Sarowo
(Belarus)

52°32' / 23°44'


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Sarowo

(Jewish agricultural colony near Kamenets Lithuania (Kamenets de-Lita)
in Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) District (Grodno Gubernia))

Compiled by Sherwin Sokolov

 

There were three Jewish agricultural colonies Lotovo, Sarovo, and Abramovo formed in the mid-eighteenth century. The colonies were named in honor of the biblical characters, Lot, Sarah, and Abraham, the progenitor/patriarch of the Jewish people. They were located northwest of Kamenets-Litovsk. The first colony established was Lotovo, then Sarovo, and then Abramovo.

Sarowo was founded in 1850 on government land. The 24 founding families came from Brisk, and each family received a land of 26 hectares (260 Dunam). When the families grew, some of them asked to purchase additional land to be able to make a living, but their requests were not approved. Consequently, they left the colony to return to the city (Brest-Litovsk) and their plots were bought by the remaining families. A son of one of the settlers, Israel Ashkenazi, made Aliya to Eretz Israel and was a co-founder of the settlement Yesud HaMa'ala. In Sarowo there was a Beit Midrash [synagogue; house of learning] and near it a Cheder [Torah school] for the children of the village.

Originally the colony consisted of 24 families, each of which received 25 hectares of land from the Russian authorities after the partition of Poland. The first colonists were natives of Brest-Litovsk where they engaged in commerce and merchant activities. The names of some of the other settlers were Herschel Lichtser Kustin, Eliezer Ashkenazi, Joseph Sokolowsky, Herschel Zaydinger, Moshe Zimovich, Kravetsky, and Chorny.

Year after year, the colonists worked the land, sowing, plowing, and harvesting. They kept cows, horses, and poultry. They were released from paying taxes. Children grew up and families expanded. Income from their labor became inadequate. The children, not having the possibility to buy land, went to the city of Brest-Litovsk, from which the first settlers came, and to Kamenets-Litovsk, and began to work as drivers/coachmen and millers. The colonists that remained, and were able to, bought the land. Those without the money to buy land leased or rented it. The first colonists not only built houses and farm buildings, they erected a Beit Midrash (religious house), which combined a synagogue and a religious school. It had a simple architectural form and looked unpretentious. The roof was covered with straw. Outside there was a plaque, indicating that it was the Beit Midrash. Prayers in the Beit Midrash were read three times a day, with different colonists alternating. After the service, many remained to study the Talmud.

Religious education of the children was conducted in one of the rooms of the Beit Midrash. Studies began at 7:00 in the morning and ended at 8:00 in the evening. The children of the colonists had the right to attend school in Byelyeva, where the Russian language was taught and, when it was Poland, the Polish language was taught. But the children did not attend school there.

There was no cemetery in the colony. The dead were buried in Kamenets-Litovsk.

In the early 20th century the village had 14 families. During World War I, three-quarters of the buildings in the settlement were burned and the livestock was stolen by the Russian and German soldiers.

After the war, the settlement was resettled with the help of the Joint Distribution Committee. The Census of 1921 included 47 residents - all Jews. During the German occupation (World War II), the Jews were brought from Sarowo to the ghetto in Kamenets and perished there with the local Jews.

[1]Nikitin states: In 1866, according to the census, there was supposed to be 814 Jewish colonists (census souls[3]) in the Grodno Province, but only 564 were present. The land under settlement by Jews was originally intended to be 6162 hectares (tithes[4]), divided into 354 plots, but in 1866 Jews owned only 2979 hectares in 170 plots in 12 colonies.

[2]Since 1850, there have been three colonies in the Brest District: Lotovo, Sarovo, and Abramovo that counted on paper 182 census souls of Jewish colonists. In reality, these colonies had 135 census souls. By agreement, these colonies received up to 600 hectares (tithes) of land, divided into 35 plots. Jews paid 469 roubles 22 kopeks annually to the Treasury for all land given to them; 20 abandoned hectares were used by remaining settlers.

In contrast, the revision list of the 10th Russian census in 1858 noted that in the colony of Sarovo there were 133 males and 103 females.

[2]In 1866, colony Sarovo, founded in 1850, was supposed to have 17 families and 100 census souls, but in reality there were only 67 people. Some Sarovo colonists spent most of their time in neighboring Kamenetz, mostly being engaged in tailoring. In the winter, some colonists worked at factories to make money. Sarovo had 272 hectares of land, divided in 17 plots: 42 hectares were empty; 16 hectares were worked by outsiders for a fee; 64 hectares were handled by fellow Jewish villagers for part of the crop; and 150 hectares were worked by neighboring peasants under different arrangements. Settlers of the colonies “suffered a great shortage of water, causing many of them to leave the land.” Of the 11 owners, one did not have draft animals and eight owners had only one horse. Rusty agricultural tools littered the corners of half-ruined buildings. The external and internal views of houses and other buildings revealed a picture of neglect and poverty.

 

Sources

The Yizkor Book of Kamenets (Lithuania) Community, Zastavia and the Colonies, Tel-Aviv, 1970
V. N. Nikitin, Еврейские поселения Северо и Юго-Западных губерний (1835–1890 г.), 1895 (V. N. Nikitin, Jewish Settlements in the North and South-West Provinces (1835 – 1890), 1894)
Record Group “The Grodno Treasury”, #79 “Nominal rolls of Jews-farmers settled on state lands near rural village communities and received tax discounts as registered in the revision lists of the 10th census, 1858.”

 

Footnotes

  1. Page 182, using the pages numbered from page 1 in the original book of 200 pages followed by a table of contents not including the “extra pages” related to the scan of the book.
  2. Page 184, using the pages numbered from page 1 in the original book of 200 pages followed by a table of contents not including the “extra pages” related to the scan of the book.
  3. “Census Soul” is a unit of an account of the male population of tax-paying classes in Russia 18 – 1st half of 19 centuries. Each “Revizskaya soul” was considered current until the next revision (census), even in the case of the death of the person.
  4. Dessiatine (in Russian дес. – abbreviation for десятина)
    Definition: Tithe. Tithe is a former Russian unit of area land measure equal to 1.0925 hectares [2.6996 (2.7) U.S. acres or 10,800 square meters].
    First use: 18th century; Origin: from Russian desyatina, literally: tithe, from desyat ten

 


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