The Escape Part II
The man told that his family had gone and he and his son hid themselves in the shed
when the Germans transferred everybody to the railway station. They were caught and
brought here. I realized that the Germans had mistaken me for a dweller of the Kurenevka.
Suddenly the door opened and a Germans addressed me in Russian: Come out! and pointed out
to me with a finger. I came out. He asked me my surname. I answered: Koval. They asked why
I was so dirty, unshaven and unwashed. I told them it was because I was old. There was no
soot on my face, it had gradually washed off, but when I was caught and struck with a
revolver on the head blood had caught with the skin and hair, so it wasn't obvious whether
I was young or old.
Then he asked me why I had not gone when it was announced and if I had a family. I told
them my wife and children had gone but I remained there with the house and the property.
He told me to show them the place where I hid myself and then I was to be sent to Germany.
Having understood that they had mistaken me for a Kurenevka dweller I told them that there
was one other since Ostrovsky had been seen with me. They told me to show them where
Ostrovsky was or else I would be shot.
He ordered me to follow him. Two Germans followed me. One was old, about sixty. He must
have been a clerk and was very awkward. The other was also not young. If they had not been
armed I'd be able to handle them both. They followed me quietly and calmly talked. I heard
what they were saying and I understood their conversation. They said that it was necessary
to get out of that place since Russians were going to arrive there very soon and then they
would not be able to get home. In general, they were in the mood of going noch Hause home.
Since both my arms and legs were free, I decided not to wait. The street, I think, it was
Starozavodskaya consisted of small cottages. I made a break and I was running like a deer,
I got into one house, they all were open, and jumped out of the window, ran into another
one and also jumped out. I heard them run after me and shoot but by that time I must have
been in the tenth house on another street and got under the bed. I was so scared that I
heard my heart pound and it sounded like a hammer banging.
I sat down and feel asleep. I awoke to the feeling that the hairs were pulled out on my
face. It turned out that my face was covered with blood which had dried. There were mice
in the house. They got near me and were licking the dried blood off my face. As I woke up
because of the pain I was able to catch a mouse. I squeezed it so hard that it squeaked.
Then I was completely awake and didn't sleep again. In the morning I found some dry bread,
pickles and ate a bit. I found an old coat, changed and grabbed a stick. I decided to try
and make it unobserved to the forest.
I went into the street. Nobody was in sight.
Suddenly as if from nowhere there appeared two men in civil clothes but with red bandages
on their arm. They noticed me and took me to the Krasin tram depot. As it turned out,
opposite the park there stood a military detachment, which enlisted people to dig trenches
and other work. I was forced to join this team.
I learned that all those caught after evacuation of the Kurenevka were sent to this team
of workers and it was being taken to the town of Romny. At that time the team dodged the
trenches in Pushcha-Voditsa. I also was given a spade and made to dig. The food was better
than in the camp and if one felt that it was not enough the Germans did not object to
boiling potatoes on the fire. But they didn't like when anybody was sitting so we had to
boil the potatoes standing with a spade in our hand, then they would not say anything.
I ate well.
I tried not to talk much so I would not be recognized by my speech.
Once before assigning us to work at the time of line up I heard that the older people
would be sent from there, but I didn't hear where they would be sent. Two Germans came up
to me and asked my name and age. I said, Koval, 60. I was ordered to go out and stand
where the other old people were standing. They selected some more people, then lined them
up, gave a loaf of bread to each person and drove from Kurenevka on foot towards
Borshchagovka, supervised by two Germans.
There I again saw a wire fencing. It was the camp for military captives. There were big
warehouses inside. There were rails and there stood rail cars. They loaded something into
the cars and then they drove out. I didn't see what nor where they were going.
Then I saw our war prisoners in shoulder straps. One of our convoy, a German, came into
the guard-box, then he got out with another German who spoke Russian a bit and asked if
there were carpenters. I answered that I was. He ordered me to come out and I followed
him. I noticed that they were handing out dinner. People were coming one by one to the
cook. He poured out a scoop of soup and gave a slice of bread to each person. The German
brought me to the cook and ordered him to give me a dinner without waiting on the line and
then he told me when I finished eating, I was to go to the sentry box and he showed where
After the dinner when I went into the sentry box, the German told me that it was necessary
to remake one pyramid for rifles into two. He gave me a hack-saw and some other tools. I
asked them to give me a person to help. So he went out and brought one at once.
My assistant who was between 40 and 45 years old, helped me to cut the pyramid and by the
evening we had everything ready.
This German then asked me if I could make a suit-case. I answered that for this material
and a working place was required. On the next day he gave me a place in the attic and my
assistant and I made a bench of boards, then they brought me plywood, leatherette, glue
and everything else that I had asked for. By the evening the suit-case was ready. The
German liked the suit-case and he brought me a loaf of bread and two packs of tobacco. I
shared it with my assistant. On the next day we got the order for another suit-case and he
brought an officer to us. They ordered one more suit-case. Every day I started to make two
suit-cases. I handed the bread and tobacco over to the other prisoners of war.
My assistant confided to me what he was in reality. As it turned out, he was a criminal.
Under the Soviet regime he was sentenced to 10 years for theft and murder. He railed at
the Soviets, and called them all Jews. I became sick of him so on the next day I told the
Germans that I did not need an assistant any longer and they took him away.
Several days passed but finally the carriages were driven up and all prisoners of war were
taken to Germany. I hid in the attic and in the evening when I came down, there were no
more prisoners of war on the territory. Then I saw that the cook remained, someone from
the medical ward, the interpreter and some other people. The interpreter who also was a
war captive started cursing at me because I did not go with the others. I said that the
officer ordered me to make a suit-case and I missed the train. Then a German came out and
said that there will be another train in a few days and we could all go to Germany.
Each day I had new orders. The Germans were getting ready to evacuate. They felt that they
had to pack up quickly and to be ready to leave at any moment.
Some days later again a group of war prisoners was brought there since this camp served
for them as a transit station. Among them I saw Lenya Berlyand with whom I had been
together with in Babi Yar and later at the brick factory, in the attic. I invited him to
my shop, treated him to some bread and gave a loaf and tobacco for the trip.
Senya told me that when he was caught he presented himself as a Gipsy and they decided to
send him to Germany and brought him there.
There were no news as to our offensive. Suddenly we all were gathered, lined up, the gates
were opened and we were ordered to run. Why and where we did not know. When we where out
of the city boundary we saw Soviet aircraft flying low. Somebody ordered us to lie down
and to scatter. Everybody including the Germans ran in different directions. There was a
forest and I ran towards it. Then the Germans collected whomever they could and ran on. I
watched and decided to stay in the forest and while they ran away. I got up and went into
the depth of the forest. All of a sudden I saw five men and four women being led by a
German and a Ukrainian policeman with automatic guns. They saw me and without asking what
and who I was they ordered me to join them. There was nothing I could do. I joined them
and went. When we went out of the forest and came to a village. As best I can remember,
Zabyrnya was written on the school. Our guards decided to spend the night in the school.
It became dark.
It was cold and dark in the school. One of the Germans went out then came back and ordered
me and another man to follow him. In the yard there lay wood and logs. He ordered us to
take them inside. We lit the furnace and settled in for the night.
At about 2 o'clock in the morning we heard some shooting. the Germans and policemen ran
into the yard, there were guards shooting.
Suddenly one of the policemen ran into the school, opened a window and jumped out. We saw
it, also dashed to the window and fell into the hands of our soldiers. They already had
the policeman who guarded us on our way.
We were put beside him and the commander ordered to shoot us.
We heard this and began crying. Those who had been captured screamed that we were
partisans. They said that their wives were also in the school. The commander ordered a
soldier to go into the school and find out where women-partisans were. They went into the
school and liberated the women. Among them a policeman was hiding. They took him away and
nobody knew what they did to him. We were ordered to go home.
I turned to the commander and told him to give me a rifle, so I could go to the front with
them. I have no home, I'm from Babi Yar, I told them. He looked attentively at me and
asked how old I was. I told them sixty. He said, Then, it's high time to go and have rest
and he sent us away.
I did not know where to go. It was light on the street. I reached the military
commissioner. I still don't know which district it was either Svyatoshino or Borshchagovka
but I requested that they send me to the front. I told them where I was from. I was
ordered to wait till a complete team was assembled and was sent to the front. This moment
lasted till late at night. I hadn't eaten anything all day and was very hungry.
Many selectees brought good stacks of food with them. I remember us being lined up and
driven to some collective farmyard. Some men got wooden spirit and drank it. They did not
go anywhere and soon they had fallen asleep forever. They had left some snacks and I ate
well. On the next day some people from other regions were added and then military
specialists came and took us to different detachments. I got assigned to the infantry and
we were sent to the front ranks without even being dressed. At night they assigned us
again and brought to the trenches. They gave us rifles and cartridges. We got into the
trenches which had previously been German ones. We were supposed to fire the artillery. At
night we were brought some food.
Some time later I got seriously ill and was taken to the medical battalion. I was running
a high temperature and all my body was covered with furuncle, someone told me. Some time
later many of the wounded and living, me included were sent over to the evacuation
hospital in Kiev.
In Kiev I wanted to know if any of the fellows from Babi Yar were alive. I came to the
editorial board, it was then located on Lenin street, and said that I was from Babi Yar. I
told them that there should be some other people who remained alive and they said that
they might know something about the others. They gave me the address of Budnik and told me
that he knew everything about everybody.
There I also recognized one of my fellow-citizens, Ikhil Falicman from Lyubar. He took me
to his place and wrote an article about me to the newspaper with the headline Live
witness. Thanks to this newspaper, Der emes, my sister Paula living in Birobidzan learned
that I had survived. The rest of my family, ranging from 10 to 56 years old, had been shot
in 1941. This happened in their home town Lybar near Zhitomir.
According to the address given in the editorial board I found Budnik and learned about the
fate of my friends.
On New Year's day we all met at the apartment of Nina Ivanovna who was the head of the
Extraordinary State Commission for research of German occupants atrocities in the city of
There was much joy and tears. Davidov, Budnik, Ostrovsky, Kuklya, Trubakov, myself and
some ten other people came to the meeting. Then some of them were called to the front.
I was sent by the Podol district military commissioner to the bridge repairing detachment
When in Kiev I called on militia in Kurenevka and told that during the German occupation I
hid some gold coins in a cell. I requested that they remove them and hand them over to the
state. I showed them the place and when they had removed the skirting boards they found 10
I served in the bridge-repairing unit until 1947. When I was demobilized, I got a job at
the Kiev medical institute as a carpenter, where I worked till 1956. From 1956 till 1985 I
worked in various other shops.
In 1946 Budnik David and Davidov Volodya were sent to participate in the Nurenberg trials
as witnesses from Kiev about Babi Yar.
In 1969 Budnik, Davidov and I were sent to Stuttgart, Germany to testify against the
fascists. We were supposed to recognize three leaders who orchestrated the atrocities in
We flew to Warsaw then to Zurich (Switzerland). In Zurich we had a four-hour lay-over so
we managed to see the city.
In Stuttgart, near the plane ladder we were met by the interpreter, a young fellow. He
spoke Russian satisfactorily but still we could communicate. He recognized us at once as
he had our photos. He addressed all of us by the surname adding the word mister. He
suggested going to a restaurant but we declined since we were all very tired.
At the hotel where he had brought us we took a shower and rested. A bit later he came with
a girl who very much wanted to see Russians. He rang over the phone and ordered the food
to be brought to our suite. We had a good time, talking both in Russian and German. We
understood each other. Just before he left he said that he would come the next morning
since the judge wanted to meet us.
In the morning he called on us in a car and we went to the court.
The judge received us very cordially asked us what the weather was like in Moscow, what
type of climate there was. We talked a bit. Thus, we made our acquaintance with the judge.
He told us that the hearing of the case would begin on Monday and that we would have to
stay there for 10 days. Here in the court we got money for our trip and for 10 days stay.
On the second day in the evening the Soviet consul and the attache from Bonn came to us.
They asked us how we were treated and told us that there was the Soviet circus in
Stuttgart. They also asked us to keep together and in case of any conflict to ring up
Bonn. Saying good-bye to us they left their business cards.
On Sunday we decided to go to the circus. Budnik fell ill and I went together with
Davidov. It was impossible to get there, the house was packed but we showed our passports
and they let us in. We went into the wings. When the actors found out that we were from
the Soviet Union, we were surrounded and showered with questions. They knew that we were
there to attend the trial. Everybody was interested about life in the Soviet Union. They
missed it very much and wanted to go home. Our circus-men treated us cordially, as
relatives. We had some tea with them in the buffet, watched the performance and then left.
On our way home we went to the cinema. When at last we came to our suite Budnik told us
that he had heard some German walking along the corridor saying Russian kaput!.
We compared yesterday's visit from the Consulate and Budnik's story and felt uneasy. We
wanted to go to bed earlier and to get up fresh and tell about atrocities that had taken
place in Babiy Yar. But we could not. We didn't sleep all night but spent the time
talking. In the morning when we got dressed I found out that I had lost so much weight
that the collar of the nylon shirt became too big for me. I told the fellows that I had
not slept only one night and lost so much weight. When we arrived at the court the hearing
began and we were summoned to the hall. The judge and the jury were wearing black gowns
and high caps. We were offered to swear on the Bible that we would tell the truth but
since we didn't believe in G-d we were told to lift our hand with two fingers raised and
swear that we would tell only the truth.
In the hall there were schoolboys and girls from the sixth to the tenth classes.
We were told to go to the adjoining room so as not to hear what was said.
Davidov was called first. He was kept there very long and Budnik and I became very
nervous. Then Budnik was called and I was left alone. Suddenly the door opened and a high
and stocky German in the uniform of police entered. He addressed me in broken Russian and
asked for a cigarette. I took out a pack of cigarettes and offered him one. He said that
when he was a war prisoner in Russia he got tobacco and he showed me how he rolled up
cigarettes and then smoked it. I answered him that when I had been a German prisoner we
never received tobacco since it was considered a luxury.
At that moment recess was announced. We went to have a snack. After the recess, Budnik was
called again and then me. When I came into the hall Budnik and Davidov were sitting on the
benches for witnesses. I was asked to approach the judge and an interpreter sat nearby.
The questions were asked in German and the interpreter translated. The first question was
whom I recognized among the charged. They were ordered to stand up but I didn't recognize
anybody. Then they asked questions about what I knew about Babiy Yar to check that I were
not a fake. I answered all their questions. After this I was told that there was an album
on the table and asked whom I recognized in it. I opened the album with photos which had
no names on them but only numbers. I looked through it and only at the end of it I saw a
picture in which I recognized sturmbahnfuhrer Radomsky. I said that under the number such
and such was Radomsky. I was asked if I recognized anybody else, but I did not. This was
the first day of the trial.
When we came back to the suite being tired after the trial and began to undress I found
out that in the morning I had accidentally put on Davidov's shirt which was size 45. We
started laughing and it was a good relaxation after the hard day in the court.
For two more days we went to the court to present our testimonies. I want to mention that
the charged came to the court in white shirts and ties in their own cars. They were not
With the permission of the court we left for home not having waited for the end of the
In Moscow we were gathered in the USSR Procurator's office and we told how the trial went.
They listened with great interest.
Only some time later from the newspapers did we learn about the sentence of the German