Truth – Legends / The Kurganov Brothers
The three brothers – Arseni, Makar and Vasili Kurganov – decided that they would flee from the Ninth Fort to the village of Kunishkiai, in the district of Jonava. I suggested to them that they leave with the first group but they refused. I did not know at the time that Meishe Zimelevitch had taken on himself to take the first group to the forest.
The three brothers were the last to leave the fort. They walked throughout the night and with dawn discovered that they were not far from the Ninth Fort. Apparently, they had walked around in a circle all night and were still in the place they started out from. They hid among the trees and with evening started on their way. The Germans were looking for the escapees far from the place. On arriving at a familiar place, the brothers separated. Each of them headed for their families. On the walls of the houses of the villages and towns, there were announcements appealing to the inhabitants and offering large rewards for anyone who would hand over these suspected criminals against the state.
Arseni, aged thirty-one, was the oldest of the brothers. He went to his uncle in the village of Stashenai, where a hiding place had been prepared for him. The Gestapo carried out a search in the area, but Arseni managed to escape. The Gestapo then found the hiding place but did not make a fuss and the members of the household were not arrested. Arseni wandered about the vicinity for a few days and when he learned that the search was over, returned to the hiding place at his uncle’s. His uncle suggested that he go to a more secure haven in the village of Bachanovka. On his way to the new hiding place, he passed through Jonava. His uncle hid Arseni in a wagon, covered him with hay, and they went on their way. On arriving in Jonava, his uncle handed Arseni over to the Gestapo.
Makar, aged twenty-eight, knocked at his door late at night. His wife opened the door. He lay in hiding in the cellar together with the potatoes for a few days. On the last night, he was extremely restless and decided to leave the hiding place. An hour later the Gestapo arrived. Makar hid in barns belonging to various farmers without the latter being aware of him. He wandered from village to village and succeeded in reaching the partisan battalion “For a Soviet Lithuania."
Vasili, aged twenty-one, was the youngest of the brothers. One day, he was in Makar’s house and then his mother’s. He rested there for a day and went on his way to the partisans. He crossed the Shventoji and Neris (Vilija) Rivers, avoided roads and bridges which were guarded by the Germans and their aids – the Lithuanian police– and reached the village of Stashenai where his uncle lived and his brother Arseni was in hiding. Vasili wanted to spend the night there but his uncle would not agree. As he had no alternative, he went to the village of Bachanovka but at the entrance to the village Lukshai en route, he encountered an ambush of Lithuanian police, was arrested and handed over to the Gestapo.
In June 1998, in the Central State Archives in Vilna, I found a document in which it said that Vasili Kurganov, who was born on May 22, 1921 in the village of Kunishkiai, was arrested on January 25, 1944 as an escaped prisoner who had hidden in the forest. On January 31, 1944 he was handed over to the regional Security Police.
In Dumsai, the Gestapo arrested Makar’s wife, Alexandra. She was staying there with her sister. The Gestapo tortured her in order to find out the whereabouts of Makar. When they found that they could not extract any information from her whatsoever, they threw her out into the cold river, naked. There, on the ice, the Gestapo interrogated and tortured her again. But she did not utter a word. She was returned to the Gestapo, and from there moved to the Ninth Fort where she was shot. Her brother-in-law, her sister’s husband, experienced the same fate.
The Gestapo also arrested the Kurganov’s oldest brother, Ivan, who lived in the village of Kunishkiai with his wife, three children and his elderly mother aged seventy-five. The adults were sent to the Pravienishkes concentration camp, the children were put in an orphanage... after the war, the mother and the brother returned.