Valentin Bubnov


 Valentin Bubnov

When the war started, I was about six years old.

Mom and Dad were very busy at work, so Marusja, a girl from the village, was looking after me. She was a twelve years older than me and did all house work. I spent hours playing in the huge basement, in our tremendous backyard on the Dmitrievskaja street , 16, near Jewbaz (so called Jewish Market in Kyiv).
The first day of the war, I remember for all me life. Explosions of bombs, volleys of anti-aircraft guns, sirens - all this cacophony stunned me.

On the 17th of September , in 1941 the last units of the Red Army left Kyiv. Next day, on the 19th of September the Germans appeared in the city. But people started robbing stores earlier, from the 12th of September. About 40 tons of flour were stolen from the warehouse of bakery in our yard in two hours. It was terrible sight , but everything is relative. Real fears came us over later.
Mother, Lija Avraamovna, was 31 years old. She was origin from a small town Novograd- Volynskij or from the largest town in the world, as my father, Grigorij Lukich, laughed. He was Russian, but was born in Odessa. Why did not my mother evacuate,in spite of the persuasions of relatives, - for me it is still a mystery. Father told me, that she had decided to stay with her family, and there come what may.

That terrible announcement that "all the Jews of Kyiv and its suburbs must gather on the 29th of September , in 1941 at 8 am on the corner of Melnikovskaja and Dohturovskaja street; and bring all valuables, documents and all the clothes (in case of disobedience - execution)” was posted on almost all houses and fences.
In the evening , on the 28th of September parents told me to go to bed early. Father pulled out of the closet a big old suitcase and together with my mother began to bundle her things. Then my mother came to me and saw , that I did not fall asleep. This had not previously happen. Mother put her hand on my head.
"Tell me a tale" - I asked my mother and she suddenly began to sing with her quiet and gentle voice an old Jewish melody that she sometimes croons, when she was in a good mood. I listened and, in spite of my sleepy eyelids, I still could not sleep. I was lulled with my mother’s song and I fell asleep, but did not want to let her hot hand.
On the next day, in the yard of our house all the neighbors-Jews gathered to comply the order of the commandant of Kyiv. Parents stood close to each other and cried. Nanny Marusja cried too. I was told that my mother went to my grandparents to Novograd Volynskij and would return as soon as possible. I tried to put in mother's suitcase my toy gun, because I hoped, that mother would take me with her. Mom came to me, opened her arms wide and squeezed me painfully. I felt her labored breathing, no - it was some kind of rale or even a cry of despair. I felt dizzy. Mom and Dad went in a minute, and I stood like a statue and did not really understand what was happening.


Father returned late in the evening. He was haggard, old before his time and helpless. I sensed that something monstrous and irreparable had happened. Thus finished my childhood. In a few months my father married our neighbor. Marusja was sent away to Germany and I do not know anything about her fate. Later my brother was born. From October 1941 to November 1943 I was not allowed to play and walk in the yard because of the fear of denunciations, and not without reason.

I was pale, yellow, like a wax candle. And before the release of Kyiv our new family after the next raid was led to the railway station for sending to Germany. Our hangdog look with the cart, where was our simple belongings, with the screaming baby in the mother's hands affected on the soldier of cordon , that he looked around, barked: "Wack!" . -------BACK??
And we ran out of the city. A lot of our countrymen were there. We were exhausted and hungry, and came alternately under the fire of Soviet artillery or under the fire of Germans. In a new father's family all survived – it was a big luck.
When I come from Germany to Kyiv, at first go to Babyn Yar, where on the first day of Yom Kippur were killed thousands of Jews in 1941. I am looking at the floating clouds and see that one of them reminds me about mother's hands - opened for the last, and , therefore, everlasting embrace.

Прольется серой массою рассвет,
Щемящим сердце криком журавлиным.
Воздастся жертвам, павшим, но невинным
И палачам. Так Бог устроил свет.