Born in 1919 in Odessa, Bertha Satz has lived and worked in Odessa as a dentist. She immigrated to Israel and resides in Ashdod. She has a daughter, a granddaughter, and two great-grandchildren.
THE WOUNDS IN OUR HEARTS WILL NEVER HEAL
A few days before the Germans entered Odessa, I fled together with my sister-in-law and her two children amid the crash of bombs and blazing fires.
My mother, Sonia Alt, had remained in Odessa with her eldest daughter, my sister Tsilya, and Tsilya’s two children. Tsilya’s husband had been drafted, and she was left alone in the last month of pregnancy and with two kids. Their Russian neighbors and the janitor lady convinced them that the Germans were civilized people and were nothing to be afraid of. Although Tsilya and Mother were about to leave, they believed these people and stayed home. On the very first day the Germans came into Odessa, those same neighbors kicked my mother and sister and the children out into the street, and they were all caught by the Nazis and imprisoned in the ghetto, where they all died. My brother, Yakov Alt, volunteered for the front despite being exemp as a mining engineer and perished in the first months of the war. My husband was also drafted and also died.
On August 6, 1941, I, together with my husband’s sister, Eva Shestopal, and her children boarded a crowded motor launch going toward Nikolaev. The launches were bombed; we made it back to dry land and finally somehow reached Nikolaev. The way into town lay across the Varvarovsky Bridge over the Bug river. As soon as we were on the bridge, the bombing started. Many people were killed and wounded but we miraculously survived. Then we got in horse-drawn carts, but nothing was moving on the roads because of all the bombings and confusion, and we had to walk many miles on foot, hungry, under the scorching sun. We hid from the bombs wherever we could. Finally, we got on a train, squeezing into overcrowded boxcars, with no food or water or restrooms.
The train brought us to the Urals, where we settled in an earthen hut. We had to stand in long lines to get soup. Some time later we moved to Frunze in the Kyrghyz Soviet Republic, where we lived up until the end of the war. After the war we returned to Odessa and came back to our house but were rudely kicked out by the people who had taken it over. After all our ordeals, including the loss of relatives and friends, we were left without a roof over our heads, wandering around, sleeping at the railway station.
One day a miracle happened: as we were wandering around not far from our home, we ran into my middle sister, Esther, who, it turned out, had returned to Odessa immediately after its liberation. We were deliriously happy, we were crying. We went back to our home but once again, the squatters would not let us in the door. We met some old neighbors who had come back before we did and were also being kept out of their home. They were now forced to live in a basement, deep under ground, with no amenities, and they took me in with my sister and her children. I am so grateful to them.
Sonia Alt (center) with her family.