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[Pages 226-228]

The Spirits Were High …

By Rachel Vitkin (Shub)

Translated by Judy Grossman

I was an active member of the Hashomer Hatzair branch in my shtetl Dusiat, which was headed by Yoel Zeif. One of the outstanding members was Rivka Melamed, who was my group leader. We used to gather every evening wearing our uniforms: a light blue shirt and scarf and a blue skirt. We used to go on nature excursions. I remember the shtetl surrounded by forests and water, the river and the beautiful and wonderful lake, on which we sailed in a row of boats in the summer, and on which we skated in the winter when it iced over…

There was also a branch of Hechalutz in the shtetl, in which the adults were active. Among them I remember Tzipora Zeif and Batya Levitt. There was also a branch of Kapai[1].

 

The Kapai Insignia

 

The activities in the ken [cell] were varied. I recall the movement holiday, the Jubilee, which took place on the fifth candle of Hanukah[2]. We were busy with rehearsals for weeks, and the moving spirit was Noah Poritz.

Tzila Gudelsky (Shub): To this day the song from the Jubilee is engraved in my memory (in Hebrew):

The sun rises and sets, but there is no light in my dwelling,
Night and day you guard a prisoner yearning for freedom.
But you will guard in vain, I won't flee from here,
Although I long for freedom, I won't break the chains.

Malka Gilinsky (Feldman): Of all the holidays I remember Hanukah and especially one party. Rachel Shub was the “star” of the performance. The play was in Hebrew, and from the text I remember the words “If I guard at night, guard me...”

We would collect frying pans, Primus stoves and potatoes. We would stand in the hallway grating potatoes, frying latkes, and our eyes were red from smoke. “Di Patumseche“, the “black one”, helped us, and the soot never left her face.

Rivka Shteinman (Shub): “Di Patumsechewas the owner of the house, and her face was dark even without soot, which is why that was her nickname.

At the age of seventeen I went on hachshara to Kibbutz Gesher in the Slobodka – a suburb of Kovno [Kaunas]. It was the center that connected all the shtetls in Lithuania. We used to receive word whether a “unit” had become available in a hachshara group, and we immediately saw to sending members there.

We all lived in one residence, but the girls and boys had separate rooms. We worked at whatever jobs came to hand; among them the fellows worked at chopping wood and the girls worked in shops and other services. I worked in the kitchen. There were about sixty of us. We used to go around with full pails and distribute food to the members, who worked all over the city. What did we feed them? Yusnik [milk soup] and kalapunzen vasser [extremely diluted coffee].

I now recall a certain place in the city, which had a wonderful view! How awful to think that the Jews of Kovno were murdered in that place by the Nazi beasts of prey!

From there we moved to Daukšos Street, the commercial center of old Kovno. There were about three hundred of us there, in a very large house.

 

Daniel Ben Nahum (Prochovnik): On the right is the house and courtyard on Daukšos
Street where the members of Hashomer Hatzair used to dance themselves senseless.

[Courtesy Sara Weiss-Slep, 1991]

 

Later on I moved to the hachshara in Radviliskis, an extremely beautiful shtetl, very similar to Dusiat. Leah Levitt's family lived there, and I used to visit them.

 

Members of “Kibbutz Hakovesh” in Shadova [Seduvos] hosting members
of “Kibbutz Radviliskis” with Miryam Pram from Ponivezh [Panevezys]
August 10, 1934

From right to left, top: Rivka Pores, Esther Orlin (third), Rachel Shub (extreme left)

 

Footnotes

  1. Acronym for Keren Poalei Eretz Yisrael – established by Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion] in order to raise funds for the workers in Palestine. Return
  2. On the eve of the fourth day that the fifth candle of Hanukah is lit. Return

 

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