Chapter 11

The evacuation transport from Smolensk was diverted and never reached Moscow. Our plans to join father became unrealistic. Instead we ended up in Kazakhstan, in a collective farm, Fedorovka,  in the county Kustanai.  Max was not assigned to the same farm. Dora, Sima, the 12-year-old boy, Ella and I were given a room in a communal house .The furniture consisted of five beds, one or two chairs and a small table there were straw mattress ,straw pillows and very thin and, I believe well used, blankets. We were able to use the cafeteria. The food was adequate. We did not suffer from lack of food.  It was summer time. The weather in the steppes of Kazakhstan is beautiful in the summer. The days are hot and the nights cool. The landscape is totally flat. There are very few if any trees. This collective farm was harvesting rye We arrived near the time of harvest, when they needed hands. First, Ella and I applied for a position in the local infirmary, but not successfully.

 The following day we were told to report to the main office for different work assignments. Ella was ordered to work in the office. I volunteered for a position as driver, since I had a driver’s license and there was always a possibility to earn more as a driver.  A tall heavy man, a Kazakh, director of the farm, interviewed me. He liked what he saw, and I became his personal driver. This was a dangerous position for a girl.  I had to drive him to different villages. It was fine, when we were not alone. When we were alone I was very careful and I had to reject his advances diplomatically.

I remember, one night, when I had to drive him to another village. He was drunk. The car broke down. The big man tried to rape me, but he was too drunk and he lost balance. I got out of the car and walked several kilometers back to the village to get help. I cried. I was frightened. It was known that wolves attack people stranded in the steppe. Nothing happened. I walked until early morning. They sent another car to rescue the director and the car. The car I was driving was a 1927 Ford. I was also responsible for the maintenance. Other drivers, men, helped me in the mechanical work. In repayment I had to clean the garage. I was a strong girl and physical work, although hard, did not affect me.

 In many instances I persuaded other drivers to drive him and in exchange I would do the heavy work in the garage again. Our living quarters consisted of one room which we shared with Dora, her Lithuanian friend and the young boy, .He considered himself our defender from drunkards trying to break in into our room at night. The room had 5 beds, one small table and may be two chairs. Each bed had a straw mattress and a pillow, a rag for a blanket.  If there was any linen, they were plain rags. I remember the annoying bed bugs and millions of fleas. We were fed well in the cafeteria. Ella was different. She was not able to do anything that requires strength. She was doing well in the office. She even was able to take her meals with the upper crust of the village, while I had to have meals with the blue-collar workers. Even in the Soviet Union were classes, which will not mix. As incredible as it appears this was the reality.

While Ella was dressed in the only dress she was able to save, I had to wear the overalls provided by the garage.  The young boy and Dora were working with me in the garage and we were together a lot.

Ella and I were able to write to our father in the GULAG  . We received a letter from father. We were in touch. In a way finding father and the daily routine gave us a feeling of security. We were young and although the war was going on, life was going on also.

There was a family of Koreans really two related families, Pak and Kim. There were resettled there from Far East. I began flirting with Valentine Pak. He was in his mid 20’s, handsome, cultured and exotic. We would go for a walk and would hug and kiss. I was always aware that all of this appeared to be unrealistic. It was convenient to have a man around. Valentine was special. He later married a Russian woman that arrived there on the same transport. She was a refugee and she had a little boy. I was with father in Izma when I received letters from Dora as well as a letter from Valentine. The letter from Valentine was dated December 10, '41.


It was a response to my letter. “ My life is as usual, work in the office, after office we have to work in the fields to help with the harvest. Sundays every one has to go to the fields to collect the harvest (it means grain). The bread is needed. I did not go out with any girl as yet. What the future brings I do not know, but I did not forgot you and it is not easy to forget you. This is not a nice word but this is the truth. When I write this letter, I see you and remember the past... Fanya!  Your help for Dora makes me proud of you. You are a real human that helps others in difficult time. For people like you with good heart and limitless goodness, there should be joy and happy life, and you will always meet love and admiration Really there are few people like you.... I kiss you, regards to father.  To Ella warm regards, I wish her success in the young life. I will write to her a personal letter. “

END of Translation

 It appears strange but it is the first time I read this letter and all the memories rush back. Valentine was an intelligent, elegant young man. He told me, short time before we left the village, that his family was sent to Kazakhstan as punishment and that his uncle is in a GULAG in the republic of KOMI. He behaved with me like a gentleman. I still have found memories of him. We were in the village for only 2-month, but our life went upside down. It was a different word with different morality. All that was going on was a shock for a sheltered girl. In the beginning I was not able to comprehend all that was happening around us. And may be the lack of understanding helped us to survive without causing too much damage. The tough living condition prepared us for what was coming in the future. And the living conditions were tough .We were under siege by lice on our bodies and cloth and the bed bugs in the room. These two calamities were so common, that their presence was totally accepted all over the country. To control the lice, we did what monkey does, search and kill. With beg bugs were more difficult, almost impossible to fight them. We were scratching and scratching day and night. The soap was a commodity that was hard to get. It was dark gray, with a smell of Lysol and it was not soapy. The soap, like the bread and I do not remember what else, was distributed weekly. I think that the bread was distributed daily. I know that it was a very important commodity, because when we were leaving, Valentine gave me a gift, a loaf of bread and the rough Russian tobacco” mahorka”. So many things happened in the 2-month and I decided to write it down.   As I wrote before, my position in the village was a driver to the director, or so called a chairman of the collective farm. One day I received an order to drive the car to a military collecting point. The car had to be inspected and if it is in good shape, it had to be left in the military for their use. I arrived to a large parking lot filled with cars from neighboring collective farms. The papers filled I was assigned to stay in a communal hall with other drivers. Most of them were men, and already drunk. Their remarks indicated that I might be in danger of sexual assault. I went to the office and asked permission to remain in my car for the night. The nights in the steppe were cold. The only cover I had was a light tweed coat I saved from Minsk. I stayed in the car shivering of cold and fear. The next day I received a permission to drive back to the village. What a relief it was! Ella and the girls were happy to see me back. The next adventure was during one of the official trips when I had to drive the chairman, The engineer of the collective farm and an officer of KGB. (At that time the name of the secret police was NKVD). It was a long drive. In the afternoon we stopped for a snack. My passengers went to a house, where the meal was waiting for them. No one asked a driver it mean I, to join them. I felt left out and in addition I was hungry. After a while the KGB officer came out and started to talk to me. He told me that it is obvious that I am not a professional driver and that I am a person with education. I told him, never mind, I am employed as a driver and it is what I am. After talking some more, he invited me to join them for the meal. I was more hungry than angry and I went with him inside the house. There was plenty of good food. The kind of food I did not see since I left Lida. There was, of course, vodka. They were drinking a lot. I did not. The questions were pouring about my background, the family, the education and the plans. I did not tell them about father, who at that time, was considered to be the enemy of the people. It should be noted that father ‘s sentence was 5 years of labor camp as socially dangerous element and that at that time a member of the family of a prisoner was under suspicion and in a danger to be arrested. I explained to them that I am a medical student and that I have no other skills that I can use to make living. The officer, who was really kind, told me that he would arrange for me to work in a school as a teacher. It was done. I have a document stating as follows:


“ date August 15- mid school. (Spravka)  a statement given to Dworecki F.M. that she is employed as a teacher in a Molotov mid. school.”

END of translation

This statement gave me the right to receive better allocation of food, of soap and whatever was in the regular distribution. Because it was time of summer vacation, I was assigned to work in the field, harvesting the grain. I was working with a heavy shovel loading grain on a track It was an exhausting work, in the sun all day. The life was going on. No one knew what the future would bring. The news from the front were scarce and not to be trusted. The front was close to Moscow and Leningrad (St Petersburg), and deep into Russia.   Our father ‘s release from the labor camp was a part of an agreement with the Polish government in England. A Polish army was formed in Krasnoyarsk. The freed prisoners had permits to travel south to join the army .Our father decided to stay in Izma, far away from the front.  As a physician he had an assigned living quarters and an access to a cafeteria and a food supply. There were no stores and nothing could be purchased.

School opened in September. My students made fun of my European approach to discipline in the classroom. It was irritating, but not bad.

On September 18, there was an amnesty for Polish citizens and father was free. There was an exodus from the Gulags. The freed prisoners were packed into cattle trains and directed south. The Soviet government organized a Polish army under Gen. Anders. This army was dressed and equipped by the British Military Force, eventually left the Soviet Union, reached Palestine through Persia and Pakistan, and joined the British Forces in North Africa. My uncle Leon with his little girl Ruth joined the Anders Army and reached Palestine. There were very few Jews accepted into the Polish Army at that time. Leon was lucky. He met an officer from Lida who knew my father and he helped him to join the Polish Army and leave the Soviet Union. Although he was permitted to leave the Soviet Union, he was not inducted into the army. Leon told me the horrible stories of the survival in Pakistan. Chertok of the Zionist organization helped him reach Palestine. Many years later, when we met in Israel, Leon told me, that he was unable to get a sponsorship for immigration visa to USA.  Leon was a Haganah fighter and participated in the war of liberation, while Ruth was placed in a kibbutz.

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