Mira Schelub in family portrait, Bagastein, Austria, 1947
Photographed by Mitch Braff in October of 2002
A Polish Jew born in what was White Russia, Mira Shelub joined a partisan group that operated in the forest near her native Zdziedciol at the age of 18. With her family, she escaped Zdziedciol's ghetto in 1942 as the Germans began killing off the population.
While working with the partisans, Mira met her husband Nochim, who was the leader of the group. Nochim had been in a mixed group run by Russians. However, antisemitism was common among the non-Jewish resistance fighters, and so he decided to form his own unit though he continued to coordinate activities with the Russians.
In Mira's group, women comprised about a quarter of the partisans. They did the cooking, took care of the laundry, and provided other vital support. On a few attacks, Mira carried extra ammunition for her husband's machine gun but usually stayed behind, all the while worrying about his safety. In the summer, the unit slept on the ground in the open forest. In the winter, they took refuge in underground huts (zemlyankas) or with sympathetic peasant families. Constant movement was a necessity to avoid detection, and when it snowed they had to alter their tracks into confusing patterns so that they could not be followed.
"In the forest, we did not only fight a physical battle, but also a spiritual battle," Mira recounts. "We were sitting around the fire, singing songs together, supporting each other and dreaming about better days and a better future — a better tomorrow."