Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Raab - June 28, 2002

Conditions on Train

Do you remember what it was like in the train? Did you...

I, I remember because uh, when yo...it was such a situation that the kids grew up in a matter of no time. And I, I, I remember that uh, it's a matter of uh, survival. So I knew I have to, I have to follow what, what I am told to do by my parents you know, and...

Were you holding somebody's hand?

Right I was always, I, I was trying to be close, not--to make sure that I'm not going to get lost, or...And of course my brother, he's older than me. He was the same. 'Til finally the train stopped and they opened the door. They opened that-- the slide, that door opened, not very much, just enough for somebody to get you know, out from that car. And uh, they were screaming in Russian, you know. If I'll say it in Russian, they were screaming ???. That means, two persons to go get soup. So from each car two men went down and, and uh, the guards with, with the rifles you know, 'em--I don't know where they took 'em-and then uh, maybe an hour, an hour and a half, they came back with buckets. Each carried two, two buckets with some kind of a soup, so called soup, whatever that was. But when they came back, they told us that they seen signs and the--because it was a railroad station. They seen signs and it said Kiev on it.

So you went to the Ukraine.

So we were in Kiev, yeah, in Ukraine. And, of course, there want some people uh, you know, to go down and uh, to do the uh, uh, their needs uh, right on the railroad tru- uh, tracks over there. And uh, they--people were boarded back those cars on that train and they locked the doors again and the train started moving again. And it kept on moving deeper and deeper into Russia. The--and, and, of course, there were guards you know, armed guards. And the deeper we went into Russia the more lax. The guards weren't so many anymore. Uh, they would let people, the--whenever the train stopped they would let people go down to do their needs. And uh, they even...eventually they, they took out people and they split 'em and they, they connect--they gave us more cars so it wouldn't be so, so crowded, so tight.

Do you remember what it smelled like, what it sounded like?

Well, the smell was pretty bad. You know, with, with so many people in one car and, of course, there were older people, sick people, kids. Uh you know, people were, were throwing up. And--but the deeper we went in to Russia, the situation got a little better I would say. You--still we didn't have nothing, we didn't have no clothes, we didn't have no...

So you didn't take any suitcases or anything like that.

No suitcases, no nothing. And uh, that train kept on moving. We must have be on that train maybe a month and a half or two months. And it went all the way to Siberia, deep into--I remember we, we passed Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, which is deep in the--until they brought us to a place. A...apparently, then I didn't know, but uh, after I grew up I was reading up in some books that this, this railroad, this route, that was the Trans-Siberian railroad that we were on. And uh, until they brought us to a place that uh, I--trying, trying to remember what was the name of that city. It could have been maybe Yakutsk or something, one, one of the Russian cities. And then they took us out of the train and they put us on barges. And the river was the river Lena, it's a big river in Russia. Lena, called. And from that river we went in, there was ??? there was another river called A...Angara. And they all kinda connected to the Baikal Lake, Lake Baikal, famous big lake.

You were, a month and a half? You were on the train for that long?

Yes, that train, because you know, that train could have been moving maybe for a day and going quite fast. And then all of a sudden they put us on a side track and we were sitting over there a day, two, three, whatever. Whenever, whenever they felt like or whatever happened. And then they took us with, with those barges into a river called Vitim. With this Vitim river we went to a city in the name Bodaibo. And uh, it was a small city, but it was a city. And then uh, from Bodaibo, they took us again with some--I don't know how you call it uh, a raft, with rafts. It was like uh, logs tied together and a, and a motorboat was pushing it.

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