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NADIA OLYNYK



Date of birth - 2 January 1926

Place of birth -  Sokil city, Lviv oblast, Ukraine

Interviewed - 11 April 2005, Montreal, Quebec

Audio interview (hard copy transcript available)

Language -  Ukrainian


(Excerpt):


Іnterviewer - And one more topic that interests me in relation to this period is the extermination of Jews in your area. Can you tell us something about this?

NO - In 1941, they [the Germans] forced all the Jews in the city into the so-called ghetto. They gave them bands with blue stars, Jewish stars. At first they took them to do various jobs involving hard labour, like digging bunkers outside of the city, or fixing roads, anything. After they had finished with them, they took them and shot them right outside of the city, in the eastern direction right between Sokal and a village called Hortkiv. I personally did not witness this but people who drove by told us about it. There was a big dug-out pit. Right there, above the pit is where [the Germans] would stand the Jews in straight rows and then using machine guns would kill them so they would fall into the pit, sometimes only half-dead. Then they lightly covered them with soil. People said that the next day there would be a sea of blood, and you could still hear the screams and cries from the pit. I did not see this and I cannot say if it is true, but I personally experienced the next incident. I was coming from the direction of the city to Nestor's, my brother's, grave, walking along the cemetery to the main gate. It was getting darker. Suddenly, I heard from the city behind me,  several cargo trucks travelling in my direction filled with Jews and surrounded my military vehicles, ready to shoot. They drove past me, I kept going, and suddenly, as if synchronized under a signal, the Jews started jumping out of the cargo trucks, running across the sidewalk, climbing over the fence, and jumping into the bushes. Evidently, the Germans opened fire and started a terrible massacre. Only some Jews managed to escape. I was frozen from fear and pain but kept going because if I started running away, I would get shot as well. I kept going, looking ahead at what was going on, and suddenly tripped, fell, and scattered the flowers I was holding. I looked down, and saw that it was a dead Jew, young, with wide eyes looking somewhere into the distance - somewhere where here was no pain, no fear. I will never forget this scene.

I also came across my classmate. She was with me in the first year of 'gimnazium' and for two years in 'desiatyrichka'. She was a Jew, escaped from Vienna, Austria, before the arrival of Hitler. She escaped, settled in our city, and she had an older brother named Larry, last name Gelbart. She was a lovely Jew, one of my best friends. She had dark, wavy hair, big black eyes, and skin like blood mixed with milk. She was very pretty. I lost contact with her when the Germans arrived. She stopped going to school, because then Jews did not go to school anymore. One day I saw her on that same road going along the cemetery called Tartakivska Street. I asked her "what is going on with you?" and she told me "my parents are already in the ghetto, and I still work, but I also have to go to the ghetto and that will be the end of me." Then she said "and I haven't even been kissed yet." She was only 17 years old. I felt so sorry for her. Later, I tried to figure out if she had survived or not. There was this series on TV about a military hospital in Korea, during the Korean war, called M*A*S*H. Do you remember M*A*S*H? The director was a man, they always showed his name on the screen, Larry Gelbart. And every time [I saw it], I was extremely curious if that was her brother that survived, who now was the famous director of this program. Finally, with great difficulty, I gathered all my courage, found his address and wrote him a letter. I simply asked if he would be so kind and tell me if he was the brother of Debra Gelbart, her name was Debra, the one that I knew at such-and-such a time, who lived in this place. He wrote me a very nice letter and said that unfortunately, he was not the brother. He said his parents left Romania before the war. He was a Jew, but not the one I was thinking of. I do not know anything more. I was advised to contact Yad Vashem, in Israel, in Jerusalem, where they have lists of all those who perished, those who were found, but I never did. 60 years passed. It was hard.

Interviewer - Tell us, this all looks very fatal. You're saying that she [Debra] had to return to the ghetto. Was there no chance for her to escape, hide somewhere? How did it look at those times?

NO - Some hid. Some people hid Jews and risked their own lives. If Germans found a Jew at somebody's house, they would shoot entire families.

Іnterviewer - Do you know of such instances?

NO - I never saw them personally, but people talked about them, and even in documents, it says that these people were under threat. But despite everything, our villagers hid Jews. I would come home from the city, from school, on Saturday, Sunday, to my parents. My mother kept rabbits. And whenever I would come home she would bring a sieve of bunnies to the garden on the grass and tell me to play with them. I pretended that I did not like them, but truly they were wonderful, tiny. And whenever I would come, the first thing I would do is run to this shed, I don't know how to call it, right away to say hello to the rabbits. One day I arrived and went there, but my parents would not let me in. I did not know why. It turns out that there was a whole group of Jews hiding in there. They were supposed to stay one or two nights and then go somewhere, someone was supposed to take them somewhere, I don't know where.

Interviewer - How are you so certain that they were Jews? How do you know this?

NO - It was obvious from their features, and later my parents admitted to it. They [my parents] didn't let me go there so that I wouldn't scare them [the Jews], because nobody was supposed to know about them. Otherwise, there were people who could tell the Germans, and then it would be the end for the Jews and for all of us. That is why they forbid me from going there and they kept it a big secret. Later I returned to the city, to school, and they [the Jews] disappeared to wherever they were supposed to go.

Іnterviewer - Do you know any of their names?

NO - No. Absolutely not. They wouldn't even want to tell us. Nobody knew. Maybe my parents knew. They were on very good terms with the Jews. Among the Jews there were good seamstresses, shoemakers, that always did little projects for my mother, even sewed for me. We helped them with food, even once they were already in the ghetto.

Іnterviewer - Do you remember their names?

NO - No. Maybe I did then, but today I've forgotten. 



CROSS REFERENCES:


• 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.

• Надія Хмара, Позаростали Стежки-Доріжки, спогади, Торонто, Дослідний Інститут ‘’Україніки’’ 2008.

excerpt from the Interview with NADIA OLYNYK
UKRAINIANS ASSISTING JEWS DURING THE HOLOCAUST

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