Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Biegun - August 10, 1983

Returning to Zhetl

Let's, let's go back to the woods for a second. Um, you were in the woods until nineteen, the end of 1944?


And how, how did that come to an end?

Let's see, uh, uh, the Russians with us, okay? Russian soldiers, you know, they were fighting in um, all around there and they came to our hometown to--this part when the Russians came, the soldiers, and they came, they knew where the partisans are because we had contact with Moscow, so all the German start running to the forest. So when the Germans came running to the forest, we didn't know who was German and who is a soldier because they took off the uniform. So, we didn't know. So lots of Germans, when they were fighting in the forest, they were shooting, so lots of people got killed.

Having survived the war, they got...

So they got killed from the German, they run away to the forest. Now, I remember, we came to farm. He hide us. The farmer hide us because he was scared. Even the war was almost finished, he was scared that the next neighbor was going to tell them. He has three Jewish families here.

Did he hide you?

Yeah. He hide us in the, in uh, in hay, under the hay, you know, cattle, there a couple cows. And they didn't, so when the German runaways, he was scared too, in case a German shouldn't kill them. So, we stayed a couple nights, and then we came, you know, he helped us check, you know, and we came home. But we used to go from little farm to another little farm. In the night, we didn't travel. We were scared in the night to travel because we never know who is on the road.

So you were in this, in this hayloft for a few days?

Yeah. Almost, yeah, like two days, three days. It took us like a week more. More than a week I thi...I suppose. I don't know how long it took us to get back to the town.

When you went back to Zhetl.

Yeah, we went back to Zhetl.

And what happened when you got back?

Let's see. We came back to Zhetl and we followed, you know, about thirty auntie and uncle, and there was more relatives, far relatives, but there was--everybody took care of everybody, you know, so we came back there and here the Russian were already in our hometown. And, they captured a lots of prisoners. Germans, Ukraines, lots of these, but all these soldiers came they captured a lots of them. And they killed a lots. One guy they hanged in the middle of the city. It was at the market. They hanged him with the head down, so it would be for all the people, they worked with the Germans, should remind them what they did to traitors. He hanged like that for a whole week.

For a week. Did they make people come and see him?

I mean, you know, yes because there was, they had a lots of prisoners, so the prisoner had to stay there and watch them because what they did. I mean, they didn't like their own people to work with the Germans, you know.

You said they were killing a lot. Were they what, shooting them?


So there weren't trials, and they would just shoot.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I don't blame them. I tell you the truth. Less prisoners held here then.

When the Russians came um, you were seven years old, and did they help the children out or uh, offer food, clothes?

Uh, they didn't have too much themselves, but everybody came back to the, you know, houses, the houses there was good--in good shape. People moved here. Doesn't matter if it's belong to you or not, you know, people shared, plus bombing and all, so not all the houses were good. And then the farmers, as much as they could, they brought us food. Clothing, food. Like one lady brought mine fathers a suit, it didn't fit nobody, but she had him suit, so she brought him suit, so maybe somebody could make something for mine brother. You know, little things.

Do, do you remember anything about how you felt coming back home after three years?

I came home, and I didn't know what's going on, okay. I spoke Yiddish. Then I spoke Russian too because in the woods--forest from the partisans, you had to learn Russian. So little children, you know, pick up languages very fast. I had a next door neighbor, Russian, so I spoke to her, Russian. I didn't know what's going on, and I know that some time auntie and uncle, no question asked, that's the way it's supposed to be, I suppose.

You didn't go back to the same house, did you?

Not to mine house. Mine parents' house, there was um, you find all the time, I suppose the German were there, it was like a, how you say it, a Stab. You know, uh...


A headquarters. So in our house, we couldn't. The Russian took it over because they find all kinds of secret papers and stuff like that. And most of the people, they came, we tried to stick together, close. Like middle of town. Our house was a little bit out of town. You know, it's like in the middle of the city.

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