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The dress: Holocaust History Writ in Objects
Grania Klitenik, nee Juziuk, lived with her husband and small child in Telekhany near Pińsk (today in Belarus). When the German-Soviet war broke out in June 1941, they immediately decided to flee to the east. Klitenik was a communist, and they expected the Germans to arrest communists in the first place. The family took along only the most essential objects.
They split along the way. The man returned to Telekhany to collect his father who, however, ignored the peril and decided to stay put. He was of an opinion that the persons who were politically uninvolved were safe. Meanwhile, a horrible thing happened to Grania – someone took her child while she was asleep. We do not know how, but her husband later managed to find the child. He left it at a 24 hour a day crèche in Homel and joined the army.
Grania, all by herself, ended up on the eastern bank of the Volga River. She was working as a tailor since she had turned 17, so she managed to find employment. As she fled Telekhany in the summer and she did not have any warm clothes she needed to get some sort of a mantle for autumn and winter. Using over a dozen shreds of military greatcoats, she sawed herself a dress. She wore it all throughout the wartime. She was wearing it when she found her husband in 1946 and when they returned to Poland together.
Grania’s whole family from Telekhany, along with her husband’s family, perished in the mass murder of the Jewish population as early as August 1941.
Grania used to reminisce about them for the rest of her life – her grandparents, mother, father who had died young, and sister. The sister had gotten married first, she had had three children whom Grania loved dearly.
The Kliteniks never found out, despite strenuous efforts, what had happened with their child. The crèche in Homel moved location several times during the bombing, and their son vanished without a trace.