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Playing with Dynamite

Esther Teichtal

For two heart-stopping years during World War II, Devorah Kosczevsky lived among gentile partisans in the forests of Lithuania. It was an ongoing trial of stamina and faith. Dora or Devorah? Jewish meidel or Russian comrade? She fought the Germans without — and the threats to her faith within.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

It’s a stretch to imagine the genteel rebbetzin sitting before me, comfortably ensconced on a burgundy velveteen couch, hunkering down in a cold mud hut, only a small fire for comfort. But this was the life Devorah once led, deep in the forests of Lithuania. Foraging for supper through heaps of muddy leaves, eager for edible fungi, time creaked in slow motion. Life made sense only in the present, and survival instinct kicked in, overriding almost all else. Almost — but not quite. For even as she took orders from the stern-faced leader, skirmished with the enemy, and laid dynamite, her childhood was never far behind. Devorah’s father, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Kosczevsky, had been a maggid shiur at the turn of the century in the well-known yeshivah at Eishyshok (Eisiske), Lithuania. Life was hard, and with the outbreak of World War I, it only got harder. The devastation wreaked by looting Germans left the Kosczevsky family impoverished. Seeing no other option, her mother Baila (née Raichman) left town with her children and headed to her parents in Zaremby Kolsczelne. Her husband was to follow. When the Germans sealed the border, the family was separated for the four and a half years of the war.  

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