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[Pages 229-232]

They All Stand Before My Eyes

By Rasya Tal (Kagan)

Translated by Judy Grossman

 

 
Rasya in her youth

 

 
On the “Ozere” [Lake]
In the background, from the right: Shoemaker Moshe-Mote's house,
Hassidic Minyan, new flourmill, and on the edge - the bathhouse…

On the right Rasya Kagan, on the left Henia Slep

 

At the Hachshara

I was a member of Hashomer Hatzair in Dusiat, and when my time came I left for hachshara. I spent a short time at the agricultural training farm in Eiragola [Ariogala] where there were ten of us. The landowner worked us like slaves – from dawn to dusk – and I recall that we simply staggered from overwork and fatigue. My first job was to take the pigs out to pasture. They opened the pigpen at 4 AM, and they ran in all directions… I was in a real bind. I wasn't able to get them back in, and was almost thrown off the estate. I remember that our boys also didn't manage to gather the pigs, because the latter dispersed throughout the entire estate. We couldn't take the backbreaking work on this estate, and we were transferred from there. We received assistance from Tzemach Berger, a member of the Hechalutz central committee. He was a pleasant red-haired fellow who used to sing with us… Thanks to him they dispersed the hachshara groups, because they really did take advantage of us there.

With members of Hashomer Hatzair I moved to a Kibbutz Shomri in Panevezys. There wasn't anything to eat there, and there also wasn't any work. I was placed to work at bookkeeping – a profession I had learned from my relative Michl Shapira (who was married to my cousin Etel, daughter of Bertchik Chatzkel) in Utena – in his factory. You need to know that this wasn't considered “pioneering” work, but it was authorized in the general assembly. My income was so large that it rescued the kibbutz hachshara.

 

 
Members of the Hachshara on their Vacation
Rasya seated mid front, Olke-Kehat Slep standing behind her

 

Other members of the Eiragola group moved to Kovno [Kaunas] and other places, but at the end all ten of them immigrated to Eretz Yisrael. Chana, Ida and Etka are in Kibbutz Yagur; Zvi was in Kibbutz Mishmarot[1] , and later moved to the city; Vitkin is in Tel Aviv, and there was our friend Ziska too.

But in the meantime, there were no certificates[2]. I wasn't interested in a fictitious marriage, because I had heard about cases in which the couple had problems with obtaining a divorce. Therefore, Rachel Shub and I decided to go to Latvia, in the hope that it would be easier to obtain certificates there.

Parting from My Home

It was November 1935, and the weather was already cool. I imagined that it would not be exceptionally hard to say goodbye to my home, because I had already been away for a long time.

My parents were not happy about my leaving. They weren't anti-Zionists, but they knew that the pioneers worked very hard, while in Lithuania the economic situation had improved just then, and I already had a profession. At home they said to me: “You're leaving everyone! Where are you going? To be a pioneer? To burn in the sun of Eretz Yisrael? To work in the fields?” My parents found it very hard to part from me. My father kept quiet, but my mother cried copiously! I remember my mother Chava-Leah saying: “I know one thing, that I will never see you again!”

I left my shtetl Dusiat and traveled by bus to Rokiskis, where my friends had a farewell party for me. Henia-Henka Slep accompanied me to the train, on my way to Dvinsk [Daugavpils, Latvia]. She came into the carriage, and the train was already beginning to move and we were still holding each other's hands; we held each other so hard! That was the most difficult parting! Henka got off, and through the window I saw that the abrupt movement of the train caused her to fall, and a scream burst from my throat. But she picked herself up and waved goodbye. Afterwards she wrote to me in Latvia, telling me that she wasn't hurt.

We arrived in Riga (Latvia) as “pioneers”, and worked secretly at night in a printing shop, because we didn't have work permits. We were in the framework of a Kibbutz Ironi[3] at that time. Time passed and we were finally able to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael.

How did I get to Kfar Masaryk?

The head office of Hashomer Hatzair in Lithuania directed its members to kibbutzim, according to their age. The oldest ones were directed to Beth Zera[4] ; the somewhat younger ones to “Amir“ - Hadera; the youngest to Givat Hen- Raanana, and those of intermediate age were directed to Mishmar Zevulun, to where I came…

I still keep a letter from Yoel Zeif , which reached me there. At that time we lived on the dunes of Kiryat Chaim together with our comrades from the “kibbutz of Czech-Lithuania”. Shortly thereafter we founded Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk [south of Akko].

During the riots in 1936, I was secretly called to come to the school in Kiryat Chaim. Silently, without talking about it and without knowing about each other, a group of members met there for training in signaling. Willingly and enthusiastically we ran to each town, and with the pleasant instruction of Yosef Rotblit, of blessed memory, who fell in battle on the road to Hanita, we learned Morse code, which helped us communicate with our squad that had been set up in Naaman.

We had many experiences on the signaling towers. It also served to communicate with the work roster, the transport of food that was lacking, and even the transfer of pairs of horses and mules.

“Hed-Hanaase“ [“The Echo of Activities”], No. 38 – July 25, 1958

My roots …

I remember the names of my relatives well, and it is as though their images were now before my eyes.

Here is Grandma Shifra [Kagan], my father's mother. I remember my grandmother lying in bed at the home of my uncle Zalmen, with his daughter Chaya-Tema standing beside him. My father Asher and his brother Zalmen were standing closely beside her, and I knew then that my grandmother had died. That was the first time I saw a dead person. I was about six years old then.

I didn't know my father's father. He was killed in an accident, when the wagon in which he was riding overturned. My grandmother was left with two little children: my father Asher and my uncle Zalmen.

Zalmen's wife, Shifra, passed away at a young age, and I remember him as a lonesome person. He was left with his one and only daughter Chaya-Tema, who later on married Berl-Dov Levitt (son of Hirshel and Tzirl nee Zilber), and they immigrated to South Africa.

 

 
Chaya-Tema daughter of Zalmen Kagan in her youth
Dusiat February 20, 1927

 

My grandmother Masha Chatzkel (daughter of Rivka and Dov-Ber Garber), my mother's mother, was a small and modest woman who spoke very little. I don't remember her not being busy. She was always occupied and didn't do much with us, but we loved to come and visit her, and she always treated us to baked goods. In contrast to my grandfather Shraga-Feivish Chatzkel (my mother's father), I never saw her angry. They lived far from us in Dusiat, near the area of the Gentiles.

My grandfather Shraga-Feivish Chatzkel, was a tall man with a white beard. He went to the synagogue twice a day, but before that came to our house to drink a cup of tea with cubes of sugar… I remember his caresses and blessings, but I also remember that when he was sitting and reading and studying, he would become angry if we were rowdy and bothered him.

Footnotes

  1. A kibbutz of the Gordonia Zionist youth movement whose doctrines were based on the beliefs of Aaron David Gordon – manual labor and the revival of the Hebrew language. Return
  2. British permit for immigration to Palestine. Return
  3. Kibbutz Ironi [urban kibbutz] held training in the cities; but most of the training centers were on farms for agricultural training. Return
  4. Kibbutz Hashomer Hatzair in Petach Tikva was “Kibbutz Lita” (members from Lithuania), and afterwards united with Kibbutz Beth Zera in the Jordan Valley on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Variations: Bet Zera, Beit Zera. Return

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