[0:00:17] W: April 20th, 1927.
[0:00:27] І: Where were you born?
[0:00:28] W: In the village called Perenivka, Rohatyn rayon, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast.
[0:00:42] І: Is your hometown located far from here?
[0:00:45] W: About 3 km.
[0:00:52] І: Have you lived there for a long time?
[0:00:56] W: I lived there until 1952 – that year I got married and moved here.
[0:01:13] І: And what about your parents? What was their occupation before the war?
[0:01:15] W: My father was a farmer. There were seven children in the family.
[0:01:29] І: Did you own a lot of land?
[0:01:32] W: Yes, quite a bit.
[0:01:34] І: Do you recall how many hectares?
[0:01:35] W: I’m not sure, but we were considered rich.
[0:01:44] І: What type of farming was your family engaged in?
[0:01:47] W: It varied, depending on what was necessary to provide for our large family, to raise and educate the children. It was hard work. My father managed by working the poorer folks’ fields with his horses, and in return they would lend a hand with odd jobs around the household.
[0:02:55] І: Was your native village part of Poland before the war?
[0:03:03] W: Yes, until 1939.
[0:03:10] І: Are you an ethnic Ukrainian?
[0:03:13] W: Yes indeed, it’s in my blood, as my father always used to say.
[0:03:28] І: Was your village inhabited only by Ukrainians, or were there also representatives of other nationalities?
[0:03:33] W: No, only Ukrainians. It was a very small village, with a small church. Nowadays the church been nicely renovated and expanded. My father used to help out at the church for 18 years.
[0:04:16] І: Was that church servicing just your village’s parish?
[0:04:20] W: Yes, it was a very small village. We didn’t have church service every Sunday, only on big feasts. Sometimes we went to church at Rohatyn, the Virgin Mary church.
[0:04:37] І: Was your church part of the Greek Catholic/Uniate denomination?
[0:04:42] W: Yes.
[0:05:05] І: Did you attend [primary] school before the war?
[0:05:16] W: Yes, I did. It was a Ukrainian school, the so-called “native school.” In the same building there was the “native school” on the third floor, and the Ukrainian gymnasium on the second floor, while first floor was used as a dorm. It wasn’t funded by the government, it was paid for by the community.
[0:05:38] І: Was your school situated in your village?
[0:05:41] W: No-no, it was in Rohatyn. We didn’t have a school, it was a small village, few kids, we all attended school in Rohatyn.
[0:06:06] І: Do you have good memories about that time, going to school before the war?
[0:06:12] W: Yes, very much so. It was our “native school.” Nowadays that building is utilized for a technical school, but back when the Nazis came they turned it into a hospital during the war.
[0:07:55] І: Was Ukrainian the language of instruction for all students?
[0:07:59] W: Yes, it was in Ukrainian, only in Ukrainian.
[0:08:00] І: Did you study Polish at the school?
[0:08.07] W: At our school? No, everything was taught in Ukrainian.
[0:08:22] І: Was your school attended by Ukrainians only?
[0:08:25] W: Yes. There was also a tuition-free Polish school in town, so Polish children went there, even some Ukrainian children whose parents or relatives couldn’t afford “native school” went there. I think that building is called “Red School” nowadays. There was also a “green school,” called like that because it had a green roof.
[0:09:25] І: Did you have any Jewish children at your school?
[0:09:27] W: No. Jewish children probably attended the Polish school, but not the Ukrainian school.
[0:09:43] І: Were there many Jews living in Rohatyn before the war?
[0:09:46] W: Yes, lots. When they were being rounded up and marched to their execution it was impossible to watch, all those little children in their arms.
[0:11:12] І: The year that you saw that column in which the Jews were being marched, was that the same year that the Nazi occupation started, or later?
[0:11:20] W: I think it was in the same year.
[0:11:29] І: Do you recall what time of the year it was?
[0:11:37] W: Autumn. Children were attending school.
[0:11:57] І: Where were you when you saw that column?
[0:12:02] W: I was walking to school with a few children from our village, there were around four of us. We were walking on the side of the road just as they were being conveyed down the main street. It was horrible.
[0:12:44] І: Where were they being marched from?
[0:12:48] W: From the ghetto.
[0:12:56:] І: Was everyone on foot? Were there no carts?
[0:13:00] W: They were all on foot. They were being treated cruelly.
[0:13:08] I: Did they have any belongings with them? Any suitcases?
[0:13:10] W: I don’t remember, perhaps. It’s a terrible pity, you know, because a person is a person, regardless of their nationality.
[0:13:29] І: Were they walking quietly, or crying?
[0:13:34] W: They were crying, screaming, talking amongst themselves. I remember there was one from our village, a little girl, a Jew. She was being hidden, disguised as one of us, you know. She’s in the village now, but I can’t remember where exactly.
[0:14:25] І: When you saw that column, were they being marched, like soldiers, or did they move in a less organized manner, like a crowd?
[0:14:37] W: They each walked in whichever way they could manage. But the poor people knew what was awaiting them…
[0:14:41:] І: Were they being guarded?
[0:14:43] W: Of course, by the Germans, so that they wouldn’t escape.
[0:14:55] І: Were there many German guards?
[0:15:00] W: I can’t remember exactly, but I think there were plenty.
[0:15:02] І: Did the guards have dogs?
[0:15:04] W: I can’t recall with certainty, but I think so.
[0:15:15] І: Did you see the beginning of their column? Was there a rabbi present?
[0:15:23] W: No, no.
[0:15:36] І: Was it possible to communicate with the Jews in that procession?
[0:15:42] W: Of course not, it wasn’t allowed to even look in that direction, let alone talk to them. The people were beaten by those butchers, don’t you know how Hitler was? And afterwards came Stalin to replace him.
[0:16:10] І: Where was that column headed?
[0:16:12] W: They went where those monuments are now. There were so many people buried there that their blood kept seeping through the soil. They poured clay, they poured sand, but blood was still seeping through because so many people were slain.
[0:16:36] І: Where was that place exactly?
[0:16:38] W: At the sewage treatment plant.
[0:17:20] І: Did you follow that column?
[0:17:26] W: No, this was in the opposite direction – I was walking into the city, they were walking out. I couldn’t have followed them anyway, I wouldn’t have been allowed, they wouldn’t even allow us to gaze in the direction of where they were headed.
[0:17:58] І: Did you hear any shots fired that day?
[0:18:02] W: Yes, I did.
[0:18:04] І: Were they solitary shots, fired one by one, or were they fired all at once, en masse?
[0:18:05] W: En masse.
[0:18:14] І: This place where they were shot, is it far from the city center?
[0:18:20] W: Not far. Less than 1 km.
[0:18:50] І: Is that already outside the city?
[0:18:52] W: Back in those days yes, it was outside the city.
[0:19:14] І: Did you happen to go to that place a few days later, perhaps?
[0:19:22] W: Oh no, everyone was afraid to go there. Besides, it was probably being guarded, that place.
[0:19:33] І: How about that ditch, was it dug for this purpose?
[0:19:36] W: Yes, the Jews were made to dig it.
[0:19:47] І: Is that where the monument stands today?
[0:19:49] W: Yes, that’s what they say. I personally haven’t been there. Back in the day there was a brickyard there, with a sliding cliff close to where they were digging. I’m not sure how things are there now. Everyone was afraid of that place, you know.
[0:20:46] І: Did you ever discuss what you had seen with your teacher or classmates?
[0:20:54] W: Yes, well, everyone knew what happened.
[0:20:56] І: But did you discuss it?
[0:20:58] W: No, of course not, that wasn’t allowed.
[0:21:20] І: When the Germans first came, was the ghetto established right away, or were the Jews allowed to stay in their own homes for some time?
[0:21:27] W: At first the Germans didn’t bother them, but afterwards, when the ghetto was put up and enclosed so that they wouldn’t be able to get out, that’s when they started rounding them up.
[0:21:57] І: Can you tell us where was this ghetto located, which streets?
[0:22:05] W: Do you know our Church of Virgin Mary? Well, behind it there was a space. I’ll show you.
[0:22:17] І: How far did the ghetto stretch?
[0:22:21] W: I can’t remember exactly, but, as I’ve said, it started right behind the Church of Virgin Mary and stretched out until the stream. That was its territory.
[0:22:51] І: Was this a district in town that was populated exclusively by Jews?
[0:22:55] W: Yes, there were no Poles there, no Ukrainians either, only Jews.
[0:23:01] І: But before the ghetto was established there, did other nationalities live there and then got evicted?
[0:23:03] W: Yes, yes.
[0:23:18] І: Did you see how the Jews were moved into the ghetto?
[0:23:24] С: No, I didn’t go there.
[0:23:30] W: Was that area enclosed? And if so, was a regular fence or barbed wire used?
[0:23:34] W: Yes, I can’t remember for sure, but I think there was barbed wire.
[0:23:49] I: Did you see that ghetto? Did you walk by it?
[0:23:52] W: Yes, I saw it, it was quite conspicuous. But I never entered the ghetto because my brothers always cautioned me: “Don’t go in there.” But from others’ stories I knew about it… Jews were very kind toward Ukrainians, they would help, because Ukrainians were poorer. If you needed some help, some clothes for the children, they could lend it to you.
[0:25:12] І: Were the Jews ever led out of the ghetto to do work?
[0:25:19] W: I don’t know about that. Probably not.
[0:25:35] І: Before the final operation, did you observe any scenes of cruelty and violence that was inflicted upon the Jews?
[0:25:41] W: No, I haven’t seen anything like that. But there was a forest nearby, and lots of Jews ran to the forest to hide. They were being captured and hunted down in there, but I don’t remember exactly, I don’t know, because I was just a kid.
[0:26:00] І: So you didn’t see any of that?
[0:26:02] W: No. Lots of them ran away to the forest, they were somehow getting by in there, somehow they were feeding themselves. But afterwards I don’t know what happened to them.
[0:26:36] І: Was there only one operation against the Jews? Were they all murdered in that one act?
[0:26:43] W: I don’t know for sure, but probably they had more than one operation. That one was the biggest, but afterwards they probably hunted them down one by one and shot them. I don’t know for sure.
[0:27:15] І: After you saw that column of Jews being marched down the street, were there any Jews still left in the ghetto?
[0:27:22] W: I would think so, they couldn’t have murdered them all at once…. I think, but frankly I can’t say for sure.
[0:27:30] І: Was it obvious that there were still people remaining in the ghetto?
[0:27:31] W: Oh yes, those Germans had their own informants in there, you know.
[0:28:02] І: What happened to the Jews that remained in the ghetto? Were they also executed?
[0:28:15] W: Many of them were hiding out throughout town, in people’s homes. People were hiding them in the attics, in the roofs, giving them food. But people were quite afraid of each other, afraid of being found out, Ukrainians were even afraid of other Ukrainians, because there were spies and informants everywhere. Perhaps you’ve read about this – at St George’s Church Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky saved many Jews during that time. Many Ukrainians were saving Jews.
[0:29:40] І: Were there any Jews hiding out in your village?
[0:29:43] W: At the beginning – yes, but later no. They would come out from the forest, people would give them food. But afterwards, when people started running out of food I’m not sure what happened to them…
[0:30:01] І: Were there any Jews hiding out in your family?
[0:30:04] W: No.
[0:30:12] І: Do you know what happened to their homes and property?
[0:30:22] W: I don’t know. But you know, some people were profiting from that, some people have no conscience. But we didn’t have any of that in our village.
[0:30:50] І: Do you have any particularly memorable episodes from that time?
[0:30:56] W: No, I wasn’t privy to all that, I was the youngest. Do you think they would discuss all that in front of me? If my older brothers and sisters knew something, they would be careful not to tell me. I was little, I could accidentally spill the beans, and then there would be trouble.
[0:31:50] І: And how were the relations between Poles and Ukrainians?
[0:31:57] W: They were all strong people, in my opinion. But I think they all got along with the Jews quite well.
[0:32:23] І: At the end of the war, when the Germans retreated, how did those events unfold here? Were there any battles?
[0:32:30] W: Oh yes, there were big battles. When the Germans were progressing toward Russia things were going very well for them, very smoothly. But then they were halted and, upon retreat, there was a lot of bombing. Rohatyn was bombed a lot, the city was very damaged as a result. They were retreating and destroying everything behind them.
[0:33:22] І: Do you mean your native village or Rohatyn?
[0:33:29] W: Rohatyn. Regarding the village, Germans left no mark, neither upon the occupation nor upon retreat. But when the Soviets expelled the Germans, the partisans, emboldened, came out of the forests. Those partisans were coming out in throngs. I remember, we climbed the cherry tree to pick fruit and became afraid, because it was rumoured that the Soviets were raping the girls. You could expect anything from those Russians, just like with Germans before them. They were all “friends” of Ukrainians. Are you all Ukrainians, by the way? Because I am talking too much.
[0:35:22] І: When [the Soviets] came, was there any violence or murder taking place here?
[0:35:34] W: Not in our small village, but maybe somewhere else, I don’t know.
[0:35:57] І: How about that school that was turned into a hospital during the German occupation?
[0:36:06] W: Yes, that’s right. But who knows, maybe they also treated some Ukrainians there.
[0:36:17] І: But primarily it was a war hospital for German wounded soldiers returning from the frontlines, yes?
[0:36:24] W: Evidently, yes.
[0:36:35] І: We would like to thank you for everything you’ve shared with us. One final question: may we share these insights with history students?
[0:36:44] W: Yes, why not.
[0:36:46] І: Thank you.
Ukrainian-language transcription: Marta Panas-Bespalova
English-language translation: Iryna Lozynska
Text © 2016 Yahad – In Unum.
Rohatyn Jewish Heritage is grateful for the ongoing research and documentation work of Yahad – In Unum, and for their generosity in sharing these testimonies from their collection to support our work in Rohatyn. To learn more about Yahad and to support their work, please visit: