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Story: Is it the Russian Tsar who Saved these 400 Jews?

Published on Sunday April 11th, 2021

What prompted the Russian Tsar to build a railway line of over 8500 km that lead nowhere? Discover a story of Hashgacha Pratit (divine providence).

One day, in 1905, the Russian Tsar woke up with an idea that only selfish dictators who suffer from the delusions of grandeur are able to take seriously: that he would build a railway line that would cross Russia, from East to West, covering a distance of more than 8500 km. Where would it lead to? Nowhere!

At that time, the eastern part of Russia was almost entirely abandoned and deserted. It was largely covered with snow and the only human beings that circulated there were a handful of herdsmen and tribes living in the depths of the forests. Building the railway line was considered to be a totally foolish act. Fabulous sums were invested and myriads of workers were employed in extremely difficult conditions, and all that to make a railway line that would end in a desolate region where it would be of no use.

Absolute extravagance!

Thirty-five years passed, and the Second World War broke out. Nazi Germany began to conquer one country after the other. And a group of several thousand Jews found themselves in Lithuania, desperate for an escape route from Europe.

Two students of the famous Mir Yeshiva, who were staying at the time in Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania), tried their luck with Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul of the city. They asked him for a pass to enter his country. Sugihara sent their request by telegram to Tokyo. But a few hours later, he got a negative answer. He summoned the young students to his office and showed them the telegram. However, he added quietly that he would give them papers despite the refusal.

"How many do you need? he asked.

He thought they were going to give him an answer between one and two dozen. To his surprise, the students told him that they would need at least four hundred passes, the equivalent of the number of students in the yeshiva ...

Thus, Sugihara, together with two young men who became his aides, worked tirelessly for three days to stamp hundreds of Japanese passports and write the names of the students. With the work completed and the passports issued to their addresses, there was still a small problem: how to travel from Lithuania, which lies in the extreme south of the Asian continent, to Japan, which was at the far east of the same continent?

Between these two points, the distance is about 9000 kilometers, the whole width of Russia.

How would it be possible to cross this huge area, partly covered with thick forests, far away from civilization?

The obvious answer is that there was a certain railway line, the Trans-Siberian line, which runs through Russia from west to east.

In this way, the students of the yeshiva took the train, taking this path built "pointlessly," dozens of years earlier, under the order of a megalomaniac Russian Tsar, and they reached freedom...

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