by Dr. Nachman Blumenthal, Jerusalem
Translated by Pamela Russ
A person is someone once said a world unto himself; a microcosm in which the big world (the macrocosm), a world with so many details, reflects itself. And if this is true for an individual, how much more so is this true for a collective setting, like a Jewish town, a Jewish community. Here we already have what to discuss as the grandfather of Yiddish literature, Mendele Moicher Sforim, said: It's a world with small worlds.
And if it's a world, a whole world, so who can undertake to write its history from beginning to end? It would take years of work, travels across the world, searches and rummages through archives, browsing all the newspapers, interviews with each history writer who originates from these places or who somehow wandered around these parts, and trace every descendant from that place, to wherever and whenever he has roamed, etc.
Who can permit himself to do this?
I believe all this is important to say, since I will attempt to paint the history of the town of Jezierna only with broad strokes. Cut off thousands of kilometers from the city itself, without any chance of accessing any archives or institutions, as much as they could have survived after the destruction that World War Two brought with it, something from our past since there is no other way, our work must bear the character of distant echoes that once was and is no more. More than this historical outline is likely not necessary for a memorial book … in order to remember.
The Shtetl (Jezierna in Polish, Ozerna in Ukrainian)
The old settlement was located near a large lake into which rivulets flowed, and near a small river, Wosuszka, that flows into the Stripa River. From that lake the settlement took its name Jeziero in Polish, and Ozero in Ukrainian. And these provided a livelihood to the early settlers many years ago. With time, as the settlement grew around both sides of the river, it came to pass that the river split the town into two. Years ago, when the waters rose, the settlement was protected like a natural fortress. One could not get to it easily.
We hear about Jezierna for the first time in a letter from Zygmunt August, written in the year 1545, to his father the king of Poland, Zygmunt I (the Elder). The letter was about this specific village that Jan Tarnowski, the great military commanderinchief of Poland (of the Crown, that is Poland without Lithuania) had forcefully taken over (justly or unjustly who can judge this today?) from Duchess Beata Ostrogska.
In about 1615, the settlement was purchased by Yakob Sobieski, the governor of Lublin, father of the future king Jan Sobieski, whose family estates were located in Reussen, part of later East Galicia: such as Olesk, Zlocow, Zhulkiew, etc.). He built a castle, to protect himself on the mountain, located southwest of the settlement at a height of about 400 meters. He also built a Roman Catholic church in the year 1636. Other members of the Sobieski family would also come here to live the father, and after that the son; then later King Jan III and his son Jakob.
The position of the settlement: a lake, a river with flowing water, and a mountain that had strategic defense capacity were the cause of occasional military campaigns.
In the year 1649, on the third of August, at the time of the Chmielnicki revolt and the wars with him, and the Tatars on one side and the Polish military on the other side, King Jan Kazimierz waited to the rear of Zborow for the bridges to be repaired so that he could pass over to Jezierna, Tarnopol …
On May 29, 1651, during the second assault on Poland, Jezierna was occupied by Chmielnicki. He waited here for the Tatar Khan for several months.
In the year 1655, Jezierna was involved in an agreement between the Poles and the Khan. In that same year, on the ninth of November, there was a confrontation between the Tatars and the Russian military; the Tatars did not want to allow the Russians to pass over the embankments into the city, but this didn't work. At least that's how the Czar's messenger Buturlyn presented this in a letter reporting to the Czar.
Again in 1657, the wellknown Polish commander, the great military man and antiSemite Stefan Schtarnazki [Czarniecki] was there and from there he continued his war with the Swedes…
In the year 1667, the great commander and Grand Marshall Jan Sobiecki, the future king, wrote to his sister Duchess Katarzyna Radziwill that the hordes of Tatars completely destroyed Jezierna, among other towns. There is no sign of what once was. You cannot find even one peasant for help. They had all run away.
These are more or less the important historical facts of Poland's past that are related to the Jezierna of those times. Jezierna then passes into the hands of the magnate family Radziwill. Moczei Stazhenski buys this village from them; in 1863 half of the settlement belonged to the Ilinski family.
At the first partitioning of Poland in 1772, Jezierna is transferred to Austria as a part of the kingdom of Galicia, and then remains in Austria (afterwards AustriaHungary) until the end, which began in November 1918, when the huge empire fell apart. Jezierna is taken over by the Ukraine which creates its western Ukrainian republic in that part of Galicia. After half a year, more or less, the Polish military, in conflict with Ukraine, chases the Ukrainians out of Jezierna. Now Jezierna becomes a Polish city (with a short lapse, when in the year 1920 Bolshevik soldiers enter the city), until September 1939, when it is transferred to the Soviet Union. In July 1941, the Germans enter and remain until June 1944. Then the Soviet government returns.
During the Austrian era, the town was part of the Zloczow province; then from October 1, 1904, part of the Zborow county that was established at that time. That is how it remained in the days of Poland. In time, the larger administrative union, to which the Zborow county belonged, became the Tarnopol province. Under the Soviets, the town itself became the center of the region (formerly the province).
|% of Jews|
The first three numbers are from the time that Jezierna belonged to AustriaHungary; the rest are from the time that the town already belonged to Poland.
We see from these numbers that between the years 18801900 the settlement grew: both the general population grew by 1,130 people (almost 19.4%), as well as the Jewish population by 240 people (that means more than 20%). The growth of the Jewish population becomes more impressive for this period if we take into consideration for the years 18801900 not the numbers in the general population, but the number of nonJews and compare them with the number of Jews. In that case, for the year 1880 there were 3,758 nonJews, and for 1900 there were 4,648; the increase in the nonJewish population was about 890 people that is, 19.1%.
It is worth noting that the general (nonJewish) population in that first decade (18801890) grew by 562 people, almost the same number that it grew in the next decade (18901900) with 568 people that is a normal rate. On the other hand, there is a great jump in numbers in the Jewish population. In that first decade, the Jewish population grew by 209 people, and in the next decade by only 31. These numbers are understandably not a result of a natural, normal biological increase, but only because of the incoming Jews from foreign parts, primarily from nearby areas. The majority of the Jews from the villages moved to the cities a typical Jewish phenomenon.
In the year 1890, the Jews in the city reached their relative peak at 22.1% of the general population.
These were normal times that were exceptional because of the rise in emigration by the impoverished population of Galicia, Jews and Ukrainians alike, who left their homeland to go primarily to America (those who went to the United States were mainly Jews) and to Canada (mainly Ukrainians). This includes part of the natural increase and so the settlement did not grow proportionally as the natural increase would indicate, but in the later years it all took the form of an apparent increase.
However, when we look at the numbers of 19001921, a span of about 20 years, we see a different picture:
The nonJewish population grew as follows: in 1921 4,765 (8135,578); in 1900 4,648 (1,1955,843), having grown by only 117 people, this is less than the natural increase would be, but nonetheless, there was growth.
On the other hand, the Jewish population dropped significantly by 382 people (1,195813), not considering the normal increase that would have taken place over these more than 20 years at least 50 people. The number of Jews was decreasing both in absolute and relative terms in relation to the nonJewish population, from 20.5% to 14.6%. These are the results of the war visàvis the Jews. In other words, we suffered from the war (19141920) in a much more significant way than the nonJews.
What in truth we have to admit is that among the Jews, at the beginning of the war and during the fighting around Jezierna (the AustrianRussian conflict, then after that the PolishUkrainian conflict and the PolishSoviet conflict), more Jews than nonJews left the town (we don't have exact numbers), but overall the emigrations involved so few that they could cope with the dropping numbers 382 people plus the natural growth from 19001914 in normal times; and the smaller increase from 19151921 in the abnormal war times!
And so, because of World War One, Jezierna lost 450 individuals. These were actually war victims (those who died in battle, soldiers and civilians, and those who died from epidemics, from famine and from need), and those who, willingly or not willingly (were chased out, were afraid of pogroms, etc.), had left the city and run away to distant Vienna (in Austria), or to the larger cities (to be among Jews to Zloczow, Tarnopol, eventually Lemberg, etc.). A small number of Jews returned after the end of the war that lasted longer here than in the West.
For the later years, we do not have official data, particularly about the Jews, but the number of Jews certainly did not increase. The natural growth that decreased significantly, particularly for the Jews, after World War One, both because of the poverty of the Jewish population and because of the changing lifestyles, more modernization, fewer children, etc. certainly included the emigration of Jews from Jezierna who settled in other, larger cities in Poland, or who left for foreign countries (America … and Eretz Yisrael).
Incidentally, in 1921, Jezierna still had 14.6% Jews, as opposed to the other cities in total from Zborow county, to which Jezierna also belonged, where the number of Jews was only 5.8% (down from 14.2% in 1881).
What is relevant is that in the year 1921, the natural increase of Jews in Zborow county was 1,000 31.1 births, 13.0 deaths, that is 18.1 (per thousand); that comes to 5.5% of the general population, while the percent of Jews in the county was 5.8%; that means that Jews decreased by 0.3% from the general nonJewish population. The reason is understandable Jews were more big city; more modernized, more thoughtful about … the future. So, the economic situation for the Jews was certainly worse than that of the nonJews who lived on their lands (peasants and farmers), and those who enjoyed the state's support (officers, etc.).
|2,269||Greek Catholics (Uniates)|
|813||Jews (followers of Mosaic Law|
The large number of Poles according to nationality is remarkable. This is a result of the census method used in 1921. The Polish Commission of Statistics was especially interested that in that year, when Eastern Galicia had not yet been recognized as part of Poland, the number of Poles should be high. So they did not ask everyone about their nationality and they wrote whatever they wished. Secondly, not all the Jews, especially the Jews that did not know any Polish, paid attention to the questions of religion and nationality, and especially about their citizenship. For the ordinary Jew, it was important that he was just a Jew, that means a believing Jew, the rest did not interest him.
It is still not possible that in a city such as Jezierna 504 Jews (more than half) were actually assimilated, spoke Polish, considered themselves as Poles, etc.
To the abovementioned statistic of the year 1921, you have to add the number of people who lived on the estates of the owners of the city, called in Polish obszary dworskie (court areas). With time, they established an independent administrative unit.
On the estate, (that means those who worked for the landowners), there were 106 people: among them were 61 Poles, 23 Russians and 22 Jews. According to religion there were: 24 Roman Catholics and 60 Greek Catholics, and we know that the Greek Catholics were primarily Ukrainian. This was how the Polish census looked at that time.
We have to add these 22 Jews to the numbers of the shtetl. They belonged to the Jewish community just as much as the other Jews did. The fact that they belonged to the estate shows that their work only involved agriculture (in a relatively large number): estate stewards, record keepers, guards, distillers, foresters, etc.
At the beginning of the war, in September 1939, according to certain nonofficial calculations (taken from Jewish sources), there were only 700 Jews. A decrease compared to the year 1921 of 113 people.
How Did the Jews of Jezierna Make a Living?
With regard to the economic situation of the Jews of Jezierna, we can quote this, which Dr. Ch. D. Hurwitz wrote about the Jewish Economy in general, in the year 1902, in the Jewish People's newspaper (Jiddische Volkszeitung), num. 1 (from June 13, 1902), published in Krakow, edited by M. Spektor and Ch. D. Hurwitz: The Jewish situation (in Galicia in general) becomes more tragic, more terrible, from day to day, and even more so for our Jewish artisans... Before, they had a peaceful life; they were not rich men, but they earned a living. The same was true for the merchants. Only one thing is missing for the Jewish artisans today that is a livelihood. He becomes somewhat of a salesman (goes to the fairs to sell his wares), but the merchants also become poorer each day.
In August 13, 1902, Yakov Shor wrote an article in the same newspaper entitled: The Jews in Galicia saying that Galicia is filled with capable people … and no one has a livelihood. Among the reasons for this difficult situation, the writer listed: …the competition of the Polish and Ukrainian cooperatives, the Polish Farmer, the Ukrainian People's Trader, and also the legislation that was enacted against the Jews. Jewish shops were closed for two days a week: Saturday by their own choice, and Sunday because of the enforced law. The same was true for artisans, etc.
The situation did not change even in later times until the very end. On the contrary, the situation worsened considerably.
And when the general depression occurred all over Poland, it fell first on the shoulders of the Jews, and when the establishment of the government's antiSemitic edicts: higher taxes, not permitting Jews to take government jobs, etc. It seemed better in the thirties, the situation for the Jews was relatively better than in other places, and that was because in Jezierna, the Jews were occupied primarily with agriculture. It's as if the words of the folksong (of Eliakum Zunser) came true, that in the plow lies good fortune and blessing.
Of interest is the article by S. Gershoni, published in the New Tomorrow (Neuer Morgen) of November 3, 1932, under the heading A Town in Galicia Where Jews Live from Working the Ground.
The correspondent had a lengthy discussion with population registrar M.M. (Markus Marder), and this is what he said based on what he [Marder] knew about the distribution of his town; on the basis of the statistics of which he was officially in charge he concluded that 90% of the Jewish population in the town are small plot-holders, (not Land-Owners!) Almost every Jew owns a small piece of field, animals (or at least some goats that also give milk), a garden of fruits, vegetables. The majority of them work the land by themselves (an indication that the area is not large): the Jews sow and plough. They live modestly, primitively, and if they save a few pennies, they buy more land. And this provides, if not a complete livelihood (for everyone), at least a livelihood more or less.
Understandably, in the town there are also artisans and a larger number of merchants (small shopkeepers), but not all can make a living from this and therefore, their numbers are decreasing. Because of this, they also occupy themselves with agriculture. The wife stays in the shop, the husband works the soil, the son...
(About this problem, see also the chapter about the Jewish bank and about the cooperative Unia.)
In Jezierna, at the turn of the century from the 19th to the 20th century, there was the wellknown Shloimele Charap who was like a Rebbi, to whom Chassidim [followers] would come from distant places. This also provided a livelihood for the innkeeper the sexton and for the Rebbe himself.
Photograph of Geographic details of Jezierna in a Polish newspaper clipping View Image 33 online http://yizkor.nypl.org/index.php?id=1289
Translated by Ida SelavanSchwarcz
The Jezierna Cooperative Bank (its official Polish name was Bank Ludowy Spoldzielczy [Cooperative Peoples Bank]) was established in 1930. At that time the general crisis in the country affected the Jews, especially Jewish artisans and small merchants. The bank had to help its members as far as possible with small loans and discounted exchange rates, so that working Jews would not go under. These Jews struggled mightily for their economic existence and did not want to be considered poor folks dependent on social welfare.
The bank quickly joined the Union of Jewish Cooperatives in Poland (Zwiazek Zydowskich Spoldzielni w Polsce) whose headquarters was in Warsaw with a branch in Lemberg for Little Poland. The central bank gave interest free loans to every cooperative bank when it was established, thus helping it become organized; it gave instructions, intervened with those in positions of power when necessary, etc. The central bank also received exact semiannual reports from its members and its affiliates and published them. Thanks to them we have accurate information about the working of the bank in Jezierna.
The central bank also granted loans from the funds which it received from the CKB Centralna Kasa Bezprocentowa (Central Interestfree Bank), which was a branch of the JOINT [American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee].
The operation of the bank in Jezierna was very active. We see this from the fact that from its very establishment it was in close contact with the central agencies, while other larger banks from bigger cities were not; some were even liquidated with the passage of time.
Secondly, the Jezierna bank sent delegates to the conferences of representatives of the banks to Warsaw and Lvov. At the last annual conference of the Jewish Cooperatives in Little Poland, which took place in Lemberg [Lvov] on April 30, 1939, there was a delegate from Jezierna, Marcus Marder. He was elected as one of the 29 ambassadors of Little Poland, who were supposed to participate with the plenipotentiaries of all of Poland, in Warsaw.
On the basis of these publications from that time, we can reconstruct the activities of the institution. At the beginning of 1931 the Cooperative Bank had only 117 members. During the first year of its existence 50 new members joined and not one member left a rare event in those times and places; thus at the end of 1931, there were already 167 members out of 750800 Jewish souls in town! Almost every head of a family joined the bank. It was truly a peoples' bank.
To which economic classes did the members of the bank belong? Here too, the reports give us the data.
There were 33 farmers(!); 96 merchants and manufacturers; 15 artisans, and 23 others.
The large number of farmers in town is astounding.
Let us look at the last report we have from 1937 (published in Warsaw in 1938; this is the last report which was published). In that year there were 195 members in the bank (about 30 more than at the bank's founding). During the year 11 new people joined and ten left, probably left town. Thus, at the end of the year there were 196 members. When we compare the numbers to other small towns in Poland at the time, we see that first of all, people did not desert the bank; they had faith in it, it developed, even though at a very small pace, but it was, after all, a small town! And in those times running a Jewish bank was not easy. Moreover, as far as Jezierna is concerned, the Jewish population of Jezierna kept decreasing. Nevertheless, the bank grew, even if only a little bit, probably helped by its members.
These were the members in 1937: 48 farmers 15 more than six years before! 95 merchants and manufacturers one less than in the previous report; 13 artisans two less; 4 government officials, a new category; and 36 miscellaneous 23 in the past.
From these numbers we learn that the bank was now including people who had not participated in the past, because their situation had been secure, better. Now they were also in need of . a short term loan, and a promissory note that could be discounted, etc.
The growing number of farmers shows, indirectly, that times were hard for Jewish small merchants and artisans in Poland. This was happening in the era of the rise of a Polish middle class, or so they said. Just a few years before the great catastrophe, Jewish artisans and others changed their calling and became farmers (either exclusively farmers or farmers working also as artisans, etc.).
The dues of the members was 25 zloty. In addition every member of the bank was assessed for another 20 zloty. By the way, in the report for 1931 there were two salaried staff of the bank. In the report of 1937 they no longer appear. They were let go in order to save money. We see that in 1931 the salaried staff received a monthly payment, but the director worked voluntarily. While there was no paid staff in 1937, the manager of the bank did get paid very little, it must be said. These are the signs of the times.
Here we present the headings of the reports for 1931 and 1937.
(The amounts are in Polish zlotys)
|Highest Loan Amount||Number of Loans Repaid||Amount Repaid||Discount and other credits||Total||Number of Borrowers for the year||Highest earned interest on the loans|
|Deposits||Withdrawals||Number of depositors||Interest paid on deposits|
|DOCUMENTS IN BANK|
|Handling and administrative expenses (total)||Awards to goodwill organizations||Paid to Personnel||Social insurance||Payment to the Union||Taxes||Miscellaneous expenses|
|Held back for costs for capital turnover|
|Amount||Transferred to Reserve fund||Other Purposes|
|EXPENSES AND ALLOCATION OF PROFIT|
|Handling and administrative expenses||Provisional percent||Amortization||Net Profit||Total|
|Cash on Hand||Investments and Benak?||Financial Instruments||Loans Due||Current Assets||Discounts and other Credits||Other Accounts||Losses||Balance|
|Current Liabilities||Reserve Fund||Customer Deposits||Special Funds||Loan Received from Center|
By comparing the two rows of numbers from two years, we can learn about the economic situation of the Jews in Jezierna. For example, if we take the number and size of the loans: in 1931, 119 people paid off their loans with a total of 46,071 zlotys; in 1937, a larger number 228 people (almost double) paid off almost the same amount, 46,180 zlotys. What does this mean? The loans were smaller, but the number of people who needed even small loans grew! Obviously loans were not taken simply for luxuries. The impoverishment of the Jews is also indicated in the amounts of the deposits of money in the bank (for interest): in 1931 the sum was 32,812 zlotys; in 1937, only 3,686 zlotys. From the deposits of 32,812 zlotys, 20,491 zlotys were withdrawn in the course of the year. At the end of 1931 there still remained 12,321 zlotys [on deposit], as opposed to the end of 1937 when only 133 zlotys remained on deposit.
In 1931 the bank had a profit of 700 zlotys; in 1937 no profit was shown. The expenses increased and losses grew (loans were not repaid) etc.
From another report of 1933, we see that the deposits of that year total 47,437.44 zlotys. This was the largest amount reached by the bank in its short history! This was a year of prosperity!
Naturally there are recollections in the book about the activity of the bank, as well as mention of people who were involved in its work and deserve to be mentioned favorably. But even from the dry statistics we see how united the people of the shtetl were, how with little means they were able to create a mutual aid organization which assisted them in their difficult economic struggles during the last year before the war.
The manager of the bank, Marcus Marder, was also the Metrical Book registrar, [recorder of the population's births, marriages, deaths]. As was generally the case in such a small town as Jezierna, one person took care of all the communal affairs. And, as is known, the income of the population registrar was minimal the population declined as the young people left; natural growth decreased catastrophically; so that the mainstay of his [Marder's] income was from ..the bank. This allowed him to manage the activities of the Zionist organization, etc. Finally, since the town was small in size as well as in population, it was good that one person was in charge of everything.
In Jezierna there was a cooperative of grain merchants, Unia (Unia Zbiorowa, Spoldzielnia zarejestrowana z ograniczona odpowiedzialnoscia). In number 12 of the Przeglad Spoldzielczy, dated 1.12.1929, we find a report of the year 1928.
Active: Merchandise 21,354 zl.; Debts 2,211.57 zl; Fixed Assets 634.50 zl; Miscellaneous 84.34 zl.; Cashonhand 527.64 zl.; Total 24,812.05 zl.
Passive: Loans 19,812.03 zl.; Current Liabilities 3, 500; Current accounts 1, 500 zl.; Total 24,812.05 zl;
Profits from Merchandise 13,824.47 zl.; Miscellaneous 84.34 zl.; Total 13,908.81 zl.
Charges: Administrative expenses 13,588.31; Benefits 250 zl.; Current Assets 70.50 zl.; Total 13, 908. 81 zl.
There will probably be mention of the Unia in the memoirs of people who belonged to it when they were still in Jezierna.
Editor's Note: Some financial words were not translated.
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