Warning: Difficult to read; graphic and violent material.
Al. G. Translated from the Russian
THIRTY DAYS OF A JEWISH POGROM IN KRIVOYE- OZERO
(From the personal observations and experience of a gentile teacher, December 1919 – January 1920.)
By A. P.Haleysv
The Days Before the Pogrom
After the White Guard coup, I had to flee from Odessa. Chance led me to sorely tried Podolia, to the town of Krivoye Ozero which had in May of last year been raided by Kasakov’s band. The material losses caused by the May pogrom had been comparatively small, and the economic status of the people had since been restored. However, the populace was still living under the indelible impression of the bloody horrors of the May days when the Kasakov men killed some 300 persons in three hours. Following upon the Kasakov raid, the Jewish population organized a fairly strong defense unit, which succeeded in checking first another raid of the Kasakov band, and later one by Petlura soldiers. But in August of last year, they were compelled under the threat of artillery fire, to deliver to the regular Petlura forces their machine gun and most of their rifles. The town, with a population of from 12,000 to 15,000, was thus left entirely defenseless. As the Denikin forces were approaching, what was left of the defense unit either went farther into Podolia or scattered in various directions. Everything was quiet until the month of December, and life in the town, with its everyday trading and bustling, continued as usual. But gradually, the rumors of the disastrous defeat of the Denikin forces under Kiev and of the pogroms made by the retreating White Guard units, began to alarm the population. By the middle of December, the town found itself cut off from all centers; no papers or letters were being received from anywhere; the chief of police and his force were growing nervous and were showing an increased zeal in extorting money which is a sign of impending evacuation. The mobilization did not give any results, and this just made the temper of the local authorities still worse. On the other hand, the population
was still confident that the regular forces of the “Volunteer Army”, would, as a matter of International policy, not permit a pogrom to take place.
On December 21,1919, the chief of police with his entire staff, suddenly disappeared, after having got an amount of 15,000 rubles, and on the next day the policemen began to scatter in various directions. In the night of December 22, the alarm started … At eleven o’clock, I and a few fellow teachers left the house of the President of the Administration Board of our gymnasium. In the street we were meeting groups of excited citizens. A sinister rumor was being passed from mouth to mouth: in the town of Savran 28 versts from Krivoye Ozero, a band had made its appearance which was terrorizing the Jewish population. Beginning with that moment, and for fully thirty days, the population lived through a nightmare which is difficult to describe, of which it is difficult to give a precise picture; a nightmare of which it is impossible to write with epical calm. Even now, a month after the events, it is a torment to me to speak of them.
But our cause demands that this shall be done…
I shall tell the events in chronological order. We spent the whole night of December 22 in a moving picture theatre, where all those able to carry a gun had gathered to organize the defense. It was found that there were but very few arms available, not more than 40 or 50 rifles. It was decided to collect next morning some 250,000 or 200,000 rubles and to buy two machine guns and a number of rifles. It was also decided to send a reconnoitering party to Savran, but the events went ahead of us.
In the evening of December 23, before the organization of the defense could
have been effected, a patrol entered the town, and its commander remitted to B., a representative of the Jewish community, a document, the substance of which was this:
“Whereas the Jewish population does not support the Volunteer Army, either with man power or with money, I demand that the Jewish population; shall remit 250,000 rubles, to be used for payment for forage requisitioned from the peasants, and that they shall, in addition, deliver for the detachment 25 poods of bread, 25 poods of meat, and 20 pairs of boots. The money must be remitted not later than December 24, 1919, before noon. The commander of the Volchansk Artisan Detachment (Signature
illegible, either Dikiy or Dekonsky).
The First Days of the Pogrom
In the night of December 23, it became known that a White Guard detachment of 50 men, in passing through Savran, had made a pogrom accompanied by wholesale murder; 27 persons were reported to have been killed. The detachment had then proceeded, through Bobrik, to the town of Lubashevka; here they killed 160 persons and set the town on fire. At the same time, it became known that the patrol which had arrived in
Krivoye Ozero was followed by a large unit of 400 or 500 men, with canon and machine guns…. All through the night representatives of the community were collecting, money bread and meat for the guests.
In the morning of December 24, it became known in the town that the patrol that had arrived the day before had beaten up several persons whom they happened to come across, and had seized some horses, and that they were in general, behaving in a disorderly and provocative manner. Several families from the neighboring houses, some fifty persons altogether, came running to my apartment. Panic spread over the whole town; the stores were closed; the streets were deserted. Dismal silence prevailed
everywhere. There could be no question of resisting five hundred organized brigands for, as I said, there were not more than 40 Or 50 guns in the town.
At about eleven the troops began to enter the town. The detachment, which consisted chiefly of cavalry, seemed to have some 350 or 400 men, with 11 machine guns and two cannons; the infantrymen, the artillerymen and the usual crews seemed to number from 150 to 250. The detachment, proved to be the “famous” partisan unit formed from General Shkuro’s divisions, – the so-called Volchata (Wolf cubs) – the most savage and ferocious unit, which included a large number of Osetins, Chechens, Crimeans, and other condottieri. The nucleus of the detachment was said to consist of a group
of “avengers”, some 80 or 90 officers, all belonging to families of former prominent aristocrats, high officials, landowners; thus, there was mentioned the name of Prince Litvinov, whom a woman teacher of Masurovo had seen on the estate of ex-Minister Voyevodsky. It later became known that in their retreat or, more correctly, their flight, from Fastov, this detachment had not spared a single Jewish town.
While I was observing the troops, as they were passing, I was struck by the
following circumstances; every officer and most of the soldiers were wearing beautiful fur coats, thrown ov wraps, fur trimmed, which were hanging over their shoulders like capes; in the rear of the detachment an endless train of wagons, extending over some two versts, carried the booty.
The detachment entered the town from the north, preceded by the tri-colored national flag, went across the town to the southern end, and took quarters in the adjoining village of Krivoye, the local name of which is Ehersonschina. That is a very large village, which is followed by a chain of other villages extending to the town of Balta. At about 2 o’clock an amount of 200,000 rubles was remitted to the commander of the detachment; at the same time bread and meat began to be delivered to the detachment. The commander of the detachment who called himself Dekonsky (later on, one of the soldiers, while talking to me, referred to his as Yakovlev), reduced
the amount of the contribution to 250,000 rubles, and thanked the Jewish population, through Mr. B., for their punctuality and their readiness to give material help to the detachment. At the same time, he stated that the Jewish population should feel perfectly assured that their safety is not menaced. It is true that in another conversation with Mr. B. which took place before the contribution had been remitted, he had, in order to add more weight to his demands, referred to the Savran events…
These reassuring statements allayed the fears of the people. But in the
evening of that very day, on Christmas night, the massacre began. The soldiers led by officers who took a direct part in the job, began to break into the houses. The pogrom and the massacre were carried on in a purely military way, systematically and methodically. Everything had been planned in advance, even to the smallest details. In the first days of the pogrom the object was exclusively to get hold of the rich and well-to-do people. For that purpose, young men were seized and were compelled by
torture to give information regarding the rich people in the town. Those who were detained were subjected to most incredible cruelties and tortures, and then, after the money or the gold, or the silverware had been delivered, they were given the finishing blow or were left on the spot with their mutilations, to bleed to death.
While this man-hunting was going on in the dwelling houses, another part of the detachment attended to the looting of stores. A long train of wagons with soldiers started from Khersonschina, stopped at the stores, were loaded with goods, and then went back to the village with the loot, which was sold on the spot to the peasants. During the first eight or ten days of the pogrom the troops carried away everything that had any considerable value; textiles, clothes, shoes, groceries. Whatever was left was given over to local bandits and to peasants (mainly those of Khersonschina) who completed the looting.
In is very interesting to note that to kill or to inflict wounds, the White
guards used cold steel only: swords, cutlasses, dagger’s, axes, bayonets. In many instances people were strangled or hanged. One woman was publicly hanged in the yard of the Catholic church, after having been assaulted and mutilated. For that mutter even the Kasakov band had displayed less bloodthirsty sadism and wanton cruelty, although they were men of a lower cultural level, if this term may be applied to bandits. On the very first day of the pogrom all physicians of the town ran away, the Jews, because they were afraid for their lives, and the only Russian Zemstvo physician, Mr. M., for fear of forcible enlistment, the population was thus left without
any his life he secretly entered the houses and dressed the wounds of the injured. But after two or three days there were no more bandages left, as all Jewish drug stores had been wrecked (later on, the only non-Jewish drug-store was also burned). The injured began to die of exposure, hunger, lack of medical attendance, hemorrhage and blood poisoning. I have seen and have talked to a number of the injured, and they told me incredible, gruesome tales of the inquisition to which they had been subjected by the white Guards.
I shall quote but a few instances.
(l) Teplitsky family. Their home was raided in the evening of December 24,
at seven, at the time when the evening mass was served in the churches. The raiders Included two officers and three privates. They demanded of Teplitzky 40,000 rubles; he gave 12,000 rubles which was all he had. Then they began to torture him, hitting him on the head with a revolver, and flogging him with a sabre. His wife rushed to protect him. There was a moment of confusion, and he took advantage of it, jumped out of the window and hid in the basement. There he spent the whole night and
all the time he heard the heartrending cries of his wife and children. In the morning of December 25, when I entered Teplitzky’s apartment, I found it literally flooded with blood. I saw two dead bodies – Teplitzky’s wife, who had been chopped to pieces, and a four-year old child killed by sabre. The other two children, one of 14 and the other of 18, were in agony. Teplitzky himself had a wound in his head.
(2) The Family of Malzman, a teacher of the gymnasium. I called on them
on December 27. They had been raided the day before. Their son 22 years old, I found already- dead. Malzman himself had the fingers on both hands cut off and heavy injuries at the skull. His son-in-law had the fingers of both hands cut off and a wound in the head. Later on, when Malzman had begun slightly to recover (the feldscher Ch was treating him secretly), his home was once more raided; this time he was finished, and his married daughter, who was nursing him, was also killed. The bodies remained for several days unattended and were gnawed by dogs who had found a way into the house.
(3) Sukeransky, my neighbor, an old man of 76. From my house, I saw him tied to the tail of a horse and dragged along. During five or six hours they tortured him in the street; it was a biting frost and he had nothing on him but a light summer suit. EH later died from the blows and the wounds.
(3) Bogodielny, a small dealer in table ware, he was seized at his home, was
taken to his store, which was in a deep cellar, and there was subjected to torture, to make him disclose where his money was hidden; they grilled his feet, drove needles under his nails, cut his fingers….
I was passing in front of this cellar when I heard faint groans. I went down,
lit a candle, and jumped back with horror: Bogodielny, terribly mutilated, was lying on the ground in agony; his abdomen had been cut open and the intestines were falling out; the straw was soiled and soaked with blood; his fingers had been cut off, and I saw them right there on the ground. At some distance, there were burned bundles of straw… The floor was broken up, they had been digging for a treasure. He no longer recognized me. I shut the inside door of the cellar to protect him from the dogs. I was staggering when I went out of the cellar. In the street, I came across a group of civilized “askantees” with gold trimmed shoulder straps, drunk with wine
and with blood. At the corner of Odesskaya Street, a faint flame was dying out in smoldering ruins. On the white snow, a pool of black, thick tar, with a torn pillow in it; the dawn mixed with the snow… All around broken glass, smashed furniture, scattered household utensils… Two dead goats with swollen bellies. Alongside, an abandoned hungry cow is licking the snow. Further on, in an alley, a pack of dogs are devouring the intestines of a dead body frozen to the ground, the body of a woman with long loose h Russian Vandee and Brittany …
(6) On December 26, the following drama took place in the yard of the restaurant kept by Ostashevich, a gentile. The wife and the son of a certain Khirik had hidden there in a barn, while in the house the dentist Shuper and his daughter had found refuge. During the search the latter was recognized, or more precisely, she betrayed herself by her speech (she was disguised as a cook). The torture started. While the beating of the Shuper people was going on in the restaurant, Khirik, the husband and father of those who were hiding in the barn, crawled out of a neighboring house, all mutilated and covered with blood, came to Oshtashevitch’s door and began to beg that she let him in. The woman let him understand by signs through the window that there were “guests” in the house. Khirik’s wife and son were watching this scene from the barn; they saw him all exhausted, trying to crawl or all four, further into the yard, to the barn, then dropping from extenuation and bleeding to death. They had to witness the inhuman sufferings of the man who was dearest to them, and they were in no position to give him any help; the slightest noise meant death to all of
(7) A certain Blank was forced to throw a rope around the neck of his son-in-law Reisenhurt; then, hitting him with a cutlass, they compelled him to strangle the victim. When Reisenhurt was strangled, the murderers attended to Blank himself; they broke on his head a crystal sugar bowl and a glass jug; he later died from an inflammation of the brain.
(8) Mrs. T. was assaulted by five bandits in the presence of her husband,
under most shocking circumstances… A large number of girls of twelve and o£ thirteen were assaulted, and many of them have been infected with venereal diseases. In many instances after assaulting the women or girls, they were cruelly mutilated and then slowly killed… and so on, without end….
It is difficult for me now to select the most cruel instances from the endless
series of tortures. To me personally, the most terrible thing was that I was alone and helpless amidst the wounded and amidst dead bodies that were devoured by dogs in the houses or were left to lie in the streets like carcasses of animals. I saw the wounded, abandoned in cold wrecked houses, helpless and powerless to resist, devoured by hungry dogs who entered through the broken windows. I lived in the very center of the town (as a rule, the Gentile population lives in the outskirts). The most dreadful moments I experienced at night in the first days of the pogrom. I lived in V’s house, whic.1 consisted of two flats. My colleague who shared rooms with me had left home in time, on his Christmas vacation. The family of the owner of the house moved from their own apartment into mine, then they went to the cellar and finally hid in the country. I was left alone in an apartment of seven rooms. I was in midst of a cemetery; in the next house to the right, that of Yakubovsky, two bodies, an old man and an old woman; next after this, Sukeransky; in the house next to me on the left, an old man killed; in the house across the street, four dead of the Teplitzky family; in Yankel Stolar’s house, in my rear, three women killed and two men severely wounded… Corpses, corpses and more corpses all around… At night the
dreadful silence is suddenly broken by heart rending cries… Then again all is silent I am sitting and waiting for the “guests” to come, while in my cellar, looked, half frozen and breathless, forty shadows of men are lingering; among them were two wounded, old women, old men, one pregnant woman, children. At any minute the bandits may break into the house… All exhausted I fall asleep in my chair. Then suddenly, I hear a knock at the window of the last room in the rear… I jump to my feet. I hear the crash of a broken window and the cursing and the swearing of the soldiers. I
rush to the door, the window is right in front of the cellar. What must be the feeling those who are hidden there and who hear all that is going on…? A minute search begins…they grope everywhere, in the attic, in the kitchens, in the pantries, in the baths, in the toilets. But they do not notice the cellar; it is hidden in the bushes and it is separated from the house by a grove and by a pile of clay… This time everything finished well; they only took along the money which they found in my passport while examining it, and a set of warm underwear. But what will be next?
The White Guards raided and searched my house five times and officers took part in every raid. Since the first days of the pogrom, a large part of the Jewish population were trying to find refuge in cellars, in attics, and in barns. Some of them stayed there for five or ten days in a temperature of 10 or 15 degrees below zero (from about 10 above to 4 below Fahrenheit). Some managed to get out for an hour or so and to their lairs into the surrounding villages, some fell into the hands of the torturers and perished. Many were rescued and hidden in the country by the peasants. In this
connection exceptional heroism was displayed by three men of the villages of Voleshina and Gedvilovo – Piskorsky, Lunsky and Snejinsky. In the first few days Piskorsky took from my cellar five or six parties of 30 or 40 persons each; during a month his house served as shelter for not less than 20 people while hundreds of refugees stopped there on their way from the town; it was in his house that the little refugee R. died. Of the people of Masurovo, S. Ozen Zelovsky, P. Kudelsky and Cheiyenka showed exceptional kindness and consideration to the refugees. The number of those who in those days died in the houses or were frozen to death in the attics and the cellars cannot be estimated as yet. It will only be possible to compute it when the entire population return to their homes and count the
The Russian Delegation, Reveling Amidst the Ravages of Death
Since the first day the pogrom assumed a character so incredibly cruel and
barbarous that even the small reactionary section of the Gentile population of the town (local officials, storekeepers, speculators of the surrounding country), although unquestionably anti-Semitic in spirit, were all aroused and shocked by the savage inhumanity that reminded of the medieval inquisition, and they all assisted the refugees in one way or another, endeavored to save them, to give them shelter and food, and to help them escape into the country. Thus, I know, for instance, that in the house of Mrs. Shirochenka, a local landowner who had been ruined and whose husband
had been shot during the Red Terror, hundreds of Jews were hiding; I also know from reliable sources that a number of the wounded found shelter on the estate of ex-Minister Voyerodsky. The only exception in this respect were two families, of whom I shall speak later.
There was one incident which even on the background of all these horrors stands out as a striking manifestation of unheard-of savaging and cynicism. That was a ball which the officers arranged while the massacre was at its height. In their quarters in the suburbs the White Guards were carousing all the time and drinking continuously. But that did not seem enough for them, and they decided to have some fun in an ostentatious way and to arrange a ball, with music, dancing and playing in the very center of the town, while in the streets blood was flowing at that very time. The ball took
place at the post office. There the organizers gathered their girls (a few of them I had noticed before in the train of the detachment). They also invited the high society of the town, namely, the wife and the daughter of Ostrovsky, the Justice of the Peace, and the Director of the Real-Gymnasium, Dvukrayev, with his wife and sister-in-law. They also brought some dressed-up girls from the suburb of Khersonschina, of a rather questionable appearance.
While the preparations for the ball were under way, representatives of the
Gentile population decided to take advantage of the presence of the commander of the detachment and of all the officers in the center of the town (nobody had the courage to go to Khersonschina) and to send to them a delegation with the demand that the massacre be s Dvukrayev, representing the Real-Gymnasium; the present writer representing the
Jewish public gymnasium; Justice of the Peace Ostrovsky, representing the courts, D. and M. representing the Golta Cooperative Association; and finally, as representatives of the rural administration, D.P. and five more peasants, whose names I do not remember. It was agreed that after the interview none of us should under any circumstances stay at the ball if we were requested to, and that our intercourse with the officers should be confined to official business.
The delegation was received by the commander of the detachment, who called himself Dekonsky, by his assistant and a group of officers. They wore brand new uniforms with tri-colored stripes on the sleeves, and with their well-shaven and well-fed faces they had the typical appearance of boys from fashionable schools, of “mother’s pets.” They brought with them to the room the aroma of fine perfumes and a light odor of cognac and of expensive cigars. Our protest was naturally answered by cynical
declarations to the effect that all those scandals were taking place against the will of the officers, that they were the product of elemental forces, that the murders were not. being committed so much by the soldiers as by the local bandits, that the Volunteer Army itself was at all times and everywhere combatting pogroms, and that beginning with the next day the most energetic measures would be taken to repress the pogrom makers, including trial by court martial. After these declarations, we all left, with the exception of Mr. Dvukrayev, the Director of the Real-Gymnasium, and Justice of the Peace Ostrovsky, who contrary to the decision taken by the delegation as a whole, remained to enjoy themselves at the ball. Somewhat later their families also came there. Since that moment, Dvukrayev and Ostrovsky became fully identified with the “Wolf Cubs”.
I felt greatly dissatisfied when I was leaving the Post office building. I was sure that we had not achieved anything; those men, indeed, could understand but one language, that of bullets. From time to time the cold night air was pierced by heart rending cries of the tortured, and from the post office came the blustering tune of a drunken song. They were drinking and dancing down stairs, while in the attic, thirty half-frozen refugees, hidden there by the post master, were lying breathless. Toward the morning the entire company, all of them drunk, slowly started across the town to Khersonschina, led by a band playing a vulgar song..
A Wedding in the Cemetery
As it was to be expected, all assurances and promises which the commander of the detachment gave to the delegation regarding measures to stop the massacre and the looting proved to be nothing but lies and mockery. The massacre went on and assumed even larger, truly monstrous proportions; the murderers now began very carefully to search attics, basements and barns, all kinds of dark corners and hidden places. Manhunting grew more intensive and became a sport. I know of cases where all those found in a cellar were killed, as for instance, the Gorbaty family of five souls, seven persons in Tokman s house, and so on. But that was not all. The village of Voloschina was repeatedly raided, and the peasants were terrorized to deter them from hiding Jews in their houses. In that village, the house of a peasant musician, whose name I do not remember, but with whom I have personally talked, was completely
wrecked, because of his refusal to play at a ball given by the bandits. Searching expeditions were also sent to the villages of Gedvilova, Masurova, Bobrik and others.
On the sixth day of the pogrom I succeeded, with the assistance of Pishorsky, and Snejinsky, in taking out of my cellar and of the basements and attics of the neighboring houses the last groups of frozen and physically and morally broken people who had been hiding there, and whom we were now going to place in various villages. As there was nothing to eat, and as moreover, I was not safe in the town, on account of the part I had taken in the delegation, I left the house and became a refugee myself. For thirty day I led a wanderer’s life, going from one village to another, but almost every
day I returned to the town and watched the course of the pogrom. Many Jews remained in the town at the risk of their lives, as they were reluctant to abandon the wounded and the dead bodies of their beloved ones. They had to be supplied with food. Here again much was achieved by Piskorsky, of whom I have already spoken; it must be acknowledged that he acted like a hero; more than once, risking his life, he made his appearance at the most critical moment.
At first murders and looting were committed by the troops only. But later
after all valuable objects had been carried away by the soldiers and exchanged for Romanov notes, gold or silver (an auction had been specially organized for that purpose in Khersonschina), the surrounding villages gradually began to take part in the plunder. The first to start were the Khersonschina people, especially the women; then, when and grain from the mills, oil from the oileries, sugar, flour, kerosene and other
products from the stores and warehouses, they also began, one after the other to follow the example of Khersonschina. The Denikin men infested the whole district with pogrom anarchy and aroused in the peasants the lowest predatory instincts. By the tenth day the pogrom had or warehouse remained intact; everything, even the furniture, was taken out of the town; whatever could not be carried out was smashed to pieces; windows were knocked out together with the frames, doors were smashed, stoves were demolished. Some houses were visited by the bandits several times, and each time the pogrom was repeated. It should be observed that Krivoye Ozero was one of the most important trading centers in Podolia, as it is located at the junction of several districts. The town had fifteen oileries operated by steam or by horses, a number of mechanical flour mills, and many wholesale businesses. But as a result of the thirty days pogrom all
the wealth had been destroyed, the town ruined, and the inhabitants turned into beggars. Even the belts in the mills and in the oileries have been taken away…
I cannot refrain from relating a typical incident. The greedy peasant women
were robbing everything they came across, whether they needed it or not. One day, I met young woman all loaded with bags, bundles, card boxes; from the pocket of her coat a druggist’s scale was protruding. “What are you going to weigh? Is it your own conscience?” I said to her pointing at the scale. She opened her mouth ready to curse, but suddenly she began to twinkle with her eyes, then she sobbed, threw away all her loot, and with her head bent down, slowly went ahead, turning back and looking at me every once in a while. At the same time, the pillaging, systematic killing and manhunting went on every day, but the peasants were not taking part in
the murders or in the raids. Military patrols swept over the country and turned the peasants’ houses upside down, in the hope of finding some Jews. On the roads, corpses were lying everywhere and were devoured by dogs and ravens. The peasants were forbidden to take them away. The baggage train of the detachment was growing ever larger, and the loot ever bigger; trunks and baskets were filled with Romanov notes, Zerensky notes, gold and silver; while in the town and in the surrounding country corpses were steadily piling up and were left to lie for weeks, in some instances even
for fully thirty days. The stench that was spreading from some of the houses was such that it was impossible to pass in front of them. In the center of the town, where the killing had been going on since the very first days of the pogrom, which included two warm days, the corpses were already decomposed. I distinctly remember how I once was passing with a few peasants of Mazurovo in front of the Berkovitch house and the ghastly smell that came upon us from the attic.
And now in this cemetery, amid the gnawn skeletons of men, the “Wolf Cubs” decided to celebrate a wedding, on New Year’s Eve. An officer of the detachment who called himself Malyshevsky, proposed to Director Dvukroyev’s sister-in-law, three or four days after they had met, and the girl, with the approval of her brother-in-law, consented to become a member of the “Wolf Cubs” family. The Russian priest refused, in accordance with the rules of the church, to marry them before the day of Epiphany, and he ran away. Then it was decided to resort to the services of the local Catholic minister, who yielded to force and consented to perform the ceremony at the Catholic church. The wedding took place on the night of December 31, with the utmost se(iousness?). The troops were drawn in a long line, which extended from Khersonschina to the Catholic church, across the whole town. The bride in an armchair was carried by officers
into the church like a queen, and the ceremony was performed with all bells ringing and guns saluting… It is hard to imagine a sadder instance of the downfall of man. An educated girl belonging to the family of a Gymnasium Director (who in a small town is the most prominent personage), accepting the proposition of a convicted robber and murderer of peaceful people, of old men, women and children… A woman who but so
recently was living in need now dresses in silk, adorns herself with gold and jewels which have been taken from the bodies of those killed by her fiancée and weds him in a cemetery. This is not an exaggeration; by that time the whole town was in truth nothing else but a vast uninterrupted cemetery, the abomination of desolation…
Every time when these scenes come back to me, I ask myself, what is it, sheer insanity, or the very consummation of the downfall of man.
Attempts of Peasant Risings Fail. Further Disintegration of the Volchansk Detachment.
As I have said before, the entire rural population of the surrounding country held in abhorrence the acts of the “Wolf Cubs;” a proof of this was the eagerness of the peasants to give shelter to the refugees. All were united in condemning the conduct of the Director of the Real-Gymnasium and of the Justice of the Peace. The Volost (local Administration) passed a resolution to the effect that they should be forever banished from the town. During my wanderings I came in touch with all classes of the population, as I had to send my nights at 15 or 20 different places. I discussed the subject that was agitating all minds with all kinds of people, storekeepers peasants, officials, school teachers, clergymen, farmers, landlords. There were no two
opinions: The names of the Director and the Justice of the Peace were always mentioned with anger and disgust; everybody was aroused and horrified to the extreme by the barbarous butchery carried on amidst wanton and riotous and carousing, balls and amusements, “reveling amidst the ravages of death,” and as a culminating point, the wedding with its incredibly savage setting. There is no need mentioning that the most responsive to the events were the local intellectuals, and that is why the behavior of Dvukrayev humane attitude toward the persecuted Jews and to the pronounced hostility toward the “Wolf Cubs.”
On January 2, when I was at Gedvokovo, there spread the rumor of an impending uprising. I hurriedly went to Mazorovo, as some persons in that village were referred to as the organizers. Acting cautiously, for fear of provocation, I began to sound the ground keenly to listen to conversations and carefully to inquire about the persons who had taken the initiative of organizing the insurrection.
Here is what I found out: a group of rebels had arrived in Mazorovo from
the village of Bobrik which is 12 versts distant; they rang the alarm bell and then gathered the peasants of Mazorovo, to whom they explained the object of the uprising and their plans for the immediate future. Then they started the preparatory work in Masurovo. But the undertaking failed, owing to the fact that the persons who were at the head of the organization had on previous occasions compromised themselves by the instability of their political views and did, therefore, not inspire any confidence to the mass of the peasants. The leader of the Bobrik rebels, SH. then decided to attack the Wolf Cubs with his own forces, although he had only 50 or 60 men and two machine guns. He was acting in the expectation that when the uprising was
actually started the other villagers would spontaneously join it and would be induced by necessity to take a part in the fight. In reality, however, the rising was promptly and easily suppressed, even before the other villages had had time to join it.
After this first attempt had so easily failed, the White Guards sent punitive
expeditions in all directions, which began to terrorize the peasants; the families of the Bobrik rebels got a particularly rough treatment. During these raids ruthless reprisals were used against all those who were suspected of having taken a part in the uprising or who were denounced as rebels, and also those in whose houses Jewish refugees were found. A large number of Jews in various villages fared badly during that, period, while some succeeded in escaping. The cold was fierce and many of the latter perished.
Seeing that their position was stable, the White Guards decided to fill the
gaps in the detachment by forcible mobilization. Indeed, at that time it could already be observed that the more farsighted members of the detachment, especially of the office tremendously growing, the number of fighting units was noticeably decreasing. I was present at the town meeting at which the commander of the detachment announced the mobilization order to the peasants. One should have heard all the caustic and well-aimed remarks that were poured forth upon the Denikin men from the enormous
crowd of thousands of peasants. After the commander had spoken about the aims and the objects of the Volunteer Army, a perplexed silence reigned for a while; then, from all sides there came a volley of questions, which, I imagine, made Dekovnsky feel uncomfortable. And so, like the governors of the days of the Czar, he concluded his “direct talk with the people” with a threat of ruthless repression if any uprisings again took place. The mobilization, naturally, was a failure; the only ones to enlist in the Volchansk detachment were a few arrant bandits, and 3 or 4 students of the Real Gymnasium. The latter included Zhemchuzhuikov, a stepson of the Justice of the Peace Ostrovsky, two sons of the widow of a clergyman, and one more student; it was M. Dvukrayev, the director, who induced him to join the “Wolf Cubs.” By that time the whole company had hastily wound up their affairs in the town and had moved to Khersonschina, where they shared the drunken life of the detachment.
Some time after the 10 of January incendiary fires started in the town. The two story house and the store belonging to Polissar were the first to be burned. Rumors began to spread that the “Wolf Cubs” were about to set out and to march on the Lubumbashi station, and that a combined force of Petlura troops and of local Bolsheviks was advancing from the north. It was said that before retiring, the Denikin troops would set the whole town on fire, and that the burning of the Polissar house was but a first unsuccessful attempt in that direction. And in fact, another house, in the basement of which kerosene was stored, took fire, in the very center of the town. Fortunately, the weather was calm, and a snow had fallen shortly before.
The fire did not spread to the adjoining houses and stores, although no one was allowed to extinguish it. In the night of January 14, the Denikin men actually set out toward the south, in the direction of Lubashevka. This news spread like lightning and in the following morning groups of refugees, with children and old people, started back to the town, some of them on foot, others in wagons.
I gathered some colleagues of mine and we decided to return to the town. There were five of us, two Gentiles and three Jews. It soon appeared however, that we all had acted too hastily and carelessly in returning to our homes, for a trap had been set for us.
The house in which I lived was the only one that had not been wrecked, as the White Guards thought that it was owned by me, a Gentile teacher. We were tired and shivering, and we hardly had the time to make ourselves at home and to heat the stoves, when shooting began in the streets, and we heard heart rending cries and screaming, and then I saw a crowd of women, children and old men running toward my house… All this happened so quickly and suddenly that it was impossible to prevent
the catastrophe. As it later appeared, this panic was caused by a patrol of the “Wolf Cubs,” which had again entered the town and were now hunting after the people who looked for an escape. I shall not describe all the horrors of this new wholesale butchery. It is impossible to ascertain how many persons perished this time, or how many stranded child fields; some of the bodies were later devoured by dogs, and even the bones were
scattered in the ravines and buried under the snow.
An hour or so later, when the shooting had quieted down, and when a little
scouting expedition made me believe that the White Guards had either gone into the open country to chase after those who escaped, or had returned to Lubashevka, I decided to take my colleagues back to the country. We left the bouse and we cautiously started out, walking in a file. But we hardly had made 30 steps, when we saw some 6 or 7 men on horseback crossing the street at some distance. They saw us. One part of the patrol rode straight toward us, while another started on an encircling movement so as to cut us off.
The chase began…
We were attempting in feverish haste to run into the front door, which was
hidden from the horsemen by a high garden fence of the adjoining house; it was my intention to hide my colleagues in the cellar.
In the meantime, the horsemen were already approaching, with their guns held ready. As it often happens in critical circumstances, I could not find my key, which got lost in my pocket under a package of tobacco. Any delay meant certain death to our three Jewish colleagues, and even we, the two Gentiles would have fared badly…We made a supreme effort, ran to the corner, and then scattered in various directions. Another moment and we would be shot point blank. But my gentile colleague stopped near the fence and thus saved the rest of us. The horsemen rushed toward him, and meantime, we ran unnoticed, into the barn and hid among the wood and all kinds of junk that was there. Our friend later told us that at this moment when the guns were pointed at him he instinctively crossed himself. That saved both himself and all of us. When asked “Who are you?” he was able to control himself and to answer: “A Gentile teacher They say that either the Bolsheviks or the Mak… or Petlura forces have broken into the town and are attacking everybody indiscriminately.” The answer was satisfactory
to the “Wolf Cubs.” They examined his passport; then they asked, who was with you?” “Gentile teachers” was the answer. We were saved; the bandits did not search either the rooms or the barns and cellars… It was only in the evening that we succeeded, under Piskorsky’s guidance, in reaching the country; the wanderer’s life began anew. In the meantime, in the town the chasing of those who had not had the time to find refuge with the peasants continued all through the night. In the morning the hungry dogs had some new pasture..
The Volchansk Detachment Smashed at Savran. Its Flight before the Advance of the Red Army.
The detachment remained at Lubashevka for three days, during which it made repeated raids on the town. Then it suddenly turned back and again took quarters in Khersonschina. Everybody was thunder stricken. Was there going to be no end to the torture? Various explanations and guesses were advanced. Some people said that the detachment had been stopped in the south by partisan units (this later proved to have been the case); others said that the “Wolf Cubs” had spread the rumor that they had received an order from Golta directing them to start an offensive, as Kiev had been taken by the Poles.
And in fact, a couple of days later, the Volchansk detachment started toward
the north, in the direction of Savran, taking along with them an immense train of looted goods. I saw them when they were passing through Mazarovo; the ranks had thinned but 1 still saw Dvukovsky among the officers. Whether or not the Directorial and the Justice of the Peace were with them, I cannot tell, as I did not see or did not recognize them. According to one report, Dvukovsky had been given charge of the supplies
of the detachment; according to another version, he had gone from Lubashevka to Odessa while Ostrovsky went to Balta. But the Director’s sister-in-law was here, wrapped in a rich coat and in furs and riding in a comfortable cab. I also saw the students of the Real-Gymnasium who had joined the unit. The detachment first stopped in the village of Mikhelkovo, ten versts from the town, and two days later started in the direction of Savran; this was on January 18. A rearguard force\= remained at Krivoye all the time and continued the work of destruction. Fires were taking place every day. The looting was at the very height. Fearing that all that was left in the town might be destroyed by fire, large if a fair was under way there. Hundreds of carts were carrying away furniture, household utensils, seeds stored in the oileries, flour and grain from the mills. This time all my belongings were also looted, – my clothes, underwear, bedding, and books, which I had hidden in the cellar to protect them against fire. It was a real orgy of pillage and destruction. One telegram after another were sent to the
supreme command in Golta, as well as to Balta and Odessa, telling of the events that were taking place in the town. As it later appeared, refugees from Krivoye Ozero who had succeeded in reaching Odessa had reported to the supreme authority of the Volunteer Army the horrors that were being committed. But, that criminal authority did not even think of taking any measures to stop the thirty days butchery, and it thus in a way gave its sanction to the outrageous acts of its adherents.
On January 21 or 22 a train consisting of several sleds and carrying some
wounded “Wolf Cubs” passed through Mazurovo, on its way from Savran. Three days before that, a group of officers, under the escort of cavalrymen, had galloped through Mazurovo, went to Krivoye Ozero and thence to Lubashevka, Dostoevsky was among them. They were followed by wagons, loaded with trunks and baskets, and also wildly galloping…It was obvious that the flight of the higher commander had begun.
Two days later, the Malyshevsky couple and a few other officers passed through Mazurovo and did the local priest the “honor” of visiting him. From their conversation at the tea table it appeared that the detachment was disbanding, A Kuban officer was saying to Malyshevsky: “You now have a wife and millions of monies, and you can find a quiet refuge, while I am far from being a millionaire; I yesterday lost 500,000 rubles in a game”… At the same time, Malyshevksy’s wife was confiding to the priest her idyllic plans of a happy and quiet life with her husband, as big landowners, somewhere in Poland; and while talking she was playing with an enormous silver handbag, which bore somebody’s initials in gold (the priest’s wife did not
succeed in diamonds and rings. She also let them cynically, and without being in the least embarrassed, feel her heavy fur collar, into which bundles of Romanov rubles had been sewn.
All this cynical talk could be heard in the adjoining room, where a four-year old Jewish girl, the daughter of Shuper, the dentist, was hidden, she was listening to the conversation with horror. She might have recognized the voice of the “terrible uncle” who had tortured her mother in order to get those same jewels. . .I talked with the priests’ family on the next day. When the good old clergyman was telling me about this visit his lips trembled with anger and disgust and he was repeating, “Those scoundrels have Infested my house”…
That was on January 20 and on the 21st the train with the wounded White Guards started through the village. A rumor spread, and was later confirmed, that at Savran the peasants of all the surrounding villages had risen against them and that battles were under way there. In the morning of January 22 the artillery passed in gallop through the village, and after it there followed, in disorder first, the calvary detachment, greatly worn out and thinned, and then the endless baggage train. The “Wolf Cubs” spent only one day in the town, but that was sufficient for them to commit five murders and to start several fires. They then set out for the station of
Vradoevko and they forcibly took along with them, Mr. M. a teacher at the Real-Gymnasium, who had been hiding from them all the time, as he was a former officer. Director Dvukrayev had reported him. M. later escaped from them; when he returned to the town, he told us that he had feigned sickness, lay down in a wagon and then ran away at night. He also told us about the horrors committed by the “Wolf Cubs” In their retreat, and how they were finally defeated by partisan detachments near Novaya Pavlovskaya,
In the night of January 24, the Volchansk detachment evacuated Krivoye Ozero, after having during thirty days of brigandage shed the blood of hundreds of innocent and peaceful people, and after having covered themselves, the Volunteer Army and the Denikin government, with an ignominy that nothing will ever efface.
The flood of murders, pillage, tortures and fires, with its repeated invasions
has turned the town into a desert. It will hardly ever again be restored to life.
On January 25, early at dawn, I heard somebody softly knocking at the window of the house where I had spent the night, in the village of Voloshina. When I opened the door three Red Army soldiers entered. Their arrival announced to all the people of Krivoye Ozero the end of their inhuman sufferings, and to me it was a message of an early return to my family and to my fellow workers in the political and cultural fields.
In the morning the regular forces of the Red Army began to arrive in endless lines from Golovanevsk in the north and from Stanislavschik and Golta in the northeast. Almost without stopping they continued their march toward Odessa and Birzula. And I went to the Jewish cemetery to drink the bitter cup to the end.
Corpses from all over the town and the surrounding country were being brought here in a continuous stream. Bodies of mutilated and disfigured people were filling the graveyard. Alongside in an endless line were put bags with bones that had been gnawed by dogs.
Here in this bag, are the bones of Malzman, my fellow teacher. What is left
of him? What will become o€ his little children? … And through the widely open gates more and more bodies are steadily coming, bodies of the killed, of those frozen to death, of those who died from torture, privation and hunger…
Shadows of men are digging common graves for their beloved ones. A grim silence reigns in the cemetery. Everybody is in a state of absolute torpor; there are none of the usual lamentations, and there are no tears… they are all silent and they look at me, the only Gentile present, with perplexed eyes, in which I read the reproachful question “Why?”
On the next day I set out on foot in the direction of Odessa, to join the Red troops. I went with a bag over my shoulders, a walking stick in my hand, and with a deep keen and unconquerable faith that all the pogroms, the White terror and the steams of Jewish blood, would never enable the White Guards to extinguish the flame of the Socialist Revolution, that those wore the last convulsions of the agonizing reaction, and that the day was near when humanity would be free of all sufferings produced by the contradictions of the capitalist regime, the end of which had come in Russia and would inevitably come all over the world. Later, I and a woman teacher who went with me, were found half frozen, by peasants, who took us to Beresovka; from here went to Odessa with the Red troops.
Odessa, March 1920