By two in the afternoon the inspection was almost completed when the front door suddenly banged open and in walked Berel, white as a ghost. I could not ask him anything because he was closely followed by a man, elegantly dressed, who scanned all of the workers with narrowed eyes and a grim expression. His dress and demeanor led me to believe that he was a KGB agent.

As I tried to conceive a reason for a KGB agent to be at my factory, and wondered how he was connected with my brother’s disappearance, another KGB agent walked in, followed by another one, and another. In less than a minute the room was under the scrutiny of seven KGB agents.

I cannot begin to describe how terrified I was. The first agent who came in, apparently the leader of the group, quietly muttered to himself, “What is this, an underground printing press?”

I quaked. If that is what we were suspected of, we were in deep trouble. An underground printing press meant that we were printing material in opposition to the government. In those years, even a simple typewriter had to be registered with the KGB and here we had supposedly had an entire underground printing press operation…

In the meantime, Berel had managed to walk past me and he whispered, “I was ‘there’ and ‘they’ took my home address.” It was unnecessary for him to say what ‘there’ was and who ‘they’ were. He said this deliberately so that I would know that his house was under KGB watch because five students learned there in our underground yeshiva.

I was petrified. I began to tremble and felt shoots of burning hot and icy cold simultaneously spurting through my veins. My body broke out in a sweat and I struggled to breathe normally. My thoughts whirred: Oy vey, the boys should have been learning right now in Berel’s house and the KGB probably went there already and caught them with their Gemaras at the table. Who knows what they are going through in the KGB interrogation rooms and how well they will be able to keep their mouths shut.

The students, Naftali, Shmuel Chaim, Shaya and others, were high quality boys who were careful not to say a word about their clandestine Jewish studies to anyone in Samarkand, but KGB agents were experts at getting people to talk. Even a mute would speak for them. What if they did not withstand the torture and revealed that I was connected with the yeshiva? (At that time, the organization of all the classes was my responsibility.)

The senior agent barked, “Who is the manager here?” My worker pointed to me and the agent motioned for me to approach him. I was in the middle of producing labels and pretended to be oblivious to what was going on. The other employees also tried to remain calm and maintain a composed look on their faces, although all of them were terribly frightened.

The senior official asked me, “Which plant are you under?”

I answered, “Zavad Chozbitizdely.”

He asked, “Do you have an agreement with the boss of the plant?”

I said that I did. Together we left the workshop and went to locate the plant’s executive. The manager took out our official agreement and showed it to them. The senior agent examined the agreement and then returned it to the manager.

In the meantime they noticed that amongst all the Jewish workers there was one non-Jewish woman. That was Lilia, the representative from the main office. Some of the KGB agents spoke to her privately for half an hour in the yard. They then removed something from their pocket and showed it to her. She said something to them and then the KGB left our factory without another word.

When Lilia came back in, I asked her what the KGB wanted to know. She said that she had understood from them that they were looking for someone in particular. One of them had taken out a picture and asked whether she knew the man in the picture.

“I didn’t know him and I said the truth, that I did not recognize him. Apparently they had made a mistake.”

I did not accept her answer because I knew that before they showed her the picture they had spoken for a while. We were deeply shaken by the incident, but we could not speak freely amongst ourselves since the inspection had not yet been completed. We just commented to one another, “How interesting! I wonder what they wanted.…”

When the inspection was finally over, I hurried to Berel’s house in the hopes that the young men were still there. I was surprised to find that the fivehad already left. Apparently some of our neighbors had seen the agents drag Berel into a car. They hurried to my house and told my father what had happened. My father went to Berel’s house and told themto leave immediately.

In the evening I located the young men and told them that that there were temporary difficulties with their continued learning in Samarkand and they should return home instantly. There was fear in their voices as they asked, “What happened?”

I did not want to scare them, so I just said that for various reasons it was necessary to change the location where they learned and in the interim, they should go home to Tashkent. We would notify them when to return.

Arranging their trip to Tashkent was not a simple matter. Tickets were not always available and it was not advisable for them to walk around the train station because the place was crawling with police who meticulously surveyed each passersby. With G‑d’s help I was able to purchase tickets immediately, and I sent them safely on their way.

The next day I discovered my first strands of gray hair, and I knew why.