English Texts

Rose Zarutzky, My Charlie

I was born in Lublin in 1930 and grew up in Kovel. My mother was from Lublin. She met my father and moved there. I was an only daughter. My father's sister made "Aliya" in the twenties and started a family. My mother enrolled me in a Polish school, and later on in the "Herzeliya" school. During the Russian regime we studied in Yiddish.

The Germans built two Ghettoes in Kovel: in one they concentrated the elderly and the children. Those remaining were put in a Ghetto for "useful people". My mother sent me a "Arbeit Shane" which was a work permit for life, and thanks to it I could relocate to the "useful people" Ghetto. This move saved my life.

The Germans informed that they would be conducting searches and those found without this permit – would be shot. Those in the "old people's" Ghetto where destined for death. In July-August of 1942 the police came to take the elderly to Bachow – where they were murdered. The Gypsies dug the graves. Later on they began murdering the "useful", those working people who were left alive. The Germans declared that those who escaped could return and they would receive food. Those who were tempted came back and were killed. Those who survived ran away and joined the Partisans. In Kovel there were 15,000 Jews before the Holocaust. I had a girl friend in kindergarten, Gutta Ziskind was her name. She was already inside the grave. The Germans told the Jews to come with their best clothes, and were asked to undress. Gutta remained alive after the shooting, and then put on a shirt, climbed a tree and waited there. Twenty years later I found out that she was still alive.

My mother was brave. We had a chance to run away, and we joined the train workers. We boarded a train to Holobi, where we had an aunt. We reached a Polish family, Maria and Yan Barzal and stayed with them for 18 months – from August 1942 until February 1944 – in fact until the liberation of the Soviet army. After the establishment of the State of Israel, this family received recognition as "Righteous among the Nations".

We moved to Kiverzea, a small town in the area. Afterwards I moved together with my mother to Lublin. The war continued, but this area was liberated. I went to the Gymnasium. In 1945, Lodz was liberated, and my mother remarried. She took an advertisement in the newspaper: Bela and Rosa Flumbaum survived. My mother was not aware that my father survived the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Flossenbürg. Someone brought my father's attention to the newspaper ad. He came and found that my mother remarried.

In December 1945 we crossed the border illegally from Stettin to Berlin. We reached Bavaria and I went to live with my father in Regensburg until July 1949. In July 1949 I travelled to New York with my Father – and my new life began. My father worked at a farm in New Jersey, and I worked in New York and was paid $40 a week. My father raised chickens and later on married another woman from Kovel.

My husband Charlie, Jessaiahu (Shay'ke) Zarutzky, was born in 1923 in Holobi, a village near the town of Kamin-Koshirsky. His parents – Josef and Batya from Melnitza. There were three children in the family: Shay'ka the eldest, a sister, Shprinza, born in 1926 and another girl, Pesia born in 1936. Jessaiahu's father died young. His mother decided to raise her children by herself, and didn't remarry. Charlie went the primary school "HaTechia" in Kamin-Koshirsky and continued his studies in the Gymnasium in Kovel. He loved to read and was well educated. During the German occupation, the whole family was transferred to the Ghetto in Kamin-Koshirsky and like most of the Jews there, were murdered during the first Aktion on August 10th, 1942. Jessaiahu wasn't in the Ghetto that day and survived.

On November 2nd, 1942, before the execution of those who survived the first Aktion, he escaped the town; together with a group of youngsters from Kamin-Koshirsky he reached the forest of Kochov and was accepted into the group of Tzvivel-Klurman.

The paths of Charlie and Ze'ev ("Vova") Rave ("Verba") crossed at the end of the the summer of 1942. Ze'ev was born in Maniewicze, also in North Volyn. Under German occupation he joined a group of Jewish Partisans; towards the end of 1942 this group successfully reached the Kochov forest and joined the Partisan unit under the command of the Ukrainian Nikolai Konischuk, known as "Kruk". After a while the Tzvivel-Klurman group of Kamin-Koshirsky joined them, and among them was Jessaiahu Zarutzky. At that time, the Jewish Partisans were alone in the forests. After a while, Russian partisan groups were formed, and they joined forces and fought together.

Charlie's part was profound in all that was related to vengeance actions; against Nazi collaborators and local murderers. Charlie and Zeev lost their families during the execution of the Jews of Kamin-Koshirsky, and both were determined to avenge the death of their families. Ze'ev Rave (Verba) tells: "....in many instances we were both chosen to participate in the same operations. Together we marched distances in order to attack German army positions. We waited hours in the rain and snow in order to surprise the enemy – or more importantly, to blow up an army train, carrying German reinforcements to the Russian front. The task of blowing up the trains was always very dangerous, but the sight of the carts loaded with the enemy's ammunition, crushed and tossed like waste was very rewarding. Our unit, grown to be a brigade, was involved in numerous battles and bold acts of sabotage. Even though we were fewer in numbers by comparison to the German forces in the forests, we caused considerable damage and were a force to be reckoned with. Many of us were killed and their graves are scattered in North Volyn.

In March 1944 the Russian army liberated the area. The Partisan units were dismantled and our members were sent on various missions. Charlie and I, unaccompanied, were sent to the city of Zdolbunov near Rovno in order to assist in restoring the city and its surroundings following the German occupation. For over a year we worked and lived together in the same room. During this period, the city of Zdolbunov, a major train junction, was bombed almost every night by the Germans. At night we sat in the bomb shelters and during the day we fought the bands that remained after the German retreat. On May 8th, 1945, Germany surrendered. We were alone. It was obvious to us that there were no survivors among our families. Charlie decided to go to the United States where he had relatives...".

For his excellence in combat, he received the Soviet "Order of the motherland war". After his discharge Charlie was also active in the "Habricha" organization and relocated groups of Jews from Eastern Europe to Western Europe.

Jessaiahu arrived the United States through Paris in 1948. He worked in a uniform surplus store and adopted the name "Charlie" after the name of the first store he worked in. In time he opened his own store. One day a woman fell while getting off a bus, and he helped her up. She recognized his foreign accent and gave him my telephone number. We were married in 1953. We did not have any children of our own, adopted two girls and became a family. We recognized that both our mothers came from Melnitza and joked that they probably went to the "Mikve" together.

Gradually his business grew. I advised him to sell the business and he went into real estate. He worked hard over the years. Archick (Aharon) Sokol, from Kamin-Koshirsky as well, was his business partner. We moved to Great Neck and as Jessaiahu had an orthodox background, he was invited by the Rabbi to read the Haftara. He kept close contact with his Partisan friends. Every two-three years he used to travel to Israel to the Partisan Organization conferences. Among his friends were Dora and Pasha Avidov (Reichman) of Lodz; before the war they were Communists, and then joined the Partisans. Our close friends were survivors. Our connection with Yiddish and the past was constant. One of our daughters married an Israeli and had four children. Charlie was proud in his contact with Israel and we came to visit often. We assisted in establishing the " Volyn auditorium". Charlie contributed significantly, mainly to Israel, and particularly towards Jewish education. He had three major attributes: sensitivity, generosity and loyalty to his family and friends. He felt a deep emotional bind to the Holocaust.

When the idea of the founding of a memorial for the Partisans to be built in Givataaim came up, we donated a large amount of money in order to complete the project. Charlie was very active in the project. Tragically though, Charlie, who was one of the people responsible for the founding of the memorial since the idea intially came up in December 1991 – died just before the revealing ceremony, on May 18th, 1997. His sudden death shocked us all. His name was added to the list of partisans engraved on the wall near the memorial.

I will always remember him as a special person ("a mench" in Yiddish), intelligent, brilliant, energetic and with a sense of humor.