The twentieth century was for the Jews of eastern Europe, a century of dispersement. Many Rozhishch families broke up, some leaving for America and other places in the New World at the beginning of the century because of the pogroms; others leaving after the First World War because of the bad economic situation ; the majority was to perish in the Hell of Hitler's Europe, and the few survivors managed to immigrate to the Amencas or to make aliya to Israel. The following are stories typical of families, who experienced this process, but wno still maintain the tradition of great social concern which typified eastern European Jewry.
Today, Rozhishchers are dispersed throughout the entire world. In Israel they number 250 families (and taking into consideration those who had immigrated to the country as children and those who, . were born in the country their number reaches nearly a thousand)
We do not possess accurate figures for other countries, but we do know that there is a large group in the United States, including the many who immigrated there at the start of the century as a result of the pogroms, and those who arrived there before the Second World War or after it. In Brazil there are about thirty families, about 15 in Canada, and in Argentina there are some five families. Isolated families live in other parts of the world: the Flash family in London, Avenchiks in Paris, the Bortnik family in Torino, Italy and the Katzan's in Portugal.
Good connections are maintained between the society in Israel and Rozhishchers across the sea. It is as though we were all one family. Overseas friends visit us at Beth Rozhishch (Rozhishch House) , where we enjoy holding social gatherings in their honour, and many maintain close contact with us through letters. They have inscribed their loved ones on our Memorial Scroll and many have written articles for this book.
It is the Israel association and our Beth Rozhishch which form the centre uniting Rozhishchers who are dispersed all over the world
by Avner Bachmiell
Because of the bad economic situation in Rozhishch after the end of the First World War, my mother decided to return with us, her seven small children, to her native village of Omelno, where we lived for some three years.
Omelno was a typical Ukrainian village about twenty-five kilometers from Rozhishch, and there were two other Jewish families living there. These were my uncle (my mother's brother) Sander Feffer with his wife and his daughter, Genia, and my uncle David Blak, (Block), his wife Haya-Sarah (nee Feffer, my mother's sister) and his five sons.
In my earlier childhood I had heard stories of the golden era of the Feffer and Blak families before the First World War. These had intermarried and formed a many-branched dynasty, which in the course of time was to disperse over the entire world. Now their descendants live in the United States, in Israel and in Brazil.
The family conducted the local affairs of the large local landowner, Nossenko, who spent most of his time in large centres. They managed his flourmills, brandy factories, and the woods. They purchased grain, cattle and agricultural products in the village and supplied it with vital commodities brought in from the adjacent towns of Koik, Trochimbrod, Rozhishch and even from more distant localities. Among them were well-established merchants, famous throughout the district, learned religious scholars, very strictly observant men, and there were also among them those who scarcely managed to make ends meet.
Three Pfeffer brothers, ltzhak (Itzik), Motel and Max (Michael) immigrated to the United States prior to the First World War. They settled in Denver, Colorado and in Salt Lake City, Utah, and laid the foundations of a young, successful and dynamic branch of the family.
To this day, the Peppers make up a considerable portion of the Salt Lake City Jewish community and are active both in public and economic life.
Max ('Michael') and his children, as well as the family of the late ltzik live in Denver and their families, too, have branched out and multiplied, and now live in many parts of the country where they have achieved prominence in many fields of endeavour and in Jewish community life.
These three brothers became the foundation of strength for those members of the family remaining in Poland, and supported them in times of distress. In 1922 they were joined in the United States by my sister, Miriam, and my brother Michael (Milton) Sherman, their niece and nephew, and in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, they miraculously managed to bring their sister, my mother, Gitel (Shkurnik) Sherman to them.
Mother lived to a ripe old age in the United States. Only her brother Sander remained in Poland, to be killed by the Nazis.
My immediate family has been dispersed throughout the entire world. My father, who died at an early age at the end of the First World War, left my mother with seven small children to raise. Mother, as mentioned above, my oldest sister Miriam and my brother Milton came to the United States; my brothers the late Shlomo, Moshe and Motel to Brazil, and my sister Ziporah and myself to Israel.
Village Way Of Life
When we arrived in the village, the landowner was no longer there. His lands had been divided among hundreds of peasants, and the rest of his property was being temporarily managed by the Russian administrator.
We lived in the pleasant house of my mother's uncle, Motel Block, whose household had meanwhile left the vicinity which had remained practically untouched by the war. It was a spacious home, conspicuous among the low peasant houses. What I remember best about this period was the scenery around the house, the countryside of Volhynia; the endless fields of wheat, rye, buckwheat and other cereals growing as tall as a man. The meadows for grazing and for fodder. The forest which began a few yards away from the house.
|The three brothers Pepper: Isaac, Motel and Michael-Max and their families: immigrated to the United States from the village of Omelno, near Rozhishch before the First World War and made their homes in Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado.|
|Gertie Sherman (Shkurnik), nee Pepper at the Bar Mitzvah of her great-grandson, Hershey Rothbart, May. 1966. Shown in the picture are her daughter, Miriam and her son, Michael, of Denver, Col., and their families, and her son, Motel Shkurnik of Brazil.|
As a small boy, I loved the tranquil scenery of the village; the peasant who ploughed with horses or cows; the shepherdess who came every morning to fetch our brown cow and add it to her herd, and who returned it in the evening together with a large bowl of berries which she had picked in the woods while watching the cows; the wagons harnessed to horses or a team of bulls.
Once my brother and I discovered a treasure of mushrooms in the woods near our house. We took off our shirts, and carried the mushrooms home in them. Mother made a wonderful mushroom soup with them, even giving some of it to the aunts and the neighbours. Near our house there was an abandoned ruin which had once been the landowner's luxurious castle. In the front of it there was a beautiful garden, with roses and other wonderful flowers growing there as well as beautiful spreading chesnut trees. Behind it, a fruit tree garden, planted in avenues, obviously the work of a landscape architect. This garden particularly attracted me. There were juicy apples of all kinds in it, large bell pears, wonderful tiny berries, and straight avenues of tall, decorative trees amongst which the landowner had at one time gone riding. The keeper of the garden spent most of his time sitting in his hut, weaving the shoes which most of the peasants wore, out of willow bark (posteles).
My uncle David used to lease the garden and sell some of its fruits in Kolk or Rozhishch. On Saturdays in the summer, our five cousins would visit us and we would walk in this wonderful garden or lie in the grass in the shade of the trees, enjoying nature and dreaming our dreams of the future.
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