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The Spirits Were High … cont.)

I was in Radviliskis for three months, and from there I was sent to Birshtan [Birstonas], where there was a health spa, with mineral water. The members of the kibbutz hachshara were sent there for rest and relaxation. It must be remembered that it wasn't easy for everyone to become accustomed to physical labor, and more than a few required a health cure and rest. Chalutzim [Pioneers] from Eretz Yisrael who had fallen ill with malaria also came there. My sister Batya worked in the kitchen there, and thanks to her I was able to work, although clandestinely, because I didn't have a work permit.

 

Birstonas, August 8, 1929
The card was sent from Birshtan by “Leah to Rivkale Levitt, Dusetos”

 

Months went by and we didn't receive certificates[3]. Then, six of us girls (including Rasya Kagan) were sent to Latvia, in the hope that we could manage to make aliya from there.

I remember the sharp transfer from Lithuania to Latvia. We took the train, crossed the border to a new country and reached Riga. A real city with lights and a tramway!

I had the address of the Hechalutz Center in the center of the city, but when we arrived night had already fallen and we found a locked building. In the end the concierge let us in and served us tea…

The next morning we were sent to hachshara groups. We belonged to Kibbutz Gordonia there. We were in Latvia for five months. The Hechalutz Center covered all our expenses, so that we could allow ourselves not to work, and we worked when we wanted to. We were young and pretty – I had long braids – and there was no shortage of fellows… I remember that we went out a lot. We attended the opera, saw films for pennies, gobbled ice cream, and in short, had a good time.

 

Souvenir of the Days of “Masada” and the Lithuanian Period
Riga, December 31, 1935

The six friends, from right to left, top: Sarah Ferdman, Mina (Haifa), redhead Dvora (Yagur)
Bottom: Brania Friedland (today Tzipora Luria, Givat Brenner),
Rasya Kagan (Kfar Masaryk), Rachel Shub (Ramat Hashofet)

 

The emissary Hagai from Kibbutz Mishmarot was there, a very popular fellow, and we all admired him. He obtained a certificate for me as a “refugee from Germany”, and instructed me on how to relate that I had fled from Germany… Apparently the fact that I was blonde helped me, and I went through the control without being bothered with questions.

I didn't pay for the journey. Avraham Riklis, who was active in the Hechalutz Center and in charge of aliya, was apparently impressed by my letter that I had no financial means, and even provided me with money for the trip to Riga. Who financed the trip? They usually took the money from people of means.

On January 20, 1936 we set out for Eretz Yisrael. The entire group of six girls made aliya together. We left Riga by train; we stopped in Warsaw for a while and from there, to Constanza [on the Black Sea].

We reached the ship “Regele Carol I”, which was full of bad bugs. We traveled third class, and they squashed us into a place that seemed to be “vacant”. In the cabin with me was a family from Turkey, who had a little daughter. On the ship they served black olives, which made me sick. Almost everyone vomited during the sea journey, but not I. On the contrary, I tended the sufferers.

Three days went by, and we approached the shores of Eretz Yisrael. I remember that when Mount Carmel appeared before us we all stood up. Our hearts beat fast and we were excited, and I believe that we also sang. When we reached Haifa people from the Jewish Agency boarded the ship, and they showed no excitement about us. The registration process was “dry”.

We reached Bat Galim [suburb of Haifa] and ate supper in a café. Etka was with us, and suddenly a friend from Kibbutz Yagur came towards her. We really envied her. I was sent to Raanana, to Givat Hen, where I met Yashka, who later became my husband.

Tzila Gudelsky (Shub): I should mention that Yashka was a very intelligent and active fellow. He used to go from shtetl to shtetl and set up a branch of Hashomer Hatzair in each one. The girls really used to chase him. Yashka Vitkin was an idol! When I learned that he was my brother-in-law, I was very proud.

Together with friends from Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, Yashka first established the kibbutz in Givat Hen, and only afterwards did we settle in Ramat Hashofet.

When we arrived in Eretz Yisrael we were excited with everything: every fruit, every orange… In Lithuania the orange was considered to be a remedy, and when we saw so many wagons full of oranges we became frightened: are there so many tuberculosis sufferers here[4]?

When I arrived in Givat Hen they took all my possessions straight from my suitcases to the communal clothing storeroom. There were sixty of us there. One building contained the infirmary, kitchen, dining hall, storeroom and shower. We lived in tents. We worked in a sewing shop in Raanana, we worked in citrus groves, dug trenches around the trees, watered and pruned them.

Two years later we moved to Mitzpe Hasharon. There was a large vacant area there and it was possible to add cabins. There were two immigrant houses there. We erected a dining hall, cabins and tents. The Bulgarian garin [core group for settlement] joined us there.

My sister Rivka made aliya to Eretz Yisrael in 1938, and she also came to Mitzpe Hasharon.

After this we moved to Rehovot. Access to that place was via the railway tracks. We were joined by the ”Yekkim” [nickname of the German Jews] and the “Hungarians” – the group from Hungary, and together united with the kibbutz located on the hill. We already had families with children. Our life there was hard, but no one left.

At the beginning of November 1941 we moved to Ramat Hashofet. No one of those with whom we made aliya to Ramat Hashofet left the kibbutz, nor did anyone leave the country.

If I attempt to sum up that period, what can I say? There was a shortage of food. We ate bread dipped in oil, but who paid any attention to trivial things? At the most difficult times we didn't despair. Our spirits were elevated; we used to dance, and what did we dance? There was one single record, and we danced the polka to it. Shirttails flew, and we danced ourselves senseless.

For Ramat Hashofet's fortieth anniversary celebrations, we were guests in Givat Hen. The house is still standing. A party was held for us in Beth Ha'am [community centre], they showed old movies and it was very moving …

 

On the doorstep of Poritz's house, Dusiat 1936
My family and others taking leave of Yitzchak Poritz
who was making aliya to Eretz Yisrael

From right to left, top row: Tzilka Shub, Dvora Barolsky (Levitt, daughter of Hirshl and Tzirl), the tailor Yitzchak Fleischman, Berke Levitt (son of Chasl-Leah), Hene-Libale Shub
Second row: Dora Levitt (daughter of Chasl-Leah), Batya Fleischman (Poritz), Chava Shub
Third row: Michle Zilber, Rochel-Leah Poritz, Yitzchak Poritz, Babale-Batya Barolsky, Naftali Shub

 

Rachel Vitkin (Shub): This is the only remaining photograph of my little sister Hene-Libale, who perished in the Holocaust.

An excerpt from the letter of Kathriel Shub, the uncle from Dusiat who immigrated to America:

 

Congratulations on the birth of Idit, Rachel and Yashka's daughter

How happy I am that our family is growing there in Eretz Yisrael. May the Lord give you and your children great in quantity and great in quality and may our family rise to the top.

I am sending my congratulations to my niece Rachel, the wife of Yaacov, her beloved for crowning her with the title of “mother” with a lovely Bat Zion [daughter of Zion], who was born on the soil of Zion.

I congratulate you warmly, Rachel and Yaacov, the mother and father of Idit.

May you be privileged to raise her and educate her for marriage and good deeds.

 

Footnotes

  1. British permit for immigration to Palestine. Return

  2. Gutmacher, Michal. The Affinity of the Jews of Dusiat (Lithuania) to Eretz Yisrael, History Term Paper, The Hebrew Reali School, Haifa, March 1992, p. 251. Return

 

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