Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Aida Brydbord - Part III
My husband Paul and I, and the group of twelve people ran to the forest. At first we didn't make contact with anybody. The first group that left was supposed to be in touch with us. If they heard that something happened in the ghetto, they were supposed to be on the road to meet us. A day went by and nobody met us. We didn't know what to do. We sat under the trees and we asked ourselves, "What shall we do? Which way should we turn? We don't know where to go." Then, most of the group left us. Paul and I remained, and another girl and boy remained. The girl from the other couple said to me, "I had a maid. She worked in our house a long time. I know where she lives. I'll go there." But she never reached that place because the Germans caught her. The rest of the group came back at night and they said, "Oh, we didn't leave you. We just went to look for a place where we can settle." They were jealous that we were couples. The next day we met more people from the ghetto, and the next night more people came and we were around sixty or seventy people. We decided to divide ourselves into smaller groups but not to separate too far from each other.
We lived like this for a few days. But we were hungry. We had nothing to eat. We didn't take any utensils with us. We found a little container in the woods for warming up a little bit of snow to get water. The older people knew the surrounding areas. They said, "We will go out to the village and we'll bring some food." Six or seven men took the four or five rifles, and they went to the village. Morning came and they returned with a couple of sleds of food. We were very happy. The people who went to bring the food went to rest and the people who stayed behind started to unload the food, and we heard shooting from all over. Like animals we started to run, not knowing what happened but knowing that we were in danger. I was running; I didn't know where Paul was, he didn't know where I was. As I was running, I met him. As we ran we grabbed some bread. I said, "If I have to die, let me not be hungry, because my stomach is so empty." We ran all day long. The Germans were after us, shooting constantly. By night, everything quieted down and like animals we started to crawl out of the hiding places, wherever we were. We lost twelve people, including my husband's older brother, Avrum. He was then twenty-one.
We still didn't meet any partisans. The partisans didn't know anything about us. We were afraid the Germans would return the next day. Now we divided up into small groups and each went in a different direction. We took what food we had because we knew that we cannot depend on anybody. We were afraid to show our faces in any village. We walked all night and we came to a place that was just swamps and woods and settled down there for the night. In the morning, we saw that we were not near any villages, so we decided to stay there. We started to dig holes to live in. You dig a hole and you cut tree branches and you camouflage the hole with leaves. It was winter; it was February and we didn't have any shoes. I wrapped my feet with shmates. Whatever food we had with us we ate but after a couple of days we were hungry. I don't have to tell you what the sanitary conditions were. We were full of lice. They were eating us alive. Our bodies were bloody from scratching.
One day we saw, from afar, something like a mountain. That's the way the peasants protected their food for the winter. They didn't have any cellars, no refrigeration. The climate is cold, so they piled up potatoes and carrots and beets and covered them with straw and with dirt and used the food as they needed it. At night we went over there, dug up the potatoes, covered it up again and came back to our little ziemlanka. We found a pail and we were cooking the potatoes. We had no salt; we just washed one off a little bit in the snow and we cooked it. One potato was shared by the whole group, two women and ten men. The peels were eaten, everything. Nothing was thrown away. Everything was full of sand. You just ate the potatoes without salt, bread, nothing with it. Everybody was having heartburn constantly.
We lived like this for a couple of weeks. Always cold and hungry. We saw light from afar but we were afraid to get closer. One day one of our fellows looked around the surrounding area, came back and said: "There is only one house in the vicinity. Maybe we should take a chance and go in and talk to them. First of all we want some kind of news of what's going on in the world. Also, we can get something to eat." This is what happened. Two of our fellows went out. They made up a story that they got lost but the woman said to them: "We know who you are. You are not lost. We know that a group from the Pruzhany ghetto ran away and they are hiding some place near here. I don't care. What do you want?" They told her that they were hungry. The man told them, "I'll give you something to eat but you have to be very careful. I cannot show you the way out of here because the Germans are coming here constantly."