"The only real valuable thing is intuition." - Albert Einstein
The first summer that Sarah, Manek and Zosia survived in the woods was the summer of 1943. One night Sarah had been awaken to a strange noise. In the morning, she told her companions about her fear that they had been discovered. When she told Romek, Fish and Ignash that she had heard the cracking of twigs as if someone was walking nearby, their response was filled with indifference, "Ugh, here we go again", they said, "It could have been an animal." To that Sarah replied, "By this point I know the difference between an animal and a human being. I am going!" So they once again complied in order to pacify the woman's ranting, and moved about 100 meters away.
The following night Romek went to a nearby village. You see he would go there often to see a girl he had found and had been "seeing". He would leave during the night and return in the early morning. This time he returned before dawn, and when he returned he told the story that in the village there was a wedding and all the attendees got very drunk and started fighting, so they were warned that the police was going to be called to stop the fight. At that point Romek quickly left.
About an hour or so later, as dawn was breaking, Sara heard some gunfire. It was only a couple of shots, and Romek commented "You see the police came to the village to break up the fight". But Sarah was not convinced. She said, "No way, the shots are too close." A few minutes later, machine gun fire broke out. They all wanted to run, the men wanted to run deeper into the forest, away from the village, to try to get away from the gunfire. But Sara said "No, if two nights ago someone was walking here they know we are here and will go into the woods looking for us, we should go in the opposite direction, towards the gunfire, but around them to get past them, they were already there." This time there were no arguments, they all followed Sara.
So they ran into the direction of the gunfire, not directly, they tried to go a little off so that they would get around the shooters, and they came upon a twisty path. Sara stopped and peaked out. She saw a German soldier with a gun, pacing back and forth on the path. They waited a few moments and when his back was turned, she grabbed one child under each of her arms and as quickly and quietly as they could, they crossed the path and ran away, just as they heard more machine guns and gun shots.
They continued to run about a mile away and until they felt safe enough to just sit. That night the men decided they wanted to find out what had happened. Romek and Fish decided to go, while Ignash stayed with Sara and the children. When they returned 2 1/2 hours later they were very silent. Sara and Ignash asked what had happened, they would not answer. The only reply they gave was "Just let's get away from here." Sara agreed and suggested they go back to where had been hiding. Romek and Fish answered "It's better if we don't go there." Sara wanted to see if anyone had survived, she and Ignash insisted on going back. They were not getting any answers from Romek and Fish and wanted to see for themselves what had happened. Fish replied that it was impossible to explain and describe, and if Sara was insisting on going, he would take her, but it would be horrible. Romek stayed behind because they refused to let the children go and see.
What Sara saw was a complete massacre, like nothing she had ever imagined in her worst nightmare. Bodies of men, women and children were just laying everywhere. Two of those bodies were her cousins from the barn. Years later, after the war, Sara found out that there were two survivors that night. A man and a woman who had fallen during the shooting and were covered with the dead bodies of their friends and family that had fallen on them. They had laid there very still, pretending to be dead and waited until it was safe to dig themselves out. The woman was the female cousin of Sara that had escaped to the barn with her.
Winter was coming, find out next time how and where Sara found shelter, and how shelter does not always mean safety.