When the war started, they were not expecting it in their city. They were quickly surrounded by Germans and it was full of soldiers. Their own soldiers got out of the city by swimming through the lake to the woods nearby. She and her babies stayed behind.
Anya hid her two daughters in their town of Nicapol, Ukraine. Her husband was fighting at the front. She and her babies hid all over the town during the entire war. “We lived in barns, “dungeons” [basements], friends’ houses, constantly moving. People were sneaking around the town searching out the Jews. The Germans and Ukrainians would pay them for finding us.”
Anya became the contact between the soldiers and the people in the city. She helped to provide food for their soldiers who were part of the underground, the Partisans. She had two baby girls and was expecting a third. She was hiding, taking her children, changing places to stay, never staying two days in one house. She hid with different people all the time.
The policemen of their town turned traitor and turned in Jews. They constantly were asking her if she was a Jew. They would come get her in the middle of the night and she had to take her children with her, and they would question her all night.
Some young men in the town learned to kill pigeons with slingshots, and would bring them to the people for food. One day they brought her a pigeon but it was only stunned and still alive. She decided to keep it in a cage.
Soon the authorities raided their house again and saw the live pigeon. Since they knew there was an underground operation somewhere nearby, and the Germans had not been able to find it, they assumed it was a homing pigeon. They took her to the police station and interrogated her, beating her severely even though she was pregnant. They suspected her to be part of the underground and thought she was sending messages. In spite of the beating, and her babies watching, she never gave them any information.
“I never told them anything.” Anya had a huge smile and her eyes twinkled. Leaning forward she said, “Even when they beat me and I tried to shield my unborn baby, I never told them one thing and did not give one name away.”
Finally, one policeman who was a friend wrote a paper saying she was not a Jew and got 10 witnesses to sign it. It helped and they stopped coming after her. When it was time for her baby to be born she went underground where the food was hidden for the soldiers. She gave birth there, alone, but her son died.
She and her girls, 6 mos and 1 ½ at the beginning of the war, ate whatever other people gave them. Everyone shared with one another. No one could go out during the day, but only at night. She remembered the constant bombing, the windows breaking, the glass flying everywhere, dead people lying around.
Anya started to cry – we told her she did not have to continue and we were sorry for upsetting her by remembering. She was crying for that but also because of friend of hers had just died. She was very sad. We again told her she did not have to say anymore. But then she started speaking – words spilling out so fast and sobbing in between- she felt she must tell us!
She remembered: “Everyone could only go to the lake at night or early morning to get water because the Germans guarded it the rest of the time. One morning the Partisans who were hiding in the woods came out early morning to get some water. I was there.
“The Germans showed up and began mowing them down with their machine guns. I remember seeing the Partsan’s falling, falling, running to try to escape but they couldn’t get away! One man was crawling after he fell but the Nazi’s kept shooting and shooting – as they fell I could not move; I just watched and the water of the lake turned red.”
Their city was one of the first to be freed when the war ended. Her husband was one of many men who never came home. Anya raised her daughters on her own.
Anya moved to Israel with both her daughters in the early 90’s. At the age of 80 years she began painting for the first time- free hand pictures of scenery from her childhood, her daughters when they were young, flowers and birds. She continued to paint until the age of 89. Though weaker, she painted pictures that brought her pleasure until she passed away just before turning 90. In all the time we knew Anya, she always had a beautiful smile with a peaceful countenance, looking for the best in each day.