You left and I was the one who sent you.
It’s enough that I know that you love me.
But often my heart is so heavy...
And then my thoughts go out to you.
Who knows if we two shall meet again?
Will we still have a taste of happiness?
If our trouble will one day be gone
And we’ll know no suffering or fear?
So that’s how the ways part
You to war – I’m always ready for this,
But this you should know – you will always be mine, my love,
For only death can separate us.
For freedom’s sake, we’ll go to war
In the hope that we’ll live the good life.
And we shall know but one word – vengeance!
To revenge the innocent blood that was shed without end.
I was the last to enter the car. I helped Chaim to close the back of the vehicle and sat in the corner, near the exit covered by a tarpaulin. Chaim went into the driver’s cabin.
We were already three hours on the road. Kovno was behind us and we were approaching the forests of Zhiezhmariai, Staklishkes, Butrimonys... It was a windy, stormy day and snow was falling. There were no benches in the vehicle and we sat on the hard, cold floor of the open wagon, being thrown from side to side, but the feeling of freedom gave us the courage and strength to endure such a journey.
A strange feeling took over me when I felt the cold steel of the pistol. It cooled my hand but warmed my heart, the heart of a Jew who was going to fight the Germans and take revenge for the innocent Jewish blood that had been shed. Take vengeance for the parents they murdered, and whose corpses they burned on the blaze in the Ninth Fort. My thoughts could not be severed from my memories of the recent, disturbing past. Would the past pursue me forever? Indeed! However, it was my duty to keep this experience alive in my heart and memory and to hand down the knowledge of these experiences to my descendants, my sons and their offspring, and to posterity in general, so that the world should not forget the people who murdered our forefathers. All this was linked with our imprisonment at the fort. Today we were going with weapons in hand, to join the ranks of the partisans. It was difficult to grasp this fact...
Suddenly we heard the sound of an order being given! Someone called out “Halt, halt," in German. The car continued at an even faster pace. We heard rifle shots...we encountered a patrol near the townlet Onishkis. However, thanks to Chaim’s firm stand, the car hastened through to the forest.
It was difficult to continue travelling. The heavy snow and the strong winds which had accompanied us on our way did not let up. We had to stop from time to time, get out of the vehicle, and push it over the snow... quite often we also had to sweep the snow from the road in order to go on for another twenty meters. Near the village of Antakalnis the driver announced that we could not go any further. He was afraid that we would be stuck in the snow.
We left the car and parted from Chaim. The truck turned around and continued on its way to Kovno. Chaim evaded Onishkis and returned safely to the Kovno ghetto in order to organize another group for the forest.
We put on our white overgarments which had been prepared for us by AKO’s supply department under Alte Boruchovitch-Teper and Meir Grinberg’s supervision, and stood in line, one after the other. Veselnitzki called me and said that he and Diskant would head the column and that I should march at its end; that is, serve as the rear guard, and see to it that no one lags behind. The wind strengthened and lashed our faces with snow. For us partisans, this weather was preferable. We did not encounter a single living soul. But it was hard to walk. We trampled through the deep snow and refrained from walking on the roads and lanes and relied on the compass and the topographical map to find our way.
Alongside the railway tracks of the Vilna-Grodno line, some eight kilometers from the townlet of Antakalnis, we stopped for a short pause. We observed and listened to our surroundings – utter silence. Beyond the railway tracks there were piles of wood and behind us was the forest. We ran in that direction and hid behind heaps of wood. When we were certain that all was quiet in the surrounding area, we went on our way. The partisan base lay some twenty kilometers further.
In the village of Pagrazhupe, we entered a farmer’s shed at the edge of the forest. Actually, we were already within the area commanded by the partisans but we did not know this and were very cautious. After it became clear just where we were, we continued to march. Passing into the forest, we encountered a large partisan checkpoint and the guards shot a burst of fire from a machine gun. We stopped for a short time until everything was clear and continued on our way.
On Friday, January 7, 1944, at dawn, we reached the village of Naujuju Maceliai but were fearful of entering the village. Daylight emerged. We had to pass the village, cross the Vilna-Grodno road, and go into the forest opposite and thus reach the base of the battalion known as “Death to the Occupiers.”
We sat down at the edge of a sparse wood, not far from the village. The wood crossed a canal which surrounded the village and reached the main road. From where we were, it was difficult to see what was happening in the village as the wood screened it from our sight. There was a shed which we were reluctant to enter. We lit some fires and sat down to warm up and dry our clothes. We thought it wiser to wait for sundown and then continue on our way.
Suddenly, Lea Senior burst out shouting: “Comrades, we are surrounded on all sides!” We looked around and noticed two armed men from afar, running towards us with submachine guns aimed in our direction. I looked at the two men and from their dress and weapons (apart from the submachine guns, they also had hand grenades attached to their belts) it was clear that they were partisans. Vasilenko suggested that I attack them but I rejected the idea. He was frightened and started to shout: "I am a Ukrainian, I am a Ukrainian!" I addressed the two in Russian and scolded them for their not very successful trick. I also added that we were partisans and were going to “Jurgis” (H. Ziman). They smiled in a friendly way and left. The group calmed down, sat quietly on the ground and continued to dry their clothing. They were critical and amazed by Vasilenko’s behavior. “In the forest, Vasilenko became a Ukrainian and an anti-Semite to boot,” wrote Berl Gempl in his evidence which can be found in the archives of Yad Vashem (Vol. 033/340, p. 4, dated March 16, 1958).
After we had rested, we went along the outskirts of the forest which surrounded the village of Naujuju Maceliai on the left and so we circumvented the village without entering it. We went in a long, roundabout way, deep in snow, and wearily arrived, with darkness upon us, at the old village of Senoji Maceliai. In the last hut at the edge of the village lived the farmer Jurgelevitch, whom we knew about when still in the ghetto and whom we had to contact. He would show us the way to the partisan base. We remained in his barn to rest and did not even have someone on guard outside the barn.
On Saturday morning, January 8, 1944, Jurgelevitch showed us the way to the partisan base. He did not go with us. The road began near his hut and penetrated deep into the forest. On the way, we met two comrades, former fighters of the ghetto, who were going to their secret checkpoint, from which they could observe the area facing the forest and inform the base immediately in case of an emergency. They advised me to take note of the road to the left of the forest which would bring us to the large partisan base of the “Death to the Occupiers” battalion.