By Solomon Berman
"My mom Lubov Berman was born in Tsarigrad, Bessarabia, in 1927 to Kasriel and Surah Dreinberg. She had three brothers and three sisters. Her family was very religious and from childhood she remembered all the traditions that were kept in the family. Her dad was a merchant, while her mom was raising seven children at home. My mom's parents were very passionate about their kids' education: they were going to school, and the older sister was studying foreign languages in the university in Bucharest, Romania.
When the war started in 1941, Mom’s family was in Tsarigrad. My mom’s brothers were taken to the Soviet army, served through the whole war and came home. Mom remembered her older sister telling the family that Germany is the nation of Heinrich Heine and Johan Wolfgang von Goethe and that the rumors about persecution of Jews was Soviet propaganda.
The Germans and Romanian troops started to advance to Tsarigrad in summer 1941. Mom’s family left everything they had and tried to escape going towards Dniester river, but the bridge was already destroyed. The German forces caught up with them in a Jewish settlement, Zguritza, in northern Bessarabia, located 20 km from the capital Soroka.
The German and Romanian soldiers immediately started abusing the Jewish people and especially women. They took all the belongings and they left with what they were wearing. All Jews were collected in the central valley of the village and were guarded by the soldiers. Shortly after they formed a column of elderly people, women and kids and escorted them by foot in directions that were not known to anyone. They were forced to go from village to village on the roads of Bessarabia under strong sun or rain, sleeping at nights in the fields without any roof above their heads. Many elderly people and kids got sick and were dying, not being able to withstand hardships. Those who couldn’t go were shot to death in their places. They reached Prut river and after a few days were taken to a concentration camp, Rublenitza, and then to the concentration camp Vertujeni on the banks of the river Dniester, where they stayed until November 1941.
The conditions in this camp were horrible. It was surrounded with barbed wire. There were a lot of people, but nothing to eat. The only food was what they were able to find in the fields and gardens that were already done with the harvest. People were dying from hunger, illness, infections.
In November 1941 they started to transfer people that were still alive in groups across Dniester river to Transnistria and escorted them to Ghetto Verhovka, Vinnitsa district.
There the older men were separated from the women and children. They were given orders to undress in front of the families and were shot so that women and children saw their fathers and grandfathers die. My grandfather Kasriel was one of them, and my mom, my grandmother and three other sisters all witnessed how their dad and husband was killed. Mom was only 14 years old at that time.
The German troops and Romanian soldiers continued to drive the column of women and kids to Ukraine. Mom remembers that there were different Moldavian and Ukrainian people that saw the column of Jews – some of them were very kind and sympathetic, throwing them bread and potatoes to help, but some put broken glass in the food to hurt them. The first stop was Ghetto Verhovka.
Ghetto Verhovka was a small village. They put many Jewish people in this ghetto, where many families were sharing the available houses, happy to have a roof above their head through the winter. The houses were not heated, and people were slipping on the floor. My mom and grandma came down with typhus. They had no medications and stayed alive by a miracle. My mom’s older two sisters were allowed to go to work in the Ukrainian villages that were no further than 4 km from the ghetto, and that is what helped them to survive. They were able to bring some potatoes and other bits home to eat.
In autumn of 1942, Mom and her family were transferred to Balta ghetto. Balta was a small town that was divided into old and new quarters. The ghetto was in the old quarter. Nazis were taking people for work in the fields and very often, especially when they were SS commands, they were not coming back.
Mom was lucky because she and her sister were taken to work by an Austrian soldier; unfortunately she didn’t remember his name. He told them that he has family and two daughters at home and will keep them safe as long as he is taking them to work and back to the ghetto in memory of his daughters.
In October 1943 the Red Cross began making lists of kids under 16 years old to transfer them to Palestine, but they didn’t make the first group, and after that the Soviet army got closer and the process stopped.
Day after day it was a borderline between life and death, but my mom and her family prevailed. In spring of 1944 the Russian army was very close and SS commands were eliminating inhabitants of the ghetto, going from house to house and killing whoever they were able to find. When they were close to the house, a Soviet artillery projectile exploded not far away, injuring some of the SS, and they ran away. The next morning the Soviet Army entered Balta.
After the ghetto, Mom went to Kishinev, where she worked and finished school in the evenings. In 1946 she entered medical nursing school and graduated after 18 months with honors. In 1950 she was accepted to the University of Kishinev to study biology and graduated in 1955. In 1956 she was accepted to Main Children's Hospital of Moldova Republic and worked there as a microbiologist and hematologist until 1990. In 1956 she met her husband Haim Berman and they got married in 1957, living together for 49 years until my dad’s death in 2006.
In 1990 our family emigrated to Israel. We lived together in the northern Israeli city of Carmiel. In 1999 my family moved with my work to Indianapolis and my parents stayed in Israel until 2005.
They came to Indianapolis to be close to us and their grandchildren. My mom enjoyed being with our family, to whom she dedicated her entire life. In Indianapolis she started to study English, which always was her favorite language, going to the classes at the JCC. She was able to talk, write, and read, and she tried to help other people. She liked cooking and baking her favorite dishes, inviting her friends over from Park Regency and Greenbriar.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer and fought the disease from 2012 to 2018. She started to share her memories about the events during WWII somewhere in 1990 when we emigrated to Israel. It was very difficult for her to talk about it in the beginning. Her hands were trembling considerably more when she was talking about those days, remembering running like crazy from the SS, being unconscious and Jewish people pouring water on her. That trembling never went away. Slowly she was able to describe the events. She opened up about bad dreams that were following her with the horrific episodes from the past. From another point of view, she always was thankful to people that helped them to survive – the few Jewish families that they shared the houses with in the Ghetto, even the Austrian soldier that for about half a year took them to work and protected them, local people that would give them the last piece of bread or potato when they saw malnourished, miserable kids.
My mom’s love, honesty, ability to sacrifice, optimism, positive energy, never-give-up character – these are the most important memories that will be always with us, and these personality traits were also transferred to our kids and grandkids. Her grandkids and great-grandkids had a special place in her heart, and they paid her back with a lot of love.
My mom was a very strong woman that survived the Ghetto, was able to overcome all difficulties, fulfilled her dreams and shared her wisdom with everyone around her."