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Before the war in the village of Bolshoe Veleshino, formerly known as Panskoe, of the Kopyl district, there lived Adam Nester’s family. There were three sons in the family: Ivan, Konstantin and Alexander. They finished public school and together with their parents were farmers. The brothers had natural musical ability and were fond of hunting. The elder brothers taught themselves to play the violin, while the youngest learned the drums on his own. After serving in the army, each of the brothers started a family and began to live separately from their parents. In 1929, they joined the collective farm. The most active of the brothers was Ivan, a merry chap and a chatter. No local event took place without his participation. During celebrations the brothers invited Adam Rusak, a friend of theirs and a flute-player (the father of the famous Belarusian writer) from the village of Lenino. They made a real rural orchestra together. Their music united all villagers. The elderly and young people came to dance, to make friends and just to listen to music.

Ivan had six children. He worked a lot since time was difficult, people didn’t live abundant lives. But Ivan’s children, despite all hardships, grew up respected people. In 1939, when taking sheaves to a threshing machine, Ivan, out of negligence, lost his right hand. He became disabled, but continued working on the farm as a watchman. In the same year, when hunting, he (accidentally or not, who knows?) shot a bull belonging to the collective farm and straying from the herd. He was convicted and sentenced to 2,5 years in Slutsk prison.

At the beginning of World War II, when the fascists occupied Slutsk, Ivan, as well as other prisoners, was released and given a letter of verification which helped him to return home without being detained by patrols and shot as a suspicious person. That letter of verification would play a decisive role in our history.

After the war, in 1947, the author and Ivan Nester walked to Nesvizh city, where Ivan’s daughter and the author’s sister studied at the teacher training college. They took foodstuffs to the students. It was a long way (thirty kilometers to the city and back) and on the way home they fell into talk. It turned out that a man whose life Ivan saved during the war worked in the college as an assistant manager. Here’s the story of saving the Jewish family.

Before the war several Jewish families engaged in crafts and trade lived on the same street in Pesochnoe stetl (near Bolshoe Veleshino). In spring, 1942, all the Jews were forced into the ghetto, surrounded with barbed wire fence and guarded by the Germans and local policemen. Old men, women and children from Pesochnoe were sent to the Slutsk ghetto, while five young men were left in the shtetl for the various works. But after a few days the Germans and the policemen returned and decided to send those men to the ghetto too. The Germans left them with a policeman for some time while they looted the neighboring houses. One of the detainees, Moisha As, having recognized the guarding policeman, promised him the gold which was supposedly stored in one of the rooms of his house. The policeman believed him and let go into the room. There was no buried gold, of course, but there was a secret passage to the neighbouring house, which As used to escape. The Germans immediately arrested the policeman, took him to Astreiki village, where he lived with his mother, and shot them both. Their dead bodies were burnt together with the house.

For some days As was hiding in the woods near Bolshoe Veleshino, then came to the village and asked Ivan Nesterov, who he had known for a long time, to help free his brother and family from the ghetto. It was a matter of life or death. Ivan agreed. Transport was required for the escape, as well as tools for cutting the wire. As got everything needed after a while. Ivan loaded hay onto a cart and on Sunday went to Slutsk, supposedly to the market. On the outskirts of the city, he left the cart with his friend and went to the ghetto. There he managed to meet the right person and give him the wire snips.

The escape from the ghetto was a success, but the hardest thing was to leave the city. The escapees met with Ivan at the agreed place. Then he asked them to lie down on the bottom of the cart, covered with hay and went home. On the way he had to pass three checkpoints with German soldiers and policemen. That's where the letter of verification issued by the occupiers came in handy. It helped to pass two checkpoints without any special tricks. The last checkpoint was in the village Konyukhi. There were no local policemen, only the Germans. Nester was trying to explain very convincingly where from and where to he was going, and why he was delayed. The fascists, talking loudly and paying no attention to his explanation, were carefully checking the cart.

Later Ivan told me that at that moment he could feel his hair moving. If the Germans had found the escapees, they and the driver would have been shot on the spot. But as they say, God works in mysterious ways … The Germans found nothing and let Ivan go. In Veleshino they were met by Moisha As. He thanked the savior of his family and they went into the woods.

A simple man risked his life to save others. Such people make us better, educate us, and set the example for us to follow.

Jewish settlements in Minsk region

MinskBerezinoBobrBorisov DolginovoDukoraDzerzhinsk Ivenets Myadel NesvizhObchuga Pogost Rakov Seliba Slutsk Svir Uhvaly Vileika

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