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Foreword

     With awe and compassion, the Committee for the Organization of ex-citizens of Podwolcyska presents the Podwolcyska Book to the ex-inhabitants of the town and the surrounding area.
     This book is a collection of testimonies – most submitted in writing, some verbally – by the survivors of the town who saw it in its hour of greatness, and in its darkest moment. What they have remembered has, with much grief and sorrow, been recorded on these pages.
     The different testimonies - there are those who want to give an objective account of the town and its history, who have tried, but failed to free themselves of their love and sorrow for the fate of this town – and there are those who are subjective from the start.
     Together, these testimonies are the faithful expression of their awe at its splendor, and grief over its loss.
     To the reader – visions of the town and its surroundings, images of the people living there and the turmoil they went through, and the events taking place in this thriving community until its destruction – all these will be unfolded. And in listening closely, the reader may discern voices rising from these pages, and the silence following the destruction.

     The idea of publishing this book was raised as far back as the Sixties, but was delayed, for various reasons, for a long period of time. During the term of the present committee, which saw before it the choice of now or never, it was decided to publish the book.
     The arduous task of collecting and editing the material, taking it to press etc., was begun – a long and complex process. And now, it is done, and the book is lain before you.
     Many people have submitted material, expressed from the heart. There are those whose contribution is comprehensive, and others whose are less so. However, each is of great importance. The reader will no doubt observe that it is not the "inclination to write" that has motivated them to put their testimonies on these pages. Rather, it is their desire to consecrate a monument to their dear ones who are no more, to the whole community of Podwolocyska, which they loved so much.

      We remember our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters and all our relatives who were destroyed by the hands of the wicked, for no transgression on their part.

      We remember the souls of the brave, who gave their lives as martyrs and for the honor of man, and who died praying "Shema Yisrael".

      We remember with a sense of bereavement and orphanhood – the holy and precious community of Podwolocyska and its surroundings. Their memory will never depart from our hearts. May their souls rest in peace.

      Although we have taken great care, errors may have occurred. We may have left out a name, not been accurate in a detail here and there, unwittingly hurt someone. We ask forgiveness of them,
      The Committee for the Organization of ex-Citizens of Podwolocyska wishes to thank all those who contributed to the fulfillment of the desire to publish this book. We also wish to thank our compatriots abroad – the Organization of ex-Citizens of Podwolocyska in America – who helped us to establish a monument at Nachalat Yitzhak, and who contributed to the publication of this book.

      May this book be a source of support for the community of Podwolocyska.

The Editors





Podwolocyska, My Town

by Natanel (Sonyu) Farber

     As Europe entered the second half of the nineteenth century, at a time when innovation followed innovation, and industry developed at a rapid pace, there were already railroad tracks laid out in central Europe and England, but in Austria, the tracks went only as far as Lvov, the capital of Galicia. In Czarist Russia, there were huge surpluses of agricultural products such as wheat, sheep, cattle and eggs. These products were meant to be exported and exchanged for various industrial products. The merchandise had previously been transported by horse and carriage and the livestock traveled on foot. At that time the responsibility for laying down railroad tracks from Lvov to the Zbroch River was bestowed upon the Grand Duke Karel Ludwig by the Austrian government. In accordance with an agreement with Russia, the Austrian government was to lay railroad tracks through its territory up to the Zbroch River, including a bridge over the river, which would connect with the tracks on the Russian side.
     The Russians had an easier job than the Austrians because at the last leg of the tracks, the portion reaching the Zbroch River, the Austrians faced a mountain and in order to reach the bridge over the Zbroch, they had to dig a tunnel one kilometer long and forty meters high next to the river. Considering the technical means available at the time, this was an extremely considerable task.
     The Austrians recruited workers from among the peasants in the nearby villages. The workers were required to carry their tools and walk a distance of 2-3 kilometers in order to get to work each day.
     However, by the time they reached their destination, they were too weak and tired to do the difficult labor required of them. So sheds containing beds blankets and other basic amenities were built at the work site for their use.
     And thus, the first citizens of Podwolocyska had arrived: Avigdor Weigler, Hirsh Redder, Yaacov Shenkel, Levi Ferver, Shaul Tzvilling, Kasten (his first name escapes me), Feintuch (who was nicknamed Hirsh from Stromiczinza) and more. They built themselves small makeshift houses and worked as merchants. Business boomed and small houses sprung up like mushrooms after the rain...
     After the train tracks had been laid, work was begun on the bridge over the river. At the same time two other smaller bridges were built on the road from Stromiczinza to Zadnishovka and from there to Tarnopol. And finally construction was begun on a train station and warehouses. Construction workers and technicians were employed for these jobs. At that time Avigdor Weigler built the Podwolocyska guest house and warehouses for storing building supplies and materials.
     These various projects lasted for a number of years. By the time of the official festive opening of the tracks, an already thriving town had been established and named Podwolocyska. By then it was clear to all, that the town had been born of necessity. First of all it was necessary for the merchandise arriving in cars from the wider tracks on the Russian side to be reloaded to the cars outfitted for the narrower European tracks and vice versa. For this, a regular supply of laborers was needed. Second, appropriate railroad cars were not always readily available when merchandise arrived, so warehouses were needed in order to store the goods. Third, arriving livestock needed to be contained until it was properly checked by veterinarians, so facilities for maintaining livestock were built around the Zbroch. The place was called "Contra-tax", a name which remained even after the facility was eliminated. All of these facilities primarily employed people who wanted to live near their place of work, and that is how the town sprang up.
     The companies which exported merchandise to Russia, as well as the companies which imported merchandise from there, all established offices and warehouses in the towns. These companies were responsible for the merchandise until it reached the border, where the recipient examined it and transported it further. At this time the "Odessa Hotel" was constructed.
     Exporting eggs was another matter. One of the founders of this branch was Theodor Rimalt, the brother of the Rabbi from Osiatin. Since this product requires special conditions (special packaging and wrapping) along with immediate supply, egg warehouses were built in the town where eggs were examined, sorted and packed. There was much surplus produced, since many eggs were deemed unsuitable for export. And since eggs rot quickly, the Album factory was established, where the whites were dried at very high temperatures and then exported, and the yolks were stored in barrels. Exporting eggs through our town became of considerable importance in egg trading in Europe. An egg "commodities exchange" was even built in the town in a building near the tracks. This was where the world egg prices were determined. A permanent agent of the Berlin commodities exchange by the name of Kussar, who owned a home in Podwolocyska, would telegraph the egg prices daily and these were published in the Berlin publication "Egg Exchange".
     Before World War I, there were 32 egg warehouses in the town. Most of them were used for export. Many of the warehouses contained pools where the eggs were stored in water mixed with plaster. The egg factories employed hundreds of workers including inspectors and packers and others. The eggs arrived from Russia in horse-drawn carriages driven in convoys that lasted for many kilometers.
     The grain was transported by train and unloaded into warehouses. For this reason the "Aputika Bank" was established. This consisted of a row of warehouses which extended over a number of kilometers and which were called the "Aputika Warehouses" until the first World War. The manager of this warehouse, which employed many workers, was Erdheim, a citizen of Podwolocyska. The Erdheim family played an important role in the development of the town. Erdheim constructed an impressive two story building, and after his death the street was named for him. At the end of the season- right after the harvest, the shipments of grain would come in one after another. I remember that as a small boy in "Heder" I learned to count by counting the Russian railroad cars. One train had seventy or eighty cars and the Russian engine made a great noise as it rolled into town due to the fact that it was moving downhill. During the season, there was not enough room for all the grain in the warehouses, so they would throw large amounts of grain in the open fields and appoint watchmen to guard it. I remember how, as a child, I would love to stand and look at the mountains of grain, which resembled pyramids. How much grain and other surplus agricultural products did Czarist Russia export through one border crossing! And the Soviets were forced to import wheat from the capitalist countries...
     In time, a product known as "Klei" or straw kernels, which was important in European trading, was also traded in Podwolocyska. The leading merchant in this field was Yaacov Tirhaus. The product was sifted from kernels in special warehouses by skilled workers, and was then exported all over the world, especially to Switzerland. Another product which was exported to Switzerland and was used to make their famous Swiss cheese was dried calf stomachs. Leizer Altenoy was active in this field.
     Our train station had two sides: a Russian side with the wider Russian tracks, and an Austrian side, with its regular European tracks. A similar station stood on the other side of the border at the Friedrich station, which was built a considerable distance from the town of Volocysk, as was the custom in Russia. As the traffic increased, a roundhouse and railroad garage was also built. Railroad storehouses and offices were built in Drovnica as well. All of these places employed people who wanted to live close to their place of work. The railroad company constructed a three-story building for them and their families on its land. We referred to it as the "Family House". Since the station was a border crossing, a customs house was also constructed.
     The border was guarded by "Finances", customs police, and a special building was constructed for them as well. The town expanded, schools, yeshivas and "heders" were built. In addition, various vocational schools were founded. Beautiful new streets sprung up around us.
     The train shortened the journey from the Russian cities of Odessa, Kiev, Proskorov, Viniza, Zmarinka, etc., to central Europe. Most importantly, it moved them closer to the health springs of Carlsbad, Franzbad, and Marianbad. Hordes of Russians traveled to the European health springs. In those days, it was easy to distinguish a Russian by his attire. He usually wore a shirt ("Rovshka") hung over his trousers, or he wore big boots. But while traveling abroad he endeavored to look European, and he was aided in that effort by the stores of Podwolocyska.
The Russians would reach the town on the morning train, dressed as Russians, and when they got on the afternoon express train to Vienna, which was outfitted with a special car in Podwolocyska for Carlsbad, they were dressed in total European style. The town reached its climax before World War I, when the population numbered about 10,000, 85% of whom were Jews. The town flourished, thanks to its steady growth, and its inhabitants enjoyed economic prosperity. The surrounding towns - Skalat, Gajimlov, Zbroch, Mikolinicz, etc. which suffered from typical Galician poverty, nicknamed Podwolocyska "Little Paris". And during its initial phase of development, the residents of Podwolocyska kept their distance from these small towns.
     During the Russo-Japanese war, the first wave of political refugees reached Podwolocyska. The Jewish youth did not want to fight for the Czar in the Far East. They crossed the border, settled in Podwolocyska, brought along their families and were granted Austrian citizenship. Later on, Jews came from all over Galicia, from Lvov, Krokow, Miaroslov. They even came from Bokovina, as did David Wallach, who opened a garden cafe which even had a bowling facility. His grandson lives in Israel, and he is a member of the committee- Vilo Wallach.
     Until World War I, the residents of Podwolocyska maintained high moral standards. They conducted their lives quietly, maintaining their faith, diligence and warm Jewish hearts. The refugees of the Russo-Japanese War, as well as those of the pogroms after the failed revolution of 1905 were taken in with open arms. This included those who chose to settle in our town and those who chose to continue on to the United States.
     The Jewish inhabitants of the town could be divided into three categories: the first being the intelligentsia and professionals. The second group, and the largest of the three, were the regular folk, simple people with a strong national awareness. The third group consisted of Hassidic Jews from Hosiatin and Chortikov. The majority were very observant. One could feel the atmosphere of the Sabbath and Jewish festivals in the air, both at home and on the street. Then the Hassids and other Jews wore traditional Jewish garb such as Shtreimels (velvet top hats) and overcoats. The more progressive Jews wore top hats and evening clothes. The youngsters wore white shirts and knickers. Life was conducted honestly and in a G-d -fearing manner.
     The Jewish child began his religious education in the cradle. Even before his circumcision, children from the local heder, where he would eventually learn or where his brothers were already learning, came to sing him prayers ("El Melekh Ne'eman"). The mother would put cookies and sweets in the child's cradle and the older children would grab them up. This was a superstition to ensure the proper development of the child. The mother would sing the child lullabies from prayers with melodies she might have made up herself. These became folk songs, whose composers are unknown such as: "Remember His Mercy and Loyalty to the House of Israel, from all corners of the earth will His Salvation be seen" or David's Psalm: "He is My Shepherd, I shall not want." My mother used to put her children to sleep, and there were ten of us, by singing these melodies. By the age of three the "Belfer" or teacher's assistant would come to escort the boy to "cheder".
     A small number of the intelligentsia and merchants who were known as "the Germans" or the Ashkenazis, built themselves a reformed temple. Its construction was completed before the First World War. It was an illustrious building. In the spring of 1914 the cornerstone for the "Folkhouse", a Zionist building, was laid in the garden next to Yitzhak Biller, not far from the railroad tracks. The ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone was attended by Ben-Zion Patt, who gave an impressive speech. I stood next to him and I remember that he began his speech with the words: "A stone fashioned by the builders became the cornerstone". It was a rousing Zionist speech.The rabbi, Yehuda Leib Babad, recited an incantation during the laying of the cornerstone.
     The town Rabbi had a nationalistic viewpoint, unlike the Hassidic rabbi from Hosiatin. In the parliamentary Austrian elections of 1912, the Rabbi from Hosiatin instructed his disciples to cast their vote for Count Golochovsky, but most of the Jews in the town voted for Dr. Leon Reich, and he was indeed elected. However, there were never any hostile confrontations between fanatic groups. Everyone respected one another's viewpoints. Meetings were generally held in synagogues and yeshivas. Each trade union had its own place of worship. The "Ashkenazis" used to meet at the Odessa Cafe.
     By the beginning of the twentieth century, a Zionist organization by the name of "Achva" (brotherhood) was founded. This organization had the honor of hosting Menahem Mendel Ussishkin, whose lecture tour included Podwolocyska. One of the activists in the organization, the egg trader Meir Erlich, even composed a lovely melody to the psalm "why the nations of the world are excited". He also put together a choir comprised of young men and women in order to perform a concert for the honored guest. Ussishkin was impressed by the choir. Unfortunately, I cannot relate too much about the activities of "Achva" because it disbanded while I was still very young. However, my mother used to sing me the song composed by Meir Erlich and I remember it until today.
     Worthy of mention are the acts of virtue, which the residents of our town were in the habit of performing, such as being gracious hosts, being charitable and studying Torah.

     Hosting strangers - Podwolocyska had the pleasure of being host to a great celebrity- the popular writer "Shalom Aleichem". When he left Russia, he was the guest of one of the most important dignitaries of our town. Let us let Shalom Aleichem himself tell us how he felt as a guest in our town: "I came to the town whose name begins with the letter "P", and I stayed with a Jew whose name begins with the letter "P", a very respectable Jew, very knowledgeable - wherever you catch him." He was referring to old Partash. "The welcome the town gave me was very gracious." The town was not satisfied with just this wonderful welcome, it wanted to provide him with provisions for his journey, so we held a literary evening in his honor, during which he read from his works. The "egg people" allowed the use of their exchange building, a large auditorium with a podium, albeit with no chairs. Therefore, the audience stood, or rather rolled around the floor laughing when they heard the author read. As it turned out, and as is well known, Shalom Aleichem gave the greatest renditions of his own works. I was present during that evening, as a very small boy, and my grandfather Avraham Yeshayahu held me on his shoulders so that I could see everything. Although I did not understand too much, the great explosions of laughter during the reading of "Near the Kaparot Slaughter" are still engraved in my memory.
     When Mendel Bailis left Russia, after being released from prison, Podwolocyska was his first stop. Here he was received by a band of musicians and supplied with provisions for his journey.
     Later on I will expand upon the great charitable deeds which were performed for our brothers fleeing the Bolshevik pogroms.

     And regarding charitable deeds - since, there was economic prosperity in our town during the period before World War I, there were hardly any poor people. The known beggars in the town were cared for by the townspeople on a regular basis. On Thursday, which was market day, paupers from Skalat, Zbaraj, and Gjimlov would come around the doorsteps to ask for money. Sometimes a charity ball would be organized in the town and afterward it was difficult to distribute all the money which was collected. Usually it was sent to Skalat in order to supply a dowry for a bride or just to be given to any poor people. In addition, all kinds of "rabbis" and "grandchildren" would come to the town to collect charity. Our great Rabbi Yehuda Leib Babad secretly distributed any money to those who did not want their economic plight publicized.

     Torah Study -our town was famous for the Torah sages who lived there. The greatest of them all was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Babad. More will be told of him later. Worthy of mention is Yaacov Tirhaus and his son-in-law Bentzi Shapira (today a rabbi in Israel), and Yaacov Shaya Kenler, author of "Questions and Answers" and his son Melech Melamed, and Crooked Noah, who pretended to be a Rabbi, and who even had disciples, and Hanoch Melamed, Shalom Eli, and Ovadiah Ginsburg. The "heders", full of young children, were run by the teachers: Yonah the Educator, Green Shmuel, Shmuel the Turk, Anshel the Teacher, Haim Ternodau, Moshe Krebbs and Pinhas Pollak. The children studied in the "heders" from morning until evening with a short lunch break. Children who excelled in their studies were brought before the Rabbi to recite what they had learned, and it was considered a great honor to be pinched on the cheek by the great Rabbi.
     On Simhat Torah, all of us children were called to the Torah. I remember that Pinhas Birbach's wife would sit near the window of the "Talmud Torah" synagogue holding two pans, one containing "Fluden" and the other "Lekach". The window faced the "Talmud Torah" side and after being called to the Torah each child would receive a piece of "Fluden" and a piece of "Lekach". This remained the custom for many years.
     After "Shabbat Bereshit" (the Sabbath after the Simchat Torah holiday) we received lanterns to light our paths on our way home from "cheder". We were so happy that we wrote a song:

"Hop Hopa and good night!
By night we go our steps are light
This way yes and this way no
Ki leolam chasdo (For forever lasts His grace)"

     Children studied in "heder" all day until the age of six. At the age of six there were children who went to public school and studied in the "heder" during the afternoon. During school vacations, they would study in the "heder" all day long. This practice was so well rooted in the town that it was very rare to see a Jewish child wandering aimlessly in the streets. Very religious families did not send their children to public school so that they would not have to sit bareheaded and in a classroom where a cross was displayed. These children learned secular studies from private teachers in their homes, teachers like, Alter, Koppel and Friedman. Good students from wealthy families would go to the Tarnopol Gymnasia after completing four years of study at the public school. For eight years they would travel back and forth to Tarnopol every day. This was both difficult and expensive. Since our town was progressive enough to have its own "Gymnasia" (high school), one was constructed in 1911, between the railroad warehouses and the Temple. This writer was among its first pupils.
     Podwolocyska and Volocyska, which were located on the two sides of the Zbroch River were like two ends of a ruler. By obtaining a transit pass, which cost one Krohn, the residents of Podwlocyska could travel to Volocysk for one month and eat to their hearts content for very little money. The residents of Volocysk could do the same for thirty Kopeks- come over to our side and buy textiles and tropical fruits which were relatively cheap in Galicia.

Cantors and Men of Prayer

     Grandfather Cantor (Gelzman) was the town Cantor, who was paid by the community. He was a talented cantor and a good Jew. As was the custom of the time, he wrote melodies for use during the prayers of the High Holidays. He had a wonderful gentle voice. He would pray at the large synagogue and people from various yeshivas would come to listen to him. His son, Moshele, also proved to have considerable cantorial talents. We organized a minyan during the High Holidays at the "Plain Talk", which was a club next to Perchip's house, and Moshele prayed there. He was very successful and most of the town youth prayed there. He emigrated to Argentina where he served as a cantor in Buenos Aires. He died there at a young age. The successor to his father "Grandfather Cantor" was the quarryman Brish, who was not especially talented.
     In dozens of small synagogues many talented and beloved men of prayer passed before the ark. Most of them led the prayers without being paid for their services. During the High Holidays and during other holidays Avrahamchi Gross served as the cantor of the rabbi's minyan. His renditions were effusively sweet. He also composed melodies for prayers. In the Hosiatin Hassids' house of worship Pinhas Waldniger regularly led the prayers. He had a strong voice and was well loved by the Hosiatin Hassids. Shmuel Bomza, a gentle Jew who worked in the egg business regularly led the prayers at the "Matit David" synagogue. Shmuel Kosover (Zilberman) led the prayers at the "Talmud Torah Synagogue". All the town residents came to hear him. His son, Berel Zilberman inherited his father's talent for leading prayer. He led the prayer at the "Mizrahi" synagogue, but it just wasn't the same.
Especially talented was my uncle, Mordechai Ferber, who had a clear melodious voice and a very well-developed musical sense. All of his children followed in his footsteps and each played a musical instrument. Very often they would play and my uncle would sing. He also composed melodies for the High Holidays such as: "Lo and behold, we are clay in the Hands of the Creator" and "The Lord dwelth in high places" and "And thus one was numbered". He would pray accompanied by a choir, which he conducted. His son Chunyu was the best singer in the choir and he would sing portions from the prayers. Today he is a doctor in Paris. When World War II broke out, he was studying medicine in Paris. He was an officer in the French "Resistance" and was awarded an esteemed military medal. Another grandson from my uncle Mordechai Ferber's family survived, Leopold Weiser, Aunt Susia's son. He fought in the ranks of the Red Army and participated in the march from Leningrad to Berlin where he was severely wounded while helping another Russian soldier. Today he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States. Uncle Mordechai still managed to pray on the first night of Rosh Hashana 1941, while under German occupation, and on that night he fell into an eternal sleep. The desperate Jews of the ghetto envied him, for he died a natural death.
     Before World War I, the greatest of all cantors, Grandfather Rodner came to Podwolocyska. He led the prayer one Sabbath (Shabbos Mevorchim), and it was a great success. Afterward, he remained for a time in the town, gathering young men with nice voices and instructing them in the famous "Merciful Father" prayer. I was one of those young singers. He gave a concert in the Sokol Auditorioum, which was filled to capacity. He sang various songs and we sang some as well.

The Zionist Movement in the Town

     As I have already mentioned, an organization by the name of "Ahava" had been founded in the beginning of the century, and it promoted the Zionist activity in our town. I do not know much about this. I have already mentioned the choir, which gave an impressive welcome to Menahem Mendel Ussishkin. I also know about an amateur play which they put on, which I will expand upon later.
     The major club, which I remember from my early youth until World War II broke out was the "Plain Talk ". It performed a plethora of Zionist activities aimed at educating generations of pioneers and Jews with a sense of national identity. Among the original group of the "Plain Talk" were Bruno Perchip, Itchel Shenkel, Baruch Haimo, Isaac Moyer (who later changed his name to Yitzhak Homa and was among the founders of Kfar Vitkin in Israel), Hanoch Hillman, myself and others.
     During school vacations, Bruno Perchip would gather us young students (he himself was a junior or senior in high school) near the Zbroch, and would give lectures on various topics in order to instill in us a sense of national consciousness. Even then, and I am speaking about the time before World War I, this future physician put an emphasis on health problems. After World War I, when he was the town doctor, he remained regularly active in the "Plain Talk", as the Director of the general Zionists in the local council. He was responsible for the Zionist activities of the club, be they lectures, which drew large audiences, or various forms of entertainment. He was also very active in forming the "Maccabi" athletic club and served regularly as a referee in the soccer matches.
     The activities of the "Plain Talk " increased after World War I. It is difficult to mention all the members who were active in the group, however, I will try to describe each branch of the organization, and as much as possible, I will mention those who were active in them.
     At first, the club used two rooms in the Perchip home (which old Perchip had let us use) as its clubhouse. During the High Holidays, we organized a minyan there (Moishele Gelzman led the prayer). After a while, we decided to move to a new place near the town for a number of reasons: First of all, the place had gotten too small for us. Second of all, the Perchip home was far from the center of town and third of all, Bruno Perchip had finished his medical studies and we understood, although he never said anything, that he needed the rooms for a clinic. The new clubhouse had three large rooms. It needed to be appropriately decorated, and Yisraelik Marder helped us with this. He copied the pictures of A.L. Lillian very nicely, and his colorful drawings decorated our clubhouse. Yisraelik Marder moved to Israel as a pioneer in the 1920's. Later on he worked at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem. He died there a number of years ago.
     The " Plain Talk" club was active in a number of areas: Library: - (the members of the club took turns at running the library), public readings and lectures, a drama club and a sports club, activities to raise money for the Jewish National Fund, a Hebrew school, a choir and a chess club.
     Usually, we held lectures on Saturday and usually in Hebrew. An argument would ensue. The audience, comprised of mostly youths, was eager for an argument. The primary lecturers were, if memory serves me well, Shimon and Moshe Whittman. Shimon was the more active of the two. He would prepare a lecture that got straight to the point. He had a talent for creative descriptions and for holding an audience's interest. Since he had a phenomenal memory, he would recite everything by heart, including quotes from authors and from the scriptures. Both brothers were observant, from a respectable religious family. At the end of each lecture, the lecturer and topic for the following week's lecture, was chosen. This was then written on the bulletin board.
     Katinsky used to give very good lectures as well. He used to give his lectures wearing a Russian student's uniform. His family had fled Russia and had come from Volocysk to Podwolocyska. Isio Netter would combine his lecture with humor. He had a talent for endowing his lectures with merriment so that the audience would be swept away. Grossman, the teacher from Volocysk, who had married a woman from Podwolocyska, gave lectures which were packed with tension. When Dr. Bruno Perchip would give the lecture, the clubhouse could not hold all the people who came to hear him speak. Erdheim, the engineer, would also give a lecture every so often. Imo Cohen, who we introduced into our movement at an young age, was first active at the "Plain Talk ". Later on he went on to become a central figure in the Revisionist Movement as the secretary of the central committee. Today he is an attorney in Tel Aviv. The young students would also participate in the lectures and the public readings during the summer vacations. For example, Ms. Liebling and Ms.Kosmer. Erdheim, the engineer, would lecture in Polish (he didn't know Hebrew and he didn't speak Yiddish well enough, the students would also lecture in Polish). Dr. Bruno Perchip spoke in Yiddish (Mama Lushon).
     I would like to note here that during the years 1922-1924, I was but a guest in our town due to the fact that I was working in Bilka and in Kalarovka, and I would only come home occasionally. In 1928, I left the town for good and lived in Lvov until the outbreak of World War II. There were also public readings, as I have mentioned earlier. The members would read from classic Jewish texts including: Mendele, Shalom Aleichem, Y.L. Peretz. Shalom Ash, A.D. Numberg, Frishman. They would also read from the works of poets in Hebrew. There was a group of young women who read most impressively. The readings were included as part of the program at parties. There were also readings in Yiddish from the poems of Y.L. Peretz, Morris Rosenfeld, Bialik, Zalman Seglovich, etc. I myself read from the works of Morris Rosenfeld as well as from the anthology "Munish" by Shalom Aleichem, reading everything by heart.
     Our town had but one auditorium, the Sokol Auditorium, where celebrations, plays and balls were held. Unfortunately, we did not have our own auditorium. The "Folk House" for which funds had been collected and the corner stone laid in 1914, was never completed due to the war.

The "Maccabi" Club

     The subject of sports was very developed in our town. First of all, we had the beautiful Zbroch River, and everyone could swim in it from earliest childhood. Anyone who did not know how to swim was felt ashamed. We had talented swimmers, who taught the youth how to swim. The river was winding, and in some parts of it "around the bend" the water went as deep as six meters. We called these parts the "large lake" and the "small lake". Only the best swimmers swam there. The weaker swimmers went to swim in the "Women's Gallery", which is what we called it, on the right bank of the river. "The Ladder" was on the left bank, exactly opposite the beautiful wooden synagogue in Volocysk. This synagogue was built back in the days of the Polish monarchy in the "wooden Polish church" style, which meant with an artistic finish and with paintings inside. It is interesting that right next to the synagogue there was a wooden Polish church, built at around the same time as the synagogue, with the name of God written in Hebrew at the top of the facade. Legend has it that a Jewish convert to Christianity wrote it as he was standing on a tall ladder. When he got to the final letter, "heh", the ladder broke and the artist fell and was killed. That is why one leg of the letter "heh" is a little longer than the other.
     During the winter, we would skate on the ice on iron horseshoes. When we were young, we would put on shoes with iron horseshoes attached to them and use them to skate on the lake. When we got older, we got ice skates. Dr. Kobalov, a relative of Meir Dizengoff, would go swimming in the winter, even during the greatest frost. We would see him coming on a horse-drawn sled, wearing a coat made of lamb's fur. He would come up to a fissure in the ice, which he had prepared beforehand, and remove his fur coat. Wearing only swim trunks, he would jump into the water and swim for a while. Watching the doctor swim in the freezing water was quite an attraction for us.
     When we were young, we began to play soccer in the field between the "Temple" and the new park. This was a very nice place. The grass was low and the ground smooth. The field had just one drawback: it was on an incline. The team which played on the higher side during the first half, would always win the game. We used this field for a long time, until the owner of the estate donated 10 dunams (2.5 acres) near the Feitel Forest, where the Sunday celebrations were held. This was on the Polish path to Skoriki, at the town limits. Since there was a small mound at the edge of the field, we decided to straighten it out. For two weeks we all worked diligently - digging and removing dirt. Our hands were covered with painful blisters, but we did not stop working until we finished the job. The workers were members of the "Maccabi" club, which had just been founded by the "Straight Talk", headed by Dr.Bruno Perchip. If memory serves me, the following soccer players worked to set up the "stadium": Sello and Lunik Wallach, Tuvik Gottlieb, Sumchu Liebling, Leibik Marder, Feldman, Gershon Farber, the Jarchower brothers, Yanchi Fiendling, Emo Cohen, and myself.

Ichile Shenkel

     Ichile's contribution to the establishment of the "Plain Talk" was tremendous. But I must emphasize that we, from Podwolocyska, must differentiate between the two Ichile's, just as history differentiates between Joseph the son of Matityahu, a priest in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and Josephus Flavius, the Roman historian who wrote "The War of the Jews". I will tell only of the first Ichile.
     I remember the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the "People's House" which was to be erected in Iche Bieler's garden, near the train tracks in the spring of 1914. The Zionist activist from Tarnopol, Ben-Zion Patt, was invited to the ceremony. I was just a boy, but I remember that he began his speech with the words: "The builders fashioned a stone to become a cornerstone." After his speech, Ichile, who was still quite young, took the floor and delivered a rousing speech. From that day forward, there was no longer a need to invite speakers from other places for we had our own speaker. The ceremony ended with a short speech and benediction from our rabbi. The noble rabbi had to overcome the objections of the Hassids from Hosiatin and Chartekov to his participation in a ceremony laying the cornerstone for a Zionist building. Sadly, World War I, put an end to the blessed undertaking of constructing the "People's House" and no Jewish auditorium was ever built in our town until its destruction. We were forced to use the Sokol Auditorium. From the time of that ceremony, Ichile was crowned the primary speaker for the Zionist movement in our town.
     During the years of the Russian occupation (1914-1918), all political activity was forbidden and we could not hold our meetings. The schools were closed as well. But we, the youth, continued to study, greatly aided by Brunik Perchip and Nussbaum. After the Austrians came in, in the spring of 1918, the Zionist movement was revived. Old Perchip donated two rooms in his home to the "Plain Talk". General meetings were held in the great synagogue which was nearby, and there Ichile delivered his rousing Zionist speeches. Any meeting which featured him as a speaker, was filled to capacity. Generally other speakers would speak at the meetings as well, but after Ichile's speech, which usually lasted for about an hour and received enthusiastic applause, no one dared ask for the floor.
     Ichile was one of the founders of the drama club at the "Plain Talk". I remember that he served as the permanent prompter during the plays. Then came the difficult days of the fall of the Austrian empire in the autumn of 1918, and the Petrola pogroms began. Ichile was the primary figure in the "Samo Ovrona", the self-defense group, and stood at its head until it was disbanded. Without Ichile, it is hard to believe that this group would have existed. Ichile served as the president of our club for a long time. Many times he was elected as a delegate to the National Council of the Zionist movement. He was active with the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, and served as the alternate chairman of the Rescue Committee.
     All this occurred up until the time that he was shot by Sidlezki. During a court hearing, he shot him a number of times and wounded him very seriously. I don't know the nature of the quarrel between them, just that they were both partners in a consortium that was being dismantled then.

Park Games

     The "Plain Talk" organized "Pastimes", meaning park games for the adolescents. They were usually held in the Feitel Forest. The forest belonged to Bavrovski. Before the war, the landlord Zisserman rented it. After the war, the forest was managed by the "Housekeeper".
     The names Feitel Forest and Mt. Feitel came about due to the fact that opposite the mountain there stood the home of the Pole, Feitel, where he lived with his sons. The farmers form Stromicynizna called the house "zimchisko", meaning castle, because the castle fortress stood on the mountain. The mountain itself, the lake at its foot, and the Zbroch River, are what turned it into a castle fortress. It was told that there was a 20 kilometer tunnel which led from the castle, which was an ancient Polish fortress, to Zbaraj. During the Polish monarchy, the castle would withstand attacks by the Tartars and the Cossacks. We held our training sessions on this mountain and on this mountain the Germans murdered the last of the Jews of our town.
     Dosia Greenhaut, immediately after the liberation, gathered up some blood-soaked earth into a earthenware jar, carried it with her through all her wanderings, until she brought it to Israel. Here we brought this holy earth, soaked with the blood of innocent victims, to be buried in the Jewish tradition in a cemetery in Nachlat Yitzhak. We erected a tombstone, one of the first of its kind. There we meet year after year, on the date on which this mass slaughter was perpetrated, on the seventh day of Tamuz, and hold a memorial ceremony for the martyrs of Podwolocyska and its environs.
     The Soviets built a brick factory near this mountain, because the earth is suitable for the manufacture of bricks. The use of this mountain caused the mountain to move a bit and the bones of our martyrs were then discovered on the surface. At that time, only Leibish Kasten who had returned from Russia and settled in Podwolocyska, Jarchower's son and Joseph Friedman's daughter Tsesia still lived in the town. That is what remained of a town which once flourished, and at its greatest climax numbered 10,000 Jewish inhabitants. Leibish Kasten immediately began to take care of the bones and called upon our town residents in Tel Aviv and New York. Thanks to our financial contributions and the cooperation of Kasten and Jarchower, the remains of our martyrs were placed in coffins and buried in the Nachlat Yitzhak cemetery in Israel. Leibish sent us photographs of the transfer of the remains from the mass graves. Featured in them are Kasten and Jarchower, along with Soviet policemen, who helped do the work.

Heroism

     I did not live in my town during the German occupation. I lived through this terrible time in Lvov. I know about what happened to Podwolocyska from stories.
     I believe that every Jew has an obligation not to remain silent about any German atrocity perpetrated against our people so that this testimony serve as a memory and a warning for future generations! It is especially important to describe acts of heroism.
     I do not think that only hand to hand combat against German soldiers constituted acts of heroism. I would like to describe here the heroic death of our rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda Leibish Babad, may his memory be blessed. It happened in Zbaraj, where the murderers led many of our people. They stripped the rabbi and his children, sons and daughters to their underwear, and paraded them through the town while poking fun and laughing at them. Then they began to shoot his children, one by one, in front of the holy rabbi. The rabbi begged the cruel murderers, "Shoot me first so that I will not see my children die!" They said, "No, Jew, you must see your children die!" The rabbi told them again, "It goes against our holy Torah and against all of human nature !" - "You, Jew, will see your children perish!" The holy rabbi raised his eyes and cursed them as follows: "The sun is too beautiful for its yellow rays to shine on you! The ground is too precious to hold animals like you!" He still had the courage and the presence of mind to call out loudly three times, "Be cursed! Be cursed! Be cursed! Your end is very near!" I was told this by Nusia Weinstein who was deported to Zbaraj, as well.
     Also the daughter of Leizer Altnei, Gizia Altnei, called out the following curse as she was being led to her death by firing squad, "You murderers, look into my eyes so that my face will haunt you all your lives! I stand before my death now, so my words are holy. Be cursed! May you know no peace! May you always see my eyes upon you!'
     This is true heroism.




Rabbi Yehuda Leibush Babad Son of Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel Babad of Podwolocyska

(5633-5703 ; 1873-1943)

Rabbi Yehuda Leibish Babad was born in the Hebrew year 5633 (1873) in Strissov. When his father died in the year 5655 (1895), he replaced his father as the rabbi of Podwolocyska, a position he held for nearly fifty years. He married Malka, the daughter of Rabbi Reuven David Efrati, head of the rabbinical court of Czoliov. He was ordained at the age of twenty by the great Rabbi Shmelkes who gave him his book "Beit Yitzhak" and told him "I had it published so that Torah scholars such as you might read through it."
     He was one of the greatest rabbis of his generation, and his brother, who owned the "Havazelet Hasharon" often made it a requirement for those making a religious inquiry to turn to Rabbi Yehuda Leibish Babad for concurrence. His religious interpretations were well-known among the Torah scholars of Galicia, and he had many disciples. His replies to queries were lost and only one was preserved in a book by his brother. In "The Vision of Abraham" there is a reply written by Rabbi Yehuda Leibish Babad from the year 5684 (1924).
     He was very careful not to sleep too much, especially during the Sabbath. He was righteous and his prayers resounded with holiness. He loved all beings, was a friend to all people, and always performed acts of kindness. His face was always joyous, despite the fact that his wife was known to be ill and that he, alone, carried the burden of raising ten children. During World War I, he went to the neighboring town of Skalat, where he helped the refugees from his town with the greatest of dedication. When he moved to Lvov for a time, he was head of the Joint's aid effort for the Ukrainian deportees.
     Because of his sharp mind, he was often called upon to interpret complicated Torah laws and the members of his community were blessed by his presence. He was not known to be involved in any disputes, although he was stalwart in his vigilance against allowing foreign influences to infiltrate Judaism. He was one of the most important rabbis among the Belz Hassids, and performed a number of tasks for the Rabbi's court on a number of occasions. These included organizing the rabbinical conference in Lvov in 5688 (1928), the rabbinical conference organized by the Hafetz Haim in 5691 (1931), and participating in the rabbinical triumvirate which the authorities appointed for the elections of all rabbis in Poland for the position of the great Rabbi Shapira. The Hassids of Alexander tried to convince him to accept the appointment for Chief Rabbi of the cities of Lodz or Radom. He refused the offer by Yitzhak Greenbaum to allocate a slot for him on his Zionist party list as an unallied ultra-Orthodox candidate.
     When the Nazis came into his city in 5701 (1941), they deported a number of Jewish families to Zbaraj. He and his family were among them. He refused to hide out in a bunker and limping, he marched to his death in 5703 (1943) along with thousands of other Jews who were buried in a mass grave. All of his ten children died in the Holocaust.

From the Encyclopedia of Wise Men of Galicia
Published by the Institute for the Memorial of the Jews of Galicia

     A light-hearted story about Rabbi Babad who, on his way to the Ritual Baths behind the Yeshiva would refrain from passing near the statue of the Madonna. Before he would reach the statue, he would cross to the other side of the street, (that was near the Gilson home), and he would cross back when he got up to the Yeshiva (the baker Shenker lived there as did the Lehrer family), and enter the Ritual Bath. The policeman Margalis lived nearby, and he surely wondered at the rabbi's strange practice of crossing back and forth from one side of the street to the other. One day, while on his beat, the policeman saw the rabbi cross the street and he waited to see if he would cross back again. When this, indeed, happened, he approached the rabbi, saluted respectfully, and called out: "Honorable Rabbi!". The members of the rabbi's entourage surrounded him immediately, and the policeman continued, "Why does my lord cross the street at the same spot every day and cross back just near the baker's house?" The rabbi answered without hesitation, "Do you see, Mr. Margolis, that there stands the statue of the Madonna, and its shadow is cast next to it? Why should I defile its holiness by stepping on its shadow? In order to avoid walking on Mary, I cross to the other side." Margolis straightened up, saluted and went on his way. Apparently, he was satisfied with the wise rabbi's answer. Some say that from that day forward, he himself, as well as the mayor, at his suggestion, crossed the street so as not to walk on Mary's shadow.

     May his memory be blessed.

About My Grandfather Yaacov Tirhaus by David Tirhaus

     The town of Podwolocyska and Grandfather Yaacov Tirhaus are interchangeable. To describe Podwolocyska without mentioning the blessed influence which his personality and deeds had upon the town would be like painting an incomplete picture.
     He was engaged in various activities in the town, including choosing the town's rabbis. He stood at the head of the Hosiatin Hassidic community, which was the largest community in Podwolocyska. But the bulk of his influence was indirect, in a way that is difficult to describe. It was his personality which radiated and illuminated everything around him, and inspired respect in the eyes of all who looked upon him.
     The story of his life and the long list of his blessed deeds which were famous in all of Galicia, and even beyond, have already been recounted in the introduction of the important book "The Footsteps of Yaacov" about the "Shas", which I had the good fortune to publish in 1978.
     Anyone perusing the pages of the book will be impressed by his greatness as a Torah scholar, as well as his humility on the one hand and assertiveness on the other. The reader will wonder as to how a man who was as wealthy as he was, with a trading empire which spread all over the world, could, at the same time, be so immersed in the true trade of Israel, meaning Torah scholarship.
     I know that I am not strong enough to describe the greatness of Grandfather. I will just outline his biography and mention some of his deeds which relate to the town itself.

     Grandfather was born to his father, the great rabbi, Naftali Hertz, the rabbi of Volocysk, which lay on the other side of the Russian border, to a line of great rabbis. As was the custom in those days, before large Yeshivas were established, he was taught by his father, and was well versed in the Torah. When he was nineteen, he married Grandmother Hava, who was the daughter of a respectable family in the city of Lekovich. She, herself, was well-known as a woman involved in various acts of charity and deeds of kindness.. After his marriage, Grandfather left his town in Russia and moved to Podwolocyska. Here he began to trade in seeds, and within a short time he was doing well and was known as a successful and honest merchant. As time passed, he established a giant firm with branches not only all over Europe, but in the United States and Canada as well. The chairman of the Hamburg Office of Commerce once said: "The Tirhaus Company influences the entire seed market in Europe."
     Also in his personal life he remained loyal to the traditions of his forefathers and adhered to the teachings of the Torah when conducting his business. It was his custom to stop work for thirty one hours, as is written in the books of the Kabala, from eleven-thirty on Fridays to after midnight on Saturday night. He imposed this custom on all the trading offices, even if the agent was Christian. The agent had to promise not to trade our merchandise during the Sabbath and Jewish festivals. There was one agent who did not keep his promise, and he was fired.
     There was one event which effected even the non-Jews of the area and this is how the story is told: Once Grandfather purchased the fields of a certain respectable Baroness, which were adjacent to his estate in Sechovka. However, before the Baroness officially transferred ownership of the fields to Grandfather, great inflation set in. The Baroness changed her mind, even though she had already been paid. In court, the Baroness testified that she had not yet received any money for the field and due to the inflation she was no longer interested in going ahead with the deal. Grandfather was called to give testimony, under oath, that he had paid the money and would therefore win the case. But to everyone's surprise, Grandfather refused to take the oath, stating that he never took any oaths, and even though he was telling the truth he would not change his custom, even if it meant losing money. Since the Baroness and her accountant testified under oath that the money had not been paid, Grandfather lost the case.
     Years passed. One day a priest came to Grandfather's office and notified him as follows: The Baroness' accountant confessed to him before his death that he testified falsely under oath in exchange for a large payment which the Baroness had promised him. He also gave his permission for his sin to be publicized, so that he would be absolved. A new trial was held, and the priest testified as to the accountant's final confession, and Grandfather got the fields and the Baroness had to pay a large fine. The judges could not hide their amazement at Grandfather, who was willing to lose so much money and not change his habit. The district court awarded him a document stating that his testimony would be accepted by the court even if it is not made under oath. There is no need to add that through his actions, Grandfather sanctified the Lord's name before all. He soon became, thanks to his personality and numerous public undertakings, the leader of the community. He carried the burden of leadership responsibly and tried either quietly or aggressively to maintain the Jewish traditions. When he grew old and had difficulty walking, he founded a synagogue which he maintained financially. One of the worshippers told me of an exchange between Grandfather and him: "I was an assimilated Jew who did not even keep the Sabbath. In one year I lost all my fortune and contracted a fatal disease. Your grandfather came to visit me and he told me 'Decide to keep one Sabbath faithfully and you will see that you will get better.' I said to him:' Reb Yankele, even if I get better, how will I live?' He answered me ,'I will loan you a fair amount of money for an unlimited time, until you succeed in your business.' And that is what came to pass, I recovered from my illness and regained my former stature. I repaid my debt, and from then on I keep the Torah and the commandments and I worship in this synagogue."
     After World War I, when the Russian border was closed and many of the town residents lost their sources of income, Grandfather, along with my father who was by then his business partner, founded a loan fund which made interest-free loans to the needy. Dozens of families made use of this fund. Grandmother, too, managed her own loan fund and when she heard of someone who could not repay their debt to Grandfather, she would make him a loan from her fund. If he could then not repay her, he would again borrow from Grandfather, and that is how it went, back and forth. When grandmother died (8 Adar 5692 (1932)), Grandfather and Father decided to transfer the money from her fund to theirs, and the loan registry, which contained loans worth a lot of money, was buried along with her. In this manner, they canceled the debts that were owed to Grandmother.
     My friend Yoseph Luckman told me: Once Grandfather called him and asked that he distribute a special shaving cream to those who used a razor blade to shave, which he asked my father to buy for him in Vienna. He paid for it, of course. After a while, after they got used to shaving with the cream, he called him back and asked him to convince them to pay a symbolic price for the cream, in order to prove that they were willing to spend money in order to keep the commandment regarding shaving in the Torah. When they agreed to do this, he said "Now my joy is complete."
     Grandfather had five sons and two daughters: Alter, Edzie, Menahem-Nahum (my father), Hanna, Nehama, Elyakim-Getzel, and Yitzhak. Five of them died during his lifetime before World War II. My father, who was living in Vienna, moved to Tarnopol before the war. When the Germans came into the city, he was arrested, along with about one hundred other notable Jews. His brother Elyakim-Getzel joined him for their final journey and they were killed on 11 Tamuz 5701.
     Grandfather fled to Skalat when the war broke out. That is where the cursed oppressors found him, and put him on the altar along with masses of other Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis. He was close to ninety years old. His Yahrzeit was set for 15 Sivan, which is also the anniversary of the death of my mother Malka-Huddel, the daughter of Rabbi Yitzhak Sheinfeld, the head of the rabbinical court in the town of Brody. My sister Rivka-Mindel and her husband Yishayahu Milgrom and their two children, as well as my oldest brother Naftali-Hertz were also killed . May the Lord avenge their blood and may He turn His vengeance on His oppressor and the land upon which he stands.

David Tirhaus
Grandson of Rabbi Yaacov
and son of Menahem-Mendel May their memory be blessed.




The Rosensweig Family

by Zunyu

     It is a great honor for me to write some details about Dr. Rosensweig and his family. The Rosensweig family came to Podwolocyska during the 1920's and immediately captured the hearts of its citizens.
     I will try to outline some aspects of his personality but this will not be easy, considering the broad scope of his activities.
     Dr. Rosensweig was an avid Zionist, active in the "General Zionists". During his appearances in the "Great Bet Midrash" the place could hardly contain all the people eager to hear his words. His ample library, which contained both classical and scientific literature in various languages, as well as holy books, was open to all.
     As a public activist he stood at the head of a number of organizations, including the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency, and "Mutual Aid". He was a member of the town council, and later served as both deputy mayor and mayor.
     His primary occupation was that of physician. There were other doctors in the town, like Dr. Friedman and Dr. Perchip, but he was different. He cared not only for the body, but for the soul as well. He treated each person with respect. He responded to any call for help, regardless of the weather or the hour of the night, on Sabbaths and Jewish festivals, like a soldier on health patrol. He did not ask for money, he always considered the patient's financial situation, often giving the patient money or free medicine.
     He ran a small clinic with a nurse, in his home. Special patients were treated there.
     His noble wife, Helena, was also a physician, and always at his side. She worked as a physician for the Railway Workers Fund. Her charitable activities included observing the Torah commandment to donate money anonymously. She maintained this custom for many years. If someone from the town would move to Eretz Israel, it was incumbent upon him to stop at their house to say good-bye. At that time he would receive a financial gift from Dr. Helena.
     They had one son, the apple of their eye, Ulik. When World War II broke out, he was drafted into the Red Army and sent deep into the Soviet Union. His parents followed him, but were unable to contact him due to the war. Later on, they found out that their son had fallen during the battle for Stalingrad. Their crowning glory was gone. Due to the fact that they had followed their son into the Soviet Union, they themselves were spared from the Nazi destruction which befell Podwolocyska. The twist of fate is that because of their son who was killed, they were saved. But their spirit was broken.
     At the end of the war, the Rosensweigs moved to Israel and settled in Haifa. Dr. Rosensweig worked as the head of a department in the "Kupat Holim" and as a radiologist. His wife worked as a family physician in one of the branches of the "Kupat Holim".
     During our many encounters with them we could still feel that their grief over the loss of their son permeated the atmosphere. Since his death, life had no meaning or purpose for them. They died of old age, still uttering the name of their beloved son, Ulik.

     May their memories be blessed

A Few Words About Toivke Barrer, Later Yona Sla'i

     At a young age, she fulfilled her dream and moved to Eretz Israel. The move was relatively easy, since she already spoke fluent Hebrew and was well-versed in what was happening in Eretz Israel. Also her natural attributes of being helpful and a love of people, made it easier for her to fit into Eretz-Israeli society.
     Even though she was far from the town of her birth, Podwolocyska, she never forgot it. During those years, the 1930's, when it was especially difficult for people to become integrated into society in Eretz Israel, the people from Podwolocyska knew, they could count on Yona for help in finding work, a few night's lodging, maybe some money and encouragement. Yona did this wholeheartedly, feeling that she was fulfilling her destiny.
     After the state of Israel was established she became active in the Podwolocyska Society.
     She passed away on 3 Sivan 5746 (June 10, 1986). Her wonderful personality will remain etched in our memories.

     May her memory be blessed.




A town called Podwolocyska

by Yona Sla'i (Tuvia Barrer)

The memory of a town remains
In Galicia, out there somewhere
Podwolocyska was what they called it
Modest and decent people lived there.

Educated humble innocent folks
Passed the time without worry
They had no special problems or demands
They went about their lives peacefully.

Without hesitation they began their day
All was quiet and peaceful inside and out
Regular folks, studying and working
Understanding what it was all about

There were rich people who lived comfortably
There were poor people, a meager living they eked out
There were silly people, there were strange ones
But - heaven forbid - no criminals or cads

The town was blessed with tranquility and brotherhood
With but a trace of jealousy, with real camaraderie
People born with feelings of empathy
Thinking of others, helping the needy

Parties were not rare in the town
And everyone was invited
And if, heaven forbid, adversity struck
Everyone stood firm to fight it.

With sincere heartfelt sympathy
People always considered the fate of others
There was no mudslinging
They treated each other like brothers

In Podwolocyska there were no castles
But memory will for generations note
The picture of small, low houses
Winding paths and unpaved roads

There were also gardens with flowers blooming
There was a well with water so clear
There was also an avenue with few trees
And a boardwalk, luring the residents here

There was society, a Zionist club
Worked well and quite logically
There were idealists and political parties
But we knew not of rivalry

There were lectures and lessons worthy of mention
With a speaker's voice loud and bold
Money was donated freely
The Land of Israel a sublime goal.

There was also a rabbi in the town
He solved all religious problems
Each argument was treated respectfully
With strength of faith everyone trusted him

The town had also another asset
A busy train station
Each day the engine puffed heavily
And each day the tired people reached their destination

Even though each person had their troubles
They knew to forget them, and to have fun
They knew how to sing and to dance
Life was beautiful for the young

In short, my friends, all was in order
Until Hitler came to our border
Without empathy or sympathy, with cruelty and murder
He destroyed Podwolocyska forever

I will not elaborate about those thugs
Who extinguished every soul, murdered every body.
And of the Jewish town that once was there
Remain only the tombstones in the cemetery.


Dedicated to the Podwolocyska Book
by Yona Suslik (Sla'i) nee Barrer

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