Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Aida Brydbord - Part IV
From this day on, this Russian peasant was our contact. To us he was a lifesaver. He provided food for us. He gave us all the news. He didn't take any money from us; we didn't have any. I remember I gave him my coat. It was a maroon coat with a black collar. I paid him for the bread with it. Whatever article of value somebody had they gave to him for bread. We lived like that all winter. Spring started to come. The sun was out. A partisan never takes off all his clothes, only one piece at a time, which you smoke out over the fire till all those insects are dead and then you put it back on. You couldn't dig a hole by the water and wash yourself. We smelled terribly. At night we never all slept at once. Two or three people were always on watch, to know and see what's going on. One night the watchman alarmed everybody. What was it? Partisans, the real partisans! Russians, organized partisans, were walking in our direction. It was a group of about four or five people. One of them was Paul's younger brother, Tuvia. They got news that a group of people ran away from Pruzhany ghetto and is hiding. Tuvia made sure that his group will go through the woods looking for us. He didn't know exactly who it would be, but he knew that a group of Pruzhaner Jews are in the woods. Tuvia's name was now Anatole, a Russian name. He wore a uniform, and with a machine gun he was going on a mission. He said he'd be back this way. That's how it happened. On their way back, they took us to the partisan Otrad.
It was the Kirowsky Otrad. Our commander was Juzef Samulik. The group was composed of about 500 people: non-Jews, Jews, runaways from the army, officers and soldiers. Russian soldiers. They were mostly men, but some women too. All the "houses" were ziemlankas underground. As long as it was quiet, the Germans didn't attack us; we lived like this in a little "town". We went to villages and took food. If they betrayed us, the next day the whole village was on fire. In this particular Otrad there were 30 Jews. We were treated nicely but with sarcasm. "A Jew is not a fighter." The Russians called us "Abrashas". "Abrasha" means a Jew, from the name Abraham. But the truth is the Jews were very loyal and brave fighters in the partisans.
I had a gun and I had a rifle. I knew how to take them apart and put them together. I was cooking for the group which was going out on military missions. Another group was going out to bring food. Another group was sewing and repairing the uniforms. If we stayed long enough in one place, we gathered stones and built a little house with an oven, heated up the stones, threw water on them, like a shvitz bath. We wore pants and boots. Boots were the most important. You got your boots where you got your food, in the villages. We went for what we called a bombioshka. You "bummed" whatever you could. One night I went out with a group of other partisans. I climbed up to an attic of a house, probably owned by a rich man. I threw down boots and overcoats and fur coats from the attic for the other people to take. That's when everybody got dressed so nicely in boots and coats.
We had a radio for transmtting and we had a printing press where we printed newsflashes. We had a Jewish doctor, Dr. Smolinsky, who also ran away from the ghetto. One day a group of five men and I went to dynamite a bridge. As soon as we started out the Germans began to shoot at us. We hid in the woods but the mission wasn't a loss. The bridge was destroyed, and they couldn't find us even though the dogs were after us, because once you come to water they lose your track.
After this incident, Dr. Smolinsky said to me: "I need a nurse to help me. You will be my assistant instead of going on this kind of mission." After that I was working in the dispensary. I rode a horse to check if the dispensary was in a secure hiding place. This dispensary was for the very badly wounded. Nobody in the partisans was sick with ordinary illness. The doctor amputated legs and arms with an ordinary saw. In the middle of the night, I would go there to look at how they were, to cook something for them, change their dressings, make them comfortable. Then I would come back to the camp and talk over the problems with the doctor. He would give me the medications which we got through our connections with Moscow. The Communists trusted the Jewish partisans. When airplanes flew in from Moscow with parachute- drops of medication or very important news, Jewish partisans went to pick it up.