Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Koby - April 20, 1999

Conditions under Soviets

Um, was it difficult under the Russians?

No. Was normal, I mean was a little different, okay? When the war started, you remember the Germans took part, part of Poland and we took part of Poland.

The rest of Poland.

And the Russians took part of Poland.


There were a lot of refugees running away from the Germans. There was Polish government employees, Polacks of all...


Polish people of all--I shouldn't say Polack. It was Polish people running from, from the Germans.


And most of the, like ministries, all kinds of--moving east. They figured you know, they'll be treated fairly decent. And there were Jews running--whoever wanted to run ran east to the Russians, no problem. And uh, somebody abandoned a horse. You know, they ran the horse so much they just--it collapsed and it was lying there in the ditch. My father bought the horse from a horse thief--from a man--a Ukrainian man who always was in trouble. He was always in the jails. So they--he bought the horse, I don't know for some--uh, it was a good deal, okay? And they brought the horse on a travois you know, like the Indians used to hitch up...

Oh, yeah, yeah.

To, to pull, you know. They had the, you know...


...the Indians, American Indians...


...had two sticks...


...and a blanket...


...and uh, put it on the horse--whatever they rigged it up and used to pull it. That's how they brought that horse from the highway to my father's house, nursed him back to good shape. It was a beautiful horse. Oh, I loved that horse. I took care of him all summer--all winter.

What would your father want to do with a horse if he was a merchant?

To have a horse, what do you mean?


Who wants--what are you going to do with a car? Teenager wants a car. Whatcha going to do with it?

It wasn't for work or anything, it was just...

No, he--my father had no fields. He couldn't have plow.

So it was just for transportation and...

No, it's transportation.


But I think it served--and was it God works in mysterious ways? In the winter--there were two winters I remember. The first winter, the horse was in shape to run. So what do you do with a horse you know, in the winter? We had lots of snow. And the boys--the you know, the, the young men in the village, some had skis, okay. They hitched up a rope to the horse. My father would ride the horse bare back and pull them around the village.


You know, because the village was like a, a circle...


...a squished up circle.

Yeah, that's what you said.

And it was uh, man it was big event. My father--the horse, schlepping all those--but looking back now, all those guys that had skis were the intellectuals, those that went to the gymnasium. And a couple guys that did not, but that were intelligent enough to us--to be friends with these gymnasium students.


And then the second winter also. Then the Russians took away the horse.

For the war?

No, to collect--everybody had to belong to the collective farm.


That was the only problem. My mother was furious with my father that he was engaged in horseplay you know, pulling around the, the, the, the boys on the skis before. And now he was forced to go into the collective farm. But things weren't, we weren't, we weren't threatened with our lives. We went to school, the teachers were--we were taught how to sing songs, Russian songs. Oh, it was, it was okay.

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