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Date of birth – 1934

Place of birth –  Berezhany city, Ternopil oblast, Ukraine

Place of interview – Berezhany city, Ukraine

Date of interview - 31 January, 1997

Audio Interview (hard copy transcript available)

Language – Ukrainian/Russian


HK - This Vova, he worked at this brick factory. He drove a truck, took the bricks. My mother worked at the factory too and she knew him. One night she went into the cellar for potatoes and saw a person there. She got scared. He told her "Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. It's me - Vova." There was already such chaos, they [the Germans] were taking people... and he said "I want you to [help me]" and my mother said "I can't, I'm scared, I don't know." He said "I don't have anywhere to go. Anywhere." So he stayed there, and the next night my mother went with him and they brought his wife, her sister, and little Shimon whose mother carried him on her shoulders. Shimon's mother...

Interviewer - Wait. Vova was...he was...

HK - Shimon's mother's brother-in-law. Shimon's mother and Vova's wife were sisters.

Interviewer - So there was Vova...

HK - Vova, his wife, Shimon and his mother.

Interviewer - There were how many of them?

HK - Four.

Interviewer - So first came Vova.

HK - Yes. He went into the cellar.

Interviewer - The cellar was where. Was it in the house?

HK - No, no, no. It was a small house. Right here. Here in this yard. There was a little room and a kitchen, and later we built a house here.

Interviewer - Therefore it was a one-room house.

HK - One room and a kitchen.

Interviewer - And the cellar?

HK - The cellar. The cellar is here. It's right there under the window.

Interviewer - It was separate from the house?

HK - Separate. Have a look.

Interviewer - So it was this separate cellar in the yard.

HK - Yes, for potatoes.

Interviewer - So he [Vova] hid there.

HK - Yes.

Interviewer - And then your mother went for potatoes and saw him.

HK - Yes. It must have been fall, or maybe spring, I can't remember.

Interviewer - You said there were potatoes.

HK - There are potatoes in fall and in spring.

Interviewer - So maybe it was...

HK - Either spring or fall. In the summer there are no more potatoes in the cellar.

Interviewer - Yes, yes. So he [Vova] asked her...

HK - Yes, yes. "Hide me because you know what is happening." My mother said "I'm scared" and he said "It's okay, it will be okay" and my mother agreed.

Interviewer - In your opinion, why did he hide specifically in that cellar?

HK - There was nowhere else to go.

Interviewer - Did your mother, or anyone else from your family know him before this?

HK - My mother. My mother knew him because he worked with her. He drove the bricks and my mother loaded them onto the trucks. She worked at the brick factory and he delivered the bricks.

Interviewer - And after that your mother agreed to hide him.

HK - He said that he has a wife and her sister and  a little boy. My mother said that for the sake of the little boy she will agree. She said "I have little children as well. What will be, will be."

Interviewer - What happened next? They went somewhere...

HK - They were here long.

Interviewer - Where did they stay?

HK - They lived in the attic.

Interviewer - In the attic, yes?

HK - In the attic. Then in the barn. They dug a pit there and then they stayed there. In the attic we had hay - sheafs of hay that were covered. The Germans came and wanted some hay. My mother was not home; I was alone. They came and they wanted to climb up into the attic; the ladder was standing there. The other house was not finished yet. We just lived in the kitchen. We had a bed, a table, a chest, but we didn't even have a closet. That is how we lived. The other house was simply not finished yet. In that house where we were supposed to sleep, there was a ladder and we climbed up into the attic to get hay and straw for the cows. That's how it was. When the Germans came, there were two of them, they wanted to go up there and get hay. I knew that the little boy Shimon was there and I was scared. I thought "they are going to take him, kill him, and that's it." I grabbed one of the men by his pants and tried to take him off the ladder. I do not know how I could do this, I was so small. I do not know how big I was, but I was not big. We struggled for 15-20 minutes. The other one was laughing at what I was doing. This one was still trying to climb up to the attic, but I grabbed his pants, and the ladder... Then my mother came and she went up to the attic and threw one sheaf toward Shimon and one down to the Germans. She kept going until they had enough, and then they left with that hay. After that they [the Jews] went into the barn - they dug out a pit and they hid there.

Interviewer - Did they dig out the pit themselves?

HK - I don't know who made it.

Interviewer - At the time that they were in hiding, did you communicated with them?

HK - My mother told me... I just observed in the evenings. When they ate dinner, I looked from under the covers. My mother didn't tell me [anything]. Once I saw [them], and my mother told me "these people don't have anywhere to live. They came to visit." So my mother did not tell me who they were because she was scared. She thought I would go somewhere and say something, you understand? And if someone found out then that would be trouble.

Interviewer - So you did not see, you did not even know...

HK - I did not know who these people were. I only saw the boy, he was very small, skinny, and I saw the two women and the man. I only saw them when they ate dinner...

Interviewer - Where did  they eat dinner?

HK - In the kitchen. We had a bed and the kitchen and they ate there. I was already sleeping with my brother. They would eat dinner late.

Interviewer - So they came down from upstairs?

HK - Yes and then they ate dinner.

Interviewer - So they ate...

HK - Yes, yes. My mother would make something, whatever she had, and at that time it was very difficult. My mother would tell you more. I was young. But I remember what I remember.

Interviewer - Why, in your opinion, do you think, when that German was climbing up for the hay...why did you all of a sudden...

HK - I already knew that the Germans could kill my mother and I felt sorry for that little boy. I thought "they're going to kill the little boy and my mother and then what am I to do?" That is why I struggled with them.

Interviewer - Why did you think they were going to kill them [the boy and your mother]?

HK - I just knew it. I heard it in conversations. My mother never told me who they were but I was a child, I was very curious, and I heard who these people were, you understand? I thought that if they [the Germans] take them and kill them and kill my mother, then we will be on our own.

Interviewer - As a child, did you already understand that there were Jews and that they were being caught?

HK - I heard of it yes, I knew. Yes, yes.

Interviewer - There was suspicion that...

HK - Yes, yes. Here, in the forest, a lot of them were beaten up. We really feared the Germans later. The horror. If anybody said anything, they were killed immediately. They [the Germans] were so...I don't know how to describe it. They did not understand that you could forgive someone. They destroyed everything as soon as they suspected something. They did not spare anyone.

Interviewer - How long were they in hiding?

HK - About two years.

Interviewer - About two years? And that whole time there was no [communication]...

HK - No. Nothing.

Interviewer - Nothing. Tell us - how did it all end?

HK - In the end they went somewhere across the border.

Interviewer - But this was when the Soviet army came?

HK - Yes, yes. That was when they left.

Interviewer - Or under the Germans?

HK - No, no. Under the Germans they were here. Later, they left.

Interviewer - When the Red Army came?

HK - Yes.


• Full interview transcript (Ukrainian) can be found in the following book:

Винницька, Іроїда. "Незвичайні долі звичайних жінок. Усна історія ХХ-ого століття." Львів: Видавництво Львівської політехніки, 2013.

• Редліх, Ш., Разом і нарізно в Бережанах (Тogether and Apart in Berezany), Київ: Дух і літера, 2002.

Shimon's Returns. Dir. Slawomir Grunberg, Katka Reszke. Grunberg Films, 2015. Film.

Trailer can be accessed online

excerpt from the Interview with HANNA KONTSEVYCH

The interviews can be accessed at the UCRDC. Please contact us at: office@ucrdc.org