Polina is one of those whom Return to Zion has been serving in outreaches to Holocaust survivors.
This is part of her story …
I’m Polina. I was ten years old when World War II started. My family lived in the village of Komsomolsk, in the Vinitsian area (Ukraine). Twelve thousand people lived in this village. Three thousand were Jews.
When the Germans invaded our village in early June 1941, our house was bombed. My family consisted of my mother, father, three brothers and me. We were hiding in the basement, and when we got out, we saw that the house was in ruins.
On September 10th the Germans gathered all the villagers, and they loaded all the Jews into trucks to transport them to their death. We were taken to the Zazeleviin Forest, where three large pits had been dug. I still remember that day and the people screaming. They wept and prayed, but were shot and fell naked into the massive graves.
Our family was the last to be taken to the forest. We were told to take off our clothes and then were shot at. My mother and my brothers were killed, but I survived. I fell with the others into the large pit. I stayed there, lying on top of dead bodies. It was raining heavily that night, and local volunteer policemen convinced the German soldiers that no one would be able to escape alive from that pit before dawn. They decided not to cover the pit with dirt until the next day. During the night, I climbed out of the pit and staggered into the darkness.
I was soon found, lying naked and unconscious, and was transported to a local ghetto, where they forgot to register me. I hid in the coal storage area where I lived until the Germans planned more shootings. I again had nowhere to go. I remembered a nearby Polish cemetery in which Olja, one of our neighbors, was buried. I found her tomb and, lying down on that stone grave, I whispered: “Olja, take me with you, I want to be where you are!”
During the day, I would hide in the grave, and during the night I would pick up food that relatives of the deceased had left by tombs after spending a day commemorating, eating and drinking there. One night I came across a small cat. I took it with me, and it got rid of all the mice and rats. Every night I fell asleep with that skinny cat in my arms.
I lived there until it became unbearably cold. Then I headed towards the Berdichevan Village. I did not have enough warm clothes, but I found clothes and shoes from fallen soldiers along the way. Once I came across a scarf, and felt I had received a treasure, immediately covering my head with it.
As the Nazi army began to retreat, Soviet soldiers saw me and took me to a children’s home. I became the first resident of the Kvitonskin orphanage. However, I was very sick and could not speak properly. When I got better I heard that the Germans had spared 147 Jews for labor. My father was one of them, and he found me and rescued me.
Glory to God, now I live in Israel. I wrote a book called “The Voices of the Six Million”. I had been targeted for death, and I don’t know how I managed to stay alive. I thank God there are people who are still interested in what happened to us. May there be peace on earth, so that nobody will ever have to suffer what we experienced.
|Holocaust survivor outreach in Return to Zion’s new facility|