Tsilya Gershman Zaslavsky

93 year old Holocaust survior with a unique story.

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Tsilya's Story

Summary

My great grandmother, Tsilya Zaslavsky (maiden name- Gershman) was born in 1926 at Mogilev-Podolskiy, Ukraine. She created a diary of the unique and saddening period of 1941-1945. Tsilya wrote about her life as a young girl during the Holocaust and her unique experience. She suffered substantial discrimination being a Jew in Ukraine during World War ll. Tsilya had less than a 15 percent chance of surviving the tragic event.

On June 21, 1941, Tsilya, her mother (Haya Sura) father (Favish), and grandmother (Mindya) escaped from Nazi bombings in Mogilev-Podolskiy to Shargorod. During this journey, Nazis continued to bomb the villages and areas which Tsilya was walking through. After Tsilya reaches Sharhorod, her father was drafted into the Soviet Union army. Shortly after, the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police also known as Polizei took full control of Shargorod. In Shargorod, they experienced terrible suffering including being locked in a shed, belongings being stolen, and almost being killed by Nazi soldiers.

After returning to Mogilev-Podolskiy, Tsilya's family found their house flooded and forced into a ghetto. For months, Tsilya and her family stayed at the Ghetto until they were sent to Pechora. Pechora is a concentration camp, also known as the “dead loop.” Tsilya and her family barely survived their journey to Pechora and were almost killed by Anti-Semitic Ukrainians. In Pechora, victims would primarily starve to death or die from sickness. Tsilya was at the camp for approximately one month.

Then, Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya met Motale, a Jewish boy who was also in the concentration camp. He offered to take them out of Pechora. Haya Sura opted for the boy to take Tsilya first. At night, Tsilya made her escape. She walked and hid in the forest for about 6 days. Then, she approached the edge of a mountain. Below was a village. Tsilya was tired, starving, and in horrible pain. She decided to slide off the mountain. Once she hit the ground, a woman approached her and took Tsilya inside a house where Tsilya partially recovered. After some time, Tsilya reunited with her mother who also escaped from the concentration camp. Then, Tsilya and Haya Sura again ended up in a ghetto where they withstood many hardships. They stayed there for years, until the Red army reclaimed their land.

After the liberation, Tsilya worked in a Soviet military hospital until the war ended on May 8, 1945. On that day, Tsilya met her future husband, Michael Zaslavsky. After the war, Tsilya's hardships were not over. USSR dictator, Joseph Stalin attempted to deport many Jews who survived the Holocaust to forced labor camps. Since Michael Zaslavsky was a captain in the Soviet Union army, he saved Tsilya from deportation.

Sadly, Tsilya’s grandmother, Mindya, froze to death at the concentration camp.

Table of Contents


Chapter One - When It All Started


Chapter Two - The Ghetto


Chapter Three - Horrible Journey


Chapter Four - The Concentration Camp


Chapter Five - The Escape From Pechora


Chapter Six - Returning To The Ghetto


Chapter Seven - Liberation



Chapter One - When It All Started

On June 21, 1941, Tsilya and her family escaped from Mogilev-Podolskiy, the village they lived in at the time. Tsilya was only fifteen years old. Before they left, Tsilya's father bought a horse and carriage to escape from the bombings. Tsilya, her mother (Haya Sura), father (Favish), and grandmother (Mindya) began their one day journey to Shargorod. During the journey, Tsilya heard extraordinarily loud noises everywhere. They could see German planes dropping bombs on the area. Tsilya, Haya Sura, Favish, and Mindya hid in the corn fields nearby. Tsilya saw Nazi planes flying over her head. After a day of travel, they reached Shargorod.

In Shargorod, Favish was drafted by the Soviet Union army along with most men. At that point only women, children, and the elderly remained. After the army draft, Tsilya and her family found a local house for shelter with many other Jews. Shortly after, the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police also known as Polizei took full control of Shargorod. They locked Tsilya, Haya Sura, Mindya, and other Jews inside a large shed. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians stole all of their cherished belongings.

One of the days during their stay in Shargorod, Tsilya heard German commands. Tsilya decides to look out the window, only to see Nazis passing by the village, raiding houses to check for Jews they can kill inside. Then, she sees a Nazi soldier standing directly outside her house, about to look in her direction. Quickly, Tsilya pulls her head from outside the window and warns her family. They rapidly hid and luckily the Nazi troops were unable to find them. Other Jews hid inside the houses as well. After finishing their deadly search, the Nazis left the village. Tsilya and her family stayed in Shargorod for approximately one month until deciding to return to Mogilev-Podolskiy.


Chapter Two - The Ghetto

In July of 1941, Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya returned to Mogilev-Podolski. Once they reached their house, Tsilya and her family saw that a large wall from their home completely collapsed. When the family was in Shargorod, a flood occured in Mogilev-Podolski which caused this to happen. This only added to hardships the family was going through. Tsilya and Haya Sura rebuilt the collapsed wall without any other assistance. At the time, many Romanian Jews were exiled to Mogilev-Podolski. Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya allowed some to live in their house once the wall was rebuilt.

After weeks passed, a ghetto was formed in Mogilev-Podolski where the street market was previously located. The Romanian Polizai were put in charge of the ghetto by Nazi troops. Then, the Polizei took the belongings of Jews who were sent to the ghetto. This included Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya. Tsilya and her family had nothing left and were unable to give anything to the Romanians. There, Tsilya was forced to work as a street cleaner. She also worked in a German shtab. During her trip from work every day, a kind German shoemaker gave Tsilya some bread. This was a large portion of what she ate at the ghetto. Tsilya's mother tried to make some money through buying used clothes from people walking by the ghetto and then selling the clothing after remaking it. Haya Sura was excellent at stitching and therefore was able to do this. When she bought or sold clothing, Haya Sura cautiously climbed a fence of the ghetto. Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya stayed in the ghetto for about one month until being taken to Pechora, a concentration camp in Ukraine. Some Jews avoided going to a concentration camp by bribing the Polizei and Nazis. For Tsilya and her family, that was not possible.


Chapter Three - Horrible Journey

In August of 1941, Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya were taken by the Nazis to Pechora, a concentration camp also known as the "Dead Loop." Nobody was sure at the time where they would be taken and were told by the Polizai that they would be going to work. First, they were loaded on train cars meant for cattle. Inside, it was very hot and overcrowded. On the train, Ukranian and Romanian Polizai guarding the Jews with dangerous dogs. During the journey the Polizai tortured the Jews by constantly telling them to get off and back on the train cars. That was an extremely difficult task due to the height of the automotive. Fifteen year-old Tsilya had to lift her seventy year old grandmother on and off the train car. Otherwise, Mindya wouldn’t be able to get on the train car and be left for dead.

As Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya continued their treacherous one day journey with no food and water, the large automotive came to a stop. A group of Ukrainians approached the vehicle. They wanted to kill the Jews, but the troops and Polizai did not let them.

For the final part of the journey to Pechora, Tsilya, her family, and the other Jews were forced to walk for three hours. During the walk, people began to go insane. Some died. Exhausted, hungry, and thirsty, Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya reached Pechora. It was a large concentration camp with high fences keeping all the Jews inside. Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya were terrified as they further approached the camp.


Chapter Four - The Concentration Camp

In September of 1941, Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya were held in Pechora by Ukranians, Romanians, and Nazis who ran the "Dead Loop". Before the land was transformed into Pechora, a large and beautiful sanitarium was located on the land. As Tsilya looked around the concentration camp, she saw Jews wearing bags instead of clothing and people with strands of hair sticking up. Many who were brought to the camp were from Tulchina, Ukraine.

Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya slept on the floor of barn cabins in the camp. Tsilya was able to locate some water fountains which were her main source of water. A moderately sized river ran near Pechora. Next to the river were young prisoners looking for partisans. Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya would go there every day to wash themselves and look for partisans. Haya Sura sold a coat to local Ukrainians at the fence of the concentration camp.

A Jew in the camp would bring a small amount of bread from the Ukranians, Romanians, and Nazis who were running the camp to distribute to everybody at the camp. Some held in the camp were able to smuggle food into Pechora. One day in the concentration camp, Tsilya saw a boy who was asking a soldier for food. Instead of giving him food, the soldier shot the boy. 30-50 people died in Pechora daily. Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Midya observed a soldier who counted the dead bodies. The soldier was seemingly unhappy that only 30-50 innocent people died.


Chapter Five - The Escape From Pechora

In November of 1941, Tsilya met a teenage boy. Soon, the boy offered to assist Tsilya, Haya Sura, and Mindya, escape Pechora. Haya Sura opted for the boy to take Tsilya out of the concentration camp first. On the day of the escape, Tsilya wrote her name in a stone arc. At night, she finally made her escape with the boy, a woman with a child, and a teacher.

For slightly less than a week, she strictly walked and hid in the forest. Tsilya was dressed like a Ukrainian. After days of more suffering, Tsilya approached the edge of a mountain. Then, she saw that there was a village near the bottom of the mountain. At the time, she was tired, starving, and in tremendous pain. Tsilya decided to roll down the mountain. Later, a Jewish family found Tsilya and the others. The family hid them in a shed and brought them food. There were also some young boys who liked Tsilya, and they brought food for them as well.


Chapter Six – Returning To The Ghetto

Later in November of 1941, Tsilya was still not united with her mother and grandmother. Tsilya informed the boy that she greatly wanted her mother to escape. Soon, the boy returned to Pechora. He told Haya Sura that Tsilya wanted to see her mother. Then, Tsilya’s mother decided to escape from the concentration camp. After staying briefly in the village, Tsilya continued her journey to Mogilev-Podolski. On her way, Tsilya was united with Haya Sura. Romanians and Ukrainians tried to find Jews who escaped the concentration camp. Due to that, Tsilya and her mother had to constantly hide.

After, Mindya and some other members of Tsilya’s family escaped the camp. During their dangerous journey through the forest, Mindya feel asleep. The relatives left without her and after Tsilya’s grandmother woke up, she returned back to the camp. The conditions were hazardous and during her walk, she froze to death.

Tsilya and her mother finally reached Mogilev-Podolski. Then, Tsilya and Haya Sura were held in a Ghetto which was located in Mogilev-Podolski. It was run by Nazi and Romanian Troops. They lived there with a Russian woman. Soon, Tsilya’s relatives met Tsilya and her mother. As they talked, Tsilya and Haya Sura found out that they left Mindya in the forest. Tsilya became extremely upset and wanted to throw a hot pot at her relatives, but her mother relaxed her. Later, Tsilya’s family members lived with her as well. Tsilya’s time in the Ghetto was extremely difficult. A Polizai ex-fireman beat Tsilya for climbing a fence. He was killed after the liberation. Haya Sura climbed a fence to sell dresses.


Chapter Seven – Liberation

In 1944, Mogilev-Podolski was finally liberated. After the liberation, Tsilya worked in a Soviet military hospital until the war ended on May 8, 1945. Later, Tsilya met her future husband, Michael Zaslavsky. After the war, Tsilya's hardships were not over. USSR dictator, Joseph Stalin attempted to deport many Jews who survived the Holocaust to forced labor camps. Since Michael Zaslavsky was a captain in the Soviet Union army, he saved Tsilya from deportation.











Tsilya Today

After the Holocaust and World War Two, Tsilya married Michael Zaslavsky, a Soviet Union army veteran. Tsilya Zaslavsky and most of her family immigrated to the United States from modern day Ukraine in 1989. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Now, Tsilya has three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.


Young Tsilya Zaslavsky.


Tsilya's Family

About one hundred forty thousand Jews lived in Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine, the region Tsilya lived in during the Holocaust. One hundred twenty thousand of those Jews were killed.

Due to the Holocaust, Tsilya lost many family members. This includes her grandmother who selflessly turned down a chance to escape the concentration camp, so Tsilya and her mother could survive. Tsilya’s grandmother, Mindya, later froze to death at Pechora.

Michael Zaslavsky was a very honorable soldier in the Soviet Union army who proudly served in World War Two. During battle, Michael was injured three times by Nazi soldiers, but thankfully made a full recovery. He has won numerous medals for his service. Michael married Tsilya shortly after the war ended. Today, my great grandfather is 94 years old and happily lives with Tsilya. The couple has been married for over seventy years and counting.



Young Michael Zaslavasky.



Tsilya and Michael Zaslavasky.

Tsilya and Michael Zaslavsky.

Tsilya and Michael Zaslavsky.

Tsilya and Michael Zaslavsky.