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Margarita Kamiyenovskaya

22nd June 1941 was a Sunday. It was an ordinary weekend morning, when people could stay longer in bed and then start the day. At noon Molotov's [25] speech was broadcast on the radio, where he announced that fascists had attacked [the USSR] without declaring war and he added, 'Our cause is just and we will win.'

Soon the Germans started air raids. Trains heading for the rear of Russia departed from Tallinn railway station. Authorized employees of Estonia were evacuated and my father was among them as he was a doctor. Thus, our family had no choice but to leave. My father tried convincing three of his sisters to get evacuated with him, but they flatly refused. They thought that three elderly political ladies, fluent in German, had nothing to fear. If the Soviet regime didn't exile them, the Germans would do no harm to them. People say that they were murdered by the Germans in 1941, but I think they were merely killed by Estonians. It might have happened before the Germans' arrival. There were cases like that.
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Eva Ryzhevskaya

On 22nd June 1941 [the beginning of the Great Patriotic War] [25] Molotov [26] made the announcement on the radio that Germany had attacked the USSR without having declared war. It happened on Sunday. The next day we were told about demobilization at our courses.
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Henrich Kurizkes

I went to work as a pioneer leader [29] in a pioneer camp during the summer. The camp was located about 15 kilometers from Tallinn. I was to start on 15th June. We had just settled down, when on Sunday night of 22nd June 1941 we heard the roar of the artillery cannonade. It never occurred to us that it was a war. We thought it was another military training exercise. Then at noon, on 22nd June, we heard the Molotov [30] speech on the radio, and he said that Hitler's armies had attacked the USSR.

We returned to Tallinn where evacuation began and my parents decided to evacuate. Thank God, they didn't delay. Many Estonian and Jewish people didn't fear Germans as much as they did the Soviet power after the tragic deportation experience. This day played another tragic part in the life of Estonian Jews. Even before the German occupation, Estonians began to destroy the Jewish people. Estonia was one of the first European countries to report to Hitler that its territory was free, judenfrei, [31] from Jews. Hatred toward the Soviet power was so strong that it out-weighed all historical dislike of Germans by Estonians. The Germans were seen as liberators and rescuers, and Estonians were ready to fulfill all of their orders.

There were hardly any Jewish survivors in Estonia after the war. Even those who had been deported to Siberia had more of a chance of survival than those who refused to leave their homes. People thought that they would wear yellow stars, if the Germans wanted them to, and speak German and go along with the Germans. They all perished, but it wasn't until after the war that we heard about the Klooga concentration camp [32], mass shootings of Jews and other horrors.

Meanwhile my mother and father packed some belongings and we headed to the railway station. My father worked in the military supply store [department responsible for food and commodity supplies to military units and organizations of the town], and was to take care of transportation of its stock. My parents decided to go on separately rather than wait for one another.

Evacuation was organized from the very start of the war. There were freight trains at the freight station in Tallinn that moved on when they were full. We evacuated on 3rd July 1941. After our train crossed the bridge over the Narva River, the bridge was destroyed. We were told that all Estonians were to be evacuated to Ulianovsk where the government of Estonia had been evacuated [33]. We traveled for about three weeks. We had some food and clothes with us. We were lucky since some business organizations were traveling on our train and we could buy everything we needed from them: cookies, butter, tinned meat and fish. So we had sufficient food on the train.
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Arnold Fabrikant

On 18th June 1941 we had a prom at school, and on 22nd June I was supposed to go to Kiev to enter a college. There were disputes in the family: I wanted to study script writing since I had liked writing in my childhood, and attended a literature club in the House of Pioneers [also see All-Union pioneer organization] [13], while my parents thought this was no good and wanted me to become an engineer. They chose Kiev Aviation College for me. My train was to depart in the evening, but my father called at 6 in the morning. We were the only family with a telephone: there were only few telephones at that time. All my father said was: 'Don't send Nolia [affectionate for Arnold] away. I cannot tell you why. Let him give back his ticket and stay at home.' At 10 o'clock in the morning I went to return my ticket to the railroad cashier box on Karl Marx Street. When I left, I saw a crowd gathering around a street radio. I stopped and listened to Molotov's [14] speech about the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
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Dina Kuremaa

We got to know that Hitler's troops unleashed war in 1939, when fascists attacked Poland [14]. At that time Father was corresponding with his relatives in Poland. They fled to Soviet Ukraine, when the German troops entered Poland. At that time fugitives were let in there. When they wrote to us from Ukraine, Father wanted them to come to us Tallinn. I don't know why they didn't come at once. Then the Germans captured Estonia, and we got evacuated. That was all we knew about Father's relatives. All of them must have perished.

Even when Hitler attacked Poland, there was no fear. The Soviet army crushed the German troops and we believed that Germany would not like to be at war with the Soviet Union. After Hitler's troops having been crushed, a non-aggression pact was signed between Germany and the USSR [the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact] [15]. Everybody hoped that there would be peace when the agreement was signed. We were frightened when on 22nd June 1941 we found out from Molotov's speech [16] on the radio that German troops had attacked the Soviet Union, gone into action in Belarus and Ukraine.
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Anna Ivankovitser

I remember 22nd June 1941, the first day of the war. There was a radio near our house in the central street. At noon we heard the Molotov's [11] speech, in which he announced that Germany had traitorously attacked the USSR. At first, we didn't quite understand what it was all about. Our mother kept crying and our neighbor, a teacher from the Jewish school, told her that the war wouldn't last long and that in a few weeks our army would be in Germany. Many people thought so then.
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arkadiy redko

On 20th June 1941 I finished the 9th grade. There was another year left at school, but I was already thinking of where to continue my studies. On the morning of 22nd June we got to know that German planes bombed Kiev and that the Great Patriotic War [17] had begun. At noon Molotov [18] spoke on the radio announcing that Hitler had breached the Non-Aggression Pact [Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact] [19], attacking the USSR without announcing war. Then Stalin spoke: he said we would win.
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Bluma Lepiku

On 22nd June 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet Union [13] without declaring a war. We had to decide whether we were going to stay or leave. We did not feel like leaving our home. My mother and grandmother were positive that we should stay, but my father said we should leave as far as possible from the place and there should be no doubt about that. His theater was to evacuate and we could go with it.

My mother packed a suitcase for each of us, just in case we happened to travel in different train carriages. Mother packed our best clothes and shoes. She also added our valuables and silverware into or Father's suitcase: a sugar bowl, a coffee pot and the tableware. My mother was hoping that we would be able to trade our silverware for food products, if necessary. However, this was the suitcase that was stolen at the railway station even before we got on the train.

My grandmother, my father's brother Michail and my grandmother's sister Martha went with us. Martha's son Hermann was mobilized to the Soviet army. The theater was to evacuate to Kuibyshev, they were told, but on the way the route changed. The Soviet government was evacuated to Kuibyshev and, of course, we were not allowed to go there as well. We arrived at the Kanash station, Chuvashia [about 700 km north-east of Moscow]. At the evacuation office we were told that our destination point was the village of Shemursha. The musicians of the orchestra and their families were distributed to various locations. In Shemursha we were the only family of an orchestra player, though there were many other people evacuated from their homes. They came mostly from Belarus. There was one family from Estonia and we became friends almost immediately.
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Ada Dal

I had nightmares about the Germans because people around were talking about it a lot - I was scared and imagined horrible things that might happen to all of us, Germans coming and me hiding under the table. I woke up in horror. That's why when the war began it was a catastrophe to me. This was on 22nd June 1941 [the beginning of the so-called Great Patriotic War] [8]. Papa was at the recreation center in Vorzel, a small town near Kiev. We were planning to go see him in the morning. In the morning there were bombings in Kiev. We didn't know anything for sure, but we still went to see my father. When we arrived they were all listening to the speech of Molotov [9].
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Cilja Laud

Father was mobilized almost right away, but not in the lines, but in the city of Kirov. There were plants, where military uniforms were made and Father was in charge of the glove making department for the Soviet army. He spent all the years of the war there and all we could do was write to each other. We left for Ural, Nizhnyaya Uvelka, along with other Estonian Jews. We took the last train. Mother's parents and Grandmother Genya went with us. I hardly remember the road. I remember a huge crowd at Tallinn train station. Mother carried me and I leaned against her shoulder. The rest was like in a haze.

I remember our life in evacuation in Ural very well. When we reached Nizhnyaya Uvelka, Mother took me by the hand and we went looking for the rural administrative building. It was the place where they were supposed to tell where our family - my grandparents, mother and I - were to get settled. I remember poor rustic ladies looked at my mother as if she was a wonder as she was wearing high heeled shoes, posh clothes, a silver fox fur and a hat. Finally, my mother found the rural administration building and we went to the place we were told.
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Perle Liya Epshteyn

My parents were very worried. Father decided that all of us ought to get evacuated. Unfortunately, not all of our relatives were of that opinion. My maternal grandmother Gute-Mere was very sick and could not leave. Aunt Rosa, with whom Grandmother was living, could not let her stay alone. Rosa and her husband stayed in Tallinn, her daughters Natalia and Tamara were evacuated. Father’s brother Solomon, Mother’s elder brother Shmuel-Sakhne stayed in Tallinn, too. Both of their sons were drafted into the army. Solomon’s daughter Miriam was enrolled in the lines as a volunteer. Mother’s sister Sarah Auguston and her husband did not manage to get evacuated from Riga. Her son Isai was drafted into the army. The rest of our relatives were evacuated.

Unfortunately, many friends and pals of my parents stayed in Tallinn. People were daunted with deportation and feared the Soviet regime more than the fascists. Besides, the local population treated Germans as vernacular, as Germans always lived in Estonia. Nobody expected the Germans to do harm and exterminate Jews. Maybe some people were merely sluggish. It was easier not to take any actions, just stay than going towards uncertainty.
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Amalia Blank

On Sunday, 22nd June 1941 I had to play in the evening’s performance and in the morning we did not rush, just took a little rest. Suddenly I saw through the window that people were running. It was unclear. Then we heard Molotov’s speech [20] on the radio and found out about the outbreak of war [21], Germany’s attack of the Soviet Union.

Lvov was bombed. They said that people should go down the basement during bombings. There was no basement in our house, so my husband and I went to the next one. There were women with children. Some of them were infants. They were swaying like in prayer and lamenting. They said that Hitler would not leave anybody alive and Ukrainians might kill all of us before Hitler arrived. There was an old Jew with a long gray beard in the center of the room. He raised his hands and prayed. But it was more demanding rather than praying. He demanded protection and help from God. It was scary.
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Etta Ferdmann

On 14th June 1941 mass deportation took place in Estonia [3]. It was not enough for the Soviets to take people’s property. Within one day 10,000 people were deported from Estonia, while the entire population of the country was about a million. The deported were rich people, who were called ‘enemies of the people’ [4]. Luckily, we were not deported. Stalin must have planned several stages of deportation as he was expecting Hitler’s attack on the USSR. More than one echelon might have been deported, but on 22nd June 1941 troops of fascist Germany attacked the Soviet Union and the war was unleashed [5].

When in 1939 Hitler attacked Poland [6], some Polish Jews managed to escape, and some of them came to Narva. Grandmother always helped the poor and started assisting them, giving them clothes and food. Of course, she listened to their stories about the atrocity of fascism. So, thanks to that she understood what we should expect. Our family obeyed Grandmother unconditionally. When Polish fugitives told her about ruthless murders of Jews, my grandmother ordered all of us to go into evacuation. I have no doubt: if grandmother had not told us to leave for evacuation, we would have stayed in Narva.
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Iosif Yudelevichus

We found out about the war via German radio from Hitler’s speech who was crying that the war would be over in couple of weeks after Soviet Union had been totally ruined. Soon there was Molotov’s speech [21] and there was no doubt that the war was unleashed. Bluma’s husband Jacob Epstein came to us shortly after Molotov’s speech. He swiftly talked parents into leaving at once. We packed documents, some precious things- mother’s jewelry, father’s golden watch and necessary things. We took uncle’s Chevrolet and went to the train station which was in a stones’ throw. We were not going to leave for a long time as we were convinced in a quick victory of the Soviet troops. There was a passenger train at the station, full of wives and children of the Soviet officers. There were not very many people as they had hopes for the better and did not think that the should run away. We calmly bought the tickets and got in the car. We decided to get to Vilnius and stop by aunt Malka as Vilnius was a little more far away from the border and it would be calmer. When we reached Vilnius train station, we came out to the platform being on the point of going to aunt Malka. There were a lot of panicking people and parents decided to go further. We came back in our car and went on to Minsk. At the frontier station Kena all citizens of bourgeois Lithuania, including us, were taken out of cars and our seats were given to Soviet militaries and their families, who were carrying huge suitcases. Only families of militaries were leaving on that train. We were locked in some shed. We were worried, though we were promised that we would take the next train. Father decided not to wait for anything. He took mother and us, told us to climb in the window. There was a train, crammed with fugitives. Lithuanian Jews from pioneer camp Druskeninkae were on that train. We could hardly find the seats. Many people, including our neighbor from Kaunas George and his parents had to stand in tambour all way through to Minsk. When we got to Minsk, we still were doubting whether to leave further or not. There were a lot of fugitives from Poland and Lithuania. People were gossiping , so we were scared to stay and moved on. As it turned out, shortly after our departure Minsk was fiercely bombed. Several trains were crushed. There were a lot of wounded and killed. Thus, I can say that we left at the right moment.
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David Levin

I met the Great Patriotic War on the Lenin stadium. When World War II started, it was the wonderful summer day (it was June the 22nd of 1941), at eleven we went to the stadium to watch the game of ‘Stalinetz’, which later became the famous ‘Zenith’ [the best football team in whole city, in 1984 won the USSR championship, usually plays in the Premier league]. So we sat and waited, and time was gone, and nothing was going on, the football didn’t begin. Then they announced that it won’t be any football. And when we walked back home, passing Dobrolubov street [one of the central streets of Leningrad, is named after writer and critic of the nineteenth century], we heard Molotov [14] speech. Stalin spoke later, and Molotov had to announce the War on this day.
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