Chapter 6

On September 1st 1939 the German army invaded Poland. There was a saying that the German Army in tanks was fighting the Polish army on horses. It does not sound well in translation. It was tanks against horses. The heroism of Poles is well known throughout the history of Poland. My cousin Moshe Stokliski was in the army, defending Westerplatte. There were no survivors. The heroism of the defense of Warsaw is well documented. Warsaw was bombed, but it was able to resist the German army for a few weeks.

We were still in Nowojelnia. It was September 1, 1939. We were prepared to return home. We left by train, as usual. We arrived in Lida, shortly after a bomb raid.

The bombs fell at the military airport of the 5th Aviation Division. It was located few kilometers from the center of the town. There was a lot of uncertainty what to do next. One of my friends Leibka Chertok left for England. He was killed on a D-Day.  He was an officer in a Polish Army. He was in the same unit as my boyfriend Bubi. Bubi joined the Polish Army in England. He escaped from France and eventually he was able to reach England.

In my city of Lida the normal routine of life was disrupted. There was, however, an overall opinion that Lida was not in danger. The border with Germany was far to the West.  The only matter of concern was gas warfare. We were given the gas masks to carry all the time and to have it at the bedside. One night a bat was discovered in our bedroom. Mother cried. She believed it to be a sign of a disaster. Since that time I overreact when a bat enters a house. There were more air raid alarms. The bomb shelter was in a cellar of our building. Our parents did not stay together and each had one of us with them. In case a bomb struck and killed one of them, the other would survive. This philosophy, in a way, directed Ella and me when we were running from Minsk. And it might be the reason why mother did not leave Lida. One of our parents should be there for us.  Mother should stay in Lida in case we return from Minsk. In case Ella and I move East we will reach father. He was a prisoner in a Gulag in a Republic of Komi . The German Army was marching East. The rumors were that they were approaching Bialystok. That was when father decided that we should run towards the border with the Soviet Union.  Aunt Tanya was living in Wolozyn almost on the border with the Soviet Union. Her husband was mobilized as a medical officer. She was home alone with  2 year old Olek.  The car was ready, Aunt Liza and her 2 children joined us. We left Lida in the middle of the night on September 16, 1939. We did not hear the latest news. There was an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union.  Poland was divided between the two powers.  If we had listened to the radio, we would have stayed in Lida. We did not listen.

Our car followed the trucks of the Polish Army, moving East. We had to drive the car without lights because of the possibility of an air raid.  At the sunrise we stopped for a rest.  It was then we met a part of Polish Army fleeing West. They told us that the Soviet Army crossed the border into Poland.

We arrived in Wolozyn hours after its occupation by the Soviet Army. Aunt Tanya was very much alone and she needed the family, and was very happy to see us. My parents and my aunts were educated in Russia and were brought up in the Russian culture. They felt much closer to the Russians than to the Poles. Of course, no one knew anything about Stalin’s dictatorship. We went to the street to greet the entering units. Aunt Liza  was flirting with the officers. We settled for the time being, hoping to follow the army and to return to Lida. There were rumors of sporadic fighting in the forests, where the remnants of the Polish Army took refuge. We were advised to wait. We settled into our temporary quarters. Liza took over the kitchen and mother took over the cleaning. The maid was gone and there was no help available. Tanya was in no condition to help. Since her husband Mietek was mobilized as a medical officer, she had not heard from him. Her little son was the sweetest child. He was comforting her, saying ”don’t cry mommy I am with you”. Many years later, in Australia when Olek was killed at the age of 42, riding a bicycle, Tanya had no one to comfort her.

When the Soviet Army was marching through the plaza we were there to greet them. They were our liberators from the impending German occupation. Especially mother was delighted. She had leftist inclinations.  Her brother and his sons were activists in the Bund organization. Liza was flirting around, trying to arrange for transportation to Lida. We were not able to use our car, because of  the danger of being attacked by the remnants of  the Polish army, hiding in the forests. Finally we succeeded in arranging transportation for Ella and our parents. Liza ,her children and I were staying with Tanya who was in a state of panic.

While still in Wolozyn, Father was ordered to come to the office of the NKVD. The interrogation lasted about one hour. Father was suspected of  being a capitalist . A rich man, a capitalist was considered to be an enemy of the state. Liza and I went along.  I for support and Liza to use her feminine charms if needed. We were released and we returned to Tanya. There was an urgency to return to Lida. The apartment had been left in charge of a maid and our parents were not sure what they would find when they returned. Ella told me that as she was the first, the maid was surprised and not happy at all. Ella met strangers in the apartment. My parents and my sister left Wolozyn traveling on trucks with Soviet soldiers. Aunt Liza , her children and I stayed to help Tanya. Liza took over the practice and saw some patients. No money was exchanged.  The patients brought food products instead.

One day, there was a call from the street, “doctor is returning”.  It was Tanya’s husband Mietek, well dressed, in a new civilian outfit carrying a suitcase. What had happened was a miracle. When the Soviet Army entered Wilno, the officers of the Polish army were detained. They were prisoners for a short time. One day they were divided into two groups. One group at random was paid wages in rubles and was released, the other stayed. What became known much later was that the remaining group of officers was taken to Katyn in Russia and were executed. The Soviet authorities blamed the execution on Germany, but finally admitted the guilt. When Mietek returned we did not stay any longer. Liza arranged transportation with the military.  Little Etka was very ill with scarlet fewer. We did not know the miracle of Penicillin at that time. Liza and the children stayed with their grandparents in Lida and I joined the family at home

Previous | Next

Table of Contents

Lida District Home Page 

Jewishgen  | KehilaLinks

copyright 2002, Frances Dworecki M. D.
html by Irene Newhouse