Shraga Feivel (later Philip) Lazowski is the son of Josef and Chaya Gitel Lazowski. Shraga Feivel was born on June 13, 1930 in Bielica, Poland where his father was a prosperous fisherman and his mother owned a fabric store. He had three younger brothers, Rachmil, Abraham, and Aaron, as well as a sister, Rachel.
After the start of World War II, the Russians occupied Bielica, and the following summer the German army invaded the town. As they immediately targeted Jewish men, Josef hid in the woods. Philip visited him every couple of days to bring him food. In November 1941, all Jews were evicted from the town. The Lazowskis moved to Zhetel (Dyatlovo, Zdzenciol) and in February they were forced into a ghetto.
Jewish life became increasingly imperiled. Germans took Jewish hostages and demanded gold to free them. Fearing the worst, Philip’s parents dug an underground cave-like hiding place. In April, 1942, Philip noticed that the ghetto was surrounded and Germans had begun rounding up Jews. He helped his family get into the cave and covered up the entrance. However Philip himself was caught and marched away to a selection site. Only people with working papers and their families were spared. Frantically Philip looked for someone who would take him as their “son.” The first people he approached rejected him. However, eventually one woman allowed him to come through the selection with her as her third child, thereby saving his life. Philip returned home to discover that his family’s hiding space had not been discovered, and his family was safe.
The family remained together for the next few months until August 6, 1942, when the German liquidated the Zhetel ghetto. Philip and his siblings hid in the cave with their mother, while their father hid elsewhere. This time though, their hiding place was discovered. Philip ran but was captured and taken to the movie theater where the ghetto’s Jews were being held. There he found his mother, Rachel, and Aron; his other two brothers and father were missing. The following day, the family received a package of food from Josef’s employer and a note saying he was alive. However, Philip and his mother witnessed the Germans beginning to load Jews into trucks and take them away. Philip was reluctant to leave his family, but at his mother’s urging, he jumped through a crack in the window and escaped. This was the last time, Philip saw his mother and two youngest siblings. One other boy, ten years old, also jumped. The two boys ran to Dworetz, the only nearby town where there were still Jews. When he arrived, Philip reunited with his brother Rachmil who took him to a room where he was staying with 30 other orphans. During the say, the brothers worked in a quarry despite their young ages. They finally learned that their father, Uncle Mendel, and Aunt Leah were alive, and one day Uncle Mendel came to the ghetto to get the two brothers. He helped the boys escape the ghetto and join their father in the forest where he was living with other survivors from Bielica. Philip and Rachmil hid in the woods for the next two and half years. Their father used his contacts with peasants to obtain food. Their uncle Mendel joined the partisans but was killed in battle. His cousin, Avremel, also fought as a partisan and survived the war.
In the July 1944 the Germans began to retreat. Philip and his family group left the woods. They first went to Zhetel to put up grave marker for Chaya Gitel Lazowski, Philp’s mother. They returned to his hometown of Bielica to find it mostly destroyed and then moved to Lida. After a few months, they traveled west and settled in the Bad Gastein displaced persons camp. Two years later, in 1947, Philip, Rachmil, their father and new step-mother, Faige immigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn. Philip attended Brooklyn College and the Yeshiva University Rabbinical School.
Rochel Rabinowitz (later Ruth Lazowski) is the daughter of Moshe (Morris) Rabinowitz (b. Zhetel, 1903-1905,) and Miriam (Manya) Growotsky Rabinowitz (b. 1907, Nowogrodek). Her mother was a pharmacist and her father and grandfather were in the lumber business. Ruth was born on June 9, 1935 and her sister Tania (later Toby Langerman) was born in 1937. In 1939 the Soviets occupied the town and nationalized and confiscated both their pharmacy and the lumber yard. They had to move out of their house on the town square and live with a Christian family on the outskirts of town. Since Moshe and Miriam could no longer work, the family moved to Nowogrodek where they stayed with Miriam’s family. Rochel could not attend school since the family’s move was not approved by the government. Therefore Ruth didn’t start school till after the war ended. After the German invasion of Eastern Poland and the Soviet Union in June 1941, the family returned to Zhetel. They lived for a few months with a farmer their grandfather knew from his lumber business. Most of their family in Nowogrodek was killed by Germans soon after they departed. After a few months the family was forced to move to a ghetto. In the ghetto, Miriam worked as a nurse. During first selection of April 1942, Moshe became separated from the rest of the family. Miriam went through separately with the girls. As a nurse, she had life-saving working papers. She also agreed to allow a young boy who had no family to accompany her as a son. In addition she pinned on his Star of David to make him look more respectable to the Germans.
After the selection, Miriam and her daughters separated from the young boy and reunited with Moshe. They moved to a new house with an underground hiding place that they shared with several other families. During August, there was a second selection, Miriam and the girls hid in the hiding place. Moshe was caught in the Aktion, but claiming to be a skilled carpenter, he was brought to the theater where the Germans were keeping laborers. After a short while he managed to escape and reunite with his wife and daughters. Miriam and the girls hid underground for a day and a half. Afterwards, the entire family escaped to the woods and survived for two years in the Libichanskaya Puscha (wilderness family camp). Since Moshe had worked in the lumber business, he knew the woods which helped them survive.
After the war, the family fled to Italy. They went first to Santa Maria di Leuca and then to Rome and finally immigrated to the United States where they settled in Hartford, CT.
A few years later, in 1953, Ruth’s friend Gloria Kozlowski visited the family in Hartford and heard the story of how Miriam had saved a young boy during a selection in the ghetto. The following day Gloria attended a wedding, as did Philip Lazowski. She recounted Miriam’s story to the people at her table. Philip Lazowski turned to her and announced “I am that boy.” Knowing for the first time that Miriam and her daughters had survived, Philip called the Rabinowitzes and then visited them in their home in Harford. He soon became a regular visitor. Tragically, their friend Gloria was run over and killed by a car only days after relaying the story.
Soon Philip began to date Ruth, the older Rabinowitz daughter. They married on December 11, 1955 and have three sons, Barry, Alan, and David, and seven grandchildren.