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[Pages 82-85]

Three Streets…

Translated by Judy Grossman

A lake separated Dusetos from a courtyard (“heyf”) belonging to a Polish landowner (“poritz”). The lake was called the “Courtyard Lake,” and in the summer could be crossed by means of a wooden boat, leased by Yosse Gafanovitch.

In the winter, the lake would freeze over totally, and one could travel across the ice. There was a local saying that the lake had to claim a victim each year. In the early spring and in the autumn everything was covered in thick black mud. Anyone walking in galoshes or traveling by wagon would sink deeply into it.

The three main streets converged on the market place. There were only a few houses between the square and the lake, as well as the Chassidic synagogue. The market place spanned an area of four acres and there were a few shops on all sides of the square. Almost all the shops had dwelling places above, accessed by an outside staircase.

The street facing the lake was called Maskevitcher-Gass and ran in the direction of the Christian townlet Podusiat (Padustelis). Off to the right was the Skinaiker forest. Past the forest was a road that led to Antaliepte (Antalept) and Utian (Utena). On the left via Daguci (Deguciai), one could access the road running to Ezerenai (Novo-Alexandrovsk, later known as Zarasai).

From the market place, on the left side of the lake was “Unter-Dem-Brik Gass” (Beyond the Bridge Road) leading to Ushpol (Uzpaliai) and Rakishok (Rokiskis). The road followed the course of the Perkailus river, and hence the name, “Unter-Dem-Brik Gass”. The church and residence of the local priest were situated at the end of this road.

To the left of the square was Milner-Gass, and at the end on a hillock was a windmill. The sails of the mill were visible from our window. From the direction in which the sails rotated, we could tell which way the wind was blowing. The miller was Elya Yoffe, a tall, handsome and scholarly Jew. Everyone in the shtetl was very fond of him.

The public bathhouse was at the end of Milner-Gass. For many years Leib-Itze Scop served as the bathhouse attendant. In his later years he immigrated to South Africa where he lived out the rest of his life in a quieter fashion.

Between Milner-Gass and Maskevitcher-Gass stood both the large synagogue (Beth Hamidrash - shul) and the smaller prayer house.[1]

Rachel Vitkin (Shub): I remember that Yudl Bun used to carry his wife Dvora over the puddles of water and mud, of which there were many near their house.

Esther Pomus (Orlin): In my time there was no electricity and no road, just mud. Water was drawn up from the well in the Aires' yard, and later on a well was also dug in our yard.

Avraham Slep: In the month of Av 1923, they began to pave the streets…

Shimon Toker: And when I came to visit my grandmother in Dusiat the wagon bounced on the round stones…

Sonya Gayde (Slovo): In 1937 my brother Lolke wired the new flourmill for electricity and Dusiat's deserted streets were lit.

Malka Gilinsky (Feldman): I know that electricity was introduced into the shtetl, but I was no longer at home then.

Gittele Yavneh (Musilevitz): In photos of the marketplace from 1928 you can see a row of poles that look like electricity poles.

Batya Yardeni (Milun): When I saw those photographs in South Africa I was sure that there was already electricity in Dusiat, but now it appears that they are telegraph poles.

Rivka Friedman (Orlin): When I left Dusiat on Passover 1939, only a small number of houses had electricity. I don't recall the streets being lit, and people usually lit their way with lanterns. Near the end I no longer dared go outside at night because there were already attacks by the Gentiles.

Shayke Glick: I don't remember the shtetl as being lit, except in the near vicinity of the flourmill, which had a generator that provided it with electricity. Those were apparently the conditions of the concession that the miller received.

Rachel Rabinowitz (Slovo): It was obligatory to clean the section of the street in front of your house. The inspector would come by to inspect, and fine those who didn't clean their section.

One morning, apparently because she was in too much of a hurry, Chantche went out not completely dressed to sweep the area in front of her house. Jews were returning home from “shaharit” (morning prayers) and saw her only partially dressed. They called to her: “Hey, Yiddene, du geist in di heizn.” (Hey, Jewish woman, you're in your underpants). This sentence also became part of the folklore.

 
On the ganik, the wooden stairway of Raiche-Libe Scop's house

From right to left, top: Frumka Shteiman, Altke Slep (Reizl's daughter),
Sara-Belke Chaitowitz

Bottom: Feigitzke Pores, Maryassl Scop, Yocheved Krut

 

Henia Sneh (Blacher): Leib-Itze Scop emigrated to South Africa on his own, and his wife Raiche-Libe (Shein) remained in the shtetl and waited for the mail every day. Years went by and she complained that she couldn't continue “mit dem papirenem leibn” (with the paper life)…

Since then the term “dem papirenem leibn” has been associated with that family.

Rachel Rabinowitz (Slovo): Noah Poritz and Yoelke Zeif were known for their pranks, and what they once did on the Juzinter's Gass[2]:

At the entrance to every shop was a ganik [wooden stairway] that was not nailed down. One night the two pranksters removed all the stairways from their places and laid them in the street. And as if that wasn't enough, they went and turned the keyholes of the doors around. In the morning the owners saw the damage, took fright and ran out shouting: “thieves, thieves!” and there was a great commotion…

Shayke Glick: This “sport” was passed on from generation to generation. I recall that we, the next generation, also played a similar prank, and the policeman grabbed Lolke Slovo by the shirt and shook him. We then fled to the Silvitzke Forest and waited for Lolke to be freed.

Chaya-Tzipe Slep in the dining room of her home (March 28, 1932)

“Among the objects are the chess board and a picture of Hertzl, and there were almost certainly charity boxes there too.”

 

The home of Moshe and Chasl-Leah Levitt (No. 14)

Standing in the doorway is their son Berke.

“Dear ones, see how close our house is to yours. Please come in and we'll talk…

(May 26, 1933).”

 


Footnotes

  1. [30] Chaya Malka Kruss-Glussak and Nachum Blacher. From Our Shtetl Dusiat, p. 336, in Yizkor Book of Rakishok and Environs, Johannesburg, 1952. Return

  2. Most of the homes on Unter-Dem-Brik were owned by the Levitt families, who originated from the shtetl of Juzint (Juzintai), hence the nickname Juzinter's Gass (the street of the Juzinters). Return
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