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[Page 268]

A Memory

by Roze Dvoretsky, New York

Translated by Libby Raichman

I do not remember the exact year during the 1st World War when the government kept changing. These changes did not bypass our little town of Stoyptz. Russians went out, Germans came in, Germans out, Poles in and with each retreat, Jews, Jewish daughters, Jewish possessions were treated very badly.

I was brought up as an orphan by my uncle Mordechai Faivel and my aunt Pesse Riva. She was always prepared to put herself out to defend and protect me from anything bad.

Once I remember they came to our house to replenish supplies for the officers. Quickly my aunt poured out a bottle of black Carbolic acid and in fear, asked to be pardoned and she made an excuse for her actions by saying that there were people in the house with typhus.

The second time she dressed in rags to make herself look older so that she could see who was approaching our house and prevent it from being set alight.

My uncle and I hid in the loft and my dear, unforgettable aunt gave me a shawl with half a loaf of bread and said: “Rozele my child, run through the fields to the village of Shetski. In the third house on the left, as you enter the village, lives Marta. Tell her that you are Leizerushkas's granddaughter and she will hide you.”

Frightened and shaken I ran and when I heard footsteps, I bent down and hid myself between the stalks of corn and soon I was in the village, in peace.

I looked for Marta. The Christian woman received me well and gave me sour milk, cheese and bread to eat and said: “There opposite are sitting other Jews from Stolptzi”. I went out and I saw: Kushe Altman was sitting there with his beautiful, dumb sister Golda, with an infant Mayshele, Yache the daughter of Shlayme Meir (who later became Kushe's wife) and Yache's sister Mary.

They were cooking potatoes in the middle of the yard in a little three–legged oven. Everyone was sitting around the fire as if they were in their Father's vineyard. “How calm it is here!” I thought. Over in the shtetl life is not safe.

Suddenly the Christian man runs up, not alive and not dead: Run away! They are snatching Jews! We all ran into the stable. We were afraid to breathe. Hands and feet were trembling for fear that the child would start crying and reveal our presence; so from a piece of bread we made a pacifier in a piece of rag.

Then we heard the blood–thirsty Polish soldiers arriving riding on horses. Open up the stable. We need hay for the horses, came the order. The Christian man is lying on the ground, knowing what is awaiting him. He does not know what they want from him.

Swift as a deer, Kushe ran to the only little window and bends out of the iron bars (on the window) and according to his wink we began to jump and soon we were lying next to the wall of the stable.

When the danger was over we ran to the nearest forest. We were afraid in case the child cried.

We were in the forest for 3 days. Marta, through a Christian minister, sent us cheese and milk. Kushe did not let us eat. He only allowed the child to partake of the food. We nourished ourselves with wild berries from which our mouths became inflamed and our stomachs ached. Sitting in our hiding place we heard that the bridges in Stoyptz were being torn down. When we returned home everything was destroyed. Everyone from the market place hid in the cellar of the white church.

Who could have imagined that greater black clouds were moving over Poland and in the years to come – in the 2nd World War, millions would fall in the slaughter. The Jews would be cruelly killed by the barbaric Nazis who declared a total annihilation of the Jewish people. In those grey days Kushe Altman met his nephew Mayshele again. Kushe, already an older man and Mayshele a proud young man in his early twenties. The two of them and many more Jews from Stoyptz and from other towns and villages, armed with guns, declared a fight for revenge, without pity, against the Nazi army.

Kushe Altman with his nephew Mayshele Altman, both proud partisans wandered from the Pollesier to the Nalibokker forest fighting with heroism and honour. They fell there in their fight against the murderers of the Jewish people.

In honor of their memory.


[Page 269]

The Family of a Village Jew

by Yisroel Proshtsitski

Translated by Libby Raichman

There were a few villages around Stoyptz where Jewish families lived – Mezhinke, Agatshin, Prushenove and others.

Our family, the family Proshtsitski was a branch of a family of generations of village Jews. In the middle of the last century (19th) there were still large numbers of these village Jews but with the passing of time, because of the evil decrees against the Jews in the villages, their numbers decreased drastically.

In the 80's of the last century the Czarist government forbad Jews to live in the villages with the exception of those who could prove that their parents had settled before the Ignatiev[1] decrees. Our family could prove this and we therefore had dwelling rights but many members of our family were scattered in various places.

After the first Russian Revolution in 1905, the relationship between the Jews and their Christian neighbours was mutually tolerant and even friendly. Good relationships developed mainly between the Proshtsitskis and their Christian neighbours.

In Agatshin, Leibe Proshtsitski had a large inn. Not far from there in Mezhinovke, lived Leibe's father Gershon Proshtsitski. He had 40 hectares of land and also a factory for burning pitch. The factory had ovens where they produced pitch from pine roots, also tar, turpentine and wood coal. Close by there also lived Chaim Proshtsitski with his 17 children.

I also remember a few Jewish families of village Jews from the village of Zassule and Prushenove where there was an innkeeper Motte Chazanowicz. There were also at that time a Mr Alperowicz, a forest employee and Y. Rolnik.

Amongst the earliest village Jews there was a spirit of brotherliness and friendship. For the education of their children they had a teacher Abraham Wolf who was very socially inclined. All the boys from the surrounding areas used to come to him to learn.

In 1905 our teacher organised a strike of the peasants who worked the land of the good owner of the court of the Graf Tshapski in “Prushenove”. He utilised the hatred that the village peasants of the surrounding areas carried in their hearts towards Graf Tshapski and he agitated amongst them to express their enmity openly.

This teacher of ours influenced a young non–Jewish man Ivan, from the village of Prushenove with his socialistic ideals – and this Ivan fell in love with Leah, the daughter of the innkeeper Motte Chazanowicz and she went to a nearby church and converted. From grief, her father Motte left the village of Prushenove and went to the nearby town of Mohilne.

Generally the village people were quite strongly distanced from Yiddishkeit (Judaism) but for the High Holy days they shook off the dust of the week days and the greyness of their simple way of life. At a central location we had a minyan ( a quorum of 10 men required for communal prayer) and there we prayed as a community.

Trouble started in the 1st World War because the border with Russia just happened to be here and because of this, part of our family went to Stoyptz and a part went across to the other side of the Russian border to Uzde.

I would like by the way to stop at the inns around Stoyptz and see what they looked like in yesteryear. At that time each inn served as a resting place for people who passed through. Horse merchants would ride through on Market days and the days of the fairs. Some farmers were also Jews who had fruit gardens. As the places were encircled by forests, these were beautiful resting places in the summer.

In the 2nd World War, with the annihilation of the Jews of Eastern Europe, the first to perish were the Jewish families who lived in the villages.

May the memory of the branches of the family Proshtsitski and all the Jewish village families, be sanctified.

 

sto269a.jpg
The market place

 

sto269ba.jpg
The departure of Shoshana Gershonowicz for the land of Israel
Sitting from right, front row: Avrom Tchechanowicz, Sarah Nyfeld, Roze Dvoretsky, Chaim Epshtein, Henye Esterkin, Nochum Gershonowicz
Sitting second row: Boruch Akun, Liebe Altman, Mordechai Mirsky, Shoshana Gershonowicz, Aharon Tunik, Chava Volfson, Abba Bogin
Standing from right: Mordechai Borsuk, Riva Sosland, Velvel Volfson, Chava Shlayf, unknown, Itte Volfson, Minke Segalowicz, Faygl Sragowicz, Sonia Lusterman


Translator's Footnote

  1. May Laws of 1882. Sanctioned by the Czar, Count Ignatiev imposed these laws on the Jewish people to restrict their movements and trade. Return

 


[Page 271]

Gutkele

by Rozze Petshenik–Prusinovski

Translated by Libby Raichman

In Nadnimanske street, pushed into a yard, she stood bent over her white lime shack which was also clean inside. All this, witnesses said, here live poor people, clean and tidy. In the shed lived Gutkele, her daughter Chayele and her son Boruch and his family.

As her son grew up, Gutkele used to claim that her heart did not allow her to marry him off to a stranger. She used to say: I suckled him for 5 years and carried him in my arms – will I give him away just like that?

Later she was better and after his wedding she took him and his family to live with her in the shack. Despite her difficult life, Gutkele never lost her kind–heartedness. When she met young couples in the street she would take them by the hand and say: “Oh, what cold hands and mine are so warm” and then she would add: “Look, see children, not one grey hair, all black as it was 30 years ago”. Everyone was drawn to her joyful disposition and would laugh good naturedly.

Her white lime shack also served as an inn for poor people who travelled around the villages looking for donations. In the hot summer nights, the singing of her guests, the poor people, would spread over the village. In her inn, quite often, marriages were sealed between the poor people and it was “we will be glad and rejoice” in the little shack.

Her daughter Chayele busied herself baking bagel and cakes. Before dawn when everyone was still in a deep sleep – Stoyptz Jews used to delight in her tasty bagel and cakes that she used to throw to them through their open windows.

As life progressed so did Chayele. She opened a kiosk in the middle of the market place.

 

sto271a.jpg
sto271b.jpg
Mordechai Isaac Gershenowicz
is standing next to Chaye's kiosk
Aharon Gershenowicz

 

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