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The Cave Dwellers

时间:2017-10-08 英语毕业论文 我要投稿

  Gathering Enough to Survive

  Then men split up and went  out to find food as well as other vital reserves. Nissel and Shulim sprinted west through the fields. It was a three-mile round-trip journey from Priest's Grotto to their friend Munko's house. There the brothers traded a few remaining valuables for cooking oil, detergent, matches and flour.

  When the Stermer brothers and the other men returned to the cave, they whispered a password to one of the younger boys posted at the entrance. He dislodged a boulder to let them in.

  The next day, exhausted, the men slept, while Esther and her daughters, Henia, Chana and Yetta, prepared the food. In all, the men had secured supplies for six weeks.

  Chris Nicola leads me into the first room where the families stayed. The ceiling is smoke-stained. In the next room we find the millstone on which the Stermers ground grain. We crawl on hands and knees into the sleeping quarters. There we find leather shoes, porcelain buttons, broken ceramics and a red metal cup. I photograph each object with a sense of awe.

  As summer 1943 arrived, World War II was still raging. Most of Poland's ghettos were liquidated, and almost all of the Jews were murdered or sent off to concentration camps for extermination. All the while, the Stermers and their neighbors lived in a state of near-hibernation under the fields of Ukraine.

  They regularly slept for up to 22 hours a day, lying side by side on their plank beds and rising only to eat or relieve themselves. The cave's naturally high humidity and moisture from their own respiration kept their tattered clothes constantly damp. They faced the dire threat of hypothermia in the cave's 50-degree temperature.

  During their waking hours, the Stermers worked on improving their home, digging stairs and trenches to make walking easier. They limited their use of candles and lanterns to two or three brief periods each day.

  In early July, however, the survivors' confidence was shattered by the sound of one of the Dodyk men screaming. All the men scrambled out of bed —— and found a wall of earth and boulders covering the entrance of the cave. About 20 feet from the blocked entrance, the men saw soil leaking through a crack in the rocks.

  For the next three days and nights, they tunneled upward, chiseling away at the stones. On the fourth day, Nissel pried a large rock from the top of the shaft and felt the wind rush in. He inhaled the warm, tangy aroma of a passing thunderstorm.

  Later they learned that a group of Ukrainian villagers had sealed them in. With their refuge no longer a secret, the Jews stood steady guard with sickles and axes at the bottom of the entrance shaft.

  As autumn progressed, the families could no longer put off restocking their supplies for another long winter. The plains of Ukraine yield an unimaginable bounty every September and October. Yet the risk of being caught aboveground had never been greater. The lack of food had made the men weak, and during harvest, the nearby fields were crowded with farmers and prowled by Nazi patrols.

  So they went out at night and scavenged potatoes that the farmers left in the fields and gathered enough to last them through the winter.

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