Partisan activity marked in yellow
Charles Bedzow was born Chonon Bedzowski in the town of Lida, located in present-day Belarus. Under German occupation, Lida’s Jews were confined to a ghetto. Charles and his family suffered in overcrowded, pest-filled living quarters; the threat of starvation constantly loomed. He watched as his fellow townspeople were systematically slaughtered in the spring of 1942, but miraculously his immediate family was spared.
Tuvia Bielski was a family friend of the Bedzowskis, who had known the Bielskis. After the war broke out, Tuvia sent a message to the family inviting them to escape liquidation by fleeing to the woods, where the Bielskis had set up camp after their own village was massacred.
Courtesy of the Bedzow family
Charles eventually escaped the ghetto and fled to the woods, soon becoming part of the partisan resistance in the Bielski brigade. He was accompanied by his mother Chasia, older sister Leah, younger sister Sonia and younger brother Benny and almost all survived the Holocaust in the Bielski group – a rare exception to the typical Jewish partisan’s story.
To get to the Bielski camp, the family of five was led on an elaborate escape route that involved crawling under fences, and walking two days through the woods. When he arrived, Charles was awed by what he saw, “This must be one of the few places in all of Europe where Jews can move in total freedom.”