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Monday, January 13, 2020

Reliving the Inspiring Story of Jewish Partisan Mira Shelub During Women's History Month

"Somehow, you know, when we came out from them, from the ghetto, I cannot tell you how good it felt to breathe the fresh air, to know that we are free, to know that we can go. Okay, there were difficulties, obstacles, but we knew that we can go, that nobody will stop us, to breathe the fresh air, to see the trees. It was something, a special, special experience and then we came to the forest. We came to the forest and then, and we were lucky enough, I mention again that we were nice, young, pretty so they accepted us, and we joined the Partisans." — Mira Shelub.

A Polish Jew born in what is now Belarus, Mira Shelub joined a partisan group that operated in the forest near her native Zdziedciol at the age of 18. With her family, she escaped Zdziedciol’s ghetto in 1942 as the Germans began killing off the population.

Mira’s group engaged in sabotage against the Nazis and their Polish collaborators by disrupting communications and transportation to the war front. They blew up trains, attacked police stations, and stole food that had been provided for the Germans by peasants.

In Mira’s group, women comprised about a quarter of the partisans. They did the cooking, took care of the laundry and provided other vital support.

Nochim Shelub
While working with the partisans, Mira met her husband Nochim, who was the leader of the group. Nochim had first been in a mixed group run by Russians. However, anti-Semitism was common among the non-Jewish resistance fighters, and so he decided to form his own unit, though he still continued to coordinate activities with the Russians.

On a few attacks, Mira carried extra ammunition for her husband’s machine gun. In the summer, the unit slept on the ground in the open forest; during winter they took refuge in underground huts (called zemlyankas), or with sympathetic peasant families. Constant movement was a necessity to avoid detection. When it snowed, they had to alter their tracks into confusing patterns so that they could not be followed. Mira recounts:

“In the frost we did not only fight a physical battle, but also a spiritual battle. We were sitting around the fire, singing songs together, supporting each other and dreaming about betters days and a better future… a better tomorrow.”

After the Russian liberation in 1944, the couple made their way to Austria, then finally to the United States, where Mira had contacts with relatives. They settled in San Francisco, and soon after Norman opened a sandwich shop near the Embarcadero. They had three children – a daughter and two sons. Mira lives in San Francisco and continues speaking with students and educators about her Jewish partisan experience.

In February 2019, JPEF Director of Development and Outreach Sheri Rosenblum enjoyed a lovely visit with Mira and her daughter Elaine in San Francisco.

Mira recounts the extraordinary story of her partisan experience in her memoir Never the Last Road: A Partisan's Life. Visit for more about Mira Shelub, including seven videos of her reflecting on her time as a partisan.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The above comment is from a Polish nationalist, and nationalists have a tendency to distort history to suit their self-glorification needs. Take your "name the witnesses" garbage elsewhere, racist. There are plenty of books that document this stuff - all too well, complete with names, etc. You don't think there are lists out there of various Polish traitors - not to their country, mind you, but to the human race for choosing the side of evil - who collaborated with the Nazis?

What, as if there weren't any Ukrainian collaborators, or Russian collaborators too? Why do you think your country is entitled to stand untarnished in the light of history as some noble defender of self-sovereignty? The fact is, millions of Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, and that didn't happen without the help of the local population. Poland was a deeply right-wing country by the time Hitler and Stalin split it in half, and let's face it - for Jews, living in Catholic Poland wasn't exactly living in Denmark.

And for most Jews, choosing the Soviet side - you know, the one that promised them equality and meritocracy, as opposed to institutional oppression by a nationalist-minded Catholic majority - was the only sensible thing to do. Either that, or leave. Those few who did feel a strong sympathy towards the Polish state had to hide the fact that they are Jewish to participate in the resistance. You can't blame the consumer for choosing what looks best just because the package failed to deliver what was advertised.

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