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Sara Gelfand Memoir
Terror at Shavuout
It was Shavuot, seven weeks after Pesach, when dark clouds began gathering above us. One Friday night we heard shooting. It did not last long, then subsided. Some time later we heard it again: shots and shouts. Uncle Alter had a cellar covered by a trap door; both families hid in the cellar and Uncle covered the door with sacks of wheat and flour and escaped, we did not know where to. We stayed in the cellar until noon. We heard the noise of fighting above and understood that the bandits, who were hiding during the day in the woods, had come to the town. They did not stay long, but we were very scared, fearing to be discovered. When we thought that they had left, mother and we three sisters came up from the cellar. Our aunt stayed below, for her children has had the measles and she could not leave them alone. Eventually, we went out to the street. We saw people coming out from hiding in non-Jewish houses. They advised us to hide in the field of rye and wait there. The field was not far from our house. Mother held our hands and we spent the night in the field, not knowing whether Uncle Alter, Grandfather and the rest of the family were alive or not. From our hiding place we could hear horses passing near by, but the night passed without incident. Nobody discovered us.
When day came, we went to Uncle Alter’s house thinking: “God help us, let everybody be well!” We saw auntie and her children and she said that during the night Uncle Alter was with them. But she did not know where he was now. She thought he may have gone to Shul.
I told my mother: “Let's leave the two small ones here and go to the synagogue”.
We walked on the street leading to the Shul and heard about the terrible things that were happening. When we came to the synagogue we saw that all the windows were broken and in the inside there were dozens of dead people lying on the floor. Later we were told that the Bolshevik soldiers who were supposed to guard the synagogue ran away when the bandits attacked. The bandits rounded up all the Jews they could find, brought them into the synagogue with the intention of setting fire to it and burning the temple with the people and the Sacred Scrolls. The fire and the screams alerted the fire brigade and the bandits escaped without any of them being caught or killed. The people who had come to the synagogue started to gather and identify the bodies of the victims, who were buried that same Friday.