First Volume: World War I Memories

Grodno District

The Olshanians cannot stand us anymore. The complaints and shouting at the Olshani Police Station are reaching the skies. The Germans decide to transfer us to Grodno District, to Volkovisk.

Grodno District Map


Traveling to Grodno District - Volkovisk

When Passover is over , after eight months in Olshani, Chaim the "Politzman" arrives with a wagon and an old horse. He loads our belongings, and the journey of the Vishnivean refugees from Olshani to Volkovisk is on. Each family gets a horse and wagon, and every "Politzman" is given the responsibility by the Germans to transfer safely a group of four families to their destination. His duties also include helping the families settle in the new location. The grown-ups walk almost the entire distance while the children are on the wagons. It is a very long way and the horse is old. German soldiers, too, accompany us. We stop every now and then, boil water and add a bit of sugar we get from the Germans. We drink this special "Tea" and eat a few pieces of bread we got. All are running to relieve themselves behind the trees, and then we move on. It is still cold. There is still snow in the gullies along the road. Green grass is beginning to sprout. The sun is slightly warming and the rain drizzles on and off. I can smell the fresh soil. I remember two soldiers sitting and eating bread and butter. I was hungry and gazed at them, probably with dark, big hungry eyes. They spread butter on the bread and offered it to me, but I refused to accept it because I was ashamed. I remember it took many hours between one stop and another. Anyway, as a child, it looked to me as plenty of hours. We did not change clothing. Who will clean and do laundry on the roads? On the cold nights, we sleep on top or under the wooden wagons with the wooden wheels. The blankets and pillows we took along keep us warm. The horses are being released from the wagons for the night. . We began the journey on Sunday, and arrived towards Shabbat. We were glad that during the trip we were at least given bread, sugar and water.


Exhausted, hungry, and unhappy we arrived in the town of Volkkovisk in the Grodno District. We were welcomed there with "Milchike Halkes", "Kneidlachs", tea, bread and margarine. What can I tell you, I still have their special taste in my mouth. I thought, there is no better place in the world than Volkovisk.

A committee of the Volkovisk Jewish community interviewed everybody in order to find out what kind of "merchandise" had arrived. I remember the shouting, talking and grumbling. Most people behaved like thieves and liars, exaggerating and presenting themselves as real professionals in the interviews. Each one "Gimacht Zich Vichtik" (pretended to be important). They were bragging that "Der Is A Ferd Handler, Und Der Is A Shneider" (this one is a horse dealer and the other one is a tailor). This caused the Volkoviskian Jews, like the Olshanians, to reject us because they saw us as a threat to their livelihood.

The Volkoviskian Jews concluded that they do not have room for the refugees in their town. As you can imagine, I could not care less about it. . I am not hungry; the stomach is not clucking, and that's it!

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Vichodnitza - The Picturesque Village

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