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Nina Szuster

Rokitnoye, Poland

Nina was born to a Jewish family in the Polish town of Rokitnoye. Her father built ovens. Nina's family was very diverse: her father was an Orthodox Jew, her brother was a militant Zionist, and her mother leaned towards communism. Nina attended a Jewish school in the town.

1933-39: In September 1939 the Soviet Union invaded the eastern half of Poland. All businesses were quickly nationalized and property was seized. The Soviets distributed most of the town's wealth to the poor in the area. My mother taught a class about the Soviet constitution in our home. The Soviets closed our Jewish school and opened a Ukrainian one. We began learning about our new Soviet rulers.

1940-41: In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied our town. The German authorities immediately gathered the local Jews into a few houses and circled the area with barbed wire. One night, the Germans suddenly began dragging people out of our house. I tried to get some clothes but a German grabbed me and yelled, "Quick or I'll kill you!" I tore myself away and ran to the kitchen. Then I heard a shot: my uncle was dead. I saw an open window and jumped out. Fortunately, it was foggy, so no one saw me slip through the barbed wire.

After her escape, Nina joined Ukrainian partisans. Befriended by her commander, she was sent to Moscow to study until the end of the war. In 1947 she emigrated to America.

 

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