Silent and sad was Telekhany in 1938. The town wasn't alive, it was vegetating. Many young people had immigrated to Palestine, the USA, Brazil and other countries. Many were incarcerated or expelled for political activities by the Polish-Fascist government. The remaining were elderly, children, and the young who couldn't yet decide what to do.
Cultural life came to a stop. There wasn't anyone to talk to. People feared their own shadow. In the West of Poland, Hitlerism spread rapidly. Poland -- with her Motshizky, Ridz-Shmigli, Beck and his mob imitated Hitler, dancing to his tune.
The Munich Accord between the Great Powers was properly understood by the Telekhaner. A world war was coming.
The elderly Jews wrapped themselves tighter in their prayer shawls and begged God to cancel the terrible decree. They attended meetings with Rabbi Glicks, president of the "Aguda" movement. They believed his speeches, that the stubborn communists, who didn't want to give up, but wanted to carry on their underground activities were responsible for all of it.
The financial conditions in Telekhany at that time were disastrous. The recession in Poland was tangible. The shopkeepers, tradesmen etc. worked tirelessly to provide their families with food. Jewish businessmen toiled the earth for potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. Our people had never had great wealth, but they always had their dreams and hopes.
Jews In The Army
[In Poland, as in many European countries, army service at a certain age, was mandatory. Translators note.]
Autumn was the time for recruiting new men to army service, which was for two years. Then mothers, sisters, wives saw them off with lamentations and tears. They waited impatiently, counting days, weeks, months till the two years passed and the children came home. The young men then told of humiliation they had suffered, how they were made fun of for being Jews. But the joy in being home let them forget past troubles.
The recruiting in the fall of 1938 was larger than in previous years. They made no exceptions for only children, providers of families, etc. Everyone had to go. They didn't discharge those whose time was up either. It became obvious that a second World War was nearing.
A number of our Telekhaner youth were drafted: Aaron Landman's son, Michael Landman; Chaim Yuszick's (the Bathkeeper's) grandson, Alter Yuszick. Michael Leifer's son Yasha Leifer. Asher Gurshtel's son Neoma Gurshtel. Alter Kristal's son, Grushka's son, and many others.
Not discharged were Aaron Godiner's only son, Alter Godiner, Golel Grushkin, Pinie Feldman and many others.
The distress worsened in the spring when they drafted older Jews as well as gentiles. The media wrote widely about Hitler's intention to do away with the so-called Polish Corridor and to stretch his paws further into Polish territories.
The Polish leaders clicked their heels and proudly declared they would not give up even a button. The situation then, though a dangerous one, could maybe have been saved if the lordly and capitalist rulers had been more realistic. Unfortunately, because of racism and class hatred, they refused the help offered by the USSR. The Second World War approached rapidly.
The Polish-German War
On Friday September 1, 1939, the sound of gunfire and bombs shocked all of Poland.
The Hitler beast displayed its dreadful face. The Polish people got to experience the taste of all-out war. The cruelest air bombing was launched against the civilian population -- men, women and children.
People ran for their lives, leaving all their possessions behind; tens and hundreds were killed along the way. The survivors were driven out of their minds by fear and despair.
Even earlier, in August 1939, the people of Telekhany organized a self-defense group. Facing the oncoming danger, the various elements united under the leadership of Rabbi Glicks to provide aid to the victims of the war; his closest associates were Zionists and communists as well.
Within the first days of the war in September, Telekhany filled with refugees from central Poland. They were taken in and helped as much as possible. They told horror stories of what the Hitler murderers do. The situation was of great despair. On the 6th of September, the Polish government fell apart. Government officials and military personnel fled to the East, to the Soviet border.
The most senior officials and military officers fled to Romania, creating a vacuum behind them. The military heroically defended the fatherland. But they were poorly equipped and abandoned by senior authorities who were like rats abandoning a burning ship. The Germans were stopped at the Warsaw gates. They surrounded Warsaw and marched farther eastward.
Part of the Telekhaner youth fled, but only one choice was available: to head east to the borders of the USSR where they could find refuge.
On the 17th of September early morning, the radio brought the happy news. The Soviet Army was crossing the border of former Poland to free its brothers and sisters in West Byelorussia and West Ukraine. This meant that Hitler's army wasn't going to get to Telekhany.
The news spread through town like lightning. The whole town spilled out of houses into the streets. Even during market days you couldn't see that many people at once.
They looked ecstatic, and greeted each other joyfully. Jews and White Russians embraced and kissed each other. Rabbi Glicks hugged and kissed Jews and gentiles; men and women hugged and kissed each other, wishing each other mazel tov. The orthodox priest did the same thing, and everyone in town followed their example.
Just then in the early morning hours of September 17, when everyone in town were so overjoyed by the happy news, a group of friends gathered to organize a local leadership to secure order and well being for our town: they were Yisrael David Kagan, Ephraim and Leibel Klitenick, Yisrael Bernstein, Motya Roshchiner, Zinovy Bolodovitch. It was decided to call upon everyone, regardless of party, Jew and gentile, to join the militia and with the permission of the authorities, to hand over any weapons that they might own. Many laborers and peasants signed up.
During those crucial hours, Rabbi Glicks came to this writer, and offered his cooperation. He handed me a pistol given to him by the former Polish authorities. He joined the organizing committee, but soon thereafter had to resign because of his position as rabbi.
Great courage and self-sacrifice was shown us by our longtime sympathizer, Shlomo Landman, who put himself at the disposal of the new administration and was actively involved with it for a long time.
The Soviet army entered Telekhany on the 21st of September, and in four days a well equipped militia and local administration were already set up. With great sacrifice they were able to keep the peace and avoid bloodshed.
A few weeks later elections were held, and representatives from the people were elected to the new local administration. Among those elected were individuals who had worked for years for a new system.
Life was peaceful and calm for 21 months. Telekhany slowly adjusted to the new situation, and believed that Hitler's Germany would never dare to attack the Soviet Union.
The Great Catastrophe
Terrible was the news on the radio on June 22, 1941. It reported that Hitler attacked the USSR. We knew then that the war would be very costly for mankind. However, the final number was much more horrifying: six million Jews, three million Poles, ten million Soviet citizens as well as millions of people throughout Europe were murdered. This was the outcome of Hitler's war.
A few weeks after the arrival of the Hitlerian authorities, the Jews of Telekhany were herded together in one place and shot down with machine guns. All the martyrs were buried in mass graves a few miles from Telekhany.
Many of those who fled perished under unknown circumstances.
Only in 1957 did I have the possibility of visiting Telekhany and the mass graves. They were shown to me by my former friends, gentiles who fought with the Partisans and survived.
Telekhany became free of Jews [Judenrein], as Hitler wished, and regretfully there is no one to put a gravestone on the graves.
Daybreak. The town was in a deep, restless sleep. I closed my eyes and opened them again. My heart ached. I hadn't slept the whole night. In my ears I still heard the scary warnings, "Attention, attention, it's coming!" It meant that the enemy bombers were on their way to unload their deadly cargo on us.
I was thinking of my only young brother who had been taken away somewhere into the trenches to defend the fatherland. I lived with just one desire, to see him alive, to hear his voice. I'm also thinking with great concern about Alterke, Chaim, the bathkeeper's grandson, and about Aaron Landman's son, Michael, and about many other precious Jewish boys from Telekhany, who were taken from their homes and thrown into a hellish fire .... But life goes on, hope comes on wide wings and brings back life and joy .....
I was standing at the window with eyes full of tears, looking into space. I imagined seeing my brother; here he was, haggard, he pulled himself out of the fire and is coming .... Suddenly I heard "Mazel Tov" and a delicate hand embraced me .... Asher was coming. Asher Godiner was alive, walking now on Sventovolier Street ....
Never before had fantasy and reality been so interwoven like this. My eyes were fogged, but I saw how my dear father tried to get up to meet him, but could not move. He hardly believed in his great luck. So it was true, my brother was alive. Here he came, wrapped in rags, darkened and exhausted, but with restless, shining eyes as if the horror of the war fire was mirrored in them.
The whole town knew the news, and many walked him to our house. Like an arrow the news flew over the town. Mothers and fathers who weren't as lucky as us, and to our great sorrow will never be, came to our house. Slender Alterke was killed as was Chaim this writer's grandson. Handsome, good Michael Landman, and many others of the dear beloved names were no more.
So there we were, enjoying our brother and mourning the dear others at the same time.
My brother told us how he succeeded in avoiding death. He was lucky. A friendly Polish family took him in, changed his military uniform for these rags, thanks to which he could save himself. He looked very young and those rags transformed him into an abandoned youngster who wandered the world begging. He walked from town to town, from village to village. His way was long, tiresome, accompanied by fire, sword and bombs.
I wanted to be joyful, I had my dear brother back. But there was a weight pressing against my heart, the sky was heavy as lead .... Was it a foreboding that my joy is a fleeting one, and that something horrible was about to happen, that a Damocles sword was hanging over the heads of my beloved ones, over my little town, my cradle, Telekhany?
Luck Came Unexpectedly
The night was dark, I was afraid to go to the shore. Shadows scared me at every corner. Be courageous, be courageous, I said to myself, feverish with angst.
Efraim and Leibl, Israel Bernstein, Israel David and some White Russian friends, had a meeting on the beach to decide what steps to take: to run away or to desert. No, they were fighters, they will not quit. It was decided to take part in the battle, to fight the world's worst enemies, the Nazis, together in the Polish army. We moved like ghosts in the nighttime darkness. The town was breathing heavily and hopelessly. Who would shine light into the darkness? From where will come the rescue? Unexpectedly, hope arrived. A bright sun promised the "Garden of Eden" on earth. Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov! Young and old, Jews and Christians alike, embraced, hugged and kissed each other. The war ended, the Red Army was coming to free White Russia/Byelorussia. They brought joy and songs.
Ephraim travels to search for the Red Army
Where were they, our liberators? None of us had seen them yet, and we were suddenly seized by doubt. So many Polish officers traveled through Telekhany they were running through like chased animals, but left many victims in their wake. They just landed in town, bringing with them civilian members of the regime. Chaos struck Polesia, and Telekhany ended up alarmed and forlorn like an orphan.
Then a committee was formed, and the following people were selected: Ephraim, Leibel, Motke Roshchiner, Yisrael David, Yisraelikel Bernstein, Leiba Eisenberg and a few Byelorussian friends, and then Shlomo Landman joined voluntarily. He demonstrated his readiness to face any danger that happened to lurk and threaten us.
Ephraim, Leibel and Shlomo Landman were always on guard. I dreamed in vain to see Ephraim staying at home. I became jealous of the new regime, and missed Ephraim. I wanted to talk about things with him, and tell him so many things. However, he was involved in more important things than his personal life. In a strange way I laugh and cry at the same time: laughing and crying are like two brothers who are willing to give up their lives for peace, for a nicer and better world.
Agreeable and happy about my fate, I was always nervous about them, my loved ones. Every minute a new danger threatened their lives. Everyone in town was in a mess; many lost hope that the Red Army was really on its way to improve our situation. The evil forces were together, ready to attack us, to rob and murder, and so far help was far off. There were rumors that the Red Army was already in Hontzevich, but people were impatient, and didn't believe it; danger increased every day.
Then it was decided that someone would have to risk their life and travel to Hontzevich to meet up with the Red Army, and thereby bring someone to Telekhany. Ephraim and two other brave Byelorussian friends were selected. No one could imagine what I thought and felt at that time. Legends were shaping in my mind, each one more dreadful than the last. Death lurked over the roads, and here, my neighbors, my father were warning and appealing to me:
"Don't let him do it. Don't let him go! It's doubtful if you'll ever seem him alive again." However, a car was waiting for him, filled with people, as if they were going to a funeral. And me? I didn't want to stay alone, no! I couldn't stop him, I couldn't do such a thing! What about going along with him? Who would stop me?
Unfortunately, to my great surprise, as I was begging them to let me go along, with tears running down my face, I ended up alone. It was too dangerous to take a woman along. I tagged along after the car, ready to die, but just to be together with them. However, Leibel pulled me back, afraid to let me stand there alone.
The situation was so intense, more than ever. Earlier, we had been able to listen to the radio report that the Poles were coming back. We were very nervous, and didn't even know what kind of a world we were living in. Now, suddenly, as I talked with Leibel, a gunshot whizzed by it seemed very close by, and Leibel fell to the ground, and the sky fell to the ground. We were sure that the shot came from the open window. Leibel stood up, he was wounded, but wasn't afraid of danger. He started shooting with his own revolver that he had on him. The bullet flew by me, and luckily missed me, though I was somewhat dazed, feeling like I was going to become unconscious. I was going through so many experiences all at once. Ephraim was somewhere in danger, Leibel was wounded, and the situation of the community was so unclear.
Leibel was taken to a doctor; Gittel and I were together with him. The night was an autumn night, and our hearts were like the season too. We wondered what the secret tomorrow had in store for us.
Darkness Always Precedes The Sunrise
It was no small task for them to go on the trip to Hantzevich, where they had never been before. On the road they ran into many Polish soldiers, and there were many victims who fell along the road in those days. The group found out that the Red Army wasn't in Hontzevich, and no one knew anything about them coming there at all. They were told that the Red Army was on the wide dirt roads and not throughout the forests. It was entirely possible that the Red Army was going to return to where they came from. There were so many versions of events, with no consolation in the group's disposition as they returned from their difficult trip back to Telekhany at dawn.
The entire population was waiting impatiently, looking for the truth through their tired and sleepless eyes. "The end justifies the means," so they decided to lie in order to calm the population and to scare off those waiting to commit robbery.
The Red Army was in Hantzevich, and was moving rapidly through White Russia. They would arrive shortly in Telekhany; everyone breathed easier. A heavy stone was removed from my heart as well (I was among those who were fooled), and that night I slept more soundly than ever before.
The next day, well rested, I ran over to my "dictator." I wanted to see a happy smile on his face, but all I found was a pall of gloom and of sleepless nights, and who knows how much suffering in his heart.
I found Shlomo Landman deep in thought and feeling very sad; Leibel was lying sick in bed following the shooting incident, and I felt as though something was wrong. They were hiding something from me.
That evening was calm, but filled with dread. On the day after Ephraim's return with his two friends, accompanied by fearsome shooting of wild gangs approaching from Sventevolia Street were a group of Polish officers who arrived with clattering of horses and countless gunshots that broke the silence of the night. It was like an omen of cruelty and destruction. It was as if they wanted to disprove the fact that the Red Army was really here, and that the liberation would arrive tomorrow, the next day or soon thereafter.
My father was awake; his troubled eyes looked at me. I could tell what he was feeling in his heart. I was half-dressed; I grabbed a coat and opened the door. Someone pulled me back with warm but nervous hands. My father begged me with teary eyes: "Where are you running now, when there's all that shooting??"
Where did I have that strength? I pulled away from his hands and ran breathlessly. On the one hand I was just a kid, and on the other hand, like black shadows galloping and soaring high, shooting. Boy, did my heart pound! I didn't delay, and warned them on time. I knew them, those heroic fellows. They would fanatically stand on guard and wait. They were just a group who would try to stand up against so many officers who were running to the ends of the earth and who were scared of their own shadows, and yet who could kill so many innocent people.
I got there on time! They were standing outside: Ephraim, Shlomo Landman and a Russian friend. Their goal was to go to check on the guard that was set up for the whole town. However, now they were arriving on horses, shooting breathlessly.
We were standing next to the tether in the narrow alley where Michel Laufer lived. Ephraim and Shlomo Landman broke out in battle with unusual strength! Nothing would be left of them.
Fortunately, they ran as fast as lightning fearlessly, taking along a few young people who were standing guard (at their guard posts), without confusion, doubt or fear.
On the banks of the Oginski Canal, which has two rivers, the Fina and Shchara, right near the border of Polesia and not far from the Pinsk swamps, there is the town of Telekhany.
Telekhany signifies that it was there that the body of a Tatar khan was hidden; this khan was expanding his realm as far as the beloved town, where he ended his accounts with the world. This is what grandfathers said, and this is what their grandchildren would transmit.
The town was small and poor, but it played a very important strategic role in later events, both during the First World War and the Second World War. Telekhany, surrounded by villages and towns, was always the pride of Polesia, and always excelled in its youthful growth. Even before the 1905 Russian revolution, Telekhany already had widespread freedom organizations that participated in breaking down the fortress of ism. The youth of Telekhany took part in bringing down ism in 1917. When a new colonial government headed by Pilsudski was established, the youth of Telekhany, guided by unseen strength and educated in sacred traditions of freedom, were once again carried into the mass struggle for a new life. In following chapters, we will write about a whole series of struggles.
It was 1914. The town of Telekhany slept soundly. Grandfathers groaned in their sleep, and grandmothers quietly wept. Mothers clasped their children to their hearts and called them by tender names.
At dawn fathers prayed with great feeling, asking G-d for livelihood and peace for peace in the world. However, the sky was dark, and the sun was short of light. Gray spots floated around, and ominous black clouds covered the sky it was a solar eclipse. Soon the sun would be covered up, and everyone knew that it would reappear with radiant light. However, something else was approaching from afar, and disturbed the hearts of young and old.
It was a bad sign. War was hanging in the air, and it wouldn't spare the town of Telekhany either. A solar eclipse. It suddenly became dark. From the darkness a black bird flew around, and went back and forth from east to west. It climbed over the Jewish cemetery, and with its wings warned of an impending war.
Get ready for battle! The bad news arrived soon enough. Somewhere people were fighting, and since the Germans, who were rolling through from the west, crushed the Czar's army, the town of Telekhany became very nervous upon hearing the military announcements of "nightingale, nightingale, little bird." The walls of the wooden shacks shook and swayed with the beat of the song. The retreating cavalry and infantry, the large regiments of various peoples…. The dark images frightened the Cossacks with their wild cruel whips. They all harassed the Jews, and pursued Jewish women. They were Circassians, Georgians and Tatars. The Czar's army was huge, but it was weak and lacking in strength. It didn't have the right equipment.
The retreat of the regiments lasted a long time, and it was a frightful time for the town of Telekhany. One Friday night, when Jews were on their way home from the Lubosher synagogue, they noticed a huge fire burning on Volostno Street in the courtyard of Berl, the Hatter, and were seized by panic. It looked like it was the end: the town was on fire, and with their last bit of energy, they managed to cry out "Fire!" Cossacks jumped out of the shadows like menacing demons, and lurched out at the unlucky Jews with their whips. Evidently, they had started a fire to roast a pig.
It was Rosh Hashanah, 1915. The Jews of Telekhany were all at the synagogue, where the walls were trembling from fear. They sky was again dark, without any blue showing through. The eve of Yom Kippur was also frightful for the Jews of Telekhany. The Russian authorities quickly ordered that the town be evacuated. The deadline for the evacuation was short, and the Jews scarcely had enough time to gather up some of their hard-earned possessions and move to the other side of the bridge. Many Jews went out hardly dressed, carrying babies in their arms. They all made strong efforts to escape out to the forests along Hartela, Samana and Viehonoshcha roads.
The evacuation order reached them there too. The ist army pushed them further, deep inside Russia. Only a small number remained, and they hid out in the forest. When the German forces arrived, they returned to Telekhany.
Unfortunately, there was no town left. It was viciously burned down, and only a few houses remained standing. The returnees had to move west, and remained in Polish towns such as Lomza, Makovo, Ostrolenka for several years.
After the outbreak of the Karensky revolution, the Jews of Telekhany returned to town. Even the Telekhany Jews who remained in nearby towns such as Motele returned home. Telekhany was totally destroyed, and only the barracks that served as homes for the glassworks workers remained. However, the glassworks itself was also burned down. In 1921, a sawmill was built in its place.
Among those who returned to Telekhany were: Alter Gurshtel, the carpenter, with his sons and two daughters; Nisan Gurshtel, the shipper, with his sons: Asher, Yudel, Velvel, Michel, Motel and a daughter Sima; David Klitenik, the shoemaker and his two sons and daughter; Aharon Feldman and his daughter Itka; Gershon Kagan and his children; Avraham Chaim Kamadeyev and his family; Asher and Riva Kagan and their children; Gershon Klitenik and his family; the brothers, Yisrael and Aharon Godiner and their families; Yisrael Schwartzberg (known as Yisrael Mashiach) and his wife Sarah; Reuven Gurshtel and his family; Avraham David Eisenberg and his beautiful daughters; Isser Backelman and his family; Rachel Meltzer and her children; Chaim Yeshayahu the teacher, with his children; Hershel Rotkovsky, the teacher, with his daughters and sons; Moshe Feivel Klitenik; Yitzchak Landman, Mendel Landman, Aharon Landman and their families (the Viehonoshcha ones); Aharon Abramovich (Gotshnitsa) and family; Yossel David Eisenberg and his sons and daughters; Shalom Shalachman, with his son, Motel, and their families; Makha Dondik, his wife Dina Rivka and their daughters; Cherna the widow and her daughters; the ritual slaughterers Yossel and Aharon Kobrik and their families; Chaikel the butcher; Sender the tailor; Hillel Eisenberg, the tailor; Chaim, the bathhouse attendant; Yozshik, Leiba and Chananiah Mozrirer, and their families; Mordechai, the shoemaker (Basha's); Shama and Esther Kruptshik and their family; Feivel Rubacha (Khasha Leah's son); Freidel Lutsky (Aharon Lutsky's wife) and her family; the widow Eisenberg (Krupnick) and her daughters and son, Itshe Meir, Bashka, Sarah and others.
Everyone didn't arrive at once. Slowly but surely, the Jewish residents of Telekhany reestablished their hometown and rebuilt their homes.
Telekhany Jews were never helpless
In 1917, the Jews of Telekhany who were living in the Polish towns around Warsaw found out that they could return home, and the German authorities gave out permits. No one could have imagined that the town had been burned. The German authorities provided transport assistance, and people were happy to return to Telekhany. However, when they arrived, they found the town to be covered with overgrown weeds, bushes and small birch trees. They had no choice but to move into the barracks that the Germans had built in the forests, around three kilometers from town. However, the returnees still had to live and eat where were they supposed to get that? Fortunately, it was summertime, and they could find berries, raspberries, mushrooms, and especially lisitsas, which were small, medium and large mushrooms. The Jews collected these fruits, cooked and ate them until the end of the autumn.
When winter arrived, the situation became quite serious. However, even then the Jews didn't give up. Some traveled to the Motele and Kossovo area and bought potatoes, grain, flour and cereals. Others engaged in business, and still others turned to begging. In the spring, people engaged in some work. How Telekhany Jews learned peasant work so quickly is still too hard to explain. The first of several impulses in this direction was simply hunger. In addition, during the war remaining residents had learned these skills from local Motele and Yanovo peasants.
Slowly but surely, people started getting settled, and the Jews thanked G-d that they had returned home to Telekhany and were able to eat enough bread and potatoes, which enabled them to forget about the frightful war.
However, while the Telekhany Jews were involved in their day-to-day concerns, far away there were important events going on. The Russian Revolution liberated all peoples from the huge Czarist empire. The winds of freedom also blew through Telekhany. Jews felt safer and more hopeful; they forgot about their day-to-day troubles, and became deeply involved in their labor. Young men and women in Telekhany, dressed in their best clothes, traveled to Pinsk and Luninetz to welcome the new regime. Even children were proud to think about new pastimes. The fearsome Czar Nicolai no longer scared anyone, and now served as a target for games in which each "soldier" would shoot at the target, thereby relieving his anger and hatred; the children's games would thus provide opportunities for "revenge" for the suffering and worries of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
Unfortunately, the holiday atmosphere quickly dissipated. The Balachov gangs and Petlura's heidemaks were engaged in a struggle with the Bolshevik regime, attacking a whole series of towns in Ukraine and White Russia. They robbed and started pogroms against Jews. Fortunately, these gangs never reached Telekhany.
The situation reached its climax when the Bolsheviks crushed a part of the gangs, and the battles moved far to the eastern, southern and western parts of Russia. In the winter of 1918-1919 Telekhany was like a bear in hibernation, having stored food in their "dens" in order to get through the winter peacefully. What awoke them from their hibernation and disturbed them from their peace was a new army that entered Telekhany in March, 1919. These were Pilsudski's forces, which were dissatisfied with the freedom of the revolution, and which sought to grab territory so as to eject Bolshevik forces from the west.
In the spring of 1919, life for Jews in Telekhany became especially difficult. The new rulers brought the news about the 39 martyrs in Pinsk, taxes and lashes. These events also brought along marauding soldiers who pillaged the forest barracks, and stole the last bit of bread from the Jews. Such attacks on Jewish homes would occur 2-3 times a week. The Jews were powerless and helpless.
The Polish army was able to hold on to Telekhany for months through the peasant partisans in villages such as Hartal, Ritchka and others. Powerless against the peasants, the new regime administered every kind of method to terrorize the local population. They even employed lashes. This type of punishment from the Middle Ages didn't spare Yudel Gurshtel, Nissel's son, Aharon Abramovich (Nochnitsa) as well as some local peasants. Anyone who even protested against the regime was subject to a whipping.
Telekhany lived through a dreadful short period of time. Jews became even more involved with their agricultural work, plowing and sowing as if they wanted simply to forget the troubles of the new taxes, which were regularly afflicted upon them by new local commanders. In 1920, Telekhany tried to escape the Polish army by moving deeper into the forest, thereby hiding horses, livestock and the last little bit of property from the forest thieves.
There was an exchange of gunfire, and an hour after the retreat of the Polish forces, the first scouting party of the Communists arrived, followed a few hours later by the Red Army. There were regiments of both men and women, as well as units of young people. They hurried westward in order to reach "Warsaw and Berlin."
Telekhany then came to life again. A local government was established, and Jews participated in it. Simcha Zilberstein, Michael Gurshtel, Yankel Klitenik and others were outstanding members of the militia. This didn't last long, however. A few months later, the Red Army had to move eastward again as they were being pursued by the Polish army, which brought with it horrors and whips.
There were horrors of Jewish beards being cut off. The first one to get hit was Leizer Dinovitz, who had been peacefully on his way to prayers at the house of Alter the carpenter (Gurshtel). There weren't any synagogues yet, so people would gather for services in private homes. Leizer didn't expect to run into units of the Polish army on his way to prayers, but suffered a beating for it. How dare a Jew go to prayers carrying his tallith and tefillin when the Polish forces were retaking Telekhany!!
A couple of hours later they captured Alter Gurshtel, and for his "arrogant behavior" on the street, they cut off his beard, but didn't use scissors. Then there were taxes, taxes ad infinitum. The year 1921 was much better. Yaakov Tsirinsky came to Telekhany and built a sawmill on the place where the burned down glassworks stood.
Once again Telekhany came back to life. Jews started turning the forest into lumber, went into construction and started working in the sawmill. Some started baking bread for sale, while others sewed clothes and made shoes for the sawmill workers. Jews started opening retail stores of manufactured products. The first four involved in this were Avraham Chaim Kamadeyev, Gershon Kagan, and Asher and Yudel Gurshtel, who opened grocery stores where Jews dealt with Christians, providing Aharon the Slaughterer (Nachum Perlstein's son-in-law) the monopoly on candles, yeast and kerosene. Whenever a visitor from the United States arrived in Telekhany with letters from friends and relatives, as well as dollars, the joy in town was immense. Jews came back to live. Everyone became involved in rebuilding the town, making it more beautiful and better than it was prior to the war. There was no shortage of building material. Wood was available from the sawmill, and if it was necessary to steal some, well….
There was also no shortage of brick. Part of it was available by digging up the basements in the barracks, and more was available from the "empty brick house," which no longer frightened children as it had their grandparents. More brick was purchased from local peasants.
The town of Telekhany grew. A few people gave up on the town and moved to Russia. They were: Isser Kegelman's two sons and two daughters; Simcha Zilberstein (the Yanover's); Isser and Moshe Shalachman; one of Khasha Leah's grandchildren, and others. They didn't break up the unity of Telekhany, which had forged its population from generation to generation.
The attack on Telekhany in 1924
It was an autumn day. The town was going about its peaceful day-to-day life, and became accustomed to the new regime, which slowly became established, and which divided businesses for its industry, offering certain discounts for local citizens and wealthy peasants, and providing government institutions with police. Children were forced to attend Polish schools, and people believed that things were being administered better. The Polesia peasants did not forget that they had been separated from their nation and kingdom, and a new regime had been established in their midst, and which with difficulty was proceeding toward a new way of life.
Many villages were incited to rebellion, and their hatred and anger was directed into partisan separatism that lasted from 1919 to 1924-25, when international stability caused them to disband. One of their last acts was the attack on Telekhany, when the partisans captured the entire town. The goal was to attack the police and disarm them, and to capture the local Polish administrators, arrest them, and shoot them and the police.
However, something else happened. Unknown covert operatives appeared in groups of three or four on the streets of Telekhany. Their unexpected arrival frightened the Telekhany residents. It was clear that the unknown visitors were armed, and that on one fine autumn day they were preparing for a dreadful attack.
The armed groups, surprised by the easy victory went to collect money from the wealthy local residents and, facing slight resistance from Sarah Gurshtel (Nissel the shipper's wife), they shot her. They also shot policemen, the local administrator and Yaakov Klitenik, and a son of Zavel the butcher.
The attack made an awful impression on the residents of Telekhany – such a dreadful night, and so many innocent lives. It is difficult even to describe it. Why did the partisans shoot two Jews who weren't even part of the government administration? It took the Telekhany Jews a long time to forget that unlucky night. Even the slightest rustle was a frightening warning that the attacks may be continuing.
The youth of Telekhany get organized
It was now a few years after the peace agreement between the Bolsheviks, and Poland was on a volcano that rumbled from time to time. The workers felt the force of the government, which had to invest all of its energy to controlling the progress of the working class, and to suffocating every liberation movement in rivers of blood. However, the guns of the Polish nobility's gendarmerie and the police didn't stave off economic crisis, which grew worse by the day. Inflation was growing so fast that the monthly earnings of a worker amounted to millions of marks, which could only purchase a few bags of mushrooms.
The youth of Telekhany was devoted to its progressive traditions, and in 1922 the youth established their first organization, although it was far from being a full-fledged movement. Everyone felt the necessity to create the bases for broad cultural activity that could be expressed by a wealthy library. The youth involved were: Pinya Mazrirer, Michel Tshizh, Rivka Abramovich, Itka Meltzer, Doba Rotkovitsky, Yehoshua Eisenberg, Riva Levin, Toiba Schneidman and many others. At the same time, Mordechai Bromberg, a progressive and leftist activist, came to Telekhany. He provided significant assistance in organizing the library, and showed the young people broad perspectives in their project. Everyone agreed that it was most important to first organize the young people, and they would then find their proper course of action.
Among those who were the first of the young people in the organization that was first known as Hashomer Hatsa'ir [the left-wing Zionist movement, "Young Guard"], were: Yossel and Shetel Schneidman, Dovka Klitenik, Yoel Mazrirer, Ephraim and Leibel Klitenik, Golda Stolyar, Khaytshe Lutsky, Yisraelik Bernstein, Yisrael David Kagan, Rosa Abramovich, Nekhka Meltzer, Nechemiah Levin, Yehoshua Sklyar and others. They were mostly youth around 15-16 years of age, and were already involved in workshops where they worked for 15-16 hours a day, and therefore experienced the heavy yoke of the nobility's capitalist Poland.
With tremendous energy and desire, the young people got to work. They became known to their friends, and very rapidly the small group grew into two strong youth organizations: Left Poalei Zion [socialist non-Marxist "Workers of Zion"] and the Left [appears that the name of an organization may be missing]. They continued the work of building the library, and its reading room, where a lot of cultural activity took place. Each one of the aforementioned organizations made its ideological platform clear, and worked for its program. Professional organizations that included practically all the working youth were also created.
In 1926, the Left called the first strike among the sawmill workers. Several hundred workers went on strike. The workers demanded an 8-hour workday, higher wages, recognition of the worker's union, and a whole list of other demands. The strike was a success. Several weeks later, a second strike was called. This one included all local artisans and workers: shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, locksmiths and blacksmiths. They demanded an 8-hour workday, higher wages, and recognition of their professional organization.
The strike developed slowly, with the participation of increasingly more workshops. The determination of the strike leaders and their pronouncements inspired the entire youthful population to participate in the struggle. Business owners started their own counter-action, even threatening to bring in the government authorities, but the unity of the strikers forced the business owners to offer concessions. The strike committee was composed of Ephraim Klitenik, Yosef Schneidman, Hershel Kagan, Leibel Chernomoritz and Shimon Yaakov Gurshtel. The monolithic position of the strike committee influenced the entire young working population. It was a long time since Telekhany had witnessed such a strongly unified strike action.
In the autumn of 1926-27, a series of demonstrations were organized in Sventovalia and Kossovo against Pilsudski's fascist regime; the party and youth of Telekhany also played an active role there. Their march forward spread to the nearby towns of Kossovo, Yanovo, Motele, Lahishin, Sventovalia and others. The Polish nobility capitalist regime kept track of these activities, and started to take repressive measures.
In the spring of 1927, Mordechai Bromberg, Leibel Eisenberg and Mordechai Bobrow were arrested, as were a whole group of their White Russian friends. In the summer of 1927 contacts were established, and the activity of these young people spread to many areas where there were working youth.
This activity included a whole host of issues: labor culture, the library and the reading room. The administration included Yisrael David Kagan and Yisrael Bernstein; the professional work was handled by Ephraim Klitenik, Yosef Schneidman, Yoshka Meltzer, Shimon Yaakov Gurshtel, Leibel Klitenik and Yisrael Begin. The illegal activities were undertaken with the extraordinary activity and assistance of Yisrael Bernstein, Leibel Klitenik, Shimshon Landman, Yisrael David Kagan and others.
Their work lasted until 1928, at which time Ephraim and Leibel Klitenik were arrested. Gedaliah [last name missing] went into hiding, and eventually left Poland. The activities of the young people was interrupted for a short time, but in 1929 it was continued by Shimshon Landman, Yisrael David Kagan, Yisraelik Bernstein, Motke Roshchinder, Berl Rubacha, and was led by Leibel Klitenik, who was released after a year's stay in jail. This time their work lasted until 1931, when new arrests were made, and some of the aforementioned were arrested. The following received jail sentences: Mordechai Bromberg, 6 years; Leibel Eisenberg, 4 years; Ephraim Klitenik, 6 years; Leibel Klitenik, 5 years; Yisrael David Kagan, Shimshon Landman and Yisraelik Bernstein, 4 years. The increased repression led to the emigration from Poland of a large number of young people. Then the influence of the Left spread and drew in young people from other organizations that sympathized and collaborated with it. These people included Golda and Beiltshe Roshchinder, Mina Gurshtel, Rivka Feldman, Shaul Ber, Levi Laufer and others.
The fascist regime devoted all its attention to the youth of Telekhany, and dealt a harsh blow to any attempt to rebuild the leftist organization, but it was unable to stifle the desire for freedom. The work of the young people was driven deeply underground, but all contacts were maintained.
At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the young people of Telekhany did not disperse, but on the contrary got organized, and by September 17, 1939, when the Red Army broke through its borders to liberate western White Russia and western Ukraine, there were organized authorities in Telekhany that were able to maintain law and order in Telekhany and surrounding areas until the arrival of the regular Red Army forces.
In the newly elected committee, the following people were members: Ephraim and Leibel Klitenik, Yisrael David Kagan, Yisraelik Bernstein, Motka Roshchinder, Berl Rubacha and others.
The day came when we were finally convinced that the Red Army was really about to arrive in White Russia, and Telekhany was also expecting the new "guests." On September 21, 1939, a dozen or so Red Army soldiers arrived in Telekhany from Pinsk, and the entire town went out to meet them. A large meeting was held at which many Jews and Christians came out to greet the honored guests and liberators. Telekhany then gradually relaxed, without fear of fleeing officers or the specter of war.
In October, local government elections were held in Telekhany, and were based on a secret ballot. A large and fiery meeting was held at the Folks Club, and everyone was in a holiday mood. Many candidates appeared, and the Jewish candidates elected were: Yisraelik Bernstein, Yisrael David Kagan, Ephraim and Leibel Klitenik. For the first time a woman was elected chairman, and her deputy was Ephraim Klitenik, who a while later was elected People's Judge, and who performed his duties wisely and appropriately. Frequently his father, David Klitenik, would visit his son at work; Ephraim was thoughtful, quiet and proud. David, with his fine happy eyes was a proud father who understood his crusading son well. Yisraelik Bernstein was later nominated as director of the sawmill. Many good White Russians were also elected to the local government.
Both Jewish and White Russian schools were started. Asher Pelach from Pinsk, a wonderful person and a fine psychologist, stood out among all the teachers. He won over the children and connected them to him with his clever approach and ability to penetrate deeply into the children souls. The young people in Telekhany mirrored their teacher, who loved and gave his students so much; the students grew up proud, fine and exalted.
Unfortunately, the pleasure and calm enjoyed by Telekhany parents didn't last long. No one could have ever imagined that blooming flowers like the Jewish children of Telekhany and their worthy teacher, Asher Pelach, with his dreamy black eyes, would soon be killed so horribly.
Telekhany, a Shtetl known for its Hospitality
Never before had Telekhany seen so many new faces so many fine young men and women. These people had fled Warsaw, Lodz, Katowitz and many other Polish cities captured by the Nazi murderers. Telekhany was well known for its hospitality, and all the refugees appreciated this and loved Telekhany.
Aharon Godiner didn't have large rooms, and he put a bed in his dining room for Yoliek, a quiet and refined refugee boy from Warsaw. Yoliek didn't lack anything, and felt right at home. Godiner shared his morsels of food with him and was very kind, even kinder than to his own children. For a time, Yoliek was thoughtful but lonesome. He missed Warsaw and his friends and sisters who he left behind, and who were now in such grave peril.
Among the refugees there were very gifted young people who had to escape from home with empty hands. Thanks to an initiative of Ephraim Klitenik, Jews in Telekhany collected money and other things for the refugees. The local Jews provided them with jobs and even work permits. Many of the intellectuals worked as teachers, accountants and employees, and many tailors from Warsaw created their own joint workshops. Ephraim provided them with his own sewing machine, press iron, and quilts. For many months, they worked and made money. With great joy, Telekhany Jews often heard the refugees' happy laughter and singing.
We flee from death
Only twenty-one months later our peaceful and carefree lives were interrupted, as was our pleasure in helping the lonely Warsaw refugees; our satisfaction in getting to know so many new strangers who now became so close to us was also affected. The Jewish children in Telekhany were growing, studying and making progress. There were dances and successful performances at the Folks Club; we met new children and got to know new places. Then suddenly, everything turned upside down. The sun set so unexpectedly, and darkness overcame us.
June 23, 1941. Ephraim was at work; he had shift duty, and as usual I waited impatiently for him. He was standing watch, and wouldn't come home that night. The next day the Germans made a surprise attack on the Soviet Union. They crossed the Bug River and bombed every town. As they advanced they saw death and destruction everywhere.
Rumors circulated in town that our army was holding its positions, and that the war would not last long. Almost all the men were to be mobilized, and it appeared that the wooden shacks were weeping along with the women, who were saying their goodbyes to their husbands and sons as the men left for parts unknown.
It was a dark night. I peered through the window and saw bright flames, like fiery flashes of lightning, from the direction of Pinsk. There were also frightful sounds like thunder in a bad storm (this demolished the Pinsk Bridge). Then came a soft knock at the door. My heart trembled with dread and a premonition. It was Kizelstein, the director of the White Russian school. He fled alone from Warsaw and lived through a terrible tragedy in Telekhany. He said he didn't want to run away any more he didn't have any more strength or courage, but encouraged us to leave Telekhany as quickly as possible. He had just seen how all the officials and their families were getting ready to flee.
Kizelstein's little gentle wife died, and his newborn baby lived a short time and then Kizelstein was left alone. I ran breathlessly to get dressed, and I was barely able to convince him to abandon his guard duty, and that we should save ourselves and escape Hitler's fire.
Together we ran over to Leibel's house. Leibel had just returned from Pinsk by foot. (He was in Pinsk for a conference, and the war impeded his return). He was now asleep like a dead man. We woke him up and told him the terrible news, and then all went on our way. My father was in a fitful sleep, but my beautiful, good but very ill little sister Beila couldn't sleep.
"Father, get up, let's go!" He raised his tired head, "What's wrong? Where and to whom are we going?" He motioned with his clean but resolute and overworked hands. "Do you see? With these hands I built everything my whole life. Every drop of my blood is inside every brick and corner of my house. How can I just leave it, and suddenly start wandering around?"
My good and holy father! The best and most decent man in the world. In a short time the German bandits came around with guns. They came to my him, my step-mother, Itka, her young grandson and my poor little sister, Beila, and pointed a gun at them, ordering them to leave the house as fast as possible. To this day there is a living witness who was at our home – my father's White Russian partner at work. We quickly said goodbye to each other, and to this very day I can still feel my father's tears on my face.
We carefully woke up Ephraim's parents and his sister Necha and her family, who were sound asleep. Ephraim's mother, Leah, opened her eyes and asked, "Efroyka, what do you want? Cheese and cream (She knew what her son liked)? It's in the kitchen on the table."
"Mother, we have to say goodbye." Her nearsighted eyes started to brighten but showed fear. "Say goodbye? I have rarely said goodbye in my life. We have rarely ever been separated, so tragically separated."
Ephraim's father, David, always remained a hero. He awakened calmly, got dressed quickly, and turned to us, "Children! You have to get out of here as quickly as possible, and I'll go along with you with Yossel's horse for a short distance (Yossel, Ephraim's brother-in-law and Necha's husband, had been drafted).
After a tragic goodbye to all of our loved ones, we left town in a hurry. Ephraim's father, David, accompanied us for a few kilometers, and then he started feeling sad and already missing us. "I am going to take the horse along, and we'll all escape together my children." He left, and didn't come back. We waited a long time on the road, and every minute was a frightening moment to have to wait in the forest, but we hoped that they would come back. We still didn't know what happened to David. It's possible that the peasants had already killed him on the road since there were plenty of murderers among the local peasants who were lying in wait to pounce on any Jew with the help of German murderers.
We ran through fields and forests without a moment's rest. We wouldn't spend the night in the same place we spent the day. We met many Telekhany Jews who unfortunately returned home it wasn't easy to run away through an unfamiliar country without even a piece of bread or hope. Airplanes droned ominously and frightfully in the sky, and here and there a bomb fell. The sound reverberated from the distance, and it felt the earth was shaking. Then we heard shots being fired over our head some German airplanes were firing at a heavy Soviet aircraft. We almost became deaf from the sound of the bangs. We saw the aircraft burning with the Soviet pilots. This was the first fire we saw so close to us.
Day in and day out eight uninterrupted days we traveled by foot. During the day the sun beat down on us, and at night we shivered from cold.
Where should we go? Minsk was burning, Bobroisk was under occupation, and German mechanized army units were on all the highways.
A powerful feeling gripped our hearts. As we continued, we came upon a small town called Kopshevitch, which still had a Soviet government. We didn't arrive alone, since along the way we met my brother Asher and many people from Hortzevich. The representatives of Kopshevitch treated us very well. They took us to a clinic, where a nice nurse bandaged our bloody and swollen feet. They also gave us food and drink, and we felt like we were in an oasis in the middle of a desert. We slept the whole night, and departed the next day feeling very grateful to our warm hosts.
Once again we felt like hunted animals with wounded and beaten feet. We were accompanied everywhere only by the sounds of bombs and anti-aircraft fire as we tried to repress the pain and longings for home and loved ones, whom we left, and about whom we had no idea that they would be brutally murdered and buried in mass graves forever…..
My brother Shmuel Nissen Godiner was born in 1893 in the little town of Telekhany, Minsk gubernia [district]. Our parents were very religious and also very poor. Our family believed that our name, Godiner, was derived from the Yiddish expression, Got-diener, meaning servants of G-d, pointing to fear of G-d. Our father, Israel David, and grandfather, Moshe, leased a piece of land in the village Viade; they were very religious, and Father was a great scholar. He was supposed to become a Rabbi, but became a teacher instead. From early morning until late evening he stuffed his pupils' little heads with Torah. He had great respect for scholars, but disdain for Rabbis. Perhaps this was because the rabbi in our town played a decisive role in my father's divorce of his first wife. I once overheard him saying: "I begged them not to separate a body from its soul"; his appeal didn't do any good. The Rabbi said that since the woman was barren, he had to divorce her.
My father then married a woman from Pinsk who was a totally different kind of person: our mother, Fradel, came from well-to-do parents, and had a relatively modern education by the standards of those days; she also knew foreign languages. She was very energetic and well built. As a single woman she worked, not because she needed to, but to show that women were able to work as well as men, and that there was nothing to be shamed of in working.
Coming from parents with various traits and talents, since early childhood my brother Shmuel Nissan adopted our father's reverence for Torah and tradition, and mother's inclination for modern education, her energy and common sense. Shmuel was the fourth and last child of our parents. When he was born, the oldest, Aaron, was 12 years old. The other two were girls: Chana and Esther, the writer of this story. Due to our poverty, everybody had to be somewhat of a provider if not to earn money, then at least to get rid of an eater. The oldest, Aaron, attended a trade school in Pinsk and boarded with relatives. The girls also found places without earning anything for three years, and then in the fourth year they earned 10 rubles. But the biggest provider was Shmuel starting at age 1 week.
It happened that the wife of a well-to-do shopkeeper died at childbirth. Her husband gave the baby orphan to Mother to nurse two children at the same time. The shopkeeper took care to provide my mother with cow's milk, sugar, plums, raisins, almonds and other goodies we had never seen before. My mother ate kasha and barley soup, and distributed the goodies to us children. We of course enjoyed it very much and loved the little orphan, and what's more, our baby brother -- the great provider.
When Shmuel Nissen was six years old my father took him under his supervision. "It's time, little boy, to become a Jew" he said, and pinched his cheek. He started teaching him to read and write Yiddish and Hebrew, Torah with the Rashi commentary, the rest of the Bible, and later Talmud as well. Shmuel had a good head, and caught on quickly. Our parents were pleased, and Father started talking about having a son who studied in Yeshiva, a scholar. Mother, however, argued that "a doctor is even better" But what did Shmuel Nissan himself do? Besides the Gemarah, he sneaked a look into the booklets brought by his older sisters from the "Sisters and Brothers".
I remember once on a Sabbath afternoon, Father and Shmuel were delving deeply into a particular Mishnah. Our grandfather Moshe enters the room. At first his face lit up with joy. Suddenly, however, his expression darkened when he noticed a booklet in his grandson's hand. He drew my father's attention to it. Father tried to take the unkosher booklet from Shmuel's hand, and accidentally tore a page. This created a stir, and amounted to a desecration of the Sabbath. Shmuel got a proper slap on his face, and a demand to know where he got this unkosher thing. Shmuel was ready for another beating, but didn't say a word.
There weren't any more beatings, however. Mother and Esther came from the other room. Mother embraced her youngest child and scolded the two men: "What do you want from the child? Why do you upset him?" Grandfather left angry, grumbling: "Wicked woman". Father also retreated, but never forgot the event.
The next day, Sunday morning, Father went to Avraham-Itshe the "Miracle Worker" (he got this nickname because of his weak bladder and therefore the need to recite the blessing after going to the bathroom that ends with the words "….and He does wondrously"). Avraham-Itshe also had a daughter who was a member of the "Sisters and Brothers". Both fathers reflected on what to do with their children who were leaving the righteous way, reading unkosher books, and desecrating the Sabbath. They came up with the idea to create a society, "Guardians of the Sabbath," to make sure that shops closed on time, and that the youth kept the Sabbath.
Shmuel Nissan didn't rest either. He went to his friend Monye Beises, a smart and energetic boy. Together they organized the "Little Bund". Telekhany thus got two new organizations from the older and younger generations. It didn't take long for their influence to be felt in Telekhany. The teenage boys and girls felt the watchful eyes of their parents, and the owners of the workshops noticed the activities of the 12-13 year-olds of the Little Bund who made announcements, and told workers not to be slaves. However, because people had no choice, the Little Bund even started breaking windows. People had to be at work on the eve of Jewish and Christian holidays, when the owners forced the workers to slave away for more than ten hours a day.
Shmuel gradually felt constrained in town and at home. After three years working for nothing, I also realized that earning 10 rubles a year wasn't enough for shoes and clothing. So we decided to follow our older brother to Warsaw. Our older sister, Chana, now Anna (Godiner) Garker, was already in America. In Warsaw, Shmuel became a steelworker and was proud of it. The free time he used to study and read. He taught himself Russian and German from books, and liked the big city. He was even happier later on when we managed to persuade our family to move to Warsaw.
Warsaw was overcoming the consequences of the unsuccessful 1905 revolution. The 16- year old Shmuel became confused. On the one hand were the disappointed intellectuals seeking God, while on the other, the libertine and trashy Yiddish theater and press. Shmuel got restless. He felt something had to be done. He began writing, sometimes until the early morning hours. He often talked to me, his older sister, about it, and once confided to me that he had written something he wanted to show to I.L.Peretz. He thus became apologetic, and said he wanted to ask Peretz why the great rabbinical leaders of our time were doing so little for Jewish youth.
A few weeks later Shmuel organized a cultural circle for boys and girls, to help I.L.Peretz in his effort to improve the quality of Yiddish theater and press. During a session at the Warsaw Philharmonic, Peretz excited the people with his call: "Don't watch the Yiddish theater, do not read the rubbish press."
Peretz inspired the youth greatly. Shmuel idolized him, and took to writing with even greater aplomb. He took his articles to Peretz and came home satisfied. "Peretz read it and told me to continue, but it's a pity that he considers me still a child," Shmuel said. Later I found out that after reading Shmuel's critique of Hillel Zeitlin's lecture on seeking G-d, Peretz told Shmuel: "You are still too young to write about such topics."
In 1913 my brother Shmuel wrote his sisters in America that a big world war is on its way, and in 1914 he was already in the trenches himself. He lived through everything suffered by a soldier in the Czarist army. Once he was deadly sick for days on the open field. He recovered and then later joined the Red Army. Miserable and in rags, they fought against the capitalist foreign intervention. In 1921 he came to Moscow. He was sent by the Soviet officials to get tuition-free higher education. He studied and wrote intensely mostly about civil war and foreign intervention. He also painted pictures and hung them on the wall as if to say: "Look at this and be ashamed if you still have a conscience." His productive years began, and lasted for twenty years, until 1941. Besides his permanent job at the Moscow "Emes [Truth]", he wrote many books. Among them are "Jim Coopercop", "Figures on the Edge", "The Opposite Day" and others. His favorite was "The Man with the Gun".
Shmuel Nissen Godiner did a lot for the development of Birobidzhan. He was sent there twice a year to open Yiddish schools for children, libraries and in general to expand Yiddish culture. He did all this with great enthusiasm. He was proud of the Soviet system that restored national self-worth to the Jews. For this he was ready to work, create and die if necessary. In the summer 1941 Shmuel's literary work came to a stop. "There is no time for words" he said, no time for literature. The enemy will not understand it. The only thing the enemy understands is a spear or a bayonet.
In August, 1941, Shmuel Godiner wrote in his last letter to his sisters, Chana and Esther, in America: "I take my son Vatzlav -- he is with the Red Army, I with the partisans. "I hope that you will not just sit on the sidelines, but will become actively involved in the struggle against the bitter enemy. Remember my wife and two daughters!" The 48 year old Shmuel Godiner, shared the terrible conditions of the Russian partisans for a whole year. He believed in the victory of the Soviet Army.
In the summer of 1942 he came back to Moscow to see his wife and daughters. The government discouraged older men from going to the front, but Shmuel didn't want to stay in Moscow. He was determined to take part in the battle against the fascist invader, and couldn't just stay put. He returned to the partisans from where he never came back home.
There is nothing more to say ... Shmuel Godiner was a fine and productive person. He wasn't the only fine and productive person taken from us by fascism. "This is no time for words!" -- he said. Let us remember this, and let's also speed up our struggle against fascism here in the United States. Only by taking part in this battle will we be able to pay back the enormous debt we owe both our millions of martyrs and future generations.
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