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Pomegranate Guild > Long Island Group Stitches Holocaust Stories

If Rivers Could Speak
based on the testimony of Charlene Schiff
by Lenny Holland

I was in the water up to my neck. The water was cold. We were hiding in the bulrushes and I knew we could not move. It was very quiet and any sound would give us away. Mama gave me some soggy bread. It tasted awful, but she insisted I had to eat it to keep strong. I was tired and wet. The night was dark. Dawn came up suddenly. In the light of day we saw that many other people from the ghetto had made their way to the river.Shots, which had been sporadic during the night, became more regular now. The Ukranian guards kept yelling: "Come out, Jew. I can see you!"

And most of the people were doing just that. Mama kept whispering to me to stay put and not make a sound. Days passed in confusion. Shots kept coming seemingly from every direction. It was hard to remain quiet while listening to screams and cries and watching fire and smoke coming from the ghetto.

"When are we going to cross the river, Mama?" I wanted to know.
Mama tried to calm me and assured me that we would cross the river as soon as the Ukranians and Germans left.

"When will that be?" I asked rather impatiently. I was only 11 years old.

"Soon, my sweet child,soon," Mama replied. "At that time we will make our way to the farm of the K. family," Mama explained.
Farmer K. had promised to hide Mama and me. We knew his family. We used to buy dairy products from them before the war. It was very tiring to stand in the river and at times I dozed off leaning on the bulrushes. One horrible moment I woke up and Mama was nowhere in sight! I was terrified, all alone, lost. I felt betrayed and guilty for falling asleep. I felt like screaming and crying for Mama, but could do neither. By evening, all had become quiet. I thought that Mama couldn't wake me and had made her way to the farm where she would be waiting for me. I crossed the river and walked until I reached the farmer's place. He greeted me in the barn like a stranger who was not welcome at all. He wouldn't even let me in the house. I noticed Papa's gold pocket watch and chain dangling from his dirty coveralls. He told me Mama was not there.

I never saw my mother again.


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Originally Posted: December 23, 2005
Last Updated: August 1, 2010

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