Total War

Interview with Serafima Schibko

Serafima Schibko Q: What were the war years like?

Schibko: You can't forget them. Even after you die you will remember them. We were very hungry and very cold. Kids asked for food and there was nothing, no food to offer them. There was no salt, not to mention bread. By now a lot of people have died, how can I forget what it was like. Children ask for various things but during the war children just asked to be given food. We used to live in the earth before they built the present house. We were hungry, cold, and barefoot since there weren't any clothes to get. That was how we lived.

It was frightening to live with the expectation of death. When night fell, someone would tap on our windows. An armed man. But who was it? Which do you like, German or partisans? The one who comes with a gun, you love. The big German commander came in and ordered that the men should be shot and the village burnt. They shot my brother and his two sons in one hut. They would take the people to a shed and burn them there.

Q: What was it like living here with the partisans during the war?

Schibko: The partisans were not helping us, they were doing only harm. The Germans wouldn't have touched us if it hadn't been for the partisans. The Germans once encircled the village. It was about four or five in the morning in the summer and all our men were sleeping. They collected all the men and took them to the woods and made them lie there for the whole day. The battle went on for the whole day before the German commander decided to burn the village and to kill all the men in the village.

The Germans were stationed all around, their headquarters were in Tischinsk. On another occasion Germans encircled our village again. They were sending rockets into the sky. The firing started and my old man got a horse.... We went by horse to the woods. We were stopped by a man who could speak some German so we managed to escape.... We were surrounded and attacked many times.

One rainy evening our men had to ride through the woods. The Germans were firing and firing. We had to spend the night in the woods, then had to go away. What we saw.... God forbid. Ten wounded soldiers were found in the woods. We went to dress their wounds. A group of German soldiers came to the village and killed some of our men. I remember bodies being loaded on the carts and I remember the blood running on the ground. Our village was burned four times. We went to other villages, each person tried to escape somewhere and settle in another place. We were cold and hungry.

Once somebody said we should have killed all of you. Not far from the village was a shed in which some people were locked and fire was set to it. My little boy who died used to say to me, "Hide me when the firing starts." He used to run into the woods when the Germans came -- always ran into the woods and spent the night there.... When the village was burned down we had to dig earth huts and live in them. Our life was very hard; we went through a lot of torture. There was no quiet spot on this land during the war. Once we were digging up potatoes and saw German planes in the sky. They were shelling us from the sky. The State helped to build the house we are living in now and my old man was working on it as well after the war.

Q: Who was worse, the partisans or the Germans?

Schibko: Of course the enemy was worse. The partisans didn't give us any help, they only did harm. They burned the bridge near our village. They took away cows. Once, three partisans stayed in another hut and spent several days drinking. It was very risky. There were some Jews among them. One Jewish woman went mad and the partisans left her in our village. She was later smothered, strangled by the Germans. Of course the partisans were our people but they didn't do us any good. They would break in, get some food and then go. The Germans were the enemy. Germans locked people in sheds and burned them; they also buried some people alive. The partisans just didn't help at all. We didn't get any benefit from either the Germans nor the partisans.

Q: Did you see the police setting fire to your village?

Schibko: Everyone was in the woods, no one was here. No one stayed in the village when it was burning for the last time. When we came back we only saw burned ruins. When it was done for the first time, people were at their homes. Men were taken away and women and children, those who managed, tried to run away. I had five children with me and my nephew from Minsk. Where could I run away with so many children? We saw what was going on when it happened for the first time. Our house was burning and our whole neighborhood, too. Everything was burning. We all had to go and live somewhere else. Some lived with their relatives. We were happy we had survived.... Throughout the war, I didn't think about anything. I was only trying to protect my family and myself.

Q: What happened after the fires?

Schibko: They strangled those who they captured. Some families were deported to Germany. Those who didn't manage to escape into the woods were put on trucks and later on sent to Germany where they had to work in factories. They came back after the war. Some brought a lot of goodies in their back packs. About 15 people died; they were killed or executed by the Germans. Maybe about 20 people all in all.

Note: Red text is available in RealAudio.

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