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Moshe Shimon Bursztyn (Born Mosze Szymon Sawicki)

How He Left Radzilow and Came to Israel With the Army of General Anders

The Story of My Father, Moshe Shimon Bursztyn:
How He Left Radzilow and Came to Israel With the Army of General Anders
By: Yoel Bourstein

In September 1939, when the Red Army invaded Eastern Poland pursuant to Joseph Stalin's agreement with Adolph Hitler, about 200,000 soldiers of the Polish army who were in the occupied territory were taken as prisoners. Among them were thousands of Jewish soldiers and officers, one of them being my father, Moshe Shimon Bursztyn [born Mosze Szymon Sawicki].

Mosze Szymon Sawicki
[L]: Taken in Suwalki, ca 1935,
in Polish Army uniform
[R]: Poland or Russia, ca 1939-40
Went to Israel, 1941

       

The soldiers taken prisoner by the Red Army were transferred at first to a prisoner of war camp. Later on they were exiled by Stalin, together with thousands of Polish civilians, including many Jews, deep inside the Soviet Union, to the very harsh conditions and extreme cold of Siberia.

The thousands of exiled Poles constituted the main work force in the establishment of the Polish army within the framework of the Soviet Union's "Anders Army."

The "Anders Army" was established in July 1941, after the German attack on the Soviet Union. In the pact that was signed between Stalin and General Wladyslaw Sikorski - the exiled Polish Prime Minister in London, (Britain established the Polish army),  it was agreed to establish a "Polish regiment" within the framework of the Red Army.

This "Polish unit" was named after its General - General Wladyslaw Anders.

The "Anders Army" numbered 70,000 soldiers, among them about 5,000 Jews, mostly volunteers. At the end of 1942, the "Anders Army" troops left the Soviet Union, joining the British High Command in the Middle East, traveling through Iran, Iraq and Palestine.

When the "Anders Army" reached Israel, most of the Jewish soldiers, including my father, Moshe Shimon, deserted the regiment and joined the veteran settlement in the land of Israel.

After some time the mass desertion of the Jewish soldiers was called "Anders Aliyah."

The Polish Jews in the "Anders Army" had additional goals apart from fighting the Nazis. When the "Anders Army" left the Soviet Union on its journey towards the Middle East, families of the soldiers and groups of Jewish children, war orphans, joined the Jewish soldiers. After arriving in Tehran [Iran], the children were transferred into the hands of the Israeli emissaries who brought them to Israel on the famous "immigration of the children from Tehran."

The soldiers who deserted the "Anders Army," thanks to their army expertise, contributed greatly to the defense of the Jewish settlement in Israel, and later on also fulfilled the important role of laying down the foundations of Zahal, especially the tank, armored, and medical corps.

Israel, early 1940's
Mosze Szymon Sawicki (upon arriving in Israel, took on his mother's maiden name of Bursztyn and became Moshe Bourstein)
and Shoshana (nee Kowalski) Bourstein
Mosze went to Israel, 1941
Shoshana went to Israel, 1935

       

My father was born in Radzilow on 11/25/1916, under the name Mosze Szymon Sawicki. He was the son of a butcher, as were many other members of the Sawicki family in both Radzilow and Szczuczyn. Also in Israel, in the 1960's and 1970's a number of Sawicki families, Gedalia and Yonah, distant relatives, were butchers in Ramat Gan before emigrating to the USA.

In Israel, my father sought assistance from the Kowalski family, Nochym Wolf & Etka Leah, who lived in Givatayim, since they had been neighbors back in Radzilow. He didn't know where else to turn to, being fearful, having recently deserting the Polish army. They gave him shelter in their home and new clothes. My father would later marry Sosia/Shoshana Kowalski, the daughter of Nochym Wolf and Etka Leah. They too had known each other back in Radzilow.

Yoel Sawicki's Radzilow home

       

My father then changed his surname from Sawicki to Bursztyn, which was his mother's [Estera Rywka Bursztyn's] maiden name. He received a new ID in Israel, ensuring his not being found by the Polish army.

My father was the only survivor of his immediate family, as five siblings and both his parents [Yoel Sawicki and Estera Rywka (nee Bursztyn)] perished in the Holocaust, killed in Radzilow in July of 1941. He also had many cousins. Some of those were likewise killed in Radzilow, but others were able to emigrate to America. I am named after my grandfather Yoel Sawicki. He was one of eight siblings. Two sisters married two brothers from the Chunowicz family in Makow Mazowiecka. There was a third Sawicki/Chunowicz marriage involving Yoel's brother Gutman.

My father also has family in Uruguay, two sisters of my grandmother, Estera Rywka Bursztyn, whose family name my father adopted. My elder sister, Rivka Shapira is named after her.


Editor's Note: General Anders facilitated the release of Jewish soldiers from the Polish Army in Palestine, and many took advantage of the opportunity. Menachem Begin was one such soldier. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menachem_Begin, which states he was "Unofficially released from that army along with many other Jewish soldiers."

About 30,000 soldiers from the Polish Army (mainly officers, policeman, and draftees with good education; Polish prisoners, from August 1939 through June 1941, of Hitler's closest ally, Stalin), were executed by the Soviets in 1940 and 1941 in the Katyn forest near Smolensk. These graves were discovered by the Nazis in 1943 and this fact caused Polish-Soviet relationships to go from bad to terrible. Initially, the Soviets blamed the executions on the Germans and only Yeltsin (not Gorbachev) finally admitted Soviet guilt in this matter.

The Polish Prime Minister in exile, Wladyslaw Sikorski died on July 4, 1943 in a plane crash in Gibraltar. Theories abound as to whether it was an accident or not, related to the Katyn forest massacre. Sikorski had refused to accept Stalin's claim that the atrocity was carried out by the Germans. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Sikorski

The Anders Army's most famous battle occurred at Monte Cassino, Italy, in May 1944. It was one of the most historic and strategic campaigns during Would War II. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Monte_Cassino


Written by Yoel Bourstein, 2004. Edited by: Jose Gutstein. Editor's notes or definitions are entered in [brackets].
Copyright 2004 by Yoel Bourstein and Jose Gutstein.
All rights reserved to the material and the photos.

More Sawicki Family Photos


Mosze Szymon Sawicki
Israel, early 1940's

Dwoszka (nee Baranowicz)
and Moszko Szymon Sawicki
[Mosze Szymon Sawicki was named
after this man, his grandfather]
Dwoszka died before 1931 in Makow Mazowiecka; Moszko Szymon died
before 1908 in Radzilow

Mosze Szymon Rozenbaum
Passport Photo, 1938
[Mosze Szymon Sawicki's
1st cousin, once removed]
Went to Australia, 1939

Gittel (nee Sawicka) and Hershel Chunowicz
and children Sheinshe and Chuna
[Photo taken in Makow Mazowiecka]
Gittel and Hershel killed in Treblinka, 1942;
Sheinshe killed in Makow, 1942;
Chuna escaped through Lomza in 1939,
Pinsk 1940, Stalingrad as the Germans
advanced 1941; then after war,
eventually to America

Chunowicz Family, 1927
[Photo taken in Makow Mazowiecka]
[L-R]: Chuna, Chaim, Shimon, Gittel (nee Sawicka) Rachel, Hershel, Chana Itka, Sheinshe
Chuna (see left photo); Shimon spent 6 mths in Polish labor camp 1939, escaped, met up with Chuna in Lomza, followed same route until sent to Siberia 1944, then eventually to America; Chaim killed in Auschwitz, 1943; Gittel and Hershel killed in Treblinka, 1942; Rachel killed in Treblinka, 1942; Chana killed in Radzilow, 1941; Sheinshe killed in Makow, 1942
Read about Shimon's trip to Radzilow - Soon

Gutman and Chana Itka
(nee Chunowicz) Sawicki
Both killed in Radzilow, 1941,
along with two children
   Return to Shtetl Life; Return to Radzilovers, Part 7; Part 17