Truth – Legends / Vladimir Sankin
Vladimir Josifovitch Sankin was called up to the people’s defense army with the outbreak of war and left his wife Rosa and his daughter Ina in their home in Leningrad. The soldiers of this army trained for the front line for a month and a half without weapons. Sankin was then twenty-nine, a pastry cook by profession. The front covered some 100 to 110 kilometers from Leningrad. Near the front, the soldiers were given rifles but much too little ammunition. Sankin received a mortar but he had no idea how to use it. His unit were given nine mortar bombs, which were already used on their first night at the front, but that was all. The Germans surrounded the defenders and their officers informed them that they were free to disperse. The Germans took the towns of Luga, Gatchino, Pushkino and a suburb of Leningrad. One night the Germans seized Sankin in a barn with another five soldiers. They were taken to a place where all the battalion and its commander were already assembled.
The Germans conducted a selection according to nationality and all the Jews were concentrated in one place. They were put on open railway carriages and sent westward. On the way, they stopped for three days and reached Kovno. There was a large prisoner of war camp at the Sixth Fort, “Stalag No. 336." From September 1941 until June 1942, more than thirty-five thousand people were kept there. Some of them were shot but most of them died of starvation, torture and illness. The Jews brought there did not last long. They were taken to the municipal prison and from there transferred at the end of March to the Ninth Fort, where Sankin was employed as a cook...
Sankin managed to escape from the policemen. He continued on his way towards the townlet of Ukmerge. He roamed from place to place, staying a day here and a night there, circumventing the large settlements and stopping with poor farmers who had pity on him, fed him and allowed him to sleep in their cold barns. He heard rumors about the partisan activities in the area and on the basis of these scanty rumors, went to look for them. His route was: the Ninth Fort, the Ibenai forest, Ukmerge, Moletai, Pabrade, Shventchionis – a stretch of some one hundred and eighty kilometers. He was lucky in that every farmer in his own home was his host and did not see him as a prisoner of war but as the son of one of his Jewish acquaintances. Vladimir at first tried to deny this but in the course of time he realized that their attitude towards him as a Jewish youth was better and he therefore accepted it.
Dressed in rags, dirty and worn out from the long sojourn, pursued at every step, he reached a farmer’s house in the vicinity of Shventchionis, whom he was told had contact with the partisans. But everywhere he was warned that the partisans shot at Jews who came to them and that he should look after himself.
After he finally managed to make contact with a group of partisans, they took him with them to the forest of Kozian, where Motiejus Shumauskas – “Kazimir” – commander of the Lithuanian partisan movement in northern Lithuania was stationed. Sankin’s account of the Ninth Fort did not surprise him, he already knew about the escape. Knowledge of this event reached him through “Jurgis," who had received the document on the eradication of the traces of the murder of Jews by the Nazis, signed by the fighters of the ghetto who had returned from the Ninth Fort to the ghetto.
Vladimir Sankin was attached to the “Kostas Kalinaukas” battalion in the vicinity of Shventchionis and was made commander of a sabotage group. His group blew up three railway trains which were on their way to the Leningrad front. He participated in many military actions and distinguished himself by his courage, his resourcefulness and daring. His commanders testify to these descriptions of his character. Incidentally, one of them was the famous Soviet hero, Bronius Urbanavitchius. Vladimir was awarded a series of state citations and medals for his bravery. But the greatest prize awaited him in Leningrad where his wife and daughter were still alive. They had gone through the terrible siege and starvation in Leningrad where tens of thousands of people died of hunger and cold.
In 1945 I met Vladimir Sankin quite by chance in the center of Vilna. We were overjoyed by the meeting. Volodya hugged me and carried me across half the street. People stopped to stare at this strange sight, albeit with understanding.
Stalinism had destroyed our relationship. Sankin was afraid to tell about his having been an inmate in the Ninth Fort, because Stalin sent the former prisoners of war to the coal mines and the forced labor camps in Siberia. Sima and I met Vladimir and his family again only in 1958 in his home and since then we have a more brotherly relationship than a friendship.