The Jewish Eye
He Didn't Take No For An Answer
At the beginning of the Communist control in the Soviet Union, many Jews tried to flee to Romania. Once in Romania, the possibility existed of escaping to other countries, and even to Eretz Yisrael. However, the risk was not minimal; anyone caught trying to escape from the Soviet Union was either executed or exiled to Siberia, a fate sometimes worse than death. Russian soldiers were posted on the border to minimize the chances of anyone escaping.
During this era, R' Eliezer Zussia of Skulen lived in Chernowitz which was close to the border, and he constantly risked his life to help Jews who were caught escaping from Russia. The colonel in charge of the border guard was visited more than once by the Rebbe to beg for his intervention in releasing these Jews. Once, when R' Eliezer visited the colonel once again on a mission of mercy, the colonel blew up. "I've had enough of you and your pleas! If I see you here again begging for these criminals, I'll kill you!"
Shortly later, a large Jewish family was caught trying to escape across the border. This time, R' Eliezer tried to utilize other means to release them, including bribing other officials in power, but to no avail The colonel was the only one with the power to release the family. R' Eliezer's family was afraid for his life and reasoned with him that he wasn't obligated to risk his life, but the Rebbe did not agree. The colonel had threatened him but it was not a certainty that he would carry out his threat. However, the fate of the family was certain death or exile if nobody interceded for them.
R' Eliezer bravely approached the colonel once again, and the colonel's reaction was not a calm one. He became furious, and threw the Rebbe down a flight of steps. The Rebbe was injured, but managed to pick himself up. Unbelievably, he did not despair and decided to brave the colonel's wrath once again. He gingerly dragged his aching body up the steps and knocked on the colonel's door again. The colonel was astounded to see him again, and this time, he actually remained calm. The hardened colonel could not help but be moved by the Rebbe's courage and sacrifice, and he agreed to release the family. (Source: Stories My Grandfather Told Me)
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