Those two people they hide us in the closet, and the police came, to our luck they didn't search but they asked them, do you have a runaway Jew, they did not report it, to our luck the police didn't search, and when he left then we came out, they gave us some food, they gave us some clothes and they gave us a direction in the forest where we can meet other runaway people.
Mr. Alexander Levin is a World War Two veteran of the Soviet Army. Born in Poland in the village of Rokitno, he spent the first years of the war trying to escape the Nazis who invaded his country. He would eventually be conscripted as a "boy messenger" in the beginning of 1944 when he was only 12. He served with No. 2408 Field Hospital attached to the 13th Soviet Army (1st Ukrainian Front). Mr. Levin published his memoirs titled "Under the Yellow and Red Stars."
Transcript / ShowHide
[Escaping the Nazis in wartime Eastern Europe] We continue wondering until we came to Netreba [a destroyed Eastern Poland village] and finally we came to the village of Okopy [Western Ukraine]. On the skirt of the Okopy was a house, we came to the house, we knocked on the door, by knocking in the door a man came out with a collar, so we recognized Polish as a Catholic priest. He let us into the house, and there was a lady in the house. The lady happened to be; later on we found out, she was a Polish teacher. When we came into the house prior to this they saw a poster in the village, in Ukrainian and German who reported a runaway Jew, will get 1kg of salt. Those two people they hide us in the closet, and the police came, to our luck they didn't search but they asked them, do you have a runaway Jew, they did not report it, to our luck the police didn't search, and when he left then we came out, they gave us some food, they gave us some clothes and they showed us a direction in the forest where we can meet other runaway people. [The war on the Eastern Front, 1944] From this moment, in our mind, for many, many years was this people they saved us. It was a short episode, very short episode but they saved us, and by saving us we always remember this part in our lives. This is not a long time, when we were listening, we heard about bombardment, and when we were coming to a village, the villagers are more generous to us. They found out that the Nazis are retreating. By having this information, finally we found out from them that our town is liberated by the Russians. Now it is a decision, because the forest was our savior, our hiding place but we have to find out what has happened to our parents, what has happened to the community and we walked over 20kms back to our town. When we came to our town, we remember a Polish family Wrublevski that during the Christmas time our parents were friends; they were calling us to come to pick up the candies, and this I remember even the last name. When we came over there we slept over night, they gave us some food, when we came back we found a Russian liberator; that he saw two boys, and then he proposed that he will take me to his superior and my brother has to go to another unit. My brother went to another unit; they accept him as a volunteer and he took me to his superior. It was 2804 Field Hospital [13th Soviet Army, 1st Ukrainian Front] after the front line away, you see the hospital, they accept me, they gave me a shower, they gave me a military uniform that wasn’t for a boy, it was a soldier uniform [Mr. Levin was 12 at the beginning of 1944]. I was giving boots that I can fit in one boot, and here was hanging the uniform, but in two days they prepared for me a uniform, I was get dressed already as a macho boy, and I became a messenger boy, a soldier in this military field hospital. I can describe you what war it is, I have seen in these military wounded soldiers, I was helping the pharmacist, once happened, a Messerschmitt was flying over [a German military aircraft] and they bombarded this hospital, a corner, and we were trying from the other place to take some medicine to go to this unit, and by explosion we were hit to the wall. We lost conscious, two minutes, we came back, we were not wounded, but we lost conscious, and then we came back and we went to the place we saw already wounded soldiers, the smell of the wound I still feel it now. [Bringing the war to Germany] We start moving from Rokitno to Sarna, from Sarna to Rovno [Polish municipalities], from one place to another place, this location; I am following the front as going. I would never forget when we were forcing in Poland, yes, in [Jeschuv] in Poland, I met my other brother, he was in the other unit. Time to time, we already had a chance to see each other. We were advancing when we were moving over River Wisla [the Vistula River], I would never forget that they killed Germans, they killed Russians that they were laying in the water. I have seen it with my young eyes. Now with my eyes I don't remember what happened yesterday, but this I remember very well. We went over the Oder River [Germany], I would never forget, I have seen the atrocity what the Russian was doing to the Germans when we came into Germany. In my book I describe this. I have seen what they are doing in front of me. I describe this to the kids when I say this is a war, and in a war could happen unpredicted situations. I am telling the kids they have to understand what war it is. They would not understand to the end because they did not go through this, they didn't feel the smell, they didn't see the reality, but they have to be prepared and ready to fight back, to defend your community, your country. This is I am advancing from one city to another city and finally when we were advancing and came already to... I was in cities, Żarów, [Strotow, Grybów] [Polish municipalities] I remember the names of the streets, of the places we were located, and finally we came to a city of Torgau, that is about 100kms from Berlin and this time was an order by Stalin that all orphans (we sent back to Russia), and I want to tell to the Canadian people, because in the Canadian Army, during the Second World War and the American Army you would not have orphans, young children, as 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, some of them 17, like that they were 19, but they did not have this situation and the Russian Army, there were a lot of orphans who were adopted by the military units and different units, who ran away from the orphanages and went to be participating in the war. [The end of the war] Stalin gave an order that all orphans should be sent back to Russia, and I was sent back with a pregnant nurse. She went with me to Moscow, but prior to come to Moscow, we went to White Russia where she was born and she had a brother, she was a family. I want to underline this moment, what war it is, what war does to communities, to people. In White Russia when we came to her family she had a brother, and I am already a military boy, and a son, who found explosions with the wire, and the wire is long enough to have time to run away, and he cut the wire to save the wire and wants to catch fish, and I was in boots and they were bare feet, and I told them not to do it or to wait for me, and I went around until I come, they already went through the explosion and he was killed and another was wounded. I would never forget how I took, all the stuff in the stomach, I put it in, and his sister we buried him and we went back. Why I want to say this short story that even the war is already far away but people are getting killed because of the war. When I retired I started speaking to schools, and I have a mission to share my story with all the kids. I have nice letters from kids, some of them understand, some of them I hope they will understand, but this is my mission until my brain isn’t working. Thank you.