Video Transcripts: Sonia Orbuch
Joining the partisans
And ah, so we just didn't know where to go we were lost again and then this peasant [Tohund] came to us and he said look, there are rumors that partisans, Russian partisans in the vicinity, and but, I don't know whether they are friendly to Jews. They might kill you, but I might talk to them, perhaps they accept you, and we said well we have nothing to lose. We waited a long time actually and then came out a commander for political affairs and ah, he started interviewing us, he looked at us, skeletons were sitting there, 4 skeletons dirty, long hair overgrown and um, and he started asking questions, he says, so where are your weapons? We didn't have any weapons. So how many trains did you dynamite? We didn't. So I thought he was not going to take us in, but being that my uncle was a trained scout they ah, needed a scout to lead them into the vicinity where the partisans were. They were strangers in that part of the country so they took us in because of my uncle.
Speaking to commander wife about finding a man
I was called in actually to the commanders wife and ah she talked to me; I was a youngster sheltered, did not go out, didn't have any boyfriends of anything of the sort and she talking to me. She started talking to me, that woman, that wife of the commander and she ah, she said to me, you're a young girl there are very few women in the partisans and I would advise you to select an officer, life will go better for you. And ah, this is my advice and you'll listen to my advice. I opened up my eyes wide, I didn't know what she was talking about and I couldn't understand what she wanted of me and we just let it go.
No crying is allowed here
So there was a fight the Ukrainian nationalist together with the Germans, started shooting and there was really a big fight, and my uncle tried to grab some weapons, an automatic weapon, and he was wounded, and they yelled at him that he should lie low, but he got up and ah and he was killed. And when they came back to camp, they told my mother that her brother died. Of course she was very sad and cried, and she was hysterical. Ah, and the commander came over and he said I'm sorry but here we don't cry. You can't cry here. Your brother died fighting the Nazis, he didn't die because he was a Jew, but he died as a hero, so crying no crying allowed here.
Life on the front lines
My role was to be there to help if somebody is sick or wounded to provide some help for that person, I was not in charge of putting a mine under anything, there was a specialist in that field who had the mines and put it there. You get thrown into it, you learn while you work and you do your best you can under circumstances. We didn't have any (um) medicines or even bandages, we didn't have, we had to wash the bandages we took off from the wounded who got maybe better and we took them off and we had to wash them and use them again.
Two hand grenades, one for Sonia, one for the enemy
My role was to be there to help if somebody is sick or wounded to provide some help for that person, I was not in charge of putting a mine under anything, there was a specialist in that field who had the mines and put it there. I was also given ah, hand grenades, two hand grenades I was carried in my pockets one for he enemy one for myself not to give ourselves up alive. So that another thing what we worried about, not to be caught alive. So that's why every mission had to be successful because you see you went into a fight or to put some mines whatever, you knew you that you had to be successful because you cannot ah let anyone catch you, not to do it and everybody was, was very, wanted to do the most terrific job that they could possibly do at the time. You get thrown into it, you learn while you work and you do your best you can under circumstances. We didn't have any (um) medicines or even bandages, we didn't have, we had to wash the bandages we took off the wounded who got maybe better and we took them off and we had to wash them and use them again.
Living in partisans to me it was like a picnic already after what we went through before the partisans, the partisan life was actually very good for us, because living by ourselves in the forest and hungry and wet and not being able to get any clothes. Or or to wash ourselves for a whole year we did not wash ourselves and water we had to dissolve the snow in order to get a little bit of water and if we baked a little bit of bread and we brought it back to the forest, we hung it up, we left it on the ground the animals ate it, so we used to hang it on top of the of the, ah trees in order to preserve it. It was difficult, my legs were burned completely because it was so cold, when you sat in front of the fire, I did not feel that my flesh was burning my legs. It was a horror but when we came to the partisan, to me that was a good life. I was not alone, and if I was going to die, I was going to die as a fighter, not because I was born a Jew I was going to die as a fighter and that's what kept us going.
Die as a fighter, not as a Jew
I didn't even bend down my head, I wasn't worried that I would going to get killed. If I was going to get killed I was going to get killed as a fighter, not because I am a Jew. So that, that itself gave us strength to go on. This was the mentality of people who went through all these atrocities in the ghettos. So this is the way we crossed railroads, I the middle of the night and the railroads were watched. And we tried to avoid it but it wasn't possible.
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