Rescued Jewish Children

Boris Dvogovsky

Abandoned in the Forest
Boris Dvogovsky

From: Smuggled in Potato Sacks
Fifty Stories of the Hidden Children of the Kaunas Ghetto

Solomon Abramovich and Yakov Zilberg

My father, Moshe Dvogovsky, and mother Riva, née Kweskin, always dreamed of going to Israel, and were on a waiting list for a certificate to emigrate to Palestine. Father was active in the leftwing Zionist movement. He played football very well and was a member of the Hashomer hatzair football team. Unfortunately, the course of history in Lithuania destroyed their dream. We were finally to arrive in Israel more then 30 years later…
I was born on 9 July 1941 in Kaunas at the Jewish Hospital. The Germans had already occupied the town. My parents realized that registering delivery of a baby posed an immense risk, so Mother left the hospital immediately after my birth. Father’s parents and his brother Zundel were buried alive by Lithuanian collaborators in Butrimonai during the first days of the occupation.
In 1942, my parents escaped from the ghetto. For a time they hid in the surrounding woods, until they came across a group of partisans. There were two conditions for membership: children were not permitted, and arms had to be acquired independently. The leader of the partisan group, called ‘For Soviet Lithuania’, took it upon himself to settle me with a family in the countryside, within the partisans’ area of activity. The terms were made clear to those who had agreed to adopt me that if anything were to happen to me the village would be burnt down. This family was in fact under enormous pressure: they were afraid of the Nazis, if I were to be found, and of the partisans, who would retaliate if this occurred.
I was made to sleep on a wooden bench at the home of the Lithuanian family; my daily diet was a piece of bread and yogurt, and I was shaved bareheaded to conceal my dark curls. Occasionally my parents would come to visit. It is difficult to describe the joy that came with our brief reunions, but this joy was always overshadowed by the bitter dread of an imminent, unavoidable separation. My parents would be haunted by the sound of my sobbing even as they re-entered the woods; with every parting, there was the recurring fear that we would never see each other again.
The Germans were hunting for partisans, Jews and Communists among the local population, and the family with whom I lived understood that if a Jewish child were to be found, they would inevitably be killed. They dressed me in old torn boots and put a coat over my naked body. On a frosty November night, only 2 years old, I was given a piece of bread to hold in my hand, taken to the forest and abandoned there. No one knows how long I walked through the woods. Partisans returning from an operation found me half-frozen and hungry. They recognized me and brought me to the camp where my parents were based. The fate of a Jewish girl, Miriam, who was being hidden by neighbouring Lithuanians, turned out to be more tragic. She was murdered even before the Germans had entered the village.
I remained in the camp for a few months. It was impossible to get me out since the camp was surrounded by Germans and was constantly under fire. When the situation calmed down, I was taken to another Lithuanian family, the Duniavichius household, and stayed there until liberation. Acquiescing to my mother’s pleas, military superiors gave her a horse and carriage and permitted her to go and fetch me. This was a perilous task; the woods harboured many active groups of armed Lithuanian Nationalists, the ‘Zaliukai’ (‘forest brothers’). Mother however still managed to reach the village and find me. We were lucky; both my parents survived and rescued me.
Mother’s youngest brother, Benishke, was shot in 1944 for smuggling food to the ghetto, he was 14 years old. My maternal grandfather Baruch (I am named Boris in his memory) and grandmother Chaya also did not survive the ghetto.
Following the war, I attended the Jewish school for two years (see Figure 46: Boris Dvogovsky is in the top row, seventh from left), and after it was closed went to the Russian gymnasium. I graduated from the Minsk Medical School. My first wife died young from cancer. I emigrated to Israel in 1987 with my two sons, where my parents and my post-war sister Fruma now lived. In Israel I remarried and worked as a GP.

First published in 2011 by Vallentine Mitchell
London, Portland, OR

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