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[Page 300]

Ratners Will Always Be Ratners

by Zeev Grabov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Our sages have said, “In the future, the Land of Israel will spread throughout all the lands”. From here it would seem that even such a small town as Ratno can spread out and expand... Whoever has any doubt about this will be convinced from the following episodes -- all of which are true.

Once Moshe Droog, a Ratno native, was driving in his large car to an important meeting in an institution of which he was a director. When he approached Rishon Letzion, a policeman of the traffic division stopped him and said curtly and seriously, “Sir, you are driving at more than 100 kilometers per hour, give me your drivers license and all of your documentation. I am writing you a ticket.” Moshe Droog stuck his head out the window and began to explain something to the traffic policeman. However, when the traffic policeman looked at the driver, a smile came over his face and he said, “Is it possible? Moshe Droog, the son of Reb Avraham Droog of Ratno, would hold his life so cheaply? Would you have driven in Ratno with such a speed on a wagon hitched to a scrawny horse?”

Moshe Droog was astonished, and the policeman saw the need to add an explanation, “Do you not recognize me? It is not surprising, for when you made aliya, I was a child of about eight years old. A Ratno native finds it difficult to write a traffic ticket for a native of his own town, so here is your warning: Drive slowly and carefully!”


Here is a story about Shmulik Goldman who served as the secretary of the workers' council of Rishon Letzion. Shmulik was sitting in his office, pensive and sad. The work shortage in the moshava (at that time, Rishon Letzion was a moshava) was worsening, and today there was to be a workers' demonstration in front of the offices of the workers' council. The workers did not come to work and advised him as well not to be absent during the demonstration, but he was not prepared to accept such advice. He was prepared to negotiate with the workers. He had what to say to them, for he was not sparing any efforts in trying to minimize the work shortage.

As he was still immersed in his thoughts, he already heard the shouts of “bread and work” from the demonstrators who approached the building of the workers' council. Shmulik looked outside the window and saw the throngs of demonstrators, headed by a strong young man who was shouting directions and orders. Shmulik left his office and stood at the outside door, preparing to greet the demonstrators and tell them what he had to tell them. However, the leader of the demonstration started to talk first, and he specifically spoke in Yiddish. He asked the demonstrators to stop their shouts of “broit un arbeit” (bread and work), and gave a fiery speech

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about the tribulations of the new olim and the urgent necessity for action from the institutions to create sources of work. He spoke a sweet Volhynian Yiddish which was extremely recognizable to the secretary of the Rishon Letzion Workers' Council. Shmulik attempted to say his piece and advise that the demonstrators choose their delegation to discuss the measures that could be taken, however their spirits were afire, and the demonstrators did not want to hear his words. At that moment, an idea flashed through Shmulik's mind. He turned to the leader of the demonstrators, and said to him, “Listen to me comrade, your Yiddish reminds me very much of my hometown.”

“What town?” asked the leader of the demonstration.

“A small town in Volhynia, called Ratno,” answered Shmulik.

“You are from Ratno? Unbelievable.”

Shmulik responded calmly, “Yes I am from Ratno, the son of Shamai Goldman. Does that name mean anything to you.”

At the sound of those words, the head of the demonstrators approached Shmulik, hugged him, and then turned to the demonstrators, calling out, “Comrades, stop shouting! We have someone here with whom we can talk! Let us choose a delegation and sit together with the secretary of the council to discuss how we can solve the work shortage.”

While Shmulik was still standing in surprise over the sudden turn of events, the youth added, “I am from the village of Datyn, not far from Ratno. When I was still a child, I would often come to Ratno to visit the home of my uncle Woli Levant. During the war, I was a partisan and I fought against the Nazis. I want you to know that from now, you have reliable support from this community, and one can depend on people from Ratno!”


That morning, it was very crowded in the Kupat Cholim infirmary on Rothschild Street In Petach Tikva. An official was standing at the main entrance and greeting anyone who arrived with a smile and a good morning wish, in accordance with the new protocols instituted by the order keeper, a former Ratno native. Inside, next to the counter, Moshe Gutman, also a Ratno native, is sitting, supervising the distribution of notes to the doctors. Shouts from inside reached the ears of the order keeper or the supervisor. He went inside and saw that a muddied woman was standing next to Moshe Gutman's desk, and shouting, “I came especially from Moshav Nechalim. I must visit a woman's doctor. I have not yet milked the cows in the village, and there is a bus from Nechalim to Petach Tikva only twice a day. Give me a number for a woman's doctor.”

Gutman, who was dedicated to Kupat Cholim with heart and soul, told her that he had run out of numbers of the woman's doctors, and the doctor was refusing to accept patients beyond the established quota. However, his words did not convince the woman. When the argument reached a high pitch, the order keeper approached the woman and asked her to give him her membership booklet. When he looked at her booklet he said to her, “Wait a minute, we will try to see what can be done for you.”

He approached Gutman and said to him quietly. “Moshe, see, this woman is

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from Ratno. Give her a number reserved for the most urgent situations.” Moshe smiled upon hearing these words, and gave the woman a number for the women's doctor. He said to her, “Why did you not tell me that you are from Ratno? Who are you from Ratno?”

“What Ratno is in your head?” retorted the woman. “My name is Ratner, and that is all.”
“This time you put one over me,” said Moshe the Ratner to the order keeper, a native of Ratno. The woman with the number also smiled. She never imagined that there would be so much charm in her name.


Here is another episode, that I would not have believed had I not heard with my own ears, for the incident was indeed as follows.

Yaakov Wolonta, who had moved from Ratno to Denver, Colorado, USA, was turning over in his bed at night with a dream that recurred each night. He saw himself at sunrise in the vegetable garden of Melnik the tanner, picking ears of corn and hiding them in a bag. Suddenly he felt as if tongs were clasping his neck, and that strong blows were being administered to his back to the point “that he could see his grandmother”, as we used to say in Ratno. He turned his head and saw Shalom Melnik, who was two years older than him, ready to deliver one more blow, however he let up when he saw Yaakov's face turn yellow, and he said, “Do you desire our corn?” Yaakov escaped like an arrow from a bow, but when he was already a distance away from Melnik, he declared, “Wait, wait, one day I will settle my accounts with you. You will not come out clean from my hands, and I will never forget your blows!”

After this “vision” repeated itself for several nights, Yaakov decided, “This is nothing other than the finger of G-d.” He must complete his accounting with Melnik, who, as far as he knew, lived now in New York. He told his wife about his decision to travel to New York, and his American wife mocked him, “Have you gone crazy, to undertake a trip of this nature to 'conclude a matter' of more than sixty years ago. The spirit of foolishness has overtaken you!”

That night, he once again dreamed that dream, and he decided, “Let my wife's opinion be as it may.” He felt it necessary to travel. He booked a place on an airplane, and the next day, when the streets of New York were covered with snow up to the neck, he arrived at Shalom Melnik's door. Before he rang the doorbell he deliberated about whether he should extend his hand to Shalom as usual, or perhaps he should deliver a strong blow, the same type that he suffered from him 60 years ago in the vegetable garden in Ratno...”

He rang the doorbell, and a white-haired woman with a pleasant appearance opened the door. She was surprised by this morning visit on such a snowy day, and asked him what he wanted. Yankel answered, “I have come especially from Denver, Colorado to see your husband Shalom. I have an urgent matter to discuss with him.” His wife explained that her husband was not well, and was still sleeping. “Nevertheless,”

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said Yankel, “wake him up, for the issue cannot be put off. Tell him that a Jew from Ratno has come to see him.” After a few minutes, a bent-over Jew came out of his room, wearing winter slippers and a scarf on his neck. Yankel recognized him immediately. This was Shalom, who had beaten him in Ratno. He walked to greet him. They recognized each other, hugged and kissed each other. Then Yaakov tapped Shalom lightly on the back and said to him, “Here, I have paid you back. I told you then in Ratno that I will never forget the beating that you administered to me regarding the corn in your vegetable garden. Now the repeated dream will no longer afflict me.”

“I am happy to see you here in my house,” answered Shalom, and told his wife to serve the important guest from Denver, Colorado in an ample fashion. The surprised wife did what her husband wanted. With a good heart, and over cups of whiskey, Shalom explained to his wife the meaning of the “urgent matter” that brought the guest from Colorado to their home...

[Page 304]

{Photo page 304: Dvora and Avraham Berg at the monument in memory of the martyrs in Germany.

Translator's note: partial translation of the monument (not all of it is clear in the photograph):

Remember what the Nazis did with our people. They killed six million.
(next four lines are unclear)
May G-d Remember
And may their holy souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life
And may their blood be avenged
And let us say Amen.
May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

Ratno, 13 Elul 5702
August 25, 1942

[Page 310]

Ratno Descendants in the United States

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 310, top: A group of Ratno natives in New York.}

{Photo page 310, bottom: Eliezer Ginzburg (Breindl's).}

In the memorial book that was published in Argentina, B. Kahn (Berl Chanech's) tells the following about the first steps of the Organization of Ratno Natives in the United States.

“On a Sabbath late afternoon in 1906, Ratno natives who lived in the Brownsville neighborhood of New York gathered in the home of Yisrael Kahn. In those days, Yisrael's house served as the center for Ratno natives, just as the house at the corner of Clinton and Rivington in Manhattan served as the center for Ratno natives in Manhattan. The prime motive of this meeting was to relieve slightly the loneliness of the Ratno natives in the big city. Some of those present read letters that they received from their relatives in Ratno and that warmed the heart a bit.

At that meeting, the idea of uniting the Ratno natives into a brotherhood and mutual assistance organization was first hatched. As I remember, those present at the meeting included Velvel Kirsch, Eliahu Klein, Hirsch-Leib Klein, Chaim Leib Peshinski from the village of Wydranica, Shemaya Schneider, Yoel and Yehuda Schneider, my father Yisrael, myself, and several other Ratners whose names I do not remember. Velvel Kirsch was elected as the chairman and I as the secretary. Each of those present paid one dollar and decided on a biweekly membership fee of 10 cents. When the Ratners of Manhattan (New York) joined our organization, it was necessary to rent a hall for our meetings. After some time, we used the money collected in the account of the organization to purchase land for a cemetery with

[Page 311]

regular payments, and also a house of worship on the fourth floor of a house on Firside[1] Street. From that time, we held our meetings in that location. Ratno natives from all parts of New York and also from outside of New York would come to our synagogue for the Hakafot on Simchat Torah, and the house would be too small to accommodate everyone. It is appropriate to note that Shalom Friedman, the son of Yudel the scribe from Kowel, was especially dedicated to our organization. To the best of his ability, he made sure that those in need would receive assistance. He also transferred money to Ratno to renovate the synagogue, cemetery and other institutions. Special subsidies were given by the organization to “Maot Chittin” (Passover charity) for those in need, to the local rabbi, and to the poor of the town. In its peak years, the membership reached 120, however this included some people who were not from Ratno. Hershel Shachna's (who had been a teacher in Ratno) served as the secretary of our organization until his death. Afterward, the chairman was David Sobol, and his son Max Sobol served as chairman.

The following regulations were included in the charter of the organization that was called “The sons of Rabbi Yosef, Natives of Ratno and Volhynia”:

-- The official languages of the organization for everything related to correspondence, accounting, etc. would be Yiddish.

-- The main purpose of the organization is philanthropic -- to provide assistance to the needy, and to assist the widow in the event of the passing of a member.

-- The chairman (president) and vice president are obligated to visit the sick at least once a week.

-- Brotherhood and unity must pervade amongst all the members of the organization.

-- Only upright and dedicated men will be accepted as members. A person who has not married within the Jewish faith is not permitted to be a member.”

The aforementioned book by Leon Ginzburg, the son of Yosel and Breindel, writes the following about a later period and about the assistance committee of the Ratno neighbors:

“In January 1945, natives of Ratno in New York gathered in the home of Yaakov Kotler in order to organize the assistance for the Holocaust survivors of Ratno and its region. We did not have yet any definitive information about the fate of our dear ones in Ratno, but we were aware of the magnitude of the disaster. At the end of the war we learned that not a trace of Ratno Jewry remains. The following people participated in the first meeting: the brothers Zelig and Avigdor Marin, Pinchas Berg, Shalom Melnik, Yaakov Kotler, Hodel Goldstein, Harry Kirsch, and Leon Ginzburg.

Our first task was to forge a connection with the hundreds of Ratno natives who were scattered around greater New York and other cities in the United States, whose addresses we did not have. We decided to publish notices in the Jewish newspapers and the radio informing of the establishment of our assistance committee, and asking that all Ratno natives join with us. We chose a provisional committee that consisted of Pinchas Berg as chairman, Leon Ginzburg as secretary, Yaakov Kotler as treasurer, and Zelig and Avigdor Marin as auditors. Four months after we began our activities, we received a letter from Avraham Berg, one of the survivors, who was the brother of Pinchas Berg. The letter described details of the bitter fate of Ratno Jewry. This letter included the names of 29 survivors of Ratno Jewry.

[Page 312]

The Ratno natives in Canada offered us faithful assistance.

Avraham Berg later arrived in the United States, and became very active among the Ratno natives. He left 5,000 dollars in his will for the activities of the organization of Ratno natives. The Marantz brothers, Yitzchak Leib Kotler, Yosef Fisher, and the Anglo-Jewish poet A. M. Klein helped in particular[2]. Feisi Kreskar and the Kagan and Kirsch brothers participated from Chelsea in Boston. It is also worthwhile to note the contribution of Sam Bukler of Detroit (a native of the village of Chocieszow), and the brothers Avraham and Moshe Kamper of Toronto, Canada.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. I have not been able to identify this street in a modern map of the Brownsville area of Brooklyn. It is likely that street names have changed over the decades. The English spelling I used is transliterated from the Hebrew, and may not be exact.Return
  2. A Jewish Canadian poet, born in Ratno. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._M._KleinReturn

[Page 311-alt]

The Ratno Heritage in Cuba

by Levi Shapira

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 311: Levi Shapira.}

Information about the Book of Ratno that is to be published shortly reached me under particularly difficult circumstances. I am wheelchair-bound, and speaking and writing are difficult for me. However, I wanted to express, and not only in a few lines, my thoughts and feeling about receiving this information.

Fate led me to the country of Cuba in 1937. I, like many others, felt the lack of prospects in the lowly state of life in Ratno, and possibly already prophesied to my heart about the storm that was to come shortly. I found refuge in a country that was not a center of Jewish immigration, the State of Cuba, which was not yet under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Despite the fact that Cuba was not thriving economically at that time, I studied the trade of diamond polishing and earned enough from my livelihood and even more. After some time, I tried my hand in business, and I was successful in that realm as well. Our Ratno tradition accompanied me through all of the revolutions and changes that took place in Cuba. I felt duty bound to participate actively in the development of Jewish communal life in that country, that had a small Jewish community. What did we not do there?

[Page 312-alt]

We built Jewish schools, and set up a theater building, a communal library, and a cultural hall, etc. The Ratno heritage commanded me, even if it did not express itself literally, to participate in all national and Jewish activities. I felt this blinding obligation even more strongly after the tidings of Job regarding the extermination of the Jewish community of Ratno by the Nazis and Ukrainians reached us. Even after the Cuban revolution that brought the guerilla fighters, Fidel Castro and his cronies, to power, we continued to concern ourselves with the character of Jewish life in Cuba. At first, I too was among those who hoped for greatness and goodness from the Socialist guard. The majority of the Cuban Jews left the country. From the 15,000 Jews, only about 2,000 remained, but those who remained did not despair. We had to concern ourselves with a Jewish school for the approximately 150 Jewish children, a synagogue, and the Jewish community. The government permitted us to establish a synagogue, and even the non-religious saw a need to go there to worship. In this manner, they demonstrated the existence of a Jewish community. We concerned ourselves with a shochet (ritual slaughterer) mohel (circumcisor), and for matzo on Passover in order to celebrate the Holiday in accordance with its regulations. Even the library remained open, and we gathered there at set times for discussions on current events. When there was no teacher for the Jewish school, I volunteered to serve as a teacher even though I had no training for this. However, it seemed to me that I, as a Ratner who had received a Jewish-nationalistic education in the town, was commanded to worry about the future, and to ensure that the golden chain would not be severed. After a great deal of effort, I succeeded in receiving an exit permit from Cuba. The government authorities looked kindly upon me as someone who had been active in the revolution, and permitted me to travel to Israel. However, they denied me the right to take out my money and belongings. I left that country empty-handed, without one cent, but I thanked the Divine providence that I succeeded in seeing the State of Israel that had been established by generations of pioneers, including pioneers from Ratno. I felt very bad that I had not been among those myself. I attempted to build a life in strange countries, but had not built up my own country. Due to my serious illness, I have not had the opportunity to feast my eyes on all the charm of our Land.

[Page 318]

Avraham Grabov

by Moshe Kliger

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 318: Avraham Grabov at training as member of the Haganah.}

Avraham was born in the Ukrainian village of Rokita in Volhyn (Poland)[1]. His parents moved to the nearby town of Ratno when he was four years old. It had two rows of houses, and one could see the second row from the first row. With a few steps, you would be standing on the bridge over the Pripyat outside the town, and from there, one would enter the fields. The town endured a wave of disturbances when Avraham was a child. During his childhood, he saw the sights of blood and fire: Jews being murdered, frightened Jews fleeing for their lives through meadows and forests to find refuge from the hooligans. His oldest sister took her life in her hands to save her father and her family members. These were days of confusion and perplexity. The gentile working at the train harassed her and threatened her life, and she stood up for her honor and her life. She jumped off the train as it was moving and escaped into the forest. The deed of the sister was a childhood experience that accompanied him all his life, like a burning pain that planted the seeds of revenge. It was a command and an oath – to Jewish might and pride.

He was the youngest child of a large, wealthy family in the town. Warmth, love, generosity, and relative calm was the atmosphere of the house. He was the youngest child and beloved by everybody.

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The world of the town was small. Its people were few. It had few stores, and the merchandise in the stores was meager. “Grey skies and muddy puddles.” “The shreds of blue skies, clear, so painful.” – However, the world of “I” is large and broad. The questions of reality, essence and purpose, life and death. The questions were many. One came after the next. There was no solution. From where is the energy to bear all this? Sadness and pain. The uncertainty consumes all the good parts of the soul. At times complacency celebrates its victory: “Liberation cessation.” However, the strong, fine youth, in whose image there was somewhat of the village gentile – with flowing youthfulness, and with the spring–like living spirit. Deep inside, he deliberated over the philosophy of nihilism and meaninglessness of life. Life has so many colors! Avraham had a youthful spirit, with a tendency toward mischief and games. If some amount had been taken from him, much still remained: laughter, sunlight, and joy. All of this was with a full breath.

Who can tell what the words – the Land of Israel, the pioneer, Klosowa – meant to a Jewish child in the towns of Volhyn? Is there any expression for the love bound up in them? With great longing, a daydream, the whisper of these names was like the whisper of Mother or the name of a beloved girl. With the tearful prayers of Mother and Father, the crystal tears also came to the eyes of the child. The number of prayers and the Bible inculcated the desire and longing for the Land. The Hebrew pioneers who left the town and their parents' homes with revolutionary songs and “Choliastra nihilism” continued the dream and forged the way. Klosowa was the wonderful island in a remote corner of Poland, next to the border. Its land was rocky. The Jews worked there like gentiles, sang songs of storms and revolutions, mocking the young ones, and the “orderly” life, for they were taken by songs of tomorrow, for the Hebrew revolution.

No Jew will again be embarrassed by work, and no Jewish young man or daughter of Israel will be embarrassed by wearing rags on their body and rubber boots on their feet. The Klosowa group raised the face of the towns of Volhyn. The Land of Israel, the pioneers, Klosowa – made the soul grow wings. The way was exposed. There is a way.

Avraham, the 15–year–old youth, “flew” to Gruschew. However, the small agricultural farm was calm. In the winter, his friends returned to their parents' homes, and only few remained. The calm was great. Everything was narrow – this was not the song that enchanted him. This is not the song that summoned him to leave his parents' home and to go. Avraham returned to his town, and set out to Klosowa after a few months – to the difficulties, and to the large, noisy group.

He was attracted to the hard work. Through it, he saw a redemption from the bountiful powers of the body and the soul. He had a great desire to struggle with the “strong ones,” to see with his flesh that which was frightening and holy with the birth of the new reality; to see the hands that were injured and wounded; to enlist the energy, all the energy. The “light” work did not attract his heart. Quarrying rocks, working alongside “nature” in the sawmill, in paving roads in the Land – this was his way.

In the Hechalutz seminar in 1930 – he was quiet, and turned inwardly, due to the younger people who were among the participants. The Hechalutz Hatzair group

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at the seminar was caught up with clarifications of the questions of the movement. Experiences were forged in meetings, in conversations among friends, in evenings of song – exciting and engaging. The Hechalutz Hatzair newspaper appeared near the end of the seminar. The driving force behind its renewal was the group of youths of the movement at the seminar. They also participated in it in a significant fashion. The attention of both the members and the counsellors captured Avraham's spirit. He, who was quiet in conversations and introverted, suddenly shone before everyone, surprising them. The poet was exposed. He published an internal newspaper for the chapter, called “Bituyim,” even before he went on hachshara. Some of his articles were copied in “Lehavot”, the newspaper of Hanoar Hachalutzi His language was that of a visionary. Even the abstract was tangible. His expression was clear, pure, and independent and forged from his “heart and rock.” His written expression, like his oral expression (they were very similar), was always forged with internal content. All the pain and creative angst, with enthusiasm around every word and faithful to human reality, always came through in his words. His language – the language of poetry – was not borrowed. He was always original.

From that time on, Avraham more than anyone else was the person who lived the realities of the movement, always wandering around from city to town, and from town to a remote village, with his strong, oppressed journeys. Every step was strong, and every step was deliberate. An abundance of love transported him to children, to the masses of youth of our nation, abandoned and left to the street and emptiness. He organized, collected, and attracted people with the warmth of his personality, with his fire of internal truth. He easily broke down the barriers between himself, the stranger, the guest, between children and the youth groups, being close to them, loving them. He radiated and imbued his environment, sang with devotion, fascinated people with his strong, masculine voice. We were all the same age, but he, Avraham, had youth in his makeup. Throughout all the years of his activity in the movement, in hachshara, and also in the Land, he earned warmth, great love, and open and hidden reverence.

(From the booklet in memory of Avraham)

{Photo page 320: Right to left: Aryeh Avrech, Moshe Kliger, and A. Grabov.}

“Love strong as a stone of Klosowa, and as a stone quarried from Jerusalem, to which I will eventually cleave.”

“To weep secretly, alone but not to veer off this path.”

Translator's Footnote

  1. Currently Ukraine. Return

[Page 319–alt]

Our Brother Avraham

by Chaya

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Avraham was the youngest brother in the family, but he was also the splendor of the family. We were blessed through him, and we were proud of him. It seems to me that all of Jewish Ratno was blessed through him. His praise was in the mouths of everybody. He was an autodidact. He was able to sit for many hours and peruse books that interested him, just as he was able, along with his close friend Avrech, to deliberate and debate important issues of the day for hours. He did not make his peace with the existing society, with its means of operation, and with the modus operandi of many Ratno natives. I remember that he once asked me in a letter from Warsaw, “What is new with you? You are certainly by now already wearing high heels!”… For him, high heels were a symbol of rootlessness,

[Page 320–alt]

the Philostratus[1] of youth, the pursuing of style.

I will never forget the bitter day when the news of his murder reached us after a delay. I found no comfort at home. It was Friday, and I felt the need to be together with friends. I went to the chapter of Hashomer Hatzair at night, even though at that time (after three years of hachshara, when I came home only to wait for the certificate or information about the confirming of my “illegal” aliya), I did not visit the chapter frequently, because people of my age were no longer active in it. I recall very well Golda Droog, who was the head of the chapter at that time. She was a talented youth with great energy, and everybody related to her with great esteem. Golda understood my soul at that time. She did not leave me for even one minute. She attempted to encourage me, to free me from my terrible mood, and to be with me. I felt a certain easing of my mood when I was with her.

I remember that the news of the murder of Avraham was published in Heint, but they tried to keep it from us for some time. Father went to the post office to receive a letter sent by one of Avraham's friends, containing details about what had taken place. A Tisha Be'Av[2] atmosphere of despair settled upon the house. We all waited for greatness from this youngest member of the family. Who had imagined that this would be his end?

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A reference to the philosopher http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philostratus Return
  2. A major summer fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temples as well as other tragedies throughout the centuries. Return

[Page 321]


by Aryeh Pialkov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 321 right: Aryeh Avrech and his family in Yagur.}

{Photo page 321 left: Alter Avrech, Aryeh's brother, who was killed in a work accident.}

He was born in the year 5669 – 1909 in Ratno. He arrived in the Land on the 15th of Tammuz, 5691 – June 1931. He was a graduate of the pioneering movement, and one of the best of its actualizers and builders. He was a man of culture who loved books. He was dedicated with enthusiasm and diligence to every job and task that he took upon himself. His hands were expert in every type of work. He worked in the sheep flock for many years, and spent many hours a day shepherding, milking, and shearing. Even then, he did not leave behind a good book. For a time, he worked at counselling youth who had made aliya. Later he edited the diary of the Yagur farm, and imbued it with the best of his style and broad knowledge. He worked in a deciduous forest during his latter years. He was crushed and seriously injured while dismantling a new sprayer. He died a few hours later. About him it is said: If the legend of the 36[1] is accurate – he is one of them. The library building in Kibbutz Yagur is called Beit Avrech in his name.


About his Personality

In the book “Sefer Klosowa,” Aryeh Fialkov tells about four emissaries from Klosowa who visited the town. The third one was Aryeh Avrech.

The impression of the first two visitors in the town and in the chapter was noticeable for a long time. Those in the know whispered: this time the man of the book, the man of the spirit, the man of culture of Klosowa, is coming. Thus, Avrech was perceived even before he came, but the matter was still not grasped appropriately: What does it mean? He won't speak? He won't respond to questions and issues?

Then he arrived, with his simple garb, his modest demeanor, and his quiet manner of speaking. They surrounded him, as usual. But he – was not usual. He minimized his speaking.

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He listened a great deal. His conversation exuded warmth, and he smiled goodheartedly. During the first break, the group tried to direct him as they did with those who came before him. First he was to speak, then he would respond to questions, which were so many and bothersome, and who can respond to them and straighten things out if not for the emissary of Klosowa? Indeed, Avrech tried to do so, but he immediately realized that this was not within his power. His responses and explanations were terse and to the point. It seemed as if he was trying to hurry to exit from these complexities, in order to start to deal with issues that were closer to him. There was indeed a certain disappointment in the audience of members: what would happen to the irksome questions? Apparently, Avrech did not perceive this. He was in his own element. He took out a book, “Masada” by Lamdan[2], and read from it. He took out a second book, “BaGalgal” by Shlonski[3], and also read and explained it. The youths were a bit surprised. They were not prepared for this. However, Avrech continued with his reading in proper taste, with emphasis, with explaining sentences and ideas with emotional but restrained enthusiasm – he had intended specifically this. This was the main thing – in the work of “we have a small hand with five fingers,” with the stubbornness of the maapilim [illegal immigrants] of “Masada” and with the pioneering creativity in the Land.

This is how it was throughout the time of the visit. There were few discussions devoted to ideology, and more about literature on life, on work, and on the dedication that exists in the Land. He read from a memorial book on chalutzim who fell while on guard duty in the Land. Incidentally, he talked about the complex journeys over seas and lands through which the chalutzim carried out their immigration.

The esteem and relationship grew after a few discussions. Many connected with him in love and reverence. His visit had a special value. He directed the attention more inwardly, and the means for this was Hebrew poetry.

{Photo page 322: Yosef Avrech with his son Alter and wife at Kibbutz Yagur.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The legend that there are 36 hidden tzadikim (holy men) in every generation. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yitzhak_Lamdan Return
  3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avraham_Shlonsky Return

[Page 321–alt]

My Native Land

by A. Avrech

Translated by Jerrold Landau

And I am a prayer, my native land, my native land!
Please accept my meager offering –
I will bring myself to you,
To wet and fertilize with my sweat and blood
The clods of your earth, dried from the heatwaves.

I will fall down as a servant before your locked gates,
Let me put as a yoke on my neck –
To go with the plow on the dewy morning,
And to return along with the sheep in the evening.

Like Jacob when he crossed the Jordan
I will come to you and plead:
Please take me in, do not spit me out
Oh Mother Earth!

(Written on the day of his Aliya to the Land of Israel, 16 Tammuz 5691 – 1931)

[Page 323]

Pnina Brustin (nee Droog) of blessed memory

by Mordechai Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 323: Pnina Droog in Givat Hasheloshah.}

Pnina was born in Ratno in 1913 to a Zionist family with many children, the Droog family. The Jews of Ratno were unable to permit themselves to send their children to the high school in the district city of Kowel, but the Droog family was an exception from this perspective. They sent Amalia and her brother Moshe, may he live long, to Kowel to continue their studies at the gymnasium. The home of the Droog family in Ratno was a sort of meeting place for the studying youth in the town. The mother succeeded in creating a warm family atmosphere in the house, and made sure that none of her children would venture far from the bosom of her family. The path for pioneering actualization was forged during the 1930s by isolated pioneers in Ratno. It was not easy to uproot oneself from the patriarchal family life of a small town. The parents were indeed enthusiastic Zionists who educated their children in the path of Zionism. However, they simultaneously guarded the integrity of the family. Many people thought that the first to make aliya to the Land of Israel would be from among the poor folk who had nothing to lose. This was not the reality. The first to break through the fence were specifically people from well-off families. They are the ones who were beacons for actualization in the youth movements of the town. Pnina was the pioneer from the Droog family who went out to hachshara and made aliya to Kibbutz Givat Hashelosha in 1934.

When I visited her in Givat, she told me about the difficulties that she encountered, and stressed to me that being separated from her family in Ratno caused her great suffering. Despite this, she participated enthusiastically in kibbutz life, and her dedication to the kibbutz society knew no bounds. She also conducted an investigation into why I had left the kibbutz. I visited her often, and I was proud of her and her path when I saw how she had become rooted in kibbutz life, for we were relatives.

I recall my visit to her after she had become ill and undergone surgery. She had become very weak, and I chastised her for neglecting her own wellbeing and working hard despite her weakness. She answered me with simplicity: “Mottle, it is possible that you are correct, but you will not change me. This is how I am and this is how I will remain for all the days of my life.”

[Page 323–alt]

The Image of Pnina

Translated by Jerrold Landau

We were neighbors in the town and I knew her from the Tarbut School. The large house of the Droog family was always a visiting place for any passer-by from Hechalutz and Hashomer Hatzair, where any visitor would be received pleasantly. Pnina had gone through Hechalutz Hatzair, whereas her brothers and sisters had gone through Hashomer Hatzair. Pnina was always concerned with all the household needs, and played her part in receiving guests. She hosted the guests of the family politely and with a smile, winning over the hearts of everyone. Even her young sisters obeyed her. I remember her always laughing in the Hechalutz chapter. At times, her laughter disrupted the activities of the chapter, but they always forgave Pnina for they appreciated her naturalness and simplicity. When she made aliya to the Land and arrived in Givat Hashelosha, she became serious: she accepted kibbutz life as something natural, about which one does not complain. She was always concerned that she was not doing enough for the kibbutz and that perhaps there was something else with which she could fill her daily quota of work, in her role in

[Page 324–alt]

Haganah (defense) or in other areas of communal and social activity on the farm. In conversations with her about various problems of the group, I always felt that everything that Pnina said came from the heart and from concern for others. Pnina took ill. In one of my last visits to her, I sat next to her, and we discussed all types of problems. The parting was difficult. I did not want Pnina to sense that I knew about her bitter fate. I talked with the nurses and personnel workers of the division. They all valued her and her refined character. Despite her great suffering, she did not make their work more difficult. Therefore, she received the best care from the workers. Some praised her for her honesty, conscience, dedication and love for her fellowman.

We, the natives of the town, were always proud of Pnina. In our eyes, she symbolized the goodness of the town, both in the Kibbutz and in the society. She left behind a vacuum. We will always remember her.

{Photo page 324: Pnina Droog as a tractor driver in Givat Hashelosha (1937).}

[Page 324]

Moshe Greenstein of blessed memory

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Moshe was born on the 17th of Adar 5675 (March 10, 1915) in Ratno. His father Yosef was a merchant of forestry products. He was a Hassid of Karlin – one of those who saw in Hassidism salvation for the longings of the soul and desire for redemption. He joined the Hechalutz Hatzair youth movement and found his home in that movement. He joined the ranks of the kibbutz movement with dedication and faithfulness. He was active in the chapter, in the summer camp, and in hachshara. He finally succeeded in realizing his dream – he made aliya to the Land of Israel and joined Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar, which took in the members of the Tel Chai Hachshara Kibbutz of Poland, whose members set their goal, while still in the Diaspora, to settle the Upper Galilee. How great was my joy when I met Moshe on that Kibbutz after a separation of several years.

We were like dreamers in our new home. We breathed the experience of returning to our homeland, to our soil. We were enchanted by the landscape that unfolded before our eyes. If there is an expression to the feeling of absorption of aliya, it is expressed in its full glory here in Ayelet Hashachar.

Moshe was absorbed nicely into the work. He was blessed with expert hands and diligence. He took to the work and camaraderie in the new social group, as if he had grown up within it. He was a quiet man, pleasant to his fellowman, good hearted, and attentive to everybody. He always searched for the good and the positive, and he found such. He was content with himself and with the path of his life. He loved the kibbutz, and his heart rejoiced with every advancement he made. He loved his friends and his friends loved him.

In our final meeting, when I saw him sitting outside next to his house, full of pain and sickness, in a tone of satisfaction as his eyes were widening and sparkling, , he told me about the dedication and concern expressed by the members of the kibbutz to him, and he offered praise and appreciation for the Kibbutz society.

He fulfilled his way in his Kibbutz home for 46 years. He will be missed by me and by very many members of the Kibbutz.

He died on the 17th of Shevat, 5739 – February 14, 1979.

[Page 325]

Yisrael (Srulik) Steingarten

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Yisrael Steingarten, the brother of Elchanan, went through the same tribulations as did his parents and brother. After the liberation, he was prominent in the underground activities in Italy. Chaim Lazar discussed this in one of the publications of the Museum of Fighters and Partisans (booklet 10).

“At the end of the winter of 1942, the Banderowches also organized themselves, and set up their camp in the forests. These were nationalist Ukrainians who were fed up with the German promises to establish an independent Ukraine. They fought the Germans, Russians, and Poles. First and foremost, however, they poured out their wrath upon the Jews who were hiding in the forests or other places. The Banderowches began to track the steps of the partisans. They were forced to move their location every few days. One night, the partisans went out for an activity to obtain food, and they noticed that the farmers were more brazen than usual. They quickly discovered that the Banderowches were in the village. As they were preparing to retreat, Yisrael's three friends with their hands raised and guns pointed at them, were already being guarded by two Banderowches,. When they noticed Yisrael leaving one of the houses, they started to shoot at him. Yisraelik lay down next to the fence and shot toward them. One of them fell dead, and the other fell down from fear. Yisraelik's friends took advantage of the confusion, jumped on their horses, and began to gallop toward their base. Yisraelik also began to flee, lying down on the ground on occasion and shooting backward toward his pursuers who were firing at him. When the Banderowches gave up on catching up with him, Yisrael found himself alone in an unknown area. After a bit of sleep, he entered the home of one of the farmers and forced the farmer to take him to the area where his base was located. The partisans who reached the base before him had told everyone that Yisraelik had fallen in battle, and one other partisan was wounded. To everyone's surprise, Yisraelik appeared in the camp with his weapons. From that time, masses of Jewish fighters began to join the partisan camp.

Yisrael volunteered to be a guerrilla. First of all, he wanted to strike at the enemy. Second, he wanted to provide backing for his family, and justify their existence among the partisans. There was no guerrilla action or battle in which he did not participate. Even on the threshold of liberation, he did not respond to the urging of his father to hold back somewhat and take more care.

–– –– –– On January 7, 1944, they met up with the Red Army. Yisrael's parents remained in a town near the city of Rovno, whereas Yisrael and his brother Elchanan, along with the entire partisan brigade, continued to participate in all types of actions and battles. After some time, his parents set out for Kiev, where the head partisan and Ukrainian command was located, so that they could receive news on their son. The fragments of information that arrived contradicted each other, until his brother Elchanan finally succeeded in tracking him down. The mother traveled to the town of Terszow, where

[Page 326]

rumor had it that Yisrael was located. She met her son and succeeded in persuading him to move to Kiev, where the family was located at that time. In the meantime, news began to arrive in Kiev about the possibility of aliya to the Land via Romania. Under pressure from his family, Yisrael agreed to take on a position of train inspector. In this task, he greatly helped with the escapes that were starting at that time.

In February 1945, the Steingarten family reached Lublin as partisans, and were brought to the “escape depot.” They remained in Romania for several months, and then in Hungary and Austria, with their destination being Italy. Once in Italy, they were sent to the south of the country, to the Santa Cesarea Camp. There, the Steingarten family, including their father Yaakov, joined a pod of the Beitar organization, and a chapter of the Revisionist party.

Chaim Lazar relates that Yisraelik quickly became one of the pillars of Beitar in Southern Italy, with its many camps. When the first representatives of Etz'el (Irgun Tzvai Leumi) arrived in Italy, Yisralik became one of the activists. Then he was appointed as the Etz'el commander for the entire district of northern Italy. He was sent to Belgium in 1947, as responsible for the Etz'el activities there. A chapter of Etz'el activists existed in Belgium under the leadership of a young woman Annette, who was appointed to this position by the representative of the organization in Europe. When Yisraelik arrived in Belgium , he began to develop activities that spilled over the borders of that country. He set up additional cells of Etz'el in Antwerp and Liege. He collected money, amassed weapons, developed activities, conducted publicity through posters, forged connections with newspapers, etc. He also visited other European countries and established connections with all the Etz'el centers in Europe. After a year of living in Belgium, the police tracked his path, and he received an order from the authorities to leave Belgium. After spending several months in France, he returned to Belgium with a forged passport in order to gather his people and bring them to the Altalena ship. Annette, who was later to marry him in Israel, was among them. After he made aliya aboard the Altalena, Yisrael joined the Israel Defense Forces. He participated in the War of Independence as a captain, and served as vice commander of a brigade.

After he was released from the army, he began working at the Remet building company. He died of a heart attack in 1969.

{Photo page 326: Yisrael Steingarten.}

[Page 327]

Mordechai Yanover of blessed memory

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He was the elder in the group of youths – the first ones of Hechalutz Hatzair. His spiritual leanings, his relationships of friendship that he nurtured, and his love of the youth – with all these traits, he became a counselor and educator of the movement at its outset. His personality is reminiscent of the “Matmid” of Bialik.

He learned and read without stop, and he then tried to impart to his charges everything that he had learned on his own. Through him, we became familiar with the classicists of Hebrew Literature. He also succeeded in drawing us near to authors such as Brenner, A. D. Gordon, Yitzchak Lamdan, and others. He especially loved the “Masada” work of Lamdan, and our group was named after that work.

From his early youth, Mordechai bound himself with the pioneering movement, through which he saw the solution to the problems that were bothering us. Therefore, to the best of his ability, he imparted the pioneering values into the Hechalutz and Hechalutz Hatzair movements. Among other things, he was the force behind the publication of an internal newspaper called “Bituyim.” He ensured that many children would have their writing published in that newspaper, so that they could express the feelings and desires of their hearts. I recall the words of farewell that he said to the members who went out to Hachshara. He encouraged us and served as an important force in our journey. Despite his physical weakness, he too went to Hachshara and prepared himself for aliya.

When he reached the Land, he joined the Ayelet Hashachar Kibbutz. Since I came to that kibbutz some time before him, I was able to follow his absorption into the kibbutz from the first day that he was there. I saw him more than once returning from work with wounded hands, but he never complained or asked for easier work. He fulfilled every task given to him by the Kibbutz in the best possible way. His chief aspiration was to be a worker of the land, rooted in the soil. He was among the volunteers for external work in helping other kibbutzim. He was not weakened by the difficulties of acclimatization in his work in the kibbutz in the Jordan valley. Our paths separated with the passage of time. We each went to our own work path, and our meetings were rare.

His work outside the confines of the Kibbutz was not easy, when he was burdened with the yoke of a family. However, he succeeded in serving as an accounting director in a Histadrut institution, and he earned great respect as a person of a high cultural level, who knew how to maintain proper human relationships with everyone with whom he lived and worked.

Those of us who went through the Hechalutz Hatzair movement will always guard his memory as someone who shone and influenced our path and our development during the time of our youth.

[Page 328]

Arnon–David Grabov Writes to his Mother

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 328: Arnon David Grabov of blessed memory.}

Mother, don't be surprised that I am writing to you this time in Polish[1]. I know that Father has been drafted and there will be nobody to read this letter to you, and you will have to wait for the arrival of Uncle Zeev. There is another reason for this: I want you to understand every word that I am writing to you with the light of a pocket flashlight.

Father and Gabi[2], as I have said, have been drafted. Father knows what a war is: three years with the partisans and two years in the Red Army weakened his character. How great is my pride to be his son! Gabi too has already tasted the taste of tension when he jumped out of an airplane for the first time. After I met him at my base he said to me, “At first, when you are floating between heaven and earth, you forget completely that you exist. It is not you who is jumping, but rather someone else. However, from the moment that the parachute begins to open, the fear dissipates, and the only thought that you think is “mother earth.” How secure is a person when his foot treads upon the ground that perhaps he might soon have to defend with all his might…”

I also went through my first immersion in fire when I participated in the Samua action[3]. You recall, Mother, when I came home in the middle of the darkness of night, and the first thing that I asked you, before I kissed you, was, “Mother, I need a bath!” I had to wash everything off me… I did not speak much at that time, but I felt that you knew what I endured. At night I dreamed that I was alone in a room, with only one candle burning. Suddenly, the candle started to flicker, and then it went out. Endless darkness and quiet pervaded. I woke up and recalled that a bomb fell upon my commander, injured his head, and he slowly weakened. We returned from Samua, and I managed to visit you for several hours. That was the night that you were very worried that I had not spoken much to Grandfather, Grandmother, and you. You noticed the sadness on my face. The next day, you read in the newspaper about the raid on Samua, in which the death of the captain was described. Then you understood the meaning of the silence.

It has now been several weeks since I have been at home. How are you?

I met Gabi a few days ago, and he is satisfied. It is too bad that I did not meet with Father, and see him in his Israel Defense Forces uniform. I feel that I am in a good situation. We receive many good things from various people, as well as letters from young children who encourage us to protect them. My heart aches when I read these letters. I know what will happen to these children if, Heaven forbid, our enemies win. But such a thing will not happen and will not be! Every one of us is prepared to give everything for the honor of the homeland… You remember when I was six years old: I attended the Polish school and was the only Jew there. Once, a child called me a dirty Zyd. I knew that I was a Jew. You and Father told me that. As a reaction to the shame, I threw onto his face

[Page 329]

the piece of bread with jam that I loved so much. How great at that time was the sacrifice that I gave to protect the honor of my nation, since as a punishment I did not receive another piece. Is it not true, Mommy, that this is funny? But now, when I read the letters of the children, I am prepared to give my life and my great love for them. However there is one thing that I ask, do not mourn or weep over me. Be strong!

Today I received a package with all sorts of sweets as well as a letter in Yiddish. I read it with difficulty, with the help of some of my friends. In the letter, the woman writes that she is very afraid. She had been in Auschwitz, and her four children along with her husband were murdered. She arrived in the Land after many tribulations and succeeded in building a family. She has young children. She trusts the Israel Defense Forces, and prays for our wellbeing every evening. Tears flowed from the eyes of all the armed men. Mother, is this not enough to give us enough strength to fight with all our might against those who rise up against us?

Dear mother! You must be strong. What will happen will happen. Know that I am going to protect and fight for something that is just, the likes of which does not exist in the world. The seven years that I have been in the Land seem to me like 70. I connected with the Land so much! When I return from the army, I will take you with me so that you can get to know all the wonderful places where I fought. I never thought that our small Land is so beautiful and wonderful. We go out every day to protect this Land. We have no other place in the world! How does Grandmother say it? At times one must pay a very high price in order to merit to live in honor. This time, who knows what fate will bring. Be strong. Lots of kisses to all of you.

To you with love,

Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a footnote in the text as follows: Written originally in Polish. Return
  2. There is a footnote in the text as follows: The name of his younger brother. Return
  3. Samua is a village in the southern West Bank. It was under Jordanian control prior to the Six Day War in 1967. Return

[Page 328–alt]

Arnon–David Grabov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He made Aliya to Israel with his parents in the year 1960 when he was 12 years old. He studied in a school in the Neveh Oz neighborhood next to Petah Tikva, and excelled as a good student and an excellent sportsman. He was drafted into the army when he was 18 years old and volunteered for a paratrooper unit. He graduated with a course in communications and endured his first battle next to the Jordanian town of Samua. He spoke to his mother by telephone a day before the outbreak of the Six Day War and asked her to be appropriately strong should something happen to him that night. Among other things, he told her , “I am going out to protect my Land regarding a matter of justice and propriety, for we have no other place in the world other than this land of ours.”

He fell in battle next to Gaza at the age of 19 on the first day of the Six Day War, June 5, 1967. In a conversation between Arnon–David's father Yaakov and Major Yechiel Amsalem of blessed memory (Arnon–David's commander who fell in battle along with him), the commander told him that he was proud to be the commander of a battalion that included soldiers such as Arnon–David, and that his father too should be proud of such a son.

[Page 330]

Moshe Gutman of blessed memory

by S. Lavie and M. Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 330 top: Moshe Gutman of blessed memory.}

{Photo page 331 bottom: Yoram Gutman of blessed memory, the son of Moshe and Tzipora}

The memory of my friend Moshe Gutman is connected with the early days of the Herzliya Moshava. Herzliya then consisted of low, white houses that appeared as glistening pearls in the background of scenery that included the sea, vegetation, and sand dunes. With my first steps on the ground of Herzliya, I said in my heart: I am bound to you forever. Later, when I met four friends who were natives of Ratno (Mordechai Gefen, Moshe Stern, Shmuel Marder, and Moshe Gutman) who preceded me in aliya to the Land, I was full of praise for Herzliya that embraced me as a mother and a sister.

It seems that all of these praises did not fall upon deaf ears. On a cloudless morning, or perhaps it was an evening after work, Moshe Gutman appeared in my room with a heavy bundle, and declared mischievously, “I have come to partake of your Garden of Eden.”

We lived and worked together for a period of time. Moshe was a few years older than me. He had richer life experiences than I had, and he also knew the Israeli reality better than I did. He was a friend and brother to me, eased the difficulties of my acclimation significantly, and even helped assuage the feelings of loneliness that tend to afflict a person in a strange environment. Various circumstances caused our paths to diverge after that. Moshe returned to Petach Tikva, to his three friends and to the way of life that he followed for approximately 50 years: founding a building company, volunteering for the guard brigade on the railway line, building Kfar Sirkin and Hitnachalut, and establishing a family.

Moshe became ill with a malignant disease and fought it. When he found out that I had been hospitalized due to a heart attack, he got in touch with my household, took interest in my situation, and even expressed interest in visiting me. The news of his death reached me when I was still bound to my sickbed. I was saddened that I could not perform the final good deed of escorting him to his eternal rest, but I will always remember him positively.


About Moshe of blessed memory by Mordechai Gefen

I was a friend and neighbor of Moshe for more than 60 years. This began in Ratno, in the cheder of Yudel the teacher, continued in the Tarbut School, in the pioneering movement, and later in Kfar Sirkin, where we both were among the founders of the village. It can be said that we were both nurtured by the same roots, and even saw the same visions of disaster and torment that overtook the Jews of Ratno. There was an incident where the Ukrainians made slanderous accusations to the Russians about Moshe's father, claiming that he was a profiteer. He was sentenced to hanging, but the rope attached to his neck tore twice. The hangmen regarded this as the hand of fate, and let him be. Many people left their stamp on Moshe and they brought him to the realization that there was no future for the Jews of Poland, and that the only way to ensure a different life was aliya to the Land of Israel and joining the labor movement. He went out to pioneering hachshara and made aliya to the Land of Israel in 1931.

He worked for some time at the Mekor Hamayim Company that drilled wells in Herzliya. This work was considered dangerous in those days, when the bore went down 40 meters or more. Later, he worked in the orchards of the Sharon. In a later period, he studied the building trade and joined the Solel Boneh building company in Petach Tikva. In 1936, he joined the first group that settled Kfar Sirkin. This was the stormy period in Moshe's life. He built farms without limit, working during the day on the scaffolding of buildings, and performing guiding and defense tasks at night. Moshe was active in all the institutions of the village, and when the first survivors of Ratno began to arrive after the Holocaust, he acted to the best of his ability to offer help to the survivors and to establish the organization of Ratno Natives - work that he continued until his last day.

[Page 331]

Pnina Drezner of blessed memory

by Nechama Meril

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 331 right: Miriam Shoshani (Weinstock) of blessed memory.}

{Photo page 331 left: Pnina Drezner}

She was born in Ratno into the home of a faithful Zionist. From her early youth, she was active in the ranks of the youth, and when she got older, she went out to hachshara in Klesowa, where she became known for all of her fine traits, and earned general appreciation. She made aliya in 1935. Her first stop in the land was Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. During the disturbances of 1936, she volunteered to help Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh, and was very active in the Haganah. One of her aims in life was to bring her family members to the Land. Among others, her brother Dov, my current husband, made aliya through her efforts. Pnina tried to impart the feeling of a warm home and literally acted as a mother to the Holocaust survivors. Her assistance to her fellowman was one of the values in which she immersed herself as well as her family. She was very alert to the suffering of her fellowman, and did everything she could to help. She would help without saying anything. When she got sick with a severe, malignant disease, she bore herself with strength and privacy, as she fought her illness. She was not subdued even when on her sick bed. She continued her tasks to the best of her ability, showed interest in everything happening in Israel, and attempted to not speak about her suffering and illness. Our sages stated that a person can be understood from his pocket, his cup, and his anger[1]. I will add an additional feature to this list: also through a person's illness. Anyone who did not know Pnina when she was well was able to know her and testify to her goodness even during the time of her illness. It is about people such as this that Bialik based his well-known poem: “Let my lot be with you.” Translator's Footnotes

  1. In Hebrew, the three words sound similar: kiso, koso, kaaso. It refers to how a person relates to money, how a person acts when under the influence of alcohol, and how a person controls his anger.Return

[Page 331]

Miriam Shoshani (Weinstock) of blessed memory

by Mordechai Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

During the early 1930s, a young girl stood out in the arena of Zionist and pioneering activity in the town. She was quiet, introverted, and had pleasant mannerisms. Along with this, however, she was a dynamo who was prepared to do everything for the movement to which she belonged - Hechalutz Hatzair.

Indeed, she was bothered when I decided to make aliya to the land and did not heed the pleas of my mother to remain in Ratno and continue to help with the family livelihood after my father died. I knew in my heart that it was possible to depend on my younger sisters, and especially Miriam, who was graced with a business sense. Indeed, that is the way it happened. I made aliya in the midst of the disturbances of 1929. My heart was concerned for what was going on with my family in Ratno, but from the letters I received, I found out that Miriam was carrying on to the best of her ability.

In 1935, I brought my late mother and my sister Miriam to the Land of Israel. She established a warm household in Afula, and along with her husband, may he live long, she did everything to educate her son and daughter and to ensure their future. I am certain that Yisrael and Batya appreciate everything that their mother did and sacrificed for them.

On her gravestone in Kfar Tavor, it was fitting to engrave the words of the poet Ch. N. Bialik, “Let my lot be with you, the modest ones of the world, the discreet ones, who live their lives in secret, modest in their thoughts and adventures -- -- -- they call out, and you - and it was not told to you, oh prominent ones - and you did not know.”

[Page 331]

In Memory[1]

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In memory of my father Shamai, my mother Breindel, my brother Aharon and my sister Sheindel who were murdered by the Nazis

Where is the burial place of my dear mother and father? On which of the terrible days of killing was the thread of their lives cut short? Where were they killed - in the Krymno Ghetto or in some other killing field? Who will reveal this terrible, holy place to my eyes? My soul and my spirit are bound to it, where is it?...

My brother and sister were killed in the thick forests of Zabrodze. I was told that they were seen walking in those fields armed with weapons - my strong, brave, brother who was 23-years-old at the time he was murdered; and my sister, the youngest child of my parents, flowering in her beauty, who was 17-years-old at the time she was murdered. Oh G-d of vengeance, tell me, did they take revenge on their murderers before they gave up their pure souls, how did they fall, where are they buried, and on what day did their souls ascend - will I never know these answers?...

We were five, and I alone survived. I am bereaved of my father, mother, brother and sister. I am the sole survivor of a large family of many roots - a family of those who studied Torah and fulfilled its commandments. They were Hassidim of Karlin, faithful to the Rebbe. They were rooted in their Hassidism, believing and faithful to its values and essence. They were a wonderful blend of Jewish scholars, who were also attuned to the ways of the world. They absorbed into their essence the good and beautiful aspects of the changing ways of the world brought with them, and exerted their influence. Everything was uprooted and is no more, could this be?...

I saw them for the last time on October 23, 1933. I took leave of them as I set out on my journey to the Land of Israel. I hoped that we would be reunited in our Land. We exchanged many letters on that topic. However, the circumstances of the times, of poor health, and of other such matters disrupted the realization of their desire to make aliya to the Land, and pushed it off to when circumstances would improve for them. Could anyone have imagined that the end of Polish Jewry was approaching, and that the fire was already consuming the ground upon which they were walking?...

… Thus, we were suddenly placed against the horror in its full cruelty. Terrible waves of murder also enveloped and flooded the holy community of Ratno. Everything was destroyed, uprooted and annihilated, and the masses of our martyrs were tortured and murdered in the light of the day, in the view of the shining sun…

“The sun shone, the acacia blossomed, and the slaughterer slaughtered.”[2] … The survivors were only very few, distraught in their loss and bereavement, wandering along with us in the darkness of the days and asking why and for what reason?

… My dear, good father, refined in soul and noble of spirit, with a sharp mind and clear way of thinking. Your quiet, calming voice has been silenced. Your heartwarming, engaging gaze has been shut. How do I regret that I parted from you so young, and did not drink sufficiently of your wonderful wellsprings.

… I will never again see the noble face of my mother, etched with furrows of sorrow over her children who died while still in their youth. Her tall, thin stature was bent with worry and fear over those who remained alive, with their illnesses and travails of growing up… How strong was your desire to make aliya to the Land and be together with us here. Did you yet sense the knife fluttering above their heads?...

My dear brother and sister, you were the faithful support of our parents at the time of their old age. You were dedicated to them and concerned about them, and for this, I always blessed you. You are dear, innocent souls, and my soul and spirit are bound to you forever.

Tel Aviv, October 1952

Translator's Footnotes

  1. “This article is not in the original Yizkor Book, and was added in to the online translation at the request of Dr. Goldman.”Return
  2. This is a line from the Hebrew poem “In the City of Slaughter” by Chaim Nachman Bialik.Return

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