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[Hebrew page 109 & Yiddish page 289]

Memories

by Frimke Braver-Fordes

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Goldstein

Twenty-one years ago I was present as children from all the kindergartens in Tel-Aviv celebrated Shevuos under the open sky, on a large square, outside the city. Dressed in white, with wreaths of flowers on their heads, they sang and danced like angels. It did my heart good to see them.

The elite of the city and a representative of Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] were sitting on a dais. A child went onto the dais in order to bring the KKL the offering. Vegetables, fruits and ears of corn, even white doves, from all the good things that this country has been blessed with. At the time it did not occur to me that these dear children would years later be our fighters and free us from a foreign yoke.

Watching the ceremony reminded me of the "Majovke" [May outing, picnic], the former outing of the Polish school in Bolekhov.

I will describe the "Majovke" , because it opened our eyes, it ended our way of life.

The class teacher told us about the wycieczki [trip, excursion or outing] and it meant we were lucky! A wycieczki! With joy and anticipation we waited for the "great day".

Dressed up in our Sabbath best and paired off, we left the city with the Solina band. The sun was hot. Somebody decided, no matter what, to march especially when the drumsticks hit the drums to give the beat and were audible.

After marching for about an hour we were at the chapel of the holy [?] we ate and drank. The forest that we were in hid the sky and we did not notice that it had become dark. There was thunder, lightening and hail. Confused and frightened we ran to hid in the chapel. The gentile children drove us away and the hooligans beat us with sticks.

Wet, in despair and embittered we stood and waited under the wet, storm tossed trees until we could run home. After the storm, offended, with wounded hearts, we went home. This was a blow to our morale. But it showed us that we had to get organized.

We had already made a decision in school. Even at that time, girls older than us, had founded a Zionist union "Rachel".

[Yiddish page 290]

We decided to do the same, but in secret, because we did not have permission. We immediately subscribed to the Polish language children's newspaper "HaShakhar" . We used a small room and every free hour was used to read the newspaper, happy to have our little corner and this is how weeks passed.

On a beautiful day when we were engrossed in reading the "HaShakhar" the door opened and an unexpected quest came in, the academician Nachman, an ardent Zionist, who profoundly influenced gymnasia [high school] students.

The guest told us that he was surprised by our initiative and was prepared to help us. So a teacher was provided to teach us about Zionism. We read Herzl's writings. Our eyes and hearts opened and a couple of years later we created courses and organized the youngsters.

I remember a children's Hanukah celebration in Brukenstein's hall. The author of the presentation, on a theme from the Tanakh [Five Books of Moses] was my unforgettable comrade, Eli Elendman.

The scenery was ready, the rehearsals with the children all done. Shortly before the presentation, the gendarmes arrived and declared the presentation illegal. What did Eli Boch do? He immediately went for advice. He quickly ran to the printing shop and brought prepared invitations. At the entrance our volunteers were distributing invitations (according to paragraph two) and so we were for appearance's sake "kosher". The hall was, in spite of the enemies, packed. The children acted well and the cash box was full. Our goal was reached. The funds were destined to be used to paid the expenses of getting to Israel for our first, dear pioneer, Zeydale Mehring z'l [zikhronu librocha , Blessed by his memory]. Shortly thereafter he made aliyah [immigrated to Israel] bringing greetings there from us.

The realized dream of Mehring did not last long. During the First World War he was in a Turkish prison as a volunteer when he died of typhus.

In the name of the Kibbutz [?] near Petach Tikva, we are perpetuating his memory and two other comrades from Turka and Kolamei, for their sacrifices and ideals.

May his soul be bound in the bonds of life.


In 1913 the first pioneer from Bolekhov arrived in Israel. This was Sheindali Teper, now Yafa Lvnoni-Veisl.

She was a Hebrew teach in Bolekhov, Sambor and Drohobitz. Arriving in Israel she worked as a teacher in Safed and Haifa.

[Yiddish page 291]

Photograph
A winter outing on Bolekhov mountain
1916

Photograph
The small… [?]

Forty-three years ago under the Turkish government, the living conditions in Israel were very difficult. She did not have an easy time of it.

Year later, when a lot of our Bolekhovers made aliyah she helped in every way possible. Her house was open to every new Bolekhover immigrant and she helped make our acclimatization much easier.

The connection of our work in the shtetl was the kk'l commission under the guidance of Mendali Landau, the rabbi's son. No holiday or community activity, family celebration took place without us collecting for kk'l . Besides them, the festivals brought in a large income.

Now I would like to share the memory of one such festival.

A couple of weeks before the festival we worked hard: the formalities at the sheriff's and town hall to make it legal, pledges to collect, from the women cakes, tsiastes? or bokhtes? and so forth. Also a gift to order, booths to be put up and for all of them "oracle". The promenade garden had to be decorated with various ribbons, the orchestra hired and lanterns attended to.

We did not spare any effort so that the guests, who were also coming from the surrounding area, would be well entertained and also leave with lighter pockets.

The Sabbath before the "great day" (Sunday) was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, we were lucky to see the sky clear: may it be God's will, the same tomorrow, Master of the Universe.

There were no weather forecasts on the radio at that time. We hoped and "prayed" that the Most High would have pity us and not mar our celebration.

Three o'clock was the opening. The Solina band with drums and trumeyters [?] called the people to the festival. The train brought guests from Strij, Dolina, Rozshniotov, etc. There was great joy here for the Jews.

Suddenly, the blue sky was covered in dark clouds. The clouds sped across the sky faster than a train. It was pitch black. There was thunder, lightening and fat merciless hail destroying our beautiful buffet. Embarrassed, we look at each other. Why? Why now? In order to frighten the guests and to punish us. The tables were wet. Rain dripped from the trees. Oh, all our labor.

The sun came out after the rain. Like a miracle! As quickly as the storm arrived, it left. We recovered our courage, wiped the tables, put back the beverages, the sweets, good refreshments and everyone came back to the promenade garden as if nothing had happened. It was warm, cozy and the program started.

[Yiddish page 293]

The music thundered in the air. Couples walked around. People threw confetti. People were please with the good, homemade sandwiches. The police for once had made themselves scarce. And now people were pushing through to get to the oracle. In a booth sits the "prophet", masked and "prophesized". The children wanted to know "the future". The people were having a good time. Who can this be? I know who. My friend, Eli Elendman (Eli Boch). He told the "truth" without protection, only the truth. It got a little warm in the booth. What wouldn't one do to reach our goal?

Sha, quiet, here comes the mail. The "libespost" brings "love" letters. On every letter a JNF stamp. Real mail, with all the seals.

And here comes the group of harvesters. They carry ears of corn from the fields and they symbolize the young farmers in Israel.

Attention! Attention! Announces the drum beat: Two beautiful women are waiting. The first prize goes to Leah'tche Korol, the gray eyed young girl who speaks fluent Hebrew (Chana Hendel's student).

The guests are heard talking proudly and they are in a jolly mood. Time flies, people push and shove and laugh. They walk in the garden here and there until nightfall. The moon, the colorful rockets light the garden.

To finish properly, everyone sings "Hatikvah " [the National Anthem of Israel] and the garden empties out. Only the members of the JNF committee stay behind, to count the cash. It is more that we expected. Full of hope and with new plans we go happily home.


During the First World War we were cut off from the world. A lot of Bolehovers left as refugees and went to Vienna or Bemn. Our worked was lighter. The JNF commission worked.

Then Meilech Braver,a soldier from Turka (near Sambor), wandered into Bolekhov. He quickly became accustomed to the town. As he had theatrical experience he gave us a piece to study, "The Jewish King Lear" by Jakob Gordin. Braver brought the players together. In Moshali Teper's confectionery shop was where rehearsals took place. There people snacked on a "lodi" "Tzaluskes" (a kind of macaroon), etc.

Braver had the starring role. After a lot of rehearsals and enough tickets were sold, we amateurs were ready to go on stage. The audience did not expect a lot. They knew that the group was made up entirely of amateurs. However, they had a great time seeing Moshe Hauzman (in Israel known as eykhel-Aschl) as Shmai the servant, Yona Elendman – Aschel, Sabke Gertner, the merry laughing maiden as an old Jewess, Yehaskel Shlipka, Frimke Braver, Hersch Kleinbort, etc., on stage. The actors clutched flowers on the stage.

[Yiddish page 294]

It was a great success, especially the moment when the evil, old king supported by a stick, begged for a donation. Which Jew did not shed a tear? We were even asked to make an appearance in the neighboring towns. But our parents would not give their consent.

Winter Memories

The windowpanes were frosted, fancied up with artistic, beautiful flowers. The fields, gardens, fences and roofs were snow covered. The ground on which nobody walked was covered with perfectly white snow and what fun it was to make a snowman or snowballs. We threw snowballs, to keep our hands warm, our faces burning, we were warm all over. A flock of birds flew by. "Black on white". We went sledding. Oh how wonderful it was! There were a lot of hills around Bolekhov and so there were plenty of places for us to sled.


Hills, mountains, forests, fields and rocks encircled the shtetl and in the spring and summer called us to outings.

In one of the forests where Kaiser Franz Yosef came to hunt, an oak tree was planted in his honor. The place was called "Kaiser Eiche " [oak]. The first time I saw it, it was fifty years old. Strong, wide roots and around it an iron fence. That is where we went for our outings.

Two years passed. During the First World War, after we had returned home, I went to the Kaiser-Eiche and what did I see? Everywhere there were graves of those killed in the war.


Now a couple of words about our water Sokel. The Sokel cut the shtetl in two. The large bridge and the Lauke tied the two parts together. The water was calm, still, clean and clear. Every small stone could be seen. We bathed there. We sat on the banks, being warmed by the sun and getting a tan.

But after heavy rain storms or when the snow melted, it was terrible, frightful! The Sokel went wild, spilled over its banks and took everything in its path. It destroyed fields, homes and drowned animals. Like a wicked beast it swallowed everything. We stood far away and watched the misfortune, the destruction.

[Yiddish page 295]

After causing all that trouble it slowly calmed down and once again was still, quiet.

It is said that we were fortunate to have the topographical situation of Bolekhov that allowed us such interesting outings. Each outing was adapted to the previous one. Once to the "bergl" [mountain] where our friend, Eli Elendman already waited with red and black cherries. Once to Marshin, the watering place that was renown for its sulphur springs. Sick people in need of a remedy came to Marshin. The good, pine tree air, the calm, beauty of the area were exactly what they needed. They lived in small villas in the forest.

We also walked to "unter shtein" (Fadkamien). On both sides of the road were stone mountains. Their color looked like the setting sun. A little further from there was Bobnishtch. It took a whole day to get there. From early in the morning until night.

The area was wild, beautiful, just as God had created it. We took provisions. In the dense forest we discovered a rock, a cave and in it two beds made of boards. On the walls and ceiling were signs of carpentry. Whose hands hewed out these? The legend is that the famous robber Dobosh made the beds. He lived there and from there he attacked suddenly. Was any living person was able to do such work? I doubt it. It is possible that his followers, other robbers, began to quarrel. The robbers were killed. Their diligence and perseverance were perpetuated. Tourists from every part of the country would come to Bobnishtch to live the legend.

At the foot of the high rocky mountain one hears water flowing. Look and see: our Sukel murmurs here. It wrestles with the mountain and finds a road, a waterfall! Until the Sukel reaches Bolekhov it is of course tired and weak. Who can only look at the waterfall? Sweaty from the climb up the mountain, we jump into the ice-cold froth and stand under the waterfall. Refreshed and happy we had home.

Koleyke

That is what the small forest railroad from Griffel's sawmill was called. The railroad carried wood from the forests to the sawmill to be worked. We used the koleyke on one of our outings to Brzoze and Besarabov andtraveled the so-called "Schweytz" . A day prior we received a permit from the sawmill and the next day early in the morning we were sitting in an open train car. The koleyke was entirely steam driven. It was even pleasant because we were able to see the enchanting countryside. The forests, the greenery, you only had to stretch out your hand to touch the branches. The greenery brushed again our faces. Before we turn around the landscape changes and we cannot satisfy our eyes. Here and there we hear a stream and in it are fish.

An outing with the koleyke was wonderful. After a couple of hours it returns loaded with wood to the sawmill and we are loaded with what we saw, impressions, happiness and merrily arrive home.

The Parting

I bid you farewell wild forest, your close air that melted us.

I bid you farewell meadows, cornfields, on your paths we walked and picked flowers.

I bid your farewell dear tree that grew in my garden, in your shadow I sat, dreaming about my future. The richest fantasies cannot describe what kind of tomorrow was waiting for us.

I could not imagine how shocking that last dark night would be that our dear, loved ones would be tossed into the abyss. As our neighbors, with whom we had lived for years, with hatchets, hammers, scythes and knives, like wild animals, dragged our dear ones, in the dark of night, from bed to the cemetery and buried them alive.

Row after row the executioners, like ears of corn, cut them down. And as the last scream from the last Jewish slaughtered child faded away, the devilish laughter of the murderers shook the air.

Was this a theatrical presentation? No! On stage as the curtain comes down, the victims stand up, the murderers and their victims (who for a minute played these roles) hugged and kissed each other and it is only a play. This was not a play. The moon crept into the mountain and the hanging sun shone. Were you able to see the victims and on their bloody, tired faces the question: why? why?

But the murderers, looking up to the sky, satisfied with their work, went back to the shtetl to rob and steal, everything that our dear ones had with sweat and blood in the course of generations, earned by hard work.

The blood of the thousands of martyrs ran to the Sukel, from the red Sukel this blood flowed to the Shvitze, from the Shvitze that had become purple-red to the Dniester. Fiery red it swam to the Black Sea, it did not stay black. From the red-Black Sea it continued to the Dardanelles and the Mediterranean Sea. Suddenly a small ship is notice, large as an eggshell balancing on the sea. It was tossed here and there, like a small flag. And once it caught site of the shores of Israel. With joy and full of hope the little ship approached the shore, knocked on the gate in vain, no answer. The gate was locked. Very bitter and with a broken heart the small ship distanced itself from shore. Where now? Suddenly there was a heavy storm and a mighty voice was heard: Jewish children! Do not despair! I will gather you up! With me you will have peace. Immediately the little ship was smashed and disappeared without a trace. After a couple of days a small piece of the destroyed ship with the word "Struma" was found.

I bid you farewell, graves of my parents, relatives and friends.

Desolate, you are destroyed. The road to you is cut off. I cannot even lay a flower or shed a tear for you on your grave.

In "the city of the martyrs" in the Bolekhover forest in Israel we erected for our immortal souls a matzevah [a gravestone, memorial]. I come here, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, friends and good comrades, to my parent's grave.

May their souls be bound in the bonds of life.

[Yiddish page 298]

Photograph
Branch of "HaShomer HaTsair"

Photograph
HaShomer HaTsair

[Yiddish page 299]

Photograph
Chanukah 5697 [1937]

Photograph
The Hebrew School – 3rd grade – 1938
Director: Pesakh Lev

[Yiddish page 300]

Photograph
The Hebrew School – Purim presentation – 5698 [1938]
School Director: Pesakh Lev

Photograph
Hebrew School – Purim presentation 1939

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