Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

Being Allowed to Leave

And did you know that the Germans had invaded?

We did not know because the Germans, don't forget, was uh, did not invade Russia until June 22nd of 1941. And that actually is the, the reason why we were liberated and freed from this place. Because when, when we were liberated there--when we were told that we could go then we found out that we were sentenced to ten years to be there, in absentia. We were not tried--there was no trial that anybody of these people on the barge had been before a court. But they decided that in order to keep their books straight so uh, they said that these people were for ten years there. But all through the fourteen months that we were there, the native Russian supervisors on us uh, were telling us to forget about ever leaving this place. "You will be here, you will build the cities here and you will die here. So forget about ever going back to Poland." The--freeing us occurred later on--it must have been in July or maybe August of '41, when the Polish government in exile in London made an agreement with the uh, Soviet government to free all the Polish uh, citizens in Russian uh, prisons--in camps uh, for the uh, goal, to have the uh, bo...able-bodied uh, men to uh, join the armed forces and help in the battle against the Germans. The Russians obviously felt that these Poles are gonna fight on their side. But the Poles had different ideas. They uh, they, they figured on uh, taking them out to Africa, and to work on the um, Allied side. But anyway, they um, they, they refused actually to let us go free, because they said, "You are not Poles. You are Jews." Again this anti-Semitism comes in. Here we were sent in there as Polish uh, from Poland, and um, uh, now we're Jews and we're not going, so we went on strike there against the Soviet Union system, which is an unheard of. Uh, but anyways, I guess the pressure was very much on, on the uh, on, on, on the leadership, on the uh, police in this camp to let us go, that eventually they decided to--"You're free to go," and they even had a map there in the office, and they asked there uh, every family, "Where do you want to go to?" So we, we picked on the map--we saw Uzbekistan and we wanted to be in a warmer climate, and we wanted to be far away from the front lines. We didn't know how far the Germans are going to go, so uh, we wanted to go to Uzbekistan, and we wanted to go to Tashkent, and they said, no, we cannot go to um, to the uh, Tashkent. "You, you are non-citizens, so you cannot go to Tashkent." So we picked another town by the name of Mirzachul on the map, and um, and it's spelled M-I-R-Z-A-C-H-U-L. Um, and um, and we--that's about 120 kilometers. And again we boarded a small ship uh, at this uh, place--the same place where we were dropped off originally uh, it was uh, by a lake, and the ship took us down to the rivers and um, through the river system, and we kept on changing ships as we came into bigger rivers--the ships were getting bigger in size--and we were mixed. It wasn't just our, our--this, this--the people from the camp there. The ships were full with native Russians that were running away--evacuating uh, being fearful that, wherever they lived, that they will be overrun by the Germans. And the, the transportation was all free. We didn't have to buy any tickets or anything that I remember. Uh, we would--we were going free, changing from one ship to another. It was just filled up to full capacity. Uh, the places didn't have any cabins to sleep or anything like this. We were used to, already, by then, to, to hardships like this here. There was no--again, no police or ???, everybody was on his own. And so we went until we came to a um, to a city--I don't know if it was ??? or some other major uh, Russian city--where we got off the ship and we boarded a train, and we went with the train towards Uzbekistan, and finally we got off in that town that we had picked to live in.

Again a boxcar?

I don't remember. I think it might have been some uh, some passenger cars there. This was--might have been mixture of them, because we, we changed trains also, but I think it was a passenger kind of car.

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