by Leibel Mirsky
Translated by Melissa Rubin McCurdie and David Rubin
I remember that in the year 1919 my mother took me by the hand to Wolf Tunik's house where a cheder had been organised.
The teacher was Meyer Yossef Schwartz. He covered the windows that faced the Niemen River so that the pupils would not be distracted by the ducks that swam on the Niemen River.
In this way we learned for a half time. Afterwards my mother took me to the local little Beit Midrash in Potshet Street where we learned in the communal cheders of the teachers, Avrom Chait and Michael Barishansky. I remember their shining faces how they wanted us to reach higher and higher goals in learning. Avrom Chait, may his memory be blessed, used to hit me with his lokshen for my translation of Vayitrotzetezu habanim bakirba - The children were struggling in the womb. At that time in the women's shul of this same Beit Midrash there lived an old Jewish man without a family who had served in the army of Czar Nikolai for 25 years. He used to tell us stories how they grabbed him when he was very small. We would listen to his tales intently. After the might of the Polish Army was strengthened, we were forbidden to learn in the Beit Midrash and as soon as we saw a policeman we used to run away from the Beit Midrash. Later we moved to Avrom Chait's house to learn. Avrom Chait's wife was very knowledgeable in Hebrew and I remember how she used to help me learn and prepare the lectures. Her name was Tzvia. They lived with Yitzchak Izgur. In the year 1922 we were already learning
in the Tarbut school under the direction of Yitzchak Yosselevitch who began a colossal Zionist activity together with the Tsiungs Arbeit. At the same time they began to organise a Zionist Youth under the direction of Bebe Charchurin (son of Yerachum) and Yossef Karp. The first song still rings in my ears:
We have a land and her name is PalestineLater the printer, Naftali Klebansky, organised the youth movement Hashomer Hatsair. The highest class of the Tarbut school went into Hashomer Hatsair. We were drawn in with the burning ideals of youth in the work for the land of Israel. The pillar of the organisation was Yitzchak Yosselevitch. Under his direction we started to organise the Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod. There will always stand before me the image of our teacher Yitzchak Yosselevitch who imbued us with a Zionist patriotism. The members of Hashomer Hatsair used to do all kinds of work in order to earn a groshen for the Keren Kayemet, chopping wood etc. And I used to even catch mice for Shaul Mekler in the dairy and I used to receive 50 groshen per mouse. This was all done aside from the monthly work of emptying the Keren Kayemet boxes.
There they eat honey and cheese
There was no shortage of disputes in the shtetl. On the one hand they began to organise the Revisionists in Betar and also the Bundists who tried a few times to open a Yiddish school. The Zionist Youth Movements; Hashomer Hatsair, Gordonia, Betar and Freedom used to organise outings to the Siniaver Forests to which the whole Jewish population used to come. It is necessary to mention our friend Yitzchak Charchurin who died in Russia and did not live to see the blossoming of the Land of Israel for which he gave up so much. Honour his memory!
On the 17th September 1939 our bubbling /active (turbulent) lives were stopped .
For 4 years I was in the Russian Army and posted in Moscow, liberated Prague and took Berlin.
My Last Visit to Shtiebtz
The appearance of our shtetl in 1956/1957 was shocking, truly unrecognisable. Our mass grave on Zeimener Road was a free for all, every shepherd who wanted to dig up the dead and look for gold teeth. When I went down to the Head Council of Shteibtz in 1957 and informed them, I received no answer. I gathered the bones and heads of my best shtetle friends and brought them back to the Jewish burial place, took leave of them and left my shtetele Shteibtz on 14 March 1958.
|Avraham Mirsky, his sister Yocheved (Yocha) with her children|
by Yitzchak Russak
Translated by Melissa Rubin McCurdie and David Rubin
Many years have passed and when I think of my childhood years, how naughty my friends and I were, I can hardly believe it. The tricks that we used to play on one another and also on the adults, are simply unbelievable. No one with a horse and cart could pass by the schoolyard, in wintertime we broke panes with snowballs and we used to startle the horses so they ran and we used to throw pinecones in beards and in the girl's hair etc.
Every wronged person (wronged by the children) used to come to the teacher Alter to complain. At first he used to speak to us and try to appeal to us gently: if it did not help then he would appeal to us with strong words and when that also did not work he threatened to throw us out of the Tarbut school. And even then we didn't take his word seriously and as usual, we again presented with our devilish pranks.
In the main, we plagued the female teacher, Leah Tilman, who was a refined, delicate, quiet lady who suffered a lot from our class and cried quite often.
On a particular day in the middle of an arithmetic lesson she called me out to the table to read a problem.
|The Tarbut School|
One of the friends voiced an observation that they could not hear my explanation because I was talking too softly. Then all the pupils burst into resounding laughter. Not being able to control the class, the teacher Tilman ran out distressed. A few minutes later she came back with the teacher Alter and he chased everyone out stressing in addition that he will not take those who caused the disturbance, back into the class and he kept his word.
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