Welcome to the world of Munye Epstein, a street-smart Jewish kid from a small Ukrainian town who managed to survive the genocide. His Holocaust survival story is told in the forthcoming memoir Live Another Day by Michael Edelstein.
We are The Ruby Brothers, Walter and Dan, two writers who helped to bring Michael's story to the printed page. Walter conducted more than a dozen in-depth interviews with Michael; he and Dan shaped that material and other sources into the narrative presented in the forthcoming book.
In the blog, we'll shed further light on subjects that figure in some way in Michael's account, providing context for his experiences and illuminating the history of the Holocaust in the Podolia region of West Ukraine.
The world Michael was born into was the Jewish community of interwar Skala Podolski, an ethnically mixed Polish border town across the river from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Michael was a child in the town of Skala during the last decade for its Jewish community before the coming decimation. His given name was Moshe but his family called him Munye. He was incessantly curious and not inclined to follow the rules. It's no wonder his father called him Munye the mamzer. It wasn't a reference to his illegitimate birth status (though that was true, too) but his propensity for getting into trouble.
Munye was a schoolchild of age eight when the fundaments of his world shifted for the first time with the invasion of eastern Poland by the USSR in 1939. He received his first exposure to Soviet rule with the closure and curtailment of Jewish activities. Beginning two years later, he experienced the full ordeal of the German occupation and Jewish genocide.
Munye's mamzer skills were one factor enabling him to stay alive through numerous close calls during three years of Nazi aktions and pursuit by collaborators. He was one of just a handful of Skala survivors who crawled out of hiding following liberation by the Red Army in March 1944, and who went on to make a life as a refugee and immigrant.
Munye continued to live in Skala for a year after liberation, but Munye's world was forever destroyed. That landscape of devastation would be left behind in May of 1945, when Munye and his father boarded a repatriation train for resettlement in Silesia—the first stop on a long journey to eventual immigration to America in 1951.
In Poland and later in the German DP camps, Munye became Moniek. In Brooklyn, he became Michael. Munye's world was long gone in a physical sense but he always carried it inside of him during the adventures and successes of his later life. His family and cultural roots, combined with his childhood memories, continued to kindle the flame of Munye's world.
This blog hopes to keep that flame alive by exploring historical aspects of Michael Edelstein's Holocaust experience. Join us.
The essential source of information about the Jewish history of Skala is the memorial (yizkor) book, Skala on the River Zbruch, first published in xx in YIddish and then again in a 2009 English translation. Its collection of articles, vignettes, photos, lists and other resources was our main source for confirming and elaborating details of the Edelstein narrative.