“All Jews are responsible for one another.”
Babylonian Talmud, Shavuot 39a
I felt the difference as soon as I entered the city. Laid out before our eyes was a city in its full glory, a beautiful and well-organized city. Aside from the military air field, which had been damaged in the German bombings, we saw no destroyed buildings; nor did we encounter the masses of refugees we had become accustomed to seeing. The city was vibrant and full of life.
The military trucks that had picked us up brought us to an army base outside the city, which apparently served as a Red Army military school and had spacious barracks and storerooms. Here we met other refugees who, like us, had arrived from various locations near the areas of fighting. The base seemed orderly and well set up.
We were welcomed by the city’s Jews, who provided us with food and clothing. One of the women, who knew the officer in charge, decided to help us. She took pity on us, four orphans dressed in rags, battered and exhausted, and asked the officer to house us in the base storeroom. The officer approved her request, but noted that he had no beds or mattresses for us.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of their needs. I thank you for your cooperation,” she said. Taking the initiative, our hostess went from one Jewish home to another collecting food, clothing, mattresses and blankets. She returned to the storeroom after a short while with the donated supplies.