Program Brings Oct. 7 Survivor to Baltimore to Share Personal Story

Nikita Soumrov and his family
Nikita Soumrov, his wife and son before the Oct. 7 attack (Courtesy of Nikita Soumrov)

Emotions ran high in a room at Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville on March 28, as an estimated 150 people heard testimony from a survivor of the Oct. 7 attack, as part of the Baltimore Zionist District’s Faces of October 7th programming.

Attendees were able to hear from Nikita Soumrov, a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, located 400 yards away from the Gaza border, and learn his story of survival as his family hid in their safe room for hours listening to the sounds of gunshots and explosions rocking the kibbutz.

The event was one of three Faces of October 7th events planned in the Baltimore area, with one on March 25 at Towson University with multiple area Hillels in attendance, and another on March 26 at a private home for teens.

Faces of October 7th is an organization that brings Oct. 7 survivors to communities in North America to share their experiences. BZD partnered with Faces of October 7th for these three events.

“This [event] was a good opportunity for us to do that in-person event with a survivor from Oct. 7,” said Caren Leven, executive director of BZD. “One of the main reasons that we decided to do that is because of all the misinformation that is out in the media, whether it be social media or mainstream media, the community at large. [It’s important] to have some truthful information and the best way to do that is to hear from survivors.”

At the event, Soumrov spoke about the night before the Oct. 7 attack, when the kibbutz was getting ready to celebrate its 70th anniversary with a play, when everything was calm and normal. He said that the peace was broken at exactly 6:30 a.m. when the rocket sirens went off, warning residents to get to safe rooms.

Soumrov said he wasn’t overly concerned by the alarm at first, as the sounds of gunshots and falling rockets happen frequently, but that quickly changed when he realized the gunshots were coming from inside the kibbutz.

“I picked up the phone. I called my dad, and I told him that they’re shooting inside the kibbutz, lock your doors and stay in the safe room,” Soumrov said.

After some time in the safe room, the full extent of the danger became apparent when Soumrov decided to go on Facebook and saw a Facebook Live video of one of his close neighbors being held captive by Hamas inside their house.

“What I saw is their family sitting on the floor of their kitchen. The camera man had a gun pointed at them and the dad was sitting next to his two kids with his hands covered with blood. At that point I realized that they’re being kept captive by Hamas terrorists and it [was] just a matter of time that the terrorists are going to reach our house,” Soumrov said.

Soumrov, his wife and their 5-year-old son spent hours hiding out in the safe room as messages from neighbors came in detailing the danger. Those messages included one from Soumrov’s mother, pleading for help, as she was hiding in one of their house’s two safe rooms with Soumrov’s father and younger brother as Hamas broke in and began searching their house.

Soumrov said there was nothing he could do to help, and he put his energy into holding the door handle of the safe room closed in shifts with his wife as they worked to shield their son from the reality of the dangers.

It was 4:30 p.m. before they heard any good news, when Soumrov said he heard a man in Hebrew calling for assistance from his sergeant, eight-and-a-half hours after they’d entered the safe room.

“After a few minutes, I hear outside of my [safe room] window someone say in Hebrew, ‘I can’t break it.’ And immediately after that, I hear three knocks saying, ‘IDF, IDF, IDF.’ They knocked on my safe room window, and without even hesitating, I opened it up. I wasn’t even thinking who else it could be. I open the window and I see five IDF soldiers,” Soumrov said.

Soumrov and his family members all made it out alive, and Soumrov’s family has been living in relocated housing since the attacks.

He added that he wanted to come and do this series of presentations to give people a better understanding of what really happened on that day and present an image of a people who will not give in to fear and stand strong as they work to rebuild.

“I really feel the importance of what I do,” Soumrov said. “Every time I speak to the people, after my testimony, it encourages me and strengthens me to continue, and it just emphasizes how important it is and how people are moved and touched by what I say.”

Leven said these events can benefit all age groups, as a wide demographic range can take in these stories and use the information they learn to spread awareness for what actually happened, especially as conspiracy theories and disinformation spread online and across communities.

“We’re hoping that this is a tool for them to [explain] that Oct. 7 did happen and that the Jewish people did go through traumatic events on Oct. 7. And these kids, these teens, these college students, they need to hear stories,” Leven said. “This is something that we as a nation went through, and our teens and our students need to understand that and they need to see it, so they can combat that [misinformation] on their campuses.”

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