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  • Writer's pictureArtur Aloshyn

Olha Torchyniuk: memories of Jews rescue

One of my teachers once asked us: "Which of you is willing to take a homeless person? Who is willing to give him housing, clothes, and food?" While everyone was thinking, he continued: "Now imagine that you have a limited amount of food. Will you share it with a stranger who has nothing? There are not many people who agree to give the latter. Now add to that the death penalty for trying to help. This is the reality of Jews and those who, at the risk of their own lives and their relatives, wanted potentially to help them."

Most witnesses to the Jewish aid have already told their stories or taken them to their graves. But we managed to find a witness whom no one had ever questioned about those events.

Olha Torchyniuk. Lutsk, 2021

Olha Torchyniuk (maiden name Fedoniuk) has lived all her life in the village of Korytnytsia in Volyn. Unfortunately, she herself does not know the exact date of her birth, but the documents indicate July 17, 1927. All her ancestors known to her also lived in Korytnytsia. Since 2017, we have regularly had been recording her memories of the war, life, studies, church, etc. Thanks to this, we can tell how her family hid a Jewish boy. The memoir was recorded on July 17, 2020 in Korytnytsia. Here is the fragment of the mentioned recording:

[…] And then.. then the Germans expelled [the Jews]. The Germans did not like the Jews. They fled on their own. And the Soviets kept them, but the Germans did not. That was when we went to gather the grass hay. My aunt and I. So, we planned to go, already before the evening, because before it was not possible to go to bring that grass. And there was such a hole sooo hiiiigh, deep and wide, and they all lay there once when noticed us.


[There were a lot of them?] Yes, sure. I know ha… maybe twenty were there. And they, apparently, got afraid of us. And we were afraid of them. They stirred, and we began to run to the edge, to the road. Then they flew after us. I... I... And we ran away a lot. That's how we came - and there was a Jew, our friend, who recognized me. He knew my father and explained that I am his daughter.


Somewhere at night someone is knocking on the window. We do not know what to do, whether to open or not. But we hear someone says: "Taras!". And their voice could be recognized, it is not similar to ours. So, my father came out and said:

- What's on?


- We recognized your daughter, they ran away. We didn't want them to do anything to them. We wanted to ask them not to tell anyone. Just to prevent spreading out, we need quiet.


But the father says:


- Well, how did they know. You didn't know them, and they were afraid of you.


Well, how could we knew what they could do with us to catch us. There was a lot of them. The could ... [nothing]. And they ran away. Well, after all his father comes and says:


"We're leaving, but my son stays with you."

So he asks my father to help to spent the winter and take care of the son.


[And where were they going?] It was winter then, it was getting cold. And where they went, who knows.. We did not reach anyone, we did not know. And father took him in. He took him to the house at night. And at day time we afraid of the people people walking around. It's a prison! Father, we had hay, and he pulled out such a hole and a boy climbed there and sat there during the day.


[And what was his name?] I don't know, I don't know that. [And long did he sit?] Well, yes, he had to! And then it got warmer, then he left us. And such boys were with him. And he was 18 years old, maybe, or something about. And they made such a house for him, in the woods. And he was there in the summer. And we go with cows, we bring him some food. Yes, we go, and we give him food, we throw it to this boy.


And he went there in such a forest, lived there. But do not be afraid, you know. Someone showed the place. And we had such a man there. Oh, he was a bad man. He killed him.


[And what was the man's name?] How can I know...


[But somewhere from Korytnytsia?] Well, he was from Korytnytsia. Do I know if it was him? People said that. We just thought that he could do it. Because who could do like that. To kill such a child. And he had a gun. And so we did not know what happent. We came on the second day, and he was dead. We had already brought him food, and he was already dead. Well, they went to bury this poore boy, to cover him.


[Did they bury him where he lived?] Somewhere, somewhere in the woods. You think I know that? Was I there? I did not go there. People did not allow this, the man lied on ground, dead. Oh, it was hard, hard times. We had to please everyone and listen to everyone. So complicated it was.


Taras Fedoniuk (1900-1972). Korytnytsia, 1960

This story stuck in my head, so I wanted to find the name of this Jew, who was hidden by Mrs. Olha's family. In the autumn of 2021, this was achieved thanks to Michael Diment's book "The Lone Survivor: A Diary of the Lukacze Ghetto and Svyniukhy", which contains memoirs of Chaim Mizuris, who falls under the description of Mrs. Olha's story:

Seeing me, Fedor jumped up with the words: "Are you alive?". I did not answer. Instead, asked him a few questions, and in response only heard what he had already learned from Ambrose. He told me that Chaim Mizuris was alive, that he had seen him in Korytnytsia.

...

On April 17, I had to visit Ivan again, his nicknam was "Dovshyi" ("Longer"). After long persuasions, he let me go and said that he had also seen Chaim Mizuris.

...

I wanted to see Chaim Mizuris to help him with something in his trouble. Ivan talked to me for many days. He recounted almost everything I had heard from others.

...

Sydun recognized me. Pretending to say to the horses, he whispered, “Go to the little forest and come to me at night. Maybe you will meet Chaim Mizuris "

...

He continued: “Last night Chaim Mizuris came here. He hid in a small forest for several days.

...

On June 1, the old grandmother came in tears: “Dear Mechel, don't cry, but I have something to tell you. Today, your cousin Chaim Mizuris was shot dead near house of Stelmakh family, near the forest. The bandits took his clothes and shoes. The peasants buried the body. When will it all end? She cried incessantly. - Chaim was such a good child. He walked around with frostbitten arms and legs, but he was still killed."


Olha Torchyniuk near her house in Korytnytsia. Winter 2018/19

I read aloud to Mrs. Olha the part of the book that talked about the life of the author of the diary in Korytnytsia. She listened intently, remembering the people mentioned in the book. So then Mrs. Olha mentioned that the name of the boy they were hiding was Mishuris (in the book Mizuris). And she sighed with relief, because according to the book, this Jew was not killed by the man she was thinking of.


Poppies in a field near Korytnytsia. June 2021

Today in Ukraine there is a war, which again brings death. And we really hoped that never again ...

Artur Aloshyn

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