Project «Voices of Jewish settlements. Vitebsk region.»
פיתוח קשרי התרבות בין העמים של ישראל ובלרוס
Memories of V. M. Lesnikov
I am trying to remember the pre-war years. Most of the population of Liady, regardless of their nationality, was rather poor. People were working in artels: shoemaking, sewing or on the collective farm called “Neue Leben” (“New life”). It helped that everyone had their own house and a small piece of homestead land. Most young people preferred to move to cities while those who had big families, the less educated and active people, remained. Mostly these were middle-aged and old people. So, in the pre-war years the population “grew old” very fast.
The Jewish school and all the synagogues (if my memory serves me right, there were eight) were closed in 1938. The synagogues were turned into a pioneer center, a carpet-production shop, an orphanage and different other institutions.
I do not really remember that there was anti-Semitism. But old people were not especially enthusiastic about the Soviet regime. Still, they were quiet about it. They were not very politically intelligent people but they understood that lack of food and some other problems emerged due to the Soviet power and Bolsheviks.
Young people, on the contrary, were optimistic about the Soviet ideology, believed in a better future and were patriotic.
Germans came into Liady without resistance on July 14th, 1941.They stopped to have a swim in the river and moved on to Smolensk.
Two days later, the Red Army, retreating to the east, entered Liady from the side of Dubrovno. Germans entered from the side of Bayevo. That was when a six-our battle broke out. Our soldiers had to retreat, many of them were captured. Germans began setting houses on fire. Liady was burning and there was no one to extinguish the fire, since more than 90% of the population had fled two days before the German Army invaded. They also had headed for Smolensk. The town looked dead.
The Germans overtook the Liady Jews near Smolensk and they had to turn back to Liady. The town was in ruins. There were only 13 houses left, a school, an outpatient clinic, a maternity ward, which was later turned into a police department made up of local residents.
It’s noteworthy that there actually were peasants who welcomed the Nazis…
Everything had been burnt, there was nothing to eat. There were now 8-9 families living in each house.
Germans started introducing new rules: Jews had to attach Magen David to their clothes and they were not allowed to leave the town. They were warned they would be shot if they broke any rules. The Nazi policemen were raging: Jews were robbed and forced to do physical work. Even the local peasants who had been friendly with Jews before the war, were now scared to let them into their houses for fear of punishment.
Some people used to ask me: “Why was there no resistance?” Such questions make me indignant. It is easy to discuss these things now without seeing everything that was actually happening.
Jews were forsaken by their country. Anti-Semitic propaganda was raging on the occupied territories. People believed that Jews took the real power over the country into their hands, that they were exploiting Slavic people and that they were to blame for everything. Many people actually believed that.
Jews knew what they could expect from Germans and saw no way out, they saw no point in resisting.
I was on the occupied territory for two years and three months. Then I left Liady and for one and a half years I lived with a false name – Vasily Lesnikov. I was scared people would find out who I really was. I was afraid I could say something in Yiddish in my dreams. I invented a story I was a refugee from Mozhaisk and my parents were dead.
Soon an old lady gave me shelter. She lived with her son. They believed my legend and they needed a worker. I tried as hard as I could: made firewood, ploughed, mowed. I learned to do everything. These people lived in a village called Litvinovo.
My real name is Arkady Borisovich Dly.
I know there were some other people who escaped from Liady. Two 19-year-old girls left the town a month before the tragedy, which took place on April 2nd, 1942 and 10 a.m. They wandered from village to village and later joined a partisan brigade.
Slava Tumarkin, born in 1930, also left with his father two months before the tragedy. His father was murdered.
When we were liberated by the Soviet Army on September 27th, 1943, I returned to my birthplace – Liady. I did not find anyone. My house had been burnt.
I still use the name Vasily Mikhailovich Lesnikov.
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 •