Aleksandr Shvartsblat was born as Sender Shvartsblat in 1929 in Rafałówka, Eastern Poland. 1 In September 1939, this area (Polish Volhynia) was occupied by the Soviets, and subsequently, in July 1941 – by the Germans. Under the German occupation, a ghetto was established in Rafałówka, and in August 1942 its inmates, ca. 2,400 Jews, were shot by the Nazis. Shvartsblat, like some other Jews, succeeded in escaping during the liquidation of the ghetto. After a month of wandering, he was hidden by a Ukrainian Baptist family, the Oshurkos, who lived on the khutor (i.e., isolated farm of Iurkove. Nikolai and Mariia Oshurko and their six children were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1988. Shvartsblat lived with the Oshurkos for eight months; in June 1943 he joined some Soviet partisans. In February 1944, when the area was recaptured by the Soviets, the partisan unit was disbanded and the adult partisans were mobilized into the Red Army. Shvartsblat visited Rafałówka only to learn that, apparently, not one member of his family had survived (he did not know at that stage that his father Menahem had been drafted and was fighting with a Polish division formed in the Soviet Union). On the seventh day after the dissolution of his partisan unit, Aleksandr arrived at the village where the headquarters of the Soviet 47th Army was located and asked to be enlisted. He dreamed of serving in a tank regiment, but was too young to be drafted. Fortunately, at the headquarters Captain Isaak Kutnik, an officer in the supply service and the head of the Voientorg (abbr. for military trade body) of the 47th Army, began to speak with Aleksandr in Yiddish. "I explained to him my motives in volunteering for a frontline unit", recalled Shvartsblat. In response Captain Kutnik proposed that the young man serve in the supply service; he promised that the youth would accompany supply convoys. 2 Despite his formal status of civilian employee (vol'nonaemnyi), Shvartsblat received a Red Army uniform. With the 47th Army, Shvartsblat took part in the forcing of the Western Bug River (the postwar eastern border of Poland), saw the site of the former Sobibór death camp, and found himself in the right-bank suburb of Warsaw named Praga at the end of 1944. In January 1945 when he was released from the Red Army, he arrived in Równe (the largest city in Volhynia), where Jewish survivors from the vicinity began to gather. Of all his family, only his father Menahem had remained alive.
In 1945 Aleksandr Shvartsblat repatriated to Poland and settled in Warsaw. There he joined a group that intended to immigrate to the Land of Israel. In 1946 he departed from Marseille aboard the ship "Yagur." Near Haifa, the ship was intercepted by the British and forced to stop in Cyprus. In December 1946 Shvartsblat was admitted to Palestine as a legal immigrant. In Israel, he changed his last name to Sarid (Hebrew for "survivor").
Aleksandr's father Menahem (1901-1993) served with the 2nd Polish Army (that fought under the aegis of the Red Army) as a soldier in a company of heavy machine-gunners. He survived the war. After the war Menahem remarried. Until the 1980s, he avoided referring to his war experiences.
- 1. There were various ways of spelling his name with Latin letters at different periods of his life in different locations: Szwarcblat (in Poland), Schwarzblatt (in Mandate Palestine), etc. Here we choose to use the spelling Shvartsblat, corresponding to the Russian spelling of his last name when he was in the Red Army.
- 2. Aleksandr Sarid-Shvartsblat, Hisardut, Raanana: Docostory, 2008, p. 46.