Maria Gilmovskaya

Mirskoye Ghetto Survivor (Belarus)
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Maria was born on December 25, 1922 in Belarus (Poland technically) and had a calm and normal childhood where her parents owned a large store. The family was not very religious and followed only some major traditions such as Rosh Hashanah. The family spoke Polish and Yiddish in the home. In the area where Maria lived, there were religious schools, five synagogues, and a famous university where students studied to be Rabbis. The area had 5,000 Jews and her father participated in many religious causes such as feeding the university students twice a week. Maria was sent by her parents to a private school due to her participation in an organization involved in Hebrew studies and Israel propaganda. When Poland was under Soviet control, Maria’s family store became confiscated and their large apartment as well.

Maria was older than 18 when the war started and her father was accused of being a communist and thus killed. In 1941, the first Pogrom occurred and Jews caught were shot on the spot. Maria and her mother were saved by a school teacher who hid them. Maria’s older sister taught her physician boyfriend Nazis, she tried to hide in a hospital, however she was greeted by Nazis, a classmate shot her in the foot, and she was buried alive. Maria’s 16 year old sister was shot when she tried to escape a Nazi officer who wanted to be with her, she was very beautiful. In November, 1941 Nazis established the Mirskoye Ghetto and all remaining Jews were sent to Ghetto. People lived in an old castle in horrible living conditions, forced to work. Many of them were killed in the Gestapo.  However, people did not want to be slaves and die in the long run. They started to resist a new regime and fight against the Nazis. Polish Jews started sending weapons to the ghetto and worked closely with the partisans. In the beginning of the war, they had to steal food to survive. They were warned of a second Pogrom and in, Maria joined the youth and left the castle to a nearby forest. People who returned to the castle were killed and some committed suicide. Maria became a partisan and at one point was brought to be shot, however one person convinced the group not to kill her. Maria was assigned to set explosions as part of her role in the group. In 1944, Belarus was liberated.

Maria graduated from a Medical Institute and worked at a hospital. Maria has been married to her husband for 65 years who had witnessed the massacre of all his relatives when he was hiding. Together they had two children and grandchildren. They all live in the United States and Maria has always felt she had to live for her family.

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