There is nothing to see when you are shut up inside a hole all day, every day. It is a world without color or stimulus. There is also darkness during the few hours you have freedom to go outside at night, except for the time around the full moon each month when the boldest color is sepia. But as one’s vision diminishes, other senses compensate. My hearing became super acute, able to register and interpret acoustic signals, even when shut in behind sound-muffling walls...
Quotes from this chapter
The Banderovtsy Ukrainian militia, which was anti-Soviet and bitterly anti-Jewish, had taken to the forest was conducting guerrilla warfare under its cover.
The war was all but over in Skala and they were still killing little children.
Ukrainian residents of Skala had greeted the Germans occupiers with flowers a few years ago. Now they were staying tightly holed up in their houses.
Between the roofs of two houses I glimpsed the turret of a tank entering the town square. Emblazoned on its side was a bright red star.
I was called by my Hebrew name Moshe, the son of Shulem. I recited the verses that I had memorized, and afterwards received congratulations all around.
By working together, the Peckers and I were making a living. Each of us played a part, and my part was as important as anyone’s, maybe more so.
My hearing became super acute, able to register and interpret acoustic signals, even when shut in behind sound-muffling walls.
“Congratulations, Comrade Epstein,” he said. “I am here to enlist you in the patriotic Red Army.”
The gush of water I pumped into the pail did not collect there but leaked through the seam around the bottom rim. My bucket did not hold water.
One day Sroel came in with a tape measure and took my measurements. A few days later he presented me with a suit jacket and pants made from an old bedcover. It was the first suit I ever owned.
To get anywhere in the market I had to give as good as I got. So the next time a woman insulted my buckets, I countered that “they’re good enough to carry that gravel you call flour.”
Less than two weeks after our deliverance, the military situation turned. News spread through town that the German division had broken out of Kamenets and was advancing directly on Skala.
Mikhail replied that in the great Soviet Union all businesses must serve the people. From now on, he said, this would be a “people’s tin shop,”
For the next hour, we pulled nails and snipped edges until we had a big sheet of roofing tin free and clear.
They were struggling to grasp how they survived when the great majority of our people had not? And there was the other big question: Where was God?
Olenka lived alongside our little creek, the potik. I took a walk and listened to the burbling water. Wildflowers were budding.
Book excerpts about the people, places and events mentioned in the book
Ukrainian townswomen of Skala who provided sustenance for Munye, Shulem and Lonye
Munye's closest companion in the bunkers
The author's father, a tinsmith by trade, was also a survivor
Red Army officer who commanded unit that liberated Skala
Red Army sergeant who collectivized Munye's tin "business"
Survivor couple who lived with Munye in the aftermath of liberation
Munye's bunker buddy who joined his household in the aftermath
Michael's childhood home until Skala was declared "Judenrein"
Town with a similar name to which Jewish survivors were evacuated
Polish border town where Michael was born and experienced his ordeal
Survivors are evacuated as Germans retake Skala