There are two heroes in this story – the first is Fanny Solomian, a young Jewish woman from Pinsk in Poland. Before the war she studied physical education in Warsaw and after completing her studies, she taught “medical gymnastics” in a hospital. We might think of her as a physical therapist of today. She managed to evade arrest and deportation, fled to the forest, and joined a partisan brigade. This is the point where her story becomes quite unbelievable – our “medical gymnastics” teacher was the nearest thing the partisans had to a doctor, so Fanny became their chief physician and surgeon! She set up a makeshift surgery and performed numerous operations under the most primitive conditions and with only forest herbs for medications! Against all odds, her patients remained infection free and many survived under her care.
After the war, Fanny returned to Pinsk to find her family gone, her former life destroyed. And yet, there was a hero of sorts waiting for her as well.
She described meeting him this way,
“Hey, Miss Solomian, you’re still alive? None of your family made it. Just the dog. Sometimes he comes onto the porch, whining and crying, as though he were calling for you or your father.”
I went out to look for the dog, the only creature who had troubled himself to look for me anywhere. Suddenly I noticed three dogs running. The one in the middle looked familiar to me. I whistled. The dog in the middle shook his head as if in disbelief, and suddenly emitted a wailing sound. His body trembled in a way that raised my flesh. The dog leaped upon me, licked me, circled me, and launched into a savage dance of joy.
People gathered around. They cried together with me. I clutched my dog and hugged him. The people cleared a passage for me. Cleared a path so that the dog who had remained loyal could march with his Jewish mistress... my dog had not forgotten, had not betrayed, had searched until he found what he was searching for.”
(The book of Fanny’s story appears to be out of print – A Girl Facing the Gallows, 1971.)