is the story of my father, Tanchum Bojarski, the little boy
photo. My father was the youngest of four children
and a little spoiled I have been told. His parents owned the
grocery store and the jewelry store in their town of Lida. They
were a relatively well to do family. When the Germans entered
into their town and began the “separation” the townspeople
were forced to form two lines. The ones who would live were sent
to one line and the ones who they were going to kill were sent
to the other line. My father’s oldest sister Rivke and
her 2 year old son, Melvin, were sent to the line that was destined
for death. Rivke fell to her knees and entreated the German soldier
to please let her live. She told him that her husband, pointing
to her brother, was on the other line. Miraculously my Aunt Rivke
and my cousin Melvin were allowed to live. My grandparents, Bashe
and Falke Bojarski and their youngest daughter who I would never
meet, were rifle butted and forced to join the rest of the unfortunate
ones in a march to a mass grave that had been dug on the outskirts
of town. It was there that they were shot and thrown into the
grave. His older brother was taken out of town prior to the separation
and never returned. My father, Aunt Rivke and Melvin were brought
to the ghetto where my father performed various jobs for the
Subsequently, they ran away from the Ghetto and joined the Bielski
partisans. My father had to carry the baby on his shoulders and
keep his hand over his mouth lest he give them away to the German
soldiers who were near the swamp through which they traveled.
They finally arrived at the encampment in the woods and were
among the 1250 fortunate ones that were saved by the Bielski
Brothers. I believe that my father is the man depicted in the
movie Defiance, who fell asleep at the watch.
After they were liberated, my father went back to his house in
Lida where he had hidden a box of jewels and diamonds under
the foundation. They were not to be found. He was then drafted
into the Russian Army. He had been given a pocket watch by
his father Falke right before the war broke out and was told
to keep it close to his heart. While in the army, my father
was shot by a sniper and the bullet ricocheted off of the watch,
which was in his upper vest pocket, and went into his arm instead.
If it hadn’t been for the watch, he too would have died.
He spent two years in a hospital in Italy with nerve damage
to his arm. He then traveled to America where he met my mother
and the rest is, as they say, history.
The nurses where my father was living called me on June 29,
2006 to tell me that my father was going to die. I went to
sang Yiddish songs for hours while he lay dying in his bed.
After midnight I went home to get some rest and get ready
for the next
day. I found his pocket watch, which he had given to me, and
wound it up to see if it still worked. I was getting it ready
for the rabbi to tell the story about the watch saving his
life at the service. The watch did work.
I got a phone call from the nurse the following morning a little
after 5. She told me that my father died at 5 AM. When I got
the watch ready to give to the Rabbi for the service, I found
that the watch had stopped ticking at 5:02. The watch still reads
5:02 till this day.
father passed away in on June 30, 2006 at the age of 84. Unfortunately,
he lived a tortured life having lost both of his
parents and his brother and sister. He had recurring nightmares
and suffered from extreme depression. But he survived and fathered
two daughters myself and my sister Sherry. Although he may not
have been the father that we needed as little girls, I have come
to love him for the man that he was…. A HERO.