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[Pages 89-90]

The Development of the Town

Lipa Fischer, Tel Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Jews contributed a great deal to the development of the shtetl Jezierna [Ozerna], starting with its external appearance. The houses that belonged to the Jews were distinguished by their nicer outer appearance, particularly the newly built ones. They were higher, built of brick on higher foundations; the roofs were covered with tin. The Jewish houses were also more beautiful inside. The floors were made of wood and the houses had large windows that opened. This had an influence on the non-Jewish population. New, small houses would appear that belonged to the non-Jews, with tin roofs instead of the former straw. The Jews had influence in other areas. For example, the best non-Jewish artisans were those who learned their trade from Jews…

In general, the Jewish settlement in Jezierna was deep-rooted; there already were Jews here in the time of the Polish King Sobieski, to whom the shtetl mainly belonged. Commerce was then in Jewish hands. The shops and inns were exclusively Jewish. In about 1860, the Jezierna estate of Count Lubomirski was transferred to the Jew, Mendil Yampoler; after the suppression of serfdom (the old feudalistic order), the Polish prince could not maintain his agrarian possessions and, as it is told, went bankrupt. Yampoler, on the other hand, adapted to the new conditions and created a blooming garden out of the abandoned fields.

And the Jezierna estate administered by a pious Jew became renowned in the area. There also was an alcohol factory on his estate. The factory was located in a modern building with a high chimney; when the factory was destroyed in 1915 by the retreating Russian Army, the chimney remained and stood for many years. A great significance for the economic development of the shtetl was the building of the first mechanical mill by Reb Wolf Fischer in the early years of the [20th] century, which served the Jezierna area.

Among the professionals were: Dr. Hirschhorn, who was the only medical doctor in the shtetl and the surrounding area until approximately 1910; the only apothecary was L. Mintz, a situation that existed until 1940. It appears that the above-mentioned, in general, were the first ones in the shtetl in their profession. They came to Jeziernia in the 1880's. There were also a few teachers from the Baron Hirsch School. There were more cultural leaders before the First World War, Yiddish writers, such as Shmuel-Yakov Imber, A.M. Fuchs, whose names were known throughout the world. It should be understood that in these professional areas, Jews surpassed the non-Jewish residents.

Finally, there was the Jezierna tzaddik [righteous man], Reb Shlomale [Charap], who in his youth was a dorfsgeyer [village peddler] and was elevated to a higher level by the Peremyshlyaner Rebbe, Reb Meirl, as well as the well-known Rebbe, Reb Levi-Yitzhak Monson of the Rizhiner Dynasty. His court was renowned in the Hasidic world and drew many Hasidim from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the shtetl. The non-Jewish population also showed the Rebbe great reverence. With the outbreak of the First World War, the Rebbe's escape to Vienna brought to an end the existence of the rabbinical dynasty in Jezierna.


[Pages 98-99]

Commerce in Jezierna

Lipa Fischer, Tel Aviv

Translated by Pamela Russ

It's important to remember that just as in the other Galician towns, in Jezierna commerce rested in Jewish hands. This lasted until the 1930s. Even in those places that were entirely non–Jewish, also there the storekeeper was a Jew. It was the Jews who bought the farmers' products. There were Jewish buyers who went from village to village and bought the different products. The grain merchant travelled around with his horse and wagon and bought the grains from the farmers of the quarter–plots of land.

The government organizations did not present any particular difficulties and permitted trade to go on. You only needed to pay for the appropriate permits for this, and these were given out without any restrictions.

Various branches of commerce evolved in Jezierna. In first place stood the agricultural products. These products, which the dealers bought from the farmers, consisted of all types of grains, potatoes, beets, cattle, horses, flax, wool, honey, and chickens.

From all these items, the Jezierna area became a large marketing center. Major dealers were there shipping hundreds of wagon loads of all the products mentioned above from the Jezierna train station. Some of this was exported. These dealers would often buy these products from the smaller merchants, who, as already mentioned, bought them directly from the farmers.

During the war years of 1914–1918, commerce was destroyed and was only renewed with the rebuilding of Poland as it adjusted itself to the new age. After that, commerce grew to become even stronger.

***

There were no wholesale stores in Jezierna; there were only retail stores. Nevertheless, they were not all alike… There were large stores with a lot of merchandise, and small stores with only few items, and even these minimal items were few in number. There were also the so–called mixed–wares stores that sold textiles, leather ware, ironworks and radios, coal and lumber, taverns and restaurants, beer refillers, wood for building, etc.

There were also articles that one could not get in Jezierna, but had to travel to the bigger cities to buy. These were items such as ready–made clothing, fashionable shoes, etc. There was also no real bookstore in Jezierna. And for all kinds of building materials, one also had to travel to other cities.

In the 1930s, when the bus transportation began, some Jews established a transport company. The first bus that they bought was slightly used and didn't work for long… They exchanged it for a new one. It travelled along the main Tarnopol – Zloczow road. The driver was a Pole, brought in from somewhere.

***

Even years before the Second World War, a terrible propaganda campaign arose against the Jewish businesses, instigated by the leaders of the Polish and Ukrainian populations. They did not let any opportunity pass to show how the Jewish merchants were making a living at the expense of the non–Jewish residents. Besides the [Polish and Ukrainian] co–operatives, Christian merchants would gather on a daily basis to force the Jew out of business even before the Nazis, may their names be erased, showed how they wanted to physically eradicate them.

This was the so–called “regional politics.”

 

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