By Elaine Rosenberg Miller
The Times of Israel, APR 26, 2019
My father was born in Ulanow, Poland and my mother, in Ruscova, Romania.
The war started for him on September 1, 1939 when the Luftwaffe bombed their small town. A missile landed landed on their house, demolishing it.
Six weeks later, a Yiddish speaking Russian soldier knocked on the door of his maternal grandparents’ house where they had taken refuge and said “We’re leaving in the morning. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll come with us.”
The family, together with an aunt and her family, fled east to the U.S.S.R. with the retreating Soviet troops.
They lived in Lemberg for a few months and then were transported by cattle cars to Siberia where they were left to fend for themselves.
They lived in uninsulated wooden barracks, starving and lice ridden. After two years the Soviet authorities told them they could relocate to designated cities.
They had a family meeting. Someone said “We’ve been freezing for years. Let’s go someplace warm.”
They chose Tajikistan.
They traveled by rail to the Urals, then on to Tajikistan.
They found themselves living among ethnic Russians, Tajiks and Bukharan Jews.
My father, a mechanic, was chosen from the motor pool to be a chauffeur and bodyguard for the First Secretary of Tajikistan, Dmitri Protopovov. He and his family relocated to an apartment in Stalinabad. He carried a firearm.
Protopovov would have him drive to the collective farms where he often told my father to fill up the trunk of the car with food for his family. In May, 1945 an announcement was broadcast on the outdoor loudspeakers.
The war was over.
Protopovov told my father, 25, “We like you very much and want you to stay in the Soviet Union.”
My father said “I have learned so much about the glories of communism, I want to go back and teach it to the Polish people.”
He let him go.
He and his family traveled west to Stettin, Poland.
After a few days, they moved on to the American Zone of Occupied Germany.
My father threw the Order of Stalin medal given to him by the First Secretary in a river.
My mother was 19 when the Germans invaded her bucolic northern Romanian village.
She had completed her apprenticeship in “schneideriai” (tailoring) and had purchased a sewing machine.
On the first night of Passover, 1944, a young Wehrmacht soldier knocked on the door of their stone house. Her father invited invited him in and explained the Passover settings. The soldier left.
Within days my mother, her parents and older sister were forced to relocate to Viseul des Sus. On Shavuoth they were transported to Auschwitz. Her parents were gassed upon arrival.
Three months later, my mother and her sister were transported to Wustegiersdorf, a munitions factory in southeast Poland.
She was liberated on May 8, 1945 by the Soviets.
Next month (Iyar) is their yahrzeits. (Commemorative Day of their deaths)
They both died at 92, four years and four days apart.
My father died first.
We never told my mother.
She had memory loss by then.
Once or twice she asked “Where’s your father?”
“He’s not here” I said slowly.
She said nothing further.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her book. FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES will be published by Adelaide Books in 2019.
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