Lososna, April 1943
My dearly beloved surviving sisters, brother in law and nephews,
Everyone, everyone has perished: all of the more than thirty members of our closest family, together with several hundred of our good friends and tens of thousands of Jews from our city – all of them were taken to a place from which no one has returned – a horrible place, whose name will survive in the history of the worst kind of Fascist barbarism – Treblinka near Malkinia….The last transport left Grodno on 12 March this year, and from that day Grodno is considered Judenrein [clean of Jews]. All together there were over 50'000 Jews transported from our city, including small shtetl Jews herded in from the closest villages. Any attempt to hide or run away ended in the worst torture and finally with a bullet. In the old cemetery near the fish market, to this day, there are piles of hundreds of those shot or tortured. Of the town Jews alone there were 11 transports in half a year….
All have perished. Only I am alive as of today. I stay alive and torment myself as I wait for death each day and each hour. (or perhaps deliverance – Geulah?) How I am still alive is something that even I cannot understand. Looking back I can say that I ran away at least 15 times, hid myself, always keeping in mind the inevitability of death. Considering the possibility of death under the hail of bombs which I experienced many times, I came through lightly wounded only in my foot….In the meantime I am alive due to luck. First of all – I had the audacity to run away. Second, I had a good Christian friend outside the ghetto who helped me run away, and third and most important, I have my dearest Katya in this world. It sounds so easy "to run away". Months earlier I prepared myself for it. I studied all the "weak spots" in the barbed wire and wooden fences of the ghetto. (I helped quite a few people escape through these fences to the forest). I was able to get information on what was going on through the help of several sympathetic Jewish policemen, for example Moshe Belah, Czernow, (Berta's uncle) and moshe alesandrowicz. I found out when there was a change of guards and where there were certain gendarmes whom we knew could be bribed. I prepared a selection of various documents, a pocket in which there would always be several hundred Marks (from Mrs. Karan – 200 Marks, from Czernow – 250 Marks, from Bokser – 300 Marks) and so on. A "ness" [miracle] happened to me. (As you can see miracles also require some of our help). I will not explain the details of the escape, now because it would take up at least half of the notebook. In short I ran away directly after the tenth transport (one before last). That means that tonight it is eight weeks since I came running to Katya on a dark night. With the greatest caution I was hidden, so that no one noticed, in a potato cellar. My "dwelling" is made up of two "rooms" – a damp dark cellar with four full bins of potatoes, and a tiny room at the entrance that is 2 by 3 steps and has a tiny window. I must not be found in the house. She has only one small room with neighbors on one side and often strangers come into the house. I have to be very careful because not only I will be shot, but she, the neighbors and the children too. My nearest neighbors are two little pigs. May they be well. Katya brings me food in their pot three times a day, making it appear that she is feeding the pigs. I sleep in the cellar on the potatoes. Of late I have been sleeping in the entrance on two boards and a piece of plywood. Outside it is still quite cold. (imagine how it was two months ago!) Snow is still falling and there is still frost. I would have frozen without Katya. She made a mattress from old sack, gave me an old coat, and an old quilt, a wood shawl for my head, a pair of gloves and a small pillow. Obviously, I haven't even tried to take off my coat except once when Katya brought me a pair of underwear of her husband's to wash mine. You must understand that I left in a great hurry and didn't take even a handkerchief.
Dear Katyinka. It is difficult to express what she means to me. A mother wouldn't have done as much. She is a poor woman, without land, and without a cow, who cares for me as best she can. She doesn’t hold anything back from me, not only potatoes and bread (in the ghetto bread was 5-6 Marks a kilo), but even an egg, a piece of meat, a little milk, which is still as valuable as gold. She cares for me as though I were a small child, even empties the bedpan every day. Before dawn she is on the watch to see that everything is covered. She reassures her husband to ease his anxiety, because he is afraid for himself and his children. She brings me a newspaper several times a week and all sorts of good news from town. She also brought this notebook on her own initiative, saying "You are so sad sitting this way thought long days. Please write everything down for Tieba and Estherka. In case I am unable to watch over you, at least let them know what has happened to you."
Indeed, her ability to look after me is still in great doubt. My chances, as those of others who are hiding, are not great. Almost every day, even now, they fall upon hidden people and shoot them. Just the day before yesterday they captured Seidl (Ber) Abramovitz and his son (Hershel's brother). He gave a Christian tens of thousands of Marks and still he was betrayed. There are also other cases when people paid all of their money and were then turned over to the gendarmes anyhow. So it is no wonder that my days and nights are filled with fright. All day long I look out the window to the road to see if there are any gendarmes coming. I shudder at every noise and I am on my feet as soon as the sun comes up. If I suspect anyone is searching, or that gendarmes are around the village, I run away to the woods for whole days. There I lay in a pit, in snow or rain, and come back at night to "my place" in the cellar (I write standing, so that I can watch the road at the same time.). This past week I have been living in anxiety. Though a foolish mistake I was seen by a neighbor woman. You can understand how frightened this has made me! It is fortunate she is related to the old man and has promised Katya to keep our secret. I hope so!!! I am so thankful to Katya for the notebook. Now, even if disaster befalls me, I will die peacefully, knowing that she will send the notebook to you, and you will have a remembrance of me and of what we lived through here!! In the meantime, I remain patient, wait on and dream. I dream a lot. First of all I dream of the battle with the bloody enemy, of the partisans, of paratroopers and the front coming closer. If by summer nothing changes, I will not remain here and will go to the partisans in the forests. My second dream is to break away from the enemy and suddenly fly away, and then I'll meet a surviving, living Liza Chapnik and Bert's little Alinka (we made Liza documents as a Pole and she lives in bialystok with the little one.) and probably Grisha Chapnik and his wife who also have false papers. I do not expect to meet any others close to us. In the end, I dream of myself and of my seeing you. I arrange my meeting with you, with the aunts and uncles and cousins, friends and acquaintances. I dream of Esterka, of the warmest heartfelt meeting with her first of all. Together with my meeting with friends comes a warm meeting with Havka Cukiernik. Looking back when I make this "heshbon nefesh" [introspection], I believe that of the many women that have gone through my life, she left the deepest impression. That far reaching are my foolish dreams….If I die, you must generously compensate Katya and her husband for all that she has done for me. Jan and Katzshina Karieva – Lososna village near Grodno. Whatever you will pay will not be a thousandth of what she has done for me!! ….