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...Raisa Efimovna Livshits lives in Tolochino. When we met, she gave me a letter addressed to the commission considering the construction of memorials on the sites where the fascists and their accomplices massacred the Jewish population.

“Please solicit the authorities for at least an inexpensive monument to be set up in the Uhvaly village of Krupsky district, the Minsk region. All my relatives and childhood friends were shot dead there.”

I promised. Then I began asking Raisa Efimovna about the war years, but she said she would write me a letter.

Writing a letter must have been easier for her than telling about those horrible days. Several days later I received a letter from Tolochino.

“My maiden name was Amburg. I was born in the Uhvaly shtetl in 1929. My father, Efim Samuilovich, was a boot maker. My mother, Freida Nohimovna, like most Jewish women in the shtetl, was a housewife and took care of three children. I had two brothers, Liezer and Faiva. When the war started, Faiva was only five. My grandfather’s name was Nohim Goldin, my grandmother’s name was Tsypa-Roha. People urged to leave the shtetl as the Germans were coming. But where could one move to with the elderly parents and small children? Two weeks later the war broke out and the Germans occupied Uhvaly.

Several days later all the Jewish men were ordered to gather. About eighty people came. They were forced on the trucks and taken to the woods under the pretence of some job to be done. Nobody came back. Later we got to know they all had been shot.

Only women, children and the elderly remained. The fascists forced them all into five houses. There were about thirty people in each.

My mother and other women were taken to a school where the German garrison was located. They did the washing, mopped the floors, and peeled the potatoes.

Everyone, starting from six-year-olds, was ordered to wear a yellow patch of cloth on the sleeve. We hungered, ate rotten potatoes with grass, and baked scones. It went on like that till the autumn of 1942.

I found out that on 4 May all the Jews would be shot. When we were forced out of the houses, my friend, Bella Kroek, and I managed to escape to the river. The Germans noticed us and started firing.

We hid behind the bushes. It turned out that we were not far from the ditch where the fascists and politsais took the people to be shot. We saw everything. They took people in fours, made them stand on their knees and shot at the back of their heads.

We stayed in the woods, half dressed and hungry. We took off our shirts, wrapped our feet and went along the road. We came to a village. There were old houses on the outskirts. We entered a house, asked for some food. A woman gave us a piece of bread each and two pairs of old straw shoes. Then we went to the woods and stayed there for three months.

We went to villages, asking people for food. People helped us, warned us about the Germans in the villages.

We were always hungry. Once we sat down under a tree and Bella got quickly asleep. I looked into the bag and found a small piece of bread in it. I took the piece which was the size of a pea and put it into my mouth. But Bella asked me why I was eating without her. I replied that I would never do it again.

63 years passed and I cannot forget that talk.

Every day it was getting harder and harder. Politsais appeared in the villages. In one village we came to a burgomaster’s house. Fortunately, he wasn’t at home. His mother gave us a piece of bread each and told us to run to the woods. The Germans were supposed to come soon.

In August 1942, we came into a village. There were partisans from unit № 30 named after Mashchinsky. We joined the unit. I kept guard, worked in the kitchen and hospital. The wounded liked me, I spoonfed them.

Sometimes I was given an assignment. I met with a politsai, whose brother was in the unit. He told me how many Germans there were in the garrison and what armament they had.

On 8 July, 1944, we joined the Soviet Army in the village Slavnoe of Tolochin district.”

Recorded by Arkady Shulman

Jewish settlements in Minsk region

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

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