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[Pages 11 - 17]

Political History

by Nachman Blumenthal, editor

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

(Sources are lacking that would help determine when this city was established, but from its name we can assume that it was established in medieval times because “Bora” means forests. The reason why it was called Borchov was that trees had to be cut down before the city was established.)

There are no documents that make it possible to resurrect the history of the Jews in Borchov from the very beginning......, but it is believed that Jews had already settled there at the end of the 16th century. They occupied themselves with trade. There was a trade route that went through the village, from Tarnopol to Chortkov to Okip. In our day Okip was a very neglected place on the border of Poland, Russia and Romania. In former times it was a fortress and trading center. The trade route continued to Hatin and Yaz, in Turkey. There was another trade route that led to Kiev.

In 1629, the city belonged to the Polish kingdom. The Polish King, Zigmund III gave permission to hold markets four times a year. The Jews had their market [“yarid”] in Borchov every Thursday. This allowed the city to develop as a market town. They used to deal with horses, cows, and agricultural products. The hand weavers would also bring their products made of coarse material, which were known all around the area for their quality.

The city belonged to the Polish kingdom, under Podolya jurisdiction.

In 1648/49 there were terrible pogroms during the Chmielnitski revolt. The city was robbed and destroyed by the Cossacks. After this great destruction, the Vaad Arba Atzod [Hebrew: “Council for Four Lands”] was founded in Lublin in 1651. This was a very important council. In a book “Hayivon” [The Greek] that came out in 1655, it is claimed that 742 Kehillas [communities where Jews lived] were destroyed and more than 600,000 souls were killed. “The writer actually names the communities which were liquidated.”

The writer also names places close to Borchov which were destroyed.

In addition to other rulings, the Vaad prohibited anyone from living in Poldolya and the Ukraine because of the pogroms that took place. It seems that this herem [ruling] was not completely observed. In other words, in spite of the fact that Jews were not supposed to live there, some went back. A few years later, in 1655, Cossacks and Russians destroyed the city of Lublin in another pogrom. So after that there was no point in prohibiting Jews from living in Podolya because Lublin had been destroyed. The poverty of the Jews was unimaginable.

All of Poland was ultimately destroyed by the Cossacks, the Tartars and the Russians. Even the Swedes participated in the destruction. After all this destruction the noblemen were interested in rebuilding the land, so they invited the Jews back. [This is repeated over and over again in European history.]

From 1672 to 1699 Turkey ruled Podolya and the Sultan Mohammed IV showed a good attitude towards Jews; he let them settle wherever they wanted and abandoned all the former restrictions. In 1699 Poldolya, including Borchov, was returned to Polish rule.

During the first split of Poland in 1772, Galicia, with a large part of Podolya including Borchov was ceded to Austria. In 1780 the city fell into different hands. In 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars, the Russians took it over and they did not show any hatred to the Jews. In fact, Theils, who was the governor of Tarnopol, actually took an interest in establishing synagogues for Jews.

According to the decision of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Tarnopol county is returned to Austria and the River “Zbruch” becomes the border between the Austro - Hungarian Empire and Czarist Russia. That's how the situation existed until 1914 when the Russians entered Galicia and remained there for approximately three years. The shtetl Borchov is part of this area.

After the Russians were chased out, the Austro - German soldiers took over not only the former part of Galicia but they went further and captured the Ukraine, including the capital, Kiev. When the Austro - Hungarian Empire fell apart in November,1918, there arose for a short time in eastern Galicia the independent Western Ukrainian Republic, which after approximately a year's time, was liquidated by the Polish army. (November,1919)

In the Polish - Soviet War, 1919/20, a portion of eastern Galicia was settled by the Red Army. But after the Poles won the war on the outskirts of Warsaw, which was called “The Miracle by the Vistula', the Soviets left Galicia.

According to the peace agreement reached between Poland and the Red Army in Riga in 1921, Galicia was divided and the “Zbruch” River was the dividing line between Poland and the Soviet Republic. Between the years 1920 - 1939 there were two nations governing this area, Poland and the Soviet Republic.

It was only after WW II, in 1944, that both sides of the river were taken over by the Soviets and this united the two parts of Galicia again. Eastern Galicia had become a part of the Soviet Union during the October Revolution in 1917.

For generations, the area of which Borchov is a part, went from one nation to another and until WW I there was no tradition of loyalty regarding the one time “friends” who ruled. The people, especially the Jews, assumed that the city was always an Austrian city and they were convinced that “our Caesar” was in Vienna, neither Warsaw, nor in Kiev. They were very proud of this.

If, here or there, somebody recalled that in distant times the Poles, the Russians and the Turks ruled, they considered these as incidental happenings, temporary situations that passed and will never return. As far as my memory serves me, even the Poles and the Ukrainians living in this area looked to Vienna. A recognizable change [in this attitude] occurred during WW I.

Trade and Taxes

Until the breakup of Poland in 1772, there was no border. The settlements of Hatin and Yaz were actually fortresses that protected Poland against the Turks. The same role was played by other fortresses, including Skala, that protected Poland from the Tartars.

The only thing that changed over the years was the form of trade. In order to get around all these different borders people started to smuggle. This was undertaken with great difficulty, because officially they had to get permission from both sides to trade and they had to pay huge taxes. There were certain smugglers who were very well known. They smuggled whiskey, manufactured goods, and metal objects. From the other side they would smuggle horses, cows and so on.

In this same way the Jews smuggled themselves in from places where there pogroms in Czarist Russia, to Galicia. Jewish boys, who wanted to avoid the Czarist military, smuggled themselves out. In nearly every shtetl there was the son of a Russian Jew who stood out because of his Russian clothing. The Russians wore a hat with a stiff brim. The local people in the shtetl, who were Chassidim, put on a different hat [made of velvet] in winter when they had to go out.

The locals called these Russian Jews different names: “gonif” [thief] “Cossack”, etc.

This smuggling at the border carried on according to the political situation that arose between the bordering states, whether they were getting stronger or weaker. The economic situation of the Jews was also affected by all this. Borchov was 15 kilometers from the Polish/Soviet border and a little further from the Polish/Roumanian border.

It is worthwhile in this connection to mention that the Jewish population kept growing until the First World War while in all the other places in that area it kept dropping. It can be concluded that this occurred because of the smuggling that was flourishing in Borchov. There was no other source of income that would have allowed the population to grow.

It is understandable that because of the smuggling, new sources of income arose, for instance, “those who pointed the way,” (guides) and porters. Everyone's earnings were based upon the smuggling, and that is how it was during the period of the Austro - Hungarian Empire and later during the shorter period of Poland's independence. The nations where all this smuggling was going on, either did not want to stop the smuggling, or they could not stop it. They did not care about it, in that everyone had to make a living, even the Austrian tax collectors.


In 1764 Poland decided to annul the autonomy of Jewish institutions.That's when the Council of the Four Nations was organized as well as autonomous provinces.

[The Jewish community] had to pay the priests. By 1765 they owed them 3000 gulden. They paid 7% a year interest. Until 1765 the number they paid out was 924 gulden. That money must have been borrowed in the year 1758. This fact tells us a lot. The fact that they collected such a large sum in Borchov and not in other communities that belonged to Podolya also shows that, in the middle of the 18th century, Borchov was quite a large organized community where contacts to the gentile world already existed.

In 1767 they actually came out with a liquidation commission to establish debt collection. Borchev does not exist as a separate community in this. This goes until 1811 or 1812.

The age of the settlement can [also] be determined from the Jewish cemeteries. Everybody knew two of the cemeteries. The “New “one, dated from the end of the 19th century. There was a family that owned the land. In the 1930's the more recent one was established. The older cemetery was in the midst of an area that was heavily populated by Poles and this was quite a large cemetery, surrounded by a brick wall. It was quite a distance from the quarter where the Jews lived. A few monuments are still there. This cemetery lasted about 200 years. Another cemetery that is [350 - 400 years] older and overgrown was also found. It was discovered behind the Zamkove Forest. The Poles actually respected the area and didn't touch it.


[Pages 31 - 34]

Statistics

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

1921

Table 1. Identification by religion

Russian Catholics21,432
Greek Catholics63,780
Jews9,430 - (identified by religion) 10.1% of the population
Evangelists 34
Others110
Total population94, 786

Table 2. Identification by nationality

Polish32,477
Romanians55,078
Jews7,967 (these were Jews who identified themselves by ethnicity, not religion)
Germans 26
Unknown38
Total population94,786

It has been suggested that when this registration was done, many Jews did not know what was wanted, so they wrote down “Poles” instead of their religion. The Poles were in the minority [in this area] but in order to make themselves more numerous, they included Jews as Poles.

According to the results of this same census in the City of Borchov there were 5,011 souls and 1,637 Jews according to religion. [Therefore it is assumed that the number above must be for the region, not the city]

Year% JewsChristians
18264.6% 
18274.4%181,131
188916.5% 

Jews, especially those who worked for the government or who were teachers, were not even asked what their mother language was. Those who conducted the survey would write “Polish” Many of the Jews tried to avoid being counted. The Polish registrars did not want to crawl into the Jewish streets and grab Jewish families. People used to give false information. If they had a son they wouldn't include him, especially if the son was a member of a Communist group. There were Polish Jews who did not have any citizenship, they wanted to keep a low profile. They were afraid of every registration; i.e. that they would be discovered and sent away.

After WW II

According to the census in the Borchov region - carried out by the Soviet administration after recapturing the area in April,1944 there were in the whole region 30,368 persons. In Borchov alone, 3,403 people:

EthnicityMenWomenTotal
Jews6299161
Poles80110261827
Ukrainians6727421415

In comparison with 1931 there were 54.6% fewer Jews in Borchov. Some came from outside; Czortkov, Buhkivina, Warsaw, etc.

After the war the original Borchov Jews were a minority amongst the Jews living in the village. There were tiny pockets of Jews living in the region. In the whole region there were only 188 Jews.

In the year 1954 there were only 3 Jews of the total population who had lived there when WW II broke out in 1939. Those Jews [who left] went to Israel from Poland and one or two went to other lands.

 

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