Born to a secular Jewish middle-class family in Parczew, Poland in 1920, Chaim
Baruch Yerucham Murawiec, a very sickly infant, was given multiple names to protect him from the angel of death (Chaim means life,
Baruch means blessed, Yerucham means one who finds mercy, and Murawiec means son of).
By today's standards, the effort seems superstitious, but it worked - Chaim thrived - and lived a comfortable life with his parents Shimshon and Chava, his two brothers Vova and Ebar, and his two sisters Bena and Idas. The family's business dealt in flax and linen and in 1933, when Chaim was 13, Shimshon moved the family and their business east to Kobryn.
World War II started on September 1st, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. With lightning speed (hence the word Blitzkreig), Germany occupied Poland - and in late September 1939, per the secret Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Germany and Russia partitioned Poland. Chaim and his family found themselves in the relatively safe Russian sector - east of the Ribbentrop line. Kobryn was occupied by Russian forces, the town was 'Russianized', and the Jews of Kobryn (and the non-Jews) were generally not mistreated by the Russian occupiers. The war seemed to be passing Kobryn by.
But the safety and security of the Russian sector came to a tragic end when, on 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, was unleashed by Germany. In just a few days, Kobryn was overrun and occupied by forces of the Third Reich. The world was crumbling, and 20 year old Chaim's strength, courage, and perseverance were about to be tested. Read more...