Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Ze'ev Portnoy





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Published on Apr 4, 2012

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Woe! My life became repugnant to me,
Woe! My life was given over to torture.
Fatherless, motherless -- all mercilessly put to death,
I remained, forever despondent and lonely.

Thus Ze'ev (Vlodemerz) Portnoy, born in Tuchin, Volhynia (Ukraine), concludes his poem that describes the hardships he endured during the Holocaust. Portnoy, born in 1932 to a traditional family in which he had three sisters, was only nine years old when the Nazis entered his hometown in 1941. Ze'ev's father found him a job tending cattle with a Ukrainian peasant near Tuchin; for this reason, Ze'ev avoided the ghetto where the rest of his family was interned in 1943. Later, Ze'ev was informed that his grandfather and two of his sisters had been killed in an uprising that erupted in the ghetto in September 1942. His parents and his third sister managed to escape from the blazing ghetto to the village of Woskodawy, but they were captured and murdered there. Ze'ev, the only surviving member of his family, migrated aimlessly from the vicinity of his hometown and wandered among peasants' farms and forest, depicting himself as a Ukrainian or Polish refugee, depending on the circumstances. He concealed his Jewishness for so long that he almost forgot his parents' home and childhood. After the liberation, he recalled that he had a maternal uncle in Novograd Volynskiy and, after considerable efforts, tracked him down in 1945. After living with his uncle until 1952, Ze'ev went to Leningrad to work and study. In 1957, he migrated via Poland to Israel where he married Shulamit and had two daughters, Batya and Tova. Today he has two grandchildren, Yaniv-Pinhas and Yishai.

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