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[Hebrew page 7] Forward by Abraham Emikem

[English p. 9, Hebrew page 17, Yiddish page 341] [No Title]

Wind, outside. A winter wind.

I am immersed in meditations. Outside, winter.

Grandfather, far away at home, writes a book. A book that is not strange to me.

I am no longer a little girl.

From away from home, I fall asleep in a storyless night.

Once upon a time, in faraway winters, when a blanket was hung over the window to keep out the wind, in a giant bed of Grandfather [sic] and Grandmother, between warm pillows and featherbeds, I lived the stories.

Today, they write about the faraway township. Now there is a book. Today, there are memories.

Once, people lived them.

I lived them, through the winter nights. A little girl, struggling against sleep, I swallowed stories.

Grandfather did not tell.

Grandfather lived anew those moments he told about.

I would roam through the woods with him, woods dark and musty, between trees and dense undergrowth, fighting the wolves with sticks. At night, we used to light bonfires against the cold, chase away wild animals, and fight the Gentile children who dared to invade our domain and disturb us.

Winter was different. Not like here. With lots of snow, white and hard, endless expanses of whiteness. We rode on sleights, far into the frozen fields. We glided past the peasant huts half-buried in the snow.

At times, we saw only the black chimneys against the background of blinding white, and the straw stuffed into the cracks in the windows.

We glided down the mountain slopes, we invaded the snow, losing every sense of time as we were carried down. When we had been good, we were taken to Krinitzi to visit Aunt Hannah.

We harnessed "Bolan" to the cart, and we were off. I loved "Bolan" most of all. Grandfather said that he was like a camel, yellow and huge. Every step of his swallowed half a forest.

And one night, a dark night when we slept in the granary, we were nearly killed when the big and heavy iron door collapsed.

Grandmother took us to the Heder, to learn with the Rabbi. We were very small still.

And when Rabbi Naftu raised his stock and chased us around the room, trying to hit us, because we had not recited nicely, Grandmother wagged her finger at him threateningly and warned him not to touch us.

During the intervals, we played ball.

Wintertime, we used to store potatoes underneath the wooden floorboards of the house, so that we should have sufficient food at last.

We felt the spring when the snow started melting

[English Page 10]

and its whiteness mingled with mud. We did not like it anymore.

We waited for spring.

Spring, for us, was the caves in the woods, war with the "Shkutzim," the stream, cherries, and the feelings of freedom.

We no longer closed ourselves in like bears in their den, and we no longer felt the weight of the snow on the roof. We were on our own, unfettered, once more belonging to the things we loved. We were not locked up.

We loved the stream.

A whirlpool of green and blue. It had the power of water, flowing and ruling and reaching distant, unknown places. We stayed behind, only looking.

For hours, we could look at the water. In winter, it was like a white path. In springtime—ice floes, large and dangerous, drifted on it. And after the ice had vanished, we would again see the water we loved.

It was a stream of swans, a steam reflecting the clouds and the trees, a stream on which one could paddle endlessly, removed from the grey earth and carried by the water.

There are no more stories. All this belongs to another world.

No longer have the nights stories. Now, Grandfather writes a book.

Once, there was a little town, there was childhood. There was a stream and everything was carried away.

Ofira Ben-Barak

(Granddaughter of Haya and Yehuda Borovski)


[English page11-47, Hebrew page 19-57, Yiddish page 343-386]

THE HISTORY OF TWO CITIES

Jehuda Borowski

THE POLITICAL STATUS OF PIESK

The township of Piesk belongs to Bielorussia, White Russia, a republic in the west of the Soviet Union, covering an area of 207,600-sq. km. and with a population of 10 million (1947.) Byelorussia extends between parallels 5115’--5608’ North, and meridians 2310’--3243 East. In the East and Northeast, Byelorussia borders on Russia, in the North, on Latvia, in the northwest, on Lithanio, in the West, on Poland, in the South, on Ukraine. Only a small part of Bielorussia’s borders are natural – the River Bug in the southwest, the Dnieper in the southeast.

The political borders are almost identical with the ethnographical ones, as in the years 1919—1939 the territory was expanded to coincide with the Bielorussian language zone. They extended beyond the historical borders of Bielarussia (of the 14th-18thcenturies) and include Black Russia (the provinces of Novohorodok, Slonim, Volkowysk, etc.) and other territories.

GRODNO DISTRICT

Some 80 km from the township of Piesk. District and town in the northwestern part of the Soviet Republic of Byelorussia. Borders on Lithuanio in the North, and on Poland in the West. Area, some 21,000 sq. km. Situated in the Alo Bialo Plain. Its highest peak is 182 m. above the Baltic Sea level. The district is crossed by the Bug-Naro, Neman and Bober rivers. There are a number of lakes.

VOLKOVYSK

District capital of the township of Piesk.

Lies on the Ros river (left-bank tributary of the Neman), some 90 km. east of Bialystok, on the railway line to Minsk. Number of inhabitants, approx. 16,000 (1958). The area lives mainly from agriculture, cattle breeding and forestry. Local products are processed. Factories of building material and metal works.

Volkovysk already existed in the 11thcentury. At that time, it served as a bastion defending the western borders of the Principality of Kiev.

In the second half of the 12thcentury, it was alternately conquered by the Princes of Wolhyn and of Lithuania.

By the middle of the 13thcentury, it had already belonged to Lithuanio and Sweden, and was held by Poland which united with Lithuanio in 1569. This continued until 1795, when it was annexed by Russia. In 1920 it returned to Poland, and in 1939 was again annexed by Russia.

Jews are mentioned for the first time in the Volkovysk region in a document of the year 1577.

[English page 12]

PIESK, GEOGRAPHY AND ECONOMY

The little town of Piesk is situated in a plain, surrounded by lakes and forest, a dense network of rivers, streams, grassland, ornamental trees and orchards of all varieties.

The river Zelbianka crosses it center. Its eastern and northern parts are in the plain, while its southern part lies on high ground. This includes Napoleon Hill.

The story goes that Napoleon ordered the local population to raise an embankment to protect his withdrawal from Russia, and thus the hill came to its name.

Piesk is naturally divided into three sectors, each of which lies on a waterway.

SCHULHOIF SECTOR

The southeastern part lies along the canal, from the flourmills and the bathhouse, along the water, up to the sluice gate of the "Tameh" canal. To the north-east is the "atz" and the Jewish cemetery. The northeastern part, next to the Schul, starts at the house of Malka Shevah (di Schneiderke), continues from the well along the length of the street and approaches Zelbianka River, which meanders and flows in the direction of the Perkop Bridge and the township of Mosti.

PERKOP SECTOR

This sector starts at the flourmills. Its southern part – the market place, the Orthodox Church and the entire length of the street which was inhabited by Christians, up to the Perkop bridge leading to Mosti – is not far from the Zelbianka river.

ZARETZ SECTOR

In southeastern part continues from the well eastward up to Tori village and lies on the canal.

The south-western part stretches from the well westward to the Christian cemetery and lies on the canal. Through this sector goes the road leading to Volkovysk.

PIESK – A CROSS-ROADS

To the east of Piesk lie the towns: Zelbe, Dertzin, Slonim, Baranowitz, Minsk.

To the West: the towns Velp, Rash, Luna, Skil, Grodno.

To the north: Mosti, Razenki, Stutzin, Lida, Vilna.

To the south: Volkovysk, Svislutz, Bialystok, Warsaw.

GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION OF PIESK

The township lies in the middle of forests, grassland, orchards and ornamental trees. It is surrounded by waterways on all sides, and lies on the cross-roads:

Vilna – Warsaw

Grodno – Minsk

Due to this geographical position, the area was fortified in every war and became the theatre of heavy fighting, resulting in the burning of the little towns, including Piesk.

At the beginning of the 20thcentury, even before roads connected Piesk with the provincial towns and the railway station was situated 12 km. from the town, Piesk knew economic growth thanks to its location on the intersection of several main roads. There was much movement. People passed through or stopped over. Some stayed on. Among the latter, there were mainly merchants attending the fair and the markets.

Piesk lies astride the stream Zelbianka, which is about 100 km. long. Its headwaters are in the springs near Rozonoy, and it joins the Neman in Zelbian. Piesk is 7 km. distant from the Neman.

It can be assumed that the origins of Piesk were in the Schulhoif sector, not far from Zelbianka

[English page 13]

whose waters were used. This was probably around the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14thcentury. In the "Yizkor" book of Volkovysk (volume 1, page 9), one of the streets mentioned in 1507 is called Piesk Street.

THE CANAL

At the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th, the canal was built to the east of the town, in a westward direction. It is 4.5 km. long, 60-70 m. wide and 3-5 m. deep. This canal divided the town in two. The northern sector is called Perkop, meaning "across the excavation." The southern sector is called Zaretz, meaning "across the stream."

It is said that the canal was built by Count Potozki himself, or by one of his relatives, as all the land belonged to this family.

The late Israel Shebach, the "Magid" of Piesk, participated to a large extent in financing the project. After the flourmills were built on the canal bridge, they were leased to him and remained in the family until around 1920.

The canal served a twofold purpose:

The four mills were important to Piesk whose population had grown by the end of the 19thcentury to about 2500 souls. They also served the entire region, which counted scores of villages with a population of several thousands.

THE HISTORY OF PIESK

It is believed that Piesk already existed in the 12th—13thcentury and served as a bastion protecting the borders of the Principality of Kiev. After the disintegration of the Principality, in the second half of the 12thcentury, Piesk, together with the district capital Volkovysk, were alternately conquered by the Princes of Volhyn and Lithuania.

In the middle of the 13thcentury it belonged to Lithuania, Sweden, and was held by Poland that united with Lithuania in 1569. Piesk remained under Polish occupation until 1795 – i.e. until the Third Partition of Poland, when Russia annexed it. In 1920, Piesk was returned to Poland, but in 1939 Russia again annexed it.

Piesk developed, apparently, in the 13th– 14thcenturies, at the time when Grodno is first mentioned as the district capital.

At the time of the Lithuanian and Polish Princes, the entire district of Grodno was being populated. Volkovysk, the district capital, existed already in the 11th century. It can therefore e assumed that settlements were established to the north and the west of Volkovysk up to the Nemen and beyond, as the river was very important to the rulers. The distance between Volkovysk and the Neman, at Mosti, is 30 km. Piesk lies on the crossroads between Volkovysk and Most. It is therefore likely that Piesk was established with the first settlements in the region.

HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF PIESK AND OF THE VOLKOVYSK DISTRICT

Jews are first mentioned in the Volkovysk district in a document of the year 1177. As Piesk is the first settlement to the northwest of Volkovysk, distant only 22 km. and there was no

[English page 14]

other Jewish settlement to the northwest between Volkovysk and Piesk, it may be assumed that the Jews mentioned in the 1177 document included those of Piesk.

Moreover, in the Four Country Committee Register, the entry of June 23, 1533, says that King Zygmund I requests all the authorities in the Principality of Lithuania to assist the commercial agent of the Queen, a Jew by the name of Ben-Matityahu, who was involved in some dispute. From this we may learn that Jews were living in the entire area, including Piesk, and that the King was favorably included towards them.

According to the sources of Regeste I Zapinski, it was decreed, in the year 177, to levy, due to the danger of war: 12 groschen from every Jew.

In the Four-Country Committee Register, mention is made of the tax levied from every Jew, which was transferred to the Lithuanian "Knaz," in the years 1680-1693. According to this same source, there were 4781 Jews in the Volkovysk district in the year 1766.

In the year 1847, the number of Jews in the Volkovysk district was 5946, distributed over the following localities:

Volkovysk1,429
Svisloch997
Zelbian856
Piesk662
Ya Labko372
Amstivba303
Prazova397
Isobelin297
Rash287
Liskova232
La Finizte88
Navi da Bar [Nowy Dwor]53

This table shows that, after Volkovysk, the district capital, Piesk had the third largest Jewish community.

In the year 1897, the figures of the general population and of the Jewish population were as follows:

 GENERAL POPULATIONJEWISH POPULATION
Svisloch30992086
Zelwa28031844
Piesk23961615
Prozova2028931
Yalavka1311743
Isobelin963454
Amstibova1228389
Navi da Bar [Nowy Dwor]1481183
Zelbian60081
Liskova876658

[NOTE: THIS PORTION IS ONLY IN HEBREW SECTION, NOT YIDDISH OR ENGLISH FROM PAGE 23 TO 28]

SURNAMENAMEOCCUPATIONTOTAL FAMILY NUMBER
Schulhoif Sector: 69 families, 404 people
none listedItzakHat maker5
none listedItzak the Gelerrabbi2
SoferBishkakiosk owner4
LevYonatailor6
LevShabtaibutcher6
none listedMeir Yudlwood cutter & tailor8
LevAbraham Moshewood cutter6
GrodovskyZeligmerchant11
BinkovskyAbrahamberkaut?9
LevBeilkanone listed4
none listedLeikashoemaker8
Kviatnone listedteacher1
Rozinsky(Dov) Berlwood cutter8
LevDovcarpenter6
LevMeircarpenter8
none listedMoshe-Leibbuilder8
LevDovcoachman-cart owner6
ShebachBerlbuilder7
EnkorKaminer Hirsheltailor8
IkovovitzMirium-Merkanone listed6
ShebkovitzIsraelteacher5
DanielowitzHilkacoachman-cart owner5
LevDinkanone listed6
AudisAltanone listed8
PeskovskyFeivabookbinder & sofer5
YelinZishkabaker9
none listedMerkanone listed6
LevAbrahamcarpenter8
FreiShkar Mosheflourmill official5
none listedShlomoshoemaker5
none listedErmiahupainter5
EmialMordechaiteacher5
LevinNaftaliteacher3
KaplanHenokshop owner7
ShebachMoshe-Reubenbuilder6
none listedKhesa Gitulshoemaker7
none listedZidkanone listed4
none listedTzipashoemaker8
RutyBashawoodcutter2
none listedIsrael-Chaimhatmaker8
none listedMeirtailor3
LevAharoncoachman-cart owner7
none listedAharon-Shabtaishoemaker5
none listedBila Merkanone listed5
SoferR' Mendelmaggid (preacher)6
none listedDovshoemaker6
Levinnone listedwood cutter5
none listedItzak-Leibrabbi3
DanielowitzTenachumwaterman3
FalkowitzBashabaker5
BoyarskyYoelmerchant6
FoksmanYosef Davidmerchant6
none listedNoachshopkeeper5
ShebachAltabaker7
VandMenzitrip merchant [sic]6
BroinMendelcarpenter4
VandAbrahammerchant6
none listedBorisshopkeeper8
ShebachYehudl (Yehuda)goldsmith6
none listedBeilka (Meirim's)baker6
VeinshteinZeligtailor4
EnkerShimkamerchant5
FinkelshteinMordechaibutcher7
KaplanOsnadressmaker6
AstrinskyMosheshoemaker8
AstrinskyGershontailor4
AstrinskyShmuelnone listed4
KaplanAbraham Meishkabutcher6
Perkof Sector: 75 families, 388 people
VeinshteinRutkabaker4
Kirshnernone listedhandcraft owner/artisan4
KozoftzikMariaskashop owner7
LevNaftaliteacher3
none listedBobtzabaker4
KviatRabbi Tzvi Hirshrabbi10
none listedShlomkateacher4
BeshitzkyMeshpimerchant8
ShebachMendelmerchant6
ShebachAbrahammerchant & shop owner6
LevBaskyshop owner4
LevYonawoodcutter5
BorovskyShmueltailor6
KaplanIsraelshop owner8
KaplanKheitzyshop owner3
none listedLeizer Aharonglazier4
none listedChaya Etkyshop owner4
EntzikChaimstitcher4
ShebachYakobmerchant5
MorshteinYosef and Bashkashop owner4
Dekhovskyfamilyshop owner6
none listedRabbi Daniel Shimon Binyaminrabbi6
Feltzkynone listedmedical assistant (feldsher?)4
ShapiroYakobstonecutter2
ShapiroItzak haKohannone listed6
VarhaftigItzakinnkeeper4
VandLeizernone listed6
VandReubennone listed4
none listedErekhmial Shnuorglazier4
Stolovitzkynone listedbutcher4
VeinshteinNotyshoemaker5
VeinshteinYehudashoemaker7
EnkorKhenkadyeworks5
EnkorKheikanone listed2
EnkorGimplmerchant4
EnkorDanielmerchant3
EnkorMoshemerchant4
none listedBashky (Tzire's)kiosk owner4
VeinshteinMutaglazier6
VeinshteinBorukglazier6
Rozinsky(Velvel) Zevbutcher8
none listedRachel-Toibynone listed4
BorerTzudeknone listed4
OrshovskyMosheshop owner8
OrlukChana-Feiglbakery7
YugelMordechai-Getzelshop owner and manufacturer7
none listedSara-Rivkamakhznim5
LisovskyKheiklmerchant7
DuksinDavid-Itzkabutcher4
none listedFeigl, Cantor Morshtein's daughternone listed4
KoitYentamerchant4
KoitShimonmerchant4
Koitnone listedmerchant4
none listedYakob the quilterstitcher4
BorerLeishkymerchant2
ShlpitzkyLeibytinsmith5
MendelowitzYehoshycraftsman5
TzifinLeibkabutcher6
KaplanSlumhotel owner3
LevYehoshyflock herdsman10
Tentzinskynone listedblacksmith8
ShebachReubenmerchant5
EnkorPenyacoachman-cart owner5
KrawitzZuskashopkeeper4
ZlotnitzkyMeirgrain merchant5
TzifinAbraham-Moshemerchant6
DanielowitzChaimtailor4
ShlpitzkyYehudatinsmith6
ShlpitzkyMendelinnkeeper4
KarpAbraham-Moshkashoemaker5
KarpItzkyshoemaker6
LevinChaim-Berlironmonger3
none listedChaya-Yetanone listed2
Itzkovskyfamilymerchant7
MlkoitzkyHenok Velvelcoachman-cart owner8
Zaretz Sector: 68 families, 370 people
LonskyDavidbookbinder6
BorovskyItzakgrain merchant & crop owner3
BorovskyMeirgrain merchant & crop owner8
VelitzkyYoelblacksmith7
FinkelshteinItzakcoachman-cart owner8
VeinshteinRafael-Aharonmerchant6
none listedFeltashop owner4
VandRabbi Leibrabbi2
LevZeliggrain merchant & crop owner6
Lev"nis yakhot" of Rabbi Zeligmerchant2
none listedGita Gneshymerchant1
LevAharoncrop owner & grain merchant5
none listedFreda Kheilashoemaker3
none listedEkhutialcarpenter5
KaplanSara-Hindashop owner8
DanielowitzEli-Khonabutcher5
none listedPletialnone listed12
Volntziky3 brothers and __ Vandshoemaker10
ShebachEliezergrocer5
ShebachYakob-Aharonteacher4
LevYoelcarpenter4
none listedZushkabakery-owner4
none listedLeikashop owner5
ShebakhdeborskyMoshebakery-owner6
ProsMikal-YakobKhit6
MorshteinZeligblacksmith7
LevZeligcoachman-cart owner4
LevAryeh (brother of Zelig)coachman-cart owner4
RobinDavid Leibmerchant6
GradSarah-Shifra and Borukwood merchant5
PikerMoshe-Yehudawood merchant5
none listedNislcarpenter4
LevLeibyshoemaker8
VandAsherbutcher6
BurkAharonKhit5
GlembotzkyChaimwood merchant4
GoldbergBinyamin-Davidgrocer5
none listedMenukhakhanone listed5
KhazobskyLeizerteacher7
ShmulovitzShaknainnkeeper6
BorovskyRochel Yosefwood council?4
none listedShmuel and Merlteacher4
TzinRachelshop owner7
ShmulovitzShabtai and Blumaowner of orchard6
ShpitzTuviakhit6
ShpitzPeretzwriter6
BorovskyBinyamin-Shmuelwood council?5
RokhkinAharontenant of post office5
LisovskyShmuelmerchant6
EnkorNoachshoemaker4
EnkorAharonland laborer8
TzinVelvelland laborer9
Tzinsheinanone listed2
BorovskyYoelgrain merchant & crop owner3
BorovskyMendelgrain merchant & crop owner4
VandYakob-Leizershamas of synagogue4
BorovskyNachum and Sarawood cutter6
SarafinMeir and Eskaowner of garden5
SarafinFredaowner of garden5
ProshbitzkyItzakshoemaker10
LevLeishkymaggid and dayan6
BorovskyLeibygrain merchant & crop owner6
none listedShlomka (Keily's)tailor6
BorovskyBorukmerchant6
LeibYehudamerchant and scholar6
VeinshteinKoplwood merchant4
KarpLeibkyshoemaker4
DumshovitzkyVolk-Zevfarm laborer and "ordained" assessor/appraiser [sic-certified?]6

[End text appearing only in Hebrew portion]

In the year 1847, the number of Jews in Piesk was 622, while, by the year 1897, it had grown to 1615. In other words, their number increased by some 60% within 50 years. This appears to prove that the end of the 19th century was a period of prosperity for Piesk.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the oppression of the Jews of Piesk intensified, as a result of the abortive uprising of 1905. Many Jews of Mosti and Piesk, who had participated in the uprising were arrested and deported to Siberia. Many youngsters fled to Western Europe and to the United States.

In 1906, a pogrom took place in Bialystok. It is most likely that it was initiated by the authorities. Much Jewish blood was spilled, and many searched for ways to escape from the reign of terror in Russia. Some of the Jews emigrated to Western Europe, others to South Africa and to the United States, some to South America.

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