…more victims

In the second half of 1937, they enclosed the site. They began to carry out the killings according to a different timetable: after lunch, in the late afternoon, and all through the night. The transport went on rolling up, every day, without a break on Sundays. "They used to shoot every day", – says Kaciaryna Mikalajeuna Bahajcuk (born 1919), a resident of Cna, – "and the trucks went on roaring. Sometimes, in the evenings, when the men came home, they would go out into the yard and listen to the shooting; they would talk about it quietly, grieve together, and disperse."

"Another time several trucks at a time would roll up together, straight into the enclosure and they kept coming with no let-up," – says Dar'ja Ihnatauna Touscik (born 1911) from Cna. – "And the road into the forest was rolled flat, like asphalt. When they started shooting, you could hear moaning, weeping, cursing."

"The whole village was in a state of terror. For years we could not sleep at night because of the shooting," – says a long-time resident of Cna, Raman Mikalajevic Bacian (born 1913). This was confirmed by Mikalaj Piatrovic Niakhajcyk (born 1921) and other inhabitants of Cna. – "The older boys, those who were braver, even used to get inside the fence. They made holes in the barrier and could see quite a lot." – We asked if any of them were still alive. – "Yes. Mikola Karpovic."

Mikola Vasiljevic Karpovic was born in 1919. He is a portly man, and still fairly strong. In 1939 he went into the army. Fate tossed him around the world and on to several fronts. In 1937-38, on several occasions he had seen how they killed people in the forest. The graves, it seemed, were dug in the first half of the day, because in the late afternoon (sometimes after lunch), when the trucks started to roll up, the graves had already been dug. Karpovic told us that the people were shot in batches. They were stood in a line, and each of them had a gag put in his mouth and tied round with a rag so that he could not spit it out. The executioners wore NKVD uniforms. They fired their rifles from the side, into the head of the end person, so that the bullet went through two people. – "As soon as they shot," – Mikola Vasilijevic says, – "two people immediately fell into the pit. They didn't want to waste cartridges. When they had shot one batch, they threw a bit of earth on top of the heap of bodies, smoothed it over, so that it was all level, and brought up the next batch. When they had shot the grave quite full, they shoveled sand on top, and smoothed it over."
"Once," – Karpovic says, – "a guard from Malinauka (a village some 4 km away – Author) met me. He was in a state of nerves, disturbed. – "They've packed them in already," – he said, – "come and see. They haven't filled in!" We went to the fence, which was near the road. Close by, in a hollow, there was a great wide pit, filled to the top with corpses. They lay there, brother, in a row, like piglets." – "Did anyone ever manage to get away from here?" – I ask. – "Where could they get away to, there's that fence!" – Mikola Vasilijevic replies. – "True, once in the late afternoon, when the light was already fading, I was on my way through the forest from Zialony Luh to Cna with one of our people. It was horrible. Suddenly they stopped shooting. And we saw a man sitting under a tree, with his shirt soaked in blood, barely alive. We came up to him – what to do? Suddenly the rumble of a truck. We jumped aside, we went on. 'There were two NKVD men in front of us. – "Who are you?", – they asked (in Russian) – "People from Cna!" – "You haven't seen anyone, have you?" – "No – we-ell, there was some chap sitting over there…" – the old man quavered. Then they spotted him and dragged him away by the feet. They threw him into the truck, like a log, and drove off. But how he ever managed to get out of there, I still can't imagine to this very day!"

Nevertheless, in 1938, one man did manage to escape from the shooting. – "Through the fence – and they didn't find him," testifies Maryja Ryhorauna Paciarsuk (born 1911) from Cna. One man. Maybe he is still alive. Maybe he is reading these lines and will make himself known?

Maryja Ryhorauna confirmed that before shooting the people, they gagged them. Vasil Jakaulevic Skvarceuski (born 1930) a resident of the village of Drazdova also spoke about this. So did others. But many people heard screams, weeping, pleas for mercy. Maybe they were short of gags. But surely the explanation lies somewhere else. A person who goes on killing people regularly for a long time gradually becomes a sadist. It becomes necessary for him to torment his victims before he kills them. And so they tormented these people before they killed them.

It seems that the killers were not just trying to save bullets when they made one bullet go through two people at once. This was their kind of bravura, an executioner's sport, a demonstration of their professionalism. Karpovic certainly witnessed this atypical form of rifle-shooting. We questioned everyone in great detail who heard the killings or who had heard from those who had seen, and we came to the conclusion that the shooting was normally carried out with Nagan revolvers or pistols. (This was confirmed later by the excavations.)

"Did the shots sound loud?" – we asked Valancina Michajlauna Shakhanava (born 1929) from Cna. "No. It was a dry klop-klop-klop – but it went on the whole time. They did some shooting. Then it went quiet. Then klop-klop-klop again." – Valancina Michajlauna also went inside the "execution grounds". She and a neighbour's boy dug a hole under the fence and clambered through to pick berries (they were 10- 12 years old). There they saw the dug-up earth and a great number of filled-in pits. They clambered out with their berries, and there, facing them, was a soldier. "Stop! And now turn them out!" – he ordered the boy (in Russian). He took the berries and barked: "Quick march, out of here!"

The shootings went on until the very beginning of the war (June 1941). During the war, the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages pulled down the fence to use the wood, and quickly cut down and carted away the old coniferous forest. Now a post-war forest has grown up here, with trees 40-45 years old.

"Didn't the Germans shoot people here?" – we asked Valancina Michajlauna. "No, the Germans weren't here. They didn't shoot people here." We put this question to everyone we interviewed. They all gave us the self-same answer: the Germans were not interested in this site.

"What did the site look like when they pulled down the fence?" we asked Shakhnava. "It was all dug up, sand and tall grass, and also a lot of red toadstools, pink mushrooms, on thin stalks. As if blood had been spilt there. Well, people said that they had grown out of human blood." A lot of people recall the toadstools on the grave pits; they reckon that they had come from the blood which was spilt there. Ah, we thought, another folklore motif of suffering. But later we discovered that the people were telling the truth. These toadstools are called "garlicheads", they grow on sand that has been dug up to a great depth and they smell of garlic.


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