Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Brysk - February 7, 2004

Life in Lida

Um, when you, you, you, you were reunited with your father and the other men--your uncle and...

Yeah, my two uncles.

Um, and moved in with...

We moved in--we were living in one place. It was my, my grandmother's place and...

Did you go to school there?

No, I didn't go to school. I was, I was four.

Four, all right.

And uh, uh, my, my parents were slowly teaching me, you know, how to write. So, I, I--but it, I was taught in Polish. And I learned Yiddish. In Lida, they spoke the Litvish variety of Yiddish, because it--Lida is about forty-five miles due south of, of Vilno.

Yeah. Here it is. Here's Lida here.

Yeah. And it had--it was an intersection of several major railway lines. And it had--the Lida River was a, was a, a small tributary of the Nieman River, and the Nieman River goes back to Napoleon ???

And here's Vilno.

Yeah, Vilno. It's just, just...

Across the border.

Just across the border.

So you learned a Litvish Yiddish.

Yeah, a Litvish Yiddish, absolutely. 'Cause they all--it was, it was at one time part of Lithuania. You know, borders changed there a lot over the, over the course of history.

And were the Russians very prominent in the city or were they...

They were prominent but, but not really--only they, they destroyed a lot of things Jewish um, they made every attempt to destroy Jewish organizations because there were the Bundists and this. And they tried to, they tried to disrupt--and they did--Jewish life. But for me personally and for parents and--who were not involved in those activities--this was not our town. We were there as, as an interim place so we didn't know how long we would be there. So for us personally there was...life was, was fairly comfortable. We were not involved in the politics of the religious and any other part of, of Lida.

When did it change?

It changed with the Germans came.

When the Germans came. Probably June, June...

The end of June...

End of June 1941.

...1941 uh, when, when the, the uh, when the Ribbentrop Treaty was, was severed. Uh, it wasn't far from War...from Poland to, into Belarus so they came--the city was very heavily bom...bombarded with uh, uh, various bombs and incendiary bombs. Oh one, one little story, it's a weird one. In the shelter we were in, adjoining it was this bathtub that we had filled with water--this was in Warsaw. And an incendiary bomb, hit the building, landed in the water and never blew off. [pause] It's like maybe ???

??? wow.

Anyway, so now we were in Lida getting bombed again. Again I was hold...my mother would say and my aunt was saying, "Hold on at all costs." And one morning we woke up and the, and the airplanes were up in the air again. And this time my ears were--had remembered what I had heard in Warsaw and uh, I became frightened and my--all my uncles and my father were at work. And so my aunt and my mother and I quickly uh, put together a little food and, and, and a little clothing and a couple satchels and started running to the edge of town and everybody else was running while Lida was getting mercilessly bombarded uh, especially the Jewish sections. They were more heavily bombarded. And uh, and I remember as we--as the day wore on and as the sun was setting. And we--I--we almost felt like Lot's wife, you know, we couldn't turn back, we had to run. We finally sat down on the side of the road well, well past the edge of town and uh, uh, looked back and, you know, the sun become all the more red when there's smoke because it filters out the UV lights and the red waves go through, the longer wavelength, so it's red. And uh, and uh, the uh, bombing continued more--for more than one day and eventually uh, the Germans marched into, marched into Lida.

But you had, you had left the city.

We were--no, we came back...

You did.

...to rejoin the men and all that. I mean, where were we gonna go?


Uh, so.

Do you remember seeing them marching?

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

What did you think when they were marching?

I was, I was terrified. I remember my mother and I were standing on the, on the street not far from where we lived. And a German officer approached us and he looked down at me, he picked me up in his arms and was making nice, saying he had a nice little girl back home. Uh, and my mother and I were so uh, gratified that he didn't know we were Jews. My mother uh, didn't look Jewish, she had a small pug nose, and she just didn't look Jewish.

And then he just put you down.


Then he just put you down.

He just put me down.

Wehrmacht soldier? Is that what we're talking about?


Wehrmacht soldier? SS man?

He was an officer of some sort. Let me uh, just open this for a sec. [long pause] Uh, I'll fill you in with... [long pause] Okay.

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