Natalie Bivas: The Blood of Innocents

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For Natalie Krauss Bivas the war against Ukraine is personal, and buried in soil soaked with the blood of the innocent.

I was only four when my mother told me how I was given my name: Natalie. It wasn’t a sweet story. It was a dark one. She told it early one morning when the two of us were in the basement of our house.

“You were named for my Uncle Nathan,” she said. “He was made to dig his own grave. He and his wife and children stood at the edge. Then they were shot into the grave. In the woods, covered with dirt. That’s why we named you Natalie—for Uncle Nathan.”

“But where were the police?” I asked.

“They were the police,” she replied.

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“I don’t understand, Mommy,” I whimpered.

I was born in 1947. The news about what had happened to my family arrived from the Red Cross after I was born. My mother was still processing the horror. She repeated the story from time to time, always, I recall, when we were in the basement or another dark place. I always asked the same question and got the same answer, that I did not understand.

Until one day I did, that this had happened during WWII, that the Nazis had murdered my great-uncle and his family.

With the advent of the internet, I had access to the Holocaust website Yad Vashem and various genealogy websites. I discovered that my namesake was actually named Nachum, not Nathan. Nachum Dornfeld. From Rozhniativ, Ukraine.

In early September, 1941, the Jews of Rozhniativ were marched 12 miles to Dolyna. There they were shot into a mass grave. Nachum was killed with his two sons, Ezekiel and Avigdor.

Natalie Krauss Bivas

Today I think about my namesake lying in that mass grave in Ukraine. He could never have imagined a free, democratic Ukraine with a Jewish president, Zelenskyy, a beloved hero.

I desperately want my great-uncle Nachum and his family to rest in peace, not in earth that is being soaked again with innocent blood. And the people living in Ukraine today should be able to live in peace. This new Ukraine must not fold. I wish this with all my heart.

With a Perspective, I’m Natalie Krauss Bivas.

Natalie Krauss Bivas is a retired teacher of reading and English as a second language. She lives in Palo Alto.