Encounter with the Mayor

One night in early December, we noticed that the dog was not chained up in front of the mayor’s house as usual. We decided to take a chance and I approached the door while Lonye lurked behind. It was the mayor’s wife who cracked the door opened was whispered, “Who is it?” 

“The son of the tinsmith,” I replied in the local language. She recognized me and opened the door to me and Lonye, who had quickly stepped up. “Come in and close the door,” she said. “A devil might see you.” That was a popular Ukrainian expression, but in this case she didn’t mean a figurative demon, but rather a flesh and blood devil in a Nazi uniform.

We asked for food and she quickly brought us bread with jam and all the milk we wanted. We ate like two wild animals, swallowing before we even stopped chewing. I just kept saying “dyakuyu”—thank you—over and over.

Soon, the mayor himself joined us in the kitchen. He was an imposing man with a huge, bushy mustache. He immediately asked me whether my father was still alive. I responded that he was but, like Lonye and myself, in dire need of food and warm clothing.

Kowalyszen turned to his wife, and told her to climb up to the attic and “throw down as many sacks as they’d like.” So she went up the ladder and started tossing down bundles—sack after sack of Jewish goods, more than any family could ever use. There were heavy woolens, fancy Sabbath clothes, fine linen, candlesticks—you name it.

In addition to the bundle Tateh had left with the mayor it was clear that many other Jews had done the same. This was the loot they had collected from all those people, mostly now dead, and it was just sitting in the attic not helping anyone. “You don’t need these things?” I asked.

What he said next surprised me. “Why should we need it? We will be leaving soon anyway. The Germans accuse us of helping Jews and soon the Russians will accuse us of helping the Germans.”