By TIM RILEY
As we sit in front of the TV mesmerized by one rescue after another of the resilient Chilean miners, a reader has reminded me of another incredible story of mine survival. Perhaps, this is the first time you’ve heard this harrowing story.
It is about a group of 38 trapped due to different circumstances, but surviving 527 dark days in a mine during World War II, narrowly escaping death every day.
The Nazis invaded Ukraine in 1941 burning towns to the ground, rounding up Jewish citizens for mass executions. Sima Blitzer, who was four at the time, remembers the screams of the advancing Germans and her mother telling her “we are not going to the ghetto.”
The Jewish inhabitants of the Ukraine were well aware of Nazi atrocities committed elsewhere. There was no time to lose. The Blitzer’s along with five other Jewish families cheated the invading death squads, running for their lives into a cave in a nearby forest that would be their refuge for the next 527 days.
They dug out a room for every family. The kids felt like they were living a real life Robinson Caruso adventure. It was a much more serious manner for the adults.
Everyone had to sleep during the day. They could only go out at night, scavenging for wood to cook in the surrounding forest. The teenage boys ventured out looking for food while the children and elders nervously awaited their return every day for 527 days without ever seeing daylight. They lived with the constant terror of being caught and executed. All 38 survived the war-children, parents, and grandparents.
Their story came to light in 1993 when explorer Chris Nicola searching Blue Lakes cave system in southern Ukraine came across evidence of human habitation. Research revealed the heroic families involved in the story. A documentary entitled “The Cave” is being made of their ordeal, highlighted by the return to the cave by surviving family members now in their 70s and 80s along with their grandchildren. Among their discoveries in the cave was a stone with the names of the survivors written in 1943.
Put it on your must see list. This is another miraculous story of the will to survive as we happily witness the miracle of more Chilean minors experiencing the glow of daylight for the first time in many days.