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[Page 179]

Friends and Acquaintances

Meir Holcman

Translated by Ada Holtzman

The Gostynski Family

The Gostynski family, was my neighbor, on the opposite side of the street to the north: Jakob and Yochewet Gostynski who had three children: Rachel, Pinchas and Rywcia, who my love since school times.

The father Jakob, as well as the grandfather Moses, were cattle merchants and butchers. Jakob was considered a rich man in those days. He was the one who financed our license for our illegal immigration, required by the Sochnut, (the Jewish Agency) in July 1939, at last minute. He paid for Rywcia, for myself and about other 10 youngsters (more than 1000 zloty - quite a fortune at those days), who thus were all saved from the Holocaust.

Mother Yochewet (Yachet) nee' Honigstok from Kiernozia was very sick and young Rywcia nursed her for years.

With Rywcia I studied together since our early childhood. We were a couple years before immigration. We came to Eretz Israel together, on the Colorado ship, illegally. After being arrested for 3 weeks, we were released by the British, on September 1st 1939, as a gesture, upon the break of the W.W.II. We were among the founders of Kibbutz Evron in the western Galilee. We raised a family and had 5 children. In December 1954, as a result of high blood pressure from which she suffered, Rywcia had a stroke and died, 54 years old only.

Rywcia's sister Rachel was a Khalutza (pioneer) in Eretz Israel since 1930. She was among the founders of Kibbutz Ein Hachoresh in the Sharon region of Israel. She was married to Meir Shechter, a wonderful man from Podhejca, Galicia. He died of heart attach on August 10th 1970, a short time after the death of Rachel's sister, my beloved wife Rywcia. We loved to visit the Shechters. Their was no end to the love and care they were giving us constantly during the vacations we used to spend with them. Rachel and Meir had two sons: Jakob who married Etti and they live in Jerusalem with their 4 children and Natan, who married Dorit, and they continue, with their 3 children, the Kibbutz tradition, in Ein Hachoresh.

Rachel suffered very much from the sudden death of Rywcia, her beloved sister. She could not find comfort and mourned her until her last day. They were very close to each other, after the loss of the parents, the brother and a large family of relatives in the Holocaust. I am saddened o think of her last 7 years f her life while she suffered of uncureable sickness. She got the best treatment in her Kibbutz and asupport of the family and her good old friends, until her death on July 30th 1995.

The brother Pinchas (Pinkus) Gostynski was also an activist in Hashomer Hatzair in Gombin. But he didn't manage to immigrate in time. He married in the Ghetto, his girlfriend from early youth, Channa (Andzia) Laski, who is well remembered. According to the testimony of Uncle Max Zavier (Zawierucha) z"l from Paris, he saw them one day in Auschwitz, but he died on the very same day of their unforgettable meeting in the baraque in that cursed camp… Max couldn't have saved his cousin Pinkus from Gombin, although he tried hard. Channa perished as well, probably sharing the same fate of the Jews of Gombin: Chelmno. From her whole family survived two brothers who immigrated after the war to America: Shmuel Laski of blessed memory and Mandel (Manni) who lives in ripe old age in Florida, America.


[Page 183]

Zalman Ben Itzhak (Borensztejn)

Zalman was born one day before me, on May 13th 1914.We studied together, in the Hebrew school “Tarbut” and in the elementary school of Gombin.

We were friends. We visited one the home of the other and always welcomed heartily by both parents.

Zalman was an orphan from both parents and moved in a very young age to the town of Wloclawek, together with his handsome fine brother, Abramek (“Abek”), to live with his uncle Osowski.

His connection with his childhood friends and shtetl Gombin continued after his move; The love he felt to the town inspired him in rather old age to research this shtetl and for the past 20 years he was engaged in an historical documentation research, treating Gombin as a mirror to all lost shtetls of Poland. He frequently visits Poland and has ties and connections with Polish historians and institutions, since the end of the War.

Zalman had a magnificent knowledge of geography. I remember when we had class and had to search in maps, he used to go to the board with closed eyes and point to the exact location of the place, to the amazement of all…

There was a “szeygetz” (goy) in town liked to fight with the Jewish boys and spank us painfully. In one of our holidays, Zalman was standing near his relatives' house (the family Hirszberg), when he was already a soldier in the Polish army, wearing proudly the Polish army uniforms and rank (he was already an officer, quite an achievement to a Jewish soldier). The “szeygetz ” happened to pass by. Zalman commented to him that he ahs to salute him, even though he is Jewish, as is the duty to do when meeting a Polish Officer! The “szeygetz ” of course refused and started with his anti-Semite curses. A fight was developed and Zalman laid him down and closed the account for all past times sake… Humiliated and bleeding, the “szeygetz ” run away and our satisfaction was complete….

I remember an argument we had with the Sochnut, in Bat Galim, after we were released from detention by the British, following our Haapala (illegal immigration) in July 1939. Avraham Ben Shalom z”l and Asher Shainfeld z”l, from the social department of the Sochnut determined that me and Rywcia will join Kibbutz Eilon, not Evron, where we had all our Gombiner friends already, our comrades in Hashomer Hatzair and in which our absorption was promised to us in Poland. We insisted that we wish to join the Khalutzim in Evron but for no avail… We had to go to “Hirbat Zemach” which is now Kibbutz Eilon, in the Upper Western Galilee. While we were arguing and arguing, the door was opened and as a storm, Zalman burst into the room. Without even discussing anything with the Sochnut representatives, he told us to gather our poor holdings and come with him. After two hours, me and my late wife Rywcia, together with my good friend Ajzik Zaliszynski were already in Kibbutz Evron…

The first nights in the Kibbutz I slept in the bed of Zalman, for lack of other arrangement. Zalman slept during he day and I slept during the night…

Zalman is very involved in the life of Naharia and Western Galilee. For many years he used to be a journalist of “Al Hamishmar” newspaper, and served as Field reporter. His involvement with he life of the Arabs in the surrounding villages added color and interest to his reportage.

In Gombin there remained two of Zalman's families: Moshe Samulewicz, the town's dentist and the Hirszberg family, which dealt in wine commerce. In the family Hirszberg, Zalman's two cousins were also his soul friends. The eldest brother was Dawid, who succeeded and gained academic education in Poland before immigration to Eretz Israel. The second brother was Elusz Hirszberg. Elusz was the strongest among the pupils. When Elusz used to press one child's shoulders to the ground, he had no chance to raise up. Elusz immigrated to Canada, raised a family and visited Israel on many occasions. We always enjoyed meeting him. He died in Canada. Dawid Hirszberg had two lovely daughters. Talma, the eldest one died to years ago and the young daughter Nira, married a son of Kibbutz Shoval of the Negev and serves today as the General Manager of British airways airline in Israel. David and his family's warm visits to Kibbutz Evron were always a source of pleasure and joy to us.

And last of Zalman's family member I shall write about Zalman's unforgettable younger brother Abramek (“Abek”). He too kept good contacts with Gombin and we were always very happy to accommodate him in his frequent visits. It was impossible not to love this boy. His good heart and humanity found also an expression in his underground activity during the WWII, and his secret visits to various ghettos, on the various Jewish underground missions. I was told that during his visits, he used to take out of his bag a lot of food he smuggled and he used to encourage his tortured friends to hang on and survive.

Abek was a pilot in the Polish Army. After the frightful retreat of the Polish army, he joined the members of Hashomer Hatzair in their underground organization and instead of running to Romania, as many others did, he felt his duty is to remain where his people are, Poland. He was a wandering messenger on behalf of the underground movement, all through Poland. In one of his visits in the region which was than in the Soviet side, Lwow, he tried to escape civil government detectives who followed him. In his run he jumped of a running track and was run over and killed on spot. His memory will never leave us, for as long as we live!

Zalman remembered well my beloved mother Rasza Holcman, her stories and her personality, and mentioned her as “this great lady”. He promised to write an article about her with his memories.

This year (1997), Zalman was given a medal by the Gombin Society, in an impressive gathering in New Jersey. It was a token of appreciation on behalf of the successor generation of Gombin, to his documenting the history of Gombin Jewry in the past centuries. He was also the one who initiated the project of fencing and restoring the destroyed Jewish Cemetery of this shtetl.


[Page 185]

The Ettinger Family

The father Szmuel Meir, was a bakery owner in town and the mother, Chana Cyba raised four sons and two daughters. The eldest one, Abraham, after him Mosze, Zelig Zalman and the two sisters were Miriam and Broncia.

All the family was in Hashomer Hatzair. Abraham was among the founders of the Ken (Hashomer Hatzair Organization in Hebrew), had autodidactic education, had deep education and broadest horizons and inteligence. I was privileged to be his student in the Ken. He knew to direct us to search knowledge and sources for spiritual inspiration.

We were about 20 youngsters in our group. After every meeting we were enriched by more and more knowledge. The poetry evenings he organized, the excursions in the surrounding regions, the “trials” he conducted added to our education and enriched our youth experience.

Abraham knew how to work with the mind and with the heart. I shall not exaggerate when saying that he was among the most distinguished leaders and educators of Ken Hashomer Hatzair in Gombin. Although everything was destroyed and vanished during the Holocaust, if sometimes someone would remember and collect the history of this Jewish shtetl, he surly will dedicate a chapter about this young excellent and educated person.

Abraham was among the first to immigrate to Palestine as a Khalutz. He was among the founders of Kibbutz Beit Alpha. For personal reasons he later moved to Kibbutz Kfar Menachem. He was very active in the Kibbutz life and served the Socialist party MAP”M for many years, always with great talent and wisdom. While he fell sick in his old age, his wife Lizka looked after him with much dedication and love, who was near his side day and night, until actually the last hour.

Moshe and Zalman survived the War and managed to immigrate to Israel afterwards. They were the ones who brought for me the painful pictures with the tortured faces of my brother Moshe Aharon, my beloved sister Golda Itta and the pictures of my lovely miserable nieces and nephews, stamped by the Nazi abominable stamps from the Ghetto times.

In Israel each one settled down and raised their family, opening also here one common bakery in Kiriat Tivon. Moshe died of disease and Zalman continues his life with his family in the north of Israel.

The Ettinger parents and the two lovely beautiful daughters Miriam and Broncia perished in the Holocaust.

Zelig married Rachel nee' Kerber also from Gombin and they live in Kibbutz Evron. They have a daughter Yehudith and one son Meir. I was with Zelig in the same group. He excelled in his natural curiosity, which led him to reading hundreds of books. He always had a thorough and deep level of thinking. He was very dedicated leader in the Ken Hashomer Hatzair and he educated the group of children with Chana Taufil.

He was among the senior members of Kibbutz Evron. He served as a shepherd for many years and he also worked in the Kibbutz bakery when it existed. For many years he has been working now for Barmad, Kibbutz Evron's leading factory.

Zelig had artistic talents as an actor and I remember how he played once in the cinema of Grinbaum, in the Ken's ball, reciting in Polish a drama of Uri Zvi Grinberg. I still remember this piece, in spite of all the years, which have gone. His exceptional talent was not materialized in Israel.

Zelig was a soldier in the Jewish Brigade and he was privileged to meet in the destroyed Europe after the war, his two brothers who survived. He raised with Rachel a very united strong family with Meir and Judith, their children. A third generation of grandchildren, cured for a certain extent, the wounds of the War.


[Page 187]

Velvek Friedland

The Friedland family had a leather shop and was considered a well-off family. I visited them often. Velvek was my best soul friend. His mother was a very pleasant and cultural woman. There were only two children, a rare thing at those days, when every family was very large.

Velvek studied and was a very refined and educated, clever young man with a lot of charm. He had a romantic soul and was a truthful friend to those who knew him. We shared endless heart-to-heart intellectual conversations and we were partners in searching the new ways and answers to our personal and Jewish distress.

Velvek joined Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzair in a relatively old age and we considered his joining in as great achievement. Immediately he became one of the leaders and contributed a lot to its educational and organizational activities.

His family was Zionist, but like so many others, did not consider seriously Aliya Immigration to Eretz Israel, being a well established and rooted family in Gombin, without the slightest suspect of what would soon happen.

The decision of Velvek for “Hagshama” (Fulfillment of the Zionist ideal by immigration to Eretz Israel) was gradually materialized. He left for “Hachshara” (preparatory Kibbutzim) in Kalisz and worked very hard in the flourmill there. He contributed a lot to the cultural activities and life of the Kibbutz members there.

When I left to Palestine in July 1939, Velvek was also in the last preparatory phase of his own immigration. But the war caught him in Gombin. From stories of survivors I learned that he run away to the Russian part of Poland in Bialystok. There he was united with his beloved wife Blumka. They both perished and circumstances of their disappearance were never found out.

I mourn you my good friend Velvek Friedland

You were killed before your time. For no reason, before immigration to Eretz Israel. You were shining like a beautiful star over the community of Gombin and your light was extinguished, as millions of others, by hands of the German murderers. I have always kept the memory of this fine boy, who didn't materialize his dream and didn't arrive to the beloved land of our renewed State of Israel.

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