Project «Voices of Jewish settlements. Vitebsk region.»
פיתוח קשרי התרבות בין העמים של ישראל ובלרוס
NO TIME TO THINK – TIME TO SAVE
It was May 9th 2001. On that day I was present at the state meeting, devoted to Victory Day, held in Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem. I had some free time before the ceremony, so I was walking around the museum. The museum has a special alley of the Righteous among the nations, where trees were planted in honor of those, who saved Jews during World War II. Among the trees I noticed a rather tall one with the name of Nikolai Illarionovich Pereguda and his wife Anna.
On those horrible days human life became highly devaluated, especially life of Jews. Fortunately, there still were people who did not lose their human kindness, compassion, who were willing and ready to help others. Nikolai Pereguda from Beshenkovichi was exactly this kind of person. Asia Konovalenko (maiden name Nemtsova) told me about this person and his heroic deed. She is now living in Israel, in Tirat Carmel, not far from Haifa, bringing up her grandchildren.
While recalling the war years, Asia says: “I am here today only owing to Nikolai’s heroic deed.” This is truly so.
I used to know Asia Nemtsova before the war – she often came to visit my relatives: grandfather Pinia Ruhman and grandmother Sosha, who lived in Strelka near my parents. At that time she was a child. After the war I found out that she, together with mother Sofia Petrovna and her brother, were in the ghetto. I found out how they were saved. She said: “We were shot on February 11th 1942”, as if she was among the murdered relatives and friends.
This is what she narrated to me: “I found out that Nikolai Pereguda and his wife Anna were instated the Righteous among the nations on October 27th 1997. Yad Vashem informed me about it. The celebration took place in Vitebsk on February 26th 1998. The following people were present at the ceremony: Oleg Pereguda (Nikolai Illarionovich died in 1984), temporary attorney of Israel Z. Gershon, and city and region representatives.
When the war began, Asia was only 11. At the beginning of July her family decided to move eastwards, however they were stopped on the way and made to turn back. The Pereguds helped them in every possible way for seven months.
Many people knew that the execution was going to take place. On February 12th at dawn we also found out about it.
“The Jews were convoyed along Lepelskaya Street. My mother noticed it, grabbed me and Misha on the hands and we started running through the park to the house where our acquaintances lived. Nikolai Pereguda hid us in the bathhouse and his wife brought heated coal to keep us warm. She tried to approach the bathhouse so that no one noticed her. She brought us food and warm clothes.
We spent a day in the shelter, shaking from cold and fear, from every shot they heard. At that time the Nazis were murdering their victims. Those people were guilty of being Jewish.
In the evening Nikolai Illarionovich came and said to my mother: “Sonia, I will accompany you to the river and show you the way to the village where my relatives live.” The village was on the bank of the Western Dvina River, 12-15 kilometers from Beshenkovichi. There we were met by Pereguda’s relatives and sheltered in a basement for nine days. They brought us food and drink.” It was dangerous to give us shelter for a long time, since the Nazis searched for those who escaped and shot the people who sheltered Jews. So we left for another village and pretended to be refugees. My mother, who could sew, embroider and even make shoes, was earning our living.”
Thus we walked from village to village, hungry, cold and exhausted. There were moments when mother broke out crying. But despite everything we kept on walking and searching for partisans. In the daytime we tried to walk in the woods, avoiding villages. It was difficult to walk in deep snow. In the end we succeeded in finding partisans.
We could not believe that it was the end of our torture, that we could relax a little and eat normal food. It was enormous luck. It was in Kalininskaya region. We spent several months there.
Sofia Petrovna came back from evacuation in the summer of 1945. They arrived in Beshenkovichi to the place where their house was. Fortunately, it had not been destroyed and they settled in it. But first of all they had to see the people that had saved them. The meeting was very emotional. My mother related about our wandering from village to village, the hard days, and the kind people that had helped us.
Aisa remembers every minute and every second of that meeting, as if it happened yesterday.
The nightmares were over and a normal life finally set in.
Asia says: “Mother often recalled pre-war years, her relative, brother Isaak and his wife Rosa. She recalled that Isaak and Rosa used to work with Nikolai Peregusa before the war. Mother taught his wife embroidery and they were friends.” The friendship went on after the war. This time it was friendship, bound by the war.
Yefim Yudovin was born in 1922 in Beshenkovichi, Vitebsk region. From 1941 to January 1944 he was mobilized to the battlefront. He was wounded in the war. In 1951 he graduated from Vitebsk medical institute and worked as a doctor at Beshenkovichi hospital.
He has been living in Israel since 1991. He has settled down in Carmiel with his wife Bela. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.
Jewish settlements in Vitebsk region
Vitebsk • Albrehtovo • Babinovichi • Baran • Bayevo • Begoml • Beshenkovichi • Bocheikovo • Bogushevsk • Borkovichi • Braslav • Bychiha • Chashniki • Disna • Dobromysli • Dokshitsy • Druya • Dubrovno • Glubokoye • Gorodok • Kamen • Kohanovo • Kolyshki • Kopys • Krasnopolie • Kublichi • Lepel • Liady • Liozno • Lukoml • Luzhki • Lyntupy • Miory • Obol • Oboltsy • Orsha • Osintorf • Ostrovno • Parafianovo • Plissa • Polotsk • Prozorki • Senno • Sharkovshina • Shumilino • Sirotino • Slaveni• Smolyany • Surazh • Tolochin • Ulla • Verhnedvinsk • Vidzy • Volyntsy • Yanovichi • Yezerishe • Zhary • Ziabki •