Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Aida Brydbord - Part V
There was an epidemic of typhus once in the partisan camp, and, as soon as I got everybody well, I got sick. But nobody died from illness, in spite of the conditions. A few wounded died. We had a cemetery. We had even a clubhouse. After the missions were done, we went to the clubhouse; we read, the Russian garmoshka was played, and we danced.
We Jews knew when the Jewish holidays were, but we didn't have any means of observing them. We knew when Pesah was. Nobody ate bread on Pesah. We knew that we had to be very careful with the Russians. There were partisans who were killed because they were accused of being spies. It was very cruel; they were shot. In our group, every Jewish partisan was well treated, respected because we never said "no" to a mission, no matter how big, how small, how dangerous. We were always saved for the most dangerous missions. For sleeping on the guard post, the punishment was death. That was the law of the camp. Because you were asleep, the whole camp could be killed. One day, a young Jewish boy either fell asleep or they told him that he was asleep. We started to beg them, "So few of us are alive. He's just a young boy. Nothing happened to the Otrad. Please let him live!" And they did.
Once my husband was sent out on a big mission. In the back of someone's mind was the hope that he wouldn't return. One of the officers was making a pass at me. A guy with whom I was working came to me and said, "Tonight, don't sleep in your regular place. Go to where all the girls are sleeping." I didn't, so he got mad at me and he sent me to the Kirowsky Family Otrad, where they had a special place for families with children. I was working there as a nurse with the doctor's permission. There were sick children, sick people. The Russians were afraid to harm me because I had a husband and my brother-in-law, Tuvia, was a very influential person in the Otrad. He got a lot of medals. The Germans offered a big reward for him, dead or alive. They knew who he was because he was coming in the middle of the day, shooting at them in public places, like at the airport, where Germans were sitting at their posts. He killed them without any warning.
We lived like this till the end of the summer of '44. The day when we were liberated there was a very big fight. I was alone with our part of the Otrad, without my husband or brother-in-law. A lot of boys went out on a mission and they didn't return. News came to me that Paul was killed. His brother came back from a mission. Immediately, he asked me, "Where is Feivel (Paul)?" I said, "Paul is not here. They told us that he probably got killed." But soon he returned with the group. After the liberation in 1945 our child was born, in Pruzhany. Then things got very hot for us. My brother-in-law Tuvia got arrested by the Russians and was sentenced to death. He was accused as a spy, even though he was so highly decorated. His parents were rich; this was "evidence". They found a Polish book in his possession. This was "evidence". It was enough to arrest him, and he got a death sentence. By the time we found out about him his sentence was changed to a lifeterm in Siberia. When he walked out of the courthouse, an officer was sitting at the desk and asked him, "What is your last wish?" Tuvia said, "I don't really have any last wishes but one thing I would like. I have very valuable medals: Stalin's medal and the Red Cross medal. I would like them sent to my hometown". The officer said, "I don't see that you are such a spy, such an enemy of our country. Sign this paper." Instead of death, he sent him to Siberia. When we heard about it, we started to search for him. We hired a lawyer from Moscow and he said to us, "Are you crazy? Your brother was sentenced for spying; he is in Siberia. Your sister from the United States sent you papers to come to the United States. With this combination of events, you'll be on the list for Siberia too." Then he told us that we had better do something for ourselves. We forged documents and a friend of ours gave us his truck to take us to the railroad station to get out of Russia.
The Brydbord family reached Lodz, Poland, and then smuggled across the border to Berlin. After a series of mishaps, including the arrest of their baby daughter, they finally reached the American Zone of occupation, where they had to go through two more marriage ceremonies in order to obtain the proper documents for immigration to the United States. Paul's brother was eventually liberated from Siberia and immigrated to Israel.
Interviewed by: Collette Krause 2/28/86 and Rachel Licht 10/9/86