|The first group which left for the forests to seek the partisans crossed the road from Kovno to Klaipeda and turned northward. At the head of the group was Mishka (Michael) Kvitkovski – “Brodiaga." His proper name was Kotler. He was born in Kharkov in 1919, and was a mechanic by profession. He was brought to the prisoners’ camp in Alytus after it was discovered that he was a Jew. On October 16, 1942, while he was working at loading peat together with another five prisoners, they used this opportunity to stab their guard Jokimas Barkauskas, take off his rubber boots and his Mauser pistol 7.65, throw the body in the well and flee. |
Three of the escapees were caught. Mishka succeeded in wandering about freely for almost a year. He worked at farms in the villages, but was finally caught, brought to the Kovno prison and from there moved to the Ninth Fort which was already under Gestapo supervision. He presented himself as Michael Kvitkovski. Mishka worked at the “battlefield” as the mechanic of a bulldozer which removed the upper layer of earth when digging the pits.
The first group reached the Ibenai forest, some ten kilometers from Kovno, but the group did not know how to continue. Meishe Zimelevitch did not know what to do although he had taken it upon himself to act as guide to the group of prisoners, had made propaganda among them, and promised that within three days they would reach the partisans who had airfields some sixty to eighty kilometers from Kovno.
Vladimir Sankin, the cook, said that the prisoners were terribly angry. Meishe was beaten but this did not help much. In the morning, Sashka Chailovski and Mishka Kotler went to a nearby village in order to find out what was happening in the vicinity. Two hours later, they heard firing from the direction of the village...Sashka and Mishka did not return. Eighteen-year-old Liuba Griksht worked in the kitchen for the Germans and was Sashka’s girlfriend. She sat on a log and wept. He was her first love. Anatoli Garnik recalled: “Our group wandered around for three days and nights, in a forest full of swamps and without paths or roads, and we finally had no more strength. The building of a dug-out was suggested, as well as the storing of food collected from the farmers for two to three weeks, and then to wait it out. Someone should be sent to make contact [with the ghetto] and this did not seem to me to be the wisest course. I suggested crossing the road and turning in the direction of the Jonava forests [the Kurganov brothers refused to lead them], as the forest where we wanted to build a dug-out covered an area of some ten kilometers from Kovno between two main arteries: the Kovno-Klaipeda and the Kovno-Keidan roads. Some three to four kilometers from the large village of Ibenai, north of the townlet of Vandzhiogala, army forces and German police were beginning to concentrate in order to conduct a search and to survey the nearby forests. To get food from the farmers in the vicinity for twenty people secretly, without anyone knowing, was well-nigh impossible. But no one listened to me. They began to dig a trench without carefully going into what the place we were in was like. During the night one of the comrades got lost and I was sent to find him.”