War broke out in Russia, the Germans advanced, and the Russians scrambled to prepare for a fight and many casualties.

Basia Gurewicz took her own steps to secure her family's well-being during the war. She immediately went to the store and purchased many loaves of stale bread. She toasted the loaves, making them crisp and giving them a longer shelf life—thus she would have the bread when food became scarce during what was expected to be a prolonged war.

As the war continued, the Russians evacuated women and children, including the Gurewiczes, from Moscow to the mountainous area of Ivanovka, Russia.

Supplies in the stores slowly dwindled, but the Gurewicz family had their backup bread to break some of their hunger.

When war had broken out, the patriarch of the family, Nachum, had been enlisted into the Russian army. He was stationed for a time at the entrance of Moscow, a city that the Germans bombarded for eighteen months straight. Later he received a job as a supply officer in the employ of one of the higher-ranking officers.

Being stationed near a large city gave him the opportunity to continue his kosher diet and to keep Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. To Nachum, being in Moscow was also an opportunity to assist other Jews who were in desperate need.

Mulik Gurewicz
Mulik Gurewicz
At one point, Nachum suffered from an ulcer and was placed in a military hospital. The family considered that a good period of time, as they at least knew where their father was. Nachum shared a hospital room with another Jewish soldier.

Even though Basia was occupied with supporting her family, three times a week, she would make the long trip to visit her husband. In the army, he had been able to fend for himself with regard to finding and preparing kosher food, but he would not be able to while lying in pain on a hospital bed, so she brought him kosher food.

Later, their son Mulik would recall the one time that his mother took him along to visit his father during those few weeks that he was in the hospital.

Following the war, the Gurewitz family escaped the Soviet Union using forged Polish passports. The family remained in Europe for a time, but later they moved to Australia, where they were one of the founders of the Chabad-Lubavitch community.

Mulik married Chava, and in 1964, they moved with their two children to Israel.

The Wait for the Clerk

Basia Gurewicz
Basia Gurewicz
At first they lived at a relative's house in Jerusalem, where Mulik found a job which gave them financial stability. A short while later, they found an apartment that they wanted to purchase. However, to purchase it they would need a loan guarantee from the Jewish Agency.

Mulik made the trip several times to the office of the Jewish Agency. Every one of Mulik's trips turned out to be futile. He would have to wait many hours to reach a clerk, who would tell him that the people he needed to see were not there.

Mulik learned about Israeli bureaucracy the hard way. It was not as if he could just take any day off to go to the agency and wait in line. But he learned that many had to do this for months on end, until they actually received their signed paper with a guarantee for a loan. The long, hot days and the difficulty of traveling from his home in Jerusalem to Tel Aviv did not ease his frustration.

One such morning, Mulik, after two weeks of coming every day, anticipated the same speech from the clerk. This time, however, there was a new clerk, so the excuse would at least come from a different voice...

While his waited his turn, he noticed that this new person seemed a little nicer, though who knew if that would actually make any difference?

In less than half an hour he was sitting in front of the clerk. Mulik handed him his Australian passport.

"So where were you born?" the clerk asks.


"In your passport it says Poland," the clerk said.

So Mulik explained to him the story of his family's escape from Russia in 1946.

"So the passport is forged?"

Chava and Mulik Gurewicz
Chava and Mulik Gurewicz
Mulik explained to him that the information in the passport was true, just the nationality was not the correct one.

It seemed that the clerk understood the situation, and he began examining the other details of the passport.

"I was also in Russia during World War II," the clerk began to relate to him. "I was a soldier in the Soviet forces, and I was lying in the hospital next to a man who had the same family name as you. His wife would bring him food every few days, because he adhered to the kosher dietary laws."

Shivers went down Mulik's back as he remembered that day he went to go visit his father in the hospital. As the clerk continued to describe his time in the hospital, he could not hold himself back any longer.

"That man was my father, and that was my mother bringing the food," Mulik said. Mulik told him that, in fact, he himself once went with his mother to the hospital.

The clerk looked at Mulik in silence, stunned at the Divine Providence involved in this meeting. In disbelief, he inquired about his roommate's family, and Mulik answered his questions.

The clerk, contemplating all that had happened, told Mulik: "You know what your father would do with the food once your mother left?"

Mulik thought to himself, "That's simple, father would eat the food, and quickly. Since he would not touch any other food, he was very hungry."

"He would split the food with me," said the clerk, answering his own question. "So that I would also eat kosher food."

He asked Mulik exactly what it was that he needed. Mulik told him that he needed five signatures to guarantee his loan. The clerk told him to stay seated while he went to another room.

Ten minutes later he came back with all the signatures Mulik needed. He left that day with the paper that would secure him his mortgage... and a lesson in love for one's fellow.