Zusman Segalovitsh about refugeedom in the stopover Równo
On the night of September 5-6, 1939, only a few days after the German attack on Poland, a group of Jewish journalists and writers decided to leave Warsaw for the East at the behest of the Polish government in order to escape the German advance. Among them was Zusman Segalovitsh (1884-1949), who after a long period of meandering by train, decided to disembark and stay in the eastern Polish town of Równo.
װילנע און פֿון װילנע קײן קאָװנע און װײַטער, װײַטער פֿון דאַנען. איך האָב פֿאַרגעסן מײַן מידקײט, מײן קראַנק האַרץ. איך האָב אויפֿגעװאַכט און געלאָפֿן אַהין, אַהער, געשטאַנען אין דער רײ, געװאַרט אויף פּאַפּירלעך און דערנאָך זיך געשלעפּט לאַנגע מעת־לעתן אין שמוציקע װאַגאָנעס. סאַרני, באַראַנאָװיטש, לידע. איך בין געקומען אין װילנע. דאָרט באַגעגנט כּמעט אַלע חבֿרים, מיט װעלכע מען איז צוזאַמען אַרויס פֿון װאַרשע. אין װילנע זענען געװען די רוסן, אין װילנע איז קײן ברויט נישט געװען. שפּעטער האָבן די שטאָט פֿאַרנומען די ליטװינער… מען האָט זיך װידער געשטעלט װאַרטן אין דער רײ, געװאָלט אַ דערלויבעניש אַרײַנצופֿאָרן קײן קאָװנע…
Our train was again standing on one spot for a long time. It was dark as if somewhere underground. We were standing at a station because I heard movement. Wagons were moved and beaten. […] I went to the window and asked into the darkness:
– Where are we?
– We are standing at the Równo station.
The train was still standing. The bones were aching. Should I maybe get off at Równo? I had no strength left. And hope? Who knows, maybe it would be better in Równo. Now luck was the most important thing. Maybe my luck is in Równo? In the meantime the train left this darkness and was off into the next darkness. We drove for several hours, sometimes we stopped, sometimes we moved. We arrived at the station Zdołbunów while it was already beginning to dawn. Something pulled me from my seat: I’m not going any further, I’ll walk from Zdołbunów back to Równo on foot and come what may. Stupnitski stayed in Lublin, Gotlib left us in Pinsk and I am going to Równo. Everyone has his destiny.
[…] I arrived in Równo at 10 am. The peace and quiet of the road had already passed. Tens of thousands of refugees, civilians and officials, flooded the streets. Everything was on the move like the day before the end of the world. By now I was already a skilled refugee, so I decided to go to “TOZ.” This is the Jewish health society. In every city there was such a department.
– I am this and that. Maybe you can help me?
– Good! What do you need?
– A bathtub and some fresh clothes. […]
I was lucky. Hundreds of people were sleeping in the street and I had a big room. Thousands were looking for food and I had the best… My luck was hurting! Only now did I really feel how Luków and Lublin turned my heart into a heap of rubble. […]
In Równo, I joined the thousands who had fled, ran to them and then escaped from them. Into the masses like a stake among stakes. I satiated myself with bitter rumours and very soon escaped into my loneliness.
One morning, 8 o’clock, we all ran to a shelter. […] After a day, or a little longer or less, the German will march in and they will do whatever they wants to do… Suddenly, our Fishbein’s maid came running into the shelter. Until now she had been up in the kitchen, she didn’t believe in shelters. Now she came running breathlessly and started to tell us. The radio was on all the time. She heard Moscow announce that the Soviet power has decided to take the Eastern territories. The Russians will come today. For sure, for sure. She heard it herself. Eyes and ears were fixed on her, but no one believed it yet. […]
Three o’clock. At exactly 3 p.m. the first Soviet tanks entered the city. One after the other. On each tank a red banner and an armed soldier with his weapons was ready. […]
When I left Warsaw, I felt that it would not be long before I died. And now, I’m surviving… It just made me curious. Move on. Let it be a game with life, the monster. Let it be! […]
The radio announced that Lithuania will get Vilnius and that it will happen very soon. My heart was pounding. Lithuania will get Vilnius. Lithuania is a neutral country and from there you will be able to steal yourself out into the world. My imagination went crazy. Something in my soul was singing enthusiastically and trumpeted:
Vilnius and from Vilnius to Kovno and on, on from there. I forgot my tiredness, my sick heart. I woke up and walked here and there, stood in queues, waited for documents, and then dragged myself in dirty wagons for long days. Sarny, Baranowicze, Lida. I arrived in Vilnius. There I met almost all the friends I had left Warsaw with. In Vilnius were the Russians, in Vilnius there was no bread. Later the Lithuanians took over the city… I started to line up again to get permission to go to Kowno…
Zusman Segalovitsh (1884-1949), 11For biographical details see Cohen, Nathan: Segalovitsh, Zusman in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Segalovitsh_Zusman (25.9.2019). is considered one of the most popular Yiddish writers in Poland in the interwar period. He was one of the few Polish-Jewish writers who were able to get a seat on the so-called journalist train, which left Warsaw for Lublin on the night of September 5-6, 1939, to escape the German invasion and arrived in Vilnius on October 10, 1939. Segalovitsh, however, did not arrive in Vilnius by train, but by other means. After meandering by train for some time, he decided to get off near the Eastern Polish town Równo 22now Rivne in northwestern Ukraine. and stay there for the time being as part of the large refugee community. He experienced the Soviet occupation, learned here that Vilnius had been assigned to Lithuania and decided to continue his flight to Vilnius. Two years later he left Vilnius for the Soviet Union, from where he went to Palestine, and survived the Shoah. In 1948 he reached the USA, where he lived until his death in 1949.
1For biographical details see Cohen, Nathan: Segalovitsh, Zusman in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Segalovitsh_Zusman (25.9.2019).