2014 Meet Our Residents: Arie Nabozny
Surviving the Holocaust
Arie Nabozny, born in Poland in 1922, was studying in Lithuania when World War II broke out. He rushed to his home in Krasnosielc, but with German troops rapidly nearing, he and his father and a brother fled, traveling by train for two months deep into the Soviet Union until they reached Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, the Jewish population of Krasnosielc was virtually annihilated in November 1939. Jews were forced into a synagogue and massacred by Panzer Division SS Kemp; those who hid were machine-gunned on that same spot the next day.
In Kazakhstan, the Naboznys found a room to share and then secured low-wage jobs in a brick factory. Arie's father, risking his life to protect his sons, was arrested and never seen again. A second brother, who managed to escape service in the Polish army, succeeded in joining them, but within days of their father's arrest, the three brothers were rounded up with boys from surrounding villages and packed into locked cattle cars, terrified and with no sense of where they were going or the purpose of this journey. Eventually, they were transferred to another train, with wagons so small they had to crawl in, and transported further into the dark, snow-filled wilderness of Siberia.
After a month, with stops only at night to sleep briefly in abandoned barracks, the group arrived in the western Urals near the Russian town of Izhevsk. With no winter clothing or adequate food, they were ordered to chop down towering trees, two men to a saw. Fearing death from starvation, the cold, and exhaustion, the brothers, along with another Jewish boy from central Poland, Anchel, began plotting their escape, hampered by the fact that they had no idea where they were or where to find trains.
A first escape attempt failed but, undeterred, they tried again, this time leading onto the roof of a slow-moving freight train headed toward some unknown city. Gripping the edges, heads lowered against winds , they arrived, discheveled, with no money or documents. Immediately they were arrested and hauled off by the police for questioning. Insisting they were not Jews but Poles on their way to fight Germans, an officer recognized they were lying. “I’ll kill you like a dog,” he snapped at Arie. The brothers and Anchel were sent to a local factory to fill in for Russians the battlefield.
At the factory, a sympathetic manager, Guzick, saved Arie by warning him of an impending arrest. Supplying him with a travel permit and a fake mission to obtain raw factory materials, Guzick gave him this final instruction: “I’m not telling you where to go, but the farther the better.”
When asked recently how he managed to withstand multiple brushes with death, Arie explained, "During that time people took chances. There was no other way to survive."