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Our Shtetl Krinek (cont.)

Translated by Judie Goldstein


Abraham Soyfer: Krinik

In a valley, between flat little mountains lies my hometown Krinik. The round market place was the center of the shtetl. Two rows of stores – the source of Jewish retail income – were divided by so called “gates” that united both sides of the market place. People bought and sold there during the day and walked around during the evening until late at night. Endless circuits were made until the couples became tired and marched away to Shishlevitzer Street. Then past the “bolnitzes” [hospitals] further down the road, often going as far as “Shemianitze”.

[p. 177]

The main employer in the shtetl was the tanning industry. The workers fed the storekeepers, bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Every young boy dreamed of becoming a tanner – a man, a wage earner.

It would remain engraved in the memory of every visitor to Krinki, that a shtetl such as this had laid down sidewalks, arranged a municipal electric works – with a Jewish engineer, Golinski, and a Jewish technician, David Zack.

Jewish automobile owners in Krinik would drive passengers through the streets of Krinki to Bialystok and Grodno five times a day. This was called the “Spulke Ekspres” [spool express]. The “entire town” would go to an automobile every several hours to get a look at who was arriving and to get newspapers.

kry177.jpg - Electric works in Krinki
Electric works in Krinki

Later all this was nationalized and the Jewish automobiles were no longer allowed to be used to drive passengers, so Jews waited for the trucks that helped Jewish commerce in the shtetl.

The “Pazharnikes” (firemen) were the reflection of the town administration. Twenty “pazharnikes” – all Jews; the elder was Vladko Anisimovitch and Vice-Commandant – Chemia Meyerovitch. And it was the same at the city council. The majority of councilmen were Jews. There was a Christian Mayor, Pavel Tzarevitch and a Jewish Vice-Mayor. The “Christian” mayor, Pavel “Tzar”, as people called him, was a very friendly man, spoke Yiddish well and had a good relationship with the Jews.

[p. 178]

kry178.jpg - 1930 'Linat Hazedek' Managing and Oversight Committees
1930 “Linat Hazedek” Managing and Oversight Committees
In the center – Ziskind Mordhilevitch, chairman
Standing from (on) the left – Moshe Grodski, secretary

The “Sabbath Guardians” (an Orthodox group) had a little bit of work, but only Friday afternoons. It is before lighting and blessing the candles – a disturbance, running: it is already late, it's the Sabbath! The doors and shutters of the stores are closed, Ben-Tzion Donde calls out over the entire market place: “Jews, go to shul [synagogue]!” Young boys yelled after him: “Go to shul!”

Friday night the “Society of Sinners” (a secular group) shaved themselves. The “Sabbath Guardians” carried out a violent war against them.

Several people from Krinki community life – honor their memory:

Velvel Weiner (the carpenter), who gave up a large part of his life to activities in the municipal government, “Heder HaKlali” [Public Boys' Grade School], and Orphans' Committee.

Meilech Zalkin was an important social worker in the “Tarbut” [Zionist Hebrew School] School, the Jewish Community Council, the Folks-Bank and in the “Poali Zion [Zionist party] political party. The Nazis burned him in Treblinka.

Yankel Levi, “der Klorer” [the clearer], a man who gave his great energy to community activities in the bank, the Jewish secular school organization, in the “Bund,” a councilman in the municipal government and alderman to the city council. Murdered in Auschwitz, January 1943.

Abraham Shmuel Zutz,
Zishe the “eternal light”, became blind while in one of the Tzar's prisons and held a position in the brand new Jewish library, always active in the secular school organization, in the “Bund” and with youngsters. Perished together with his sisters Itke and Mulinke.

Nachum Bliaher – Secretary of the Tanners' Union, a strike could not be taken care of without him. During the ghetto period, at his house there was a working, illegal radio and people could listen to foreign news broadcasts. This news would later be spread throughout the entire ghetto. He gave up his soul in Treblinka.

And so that is the line-up of the very public figures in Krinki Jewish life.

[p. 179]

Krinki Institutions and their accomplishments.

The mainstay of the Jewish economy in the shtetl was the local “Folksbank. Its money would be loaned to small storekeepers and artisans – those always hard-pressed to make a living. The major figures in the bank were Jacob Chaim Grinshchinski, Yankele Shafir and Kaganovitch (the “Ardent”).

“Linat Hazedek” [medical assistance society] provided the entire Jewish population with a doctor and a pharmacist. The poor would receive free medical help, according to a receipt, stamped by the secretary Mordchai-Shimon Grodski. Also a “lodovna[ice cellar] was built – a real public treasure, because to get a piece of ice for a patient during the summer was not a small thing. Every Purim there was a special “campaign” for the good of providing ice.

A beautiful activity was the development of the “Jewish Home for Orphans” with half-board [day home] for several dozen small children. During the time it was active, a tailor school under the direction of Blumke Zakheim was established and from then on dozens of orphans ended up with a trade.

At the “Gmiles–Khosdim “ [loans without interest] fund, a Jew could get a loan, with a promissory note, without government taxes (free of the “stamp tax”) and without interest.

kry179.jpg - A group of orphans with their supervisors
A group of orphans with their supervisors

[p. 180]

kry180.jpg - Half-boarding school (day home) for orphans
Half-boarding school (day home) for orphans
In the picture (from the committee)
Rachke Caplan, Beylke Korngold, Shmuel Levski, Itshke Shishlitzian,
Rishke Mendelevitch, Wolf Weiner, Shprintze Shnayder,
Boruch Garber, Falia Lev, Hashke Shuster.

Dear, kind Moshe Ekshtein (“Pintl”) was the technical secretary there.

From my first years in heder [boys' grade school] I remember how in school, at the right side of the ante-chamber (foyer), we would fight against “knowledge” from “Israel the melamed” (a teacher called “the tin beard”). Others related that they would often receive their small share of “wet towels” and even a day standing in “prison.” Later a “public Heder” was created – a modern heder where boys from the surrounding towns - Amdur, Brestovitch, Yalovke and Horodok - would come to study.

About fifty young men sat in the “Chai Adom” besmedresh [meeting place of study] and studied with determination the eternally beautiful gemore [a section of the Talmud ] pages, and their tunes, that came from deep in their hearts, would never frighten the Christians passing by.

Young men with ear-locks wound around their ears would spend their “eating days” at dozens of Krinki families. Step by step, a large and good yeshiva became active in the shtetl. The head gabe [manager] Reb Naftali was in charge of recruiting yeshiva students from the entire area. But dialects from a lot of Galicianers and Polish young men, who came to study in the Krinki yeshiva, could also be heard. The yeshiva was considered one of the best and graduated several rabbis.

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