Chaim Gorelik was born in 1918 (according to his military papers – in 1917) in the shtetl of Parichi, near Bobruisk in eastern Belorussia. He graduated from a 7-year Yiddish school. For a long time Yiddish was his main language and he read Russian and French classical writers in Yiddish translation. In 1933 Chaim entered the Road Tekhnikum (technical college) in Minsk. After graduating in 1937, he was drafted into the Red Army, in which he served until 1939. Between 1939 and 1941 Gorelik worked in western Belorussia for a military technical office.
With the beginning of the Soviet-German war in June 1941, the agency where Gorelik worked was evacuated eastward. His parents left Parichi on their own. In January 1942, Gorelik was drafted again and sent to a cavalry school in the Urals. In December of that year, he graduated with the rank of lieutenant and was assigned to the 6th Cavalry Division as the commander of a platoon of a special saber unit. Most of the men in his unit were Cossacks. Contrary to the widespread view, cavalry was used during World War II by both the Soviets and the Germans alike and saber attacks took place at the front. Gorelik recalled that in March 1943, when his division was fighting in the Don region (on the so-called Mius Front, in the Russian-Ukrainian border area), his Cossack unit had to fight against a Don Cossack unit which was on the side of the Germans. Thus, Soviet Cossacks clashed with Cossack collaborators with the Germans. In one of the battles on the Mius Front Chaim was wounded in the buttock. When he came to be treated, the surgeon Major Lebedin, said that they had no painkillers so that Chaim would have to undergo the operation without them. Chaim responded: "Then can I sing?" Being a good singer, he sang Russian songs during the operation, during which Lebedin pulled removed small shell fragments from his wound. By chance, this surgeon operated on Gorelik twice more: in eastern Belorussia in 1944 and in February 1945 in German Pomerania. On those occasions the doctor asked the patient whether he was going to sing. Both times the answer was positive.
More than once the cavalryman Chaim Gorelik had to fight hand-to-hand against the enemy. In one case, in the summer of 1943 near Smolensk, in western Russia, his adversary, as previously, was a Russian collaborator of the Germans. After having been disarmed, this soldier in German uniform suddenly suddenly yelled out in native Russian. With desperation, he called on the Red Army men to turn their weapons against the "anti-Christians," meaning the Bolshevik commissars and the Yids. Instead of taking this turncoat prisoner, Gorelik shot him dead.
In another incident, while fighting in Belorussia, Gorelik himself was disarmed. Refusing to give up, Gorelik grabbed a piece of wood from a nearby fence and began to beat the Germans with the improvised weapon.
His Cossacks respected and even loved their Jewish commander, whom they trusted as an experienced officer.
Gorelik ended the war in Germany, on the Elbe River, where his unit met the U.S. Army. During the war he was awarded two military orders (those of the Red Star and of the Patriotic War, 1st Class) and a number of medals.
After the war Gorelik continued in army service. He retired in 1962 and settled in Moscow, where he worked as a construction engineer. In 1964 he began to write his war memoirs.
In 1991, Chaim Gorelik and his family emigrated and settled in Brooklyn, New York. In 2001, together with his son Gennadii, he published a book of memoirs titled Lekhaim, ili Khaim na kone [Lechaim, or Chaim on Horseback] in New York City. The book is in the form of a dialogue between Chaim and Gennadii. The last chapter of the book deals with the Holocaust in Chaim's native shtetl of Parichi.
Chaim Gorelik died in 2011.
Was it necessary to take revenge on German civilians?
Most of Chaim Gorelik's family survived the war. Perhaps because of this, he opposed taking revenge on civilians in Germany. Some of his front-line comrades had a different view.The commander of another platoon in Gorelik's unit was Mikhail Milashevskii from Kiev, a graduate of Kiev University. Milashevskii was a Ukrainian by nationality, but his wife was Jewish. After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, he was drafted into the Red Army. His wife and two children failed to leave Kiev and were killed at Babii Iar. Milashevskii learned about this at an early stage of the war and went amok taking revenge on Germans. In April 1945 Gorelik had a remarkable conversation with Milashevskii, which he included in the first draft version of his memoirs in 1964:
"He asked me:
– How many Germans have you taken revenge on for the death of your loved ones?
– In hand-to-hand combat – eight or ten of them, but when I used a machine gun, I don't know how many.
– That's not what I mean. [I mean] civilians or [what I refer to as] disguised fascists?
– I do not do that.
– That means that you are not doing what you should.
– And what about you ...?
– Only [let it remain] between us. In any place where I encounter German men, I talk to them or ask others to find out who they are. If I find out that he is a Nazi, I deal with him myself.
– How, where?
– Maybe in the woods, or in a barn, or in a cellar, but I do not leave them alive
How many of them he killed, I do not know, but he knew German well and told me this in such a convincing manner that I believed him."
Kindling a fire on the Sabbath
"In the fall of 1945 our division was stationed in the Polish town of Hrubieszów, in Poland near the border with Ukraine. […] One day I was going around town on some business and […] Senior Lieutenant Iasha Bialik was with me […] We were walking together and met two men, speaking Yiddish. I stopped them and spoke to them in Yiddish. They were very surprised to see Jewish Cossacks and invited us to visit them.
[During our visit] the residents of the house asked us to stay for dinner, but it was time for us to go. At their urgent request, we promised them to come the next day, Saturday, for lunch. This was during the Jewish high holidays.
On Saturday, we arrived quite late, and the festive meals were already cold. But the host said that everything would be all right – he would warm up the food. And he began to light a primus stove. I knew that according to the laws of the Jewish religion it was forbidden to light a fire on the Sabbath. […] So I asked him: 'Why are you lighting a fire on the Sabbath, aren't you afraid of God?'
Responding, he related to me what happened in their shtetl when the Germans came:
'It was the Sabbath, the Jews were praying in the synagogue. The Germans surrounded the building, drove everyone out onto the street, and forced them to take the prayer books and Torah scrolls out of the synagogue. They lit a fire and began to throw the books into it. In front of everyone. Our rabbi was with us. [...] While the Germans were throwing the books into the fire, the rabbi looked on with horror, but did not utter a word. When they took the Torah scroll, he tried to grab it, attempting to prevent them from doing such an evil thing. Then, without thinking twice, they tied the rabbi to the Torah scroll and threw them into the fire. Along with the prayer books and Torah scrolls, he was consumed before our eyes ...
So if God could allow this, then let Him forgive me for warming up on the Sabbath a meal for Jews who fought against the Nazis and gave them what they deserved for their evil deeds ...'
He spoke mostly in Yiddish, but sometimes switched to Polish ..."
 Gorelik, Gennadii; Gorelik, Chaim; Lekhaim, ili Khaim na kone [Lechaim, or Chaim on Horseback]. Seagull Press, 2001.
 The episode is confirmed by Captain I. Neumoiev, the commander of Gorelik's cavalry unit and a Hero of the Soviet Union: "Iefim [sic!] Gorelik fought heroically. But suddenly a German knocked out his saber out of his hand. Iefim did not lose his head. He snatched a stake from a picket fence and began to beat the Germans with the stake. In this battle Iefim Gorelik killed 8 Germans." Quoted from the same internet site.
 Gorelik, Gennadii; Gorelik, Khaim; Lekhaim, ili Khaim na kone [Lechaim, or Chaim on Horseback]. Seagull Press, 2001.