Translated by Lillian Leavitt To write about the Koydenov community in America about their social, communal and economic life would require writing a whole book, dedicated to them, to every one of those people who made it through. It is, however, beyond my ability to write a book about all my fellow Koydenov folks. Therefore, it'll have to suffice to simply write a bit about one of the Koydenov folks that while I personally did not get to know, I remember his father, Tevye the stitcher, quite well. I made the acquaintance of Abey Horowitch along with many other Koydenov residents in the Koydevov Relief Society that I didn't get to know, such as: Nathon Klomak, Samuel Shak, Abey Gorin and his dear wife, Dora Morder, Gitl Neyfeld, Nishke Levy, Sadie Levy, Abe Shulk and his good wife and Max Joseph (Rebecca-Rokhel's son-in-law) and many others. As I said, one could write about each of them. But I will only say a few words here about my fellow Koydenover, Abey Horowitch, one of the most intelligent, devoted activists in reorganizing the Relief Society into the United Koydenov Association. I have written about what the Koydenov Relief meant for me. I can say the same about what Abey Horowitch means for the United Koydenov Association.
He charms everyone with his constant friendly smile. When he speaks, there is always something worth listening to because not only does he speak beautifully, but logically. On the other hand, it is simply wondrous to see a man lead prayers during the High Holiday Services and create the spiritually elevating experience for the congregation that he does. Well, it's easy to understand the pleasure he gives us when he speaks. You listen to his opinions with respect. He has played a great part in making us all feel like family. The friendship and devotion that we give to one another has truly allowed the United Koydenov to carry out its work successfully. It is a great honor for me personally to have the opportunity to work with such people. I wish him and his dear wife and family long, happy, successful years, and to live to reap the joys of Jews all over the world.
Photo: (top of pg. 214)
First president of the United Koydenover Association
Chairman of the United Koydenover Association
Translated by Lillian Leavitt
The Laptshevitshers - Yoneh Laptshevitsher (Shlosberg) First photographer in town (1891*2) - a young man. The most beautiful daughter-in-law, Rashke. Her husband was a tall man, one of the Laptshevitshers. One of the first non-trades people to go to America. Sent Rashke a lot of money. Town talked about it. Quite a character. He missed her and before long sent shipcards for her and their child to get to America.
Then there was an event
Ahron Mikhl Levin, of Vilna Street - The father-in-law of Meyer Merlis of New Minsk Street- Both described in my stories - with the greatest respect and love. These three families owned land which had been parceled to their grandfathers in the time of Nikolas the First.
Inns: The owners were big businessmen. In one of these inns, the one at Leyb Meyerke's, a circus used to board, sometimes for a few weeks. Many times it was quite a famous circus - with riders on horses - real beauties dressed in leotards. Leyb Meyerke, quite an old man, who rebuilt his house when he was over 80 years old, used to visit the shows every evening when a circus stayed at his inn. He robustly enjoyed the clowns, the agile young beauties, the riders, and the dancers.
Dovid Krupitsky - end of Slutzky Street -interesting family - a grandchild here in America - translated Pushkin and Lemontov into English. Put a lot of his own money into publishing - worked as a single man in a New York post office, and in his best years, a great idealist - fell as a victim in combat. He also wrote Yiddish, and in Miller's weekly post he published a dissertation on Edgar Allen Poe. (He has to be remembered in the Koydinov book as a martyr of a special kind - a misunderstood idealist.)
Yisroyel the second caretaker of the great synagogue, for a short time only; before he took this position, he was the mail carrier in town. His son, Shloyme Khayim Plimak was also a writer, but more of a modernist; he was called the teacher by some. Taught reading in Russian and dressed very fashionably. He also wrote the only correspondence from Koydenov which he sent to the Yiddish Folks Newsletter in St. Petersburg. It was prominently published, as a warning of sorts. The correspondence was about a Koydenov young woman - a milk seller in Minsk, who just one week after her marriage to a little known young man in Minsk, was tricked her out of her hard-earned few hundred ruble by him. He subsequently disappeared At that time, this was a great sensation. Aside from feelings of pity which this event stirred up for readers Shloyme Khayim Plimak, may he rest in peace, referred to this story in his correspondence as a heart rending event. His style of writing about this tragedy was novel-appropriate. The unfortunate young woman, on her father's side, was a relative of the family Pesakh Fayve Yikutiyals, or Pesakh Epshtayn, i.e, also a relative of our colleague, Avraham Reysin.
Peysakh Epshtayn - a prominent family, also known as Peysakh at the Far End because his house was at the end of the New Minsk Street, through which coach drivers used to pass en route to Minsk .He also owned a section of land but since the little house behind the land had been standing there since the abyss of the town, no Jew was allowed to live there. My grandfather had once tried to do business in the market place, one Sunday when his neighbor, a businesswoman threatened him with this old law .
Avraham Osherovitsh - A great business man, had sons and daughters. One of them, Hinde Kantor, lived in New York for many years with her genteel husband, the pharmacist Kontrov, the son of a Koydenov writer, Kontovitsh.
The Heller, The Badaneses, the Bergers, The Gimpelsons, Fayve Gimpelson -Wealthy, aristocratic families but refined, lovely and righteous folk.
Photo: (pg. 235)
Teacher Khayim Yehudah Merlis with a class of his students
Photo: (pg. 236)
Teacher Brokha Danishevsky with her students
Sontzye Shuster of Koydenov
To our relatives Leyb Goldshtayn and Family, who live in Santa Barbara, California. The writer of this letter is Sontzye, the daughter of Khayem Shuste and her husband Shmuel from the town of Koydenov, White Russia.
I want to tell you about the troubles and misfortunes that we've endured since the horrific fascists took over.
In 1941, the Germans created a ghetto in Koydenov. On the 21st of October of that year a punishment detachment came into town and killed all the Jews. I and my husband Shmuel were the only two people that survived.
You, no doubt, remember the little hill Kalvintshino, where people used to stroll in the summer time. On that hill is the remnant of an old castle. The German murderers drove all the Jews to that hill; dug a deep, wide grave and drove row after row of old and young, men and women, shooting and throwing them into the grave, until that miserable grave was overflowing with the murdered.
On that day, the Germans happened to have driven my husband and me away to work at the train station. From afar we heard shootings going on in the town. In the evening, when we were about to return from work, some White-Russian women stopped us on the road with tears in their eyes, and told us what had taken place in Koydenov.Don't go there. No one in your family survived. There's nothing you can do to help anyway, so run, save your yourselves.Sontzye Shuster of Koydenov
How good it feels when a person who is all alone finds out, after many horrible experiences, that there is someone out there who cares about her. That makes one feel somewhat less alone and a little more courageous. Loneliness can be so severe. You can feel simply broken without relatives, without close friends. There's no one to whom to spill your heart. How can you maintain any state of well being in that condition? Knowing how the murderers stood over them when the graves were prepared, when the machine guns had shot the bullets which hit everyone at random, and those who were tossed into the graves with the dead were smothered to death among the corpses Knowing all that - how one be in a state of well being? You can't be. May the German murderers and their country, be dammed forever, for all that they did to our Jewish people!Yaacov Zinger (One of Brokha the Baker's grandchildren) writes .
My Itzye had been in Niesvizshj for three days. He'd gone to visit the cemetery there. When he got back, I hardly recognized him. He was so overcast and dark; as if he'd been through a long illness. Just try to imagine his seventy five year old mother had to go to her grave with 5 daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. They all were slaughtered. He was told how it happened on the 30th of October, 1941. So, the Rabbi of Niesvizshj heroically went in front of all of them, dressed in shrouds and led the whole community to that spot where the murderers and the graves they had prepared graves awaited them. He cried and said to everyone: Come along , Brothers, Come along People, This is our destiny. And he was the first into the grave. And that's how all those unfortunate people died.
He was also in Stoyptz. He thought that maybe someone had survived there. But sadly there were only two Jews left. Is it any wonder that he came back as bitter and pained as he did? We are as solitary as rocks. The only consolation I have is receiving your letter. You are very special to all of us from Koydenov here in Minsk because writing to us has eased our pain just a bit.
My dear ones, In October 1941 the German bandits murdered my parents and thousands of other Jews in Koydenov. They died some by fire, some by water, some by the sword, some by gunpowder, some in crematoria, some by dogs, some by wolves. Our home in Koydenov was burnt down. Ragged and penniless, we left the grounds of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.Lizeh Khurgin (Avraham Aaron the Bath Attendant's) grandson writes
Dearest Good Friends, We thank you very much for sending us packages. Everything you send is wonderful. We re-sew it all and it's great. Each time we get a package we show everyone and you can't imagine how happy it makes us feel because we know then that we have good friends and are not alone. Please send our gratitude to all the Jews from Koydenov.Yente (Ara Meyer the furrier's daughter) writes .
I was overcome with surprise. I cried with joy over the fact that there are good friends out there that have looked for their acquaintances and want to help at such a time. Yes, so few of us survived; we lost all our families. And that's why we are so overjoyed to know we have good friends across the oceans who want to help. Your letter was the best medicine for me. The package will be very useful.Berl Plimack (Nakhman the Coachman's son) writes .
Dear Noakh,Sonya Katz (Gitl Mote's daughter) writes ..
There would not be enough ink and paper to write you about all my troubles. We've survived empty and devoid of all our energies. I've been left completely alone and as an invalid on top of that. My only consolation now is to read a Yiddish word from faraway good friends.
I can't thank you enough and am crying tears of joy that there is a good friend far away who could respond with a package. There are no words to thank you.Khayene Astracan (Moshe Lifshitz'sister-in-law)
Dear Noakh, The warmth of your letter warmed my frozen heart. A warm word, blessed be Our Creator, is not something we are used to here. We feel like lost sheep. Hearing a few loving and friendly words in these times makes our broken hearts feel somewhat better.Mere Berman (Katzihar's daughter) writes .
Dear Friend Aventzik, Your great holiday package arrived. I got it today, marking the day when young blood flowed through the streets of the Minsk Ghetto. Once upon a time, children used to run on the old Minsk streets. Then the blood of 25, 000 eighteen to twenty year old boys and girls ran through those streets. On that day, the blood of my son, who would be a doctor now, also flowed. So now I've opened the package on the day that the Yohrtzayt candle is lit up for my three children and brother who didn't survive to see this Peysakh.Fanye Margolin (Yankel of Uzden's daughter) writes .
You can't imagine the joy I felt when your letter was brought to me. My heart is filled with tears and anguish as I think about how alone I've been left, having lost so many sisters. My hand is trembling and I can hardly believe I am writing to one of my sisters; yes, far from me, but leaving me less alone.Naftalti Tshertshes writes .
I got your letter today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your concern about us. It's hard to write about the memories of our devoted loved ones who perished in Koydenov in 1941. The whole town, other than Vilna Street, burnt down. The ghetto was on Vilna Street. The young men were murdered within 3 or 4 days of the German arrival. Yoshke Kitayevitsh (the son of the groats dealer on Old Minsk St.) jumped out of the automobile in which the young men were being taken to be shot. The murderers chased after him in their car and shot him down in the middle of the field. When the women, children, and old people were taken to be shot, the first ones into the grave with their talises and tefillin were Hirshl the kosher slaughterer, Mordechai and Itshe Fraynt, and some other older men. 30 or 40 people were put into the grave. They'd be shot in and another 30 or 40 would be shot in. After the grave was filled with innocent victims, it appeared that two women, Beyke Shlianski and Malke (Khaye Feygel's daughter) were only wounded but had been covered in the grave. With great struggle, they tore themselves out. But the murderers returned and shot them dead. During the shooting, Brayndl Eshke's husband went mad during the shooting and choked his two little boys and shot himself. It's hard to write all of this. All over Koydenov you could hear the screams of women, children, and elderly. If Go-d grants that any of you come to Koydenov, we'll tell you everything. I'm responding to your request and sending you the addresses of the Koydenov residents you asked about.Mere Berman writes ..
I was in the desolate ghetto and my entire family was killed. I managed to escape to the Partisans. I am, as the expression goes solitary as a stone. A stone, however, has little stones around it and I don't even have that. Therefore, I ask you to do a good deed and write me so that I can at least hear a few Yiddish words from a good friend.Mere Rozenshtayn (Shloyme Ozersky's sister) writes .
I and my husband are alive, but woefully so, that is, it's called being alive. We've survived to old age for the purpose of being two solitary stones. There's not even anyone to talk to. You'd have to write volumes to describe our tragedies: what was done to us; how parents had to witness the deaths of their children and be unable to do anything at all.Kalman and Shmuel (Leyzer Fraynt's children) write .
We got a package from you today. The package isn't as important to us as is the friendship that lets us know we are not all alone. We read your letter through tears of joy, feeling that someone was out there for us. With this act you give us the strength to endure the pain inflicted on us by the fascist murderers.Simkhe Bederman writes .
Dear Friends, I am very happy that in far away America, Jews have not forsaken the small lot of us who survived the horrible fire that raged across Europe for five years and killed most of our people. Maybe it is possible that our nation will eternally live, but in a large part of the world we Jews have been wiped out; in hundreds of towns we exist no longer. Our fellow Jews, Jews of Koydenov in Moscow and Minsk have placed a beautiful gravestone in the place where the horrible, bloody, murderous animals in the guise of humans, where the German bloody dogs shot the best and most beloved among us and covered their tracks in the high hills. But this is not the only spot. Many Jews were also murdered in the Dualyner Forest. The major part of our town was burnt down. Somehow our home was left desolate but intact. Then the murderers came back and set it on fire. For that, I thank them. It's better that it became a heap of ashes.Mikhliye (Beryl the blacksmith's daughter) writes
We send many thanks and best wishes to you our friends who send us aid and support. We thank you for the presents and hope you will be well and happy. I, Mikhliye, Beryl the blacksmith's daughter, and my husband Hirshl are writing this letter. I was in the horrible battle in which the fascist murderers assaulted us. I came out of that fight wounded but alive which is not the worst of situations. What is really terrible is that in our family and in countless others, no one else survived. This was perpetrated by the fascist murderers, the German dogs. Send us clothing; that's more useful than food packages.Beryl Glezer writes ..
Most special friend, Avreml Aventzik, I received two packages of food and things in your name. We thank you profusely, as well as all the others who participate in this holy work. You help heal the wounds that the fascists inflicted on us all. The letters that we get are the best remedies.Shoske Grinshpan writes ..
Dearest Friend Avreml, I had lost all hope of receiving any letters. Oh, how good it is to know that there are friends in the world, no matter how far away, who think about me. I think about those good years in Koydenov. That time will never return. There's nothing but a great grave left of Koydenov. Your letters fill me with courage and life.Dovid Aventhik writes ..
Dearest Cousin Avreml, You can't imagine the great joy it is to get a letter from a relative after feeling so all alone in the world. It's impossible to write about what the fascist murderers and sadists did to our people. It must be impossible for you Americans who were barely touched by the war to understand what we experienced and how alone we feel. That's why the warm words of a relative fill our hearts with new beams of life and make us feel a little better. It makes us realize that we still have family and the German murderers did not succeed in fulfilling Hitler's plan of killing all Jews. Who said that you'd be able to find a Jew only in China? The Jewish people will endure! I served as a captain in the army and avenged the rivers of blood that our people shed. I got as far as Koenigsburg with the Red Army and took revenge on the sadists.Shimon Eliye Nanelis (The Butchar) writes .
Dear Noakh, We read your letter with the greatest joy and felt blessed to have survived to hear from our family; we have practically no one left here. Hitler, may his name be forever erased, has killed everyone. It's good to have some family, albeit far away. I can remember when Grandpa was alive and gathered the family together to celebrate Purim. We were so happy. Now there's no one here. Whenever we get a package, the people here get together and practically weep with joy, feeling we are not alone. Reading a few Yiddish words in your letter is our greatest consolation.Leyzer Salaveytzik writes .
We've gone from not knowing each other at all to being close friends. I tell you your letter truly gives me strength and health. A thousand thanks for the packages. I was overjoyed to know that I am not alone.Zena Aventchik (Khayem Mote's daughter) writes .
Dear Friends, What can I say? First of all, allow me to thank you for the package. May you be well and strong as a result of your good heartedness. I cried out of joy. I couldn't believe that there could be people thousands of miles away that cared about me. May you have all the good things you wish for every time I clothe myself and use the items you sent! Everything fits well; nothing has to be altered. The slippers are the only things that are a little big.Itche, Simke Yelevsky's husband, writes
We were so pleased to hear your consoling words which are a comfort for our loneliness. Just as a wanderer in the desert yearns for some liquid, so we long for a comforting word from a good friend.Sontzye (Khayem the cobbler's daughter) writes
Dear Friends, I received your package today for which I greatly thank you. I believe you must remember me. I remember you very well. I am Sontzye, Khayem the cobbler's daughter, from Farebotzk Street. I am the only woman left alive out of the Koydenov ghetto. My entire family was shot by the murderers. My husband and I were with the partisans. The few people who are here are also very grateful that you haven't forgotten your fellow Koydenover.Aaron Shapiro writes .
To my best friend Noakh Rozevitzky It is I your old friend and chum Aaron Shapiro of Halinke writing you! I think you certainly must remember me because you went swimming there more than once. I am now a victim of the Great War in which I personally took part and lost a leg. It's hard to forget what we suffered because of the dammed Germans. My dear friends, there are no words to console me. My sole consolation is that we defeated the German fascists. I am often in Koydenov and see all the packages they've received. In their name, I thank all those that have undertaken to support and aid the people of Koydenov. I personally got a package today from my dear friend Avraham Eventshik. I will remember this all my life.Khaye Azersky (Hirshl Shmuel-Nokhem's daughter) writes .
Received your letter and the package for which I am very grateful. I am also grateful for the interest you express in us few surviving Jews who had the strength to escape the Hitlerites. We are not hungry now. We do, however, lack clothes.Beylke Zaytshik (Eliyohu Krilever's daughter) writes
I ask that you think about us because you can only imagine the condition we are in after the anguish which Hitler, may his name be wiped out forever, inflicted on us. I have no words to express my gratitude for the package you sent.
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