Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Separated from Father

And what happened to you when you went with the partisans?

Well, when we just, when we just came, the first thing they told us, that there are no--the families don't exist here. We have to separate you. So my father--I told you that they were--this was a group of 5,000 people, five battalions. Each battalion was 1,000 people. And they were scattered in different villages. And uh, they stayed there um, uh, a few days or a week or sometimes only overnight. So my father and my brother they sent to a different battalion. Ours was Battalion Number One, which was, they were doing the uh, the food supplies, you know, the uh and so they needed people to work, you, you know. They used to bring some food and they had to process it, like meat and cook. And also um, my, my sister was a, a seamstress, so she helped out. She was mending their clothes and uh, all this sort of thing. But we--I--it--so we joined, it was in November. And between November and March, we were constantly on the go, move...we were moving, moving, moving not for the purpose of, of um, occupying territory, but just moving around and doing all kind of damages to the German Army. So we couldn't stay because the Germans were on our tails too, you know. So we stayed one week sometimes, sometimes a few days and then they started chasing us and we had to leave. And we had to go uh, another place. And also I was telling you, by the same uh, token, there were uh, local partisan groups that were stationed in the same area all the time. And they were doing--they, they had a, a radius of, of uh, territory that was assigned to them and they were doing all the, the, the, the throwing off trains, of--or uh, um, dynamiting bridges or ambushing uh, um, uh, Germans that were moving from one city to the other. And everybody had the--you know, just doing damage in, in the back and uh, it should not, it should have um, uh, uh, it should damage their, their fighting.

You, you were, you were eighteen?

I was--in 1943, I was already nineteen.

And your sister was what, twenty...

Twenty-one, three years older.

So you were two young girls.


Uh, in the midst of this...

In the midst of all the...


...soldiers and...

Were you concerned about that? Were you worried?

No. They were, they were nice. The only thing that uh, there was no raping or the, or this sort of thing. There were no like sexual harassment. Everybody was um, concerned about himself. And also, we had, we had the orders to fill out.

Were there other women in the group?

Yes, there were some other women.

But you were separated from your father and your brother?

Yes. There were other women that served as soldiers too. It just so happened with my, my sister and I did not--my sister later on became a regular soldier and she got a rifle and she was fighting just like uh, the, the other men.

And what happened to your sister?

Well, at, at that point uh, it was already in--at the end of February. And they, they, they ran out of some work for her. So there, there was, there was nothing to do, so she said, "If there's nothing do to here, how about transferring me to my--to the, to the battalion where my father and my brother is?" So they, they did. They transferred her. At that point I was already working as a nurse. I was helping out with the wounded. And I was helping out and uh, uh, disease started spreading, typhoid, because of the, you know, the sanitary conditions. We never got undressed. We could barely wash ourselves, especially in the wintertime. So there was a, a--there were quite a, quite a few--I took--I, I was in the group that had about eighteen typhoid um, sick patients.

We'll come back to that. But your sister, she then was reunited with your father and your brother?

She was reunited with my father...

And with your...

With my brother. And she was a regular soldier there.

And what happened...

And I never saw them. Okay. And then I, I contracted uh, uh, uh, uh, the typhoid. And they didn't know about me and I didn't know where they are. And as I, I--my luck was that while I was sick and I was burning up with fever, we were stationed in one place. Why? Because at that point they had accumulated an awful lot of uh, wounded people and they were also lacking already in ammunition and in dynamite and all kind of uh, uh, uh, uh, medications. So they, they were looking for a way of how to get it and how to get out of the horrible situation. The wounded couldn't be taken care of because there were no, there were no, no, no medication. So they--it just so happened they were stationed near a huge lake. And uh, the lake was very big. And 1943 was a very harsh winter. So when the lake froze and it probably was very deep uh, and so it's--they made an air... airfield out of it. And airplanes were landing at night from Russia. They were in communication always with uh, Moscow. And they, they were bringing ammunition and medication and clothing. And, and the same night, they took away some wounded with them. So this happened for an entire month. And that month I was burning up with fever. And after ten days, the fever broke and I started getting better, but I was, I was like a toothpick. And uh, quite a few people died from, from the eighteen. But I, I contracted this disease from one of the big shots. He was one of the um, big officers in that group and I took care of him. And uh, so when I started, when I started getting sick, he was sort of like coming and uh, helping me out, bringing a little food in here and there.

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