Nina Szuster

Nina Szuster

Born: May 18, 1929

Rokitnoye, Poland

Nina was born to a Jewish family in the Polish town of Rokitnoye. Her father built ovens. Nina's family was very diverse: her father was an Orthodox Jew, her brother was a militant Zionist, and her mother leaned towards communism. Nina attended a Jewish school in the town.

1933-39: In September 1939 the Soviet Union invaded the eastern half of Poland. All businesses were quickly nationalized and property was seized. The Soviets distributed most of the town's wealth to the poor in the area. Nina's mother taught a class about the Soviet constitution in their home. The Soviets closed their Jewish school and opened a Ukrainian one. They began learning about their new Soviet rulers.

1940-41: In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Nina's town. The German authorities immediately gathered the local Jews into a few houses and circled the area with barbed wire. One night, the Germans suddenly began dragging people out of Nina's house. She tried to get some clothes but a German grabbed her and yelled, "Quick or I'll kill you!" Nina tore herself away and ran to the kitchen. Then she heard a shot: her uncle was dead. She saw an open window and jumped out. Fortunately, it was foggy, so no one saw her slip through the barbed wire.

After her escape, Nina joined Ukrainian partisans. Befriended by her commander, she was sent to Moscow to study until the end of the war. In 1947 she immigrated to America.