Tale of a Vanished Land: Memories of a Childhood in Old Russia by Harry E. Burroughs
By Ira Leibowitz
Related to: Kashovka (Town)
, Book Reviews
By Harry E. Burroughs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930.
None of the following may be reprinted or republished without
permission of the publisher.
The family into which Hersh Baraznik was born in 1890 had stature. Hersh's
father, Nathan the Wise, was the first man in Kashoffka to go to
America. He returned
a rich man, and was not afraid to bring disputes to the authorities. Hersh's
virtuous mother was admired by all the townspeople. They called her Hannah the Saint.
draws a compelling, many-sided portrait of life in turn-of-the-century
Kashoffka (now Kashivka, Ukraine), a Volhynian shtetl split roughly
evenly between Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants. Situated
20 miles north of Roshist (now Rozhishche) and 15 miles west of Kolk
(Kolki), it contained about 50 Jewish families and three synagogues.
Burroughs evokes a sense of pastoral serenity in recalling the village,
musing of the encircling forests of pine and the washerwomen singing
by the river. One could
hear anthems sung in the Russian church on Sundays. From our perspective
(and the author's), Kashoffka had a constricted view of the world
as well. Distance was
measured in the days a horse could travel. When
a Russian newspaper filtered in -- usually several weeks after publication
-- one of the literate men would read it to the entire town. What
the villagers could see with their eyes "formed their universe."
was an intelligent, headstrong boy. At
the age of 10, following run-ins with his father and stepmother,
he apprenticed himself to a merchant who brought him to a brush factory
in Sevastopol. There
he witnessed two events he would always remember. The
first was the appearance, amid grand pomp, of Czar Nicholas
II himself. Burroughs
experienced a tremendous letdown: "the man whose name carried
terror and authority to every corner of the land . . . was a timid
little man . . . His
step and bearing were nervous, apprehensive."
the second incident, marking him more powerfully than the first,
was a pogrom. The air
was leaden with tension, he writes, as hooligans were brought into
town. Burroughs tramped
throughout the city and was amazed to discover that as preparations
began for what all knew was coming -- and while police and the
imperial army looked the other way -- non-Jewish neighborhoods casually
continued with everyday activities. He
was to witness a fellow Jewish brushmaker club a rioter to death.
In 1903 Burroughs joined his brother in Boston. Unlike
his father, he never returned to Kashoffka.
by Ira Leibowitz [Jan.