Wyszkow, Poland Yizkor Book

From SEFER WYSZKOW, ed. D. Shtokfish, 1964, Tel Aviv, pp. 163-164.
Translated by Jane, Mikhail Freider, Vladimir Fronton.

The First Air-Raid of Vishkuw

By Yosef Gurni

Vishkuw is a Jewish shtetl. Itís the whole world. Itís a lost world that was destroyed so that nothing and nobody is saved for the future existence. For most of those who lived through this flame the disappearance of this world wiped off memories about the family home, manner of living, community, language, soul, about the childhood and youth, and about other values that connect people with their motherland. But even after becoming dead this world has risen in a new body and became a different one. Young people hold only imprecise, unclear childhood memories that are difficult to distinguish from fantasies.

Between those memories there are events that were imprinted in our memory in spite of their distance. They could not be forgotten; they are part of our feelings. Maybe only now, after many years itís possible to define a level of unexpectancy and fear during a first bombing attack, first sign of war.

During that summer of 1939 when I was a sixth year old boy the surrounding world was changing. In one day it has changed from a world of tenderness, spoiling and joy to a dark, angry world full of worries about the father who was being on the war front.

I didnít understand completely what is a war and during first days of the war I was in the ignorant state, full of despair and fear. Though I listened patriotic songs playing on a radio and I, a boy, really believed them. The war front was still far and I believed that there was no power that could break great Polish soldiers.

Adults thought differently. They packed stuff in boxes to leave to Warsaw. They thought that a miracle would happen in 1939 the same way as it was twenty years ago in Warsaw. This way I first understood what is the war on the bright fall morning. I still don't know how German pilot decided to drop a bomb exactly on our calm street. Our world woke up from the ringing sounds of breaking glass. My first reaction was to hide under the blanket that was a defense from the surroundings. That morning my mother woke me up earlier to finish packing our stuff. At that moment my mother was very much like a tigress than a home chicken. She ran to men and cover me by her body and then we embracing each other hid behind the commode and we heard the sound of dropping bomb from there. After that there was heavy silence, suspicious silence. Besides the fact that we are still alive we didn't know whether it was the end or just the beginning of the bombing. After that voices of people asking for their children and relatives resounded around. There were a lot of cries and tears. Desire to stay alive hurried us away from this place. We left together with grandfather. Last part of the family had to join us near the bridge over the river Bug. I, full of fright and curiosity, squeezed to my grandfather body.  House walls were like witches with black faces, there was smell of burning, sounds of cries from the center of the town.

Nothing surprised and shocked me anymore. Neither crying wounded people that were lying here and there, nor died people who were at least covered, not even a Jewish cabman who abused a goy in the fireman clothes. He was standing on the cart, pulling the horse reins by one hand and beating the goy using a whip in another hand.

This goy was trying to push the cabman down from the cart (surely he wanted to take a cart for himself). "Jew beats goy!" a thought fast as lightning came through my head and I even felt a pride for a moment. My childish wounded pride was very satisfied by this fact because of continuous pursuit by the goy gang.

There was another world after the bridge. Blue waters of the river Bug flew in the eternal calmness. Fields were green and a sky was blue. Smoke didn't cover everything in the black color yet. We were lying near the road and waiting for a cart.

In Warsaw we arrived at the evening. It admitted us with alarm sounds, guns fire and discharges of air defense artillery.
Beaten and wounded Poland was still defending.

Michael Tobin
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