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[Pages 75-77]

In the Thick of the Forest

Translated by Judy Grossman

Rivka Levitt: Three forests surrounded the shtetl: the “Barovker Vald[1]”, the “Skineiker Vald” and the “Ilgishiler Vald”. There was also a small thicket, the “Silvitzkes Veldel[2]”, owned by the gentile Silva.

In the summer we would go into the forest to pick all kinds of berries: blackberries, raspberries and red and black pozshimkes. We would return with baskets full of berries, and also wood sorrel… When we got older, we would bicycle through the forests – many kilometres.

Rasya Tal (Kagan): We would go to the forest every Saturday. It was an experience that is impossible to forget. On the way to the “Barovker Vald”, we would cross two bridges. That area was called “unter dem brik” (“beyond the bridge”, in Yiddish). Two families lived there: Avraham-Moshe Silberstein, and beside them Teibl and Moshe Orlin. Avraham-Moshe had a tavern, and the peasants used to get drunk there. On the way back we used to stop at Teibl's and eat bread and hard white cheese, and drink milk. Teibl enjoyed our visits to them very much.

“And we would ride our bicycles the length of the forest…”
Dov(Berke) Levitt and Lanka Visakolsky

 

The way from there to the forest was very long. The forest was big and dense, and more than once people lost their way and came out of the forest in another direction. The two sisters Henka and Mirka Slep, my sister Tzirale and I would regularly go to the forest with baskets on our arms to pick berries. We were there from noon until dusk. More than once we lost our way when picking berries, and had difficulties getting out. I had a special sense of direction and always knew where I was. We would return home with berries for jam, but the main thing was the walk and the pleasure in being outdoors. During Pesach (Passover) it was still cold and wet, but immediately after Shavuot (Pentecost) we would spend time in the forest, until Rosh Hashana (New Year)…

And these are the names:

Spalgine – red berries under the hyssop

Bruknesred berries on the top of the hyssop

Shvartze Yagdesblackberries

Pozshimkes – red forest berries

Malinesraspberries, from which they also made a medicine for fever

Poretzkesred currants

Agrest – green cardoons that grew on bushes

Shayke Glick: At the front of the priest's yard there was an orchard with wonderful, juicy apples. It was hard to resist the temptation, and I remember that I once jumped over the fence to steal apples, when the dog suddenly started barking – a real fierce dog – and I ran for my life, without apples.

Rachel Rabinowitz (Slovo): There was a thicket near the priest's house, which went as far as the lake. At that spot the boys would bathe on one side, and the women would bathe at a slight distance from there, everyone naked or partially dressed.

One time two women came to bathe in the lake. They undressed and left their clothes on the shore. One of them, Haya-Frume, was quick and went down to the lake ahead of her friend, while her friend, who was shortsighted, lost her way and walked over to the men's side. She encountered one of them, grabbed hold of him and said: “Oy, Haya-Frume, I was looking everywhere for you…”

People still burst out laughing when this story is recalled.

Slovka Sarver (Segal): Isserke Levitt used to swim under the water, and suddenly come out in the girls' area, and, of course, cause a hullabaloo.

Rachel Rabinowitz (Slovo): Others did the same thing, and that reminds me of something that happened. At that place – “di Shtchure” [thicket], so it was called – behind the priest's house, there was a huge garden with water plants, and it was dark there. Two girls walked by there, both of them shortsighted, to bathe in the lake. They undressed, and suddenly, without their noticing it, a cow came up to them from behind, touched the back of one of them with her horns, and she began shouting, in Russian: “Kakoy Nahal, Kakoy Nahal!” (“What a crude lout, what a crude lout!”)…

All it took to get the young people of the shtetl to burst out laughing was to remind them of this incident...

Batya Aviel (Levitt): Motel Yoffe (the author Mordechai Yoffe) used to go to that garden “to hear the birds”. We already sensed then that he had a poetic soul…

 

 
Yehuda Baron ploughing and reaping in the family field

 

 
Yehuda Baron in the field

 

Rasya Tal (Kagan): After the harvest we would lease a plot in a field for pasture. Usually about ten families participated in such a lease. Every morning the cowherd would go out with the cows, each one to his own plot. I particularly remember the pasturages in the direction of the street with the mill. I don't remember that the pastures in the “unter dem brik” area (“beyond the bridge”) were also leased.

In the winter the cows would remain in the cowshed in the yard. When a cow calved, my parents would assist with the birth, and to this day I can hear the lowing of the cow at night in my mind. If it gave birth to a bull calf, they would fatten it for a week and sell it to the butcher – usually Rivka Pores' father. From the milk they prepared cream and butter in a “Kaleteike” (churn). It was a tall wooden vessel with an especially nice shape. They would churn, and the children participated in this job. They would push up and down, up and down, and in the meantime also lick the tasty butter…

Batya Aviel (Levitt): The Gentile women would go out to the pasture to milk the cows. On days when the Gentile woman didn't come, I would go out with my mother. One day we both went out, and a shortsighted woman was with us. And what did I see? She went up to a bull and began “milking” it. The bull kicked her hard and she was astounded, saying; “Hey, cow, you're so wild today.” When we pointed out her error she was very embarrassed, and all the way home she kept repeating: “What a mistake to make. What a mistake to make…” Nu, the story became a topic for laughter, and even now I'm reduced to tears laughing at it …


Footnotes

  1. Vald means forest in Yiddish. Return

  2. A veldel is a small forest. Return

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