How to value thee He could only learn who had lost you
Thus spoke Adam Mickiewicz of his native Lithuania – thus I feel about Rozniatow.
Although I left Rozniatow in 1922 for Vienna, Paris and ultimately New York, I have often returned. Those visits to my home town were always exciting events that I looked forward to lovingly. Everytime the train would pull into Stryj – the home ground – my excitement would grow and as the train wound its way past Morszyn, Bolechów, Dolina, Rachyn to stop at Krechowice the railroad station for Rozniatow, my heart would beat faster. Part of my family will have met me in Lwow, others in Stryj, many would be waiting for my arrival in Krechowice. There, waiting would also be Mailech Landsmann, the Baalaguleh.
"Baruch habuh, Shimkaleh" Mailech would exclaim in a hearty welcome. I would then be led by him to the horsedrawn carriage that would take me and some of the members of my family who had come to meet me on the seven kilometer trip from Krechowice to Rozniatow. The rest of the family for whom he had no room would take the carriage belonging to either Hersh-Luzer Wechter or Alter, also known as 'the Toiber' for he was deaf and almost dumb. He could not speak articulately, he couldn't say much anyway, but words were not necessary, his pleased, cordial face expressed the warmth of his welcome.
Mailech would usually wrap me in rugs, for "you are not used to our climate anymore", he would say, and then at the crack of the whip the last lap of the journey would start. The road was stony and at times very muddy. This trip took an hour. It was the end of a long journey yet it was the most exciting part. It was the return to my family, to old friends, to the little town that I was born in, where I spent my childhood and my first adulthood, the return to the long wooden frame house at the bottom of the hill. There in my memory had lived my great-grandfather, Schmiel-Arie Loew, my grandfather Leizer Itsik and grandmother, Gitl-Libe Loew. There, in the end part of the house, lived Pessel Hoffmann, my grandfather's sister who hadbeen widowed at an early age and who supported herself in a dignified way by supplying yeast to the town. There lived my parents, Scharie Duvid and Ester Lea Liebermann. There from the age of five to eighteen I had lived and been raised along with my five sisters. My sixth sister Loncia, the oldest, had been married while she was still very young and she lived with her husband, Jankiel Loew, in a house built for them right next door.
Every person we passed on the trip from Krechowice was a friendly acquaintance of old who welcomed me cheerfully and wholeheartedly; every spot that we passed was a landmark packed with memories. As we passed the hill called Monastyr at the edge of the river Czeczwa I always remembered Bendit Helfgott who lived there and who for years had been employed by my grandfather. I had often climbed up to their mill and he and his family were always glad to see me. How beautiful that little bridge over the Czeczwa always looked to me! The happy, carefree days of school vacations always came vividly to my mind when after a walk in narrow paths, cutting through wheat fields and corn fields we would gather a group of friends at the Czeczwa for a swim. (See enclosed picture).
There were usually my friends and colleagues, Wilek Adlersberg, Dolek Lusthaus, Edzio Safier, Leon Horwitz, Moishe Lutwak, Milo Turtletaub, Lolo Wassermann, Pinio Kanner, Izio Bermann, all home from Stryj where we studied either in 'Gimnazjum Glowny or Filia' and the girls, Muszka and Hala Wassermann (daughter of the first Jewish lawyer in town), Andzia Kanner, Zonia and Irenia Feuer, Jadzia Safier, Adela Weinlos, Muszka Horwitz, Tyncia Berger, Dora Gelobter and my sisters, Dora, Sabina and Anda. Sometimes when the weather was very warm, the lawyers Wassermann, Safier, Feuer with their wives would join us on these pleasant excursions. Most of the other Jews of the town rarely went swimming though it was rumored that Bernard Londner and Lipe Tanne were marvelous swimmers and could swim the entire length of the town pond back and forth! But it was considered undignified for Jews, once they were married, to indulge in such frivolous activities.
Directly past the Monastyr there ran the path to the left to Swaryczow where the Weinfelds, Gut-Besitzers, lived and also in my memory and as we Jews would say, 'lchavdel', Rozia Huminska, who was a maid in our house when I was a child; she had often rocked me to sleep, singing folk songs, or telling me fairy-tales. Then on the left the first house in Rozniatow proper, the home of Zisie Arie Kupferberg whose daughter Adele had married Bucio Tepper and is now living in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Then on the right the house of the town painter, Schnitzer, the home of Bendit Jampel, the house of Leizcr Turteltaub (the Cohen and Matrikel Fuehrer). On the left for a long stretch there were no homes but the vast meadow belonging to Mrs. Goldasz and her son-in-law, the future town post-master, Aroniec. In the house of Widow Goldasz lived Mr. Erber, the father of my friends Fania, Hanka and Lonek. Then again homes on both sides of the street, the home of Bernard Londner, Lipe Tanne Leib Fallik, Jonas Koral, the castle of Baron Walisz, the home of Chaim Schloime Halpern, whose daughter Pepka had been my sister Sabina's close friend, the home of Schulim Laufer who supplied the newspapers to the town, Chwila Gazeta Poranna, Gazeta Wieczorna from Lwow and Die Neue Freie Presse from Vienna; facing him lived Schimschon Strassmann, the forwarding agent, then on the left, the Greek-Orthodox Church and on the right lived the Lusthauses, Bendet Horwitz and Doctor Salomon Wassermann. a leader and supporter of the Zionist movement in our town. Then again. across the street lived the barber Philip Ferscht who was the only one in town to own and ride a bicycle.
Next came the prominent sign 'Hotel Weissmann' which would cause my heart to leap. In this house I had spent many happy days and evenings talking, singing, arguing,reading poetry or playing cards with a group of friends. This was also the gateway to the Ringplatz. There, in my early youth lived Chanineh Weissmann, the owner of this brick building. Chanineh was known as a learned Jew and in intelligent Jew. Of him they used to say: the difference between him and most others in town is that he can think of the right answer right on the spot whereas others can do so only on second thought, for to be somebody in Rozniatow one had to be not only pious, but also bright and erudite. One was often challenged for the right answer right on the spot in Rozniatow for by this one was judged, esteemed or looked down on. Nothing was so highly valued as education – a learned man' was the highest praise that could be bestowed on anyone.
The house of Chanineh Weissmann was an establishment, a hotel, a restaurant, a tavern and in addition it had a hall for weddings and balls and dramatic amateur performances. Chanineh and his two daughters, Mrs. Esther Muntz with her husband and sons and Mrs. Rifkeh Kanner with her son Pinio and daughter Andzia. They were also known for excellent "marinierte Fisch" which they exported in specially built wooden boat-like boxes, hermetically sealed so as not to spill any of the delicious juice. After Cbanineh's death Mrs. Kanner had inherited this two-story structure. She always welcomed and encouraged all the young boys and girls to gather there. I often sunned myself on their balcony in the company of Pinio and Andzia and other young friends, viewing the Ringplatz and the life of its merchants. I especially liked to be there on market days to watch the hustle and bustle, the colorful folk dress of the peasants from Strutyn. from Rownia, from Kamien, Petranka, Perehinsko, Spas other neighboring villages and to listen to the voices of the peasants calling attention to their produce – sounds which grew into a lusty din and finally a loud roar. Adjoining the Weissmann Hotel was another brick two-story house on the left where lived Leibcie Jackel and on the right a big two-story building belonging to Josel and Pinie Berger. Leibcie Jackel and his wife ran a stationery store which provided them with a living and enabled them to send their son to the University of Vienna where he became a doctor and for a while practiced in Rozniatow. But one could not think of this building without thinking of the 'Keller'. Mrs. Surester Horwitz, a widow, rented the cellar from the Jackels and distributed fruit, usually such exotic ones as oranges and peaches from far away corners of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The cellar was not heated and the winters were harsh; to keep herself warm she would sit over a pot of burning coals held between her legs. It wasn't easy for a widow to support herself in Rozniatow, but, as Pessel, Surester did it and retained her self-respect and enjoyed the respect of the town besides. Before Chamishu-Usr her business was a thriving one and I still remember that delicious, sweet, juicy 'boxer', St. John's bread.
In the Berger building Herman Horwitz ran a candy store, a real 'gourmet' shop also selling choice imported grocery items There we used to buy our cocoa in red tin wagons on wheels and I used to wait anxiously for them to become empty so that I could add them to my train collection. In 1919, right after the first World War one epidemic after another hit the town. Herman Horwitz succumbed to typhoid fever at the same time as the Jewish Judge Hopfen and Doctor Bard who had treated them. The whole town mourned the untimely death of these three respected citizens. Mrs. Horwitz and her four daughters, Musia, Hania, Leicia and Blima continued to run the shop after Mr. Horwitz's death and it prospered. Before the Christmas holidays it was a veritable beehive of activity as the judges, teachers, lawyers, notaries, priests chose from a big variety of delicatessen for their holiday celebrations. There too, of course. lived the owners of the building, Josel Berger and his children, Tyncia, Bronia and Arcie. Tyncia was a good friend of mine and of my sisters. We took dancing lessons together taught by Sender Friedler and we danced at many a ball which we never organized just for entertainment but always for charity: the receipts were always distributed to worthy causes. Frivolous enjoyment per se was frowned upon in Rozniatow, but enjoyment with a good motive was highly approved of. In the same building there was the 'Yatkeh', butcher shop of Pinio Berger and the apartment and 'Kanzlei' office of the lawyer Dr. Szymon Safier. In the afternoons his wife, Dora was usually sitting on the balcony and as Mailech's horses conducted me to my home she would call out excitedly 'Szymek, Szymek!' and greet me with generously thrown handkisses. Their son Edzio was among the first victims of the Nazi beasts; he had established himself as a doctor and already in 1938 was struck down by this wave of inhumanity. His sister Jadzia had married my cousin Leon Horwitz, who, too, was cut down by the barbarians in his prime of life. He was a very able and promising young lawyer. There were many outstanding and talented young fellows in Rozniatow, there was Dolek Lusthaus a university professor under Soviet occupation of Lwow, Wilek Adlersberg a very capable doctor and innumerable other fine and gifted young men. The world will never know of what service they could have been to humanity. Luckily Jadzia and their daughter Nina survived. Adjoining Berger's house was the home of Pinkas Rechtschaffen, who in association with Chaim Schwartz had conducted the town bank. Then followed another brick house belonging to Sosie Heller. She and her daughter Babele emigrated to Germany. The two downstairs apartments were occupied by my uncles and aunts Schmiel and Malke Horwitz and Mates and Sluveh Willner. Uncle Mates ran a kerchief and linen store and uncle Schmiel a flour and grocery shop. Their daughter Clara Biegeleisen had just given birth to a son when I was in Rozniatow for the last time in February 1939. 1 well remember the joy of the parents, the festive spirit mixed with futile hopes and forboding that was already thick in the air. My cousins Toncia, Etka and Cyla Willner were very bright and alert, from them too, one had a right to expect great promise. But their lives, too, were curtailed abruptly and savagely. On the second floor lived the lawyer Dr. Izidor Feuer. His charming wife, a most hospitable friendly lady, often welcomed me to their home. Their daughter Zonia was my first love and at least to me she seemed the most beautiful, full of joie de vivre. Their daughter Trenia married Nunick Lusthaus, another brilliant young man, just before the nazi onslaught. I had seen him and Zonia Feuer Landesberg in Sosnowice in February 1939, as I was leaving Poland after my last visit to Rozniatow. They came to the train to bid me good bye. "Do widzenia", "à bientôt" they called to me hopefully as the train pulled out of the station. But we never saw each other again. In Sosie Heller's building there was also a room reserved for the Zionist Verein, where we often met, gave and listened to lectures. Then followed store after store, another kerchief store by Schaie Frisch a variety store by Chaim Usher Jaeckel, a pots and pans store owned by other Horwitzes-Chaim and Mendel, a leather goods store by Feiwel Reisler one flour store after another one for exowned by Josef Shimon Stern in competition with similar stores run by his brother in law and one by his father in law Schmiel Wirt. On Simchas Torah Schmiel Wirt used to dance in the town circle with a bakers shovel high in the air. There was also a flour and maize store run by Mishel Artman and after his death by his widow Blime. Up to my age of 5 when my family had moved to my grandfather's house, we lived next door to them. We were friendly neighbours indeed. Mishel Artmann would give me, my sisters and cousins licence to jump up and down in their tremendous bin full of dried corn, a privilege granted to few other children. Blime Artmann who knew me as a baby always showedme great fondness and I always felt in a friendly atmosphere when visiting her. Then around the bend again a kerchief and linen store by Leib and Chane Friedler, a flour store by Leizer and Udale Geller then another candy store run by Meier Fraenkel. I was a child when Meier Fraenkel had pneumonia and was in great danger. A veritable pall of sadness hung over the whole town. I remember how depressed I as a child had also felt and the great joy as the doctor pronounced him safe on this side of the river Styx. "He passed the crisis" spread through the town and smiles began to appear on people's faces again. Life was precious and valued in Rozniatow!
In the center of the Ringplatz stood (the brick house known as the "Mauer". This too, was a hotel, Hotel Rosenmann. There, too, was a hall for weddings and balls and staged dramatic performances. Sender Friedler was an excellent comic and provided the town with much appreciated diversion. Facing us was the 'Traffic' run by Josl Kassner. This, often, was a gathering place and in front of it usually stood Wewcie Tanne, Juda Weissberg, Shulem and Leibele Hoffmann, Josel Kassner, Shabse Spiegel, Hersh Londner, Meshilem Fruchter, Meier Frisch, Chaim Schloime Meisels, Shulim Rechtschaffen, Josio Rosenberg and others, all busy, hard working business men – just a break from their work and having a friendly chat. They would all greet me in a chorus most heartily and Leibale Hoffmann who had married my aunt Jetti would leave the crowd and run after the horses to join the family in greeting the returning native – me! Then we would pass the brick house of Hersh and Ethel Rechtschaffen where after her marriage to Doctor Moritz Diamand my sister Clara lived and where the Doctor practiced medicine for several years before they emigrated to the United States.
Across the street from them stood the home of Wewe Hoffmann who for a time had been both mayor of the town and its Kultuspresident. He was the distributor of the naphtha that lit the little lamps in Rozniatow and the surrounding country places. Nearby, but off the main street lived Srul Trau and his wife Ethel. They too had a flour store. Luckily their children emigrated early to Antwerp and Palestine.
Recently I had the pleasure of a visit in my home in New York from Lonek Lusthaus and from Mordche Rechtschaffen from Australia. When all the news has been bad and tragedy and heartbreak the rule, how wonderful to be able after all to report the safety and wellbeing of the few who escaped the barbarous cruelty which was the fate of so many of ours! It is with thankful joy that we record the good life of the survivors who continue in America and Australia and Europe and Israel the traditions of Rozniatower good neighborliness throughout the world.
Across the road from Wewe Hoffmann lived the Rosenbaums, the Barnicks – a teacher of modern Hebrew whose father, a great 'lamden' was an excellent melamed. I had been a student at his Cheider, and at Simon Lutwak's Cheider and studied with Mechel Fassberg. I also studied with Yidale Melamed, the strict disciplinarian who was feared by all the young Jewish boys in town.
Then the Nisen Schindlers, Nussbaums and Hersh Mendel Artmann's homes and at last the horses came to a halt as the rest of the family who had not met me on the way burst out to greet and welcome me. My wife, Olive, had accompanied me on several visits to Rozniatow (and once she had come alone) and it was always a source of pleasure to me to see the love and affection given her, the daughter in law from a foreign and far-away land. Once my little son Donald came with us to meet his family and though he was but five years old he still has many pleasant memories of the trip.
Now came Grandfather Leizer Itsak Löw who always walked with such dignity and deliberation but this time running to welcome me. In later years he was bedridden and one of my first acts was to run to see him. I have still an almost tangible feeling of love for him and for my grandmother, Gitl-Libcie, always carefully dressed well upholstered with pillows inside – always vivacious. She died at the age of eighty-eight and on her deathbed when she noticed tears on her daughter's face she said: "Nu, you don't cry when an eighty-eight-year-old mother dies. This is to be expected". These were her last words.
There would be assembled our entire family. Loncia and Jacob Low, their daughters Bronia and Dozia and later the husbands Waldek Reiter and Stanislaus Spiegel, my second sister Rechcia and Zisie Willner and their son Julek from Nadworna and Clara and Doctor Moritz Diamand and their son Richard and Dora and Dr Izio Ginsberg with their daughter Irenia from Tarnopol, Sabina and Dr Milo Dresdner with their little girl Iruchna from Lwow and Anda and Sammy Sternklar with their boy Teddy from Vienna and also my aunts, uncles and cousins, the whole family reunited and at the head of the table beaming with pleasure and approval my beloved father and mother, Scharie Duvid and Esther Leah. My mother would repeat frequently, patting my hand contentently, "Thank God, thank God".
All my dear people in this closely knit family except my two sisters Clara and Anda and their families who had just in the nick of time emigrated to America, are no more.
As I write this I am oppressed not only by pain and heart-ache but also by remorse and shame. Somehow, we in America failed to rouse the world – Jewish and non-Jewish – to an uproar of protest, to an outcry of the whole civilized world. But who could believe such things?
But it is in order to resuscitate the happy moments that often prevailed when Rozniatow was a living Shtetl that I'm writing this article, to remember the town's scenic beauty, the magnificent pine forest, the hills – the beginnings of the Carpathian mountains, the medieval structure on top of the hill that served as the court-house, the pond and the mill run by Froim Rechtschaffen, supplied with water from the pond and then the water coming out into a waterfall where as children we spent many happy hours, but mainly to remember its people, hard-working, friendly, God-fearing, charitable and great believers in education. Past the pond the road was known as "alter Dorf", an exotic street, along rivulets, old homes connected by quaint bridges facing the rising hills. There lived Shloime Shmerl a man of great humor, there was the beautiful home of Alter Bermann, the homes of the Deutschers and finally the last house in town along the river Duba, the home of Mrs. Chaje Adler.
Rozniatow was detached from a railroad line and from any industry. Almost all businessmen sold the same wares as their nearby neighbours, competing and fighting for parnuseh. Yet. despite this struggle for survival and keen competition there always was a strong bond of friendship of compassion and understanding. On Saturdays when I had been visiting at home in Rozniatow a real procession of children would string out during the afternoon with wine or mead from neighbours: "Zu lieb dem Gast" (to welcome the guest) they would say. There was great misery in town, too many shoemakers competing for but few feet that could afford to be shod, too many tailors vying for the limited prospects of customers, too many stores selling flour, too many selling kerchiefs and linens. Every sale made by one was a sale that a neighbour missed and couldn't afford to miss, nevertheless a feeling of good neighborliness prevailed. Of course, there were some animosities, but even deadly enmities were forgotten when trouble or sickness struck and erstwhile enemies gladly joined others with a helping hand. I well remember Purim, grandfather in his home and father in ours sitting at the head of the table on which lay a tremendous Chaleh, "Purim Koiletsch" and a stock of change in front of them. All visitors were given food and money. I, when still a child hardly able to walk, covered the town on Purim to collect charity for the poor. On Fridays I distributed chales that my mother had baked; we could enjoy no festivities and not celebrate the Sabbath lest we shared with (the unfortunate neighbours.
When I walked through the town on my visits home I was always greeted with many warm welcoming handshakes. Whether I walked on the alten Dorf, or the Ringplatz many of whose inhabitants I mentioned before or through the other half of the circle where lived the Gelobters the Axelrads, the Ruv of the town Rabi Hemerling the Schoichet Mojshe Weiser, the Grosses, the Mechl Weissmanns, Duvid Melamed who taught me the Hebrew alphabet I was always met by amiable welcoming faces, by sympathetic people, by friends.
Thus I chose to remember our town, my town, for wherever I went I felt at home I felt part of it, to remember its spirit of charity, forgivenness and understanding the spirit of warm friendship that molded us into a unit.
Alas. They perished almost as a unit. Rozniatow as we knew it is no more, but this spirit will live and live forever. This is why the Jewish culture remains indestructible.
Neither the inquisition nor the wild excesses of the crusaders in ancient and middle ages can measure up to this methodically organized and executed beastly brutality in the century of progress – the 20th. Century.
We can't bring back to life our loved, ones. We can't – wish as we may, turn back the clock but we can and we must remember to hate and fight fascism or any brutal system of government that breathes hatred and discrimination against any minority.
This happened forty years ago. We had been married less than two years, but my husband could, not (because of certain immigration regulations) come to Europe with me. So I went alone to Poland, to Rozniatow, to meet his family.
On the way there were Paris and Vienna, all full of wonder to a girl on her first trip abroad. They were – and are – beautiful cities and they looked just as I had thought they would, just as they were described in all the books. But how could I possibly imagine Rozniatow?
Of course, I knew a few things; a homesick boy had told me about the Ringplatz, the names of all his sisters and uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces, the taste of the fresh sour cream on freshly baked crisp potato pancakes – the wonderful smell of good things always cooking. I knew too about the parents, worrying about their only son, so far from home, married to heaven only knows whom. I knew the names too of boys and girls who used to dance and go to school and have picnics at the river side, and ride on a little train to the mountains of Podlute and Osmoloda.
How strange and wonderful it all seemed when I came there, on the Orient Express, train of movie romance, flying along silver tracks from Vienna to Lemberg.
Newly married sister-in-law Sabina and her doctor husband, Milo Dresdner, met me at the station and drove me through the lovely old city to their apartment. I think that they were surprised that I thought it fun to go there by horse-drawn fiacre and I was puzzled to realize that they would have preferred to ride in a taxi!
Certainly this was a happy, friendly weekend with this merriest of the sisters that I would meet; we stopped here not only for me to rest from my journey (was I ever tired then?) but really so we would not have to travel on the Sabbath bath, a matter I had never considered when I planned the trip.
On Sunday morning we left from the big busy station oh the train to Krechowice, which is, of course, the town Rozniatow is "bei". The train was jammed; it was a time in March when Easter and Passover came together and the school children who studied in the cities, but lived in the country, went home for vacation. Sabina and Milo kissed and embraced several boys and girls – they smiled at me shyly (Etka Willner and her younger sister Cyla and Bronia Low) and then disappeared into the third class carriages while we rode in state in second.
Everybody left the train at Krechowice – I watched it speed away through the waving wheat fields and wished that I were still safely inside it. I was young, eager to see and learn all the new things, missing my not – present husband – and very frightened too. Of meeting the inlaws!
I turned from the vanishing train to be greeted by the vanguard of the family – a whole bevy of laughing welcoming sisters and aunts who bustled me into the wagon on high wheels drawn by two horses which stood there waiting for us to come. There I met Clara who had brought scarves to warm my delicate New York throat (it was colder in New York than Poland that winter) and off we went, the baggage piled high in the back and a whole long line of boys and girls and men and women following, walking through the muddy, deeply rutted roads.
It was an unusually warm month for March. The snows had melted and the mud was knee high. The horses could not always pull our wagon with its load of people and bags and three times on the way we all had to get out and walk a way up-hill while the men heaved the wheels out of the mud and helped the horses pull their load out of the deepest mire. I looked and looked in wonder – I could not see enough – the beautiful, wavy plain stretched out on all sides as far as the eye could see; dark blue mountains and green forests rimmed the horizon. In the fields stood cattle and on the farms I could observe the peasants in their picturesque dress, working to prepare the land for sowing, while others, barefoot, but carefully carrying their shoes well out of the muddy rain water walked down the road.
And on the roof of each peasant house stood a stork – delicately balanced over his nest on one ballet poised foot! The air was brisk and the sun bright and a biting wind made me glad to tuck the extra scarf into my coat collar.
At last we were there – and my moment had come! Now I would meet the parents – would they like me? Would I like them? We climbed down from the wagon (was that little square we clattered through a moment before really the great, big, collisseum of a Ringplatz that Simon had talked of so often? I couldn't believe it; it must be somewhere else). And we entered the doorway of a house I could not see for all the people crowded into it. What a milling about! – and greeting and kissing and introducing and how is Simon and how was the trip? – till suddenly a silence fell upon the whole lively, noisy company. They fell back and made way for a pair of twinkling eyes shining above a snow white beard and Father made his way through the throng of family and friends gathered to meet Shimka's wife from America. He came to me – alone now in the center of the circle, tipped up my chin into his cupped hand and looked smiling into my face. Then he let it go – placed his hands on my shoulders and announced to the waiting guests, "Sie is keine Schickse!"
Then everybody crowded round and I think no returned hero from the wars ever had a warmer welcome (or a bigger family). They were ready to receive me with full heart no matter who I turned out to be – but that I was after all, despite rumors to the contrary – a Jewish girl, made everybody glad.
A long time later when everybody had been sorted out, cousins connected to aunts and children to parents there came the formal visit to grand mother and grandfather, Eliezer ltsak-Loew. He looked regal, his ancient face framed with white hair as he lay propped up on many pillows in his bed and bustling around him coquetish in a white jabot, there was, spry, lively little grandmother, Gitl Liebe.
"Wie gehts Schimkeleh in Ameriku?" they wanted to know. And when I told them in the German that I had so fortunately been taught to speak at home when I was a child, that I left him feeling fine, but that I missed him very much on this day with his people, the old man replied to me, "Meine Hochachtung, meine Hochachtung". I was very touched – indeed I had never been so splendidly (or more undeservedly) praised in all my life before.
Of course, I had been told before I came that grandmother loved pretty things just like a young girl, and that grandfather had been bedridden for years. So I had brought with me the gayest kerchief I could find in Vienna for a little old lady, and now, in a corner of the room I could see two little boys quite pink in the face from inflating by blowing into it, the great rubber bed I had bought in Paris to rest more easily grandfather's paper thin bones.
The biggest lunch anyone ever heard of followed. There was a much coming and going at the table. I sat next to my mother-in-law and found her loving and easy to talk to. It seemed to me that we were the only ones who remained seated throughout the whole meal. As in a dream it seemed to me that changing groups sat down to one enormous dish or another, and then ran away and others came, for the next course. But everybody wanted me to eat everything – I think I did!
After lunch came the Bath. My loving husband had written home that in America everybody had a bath every day – and I believe he intimated that if they didn't I would probably sicken and waste away. At any rate, I remember that after that big dinner among all the sisters and cousins and aunts and visiting towns people, that they all escorted me into the kitchen where stood a big tin tub and two Ukrainian maids filling it up with hot water poured out of pails. Like the queens of France in child – birth I took the bath in public and then in order to avoid its weakening effects was hustled off to sleep (in the afternoon!) in a deep downy feather-bed.
Wonderful days followed. I learned who everybody was. I could recite the railroad stations on the way to Stanislawow. I managed to explain that I could wash without the back-breaking work of bringing water from a well for my bath every day just as did everybody else. I discovered that the girls were interested in Paris dresses and American lipstick. I found that our family was just like people everywhere – only nicer!
I slept with Clara and Moritz – Anda made me a beautiful peasant dress, all red velvet and spangles (a dazzling success at masquerades back home). I went to dozens of parties. I walked in the woods. We had two marvelous seders – Father Zachary-David sat propped up on high white pillows with mother assisting when we all sang HadGad-yo. The matzo-balls were a success. The long service seemed short to me – and how pleased they all were when I knew – a girl from a reform temple! – that the extra glass of wine was for the Prophet Elisha!
Some years later I returned with my husband and our then little boy. Now I knew and loved each one – now I was truly one of the family. But the excitement and wonder of that first visit could never be recaptured. How could it? There was never anything like that again in all the world!
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