...Luck played its cruel games with my life… I was born in Tel Aviv, but because my family decided to show me to the grandparents who were living in Poland, I found myself in the killing fields of Ukraine.
I had sailed to Poland with my mother, who returned after a short time to join my father. I was supposed to return home with my grandfather and grandmother, who also wanted to immigrate to the Land of Israel, but then the war broke out.
When the Russians invaded Poland, we, the "bourgeois", managed to flee from my grandparents' village and go to Lwow, where my uncle lived. This saved us from being sent to Siberia. With great effort they managed to get me a seat on the last airplane that left independent Poland, but because I had appendicitis, I missed my first trip on an airplane.
We were in Lwow when the Germans invaded, and then were put in the Lwow ghetto. At this time we were still together: grandfather, grandmother, my aunt, my uncle and I. My uncle, Dr. Itzhak Bretfeld, continued to teach and my aunt worked in a factory run by Germans. I would join her every day to her workplace, because my uncle and others believed I was safer there than in the ghetto. Like my aunt, others too brought their children along to the factory, and we were a couple of dozen Jewish children in an allegedly safe environment.
One terrible day when we returned from work we found the house empty. An Aktion had taken place and my grandparents were taken. I remember the moment when I lifted my eyes and saw my little shoes hanging on the ceiling lamp, as if my grandparents were asking my uncle and aunt to do everything possible to save their only grandchild who had been trapped in the killing fields. I kept going with my aunt to her work, but the notion of there being a safe place was brutally destroyed, when one day the Germans burst into the factory and took all the children. My aunt managed to hide me under a big table that was covered with a green tablecloth and gave me a bottle to relieve myself in. I sat there trembling with fear and never stopped peeing. Soon the bottle was full and the floor and shoes got wet. The search for the children went on and on, until my turn came. A German soldier lifted the tablecloth and shone his flashlight in my direction. It was as if our eyes met, but he let the tablecloth go and went on. Maybe he didn't see me, or possibly he was blinded by the smell, and perhaps it was some divine force that ordered him not to see me. It is a fact that only I and another three children survived out of several dozen who were there. Only a miracle can explain what happened there, under the table.
Like every other survivor, who without a series of miracles could not have survived the Holocaust, I too experienced several such miracles and survived. The most important one was Metropolitan Szeptytzki's willingness to hide me in one of his monasteries. My uncle did everything to save my life. He looked for a place for me to hide, and found a contact to the Metropolitan's castle. We went to him.
I remember well our entering a large room full with books. In that room sat an elderly person with a white long beard. On his two sides stood two priests, and he talked to my uncle and patted my hair. He turned to me to examine my knowledge of the Ukrainian language. I was well acquainted with the language because I had learned it from my surroundings in my grandparents' village. After consulting with the other priests, Metropolitan Szeptytzki gave me a Ukrainian name, Droko Brorovtzki, and asked one of the priests to take charge of me. It was the only time I met the Metropolitan, and the last time I saw my uncle, who was murdered on the day the Germans retreated from Lwow by the A.K – the Armia Krajowa – the national Polish Underground.
Following this meeting I stayed with the priest who then brought me for several days to a convent. From there I was taken for some days to a monastery, then for a few months to the home of a Ukrainian village priest so that I would improve my knowledge of Ukrainian and learn the Ukrainian prayers and customs.
Within several months I became a complete gentile and was taken to the boarding school in the monastery in the village of Uniow. There were some 30 Ukrainian children and also two Jewish children: Levko – nowadays Dr. Leon Chameides, and Adam – nowadays Prof. Adam Daniel Rotfeld. The first lives in the United States, and the second is probably known to most of you – he lives in Poland and served as Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs. The head of the school, Monk Daniil, instructed us, the three Jewish children, how to be cautious, especially, as I remember, not to relieve ourselves in company as others did while working in the fields. Since we washed in a bathtub in pairs, we had to make sure to wash only with each other or with Monk Daniil himself. This was the only difference between us and the other children. We learned and prayed each day in the monastery's church, worked in the fields, had chicken and geese, took the cows and sheep to the pasture (until the Germans came and confiscated the livestock), and picked mushrooms or berries in the forests.
In addition to us, Father Daniil gave permission to a Jewish family (father, mother and their two little children) to stay in the farm. They lived and slept in a cart that was covered with cloth and the monks gave them food. Whenever a German unit approached the monastery, they would take the cart and disappear in the forest. Thus they stayed for a long time, until one day they disappeared. The rumors said on the one hand that they had found a safer place, and on the other hand that they had been murdered by the Banderovci, the Ukrainian nationalist underground that controlled the forests. When the German soldiers were on their way to the village, we, the Jewish children, were also ordered to remain in an isolated room in order to prevent any encounter with the Germans, since we didn't have a typically Ukrainian exterior….
One day the rumor spread that the Germans had run away and the Russian Army liberated the area. Foolishly I declared with pride that I was Jewish, but there was still danger from the Ukrainian underground. Later, Leon Chameides and I tried to reach the nearby village from where there was transportation to Lwow. But the Russian army brought us back to the monastery. A short time later one of the monks brought me to another monastery in the Lwow area, and from there I was brought to Rabbi Dr. David Kahana, who served as the chief rabbi of the Polish army. Thus I returned to Judaism, to life without fear and finally to my parents in the Land of Israel.