Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Brysk - February 7, 2004

Joining the Partisans

This was what, 1942 or something?

This was uh, this was in the fall of '42. And uh, and they, from what we gathered they were given away to the Germans and died en route. That was the last time I ev...we ever saw them. Now while my mother was working in the hospital--in the, in the factory, she heard all these rumors about there being partisans in the forest, about Jews, you know, young Jews trying to get guns because apparently you needed a gun to be accepted. And all this talk was going around about partisans and, and groups and fighters and all that. And there was a lot of talk of that in the factory. And then in early--late November or early December of '42--remember how bad the winter of '42 was? Suddenly a group of Jewish partisans sneaked into the Lida ghetto. They were sent for the sole purpose of bringing a surgeon back to the forest. They came--announced, you know, quietly their intention. And we were supposed to go the next evening--this was the day before and uh, I heard my mother and my father shushing all night long. And I could hear them say, "How can you go? It's so cold, we don't have a place to stay, there's no food. How can you leave here?" My mother said, "I'd rather die there than die here." My mother was in some ways, in some way came to decisions, she was like a fortress, and she said, "We're going." And the following e...my mother told me that we were that we were going to be leaving the ghetto. It's amazing that she could confide that in me and I knew that I would never say a word. And I remember playing with my friend that afternoon and looking around me and thinking I would never probably see her again. And that evening, while everybody was asleep, my, my mother and father and I--we had pre...put very slowly into some satchels a few of our clothing, as well as this wonderful down blanket we had from Warsaw. And after everybody was asleep, we quietly went out of our house. We quietly went into this house where the partisans were. They stripped the Jewish stars off our clothes. And at first they said, "No, no, we can't have a child. We, we can't take chance." My father said, "I'm not going without her and she's well trained and disciplined," which I was. And...

Did they come specifically for him or did they know that he was the person?

They had a lot of very wounded partisans who were dying in massive, you know, they needed care, they needed surgeries. And my father had a reputation many, many miles around for his surgical skills, from Warsaw even. And so he, he was very well known all, all around. And they came specifically to get him. Now the man, there were two, two men and one whose name was Funt. And the other one was called Boruch Levin. I'm, I'm mentioning Boruch Levin because Boruch Levin after the liberation was awarded by the Russians the medal Geroy Sovyetskogo Soyuza for himself having blown up over twenty trains--German trains going to the Eastern front. This was one of the men that took us out of the ghetto. And, anyway, so finally uh, at a certain time we walked out of the house without our stars. They, they uh, they, you know, they snipped the wires, we walked through, they put 'em back. And uh, we headed towards the river. Just around there we--around that time we heard some shooting. And everybody like right away ran into the river. Some of it was frozen, some of it was whatever. And we all--it was freezing. And, and so we thought they were getting us because we were walking closer and closer to the middle of town. We could see the, the apartment houses where the German officers were. And we wondered, "Why are we going there if we're trying to get away?" But suddenly, as, as soon as they realized the shooting had nothing to do with us, they stopped someplace and they started digging. I mean, we were absolutely freezing, it was so cold. And they were digging and digging and digging. Finally they dug up arms. These were the arms that the Russian soldiers in their haste to evacuate Lida had buried, just for the purpose if there were partisans they would have the arms. So they were unearthing a bunch of arms, machine guns and heavy weapons that they had buried, which they took with them. And then we walked further past the edge of town. At that point we had another scare because a dog started barking. So we had to go real quick to get by the dogs and then finally we got past them and into the forest. And uh, this was not our final destination, but it was at least away from the farmers. It took us--then we--on the way, on the way uh, we stopped at this house of this farmer who was very friendly to everybody and it was obvious he was good Communist and he put us up for a few hours--gave us something to eat and put us up. And then the next day we went out again and by the following evening we had reached the final forest where we entered, which was called the Lipiczanska forest. That was a number of kilometers south of the Nalibocka forest where Tuvia Bielski was. So we were in adjoining forests. Actually the Naliboka forest was nearer to us than the Lipiczanska forest. But one of my father's classmates at medical school was in the Nalibocka forest. He was not a surgeon but he was a physician. And uh, uh, the, the people in our forest they wanted my father; they needed him badly.

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