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[Page 246]

Folklore

 

My “Shtetle” Stolpce

by Ben Yerukham

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The shtetele [small town] of my birth stands before my eyes: the streets, the houses with straw roofs, the market, the synagogue courtyard, the schools, the houses of prayer, the beautiful, clear Nieman [River] and the surrounding large forests, the fragrant flowering fields and, mainly, the sincere Jews, relatives, friends, the young people and the children.

 

Our House

A wooden house, the roof covered with shingles; opposite our house, a well with delicious water. Behind our house, a large garden where we planted potatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, carrots and all sorts of things.

Potatoes, barrels of soured cucumbers, sauerkraut and so on were prepared for the winter in the cellar.

Wintertime, there is a blizzard, the snow blocks the doors so it is difficult to go outside. It is cold, dark, gloomy in the heart. On such days, we went home from kheder [religious primary school] at night with a lantern in our hands.

I remember Stolpce as a four-year old boy. My father, Yerukham Charchurim, like so many Stolpcer Jews, emigrated to America. He was a presser, saved a few dollars, returned to Stolpce and began to trade. In 1911, my father came from America for the last time and our house was remodeled. The foundation was made of large stones. Jewish tseslars [men who shave the bark off trees] shaved the bark from large boards and made them smooth and almost built a new house; flax was stuffed between the cracks. Double windows were installed in the winter.

The tile oven was heated on a winter day and it became warm in the house. Shabbos was enjoyable. Friday night, the frost creaks, the blizzard twirls, the window is frozen; it is warm in the house; the candles stand on the table and the candles give light. The sharp aromas of cholent [a stew served on Shabbos], tzimmes [a stew made mostly of carrots and dried fruits] and gefilte fish are absorbed. The family sits around the table and sings zmorus [Sabbath songs].

For the Kiddush at the close of Shabbos, potatoes were cooked with peels, herring was fried with onions; the samovar was on the table. Relatives and neighbors sat around the table and stories were told. There was a knock at the door; the old Shlomo'stka (Bruchanosky), covered in snow, frozen, with a shawl on his head, came in. He shook off the snow; we invited him to sit at the table to warm himself with a glass of hot tea.

The old Shlomo'stka was a Jew of over 100 years. He was one of the khapers [catchers – Jewish men who caught other Jews and presented them for conscription into the Russian army], who would catch Jewish children as Nikolajevska soldiers [soldiers in the army of Tsar Nikolai], and they served for 25 years. He came a day earlier before starting to catch them and he would announce that he was coming to snatch [the children] in the morning. He was a simple Jew, but full of life. Sitting at a table, he would begin to tell stories of a nusten [mysterious men who roamed the area during the Napoleonic era] and a nusten could have been from Napoleon's time. The entire shtetl came to his funeral and he was eulogized by rabbis.

Our alley, the so-called Galakh'she [1], and later Mitskevitch Alley, was beautiful in the springtime. Our neighbors, the Christians, had orchards with cherry trees, apples and pears. The train line ran not far from our house and the surrounding pastures were covered in green grass, with flowers of various colors. Herds of cows, horses grazed, frogs croaked, beautiful butterflies flew, bees hummed, young horses neighed. The air, fresh and clean, and nature elevated the soul. The tall windmill stood at the entry from the train station to the shtetl. When I came to the windmill with my father to grind rye, I watched with great interest how the large stones turn and grind the dry rye. The

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Peker family, owners of the windmill, would drag the large sacks. Even their daughter, a tall and healthy girl, pulled the heavy sacks like the men. The tall windmill was on a hill. If one went up on top, one could see Stolpce.

You could see to Zadvor'ye. Fields overgrown with wheat, rye, oats, barley; the golden stalks of wheat bent like waves. Among them were fields of silver color, the snow white blooming stalks and everything was dangling with various colored flowers. The beautiful, clear Nieman flowed from afar. At the shores of the river, the green water foliage; the hay is aromatic. The male and female peasants sang their folk songs while cutting the grass.

On the eastern side one sees the large Ortsyukhyer forest and the lake in front of it with Dovid Leib's (Sirkin) watermill.

We lived in peace with our neighbors, the White Russians. I loved to go to catch fish with our neighbor, Petra Bartashevitz. We went beyond the iron bridge to Svershne, across beautiful grassy fields with flowers of various colors. The Nieman was beautiful, a flowing, clear water stream. We sat near the Nieman, surrounded by the scent of the lily of the valley. We attached a worm to the fishing pole; we threw the line into the water, it throbbed and we often pulled out a little fish, a pike.

 

Forests

The Stolpce area was blessed with forests; on one side was the periphery of the large Naliboki Pushcha and on the other side, Ortsyukhyer and other forests. Thick pine, fir and birch forests extended for dozens of kilometers. The height of the pine and fir trees went up to 30 meters [more than 98 feet]. They were lowered into the Nieman as rafts, bound with ropes and sent to Prussia. Dozens of Jewish families made their living from the forest.

As small children, we went to the forest during the summer to gather berries, mushrooms and raspberries. We left in the morning with the rising of the sun with large baskets and pitchers, through the village, Ortsyukhy, and went in the large forest up to Sverinovo. In the fresh air, we strolled barefoot on the moss and gathered the black and red berries. When the pitchers were full, we lay on the moss and rested and looked at the tall pine trees, at how they shook and it seemed that they were falling. A nut tree grew on the side; a small squirrel with a reddish-brown color

 

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The windmill

 

sprang from tree to tree; she gathered nuts for the winter. Gathering the berries on the way back we went through the Akintsitser forests to gather fungi, Gelinka Lisitse's Jewish mushrooms. A nicer sport was gathering boletus [a mushroom species, known as porcini], a nicer mushroom, brown on top and white on the bottom, a meaty mushroom, good for drying and very nice to eat. Loaded with full pockets, we went back through the fields full of tall rye and wheat. We would come home late; it was already dark.

The Stolpce locale created a love of nature, for agricultural work. My grandmother Malka worked our garden. She seeded, planted, weeded and loved working in the earth; she was a quiet woman. At 80, she still worked in the garden. She never let a curse out of her mouth. She became blind at 90. My mother, Feygl, served her for many years. She lived to nearly 100.

 

Types

Ora (Aronts'ik) the wagon driver, an honest Jew, was the first Stolpcer Jew who pinched my cheek. In his later years he sat on an earthen seat at his son, Sholem's, house and warmed himself. When my father and I walked by, he stopped us and told us stories about the former work of hauling. Stolpce wagons would go all the way to Smolensk. He remembered how the rails were laid for the Warsaw-Moscow train line. The wagon

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drivers protested, this will take away their income. There were Jews who were against building a train station near the shtetl; this would bring in wantonness. Great Russians [ethnic Russians] would come… Many Jews were satisfied with this, this would bring income to the shtetl and Ora said that when the train line was in existence, the wagon drivers had even more income. The shtetl began to develop.

The second happy Jew who lived on our street was Sholem Pepke, the hatmaker. A man full of humor, a singer, a joker, he lived with Shaul the wagon driver. He made hats out of old goods, a wash, a press and there was a new hat.

It was interesting to watch how Sholem Pepke measured a non-Jew for a hat: “Vanka, ty zhe krasavets!#&148; [Vanka, you're a handsome man!] and when Vanka shouted that the hat was too big, Sholem insisted that the hat fit. He demanded two rubles for the hat and if the non-Jew offered 60 kopekes, he shouted to his wife: Mazel-tov [congratulations], Vanka has a hat.

Winter, we went to pray in Feishe's son, Yankle's (Bruchensky's) minyon [10 men required for prayer] during the great frosts. For the most part, the worshippers were workers, artisans, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths and wagon drivers.

I stood for hours near Benyamin Tsertses, the blacksmith's smithy, and watched how he pounded the hot, red iron. A difficult job and also as difficult was the life of the artisans.

I remember the small, low houses of the two shoemakers, the brothers Avraham Meir and Shual Ayzyk Altman. They hammered one small nail after another and there was no bread in the house.

My Aunt Dwoyra, Yisroel the mashgiakh [supervisor of kashrus] Charchurim's wife, lived in a corner of the small alley. An energetic woman, a small woman, a thin woman, but full of life. Her husband was a poor man and she raised her two children and fed them during the wartime through her labor. She was a glazier; she stood with a cigarette in her mouth and cut the glass with a diamond. She carried pots of glass to the villages and there installed panes of glass.

Zadvor'ye, Sloboda and Zasul'ye were her villages; she carried the pails of glass and for them she received flour, potatoes. Here the short, thin Dwoyra dragged entire poods [old Russian measurement of weight equaling more than 36 pounds or 16 kilos] of potatoes, rye, wheat. It was wartime, food was an important thing, and Dwoyra earned more than capable men.

In autumn – in the rain, and winter – in frost, snow and blizzards, Dwoyra could be seen with large sacks on her back. Dwoyra was a working type, a woman of the people; she used specific expressions and sayings when she spoke.

A Stolpcer Jew from New York gave me a greeting – he sometimes travels in his car to a corner of New York. He saw a woman from Stolpce, and to his great surprise, it was Dwoyra. She said hello and she pulled him into her apartment for latkes [potato pancakes] with sour cream. Dwoyra was involved with agriculture around New York until she was very old.

Chaim Lusterman, a good Jew, an intelligent man in the full sense of the word, lived on Minsker Street. He was a great scholar. He was always sitting in the large old beis-hamedrash [2] [synagogue or house of prayer] studying a page of Gemara [Talmud] and often would subtly argue with the rabbi and with the scholars. [As well as] reciting a lesson with the organizations Ein Yakov and Midrash, he was also a generous donor. He bought an entire bookcase of Sefer Ein-Yakov [compilation of the ethical and inspirational teachings of the Talmud], Midrashim [Biblical commentaries], and Yalkutim [collections] with his own money and gave them to the large beis-medrash.

Chaim Lusterman was a Zionist and took part in various communal work. I remember a tragic end for Lusterman's son – Yoal, who worked as a secretary for the Stolpcer kehile [organized Jewish community]. When the Nazis took him for forced labor in the Baranowiczer camp (as it was explained), he became swollen from hunger. There was no linen for shrouds in the camp in which to bury him. He was wrapped in paper cement sacks and brought to his eternal rest. Manye and Jakov Lusterman were also extremely

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intelligent people and both perished at the hands of the Germans.

Another warm Zionist house was Sura'ke Gershonovitch's house. The first Zionist meetings after the First World War took place in Sura'ke's house and the first Hebrew songs were sung there. If we want to designate a comfortable house of old Stolpce, there is no other than Gershonovitch's. The large lamp on the table on Shabbos at night, greatly enjoying ourselves; we discussed politics. Hershl Gershonovitch was an intelligent man, in the forest line of business, who often visited Prussia and brought a little culture from Western Europe.

They were two extended families: the Gershonovitches and the Rozovskes. They were blessed with educated children – the intelligentsia among the young during the First World War: speakers, artists, carriers of culture. The family was divided: the Gershonovitches – Zionists, and the Rozovskys [3] - carriers of the world revolution. Rozovskys' sons were great leaders, speakers and fighters in the Russian Army; the Gershonovitches all left for Eretz-Yisroel. Shoshona Gershovitch, the oldest daughter, the first commander of the “kheil-khen” [women's corps of the army in Eretz-Yisroel]. The remaining children were all active in the Haganah [paramilitary group that became the Israel Defense Forces]. It is satisfying to remember and take pride in the difficult times of the community; Shoshona carried weapons into the old city of Jerusalem. I remember a day when a pogrom by the Arabs was expected. I was spending the night with them then. Their old mother, Sura'ke, woke her sons to go quickly to the old city. Sura'ke became a widow as a young woman and lived a labored life. Yet, she raised her children to be educated and independent. This was the only complete family to reach Eretz-Yisroel.

Chaim Itshe Borsuk, the melamed [teacher in a religious school], with whom Zalman Shazar [4] also taught, lived on Minsker Street. The middle class children studied with him. A knowledgeable person and an expert on Talmud and Tanakh [Bible], although from the old generation (born in 1842), he brought the Enlightenment into our shtetl. He was a fervent Hovevei Zion [lover of Zion], a reader of Hatzefira [Hebrew daily newspaper in the Pale of Settlement] and Hamagid [Hebrew daily newspaper in the Pale of Settlement], one who spread the idea of love of Zion. Chaim Itshe knew many trades, was capable at everything.

He came from an extensive family of rabbis, artists and carriers of culture – a chain of generations that extends all the way to Italy, for about a thousand years. His great grandfathers descend from Reb Noakh Mendes of Slutsk, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, the author of the book Niflaot Hadashot Ufraot Ikhokhma [a book of new wonders and intellectual discoveries], and Reb Gershon of Szklow. His grandfather, Reb Itshele, carved the cherubs, animals and artistic letters in the old Stolpce Kalter Synagogue, which drew everyone's attention. Reb Itshele intended to carve the Beis HaMikdash [the Temple in Jerusalem] out of wood and he worked on this for many years.

Chaim Itshe was one of the first founders of the library. At that time it was [considered] treyf [unclean] and he had quarrels with the rabbis about it. He was involved in various institutions, such as, gemiles khesed [interest free loans], oyzer dalim [assistance for the poor] and so on. His entire family came together with him at Passover for the Seder and solemnly celebrated the Seder. He would say to his grandchildren: “You will live to see the land; I strove, hoped, but I have been a little late.” When a representative from Keren-haYesod [the Foundation Fund, now the United Israel Appeal] came to the city to collect money for Keren HaZahav [Golden Fund] and many gave their jewels; Reb Chaim Itshe took off his watch that was very dear to him as a very old antique and gave it to support the collection of money.

When the Stolpce Rabbi, the Rabbi Liberman, asked why was he giving money to the apikorsim [heretics], he answered that he believes in Moshiakh [the redeemer], but we have to help Moshiakh arrive and by settling the land [of Israel] we bring the redemption closer.

 

Yurzdyka

Every shtetl has its place that is renowned. Yurzdyka was the location of the later ghetto. Our dear 3,000 Jews were taken from Yurzdyka to their grave.

Yurzdyka represented the Stolpcer toiler, the common Jew, the boat builders, the blacksmiths, the carpenters, the wheelwrights and the bricklayers for many generations.

Yurzdyka children were friends. The small Shlomo'lekh, Yanklekh, were dressed in short pants with a split, a small shirttail always dragging behind and they were very distant from hygiene. Even the Gentile boys were afraid of the Yurzdyka young boys.

The barns of the peasants stretched out on the mountain outside Yurzdyka. Shabbos in the afternoon, we went here to stroll. There were beautiful fields around the brickyards. Couples in love always spent time there.

If someone played a prank it was credited to Yurzdyka.

Here are several types of men of the people from Yurzdyka:

Ruvele the wagon driver; when he became angry at a Stolpce businessman, he took his he-goat and

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Shmerl Esterkin covers the house with boards for the winter.

 

dressed it in a bed sheet and he took the he-goat to the door of the other Jew on Passover during the Seder. At the Shfoykh-khamoskho [“Pour out your wrath”], when the owner of the house opened the door, Ruvele turned the he-goat's tail and he wildly went onto the table, broke the four cups of wine and frightened and bewildered the guests at the table. Ruvele stood outside and laughed.

On a market day, when peasants would attack Jews, Ruvele put a knife in his boot and a revolver in his pocket and woe to the peasants who dared to do something bad to a Jew.

Shosha Inzelbuch was descended from a many-branched family of rabbis and she was learned. She fell in love with a worker when still very young. She married him against the wishes of her parents. Her husband died when he was young and she raised her children as a poor widow.

Shosha could be seen in the morning standing and kneading the dough. Her goat went in and licked the dough with great pleasure and Shosha chased him out and said: “She came nemen khallah [to take a small portion of the dough over which a prayer is recited and which is burned]…”

A mosquito once went into my eye. I went to Shosha the baker; she was a specialist. She licked out the mosquito with her large red tongue and Shosha became an “eye doctor.”

Yurzdyka symbolized the working masses, toilers. The shtetl lay near the Nieman, surrounded by a large forest. Here, beams were lowered, wood and taken to Konigsberg. Boats were built in Stolpce, small boats that went as far as Prussia. Jewish carpenters and caulkers worked on the shore of the Nieman, near Welwl Tunik. One could hear the bang of hammers and axes. Often a quarrel was heard, a fight; Netsl Zlotnik (Borukh's son), the caulker, was arguing about the location and translation of a verse in Tanakh. I remember how before the First World War one of the most important caulkers, Breyne's son Berl Khashe, was killed when a boat fell on him. He was a hero, young, handsome and tall.

The Bund carried out an important agitation among the working masses. The artisans gathered together on the 1st of May at the carpenter, Yisroel Rozovsky's, and they made a toast with vodka, and Chaim Dvorecsky, the apothecary, gave a sermon about socialism.

The speeches about socialism were given by the leaders, the intelligentsia of the shtetl, even though they were middle-class children and were involved with commerce.

No leaders appeared among the workers. But their children read a great deal and preached socialism in the later years. I will dwell on two of them: Skharye Rozshansky and Mulie Kaplan.

Skharya, a wagon driver, a child of a poor house. I remember a small house near Benyamin the

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(from the right): Mulie Kaplan, Skahrya Rozansky [5], Gershon Tsertses

 

the blacksmith's smithy. The house was two meters high [about six feet seven inches]. When you entered the house you held on to the ceiling. Skharya sat in a corner reading a Yiddish book, When Skharya would appear at a meeting, he spoke deep from his heart, demanding justice and a struggle for a new society. Mulie Kaplan was different. He, himself, was a carpenter, a toiler from childhood on, but he had learned a great deal, not in gymnazie [secondary school] or in a university, but from his experience and practical life. Mulie Kaplan sat day and night and read, studied. He read almost all of the books in the Stolpce library. He knew the Yiddish classics by heart. He was not a speaker because he had a speech defect. He justified socialism scientifically. He had studied Marx, Lenin and took part in debates. He was a member of the Bund from birth, devoted to the party, taking part in all cultural institutions: in school, in the library and in cultural work.

In 1935, summertime, I visited the shtetl Stolpce for the last time. Once while strolling alone, at night over the bridge, Mulie Kaplan followed me for a long time and did not dare to approach me. I stopped him. His first question was if Eretz-Yisroel would solve the Jewish question. He added that even if yes, if Eretz-Yisroel took in a million Jews, what would happen to the remaining 14 million? This was in the year 1935. Hitler had already begun to persecute the Jews and it already smelled of war. I said to Mulie: If we even could in our generation bring two million Jews to Eretz-Yisroel and make them productive – it is also worthwhile. We had much discussion of the worker question, Hebrew, Yiddish, imperialism and independence. The man was proficient in all questions.

 

The Market Day

As in the surrounding shtetlekh, the greater part of the Jewish population was involved with trade.

A Stolpce market day appears before my eyes: wagons arrive, rye is brought down hill, up hill, plenty of good things are brought from all corners of the city: wheat, cows, horses, sheep, calves, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, precious stones; wagons are also brought, the shoes are carried on their backs, they walk barefoot, at the entrance to the city they put on their shiny boots.

The water in the lake at the water mill is clear, the wheels turn, the stone grinds the wheat.

In the distance among the tall trees stands the old Dovid Leib Sirkin with his white beard – the gabbai [rabbi's assistant] of the large synagogue. The peasants greet him with a “dzien dobry” [good day in Polish]. Wagons are rushing from Minsker Street; everyone wants to grab a spot at the market.

The market becomes filled, a racket, noise: horses whinny, cows moo, the beggars sing, the organ oozes, the shops are full of customers, they buy and they sell. The taverns are full of peasants; they sit in groups; they drink together with their wives, they kiss and they fight.

Aba, Yedidye's [son], sits and sells clay pots. The children around him, may they be spared from the evil eye, wait until their father will earn something, then he will buy a bread and they will pinch pieces off bit by bit.

Ruzak the policeman who speaks Yiddish, walks around the wagons; he maneuvers and indicates where each needs to stand. And Meishke's Shosha (Aginsky), argues with him half in Russian, half in Polish: ׏Yak mai Masza postavila” – my Moshe placed it here, and Rusak does not want to know anything and says to move the wagon further.

In the great noise at the market, there is something new in the shtetl: Minde is fighting with Khantse's Chaya. This one pulls a customer and that one pulls a customer. Yona Shapira does not care about the entire thing; he calmly measures a piece of calico for a blouse for a non-Jewish girl.

Fights were a regular phenomenon on a market day. Even relatives fought because of income: Minde with Chaya, Yokl with his brothers, Yerukham with Dwoyra. The peasants sell their goods and they buy in the shops. Everyone toiled. At night they begin to depart. The Stolpce trash men come to collect the garbage. Shmuel Tunik stands on the porch of Shaul's Tankhem Eli (Shulkin) and talks with Tevele. Shmuel Tunik, a strong man, tall, good looking, is the chief of the firemen. When he was dressed in his uniform, one could think he is a Jewish general.

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A Market Day

 

Tevele, the water-carrier, a small man, a thin little Jew, who could not hear and could not speak well, argued to Shmuel Tunik that he had earned nothing from the market day and Shmuel shouted into his ear that there would be a wedding this week and he would find something from which Tevele would earn money.

Women speak on the second porch of Elyokim Miltsenzon about Lipe Danzig's bargain: he bought a chicken for five zlotes; afraid of his wife Chana, he told her that the chicken had cost only three zlotes. When a woman offered Chana four zlotes, she sold the chicken – a penny saved is a penny earned…

Brayna stands with Frayda with brooms and they tidy their spot. Brayna and Frayda were old girls in their seventies. They did not get married because they could not choose a groom with their aristocratic lineage; they were descendants of Tzion-Ber. One of their sisters married the Dukorer Rabbi, whose children were the Czarni brothers, the famous writer and critic Sh. Niger and Wladek, the famous leader of the Bund.

Jews stand, make calculations, they divide income, they carry on competition, partnerships. One of the respected Jews, who was a peacemaker and would mix into every conflict, was Yitzhak Shmuel, truly one of the lamed-vovniks tzadekim [36 righteous ones]. He put out the fires of conflict. If someone did not have food to eat and Yitzhak Shmuel learned of this, he quietly, immediately brought food. If a wedding had to be prepared for a poor bride,

 

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Feygl Charchurim
 
Yerukham Charchurim

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Yitzhak Shmuel collected money. If he needed to bring Passover flour to a poor widow and his son wanted to do it, he said no. - He needed to bring it himself – one needed to know how to give to someone else, not to, God forbid, humiliate him. When someone came to him to borrow an interest-free loan and he himself, did not have the money, he went to borrow from a neighbor and gave the man an interest-free loan.

He would always bring food to the Jewish arrestees in jail. Once when he brought food to the jail, the policeman said: “Panje Rabina [Mister Rabbi], there are no Jews in jail today.” He answered: “I brought food for people. If there are people here I will leave the food for them.” And he left the food for the Christians.

 

The Great Stolpce Fire in 1915

Fires often occurred in Stolpce. Every few years there was a fire. People's ages and [the years of] events were calculated according to the dates of the fires. When older Jews spoke, told [stories[, they said: this happened before the great fire, or after the small fire.

Reb Betzalel (Tzalke), the melamed [religious school teacher], was a thin Jew, an old melamed. My father studied with him. An honest Jew; poverty reigned with him in his small room. Shirke, his daughter, tended to the goat and Sura Chana sold bagels.

Reb Betzalel the melamed drew his students toward good deeds. He always introduced gan-eden and gehenom [heaven and hell].

We studied until late at night during the winter and we went home with lanterns in our hands. As the teacher would fall asleep at the table, we sneaked out and moved a little to Zshave's hill. We rode on sleds there. We pulled the sleds up the hill and they flew by themselves downhill. If the sleds rolled over we were satisfied. If we had the opportunity to sneak out of kheder during the summer, we ran to swim in the Nieman. Swimming in the Nieman was a pleasure. When one of us drowned, Kastsie, who spoke Yiddish like a Jew, rescued him.

 

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Eliahu and Roshke Makhtey with their children
Berl, Chaim-Yitzah, Rywka, Penina, Chaya, Ruchl and Shirke

 

As was said, we sat at the table and studied. Of the students I remember: Pina Tunik (Zshave's), Leibl Garmize, Shmerl Rozovsky (Tsipe's). Learning the Torah portion Beha'aloscha, a noise suddenly was heard; the bell was ringing – Stolpce was burning. We saw the fire from the west side, from Eli Yona Kitayewitz's sawmill. I ran there. The sky was red; thousands of blocks and boards were burning.

The firemen stood at the fire; water was sprayed with the hoses, but it was like a drop in the sea. Shmuel Tunik, the chief of the firemen, gave an order that they should try to put out the fire on one side. The second side burned – the fire could not be controlled.

The wind, which blew from the Zayamno side, threw the flames over the center of the city, which was mostly inhabited by Jews.

I quickly ran home. The city was already burning is several places. The Christians, who all had horses, took their bags and baggage on the wagons, outside the city. Jews pulled by hand. They dragged things, pillows, quilts, furniture. Feathers flew; noise is heard, crying. A mother has lost a child; she faints, has spasms.

We lived outside the city; we ran to save the goods of our relatives. Even small children helped.

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Sura Chana, his wife   Tsalke the melamed [religious school teacher]

 

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The Bund football team
First row from the right:
A Mirer, Ahron Bruchanosky, Irmye Rozovsky
Second row from the right: Tzvi Zuchowitsky, Yehuda Borsuk, Chaim Kaplan
Third row standing: Yudl Kukish, Meir Rabinowitz, Yakov Neifeld, Josef Tsertses, Avraham Altman

 

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In the center of the city, the market was burning. Jewish possessions went away with the smoke. Women stood and screamed and wrung their hands. Older Jews ran to the synagogue to save the Sefer Torahs [Torah scrolls]. They carried the saved Torah scrolls, prayer books, Makhzorum [Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayer books], Sefer Talmud [books of the Talmud] and so on out at mortal danger and with pride.

The firemen from the entire area came at night: Koydanovo, Horodziej [Gorodeya], Mir. The wind became still; the fire was controlled. In the morning I went to see the destruction. More than half of the city was burned. The smoke still came from the extinguished embers. Women and men sat and lamented the misfortune: Jewish toil, blood and sweat evaporated with the smoke. Older people and children remained sleeping outdoors. They took in seven to eight families in the remaining houses. The destruction was immense.

 


Translator's Footnotes

  1. galakh is the Yiddish word for “priest.” Return
  2. beis medrash and beis hamedrash are used interchangeably. Return
  3. The spelling of this surname varies from Rozovske to Rozovsky. Return
  4. Zalman Shazar became the 3rd President of the State of Israel. Return
  5. This surname is spelled Rozshansky on the previous page. Return

 

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