Fanya , My Angel

From the testimony of Masha Wolfstal nee Dreizen

Masha was 10 years old when the Germans occupied her hometown, Kamien Koszyrski, Ukraine. She escaped from the ghetto with her father, but eventually was separated from him, and wandered all alone in the countryside, occasionally staying with peasants or with partisans. At one point she was lying in the forest, totally helpless. The following is an account she wrote in the Memorial Book of Rafalowka:

It must have been the end of 1943. I say her face for the first time in the forest, on a winter morning. I was about 10 or 11 years old, a helpless and emaciated girl, lying abandoned in the woods. I was sitting under a tree, rolled up like a bundle of rags. We had escaped from another part of the forest trying to evade a assault by Ukrainians and Germans. I was all alone, because the escapees ran on and no one wanted to take me alone. My pleading and begging was in vain.

In the morning something unbelievable happened. A person, looking like an angel – wearing beautiful warm clothes of an non-Jew – bent down and talked to me with a soft and pleasant voice. I believe and disbelieve. Is it a passing dream or reality. It was reality. Fanya went on to ask me about my family, and from my responses realized that I was all alone. From that moment on I was Fanya’s ward. Fanya took me to her, warmed me and brought me to a Baptist family to take care of me. These non-Jews, were very devout Christians and believed that Fanya was a holy woman. They fulfilled all her wishes. From that moment on I also believed that Fanya was perhaps an angel. She was so beautiful and good.

I stayed with the Baptist family. I would be daydreaming, wishing for Fanya to come. She never failed me. Fanya, smiling, would come almost every Sunday.

One day we were told that the Russians are advancing and the Germans are retreating. Airplanes began flying over us – this time these were “our” airplanes, Russian.

I asked myself: what would become of me? – Fanya didn’t leave me any doubts. She cane and took me to Rafalowka. These were the final days of the war. Holocaust, days of destruction, but also days of our survival.