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[Page 215]


Memories

By Lajbl Perkal

Translated by Amy Samin


A year after the end of the war, in 1946, during the repatriation of the citizens of the former Poland from the U.S.S.R., some of the remnants of the refugees returned to Poland – I also returned with my small family.

I felt a strong urge to visit my city. Swept along by sentiment to see the place to which I was so connected in my memories. I could not help but go. I could not refrain from seeing my city, Dąbrowa Górnicza. I went there with a heavy heart. I felt I would find no peace of mind until I had viewed the ruins of my life in my city, the places where I took my first steps and had the first experiences of my childhood.

I walked for hours through the city, thinking that perhaps, in spite of everything, I would find someone. I saw the house at number 11 Sobieskiego Street, where I lived with my family, was educated, and grew up. And there was our yard, where I played with children when I was young, where I showed off my new clothes for the holidays of Pesach and Sukkot. And there was the house opposite, where the family of Zlotnik the metal worker the lived.

I passed Reden and saw hundreds of miners dark with coal dust, just as they used to be. I peered at the Huta Bankowa buildings and the welder's shop, where my cousin Herszl (Sztorchajn) and I had tried to learn the profession, but were forced to leave because of the anti-Semitic sentiment there. I crossed the bridge over the railroad tracks and walked to the pools created by the mining of the coal in underground springs. All around were woods and fields of grass, where I had spent many long hours in the evenings and on Sabbath afternoons with my friends from Hashomer Hatzair (the Young Guard). I passed by the large marketplace and remembered the huge gatherings of thousands of workers and miners, who would come together and agitate for their demands on the first of May, and the strikes and demonstrations that extended from the monument to Kościuszko out into the streets of the city.


dab215.jpg [46KB] - "Hashomer Hatzair" center in 1918
“Hashomer Hatzair” center in 1918 in Dąbrowa Górnicza
at a Zaglembian conference



[Page 216]


The only thing I didn't see were Jews – I did not find the owners of the Jewish workshops – the tailors, the smithies, the shoemakers and the seamstresses, nor the carpenters or the glaziers; there no longer were any Jewish shopkeepers, no rich people, and none of those who would wait impatiently for long hours in their dilapidated shops for the half-zloty shopper who was late in coming. The city of Dąbrowa that once existed was no longer; the small-scale center blessed with many hundreds of Jewish families who nurtured Jewish culture, with a revolutionary movement, with political parties, and with pioneering youth who redefined the meaning of life and proudly raised the flag of rebellion against subjugation and the lack of purpose in their lives.

There no longer remained any sign of the hundreds of families that were destroyed and burned by the Nazis. And there were no remains of the youth movements, of the fiery young men and women with whom I lived for years, a guard of revolutionary socialist fighters, soldiers in the underground against the Nazi beast, and those who made the desert bloom in our far-off homeland.

The Nazi monster did not leave a single trace – it erased all of the beloved characters, demolished the area of my childhood, destroyed everything and covered it all with ashes. All that remained were hidden memories of days gone by, the documentation of a generation that was sentenced to obliteration, an understanding of the period and a commemoration of those fearful days.

1917 – 1922

These are the years that designed and affixed the seal on the process of my development, the period in which youth movements awakened and developed in our city, among them the movement Hashomer Hatzair, in which I grew up and was educated along with a generation of idealists who fulfilled their dreams, together with many dozens of young men and women who searched for a new world; better, more just, and honorable.


dab216a.jpg [20 KB] - The Perkal brothers, Cwi Sztorchajn and Majer Grajcer
The Perkal brothers, Cwi Sztorchajn and Majer Grajcer
wearing garments of the period – 1918


We were driven to find answers to the painful problems in our parents' homes and the schools, to find a goal and a purpose.


dab216b.jpg [27 KB] - Members of "Hashomer Hatzair"
Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” at a send-off for their friends
before they made “aliyah”, 1921



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