Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Biegun - August 10, 1983

Meeting Basic Needs in the Woods

What about um, food in the woods?

The woods was very bad. No food at all. Special if we were surrounded and were scared to walk out of the f...forest. So we had to wait 'til the fighters used to go and bring us food, but there was very little food.

What did you eat? What did you drink?

I--now that I think about it, I don't know how I survived. I was so young. No, no energy. No vitamins, no nothing. We used to use ice for water, to melt the ice for water, and we used to have a couple potatoes. We used to peel the potatoes so we would have two meals instead of one meal. So once we cooked the potato, and once we cooked the peel off the potato, so at least would make a, some kind of a taste. Some of it is not bad because we had these wild blueberries in the wild, you know, all this stuff enclosed there. Special blueberries a lot.

In the summer.

Yeah, I mean in the summer.

Not in the winter.

But, in the winter was very bad was not too much. If you had a piece of bread, we had to eat, you know, little, little by little. Otherwise, you have to wait for next day because we were sure we wouldn't have so most of all we had lots of water.

You told me also that if somebody would, would, would urinate in the snow, that would be...

Sure, sure. Let's see. We stay and there was no clean wa...the snow wasn't clean, so we had to clean up the snow if you make on the snow so you would have the snow to make water of it. You know, you make a fire and you put it snow to melt. But if you couldn't go far away because it was too dangerous, if the soldiers weren't around. The women and children were scared to go far, so you wouldn't get lost. It is a deep forest. It's no like uh, in uh, Michigan the forest.


Okay so we used to clean up the snow so we would, we could have the snow for water.

What do you remember about uh, um, the toilet facilities of any kind?

There wasn't any toilet. You just go under a bush, and you make it. You'd be lucky you have the bush to make it, no toilets. You know, go deep under a bush and make it. No toilet. The only thing we had if we stayed for a little while in the same forest, so it used, you know the--I don't know, it's not grass like here. It looks like carpet grass, you know, it looks like a carpet, smooth grass. We used to cut out a piece with a bush on it, then we used to make a big hole, you know, and make like a bunker. Bunker. Bunker?

Sure. Bunker.

And you put it with pieces of wood, so you know like, here you use two by twos or two by fours. There you use the pieces of wood, you know, it should hold, and you make--and on top you make pieces of wood, you know, you trim the woods so you have the long sticks, and on top of that you put the pieces because you cut out pieces, on the grass, you cut it out. It's like uh, the grass in the front yard by you, but it's not like that. They used to, you know, far, deep in the forest. It comes up grass like, thick one. And this, you put on top of it, and meantime, it was together, so you don't know that there is a bunker under there. And you take a bush, and you make a piece that goes smooth on the ground, and a bitty door to cover so when you go down in the bunker, you make it slowly to cover yourself up, so in case the German or the Ukraine, in case they came deep, you don't have time to run to another forest. They wouldn't capture you.

Do you remember the feeling of hiding in those bunkers? What it was like?

We were one and another, you know, sleeping. I mean, now that's, that's I think about, it's not a wonder I had back trouble after sleeping for two, what was it, two and a half years, in the woods, no, you know, you take at least a blanket. There was no blanket and clothes and stuff like that.

What did you do for clothes?

That's what we run away, that's what we had. And, summer you make, you know, from, from pieces of uh, woods, you know, like you say sometimes, the Indian how they do it, you know. You carve shoes.

Leaves and branches.

Yeah, something like that for summer. But winter was very bad.

What did you do in winter?

From the beginning, I had a pair of shoes 'til I froze my feet and then they had to cut on the shoes so I didn't have the shoes anymore. I just had the sole, you know, the bottom but I didn't have...

They froze, your feet? Your feet got frostbite?

Frostbite--frostbite? The sole, so from the beginning I had these shoes when I came from the ghetto, but then we had to cut it up because we were running in these, a lots of water. We couldn't stop, you know, and it was winter, cold and the ice, you know. Sometimes it's ice, you don't know if the ice is going to break and we had to go from one forest, another forest. And we had a couple wagons. So the children wandered far, and then they start shooting on us, so I remember we had to jump from the wagon, and there was ice, and the ice broke, so they all, you know, they had to run fast, so the, the Ukraines were in the forest, and somebody told them that we going to another forest. They were waiting there for us. So the water came in my shoes, and there was no time to think how the shoes will spill out the water, so we run farther and farther, but I don't know how long 'til we got there, they had to cut the shoes off, so then I didn't have no shoes.

Did they cut the shoes off of your feet?

Yeah, they had to cut the shoes off to, you know, put--there was no bandages and stuff like that. Just piece of rags, you know.

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