“Now it was all empty” – Returning to Wolbrom after Liberation
“…Following the German defeat in Stalingrad and as the Red Army was victoriously advancing, the Soviet radio began to announce the list of towns that had been liberated by the Red Army. I waited impatiently to hear about the liberation of Wolbrom. We had known for a long time about the terrible destruction of Polish Jewry, but the knowledge that nothing remained in Wolbrom had not reached me.
My heart trembled on the day the liberation of Wolbrom was announced. The same day I wrote two cards to Wolbrom. One to the municipality and the other to Mr. Mazorak, where my brother had been staying. I wanted to know if someone from my family had survived. I received no answer….
…The Poles regarded the returning Jews as if they were demons from another world. The question: ‘why are you still alive?’ was asked by all. Some expressed it in words, others with a look in their eyes. We returned to Poland with no roof over our heads, without friends, but full of hope….
And I decided to return to Wolbrom….
…We were slowly walking in the empty street. I saw heads looking at us from behind closed windows. Someone may have recognized me. And I walked and looked around me. It was the same street, the same houses, but not the same people. I saw many known faces of non-Jews, and continued walking while the walls were screaming about the terrible tragedy that had taken place.
How was an entire community that had been living and working and creating for hundreds of years been so brutally destroyed?
I felt regret for having returned. I was helpless and unable to take it all in. I was too afraid to walk around, to see the faces and remain quiet. And I walked on. Here was the street where I once lived. Here is the municipality, here are the homes of the families Alter and Salzman. And here is the market place…Here thousands of Jewish souls had weaved their dreams about equality and freedom. So much joy used to fill this square in the evenings. Now it was all-empty. Here were the former Jewish shops….
And a heavy silence reigned everywhere. I felt death was all around me, and couldn’t move. Strangers were standing at the entrances to the shops and watching me…..”
Moshe Lubling in Wolbrom Irenu