-- What is your name, girl?
--My name is Raya. Raya Shtejnberg.— When I was a little girl I answered so.
War insanely warped millions of lives, and broke in my early childhood, changed my destiny and made me forget for many years the name, mixing two lives in one.
Mass shootings of Jews had already passed and the streets of Kiev were alarmingly quiet and unpeopled. One of the serene autumn day in 1941, Martha and Alex Zimin walked up the Vely`ka Zhy`tomy`rs`ka Street. They saw a German soldier with a gun ahead. He droved a young woman , which led a little girl by the hand. I was that girl, and that woman was my mother. The German soldier led us to shot at Babyn Yar.
Woman looked around, saw a couple and began to repeat loudly , "Help! Help!", pointed to a girl. Martha and Alex perfectly understood the lethal risk that awaited them. However, they persistently followed the guard and his captives.
Alex snatched the moment, approached to the soldier and motioned all the jewels they had got on them: a gold watch, ring, earrings, a cross on a gold chain ... When they reached the gate of the Luk'yanivs`ke cemetery soldier signaled them to wait for him, and then he disappeared behind the gate with the woman and child.
In my memory forever imprinted that, that was then. We saw a deep ditch. In the great cavity laid some people ... My mother and I began to descend to them slowly. Suddenly the soldier took me by the hand and pulled me up . Now ditch, my mother and people were behind me. Soldier becked and showed me the direction where I should go. I slowly went to the gates. Volley of automatic gunfire sounded behind me.
Numbed with terror I approached the gates. The instinct told me that moving away from this place, I was saving my life. Martha and Alex overwatched me in anxiety and stress. I was terribly tired. Young woman in a beret came up to me, took my hand, asked something and led to her house. There I was sheltered, washed, fed with delicious semolina and put to sleep.
That people were young husband and wife with child and nanny. The next day the nanny took me to a local orphanage, where I lived for a year or so. Martha and Alex saw a woman in a beret led me to the house from which I did not come that evening. Alex stayed there watch to see what would be next. The next day he saw the orphanage nanny took me to.
Soon the Zimins went to this orphanage and said they would like to adopt a girl. Several children and I went downstairs to them. They wanted to adopt me so they began to visit me there. Early summer day in 1942 my teachers told me mom and dad came to take me home. I wore a white dress, which they brought with them. Nearest neighbors learned that the Zimins adopted the girl from the orphanage. Thus began my new life - with another name and surname. My new parents helped me to forget my past life.
In 1943, when the Germans retreated from the occupied Kiev, they tried to evacuate the remaining population.
My parents and I was evacuated to Krakiw, and then to the camp in Birau (Silesian Region), which was mercilessly bombed. My father did everything he could and then we were removed to another camp.
So in a freight-car we arrived to Bludenz, a small town in the Austrian Alps, to the factory where mostly young Poles worked. There were few Russians and Ukrainians in the factory. My parents worked as labourers digging trenches. Martha and Alex caught the scurvy. The war finished. We stayed in this town - in the French occupation zone - until autumn 1949. n Then I went to the primary Austrian school, and when I left the school, I enrolled at the preparatory school.
I felt safe and happy with my mom and dad. In the family reigned high spiritual and artistic atmosphere.
Before the war, parents appeared before the footlights in amateur theater and starred in a silent cinema. In 1949, on the insistence of the Austrian authorities, our family went to distant Argentina.
Our returning to the USSR was out of the question - everyone knew what happened to those who came back in those years: the Gulag, suspicion, moral outrages, and physical extermination was also possible. We should started afresh in Argentina. My parents had not got any money and relatives there, they also did not know Spanish. We also had not got a dwelling.
Father, an engineer by training, worked as a labourer at a construction. Mother was not engaged anywhere because of her age, and because of ignorance of the Spanish language, although she was a teacher of foreign languages. Thus began the tribulation and the struggle for survival of our family in a new country.
After 2 years my father, aged 55, died in the hospital of Buenos Aires in February, 1952. At his funeral was remained in desperate condition widow ( she still was a beautiful woman), a sobbing teenage girl, orthodox priest and an elderly Russian couple (neighbors) ...
We stayed alone with my mother in a foreign country, and entirely without means of subsistence. For two years, when my dad was still alive, I finished six-year school.
In socializing with local children I have mastered the language to the extent necessary. We washed the floors in churches, my mother sewed and knitted something , wove some bags from the remnants of the skin, earning, in the truest sense, only a piece of bread ...
Much water has flowed under the bridges since then. In the sixties, we returned to Martha ‘s relatives in Ukraine brought Alex’s cinerary urn, which was buried at the central cemetery in Kiev.
In 1990, my mother, aged 98, died - the one that I remember and love as my mother. I buried her cremains next to Alex’s.
I think it's time to do everything possible to perpetuate the cherished memory of those who put all their strength to not only save my life, but also bring joy and happiness to me, their adopted-birth daughter, to save, grow up and foster in a spirit of love and understanding. While the person is able to remember, and his heart beat with gratitude, let accompanies them - my mum and dad - my adoptive parents honor and respect, admiration for their generosity.
I had got two mothers. One of them is at Babyn Yar- I have an indistinct memory of her, she gave birth to me. Another mom saved my life, grew me up and helped me on in life. And while I'm alive, I cherish the memory of my two moms - Russian and Jew.