During the Great Patriotic War, millions of people were evacuated or became refugees. However, not everyone was so lucky, and those who were literally hunted by the Wehrmacht soldiers had to hide in any suitable places. This is how three Jewish families ended up in … caves, and they had to spend more than five hundred days there.
This amazing story began on the territory of the Ternopil region of modern Ukraine. There are two interesting caves - Ozernaya and Verteba - in them in 1993 one American enthusiast researcher found traces of a long stay of people. Moreover, the things that he came across there turned out to be far from the most modern, but they were not ancient either. Therefore, he decided to find information about those who lived there, and what prompted these people to such a "move."
The story that we managed to find was amazing. The thing is that with the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, local residents of Jewish origin understood perfectly well what awaited them with the arrival of the invaders. Therefore, they, in the absence of an opportunity to evacuate, found one and only solution: to hide in nearby caves. Three families - Stermer, Dodik and Veksler - decided on such a non-trivial way out - only 38 people aged from two to eighty years.
The future refugees prepared carefully: they collected food, studied the space of the cave so that it had good air circulation, a supply of fresh water in underground lakes and a stable temperature of 10 degrees above zero. And people in these conditions were able to equip not only a living area, but even a shower and toilet. Preparations were completed by early 1943, 38 Jews went underground for the next more than five hundred days.
Life in the caves was not easy: food supplies were only enough for six months. After that, the men were forced to risk their lives and regularly get out to the surface to get food and firewood. Some local residents were aware that entire Jewish families were hiding in the caves, and on pain of death, they helped as much as possible. But to some extent, the refugees were lucky, because their village was destroyed by the Germans.
Of course, spending time in the caves was difficult: people tried to sleep as much as possible so that time passed faster. However, while awake, they did not sit idle: adults taught children to read and write and history as much as they knew, and also tried to keep track of the passage of time and not miss important dates for them. In April 1944, the Soviet army liberated those lands from the invaders, however, in the caves they learned about this much later. The forced "children of the dungeon" finally emerged into the world only three months later.
When the war ended, the Jewish families who had escaped in the cave moved to live in Canada and the United States. And only seventy years later, during the filming of a documentary film about this incredible story, two representatives of the Stermer family - Saul and Sam - who were children at that time, already with their own grandchildren and nephews again descended into the caves, which became their home for a year and a half and made it possible to escape.
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