Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

Contact with Partisans

Now how did they find you or how did you find them?

How did I find them? In 1943, spring, like I said before, I was in town Constantinova, and when all those small little towns were supposed to be sent out to one major city, Kovno, which is one major ghetto, I'm sorry, one major city, Vilna, Vilna. Instead, all those people went to Ponary. I, at that time, decided not to go, not for the reason I knew I was going to be taken to Ponary, because I figured I'm only one left, where am I going to live, I'm going to take my chances and perhaps in due time I will connect myself or find partisans. And so, instead of going to Vilna like the rest did, I took to the woods. And of course, took me some time, took me about a week till I finally made contact with partisans. And I made contact with partisans simply by an incident. After being five days in the woods, sleeping in the woods, it was still cold, very cold, nobody to talk to, and I was living there, local population gave me bread to eat, yes, they were friendly, but they were afraid to hold, to keep me there. And one night I walked into an isolated farmhouse. There was just a woman there and a few kids. It looks like no husband, anything, maybe he was killed or something, I don't know. And I begged her she should let me sleep just to warm up that night and she says I am scared to death, either from the partisans, because partisans were already come around, or from Germans. But after awhile she says okay, and I was sleeping on a bench, or rather on the table, in the kitchen. The kitchen was also the living room, you know, very primitive. And in the middle of the night, I heard a knock on the door, a very strong knock and of course, she went to the door, she let them in and right away in Russian, they said, "???" in other words, do we have any strangers in this house. And the minute I heard it, I says yes because I heard it Russian speaking and I sized them up. Quickly I could see no German uniforms, rag-tag, you know. And they right away ordered me to keep my hands up and I followed that, who are you? And I said I am, my name is so and so, and I am Jewish. Where are you coming from? And I told them. And, of course, it's subject to believing or not, I could be a spy, whatever it may be the case. They took me outside and they showed me a dim light in a different isolated farm and they told me follow this light down there, go in there, and we going to interrogate you down there. I says okay. I went there and this particular guy, this farmer, knew everybody in this town of Kobylnik. In order for me to say the real guy who I am, if I would say my name is Leo Salomon, I would have been doomed to death because who am I, from Warsaw. How am I going to prove it? So, instead, I said I am Shepsel's son. Shepsel was a Jewish farmer too, who everybody knew him, and he happened to be the neighbors of us and I know the kids I played with, same age as I am. So the minute I told them who I am and I am Shepsel's son, he says he is okay. Don't worry about him. So the next thing they told me to go to a different place another isolated farm close to swamps, there were very big swamps around there. And I came to this farm and I stay and wait and wait and nobody comes for me. And I told them, "The partisans told me to come to you." He says, "All I can do for you, I can give you bread to eat, I can give you somethings with you, but I cannot keep you here." And so I am totally despondent and I'm going back because you couldn't go any farther from there because there were big swamps and I go back. As I go back, there is a farm not too far from there and a couple of those guys were standing outside and they making conversation with me, who are you? I told them I am from Kobylnik and they asked me do you know a guy by the name ??? Friedman? I says, yes, very much. Is he alive? I say, yes. Do you know where he is? I says yes. And, so and so, once I told them I know ??? I know where he lives and I know that his wife is alive, and his son is alive, he says, "Come on, I'll take you to them." I hesitated for a moment, but then I think I'm going to take my chances. We were going through swamps almost half deep, we finally after a mile and a half we came to the end of the swamps, to an isolated place in the woods, built in bunker and I take a look and I see faces I couldn't believe it, beards, black, they looked awful. There were five people in there. There was this guy ??? there was another guy not far from there, there were about five people. They were living, they lived off whatever this guy supplied them with, peas, some bread; this is how they lived. And so this was my base for the time being and I said to them I cannot live like that, I got to live and eat. So, the second night I went out to the farmers at night and I was knocking doors and I brought back eggs, I brought back bread, many things, and they started living a little bit. We use to make a fire during the daytime, because at night you could see the smoke outside and they'll know exactly where they are. And I stayed there for a while, oh, for at least two, three months. I finally heard that a Jewish Otriad, which is not a brigade, a brigade consists of thousands of, at least a thousand people or more. Otriad consisted of 100 people and more that are Jewish, fraction partisans is beginning to organize. And so I left this place, and I joined that time a Jewish, not brigade, but its called otriad, otriad.

Like a platoon?

Like a platoon, right. And I, yeah, in order to join there was a prerequisite. You had to have, you had to have a gun, carbine, or something to come with. So, through, I found one time a sawed off shot gun from World War I, and I cleaned that with sand and so on and then I had a carpenter who made me that wood and this actually gave me the passport, with this I joined the underground. And the name of the Jewish platoon was called Mstitiel, which means revenge, translation.

Let me stop you here, when you heard what it was called, when they told you the name of the platoon, did you remember what your sister had said?

Oh yeah, my sister told me, this was her last words, never forget and revenge. This was on her lips the last, and it coincidentally, the name of this particular platoon was called Mstitiel, translation, revenge.

Did you make a connection between her last words and the name?

Yeah, but this was all coincidental.

So you joined the otriad?


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