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MARTHA TROFIMENKO


Date of birth – 8 February, 1933  

Place of birth – Krosno, Poland 

Place of interview – Toronto, Canada

Date of interview - 26 August, 2016

Video interview

Language – Ukrainian


(Excerpt):


MT - We lived with my uncle. It was a big building. Half of it was his medical practice. The Germans would come there. He was a gynecologist, they didn't have kids, but he was very well known and responsible, and I guess because he was a Ukrainian amongst the Polish, the Germans would send their wives to him. That was a little bit dangerous for us because in reality we were there illegally and in addition to that, because my mother and father had an opportunity, and they had to survive somehow, they bought a little store. I forget what it was called. At the back of the store there was a little room where we sold books. The German soldiers would come into the store, because they walked around all of Ryashev. I know that when they would come, my mother would hold me beside her and tell me to stand politely and not say anything. I was a polite girl so I did as I was told. But there, in the back, with the books, there was a young lady named Iryna who worked there, and I didn't know why my mother would be so worried when the German soldiers would come and she was there. But I was too young to ask, but I observed it nonetheless. One time the soldiers came, but they were polite, these German soldiers. They tried to show me some tricks. One decided to go look in the back. My mother squeezed my hand so tight that it hurt. She was so nervous. But he returned and nothing happened and they left. My mother then left to go look in the back, and I remember it was so cold. Iryna was working them. And Iryna was  a  Jew.

Interviewer - And your mother knew this?

MT - Yes. That is why she took her. Iryna was sitting in the back in this light, silk blouse. It was so cold! She was shaking, because there was no heating then, ad her jacket was hanging on a hanger. I remember the hanger. The jacket was hanging so that one sleeve was showing and the other was hidden. That was because she had a Jewish band on that sleeve. She usually sat and wrote in her jacket because it was so cold. Mother paid her and gave her food if needed, and some perfume I remember, but if they caught her, they would have executed us too. So my mother came, and she was sitting there. It makes me want to cry right now thinking about it. She was sitting there in that blouse, shaking, because it was so cold. But she was smart because when she heard they were coming, she hung up her jacket so that they would not see [her band].

MT - One morning I heard there some kind of commotion. Something was happening. I saw that they were carrying things to the backyard, where there was a cellar where we kept sour milk and other things.

Interviewer - Who? Your mother and father?

MT - No, there were always those who helped. Тhere was a cook and a girl who lit the furnace and cleaned. So they were carrying something. I looked - and it was good. I was wondering what was happening. Somebody must be down there. Not far from us, right beside the villa, there was a house where friends of my parents lived. They were Jews. And I noticed that nothing was happening there. I was playing with my friends, and I noticed that they were no longer carrying things [into the cellar], but something was happening inside. "Marta, go there, play here, don't bother us, you don't need friends today because we'll be leaving, we need to pack", my parents told me. I knew something was up. I heard them doing something that night and the next morning I woke up, everybody woke up, and I hadn't left my little room yet, because we had little rooms then. Somebody slept beside me and they had also woken up, but whether it was my mother or father or somebody else I don't know. In any case, I climbed up some blocks, or something else I can't remember right now, to the window because it was very high up, this little window, and I looked to see what was happening. І see that a carriage has arrived. The carriage is full of hay and some kind of bags. They didn't take the hay off, but they did unload the bags, and they were leading our Jewish friend from the house to the carriage.

Interviewer - From your house?

MT - Our house. He was hiding there. Now I remember that I forgot to mention that before this, 2 days before, I heard a loud yell. I need to go back. There was a loud yell outside and I saw that the Germans were taking this man's wife, and she was yelling "God will punish you for this. God will punish you for this." I saw that the man was no longer in our cellar, but in our house, and my mother and father were holding him so that he wouldn't go out. We cannot boast because we were not doing this only for me, but to save ourselves too. I wouldn't have helped him nor her. So she was taken away. And the next day, two days later, he was taken to the carriage.

Interviewer - So they found him in your house?

MT - No, they didn't find him. My mother and father were taking him to the carriage. The carriage was a regular one, pulled by horses, very old-style, poor. They put him in the carriage and covered him with bas and hay and I was dying of fear. I think I even started crying then because I thought the bags of potatoes would kill him. I already knew, even as a kid, that these were bags of potatoes. Then it drove away. They were very nice villagers. They helped pack and transport Jews from Turky to the Hungarian border because it was easy to take them there.  

Interviewer - So you think they took him there?

MT - Yes, yes. Later my mother told me this. I had forgotten about it because we could not talk about it, but later, this was in Canada already, and my mother told me how it was. I told her "you know, I remember, he probably died from those bags". Then my mother said "Marta, the carriage had one floor, then hay all around, and then another floor. Like a bottom made of wooden planks. And he lay there calmly on his side because that's how it was made, and he could breathe through the hay, and the bags were on top." The entire time I thought about it I was sure...

Interviewer - Do you know how drove him? They were villagers, Ukrainians?

MT - They were villagers, yes, yes. From around Turky (the village). Later my mother told me that there were a few trustworthy people.

Interviewer - Ukrainians?

MT - Ukrainians, yes. These were people who worked the fields, regular people, not rich folks, who would transport things often to Hungary to sell. Potatoes, for example. They could transport it. There were more instances like this one, but I remember this one because I will never forget how scared I was that he was going to die under those bags.

MT - The Germans would behave very strangely with the Jews. I remember one time in Zolochiv, I was with my friends and we were going somewhere from school. We were walking along a road where street vendors were set up selling sour cream and eggs from their homesteads. We had to stop because to the left of us there was this big group of people. At the front, there were young Jewish men followed by Germans in uniform. As they got closer, we noticed that the vendors looked scared so we also moved away so that God forbid we get into some kind of trouble. When they got close to the eggs, we heard the Germans say, because I remember this because we learned German in school and we spoke it well. They told them to break the eggs. They had something in their hands that looked like sticks, some kind of instrument. We tried to get as far away from it as possible, and they started beating the eggs. Тhe vendors started yelling "panonko, panonko", I remember that word, "don't break them". But they did and they broke almost all of them. And one older girl who went to school with me said "this isn't the first time they've done this" meaning that they [the Germans] wanted the Jews to break the eggs and turn over the milk, oh there was also milk there, because we could see it spilling over, so that the Ukrainian villagers would be convinced that the Jews were the bad guys and the Germans were their friends.

excerpt from the Interview with mARTHA TROFIMENKO
UKRAINIANS ASSISTING JEWS DURING THE HOLOCAUST

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