetto territory was fenced with barbed wire and guarded by the Nazis, collaborators and Polizei-men.

The ghetto life was typical of such places; it was comparable to hell. Crowds of people with lack of rights, hungry and sick without medical care, they were undergoing humiliations and insults from the Nazi Polizei… Particularly brutal and fierce were the SS men, as well as the rampant Polizei people. Intoxicated with their power, they took away everything from the Jewish homes and threatened to kill everybody. They beat and shot for no reason, just because you were a Jew. As long as something was growing in the gardens planted before the war, somehow, we managed to feed ourselves. Starvation began with the onset of cold weather. The adult population of the ghetto was driven to work – gathering firewood or clearing roads, grain or potatoes gathering. The Nazis took everything away…. Few people dared to go to the village for begging. Five men were killed during this trial. It was cold in winter, besides starvation. It particularly affected the children. They were dying from cold, illnesses. This terrible life lasted more than eight months. But we didn’t know the worst was waiting for us ahead… In March 1942 the guerrillas broke through the front line. At night, on March 16 they arrived at our town and reported about the next day punitive expedition to kill the entire Jewish ghetto. In the center of the town they prepared a large bonfire to burn the corpses. Not all people decided to leave with the guerrillas. Those who stayed were really shot the next day…

A few years ago, in commemoration of the gunned down ghetto а monument was built in our town. During her stay in the ghetto my elder sister Genia became ill because of the experienced hardship and humiliation of the Nazis – she had a brain tumor. By the time we left the ghetto with the guerrillas, she went blind and suffered from terrible headaches. During the way Genia died and we even don’t know the exact place of her burial. The guerrillas took us to the town of Toropets. There was an evacuation center there. We arrived exhausted, hungry and sick; we were warmed, washed and fed. In Toropets we spent three days and then were sent to the town of Nerekhta in Kostroma region. From Nerekhta our whole family was taken to the village of Matveykovo, the Krasny Perekop collective farm. We were given a house and a job. My father worked as a stableman, I worked as a milkmaid. We lived there till the end of the war. At last, the long-awaited Victory came! We decided to come back to Vitebsk. The city was completely destroyed. Nowhere to live, no job… I entered the Teachers Training Institute. We were very poor but didn’t lose our hope. Gradually, the life became normal. In 1990 we arrived in Israel, the Holy Land, where we were adopted with heart and soul. There were some difficulties, but the state and the kind people helped us. I’m 89 years old. Now I am retired, my children work. Israel is a small but a wonderful country. Let the God bless its prosperity and peace for the benefit and joy of its people!