A Few Memories
Yoel Schwam (Charap), Tel Aviv
Translated by Ornit Barkai
Four decades have passed since the day I left Jezierna. Quite some time!
In the meantime, the shtetl was destroyed by the Nazi enemy along with many other similar towns, and I was left only with memories of the good old days.
I remember well our life in this small town, especially the group of youths I was a part of. After World War I, new winds swept through the youth in our town, but we did not let them affect our Limudei Kodesh [Judaic studies]. These lessons took place at Rabbi Shloime'le's Bet Midrash [House of Study].
There we learned. Thanks to a bunch of young men who got together each day and studied Gemara [rabbinic commentaries]. Together with me studied Moshe Bik, Naftali Zeidman, Shimon Scheinhous and Abraham Danzer. Leading us was Itche Paket, David's son, who had just returned from his yeshiva [school for religious studies], where he had received his Rabbinic ordination. He taught us not in order to receive a reward. His teaching contributed greatly to the enrichment of our knowlege.
I also remember very well our studies with the shochet [ritual butcher] Hersch Leib Stokheimer, of blessed memory. A few youths, we used to go to his home in the evenings to learn; we were given a very friendly reception in his home. His wife Ruchama, a modest woman, was happy that her husband was performing the mitzvah [good deed] of teaching Torah to young Jewish boys.
All the while, we did not neglect other activities; we were all members of the Zionist movement. The only youth organization was the Hit'achadut, the pioneer movement. My group leader was Motl (Mordechai) Bik; he would direct the conversations toward pioneering education. It was also very interesting when members from the secretariat would come to talk to us. Sometimes Berl Stock (now known as Professor Dov Sadan) would come to talk about national liberation.
We actually, then and there, started doing physical labor tasks in preparation for implementing our pioneering aspirations.
by Yisrael Schapira, Ashkelon
Translated by Dorothy Wolfthal
Transcribed by Zeneth Eidel
Within a circle of a few kilometers surrounding Jezierna lay the little villages and hamlets whose inhabitants were peasants Ukranian/Ruthenian and Poles. And in this sea of goyim [gentiles] there were also a small number of Jews who had been there for generations, who lived their Jewish lives, though not unaware of worldly matters.
To the west of Jezierna were the villages of PolowceWielka and PolowceBiala, Glinna and Krasne. These villages were about a kilometer apart, and within these settlements lived about forty Jewish families. The center was PolowceWielka where there was always a minyan [quorum for prayers] in Reb Schmelka Weissman's house, may his memory be blessed. It was he who led the prayers and read the Torah on the Sabbath and on holidays. This was the gathering place for people of the neighboring area. Also, at Jaeger's in little Polowce, minyans would come together.
The Jewish National Movement was not overlooked in the villages. The young people were active and would gather from time to time. And there would be discussions concerning problems in the Zionist Movement. The Keren Kayemet l'Yisrael committee was active under the leadership of Jakob Katz from the village of Krasne. The fundcollection job was widespread; in every household one could find a J.N.F. pushke [collection box].
The meetings would take place in members' homes, and when the weather permitted in summer also in nearby woods, in nature's bosom. This would usually happen on the Sabbath and on holidays. The surrounding meadows were adorned with colorful grasses and blossoms. At holiday times many of the young people would come home from the cities where they were studying or working, bringing fresh life into the community.
The neighboring gentiles treated us with respect; they knew that it was a holiday time for the Jews. They were busy with their work in the fields and they would look upon us and greet us like good neighbors.
by David Kurzrok, Toronto, Canada
Translated by Dorothy Wolfthal
Transcribed by Zeneth Eidel
By the month of June, 1941, the Soviets mobilized the Jews and Ukrainians of Jezierna into the army; I too was among them. And when the GermanSoviet war broke out, June, 22, 1941, I was already a Soviet soldier. We were formed into units in Tarnopol; I was assigned to a tank unit and sent to the front.
Hitler's army attacked fiercely, from air and from land, and there was great confusion. Many Ukranians ran back home to Jezierna. I stayed, but the Russians took the few who remained, loaded us into small railroad cars and sent us to Siberia. There we were formed into labor squads.
The work was very hard. After a while I got a more responsible assignment and later they transferred me into the army, to the front. I was assigned to the Third Ukrainian Front.
My first battle was at Orsha, White Russia, and then further, in the direction of Lithuania. Severe battles took place there. I was a ‘rozvyetchik’ [combat intelligence]. Thirtyfive of us went ahead to discover the strength of the enemy. In German territory we were discovered and shot at thirtytwo died and three of us escaped. We managed to make our way back to our unit. I was wounded and spent time in the hospital. Then I received a commendation.
In 1945 I demobilized myself and traveled to Jezierna. I longed to see my family. But I found no one there; they had all been done away with by the Nazi murderers.
My father Szymeon and my mother Reisel were pious, industrious people who helped the poor and the sick. The older brother, AvrahamChaim, the sisters, Leah and Chana, the youngest brother, Henik I did not find them. All were murdered. I cannot forget them.
With a broken heart I left Jezierna and went out into the world.
View photographs at http://yizkor.nypl.org/index.php?id=1289
Image 164 David Kurzrok
Image 165 Russian notification of award for D. Kurzrok a partial translation:
To: Kurzrok, Shimon, son of Abraham
From: Colonel Dikurov
Date: 07 December …?
Message: Kurzrok David, son of Shimon is awarded a Medal of Valor, third degree,
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