Translation YIU/2098U

Yahad – In Unum Interviews with Rohatyn Holocaust Witnesses


Witness #: YIU/2098U, female, born 1934
Yahad trip #: 45UK, recorded 11Jun2016
Record time: 00:50:00
Languages: Ukrainian, French
I = Interviewer, W = witness

[0:00:15] I: When were you born?

[0:00:17] W: 22 April 1934

[0:00:25] I: Where?

[0:00:27] W: Here. Here, in this place, there was an old house. We put up a new one. I was born here.

[0:00:44] I: And up to the war, was your village the same as now, or was it larger or smaller?

[0:00:52] W: Smaller, it was smaller, and then people began to go to work, to build [houses], and we, too, I went to work at the farm, and because of my work at the farm I built this house. [Translator’s note: the witness is referring to a collective farm] [0:01:20] I: What did your parents do until the war, what was their occupation?

[0:01:25] W: Agriculture. Everyone had a field, and lived off not much. Everyone had two hectares of land, and a cow and horse, and lived in this way. They lived off their field. Dad was an orphan, he was 3 days old when his mother died, and he went to live with strangers. And since they raised him, the [family] field went to these people, because they had raised him. Dad was very poor, he came here from Samuskorely [unclear] from Lviv oblast, came here, got married here and started a family.

[0:02:45] I: Until the war, this was Poland?

[0:02:47] W: Yes, this was Poland.

[0:02:56] I: Did you attend school before the war, or had you not had time yet?

[0:03:00] W: I went [to school] before the war, and during the war, I don’t know in what grade I was in – in second, because now I’m 83, so I was already going to school. I well remember the war. It began with planes flying. At the very beginning, aviation was overhead, dropping bombs, mostly on the city, here near Rohatyn, so people from Rohatyn stayed overnight with us, we took them all in, if there was no room in the house – they slept in the hay, in the attic, if they were not in the house. We hid everyone from the war, from the bombardment.

[0:04:28] I: And during the whole German occupation, did you stay here in the village?

[0:04:33] W: Yes. We lived in the village, my sister was in Germany, they took her to work in Germany. My sister was there with her husband – they were both there. But when they came back, Germany compensated them, they even began to build a house, they gave them money, because they were there. They were there for 3 years, my sister was there for three years and her husband was there for three years, they were in Germany.

[0:05:23] I: During the occupation did you go to school?

[0:05:27] W: I went to school under the Germans, and then also under Soviet rule.

[0:05:33] I: Where was the school under the Germans?

[0:05:35] W: In Rohatyn. We went there to school. There was [a school] here, true, and at first I went here, we had a very nice teacher.

[0:06:06] I: When you went to school in Rohatyn, did you have German-language lessons?

[0:06:10] W: Yes. I even know a bit and can read in German.

[0:06:16] I: Who was your teacher?

[0:06:18] W: She was Fediuk Rozaliia, from Babyntsi, the teacher.

[0:06:44] I: Where was that school in Rohatyn, where you went?

[0:06:47] W: Now it’s school one, it’s still there, that same school. 1st school in Rohatyn.

[0:07:06] I: Under the Germans, what children were with you in school, what nationality?

[0:07:13] W: Here, because we’re such a small district, it was only Ukrainians and Russians, under that regime.

[0:07:19] I: No, under the Germans.

[0:07:21] W: Under the Germans only locals. Yes, only locals.

[0:07:33] I: But were there Jews in Rohatyn?

[0:07:36] W: Jews were in Rohatyn. But they probably had a separate school, because Jews were not with us. In our village, there was a Jewish family.

[0:07:59] I: Do you remember what was the Jewish family’s last name, the one that lived in your village?

[0:08:06] W: I don’t know what they were called.

[0:08:09] I: What did they do? What was their occupation?

[0:08:12] W: They, like everyone in the village, like everyone else in the village, were engaged in agriculture. Their children played with us, their little girl would come over to our house, but then began that movement under the Germans, and they, for some reason, relocated them to Rohatyn. Jews were not in the villages, for some reason they were relocated.

[0:09:12] I: And this family, from your village, did they go on their own or did they arrive here for them, come for them?

[0:09:20] W: The woman, the one who stayed with us, they had a house there in Rohatyn, next to the hospital, and she lived in it. But why did they relocate them, or why they relocated everyone from the villages, or what was it?

[0:09:38] I: So they went there on their own to live, no one took them away?

[0:09:40] W: No, no one took them away.

[0:10:00] I: How did your local Jews go there to live, what happened with their house here, in the village?

[0:10:09]: W: In that house there was a school, and the school began to collapse and it collapsed. It was an old house. And there, in Rohatyn, to this day still stands their house. It stands – right next to the old hospital.

[0:10:46] I: In Rohatyn, did the Jews all live in one place, where they were collected?

[0:10:52] W: No. The Jews lived each in their own house. And they lived, I don’t know whether with my [female] relative, already at the crucial moment. I can’t say for certain, whether they were evicted, or they themselves went there to live. But that woman was very nice, the one from our village. She was of Jewish origin, but she carried her Paska to be blessed, she celebrated the holidays, carolers came to her home. She was such a fine woman, she even once took part, when we had a festival, in a neighboring village, she, together with our women, got dressed in Ukrainian national dress, and tied a fine Turkish scarf over her head, and went with them and performed, sang. She was a very nice woman.

[0:12:37] I: And what happened with the Jews from Rohatyn?

[0:12:41] W: You know what happened to them, with regard to Perenivka, I don’t know, but I heard told, that the woman was lying across from her house, there was a ditch dug there, into which water ran off from the asphalt, that from here to there was such a ditch, and that she was already lying over this ditch, meaning, she came out of the house and was shot. For they didn’t take people, nor shoot them on the spot. And here is a monument even to the Jews, as you enter Rohatyn, maybe. You see, they led people there. Round there was a very high embankment, clay, and so they dug out a large pit. People went to dig, but they didn’t know why, and the Jews also went to dig. Over there, stood a plank, a sort of bridge, and on that bridge, they led a few people at a time and shot them – I saw this. Here we have such a hill, there is a hill, and we were sitting there in a hollow and looking out. They led them in columns, like in a parade. We went to the parade, and it was so separate, yet they were not, there was a very large column, a few of them in a row, and all were being led there. About a kilometer, from our spot, from our hill, from where they killed them. We even heard the shouts: “Oy” – they cried, as they shot each one. And do you think that everyone was killed in a qualitative way? Some were shot, but not killed. Others fell down dead – they were the fortunate ones.

[0:15:40] I: Did you see such a column once or several times?

[0:15:46] W: In winter. The first time – it was winter. My Mom went to town, and said: “Oho, better had I not gone,” – “Why?” – She said: “The Germans somehow recognize the Jews, and distinguish them from people, like myself, as I went to town, nobody bothered me, I thought, what are they hunting, there is shooting, there, but I kept going, – she says, – I went along the path to town.” After, they tell my Mom in town, there is an action against the Jews, that they are killing Jews. Mom arrived, and someone threw to her from a balcony a child, down to the asphalt, it probably died, because it did not cry. She said: “He threw the child, and I didn’t know what to do, to cry, or what.” She went to the woman whom she was visiting, and that woman said: “Come sit for a while in the house.” And there, they led, in whatever they wore, it was winter, marched them out to where now is Roksolana Square, they rounded them up, and for some reason told them all to get on their knees, onto all fours, and they stood thus – on their knees.

[0:17:56] I: Your mother saw this, how they stood on their knees?

[0:18:00] W: Yes, They stood on their knees, there, on where now is Roksolana Square. They rounded them up there. And after where they took to kill them – I don’t know. And then, when I saw such a large column walking, that they were shooting them there, that those who tried to escape were being shot after and falling down. Just like [hunting] for rabbits, a person was nothing.

[0:19:13] I: So this was the first action, this one, that your Mom saw…

[0:19:17] W: In the winter.

[0:19:19] I: And then where did they shoot them?

[0:19:20] W: I don’t know where they took them to be shot. Somewhere around here too. Here, and in Babyntsi, too. Here in all the villages, they shot them. Always, where there was a big embankment, they would dig a pit there, and shoot them there. And, somehow indifferent, when I was little, I watched this, and now I can’t sleep, you know, I remember one such terrible moment, a second, a third… Horrid. Children walked about the village – asked for food, Jewish ones.

[0:20:40] I: Did you see something relating to the second action in Rohatyn?

[0:20:45] W: Back then my Mom told me about the one in winter, and then the one in the summer, about which I’ll tell you. We went out on the hill and observed from a hollow, how they led them in a column. In pairs, just as we used to go from school on parade, that’s how they led them, at least here, we walked in columns. And so, I didn’t know where the end [of the column] was, when the head of it was already here, where they shot them. And the other end – not yet even visible, was back in town. There were very many people, they killed very many then.

[0:21:47] I: And this column, where is it buried, where was the pit dug?

[0:21:54] W: Now that I don’t know, when just leaving Rohatyn, and to the right, where there is a monument.

[0:22:00] I: It’s where the monument is?

[0:22:02] W: The monument was put up there for them, where they were shot. There stands a big monument.

[0:22:22] I: Is this when exiting Rohatyn from the north or the south?

[0:22:26] W: When you are leaving Rohatyn, there is a pharmacy on one side, and on that side, to the right, is a pathway, and immediately – maybe about 100 meters from the asphalt. I thought that you, maybe, had been there.

[0:23:00] I: The brickyard used to be there?

[0:23:05] W: Yes, the brickyard used to be there. But such a very high-high bank. Under this embankment, they dug a pit and killed them there.

[0:23:27] I: And this brickyard no longer exists?

[0:23:30] W: No, it’s gone. There was built a house nearby and there live the Nasalyks, who is in the Verkhovna Rada [parliament], his brother lives there. There, not far from the monument. They live there, built the house there.

[0:24:12] I: You saw one such pit or were there many pits?

[0:24:17] W: I didn’t see that pit, only afterwards did I see it, when everything was already covered, the monument was already put up, that’s all. But, before then, I didn’t see that pit. From the village it’s 1.5 kilometers, Mom didn’t let me. She never wanted her child to look at that. We simply, people, went, and so we went too, and we saw those columns, that were being led, being shot, and how anyone who escaped the column – was shot down. Just like rabbits. Shot and that’s it. The column advanced, but not alone, guards walked around, and shot anyone who left the ranks.

[0:25:35] I: Who guarded the column, when it was being led?

[0:25:38] W: Who guarded it – the military, it was the military who fired. For them – what’s a human life?

[0:25:53] I: Those were guarding, did they have dogs?

[0:25:56] W: Yes, they had everything, they had dogs.

[0:26:12] I: In those columns was it everyone, entire families? Men, women?

[0:26:17] W: And small children. Those adults, probably, were more fortunate, than the child, which was being carried, for it, probably, was not killed, they just fell. Horrible.

[0:26:27] I: Were there any drays in the column? Carts, or did everyone walk?

[0:26:33] W: No, there weren’t any, we didn’t see any carts. Maybe there were some, they carted the dead or wounded, but this was not visible, because that’s a kilometer further away. What I saw clearly, because I was little, was that they are leading columns, they are bringing them there, shooting. That some are escaping – and those are being shot, this was well known to me, but further away, what can I say… We did not wait until the end, there they killed and killed them, and Mom hurried us home.

[0:27:53] I: As they went in a column, did they have among themselves some kind of bundles, or something?

[0:28:00] W: They didn’t have bundles, they were also undressed. There was piles of clothes.

[0:28:20] I: You saw how they were undressed?

[0:28:23] W: This was not visible from the hill. It was said, that there were lots of clothes, that they got undressed.

[0:28:27] I: When you saw this column, you were going to school in Rohatyn?

[0:28:51] W: We went to school in Rohatyn, but we went, as we chose to go to school, and then, when they killed them, we knew when, people went to look, and so I went. What I saw, I’ve told you. That I saw the column, and when people escaped from the column, they were shot at. But from inside that wall, I could not see anything.

[0:29:44] I: You saw how Jews escaped from the column and how they were killed?

[0:29:47] W: Yes, I saw. But there, behind the wall as they were shooting, I did not see. But I heard the shots, and the cries carried up to us, what they screamed.

[0:30:26] I: Approximately how many people did you see who tried to escape? Those who ran out from the column?

[0:30:30] W: Many, at least in the brief time I stood there, until Mom hurried me home, so, maybe, about ten, twenty, I was not counting. But, as people ran out, they shot at them immediately, and they fell down.

[0:31:14] I: You said that you saw that there was a plank.

[0:31:20] W: Well yes, they placed it like a bridge, a board this wide, and they went there. Like so, they went, for example, six people in a row, or five, or however many of them went there, when they were on that plank, they shot them. And they fell, and then came a second group.

[0:31:38] I: You saw this or no?

[0:31:40] W: This was not visible from there, but as others came up, then one could hear the shots.

[0:31:47] I: So you were only told this?

[0:31:49] W: Yes, there were already shots. I couldn’t be there, you know that I would be a liar.

[0:32:15] I: You could not see as the Jews walked up to the pit? This was not visible to you?

[0:32:19] W: No. I could not see. Because there, as you drive into Rohatyn, already on the left side begins the city, there before the old hospitals, there is a road to the left, you can go and look at that monument, and there was such a high, semicircular mound, and they were driven there. I could not see.

[0:33:18] I: When you saw the Jews who were escaping, they were being shot on the road, were there bodies left or were they taken right away?

[0:33:27] W: They took them, back then it was said, that something was poured on them and then they were covered. But, then all, many hid for months or years, but they then took them, did not shoot them on the spot, but took them, I don’t know whether there, where they killed them, or where they were killing them, I don’t know. They led them through our village.

[0:34:33] I: You saw how the Jews were led through your village?

[0:34:38] W: Yes, they were leading a man, Dad said: “God, God, I know him. He is, – he said – unfortunate, and he looked at my yard.” But, there was nothing to say, because he would have killed him too, taken him with him. What, to whom could one speak?

[0:35:11] I: What was the name of the Jew?

[0:35:14] W: I don’t know, but Dad said that he knew him well. He said: “Look, how he, the poor man, looked here at our yard.” And, you know, in the morning when we went out into the woods for mushrooms, in the woods were sleeping children, and their father and mother next to them. I don’t know how many children – whether it was three or four, and Dad woke them up, because it was getting light, to gather [mushrooms], or else others would gather them, we went out all three – Mom, Dad and I, we went out for mushrooms and these children wanted to eat. And when we went out for mushrooms, we always brought bread, Palianytsia – what we had, once there was something to eat. There was always a loaf of bread, Palianytsia, so I tore off some, spread some schmaltz onto it, and the child didn’t know how to thank me. The poor ones wanted to eat, because they were hiding in the woods, they wanted to live, but where were they to go in that world.

[0:36:47] I: When you met in the woods these Jews, who your father woke up, did you speak with them?

[0:36:47] W: We spoke; they were children, just like us. I had a brother up to the war. There was my brother, my mother, father, and me. They spoke; they spoke in Ukrainian. They lived in Rohatyn, so they understood our language, we – them, they – us. They said that they very much wanted to eat, so when we went out a second time, we brought with us food.

[0:37:44] I: Do you know what happened to them after?

[0:37:47] W: Well yes, you don’t know what happened? I am thinking, and surely, you are thinking, what became of them? At some point, they caught them, and took them away like wild animals. What was their future fate? No one can know, well, where they went – so many years…

[0:38:37] I: You say that the Jew, who your father knew, he was being led through your village. Who was leading him? Who was guarding him?

[0:38:46] W: Well, such, there was no dog around them, well, he was being led by soldiers, this is what I mean.

[0:39:04] I: And this man was he hiding in your village, or was he simply being led through it?

[0:39:09] W: No, he was being led, they were searching for him, they were after Jews everywhere – in villages, in the woods, in the fields. And, somehow they could tell apart Jews from our people, I don’t know how. For example, a woman would be walking – no attention, but when a Jewish woman would be walking… Mom said – next to her was walking a girl, he took her by the hand, the one who was the shooter, she began to explain something, to scream, nonetheless, he led her with him somewhere, where they shot them and that was that. But, he didn’t bother my mother, Mom would say, that ladies would walk, and young women, and old, all sorts of people walked, but they could distinguish who were Jews and who were not.

[0:40:25] I: Where were they leading that Jewish man?

[0:40:29] W: To Rohatyn. They were leading him to the city, probably, to that place where they shot them. But the one who escaped, you know yourself, what was his bitter fate, all the same, he did not survive. You see, what kind of fear one had to endure, and famine, and all.

[0:41:01] I: Let us return to that massive shooting – you could hear when they were shooting them?

[0:41:09] W: Yes. We couldn’t see, when they went up to the [mound], and how they fell. Because I tell you, that the hill was semicircular and had an extremely high bank. It was not possible to see, unless you were there.

[0:41:22] I: But you could hear well?

[0:41:23] W: I could hear the cries of children, especially those of the women.

[0:41:28] I: They shot them in queues or one by one?

[0:41:31] W: In queues. Drrrr and silence, drrrr and again, silence.

[0:41:55] I: And about, what you saw, that the Jews running out of the column, were being shot.

[0:42:00] W: That they fell, and that they collected them all into one pit.

[0:42:07] I: When they were shooting, was it from automatic weapons, or shot by shot [one at a time]?

[0:42:12] W: Shot by shot. This way and that, because they escaped in twos or in threes, or one by one, somewhere. And those who went, went to their deaths.

[0:42:52] I: You saw how they collected the bodies?

[0:42:57] W: No, Mom had chased me home by then. They said that they climbed, ran sideways, escaped from that mound, yet everyone was thrown into one pit.

[0:43:25] I: Did you maybe see more such scenes, such as escapes, killings, or acts of violence?

[0:43:34] W: No, I lived in the village, and in the village, this did not take place. These people lived among us but they resettled for some reason before then to Rohatyn. So here there were no more Jews, you’d see them only so often. But all the same, a person doesn’t stand in the road, so they were always being led from somewhere, or they were caught somewhere, whether in the field or in the woods. That’s what it was.

[0:44:27] I: Did the Jews wear some kind of badges, under the Germans, that they were Jews?

[0:44:34] W: No, they wore no badges. And how they knew who was a Jew, I don’t know.

[0:44:56] I: After, when you went to school, did your teacher speak with you? Did you tell her what you had seen? Did you discuss this with anyone?

[0:45:06] W: You know, we did not discuss it, we remember, what it was like under the German authorities, we remember. For this reason, no one mentioned it.

[0:45:42] I: When the war ended, for you, was it liberation?

[0:45:49] W: With the liberation, they dropped, first came the aviation, and dropped bombs on Rohatyn. From Rohatyn, half the population was in the villages. At our home, as I told you, there was no room to put people – they slept in the hay, in the attic. During the day, they went home. Aircraft flew mostly at night, so they went home for a bit. Then came the front, they took the livestock, cows and all. People were here with us, the cows were packed in, because there was not much space in the stable.

The house was full of people. In this building, and in the hayloft, because they were afraid, because everyone wanted to live. Afterward, when the Russians came here, they came here for milk, we gave them, anyone who came, we gave them milk, gave them something to eat. As well as the Jewish children, because a child came and wanted to eat. My brother was the same as me, I would not eat; I gave food away because the poor child wanted to eat. Well, then the front passed and they started to organize the kolkhozes [collective farms]. I earned 9 kg of sugar, 30 kg of wheat and 40 rubles – this was supposed to last the whole year. How did people survive? Somehow, they gathered in the woods beechwood seeds and made oil from them, anything, just to have something to smear, just to survive. It was very difficult. If God would grant that there be no more wars, that these children not see war, because it was terrible, terrible. Children couldn’t sleep, they cried. It was terrifying to get through the night. Everyone feared for his or her life, whether old or young. Everyone wants to live. And now, you see, again there is no peace in Ukraine.

[0:49:29] I: We are very grateful to you for what you have told us. Perhaps we can tell what you told us to others?

[0:49:37] W: Why not? The old remember, and the young want to know.

[0:49:43] I: We thank you.

Ukrainian-language transcription: Marta Panas-Bespalova
English-language translation: Ksenya Kiebuzinski

Text © 2016 Yahad – In Unum.
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