Around 1916 my grandmother, Rose Rubincik, was living with her mother, sister, and two
brothers in Brodets, near Igumen. But a cousin, Ilya Nisnewich, who was influential
in Igumen at that time, urged them to move to the larger city to avoid the ever-growing
danger of soldiers and pogroms.
The family moved into a four-flat (other apartments were occupied by a sister-in-law and her son, and a tailor.) There was one bedroom in the back, and an enormous stove where everyone wanted to sleep, and where the mother baked bread. This bread was hidden on a bench under the table and sold to soldiers, who left them alone because "that was the house where the lady baked the bread." Once, a couple of soldiers came and asked who else was in the house, looking for young women. Kayla, Rose's mother, started krechzing and pouring out drops of medicine. The soldiers asked who was sick, and she said "my son has influenza." Sickness was the only thing they were afraid of, and they left.
At that time it was very dangerous to go to synagogue. The soldiers would see a Jew with a beard, and light it on fire. Even at home, they pulled down the shades before lighting candles on Shabbos. Jews were not allowed to go to school at the Gymnasium. But the influential cousin, Nisnewich, arranged for Rose to attend. Her two brothers went to yeshiva.
Aside from breadbaking, the family's main source of income was the cow, Masha. Masha had been brought from Podkamen to Brodetz, and from Brodetz to Igumen. Masha was kept in the back yard, but she was very fussy. She wouldn't graze just anywhere, she was always getting into swamps ... a dozen people had to pull her out. But she was worth it. The family always had plenty of butter, cheese, milk, and could sell some, too. One day, a priest saw Kayla leading Masha to a faraway pasture, and offered to let her graze the cow on his land. This was an enormous timesaver. When the family left Igumen, they gave Masha to the priest.
The departure from Igumen was arranged with the help of a brother-in-law's brother working for a bank in Warsaw, and a few brothers and sisters already in America. For $600 each, the family was smuggled across a wide river, standing on a boat with 35 other people because there was no room to sit, terrified it would sink. They made it to Warsaw, then London, and finally, with about 30 other people from Igumen, sailed on the Aquitania to Ellis Island.