The Story of Chana and Mordechai Krup
By Tzipi Karelitz, born in Santa Maria di Luca
My parents, Chana of the house of Sheinbein and Mordechai Krup, God rest their souls, were born in Poland, in Woholyn (Wolhynia) district of Ukraine, in the town of Warkowicze, not far from the city of Rovno
Both were raised in affluent houses, educated according to Jewish and Zionist values, attended the polish local public school and learned Hebrew with private tutors. My father went to Tarbut high school in Rovno. They were both active in the Zionist youth movement and dreamt of immigrating to Israel
When the Second World War began in September 1939, in accordance with the Ribentrop-Molotov Pact, the Woholyn district was annexed to the USSR and was considered west Ukraine
My parents, who were already dating then, took the opportunity that was given to youngsters to return to school, went back to high school, and learned the Russian language
On June 22nd, 1941, Warkowicze was bombed by German airplanes, and shortly afterwards, the German forces surrounded the area. They rode into town on their motorcycles, raided the Jewish houses, looted and vandalized whatever they could. They tortured the town elders and public figures and murdered residents of the town without mercy. Every day brought new decrees on the Jews. They were forced to do hard labor, fixing the road from Rovno to Dovno, narrowing the railroad tracks, and performing grinding manual tasks at the Rovno airport. The town’s Jews had to endure long months of fear and terror, humiliation, murder, torture, torment and drudgery. By Passover (April) of 1942, they were ordered to huddle together in a small part of town and enclose themselves in a ghetto
In September 1942, around the Jewish holidays, rumors about the horrors in neighboring Jewish communities started to spread. It became known that the Germans were gathering all the Jews and shooting them into open graves. One night, during the Sukkot holiday, my father’s parents sent his younger sister, Rachel, and my mother’s sister, Sonia, to the house of a farmer in the next village, who was a friend of the family. The next day, at dawn, Chana and Mordechai also escaped from the ghetto and went to a friend in the next village, which was inhabited primarily by Czech farmers. Four days later, after Simchat Torah, that farmer informed them that all the Jews in their home village were led out of the ghetto to an area in the forest that was filled with open graves and were shot to death. My parents realized they had to leave the place and escape from their prosecutors.  Later they learned that on October 8th 1942, German soldiers and Ukrainian police murdered 2,300 Jewish men,
women and children from the Warkowicze ghetto
From that day on, my parents knew they were a moving target and their lives were in grave danger. They also knew that whoever finds them would not hesitate to kill them on the spot. And they wanted to live
Chana and Mordechai kept moving secretly from village to village, seeking shelter and food. At one point, the farmer who was hiding Rachel asked her to leave because the Germans were killing anyone who was hiding Jews. Sonia, Chana’s sister had left the house earlier and no one knew where she went. Rachel joined my parents, and the three of them continued their quest to survive 
When the Ukrainian winter began, they found a hiding burrow where some 20 men and women crowded. Most of them also escaped from the Warkowicze ghetto. The burrow was warm, and they spent the night there, telling each other about their hardships. Mordechai learned from his cousin, who was also hiding there, that his parents, Avraham and Gitle, had survived the slaughter and were in the village of Dombruvka. Chana, Mordechai and Rachel left the next day to seek the parents. None of the other people who were hiding in that burrow survived
When they reached Dombruvka, they searched for Mordechai’s parents in the fields of farmers whom they knew (Mordechai’s father was working with all the local farmers). They found them hiding in one of the attics. His mother was hurt. She had fallen some eight feet, through a hole in the ceiling, and apparently broke some bones. They hugged each other and cried, letting go of months of suffering and sorrow. Mordechai’s parents told them that Chana’s parents and sister did not survive the slaughter
They decided to remain together in that village, hiding in barns and mows. My father went out every night, knocking on farmers’ windows, begging for food. The farmers who helped asked him to promise not to tell anyone that they were helping him. They managed to live this way for some time, but they were not equipped to handle the cold winter. Mordechai decided to go back to their house in the ghetto and salvage the coats which they had hidden away before escaping. It was a dangerous mission, but with the help of Chana and his sisters (who didn’t like the plan at all) accomplished it successfully. My father’s foresight and courage helped them survive the harsh Ukrainian winter. They decided to split into two groups, to lower the chances of everyone getting caught. Rachel remained with one of the Czech farmers, pretending to be a Ukrainian housekeeper
For months Chana and Mordechai lived in the shadows, hiding in farmers’ properties, without them ever knowing about it. Several times, while hiding under haystacks, they had to endure the terrible experience of the farmer loading the hay, nearly hitting them with his pitchfork. They kept meeting other survivors in hiding, and kept hearing about many others getting caught and murdered, about farmers snitching on the Jews they were hiding, and about atrocities in other towns and villages. My parents, who were raised in houses that lacked nothing, with parents who embraced them with warmth and love, were now like hunted prey, hungry, dirty, scared, frozen and lice-infected
They knew they must be careful and do whatever they could to make it out alive. One day they heard someone calling their names. To their great delight, it was Sonia, Chana’s younger sister. She was alive! Sonia had also been pretending to be a Ukrainian and working as a housekeeper. Unfortunately, a Ukrainian policeman discovered her identity and tortured her. She escaped and searched for Chana and Mordechai. They were three again 
Two weeks before the Jewish new year of TASHAD (September, 1943), Mordechai’s parents came to visit them in a small grove where they were hiding. A young Czech, whom they knew, saw them there, but they thought he wouldn’t say anything. That night they slept outside, instead of in their usual hideaway. Suddenly Chana wakes Mordechai up and they hear gun shots. Mordechai ran straight through the thick bushes, and out to the next field, bullets flying over his head. He did not know what happened to Chana. He was alone and he didn’t understand how he was still alive. And then he saw her. She was also unharmed, and they returned to the grove. Mordechai’s father, Avraham, was shot dead that night, and so was Sonia. His mother, Gitle, was gravely injured. They carried her to a nearby barn, where she died. His father was 53 years old when he died, his mother was 52. Sonia was 19
For 18 long months they survived in the forest, in fields, in holes in the ground, in hay stacks, in burrows, and in deserted attics.  Thy were at the mercy of kind Czech farmers, living from one miracle to the next, surviving thanks to my father’s physical strength, resourcefulness and courage, and primarily thanks to their great love for one another, which gave them hope that they might make it alive. They dreamt that if they survive, they would ask for nothing but a piece of bread, a ray of sun light, and to walk freely in the streets
In February 8th, 1944, Russian forces conquered the area. From their entire families, the only ones who survived were my parents, and Rachel, my father’s sister
Several days after the liberation, my father was drafted to the Red Army. He served in the army for a year and a half. My mother and his sister, who stayed in Rovno, joined the “Escape” (a Zionist organization that helped Holocaust survivors immigrate to Israel).  With other Jewish survivors, they roamed across Europe for many months. My father took advantage of the opportunity given to soldiers who were former Polish citizens to transfer to the Polish army, and while in transition, deserted from the Red Army
For six weeks he traveled from town to town across Europe, looking for his girlfriend and his sister. Miraculously, he learned that they were in a refugee camp in north Italy. In the evening of Yum Kippur, TASHAV (September, 1945) he finally arrived at the camp and the three were reunited.
My parents were married in the Modena refugee camp in Sukkot of that year 1945. It is a Jewish custom not to hold weddings during the holidays, “so as not to mix joy with joy”, but since those were not joyful days for the Jewish people, my parents received a special permit to wed from the Rabbi. The Ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract), was written by Arie Galon, Rachel’s fiancé
whom she met while wandering in Europe. The witnesses who signed the Ketubah were two survivors from Warkowicze. That day, all the residents of the camp were transported to southern Italy, to the UNRA (the United National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) refugee camp in Santa Maria di Luca
My parents lived in “Kibbutz Atid”, with Rachel and Arie Galon. My aunt Rachel married Arie, in the Santa Maria di Luca camp, around Tu BiShvat, TASHAV (January, 1946). Soon afterwards, their turn arrived to immigrate to Israel and they sailed on board the PALMACH ship. That ship was captured by the British and all its passengers were transported to Cyprus. Rachel and Arie arrived in Israel only in 1947
While they were in Luca, my father worked as a photographer, and took other random jobs. He was busy primarily with activities in the Zionist Youth group, in the camp, and with preparations to immigrate to Israel. My mother learned sawing in an ORT course and assisted in cooking for the residents of the camp
I was born at the hospital in Santa Maria di Luca, in August 24th, 1946. When I was two months old, I got pneumonia and was treated with an expensive medicine at the time - penicillin. After my birth, my mother was very ill and weak. The horrors of the terrible things they went through, and the losses she had suffered, deeply affected her, and she needed the help of a local girl to take care of me
In May 1947, we moved to the refugee camp in Paleze, near Bari. In the summer of 1947, we were supposed to sail to Israel on board the “Exodus”. My parents mailed the few belongings they had to their relatives in Israel. They waited on the shores of Bari for three nights, with me and a bag of clothes in their hands. The ship never arrived and we stayed in the refugee camp in Paleze
My parents remained in Italy for three years. During that time they kept a steady letter correspondence with Ita and Shlomo Lin, God rest their souls, who lived in Hadera. Ita was my father’s cousin and she and her husband managed to immigrate to Israel when the war began. The letters were written in Yiddish, some in Hebrew, and detail their life in Italy and mainly their longing to get to Israel
In his letters, my father writes about photography, which he learned as a profession in Luca, and practiced for a living. Father was taking pictures of local events in Luca. He particularly liked taking pictures in weddings, which for him and for the other residents of the camp, symbolized revival and hope for a new life. Every child that was born symbolized the Jewish people being reborn from dust and ashes
In December 1948, we boarded the ship “Medex” that was but a nutshell, as my father used to say. There were 600 passengers on the ship, which wobbled in stormy waters for two weeks. Most of the passengers, my father included, suffered from terrible sea-sickness and were weak and fragile. While sailing through rough seas and storms, the passengers discovered that the barrels of drinking
water on the ship were punctured and not a single drop of water remained for the hundreds of immigrants on the ship. They discovered that the captain was a Nazi who hoped to kill all the Jewish passengers, the survivors. A few of the passengers locked the captain at the bottom of the ship, harbored next to one of the islands, dismantled several barrels of fuel, washed them thoroughly, and filled them with water from a nearby river. The fuel-flavored water were undrinkable and were used for washing
On December 13, 1948, after a difficult maritime journey, the immigrants arrived in Haifa. On a stormy night, a truck delivered us to the immigration camp in the Brandeis neighborhood in Hadera, where we found Ita and Shlomo Lin. Our rough travels came to an end. We were home, with a loving and caring family
Rachel and Arie lived in Petah Tikva in a shabby hut, and we moved to live in Jaffa, in a room with a leaking ceiling. My sister was born in 1952 and she was called Tova, after my grandmother, my father’s mother, who was murdered in a grove, while hiding in Dombruvka
In 1953 we moved to the Bitzaron neighborhood in Yad Eliyahu, Tel Aviv.  In that house, in a little modest flat, my parents remained until their last day
In 1990 my father retired, after 37 years in which he worked at the postal service. For many years he was in charge of the manufacturing and production of Israeli stamps. For two years after he retired, he wrote of his memories of the town in which he was born, of the amazing story of his stubborn struggle to survive with my mother and his sister, of his days in the service of the Red army and his desertion, of the 4,000 kilometers journey he completed to find my mother and Rachel in Italy
His book, “Between despair and hope”, was published in 1992 by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, as part of the series “To live a testimony from the holocaust”, edited by Yoram Tahar Lev
My aunt, Rachel Galon, God rest her soul, fell gravely ill and died in 1997 at the age of 75
My father, Mordechai Krup, died at the age of 92, in August 2011. Mother, Chana Krup, died precisely three months later, in November 2011, at the age of 90
My parents lived together 66 good years, they raised us with love and care and lived to see six grandchildren and five grand-grandchildren
Chana and Mordechai (Motel) Krup – A story of love :  http://krupstory.blogspot.co.il/

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