(No. 11/2006 – October 2006)
Editor: Fran Bock

Nate Almond shared this memoir of his uncle, Bernie Lamb, with the membership of Children of Pruzhany and Surrounding Area (CPSA). We thank Nate and Jay Lenefsky (CPSA Coordinator) for permission to post the story, and Dave Fox, coordinator emeritus of the Belarus SIG, who first brought it to our attention.

Here is Nate’s introduction:

“My Uncle Bernard Lamb, born and raised in Belarus, (formerly known as White Russia) wrote this story of his life when  he was nearly ninety years old, but  wonderfully sound in mind, even as his physical body was giving way.  In a sense, he was writing his own obituary.  Like everyone, he didn't want to be forgotten in the dust of time.  He had sent his sprawling handwritten notes to Elliott Almond thinking that since Elliot was a newspaper reporter, he would be the most suitable person for the task.  Elliott couldn't tackle it so it lay in sort of a limbo until now.  I just began communicating with the Children of Pruzhany and Surrounding Area, who were very interested in a personal account of that part of Grodno guberniya in the early 1900s.  That was all I needed to motivate me to dig into Bernie's story.”        


This article is copyrighted by Nate Almond and CPSA.

Reprinting or copying of this article is not allowed
without prior permission from the copyrightholders


Personal Memories of Seletz

by Bernie Lamb


It was June fifth in the year 1902 that I was born. I came along the third son and the youngest of nine children. I remember Seletz which had a total population including the nearby area of about 20,000 people of which almost 2000 were Jews. There was only one non-Jewish family in the Jewish district and he was the postmaster as well as the only law officer. His home was the only non-Jewish one in the Jewish part of town. This was on the eastern edge of Seletz. This was also the business part of town. His house was close to the stores and near a large field where county fairs were held quite often. The circus came there to perform once or twice a year. Beyond the business area was a large fenced church and living quarters for the nuns and the priests. I don't remember ever going in that direction.


There were three streets looking to the west with hundreds of wood and brick homes lining the dirt roads. The streets had wooden sidewalks to keep dry during rainy times. About half the Jewish men had their homes and work places at the same location. Our family lived close to the business section and the Auerbach family lived next door. Their lumber yard supplied us with ample firewood for our brick oven. The large oven supplied enough heat and enough space for baking and cooking. I remember playing with the three youngest Auerbach children and with my sister Ruth and Florence. Mr. Auerbach was seldom home, always away on business.


My father, Arya Limasheftsky, (later Harry Lamb ), was at work at the government distillery for six months of the year and additionally another two or three months working in the fields during the fruit harvesting season. One winter when I was about four years old my father took me along with him while he was working at the distillery. Also one summer he took me along while he was busy with fruit harvesting. The Jewish men on the main street were mainly teachers. They taught Jewish reading and writing, using the Hebrew prayer book and the five books of the Old Testament as their texts. They also taught Russian and Polish. All the Seletz Jews spoke Jewish, Russian and Polish. The farmers, who were non-Jewish, spoke only Polish and Russian and very few of them could either read or write in any language. The children of these farmers typically tended sheep or worked on the farm. There were only a few exceptions, these being the rich or selected few. Just west from where we lived was a carpenter and his wife and daughter. A dozen or more small schools were around us. When the Jewish boys became thirteen they were sent away for more education or else they were taught a trade. Across the street from us and close to the business section was the Synagogue and also a large Temple that was used mainly on holidays and on special occasions. In the temple courtyard was a large bath house.


We received our water from a well on the Auerbach's lot. Several times a week a man filled two large water barrels on our porch in front of the kitchen. In addition to the water, we had barrels of sauerkraut and pickles on the porch. Underneath the oven was storage space for onions and potatoes, flour and sugar and for shelves of jam, jellys and wine. In the attic a there was storage of apples and pears. A cow was in our back yard and it supplied all the milk, butter, cheese and cream that we needed. If we needed more eggs than we got from our chickens, we bought them from a farmer or at the fair which was held often.


About 1906 we had a letter from sister Liz who was now in Philadelphia and who was married and had their first child, Isabelle. She was married to Samuel Yalkovsky who was from Antipola, a village not far from Seletz. In the year 1909 we had a letter from my sister Rose; she was married to Benjamin Almond. Ben Almond was the son of Rabbi Gabriel Prozhinski of Shershevov. Rabbi Gabriel was the best known Rabbi in the State of Grodno. My parents were elated to have the son of Rabbi Gabriel marry a member of our family.


It was the year 1911, in the month of February that Arya Limasheftsky, soon to become Harry Lamb, took his wife Ethel and the rest of the children, Bessie, Ruth, Florence and Bernard, together with all the personal possessions and had them loaded onto two sleds and had the drivers take them to the railroad station in Rybnik, which was about 15 to 20 miles away from Seletz. The next morning we were met by Auerbach's son in Rybik and taken to his home. We stayed there for a short time and then left by train for Germany. While in Germany we were all examined by a doctor, given vaccinations and were provided with health certificates, which made our entrance into the USA much smoother. We traveled by train from Rybnik to Bremen Germany, the port of debarkation. (Some time if you care, I will tell about our boat trip.) Seventeen days later we arrived in New York. Most of the passengers got off, but about fifty of us went on another boat, the Brandenburg, to Baltimore. We avoided going through Ellis Island when we were in New York. From Baltimore we got on a train heading for Chicago. The date was Feb. 12, 1911. Two days later we arrive at 1020 Washburn Ave. in Chicago Illinois We were met there by Jack, Liz, Isabelle and Mollie.




Copyright 2006 Belarus SIG, CPSA and Bernie Lamb

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