The Testimony of Felix Isakovich Sinalevich

Yad Vashem Catalog number  03/4010

translated from Russian by Dr. Frances Dworecki

[some personal information has been edited out for privacy reasons]
Date of arrival to Israel: March, 8,1973
I-Sinalevich Feliks Isakovich was born in 1923 in the town of Voronovo near Lida, Western Belarus. As a child I was educated to become a tailor. Before the beginning of the war I was in practice training. When the Soviet Union took over, I was employed as a tailor. I was employed as a tailor until the beginning of the war with Germany. In the beginning of the war we were transferred to Wasiliszki 30-35 kilometer from Lida. Germans and the Polish Police transported us. We stayed in the ghetto until 1942.

Question: Tell us what kind of ghetto was in Vasilishki.       
-There were 2150 Jews in the Ghetto. A wire fence fenced in the ghetto. We were forced to work every day. On May 10,1942 at 7 a.m., we were ordered to leave our homes and to assemble on a square near the synagogue. In the ghetto I was with my parents and four sisters. While in the square we were ordered to kneel for about one hour. Than there was an order to stand up and to walk to the main street leading to the cemetery.  They ordered some people, professionals, to go to the right and the others to walk to the left. The Germans and the police surrounded us all. I wanted to go to the right, with the professionals: tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, but one of the Germans noticed and he hit me over my head with a stick, and ordered me to walk the road leading to the cemetery.   
 When all the people were on the street leading to the cemetery, they were ordered to lie down face down. They announced that anyone who  raised the head would be shot. We were down for about one hour. When I was down next to others, not permitted to lift the head, I was anxious to hear a live voice. I spoke low that Germans were not able to hear my voice. One of the persons next to me asked:" what do you want?”  I answered:" we have to escape". He agreed:" yes we have. to run, but I know it is not possible, since we are down“. I responded:” when we are ordered up, we have to run.". When we were ordered up, we stood up. Since the police and the Germans were close by, and we were ordered to move slowly, it was not possible to escape. Those who were in the front were coming close to the cemetery and began to enter the cemetery. There were about 2000 people, and there was a motion in the crowd. The shooting began.
 In the vicinity of the cemetery there were small cottages, with gardens and orchards. When the shooting started my father, my father called to tell me to run away and to say Kaddish. I remember it as if it had happened today.   
 I fell and I got up fast and I jumped through a fence onto a garden. I was not alone. There were many that also jumped. From the garden I ran into the fields.  Bullets were whistling over us. There were four of us in the fields. There was a fifth behind us. He called" wait“. I looked back and I saw that he was wounded in the back and he was bleeding. He fell. We were not able to wait. Four of us, we continued to run. We were running for 10 kilometers until we reached bushes, where we rested until dark.   

 When it became dark, we walked deeper into the forest. We  walked the entire night. At night we went to one farm and we asked for water. The farmer brought us a pail of water. We had water and we continued to walk in the direction of Sobachintsy ( Sobaczyncy). We knew that there were deeper forests there. In this forest we stayed one and a half-months. The nights were cold. We made fire, a small fire. We went to farms. We collected potatoes that we divided in four. We baked them in the fire. Since there was enough, we collected a grass, similar to wild sorrel. We added it to the potatoes to satisfy our hunger. It was difficult to get used to this diet and we had stomach problems. We had a lot of lice. We had to take off our shirts and to burn the lice. It was the way we lived for one and a half-month.   
   One morning a Pole named Antos came to us.  He pretended that he came to collect fire wood. He found us. He came over and he spoke:" do not be frightened, how do you survive here?" We keep warm, we answered. He told us that about 30 kilometers from here there was a small town Marcikancy. He told that he received ten thousand (I did not know whether he meant German marks or Russian rubles). He received the money from the elder Kobrowski. There were three brothers Kobrowski, the elders in the ghetto. They asked me to help you. Your choice, should I bring you food or clothes, as you need both? We told him that we are not ready to decide and we asked him to return next day. He agreed. The following day he returned and repeated the proposition. Our answer was to go to him, to change our clothes, to rest a while and to return to the forest. He told: ok, get ready, I will come, be not frightened, I will take you and no one will see and nobody will know. He returned the following day and took us there. It was true, nobody knew us. We went to a small house .Our clothes were taken and burned and we were given clean clothes. We were told to go into the attic and to stay there. They brought us food and we stayed there the entire week. In a week the Kobrowskis came. They were good people. They told us that we should not stay there any longer as this is a small place and the Germans know each Jew and if they notice us, we will be killed. The suggested we return to the forest or to go to Grodno, where there were two ghettos. It was not far and over there we will be able to remain unknown, as there were about 45 thousand Jews. “ And how to get there” we asked. He told us the following:" Germans are frightened of the diseased. I will put dressing over your head and while in the train, you will say that you on a way to visit a doctor. But you cannot go together, only each separately.” I went first. Kobrowski dressed my head, took me into the train, said goodbye and left .I arrived to Grodno, took off the dressing, put it in my pocket and walked away.
 At time of my arrival, there was a group of 9 men and one in charge on the way to work
I approached the man in charge. I explained that I would like to enter the ghetto, and I need help. One of the men told me to get in the middle of the group, as it would be less noticeable. I entered the ghetto. It was  evening at the end of June 1942.   

Question: When was the execution of Jews in the ghetto of Wasiliszki?   

-The execution of the Jews in Wasiliszki was May 10.   
 It was dark when I arrived in the ghetto and I was looking for a place to spend the night. I was looking for anything; even a sidewalk by a house would suffice. A man who asked approached me:" Who are you looking for?”. I answered that I am not looking for anyone, but for a place to spend the night. He told me: ”come along, I’m in the same situation. I’m from Ostryga, 20 kilometers from Wasiliszki.”I asked him where is he staying. He told me that he would spend the night in a garden, across the street. The owner of the house gave him a bag and a used blanket, for protection from the cold of the night. With this information my spirit improved and I joined him. We exchanged the stories of our escapes. He advised me to go to  the Judenrath for help. There was a ration of bread, 150-200 grams per person. I decided to go to the Judenrat for my ration of bread. The person in charge was Efraimson, of the second ghetto. I thought that if I will told him that I escaped the execution in the cemetery and asked for my portion of bread, it will work. It did not. He told me to return where I came from. He used abusive language. I understood that he was the wrong person to be asked for help. He told me that I should register with a place to stay. It was difficult, but one old woman accepted me and she registered me as staying with her. I slept in the garden. One day she told me that there is an order for me to report to work. I went to the indicated place and I joined the others assigned to the working brigade.
 Our assignment was to carry raw bricks loaded into a wheelbarrow into the Oven. Next to me was a man wheeling the load of bricks. One brick fell down. He was beaten up by the Germans. I looked up and the Germans came to me and begun to beat me up, calling me "Jewish swine". I decided that if I stayed alive I would go to see Efraimson with a complaint. I returned to the old woman, my landlady. When I took off my shirt, she noticed my injured, black back. She commented, “ your back is all black”. I was not able to explain what happened .She poured a cup of tea, but I was not able to drink. I had no blanket and no mattress. I thought if I stay alive until the morning, I will go to talk to Efraimson.  In the morning my landlady came to me with another order to report to work. I did not go. I stayed indoors on the couch all day long. At night I had a visit of two policemen with sticks. They asked if I am Sinalevich. I told, Yes, I am. They told me; -come we want to talk to you, do not be frightened, we will not touch you, just want to talk. I felt uncomfortable, but in no position to resist. They took me to the police station. One of the policemen with grayish hair and a hat as Polish police used to wear asked for my name. When I confirmed my identity, he gave an order to put me in a cellar. I was not able to understand. I thought what for in a cellar; I did not commit any crime, did not kill anyone, and did not mug anyone - why in a cellar? The following morning, I was taken out of the cellar and I was told that I was sentenced for the escape from the cemetery, death by shooting. They took me to a German soldier. He was tall, dark hair carried a gun. On the sleeve there was emblem of a skull. He looked at me, I was crying. He told me that I would not be killed. I will be transferred to a camp in Bialystok The news were encouraging. I felt much better, ready to go wherever they will take me, even to Berlin.  I was able to escape from the cemetery, I will be able to escape from Berlin, and from Bialystok it sounds easier. They took me to the train under escort with dogs.   

 Question: Was there anyone else?   

-No. I was alone. I was told by the German escort, if I will attempt to jump - kaput (the end). Where could I jump from the train? They escorted me to a house in Bialystok.I felt uncomfortable. The house was surrounded by a wire fence .It had thick walls. It was dark. They took me to a room crowded with 16 men. All of them were crying. I was the 17-th. One of them was older age, about 35 -40 years old. He appeared to be mentally disturbed. Since every one was crying, I joined them crying, then I thought, how much one could cry- this does not solve anything. One has to find a way to escape. Hans was taking construction worker. The construction site was fenced in. The men were to carry bricks, heavy iron. They were working under a heavy escort. Escape was not possible. One man attempted escape and was caught. There was a deep well in the place. The German told us: ”any man that would try to escape will be thrown headfirst into the well". The scenario was not a pleasant one. I decided- if I will try to run away, they will not catch me. I noticed that some suffered malnutrition swellings. I will not survive on a diet of 150 grams of bread and a liter of water, while forced to carry on heavy labor. And they will not keep us for long. They will kill us, or we die from hunger. I shared my sleeping place with another man, I did not know. He told me, that he was from Grodno .He was arrested and brought to Bialystok. I told him, that we have to escape. We will not survive, otherwise. "How to escape? We are fenced in and under a watch“. We cried and hugged. I told him to keep a secret, and I will arrange an escape. We continue to work. And when back in the barracks we cried. I stopped crying. I tried to think about the escape. When all in the barracks were asleep, I was searching for a way to escape. I checked the walls and found a door. I opened the door into darkness. Behind the door was a ladder. I was afraid to go there. Than I decided, I will be killed anyway, it is better to go and investigate. I climbed the ladder and found a window on a second story level.  The night was warm with full moon. I was hungry. I noticed a sentry. Jumping was not possible. I went there every night, as soon as everyone fell asleep. My goal was to learn at what time the security guards change. The guards were changing at 4 am or 4.30. I also observed that at the end of the service they have a tendency to nap. The guard is supposed to watch me, but it was I who was watching a drowsy guard. I decided that the best time to escape is before the guard change, when they are tired and drowsy. A few days later I informed my friend: ”I found the exit and determined the time of escape. No other person should know. If they found out, everyone would like to escape, everyone wants to stay alive-this will create a mass attempt to escape. We will be caught. I will tell you when and how and we both will escape”. The time came. I told my companion: "this is the night we are leaving. Stay awake." In early morning we left. We climbed under the wire fence. I told him to move slowly. The lifting of the wire was difficult. We did it. I told him to walk, not to run as long as we are in the town. I was in command and he listened. We succeeded.   

 Question: What direction did you take?   
         We walked in the direction of Grodno. I did not know any other road. We had to pass Kuznicy-10 kilometers from Bialystok.  It was a very small town. I told my partner not to look at anyone, not to look suspicious, as they may guess that we are escapees. They looked at us, but did not stop us. We continued on the road to Grodno. The road passed through Sokolki .We were a  few

Kilometers from Kuznica.   A policeman on a bicycle was going in the opposite direction. I told
my companion to look at the side of the road. If he stops us, we will have to strangle him and  take his rifle. I told him to jump on his back and I will do the rest. The policeman passed us about 50 meters. He got off the bicycle and he was watching us for about 10 minutes, and got on the bicycle to continue on the road. We arrived in Sokolki at 7AM. We found posters all around the town with orders of  a 7PM curfew, stating that any one seen after the hour will be shot. We did not know what to do. My knowledge of the Polish language happened to save us. We found directions to a town Krinka; 20 kilometers from Sokolki.  We were not able to walk  any more. No strength left. At that time a group of 10 men were returning to the ghetto after a day of work.  We approached them and I talked: I told them that we escaped from a labor camp in Bialystok and we are faced with the curfew hour approaching. We were told that they are not able to help. We knocked on the door to one of the houses and we were invited to come in. I explained in Polish, that we arrived from Krinki to work for the Germans, and I asked if we could spend the night in the house. The owner accepted our explanation. We were invited to sit and rest. The host asked many questions about Krinki. I was able to name the streets, to describe the market place, since all the small towns looked the same. He asked the address of my apartment. I gave him a number of the house. He recognized the house. He asked also about the price of the boots. I answered all his questions. At that moment the Germans entered to check on the curfew. They questioned our presence. The host explained that we came from Krinki to work for the Germans. The explanation was accepted. We were asked to share the meal of potatoes and milk. I thanked and explained that we left home short time ago and we are not hungry. We were tired and ready to sleep. The host asked where we wished to sleep. I said it would not make any difference. He placed us in a place with dried grass. We slept 2 nights and two days. Finally the owner came to wake us. He told that since we came to work we should go to the Germans to work. I answered that  work is not a wolf and will not run into the forest. When our host left, I thought that my answer was not safe. I told my companion that the place is not safe any longer, and we have to go. And we left. We went to Grodno. When we arrived to Grodno; I met men with whom I escaped from the cemetery. I met two men who were hiding in the attic and witnessed all. They witnessed when a German beat me up. They were sure that I had been killed and they were surprised to see me alive. I decided to visit the synagogue. Over there, every one was wondering what kind of a man I am. I was a miracle survivor .A tall, strong man approached me from the crowd. He asked-” is it you Faivke?” I ansvered:”Yes”.  We all started to cry. He took my hand and he spoke:” Let’s go home and you will tell me, who arrested you, and who offended you.” He took me again to the Judenrat and told:” If any one will harm this man, you know me, I can kill.” People were afraid of him. He was strong. He took me home, and he ordered his wife to feed me .She served borscht. And I felt better. -” You should come for dinner every day.  Ir anyone offends you, tell me. I am well known".  I thanked him and left. In the street I was approached by a man who told me that there is a family searching for me and he gave me their address. - OK there was nothing else to do, I went to see the person. I walked in, an old woman looked at me and fainted, and also an old man. There was there also a young girl, a granddaughter or a daughter. They appeared to be educated and wealthy. The old man asked me not to say anything because his wife has heart problem and could die. They fed me and I stayed there the entire week. They told me to stay. I knew that in a month or two, they will begin liquidation of the ghetto. One day the man returned very upset. There were posters around the town, announcing that every one should be ready by 8 o’clock. He begged me to save his daughter, to create the next generation. He told me that I am young and that I should get married. I should save her and she would be my wife. I consented, why not? They were good people and I wanted to save the girl. I told her to follow me close and to do everything I do. I chose a few men, in case we will have to encounter the Germans. I saw many people caught and hanged. In my group were Icchak Gordon, his brother Aron-Arka and Semyon Rubinovich. We prepared two places, from where we would be able to run. There was a small stable. We went on the roof to be able to jump down. We lifted Archik Gordon and he jumped, but the rest were afraid. There were 6 of us. We decided on another place. It was next to theJudenrat on the second floor. There was a window .We went there. We were quiet. We broke the glass and we jumped. By the wall there was a wire. We had to cross the wire. The girl was not able to jump. I felt sorry, since I promised to save her. She was left behind. We marched through town singing to hide our identity. We left the town and we ran into the forest. We walked the entire night and it was morning when we stopped for rest. Suddenly came a big German Shepherd came up to us and smelled around. We were frightened. The dog left and we left the place. We went deeper into the forest. It was a long road. We had to walk 100-150 kilometers. When we arrived in the depth of the forest, one man from Marcypancy told that when he regained consciousness he heard shooting.  He and a few other Jews escaped into the forest. He ended up alone in the forest. It was a dark night. What to do? He heard a noise. I stopped and I called. Some one answered. I approached this person. He was few years younger. He told me that he escaped from Marcypancy, where everyone was executed. He fell into a ditch and stayed alive, It was then he went into the forest and we met. I told him- we have to go to a clearing, maybe we will hear a voice, maybe a dog or a rooster will call and we will follow the sound. He agreed. We reached a clearing and we heard a dog barking. We followed the sound and we reached a farm. I told my young companion-”we may be killed, but before it happens, let’s go and get some food" I knocked the door. The farmer asked-”who is it?" I told him, do not ask but open the door. He let us in.” What do you want? Are you Jewish? We will prepare potatoes and milk for you.” We were given the food but the farmer was asking many questions. I became suspicious. As soon as we finished the meal, the farmer’s wife called-”the Germans have surrounded the farm". I grabbed a big knife and I told my companion-” you looked through the window and see how many there are, I will stay by the door and the first to open the door will be stabbed.” He was ready to hide, but he obeyed my order. He looked out and told me that there is no one there. I understood the problem. I thanked them for the meal. I said, ”we might meet again” I thought next time it would not be a kitchen knife but a rifle. We returned to the forest. We stayed a few months. I do not remember the name of my young companion from Marcykancy. I remember his attractive, pink face. We arrived at the border of the Third Reich. The local farmers told us that we would be able to meet the partisans in the area. We went there knowing that it is the border of German country. It was getting cold. In was November, my coat was frozen stiff. We were about 2-3 kilometers from 2 or 3 farms. I told my companion, let's go to a farm and find out where we could find partisans. We went to a farm. The farmer was sitting at the table and having a meal. He opened the door. The greeting was not bad.” What is your problem, guys? “We told him everything and asked him where are the partisans. He asked if we have any weapons.  We explained that we escaped and we could not have any. We could have a knife only. The farmer’s name was Sergey Budsko. He said that it is not enough. I explained that if we will meet partisans they will provide the weapons. He informed us that 2 kilometers from his farm there is a trail, used by the partisans. and we will meet them there as they walked there often. We went there. We stayed on the trail a day and more. It was cold. I was freezing, not able to move. I told my companion that I am not able to take it any longer. We went to another farm. I looked through a window. There were Germans inside. My companion became very frightened. I told him that the night is dark, we will hide and when the Germans  leave we will go in. It is how it happened. When the farmer saw us, he became frightened.-” the Germans are here, why did you come? They will kill you and they will kill us.”  “I  know that the German were here, you want to live, so do we. The border is close by. Do not worry, they will not return tonight. They searched the place. They might come tomorrow, but not tonight”. The house was warm. There was a big Russian stove. I went to the stove. It was warm. Ah what a warm stove, if I could sleep here I would become alive again. -I told the farmer I will not leave and I ordered my companion to get on the stove and I went to rest next to him. I fell asleep immediately. The owners lighted candles and prayed. Early in the morning they told us to wake up.  I tried to stand up, but was not able to take a step. Gradually with help, I was able to walk .We returned to the trail where Budsko told us to meet the partisans. He was right. There were men marching, carrying weapons. “ Please, take us “-I said. - “We cannot take you now, we have an assignment, you are not armed. You are very young. And we have a long way to go. You stay here. We will return tomorrow and we will take you.”-It was true. They were Jewish and they were on assignment. We stayed as told and when they returned we joined the unit.

Question: What division were the partisans?   

 At that time there were no divisions, there were units. Each unit consisted of 10 men. We had 60 men. There was a separate unit of 10 men. They were Russian. It was before the holidays. To honor the holidays it was decided to have an action against the Germans.   

Question: Who was the leader?   
    Sergey had another brother Budsko, a Pole, and he organized the units. When I joined them, I was half-dead. They removed my shoes and almost removed my toes. I had severe frostbite. There was open flesh. I heard some one sat, -“ he has to be fed now” and some body else said”-not now, because if he eats now he may die”.” He has to have a dairy; light diet”-A woman brought me a milk meal. I ate some and I rested 3-4 days. I was recovering. After this I was able to eat. When I took a look at my feet, I became frightened. We were at war. We had to fight the Germans. First I panicked. But then I asked for margancovku(alcoholic beverage?) and home spun linen. I

remembered that my mother believed that to be a good medicine. They brought me the requested
alcohol(?) and linen and I began the treatment. The partisans left for another action. They burned a German base with supplies to be sent to the front. One unit returned with a trophy on a sled. It was winter. Somebody notified the Germans, that Jews are hiding in a village and, they went to catch Jews. Our unit attacked the Germans, killed them and brought back the weapons. We were short of weapons. I received a rifle. We expected a revenge attack. It happened. The Germans came. It was agreed between the partisans, that if one unit were attacked, the others would come to help. The Germans came to Sergei Budsko and questioned him about the whereabouts of the partisans. He informed them that there are no partisans, but few men with guns. He did not say that we were 60-70 men. Since they were 13 only, he knew that we would be able to fight them. They came and gave a shot from a machine gun. We took our weapons and responded. We killed 6 Germans. One of their officers was lost. One of ours was wounded, and one was killed. He was a nice guy. We left our hideout, because we expected the enemy to come the following day with a larger strength. We had to walk 30 kilometers. I had no strength left. I had no shoes. My feet were protected with rags, since I had  frostbite. Half way I told my senior partisan that I could not walk any more.  I said that they should kill me, otherwise the Germans will find me and will torture me. They discussed this problem and the seniors decided that I should be shot. If the German found me it will be worse. At the same time, I did not even notice, Yoska Kanovic, the man who accepted me into the unit, came. He took a sled from a villager and put me in the sled and he sent the horse in the direction we were going. He saved my life.   

 We stopped in the forest. We started a fire. And out of nowhere came an officer ,Stankiewicz, I do not remember exactly, but it seems that he was from Moscow. He told us to line up and he announced that we are a division named Lenin Comsomol. The units are not good anymore. We need a larger unit. It is stronger. And for the sick and disabled , a family unit will be organized. I, with my frost bitten feet, was assigned to the family unit. The unit consisted of women, children and sick or disabled members. We stayed in deep forest. In the evening the guard came to visit. He told us that he feels the ground shaking and he needs replacement. I told him that his replacement will be soon and that he should return to his post. He left, but returned in a short time. -” Get up," he said,  “it feels like tanks are approaching”. He left again, but came back shortly. It was when the bombardment begun. We were informed later that 14 planes dropped bombs on the forest. The bombardment lasted 2-3 hours. We were in swamps. I was holding on to a tree and I was shaking with the tree & was submerged to my waist. Next to me was another man with frostbitten feet. When the planes left, I told him that we have to leave the hiding place. “They stopped the bombardment and now the will search the area”- I told my companion. We walked a few kilometers. An older man and another joined us. We saw something shining between the trees. There were the fascists marching. They spoke German, Polish, Lithuanian, even Russian (vlasov people), and Ukrainian. They did not see us. We went into bushes and went flat on the ground. They opened fire, but they did not see us. They were approaching. We were close to a trail. They walked by and did not see us. They heard the horses and continued in this direction.  It took time. It became dark. When we stood up we found a woman with a child hiding next to us. It was a miracle that the child was asleep and did not cry.    When we saw the woman, we did not understand where she came from. We did not see her before. The child was very quiet and did not cry. It was a miracle. The woman was in tears and she told us that she would join us. She was Jewish. - “ How you will be able to follow us? We have to run. And with the baby in your arms. How it could be?”- I said. ”You walk as much as you are able to walk. But do not get lost. This is simply forest, this is a Pushcha, deep forest and swamp, and we have to leave this place". We left the deep forest into a field of high grass,  we were 60 men.   
Question: What percent of Jews was among the 60 men?   

We were 60 men Jews and men Russian.   

Question: Where were the Jews from, from different small towns?   
The Jews were from different small towns. The Russians were escapees from the German POW camps.   

We went to the tall grass, hiding. We were surrounded. We were 60 men of the family unit. We wondered if may be there is some one else. We went back on the same secret trail. In the forest we met a few more. Among them was Lusik from Wasiliszki with his wife They had a child but it was suffocated because of fear of a cry. I do not know how it happened, but when I asked about the child, I was told that he suffocated. Lusik lost his weapon. Without a weapon it was like without a hand. What to do? We had to go to find a rifle, but where we will go? I told him, I would accompany him. We walked few meters and we were fired on. We separated. I had no weapon. It was dark. I thought that I am being followed. I found a tree with a hole. I went into the hole. I realized that all was quiet, but had difficulty getting out of the hole in the tree. I got out by a miracle and I went back into the tall grass, when we had hidden before. The next day I decided to go to a farm searching for bread. The grass was tall. I was crouching. I moved and I saw the Germans leaving the farm. The farmer gave me a sign to go back into my hiding. It was in the evening. I noticed a canal. I decided to go and to get water. Approaching I saw 2 men. I was ready to run, when I heard a whisper” Faivke, wait!" When I heard it, I stopped I recognized our men.

It meant, I was not alone. I felt better. -” Where do you go?” I asked. They were searching for potatoes. I joined them. It happened that 2 more were alive. It meats we were 5.  It was reassuring. It started to rain. It rained for 6 weeks. We did not have dry clothes. All our clothes  were rotting. We were

left without a shirt and without pants.  Weeks later the blockade ended. We left our hideout. We were informed that about 10- 15  kilometers away in the forest  there was a unit, and they were Jews. We walked approximately 15 kilometers. We found them. They were all dead. We did not know what to do next. We fed on wild berries. We stayed there until we met another group of men. They were 3-4 men. Among them was Icchak Gordon. Then we were joined. His name was Kola. His name before the war was Goyda. He was a Jew. He was a distant cousin of my mother. We stayed together for 3-4 months. Than we were squeezed from all directions: white Poles, Germans and some criminals who were masking as partisans. We had to get away. I mentioned name Berezowski.  I, Berezowski, Polachek and Fricelis (from Lithuania), all Jews, we went to Niemen, about 150 kilometers.  Over there we joined a partisan unit “Alexander Nevski“. I stayed there to the end.       
Question: What was your function in the partisan unit?   

-In the unit I was a fighter. I participated in battles. The officers were satisfied. Although, in the beginning they thought, that being a Jew, I am not a fighter. After a while I proved through my action that I am able to participate in battles. They were satisfied. On day an officer came to me, slapped my back and said-” Good man. You people know how to fight". In the first battle against the Whites (they were on the German site) we crossed  the Niemen. I was the second fighter at the machine gun. The first fighter was killed and I had to use the machine gun. There was a command to retreat. I understood how to attack and how to retreat. The enemy opened a fierce marine gun attack. I was not able to lift my head. It was apparent that we would be surrounded and thrown into the river Niemen. Then there was an order to retreat.   

Question: Who was in charge of the division ”Alexander Newski?                                                                                

Zeleznow.was in command.  He was the Chief of the Staff. The name of the Commander I do not recall.   

Question: What was the percent of Jews and what was the per cent of Russians in the division of “Alexander Newski.”   

In”Alexader Newski” division, there were no more that six Jews. The division consisted of 150 men.   

Question: What was the attitude of the command and the Russian partisans to you?   

- Not bad. All Jews participated in the attacks.   

Question: Who were the other Jews in your division?   

- Among the Jews were Polachek and I. Next to us was another division name “Kutuzow”   

Question: Who, among Jews, was in your unit?   

 Berezowski, Fidelis and I.   
Question: Were you scattered among other units?   

-Yes, among other units.

Question: Where was the action placement of this division?   

The Forest of Lubczany.   

Question: Do you remember the name of the brigade?   

- It was the brigade of the Gen. Major Kapusta, Bialystok.  I was there until the liberation of this site.   
Question: When the liberation came, how did you meet the armed forces?   

There was an order for our division to take the district of Szczuczyn (Szczuczyn), a small town in the county of Grodno, Skidel.  We went there and we heard the rumor that the Germans ordered  cutting down the forest, 100 meter from each side. Our special unit reported that the command ordered cutting trees for telephone posts, to establish telephone contact. The villagers living there were confused with confusing orders. They were afraid of us, because we meant what we ordered. There was no escaping us, while they could run away from Germans They begun to cut down trees for phone lines for many kilometers We knew that the Soviet Armed Forces were approaching. We were given orders to protect the bridges, and  not to allow the Germans to take the livestock.  We went to check on German movements. We overheard the cows. The Germans were taking the cows We attacked the Germans. They ran away and they left the cows loose. Than our search party came with the news that a large army uni is approaching, but we did not know who is it. We had an order to be ready for the order ”fire”. Another search unit came with the news that the Russians are coming. Two Russian machine- gunners arrived first. We met, we hugged, and we kissed.   

Question: When was it?   

It was July 1944.   

Question: What had happened after the liberation? Were you demilitarized?   

Our unit arrived in Grodno. Everyone was asked: what do you want? Who volunteers to join the  army and who would like to  take over the leading civil service positions?  For several months I took over a leading non-military position. I did not like the position and I resigned. My superiors told me-”you are a Jew, and we have many collaborators who took Jewish property.” They wanted me on the job. I stayed there for few months.

Question: Where was it?   
In the Grodno County, Skidel district. Later I made up my mind to join the army and fight at the front. I stayed in the military until 1947.   

Question: Did you go to the war department to be mobilized?

Yes. The war department directed me to the engineer, bridge building unit, to the fifth sapper (bridge building) division   

Question: Where were they stationed?   

In the beginning I was in Borysov. From Borysow I moved to Molodeczno. From Molodeczno I was moved to Kaunas. The front was at Koenigsberg. I stayed there until the liberation in 1945. We moved to back to Minsk. I was demobilized in Minsk. I married in Vitebsk in 1947   

Question: You were in the military two years more. Where were you all this time?

I was in Minsk and in Orsha   

Question What did you do after the demobilization?   
After the demobilization I stayed alone, homeless.  Later I established myself in Vilnius.   

Question: How long did you stay in Vilnius?   

In Vilnius I stayed from 1947 to 1957, I got married and moved to Minsk.

Question: When did you apply for the emigration to Israel?   

I applied in 1972, about November. On OVIR I was persuaded and also my superiors. They insisted that as a war veteran, a liberator of Belarus I should not go. I had  a good position as a skillful cutter. They were talking against leaving the country.   

Question: What was your wife’s name?   

My wife’s name was Anya Moiseievna Smotkina. We had two children. She became ill after the delivery.  She remained in poor health for many years. She passed away 8 years ago. I did not remarry.   

Question: When did you arrive to Israel?   

I arrived to Israel in March 1973. I live in Migdal Gaemek,street Kadesh 945/14   

Witness report accepted and edited---I. Alperovich
Signature of the witness ---F. Sinalevich   


Witness report    
Felix Sinalevich   
The name of cities: 1 Voronovo,2 Wasiliszki ,3.Sobakincy,4.Marcikancy,5.Grodno,6. Bialystok,7. Sokolki.,8. Krynki,9 Skidel.10. Borysowo, 11 Molodeczno, 12, Minsk, 13 Vilnius   

The name of the persons appearing in the story:   
1. Antos,2.Kobrowski.3.Efraimson,4. Gordon Icchak.5,Gordon Aron,6.Poliaczek,7. Budsko Sergey.8.Kanovich Yosif,9. Stankiewicz , 10. Berezowski. 11. Fricelis. 12 Com of the unit. 13 Zelezny, the staff chief, 14 Kapusta- general major. 15. The 5-th separate sapper division 16. Anya Smotkina

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