Vishnive After the War

My cousin Shlomo Elishkevich was a partisan. He was a fighter who survived the horrible war. The following is a continuation of his story.

Vilna is Liberated - the War is Over

After the liberation of Vilna we were informed that each of us had three weeks to decide what he wanted to do next. I was given three options - stay in the militia in Vilna, join the NKVD, or be a commander of a POW camp. I told them that I had left my family in Vishnive. Maybe someone survived. I had many Gentile acquaintances who might know something about my family. I asked to go to my shtetl and also asked for an escort. One could not just simply travel, as you could be arrested or drafted. I got official approval to go back to Vishnive, escorted by my old friend Yechezkel (Chazkel) Glik.

I Arrived in Vishnive

Upon arrival I understood from conversations with the Gentiles that my whole family had perished. We went to the mass grave on Krave Street. We stood there for a long time. There was nothing to be said. The site spoke for itself. The bones of our martyrs who tried to escape were still scattered all over the fields. I wept seemingly without end as I remembered my family - parents, sisters, brother, my wife and my little son. I cried about my own sufferings during the war. Then we went to the mass grave of the first thirty-eight martyrs at the Jewish cemetery. I could not be consoled.

Yechezkel Glik became a big "Nachalnik" (manager) of the forests and helped me a lot. Before the war I owned a dairy business. During the war my machines, such as the centrifuge and other equipment, were distributed among my Gentile friends. I gathered back the equipment and rebuilt my dairy operation. I became "Meister Director Masla-Farm" (Dairy Manager).

I spent a whole year in Vishnive. There were fifteen Jews in town. Some of them were from the Minsk area. All of us lived in one house. The town was mostly burnt except some houses on the outskirts. The Poles were shooting at us at night from the forest. Every now and then we had to take cover and hide behind a nearby hill. Then we were asked to rejoin the military. There were rumors I was supposed to go to Korea. I had a friend at the Zaget-Pekat in Berlin. He and his manager visited Volozhin. At that time there was nothing to eat in Vishnive and everybody used to come to taste something at my shop. He and his manager came to me and asked to eat something in my place. I had butter, cheese, sour cream and pork. They had a big dairy operation in Berlin which they took from the Germans. I asked if I could work for them since I was a professional in the dairy industry. His manager decided to send me to Berlin.

I was on the road again. After paying a bribe, I was able to cross the border from the USSR to Poland. Local Jews convinced me not to work for the Russians anymore and try to go to Eretz Israel. After tortuous wanderings and stops in Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria, I joined a group of 1500 ex-partisans in Italy in an attempt to illegally immigrate to Palestine aboard a converted cattle ship. Our ship was prevented from sailing by the British who told the Italian authorities to stop us. Several attempts were made to remove us from the ship. We told them that this was our last stand. We would not return to any refugee camp. We would sink the ship and die if they touched any of us. We had a hunger strike. Many people became severely sick, fainted and were taken to Italian hospitals. Finally after a standoff of several weeks and the intervention of the British ambassador to Italy, the British issued "Certificates" (immigration visas) for us. We boarded another ship and made "Aliyah" to Eretz Israel at the end of 1946.

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