Survivor Experiences

These are true personal accounts of strength, courage, persistence and faith.

Gareman’s family lived in Kislavodsk, Caucasus. In 1937, when he was six years old, they were all transferred to Grozny, Chechenia.  Grozny was an oil producing city.  At that time Gareman was put in an orphanage by his mother, in the same town in which they lived.

German and Anya P (Small)The Nazis were only 70 kilometers away from Grozny and would come in, attack, and take the oil. Each time all the children put on gas masks and got into trenches outside. They spent every night in the trenches; constantly going in and out of the orphanage, in and out of the trenches.

“One day I and some of the other children were found to have lice in our hair.  We were immediately sent to another place where we stayed for three months to receive treatment.  At the end of that time we were sent back to the orphanage.

“After we were sent for treatment, my mother had come to the orphanage to see me.  She was told I was no longer there.   She became very upset and kept demanding to see me.  She continued to try to find me for the three months I was gone.  When I returned she was still told I was not there.

“One day I heard my mother’s voice as she was loudly demanding they find me.  I ran out to her at that point.  My mother began yelling, asking why they told her I was not there.  They were surprised as they had registered me under an incorrect name and did not realize I was her son.”

In 1942, Gareman finished his classes at the orphanage by the age of 12.  At that time he did not understand why his mother left him at the orphanage.

“Every time my mother came to visit I begged her to take me home but she never did.”

Very soon after Gareman finished his schooling, the Nazis invaded the city to take it over.  His orphanage and some of the others were in the southern end and the enemy came in from the north.  His orphanage (about 107 children), plus five other orphanages (over 500 children) escaped out of the village as the Nazis took over.  After they left the city, the Nazis occupied their orphanages.

All the orphans were taken to Siberia (Central City). It was a very long trip.  Some of the children were ages 5 – 7. One group of older children were 12 years old, like Gareman, and were to help all the others.  It took them 42 days to get from Grozny to Siberia. They were in ships five days in Azerbaijan; Turkmenia by the Caspian Sea; stayed five days at each station to recuperate.

One city where they stayed had no water. Gareman and others his age hiked 3 kilometers each day to haul water in wagons for everyone. They were all hungry the whole time.

“We were all hungry all the time.  We older boys became the ones to take care of everyone.”

When they reached Siberia, all the orphanages were all in one village. They had no electricity, no running water – nothing. It was -40 degrees centigrade outside and about 12 degrees centigrade inside.

Their own orphanage was in a cabin with one large room. There was a thin carpet on the floor and each one had a thin blanket. There were no beds so everyone lay on the floor in rows with their blanket to sleep.  There was one stove for the entire cabin but it did not put out much heat. The toilet was outside with no facilities inside.

“Each one of us had one pair of shoes, but if they got wet it took a very long time for them to dry.  So, everyone went outside in their bare feet, in the snow, for toilet needs. All of us had lice. When we needed to go outside in the dark, we had simple little sticks that we would light on the end.  They were hard to light and keep them lit.

“All of us age 12 were the woodsmen. It was our responsibility to cut and split the wood. The wooded area was 6 – 7 kilometers away so we had to hike there.  We wore our shoes, galoshes over the shoes and cotton socks on our hands to stay warm.  Since the axes and hatchets were a size and weight for adults, and not made for children,  there were a number of injuries.  Some of them lost fingers, got splinters in their faces and knocked out some teeth.  But I was bigger and never had any problems and became proficient at cutting wood.”

He also helped bring water from the lake, hauling with the ox in the winter and carrying it in the summer. Also during the summer the older boys prepared the hay for the horses and cows as well as rooted for potatoes.

Five years after the war the children were sent to special schools for skills; some to  collective farms and others to secondary schools. Having finished his 10 classes, Gareman went to a technical school in Omsk, Siberia – from 1950 to 1955. No one helped him with the financial needs. Since he was an excellent student he got a scholarship equal to two years of wages. He studied chemistry and geology and worked on a plant. He also helped the chief engineer with the construction.

Sometime after the war Gareman discovered he had an aunt. After meeting with her she sent him to the city where his original orphanage was located, Mineral’niye Vodi (translated from Russian ‘Mineral Water’).   She told him to go to the northern end of the city.

When he arrived, going to the north end, he discovered a memorial for a trench where 9,500 Jews were shot by the Nazis and buried. He found a document in the archives there telling of his family being shot as well – his mother and siblings.  The same time his orphanage was escaping from the south part of the city, his family were being shot in the north.

He also found his father was in the Red Army and did not die there. Checking records and documents, at the age of 26, he was finally able to find and meet his father for the first time.

Gareman has a son and daughter who is now in Tashkent. They did not come with him to Israel. His aunt’s daughter is also still living there.  In Israel, Gareman, his wife Anya (pictured) and their daughter live in the Negev.

“I am grateful to God for bringing us here to Israel and I know that He loves us.  I and my family are also thankful for the visits of you and your organization and your love for us.  You are special to me.”