They Survived the Holocaust…

Bronislava

Bronislava and son Leonid not long before the massacre

Bronislava was 25 years old and living in Ukraine.  Her son, Leonid, was 5 years old and her younger son was a toddler.  The communists told them not to be afraid of the Germans.  Her husband was in the Army, fighting at the front.  The Nazis came and forced her to wear a yellow star on each arm.

It was October 13 and it began to snow.  On this day Bronislava took a skirt she had and sold it for milk.  Her sister lived elsewhere but she lived by her parents.  The Germans were always yelling at them, all the time.  But this day they were told to go to the market to register.  It was a trick and all the Jews were gathered and marched out of town.

She had all their belongings in a basket, took Leonid by the hand and carried her 2 year old son.  It was a long, long line of people walking. As they left, their neighbors who had been friends hours before threw rocks and rotten vegetables at them, yelling for them to get out.

Everyone was force marched to a large uneven field with pits in some areas.  When they arrived Bronislava and her children stood with her father, mother and sister.  Her sister had a 5 month old baby.  They stood waiting but soon heard shooting at the back of the 2000+ crowd.  The Nazis were shooting them- it was to be a massacre.  When there were only a few hundred people remaining, Bronislava and her family among them, the man beside them was shot in the neck and fell down, slowly bleeding.  But the shooting stopped.  The soldiers had almost run out of bullets.

Leaving enough guards to prevent anyone from leaving, the soldiers went for more ammunition.  It would take all night while they waited to be killed.

It was dusk and it began to snow.  Then it turned to rain.  Standing in one of the lower sections of the field the rain began to gather around the ankles of Bronislava and everyone in her group.  The man who had been shot was still alive, lying in the water.  Bronislava had been holding both her sons for many hours and could not do it any longer.  She put Leonid on the chest of the man who was dying to keep him out of the water.  Leonid tells today about watching the man slowly die.

Soon the temperature dropped and the water around their ankles froze.  While they waited the soldiers used white horses to drag the dead bodies everywhere to one place with deeper water.  Still they waited.

Finally, Bronislava could take no more.  She dropped to her knees with her feet encased in ice, and began to pray.

“Please, Lord, save my children!”

Then suddenly a German officer appeared in front of her.  He was not there and then suddenly he was.  He helped her stand and told her,

“You are too beautiful to go into the earth.  I have come to save you and your children.”

He broke the ice around her feet and began to lead her away.  Already holding her young son she grabbed Leonid.  Her sister begged her to take her daughter with her.  Already exhausted, holding her two sons, she could not.  She later regretted not taking the child with her that day.

The officer led her to the side of the field and told her to sit in one place.  He told her to wait there and he would return.  There were dead lying at her feet.  He returned and took her to a house nearby and gave her something to eat.  He built a fire in the stove and put Leonid by it to get warm.

He pointed to his large watch and told her to wait for one hour and he would return.  She waited longer than that and then took her children and left.  Walking on the road toward the village where her father was born she was given a ride by a man with a wagon.  She and her two children hid in that village until the end of the war.

October 13 was Bronislava’s 25th birthday.  She was known for her beauty and long dark hair.  That night of terror caused her hair to turn white.

Bronislava loved being visited and responded with such love.  Amazing to see after all she had been through.  She read her Bible faithfully and welcomed all who came to see her.

 

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