Partisan activity marked in yellow as indicated by Gertrude Boyarski
Gertrude ‘Gertie’ Boyarski, born in 1922, was a teenager with a family and a home until the Germans invaded her town of Derechin, Poland. The Nazis forced the town's Jews into a ghetto. But Gertie's father – a butcher and a housepainter – was regarded by the Germans as a 'useful' Jew, so the Boyarskis were moved to a guarded building just in front of the ghetto's entrance.
On July 24, 1942, a night of terror descended on the ghetto. When the Nazis started massacring over 3,000 Jews, the Boyarski family managed to escape to a nearby forest. To get into a partisan unit, Gertie's father, brother and other Jews had to prove themselves by attacking the town's police station.
Gertrude Boyarski in wedding portrait taken after the war, 1946
Literally barehanded, they killed the guards and took the station's weapons and ammunition stash. In the months that followed, Gertie saw her mother, father, sister, and brother murdered before her eyes in surprise attacks by German soldiers and by antisemitic Poles who hunted the woods for Jews.
Bereft of family and seeking revenge, she left the shelter of the family camp where she had been living and sought to join a partisan detachment under the leadership of the Russian Commander Bulak, who initially brushed her off. But Gertie insisted, “I want to fight and take revenge for my whole family.”