Translated by Yehudis Fishman The house where we lived in Horodenka stood separate and isolated from the other houses of the city, although it was just a small distance from the market square that was the city's central point. It stood alone in a valley near a river. On one side of the river, the city spread out with a population of mostly Jews, a minority of Poles, and a smaller minority of Russians. On the other side was the big suburb of Kotokivka, whose population was mostly Russians (Ukrainians). The Jews referred to them simply as goyim, in contrast to the Polish, who were called Polyakim. The spiritual center of this heavily populated suburb was a Greek-Orthodox Catholic church, which was in the center of the city and surrounded on all sides by Jewish houses. Every Sunday and holiday, a throng of both young and old would flow to this church, which was quite distant from their homes and was located in the heart of the Jewish section. In those days, when the crowds would come out of the church, the main road of the city would be blocked by the masses who were wrapped in lamb's fur that provided a shield from the bitter cold winters and from the heat of the scorching summers. At times there would be a procession coming from the church and proceeding through the neighborhood to bless the fields in the season of Tamuz (July), or to carve out a cross in the layer of thick ice that was on the pond in the season of Teves (January). As is customary, they carried many flags on these marches and the sight brought wonder to our eyes. We always watched as these marches made their way through the road next to our house. My little nephew, when he first saw this parade, burst out: Behold, the flag of the tribe of Judah! He had received a Jewish education and in his imagination, he connected these flags with the flag of the tribe of Judah, from the song, Lift up to Zion, a banner and a flag.
As was mentioned, our house was set apart from the other houses in the city. This was not because of its distance from the city, but because of its topographical position. It was situated in the valley that extended several meters up on one side to Kotokivka, and on the other to villages near the Dneister, like Potochishche, Strel'cheye, and others. The road also led to the Jewish village near Tshomolize. On the other side of the valley, opposite our house and at a distance of a few meters from the front door, there was a mountain with a steep path that led to our house. On this mountain stood a building that in my childhood was a hospital. Nuns draped in black robes would go in and out of it. By its structure, it seemed like a very old building. A thick wall surrounded a wide garden that was in front of the building. This wall was actually built on the slope of the mountain and supported in several places by slanted stone pillars. This gave it an ancient appearance, and reminded us of fortified castles from the middle ages. The wall extended the entire front length of the garden and faced the main road. A narrow path near the wall functioned as a primary road connecting us with the center of the city.
Inside the wall was a strange and mysterious world. The only link between that world and me was a gate in the wall into which the nuns were swallowed as they went about their tasks. Besides the gate in the wall, there was also an iron gate that opened periodically to receive a sick person from the neighborhood who was brought in a wagon or to bring out someone who had passed away. Through the gate, it was possible to peek and see a little of what was going on in the courtyard recovering patients strolling in the garden and a small donkey tied to the water wagon. However, these pastoral sights could not negate the mystery that hovered around the building and the institution.
It is superfluous to point out that the hospital was just for the Christian population. The Jewish people primarily turned to Shimshon, the doctor who was an expert in enemas and cupping. However, he also used the more modern remedies like aspirin and quinine. The more progressive among the Jews turned to the Jewish doctor, Kanafas, or to one of the two Christian doctors Roshko the Polak, or Tzipanovski, the Ukrainian.
After many years, the veil of mystery was removed from the hospital. Around the year 1910, the Polish Gymnasium was established in this building. I was one of its students. In the nice and quiet corridors now echoed the voices of hundreds of young men, most of them Jews. However, it was not easy for a father to agree to the idea that one's son should go to the Gymnasium on Shabbos, instead of going to shul. (The Jewish students were exempt from writing on Shabbos.) But what wouldn't a Jewish father do for the future of his son? He decided therefore to swallow this bitter pill, so as not to deny his son the prospect of becoming a doctor when he grew up.
Until then, I had only descended to two sections of the hospital wall. But the two other walls were also interesting. The third section faced the big square in front of a Polish church, the Roman Catholic one. In the middle of the square stood a tall statue of the Mother of the Messiah. It was a wondrous sight to see an old Polish woman approaching the statue and kissing it. Probably the Jews were held back from sleeping in the square and approaching the opening of the church. Near the church was the house of the ruler of the district. A special path opposite the church led to this building where many Jews went to set their affairs in order.
The fourth section of this building was completely different from the other three, which faced the settlement and were situated toward daylight. The fourth faced north, across the river. This was not one of the walls of the garden, but rather a long wall that extended behind the hospital and had no opening, except for a small slot of a window. This wall was built at the height of a mountain, in a place that was very steep. It actually stood on a declining side that was supported by stone pillars built onto the slope.
A pleasant coolness and mysterious dimness rested on this place, even in the midst of a scorching summer day. The mystery in the air increased through the knowledge that behind the stone walls on the top of the mountain was a strange world of sick people and nuns. The narrow area between the slope of the mountains and the river was filled with hills and clefts; only one narrow path followed the length of the stream. The mountain slope never actually touched the river shore. The path was very steep, and only with great care was it possible to cross safely without slipping into the water.
However, once you crossed the lower path and reached the other side of the river, a new world was revealed to you. A broad path extended to the main road and led to the linen factory, which used the river waters. These waters were channeled into a wooden trench that brought them to the top of the giant wheel. When the waters fell on the wheel, they turned it and then shattered into thousands of sparkling fragments.
The mysterious and pleasing dimness that rested on this unique scene behind the hospital understandably contained a lot of romance. The location obviously contributed to this atmosphere. It was nice to sit here on one of the hills with a book in hand, distant and separate from the bustle of the world, to concentrate on reading, or to become absorbed in the predilections of the heart. And so the place was conducive, especially the hidden parts, as a place of isolation for boys and girls, and for hidden activities. The river held many secrets as it passed through these hidden corners. However, its path was quick, and it didn't have time for gossip or for revealing secrets out of school.
Once a year the river saw different kinds of views. Not only this, but the river itself actually became a messenger for a mitzvah. This occurred on the first day of Rosh Hashanah when the city dwellers went out to Tashlich. Jews of all ages who were G-d fearing, as well as righteous women, stood and emptied their pockets of their transgressions into the river. The river fulfilled its mission faithfully and carried all their sins into the great sea (according to the prayer) so that they would not be remembered or counted and never again go up on the heart. Immediately after the high holidays another mitzvah presented itself to the river. On the banks of the river stood clusters of willows, some old and some new. When Sukos arrived, Jewish children would come and take some of its branches to complete the four species of the lulav, to cover the Sukah and to use for Hoshanos (five willows that are beaten on the ground) on Hoshana Rabbah (the last day of Sukos).
However, those days of holy use were few throughout the year. During most of the days of the year, the river was used for secular and ordinary activities. Every Sunday, the Ukrainian boys from the village would go down to wash their horses. The third day of the week was the market day. The neighboring farmers would bring their horses from the nearby market square to water the horses. And on every day of the week, the sound of the washerwomen would echo at a distance while they washed their white garments in the river water and beat them with a specially designated wooden implement called a pralnick. (By the way, this implement was adopted by Yiddish speakers, and by way of a joke, they would call a big and heavy book called a pralnick book.)
For about three months of the year, the river took a rest from all its jobs, and was alone with itself under a thick layer of ice that covered its face. Not only was its voice silent, but also the whole surroundings were sunk in a winter slumber, under a white blanket. But, as soon as the snows began to melt, and the first sign of green was visible, immediately from the side of the factory, the shepherd boys appeared with their flocks. The main location of grazing space was across the river. More than once the goats actually reached our house. From the city came the only Jewish shepherdess, the shepherdess of the geese, the wife of Nathan Kohut, or, as we called her, The Kohuteche. Every year, she would appear in the beginning of spring, leading in front of her the family of geese with their many goslings. For entire days, she would sit near our house and guard them. It was a captivating and interesting sight to look at the flock of geese and goslings going in and out of the water. But woe if one of us would dare to come close to them. With sudden anger, the geese would fall upon us and try to finish us off. While we still had breath in us, we would escape to find refuge inside the walls of our houses.
Until now, I have spoken about the river in the singular, by which I refer to its main channel that was close to our house, and flowed in a fixed and steady stream. This is appropriate for a calm river that accepts the yoke of mitzvos and good deeds a river that doesn't waste its waters frivolously and guards each drop so that it should bring benefit to civilization, moving the wheels of the mills to supply people with their allotment of bread. However, there were two other channels whose waters were not harnessed for work. They flowed freely, far from the ordinary stream in the wide part of the valley. These were free to spread out according to their soul's desire, jumping and skipping over the smooth stones that were often in their way. The waters of these streams were exceptionally pure because no human hand touched them, forcing them into narrow, sullied pools. So they flowed one beside the other, along an extended patch of land. Only when the tamed river finished its job of grinding the wheat did it descend from its dwelling place to join its wild brothers, the impetuous and reckless ones, merging again into one stream.
All the businesses that needed a lot of water or sewage naturally concentrated around the river. Two resources could not be found within the city area. Across the streams, inside the borders of the valley, was the city slaughterhouse. From it, the protracted and pitiful cries of the cattle that were being led to the slaughter reached our ears. This building sparkled from afar due to its white plastered roof that was unlike those of most of the city houses, whose roofs were made from wooden shingles.
Not far from the slaughterhouse was a stone quarry that provided the material for building the few stone houses that could be found in the city and its environs. Stone houses were generally considered luxuries, and only prosperous people erected them. Most of the city's houses were built from wood, with a thick layer of plaster. Beams of wood served as the structure that was put together by expert builders. Wooden slabs were stretched out between the pillars. The slabs were made from wood pulp and were plastered inside and out with a thick layer of plaster blended with straw that was prepared from black soil. Over this layer was spread a thin layer of red clay, which was also used for brickmaking, was spread. It took many weeks to dry these clay slabs, and only afterwards was the house plastered and ready for use.
This method of building was influenced by the proximity of our city to the district of the Carpathian Mountains that provided wood for the cheapest of the cheap. The plastering did not involve any expense except for the manual labor and the work of the feet to mix the mud and straw. This method was simple and cheap. In the years before the First World War, this building method with baked bricks came into fashion more and more. The knobs for doors and windows were also improved. In our old house, the windows were closed by two hooks, fastened by rings below the window ledge and above the upper lintel. The door closed on a moving hinge that opened up by pushing on the doorknob. Here one could clearly see the source of the expression the palm of the lock, since this part did truly resemble a palm. It seems that this form was kept and passed down from the earliest time
In the regular course of years, an authentic building movement did not appear in the city. Still, there were a number of Jews who drew their livelihood from construction. Among those I remember was Zalman Suchar, who was, if I recall correctly, a building architect. He was of small stature and with a slight hunchback, and belonged to the group, The Youth of Zion. His total opposite was Raphael Sofer, a tall Jew with a pointed beard, who was a certified architect and was hired as a contract laborer. Father would ask his advice in every matter involving changes and improvements to our house. Among those in this profession, I also remember the name of Yochanan Baer, though I do not at all recall what he looked like.
Among the buildings that were built before the First World War, it is important to single out the shul in the courtyard of the Rebbe from Horodenka. This was a building about ten meters tall; the top floor was meant to serve as the women's section. Its building stopped with the outbreak of the war. The building's structure remained standing in its desolation till after the end of the war, at which time the entire courtyard was sold to Meir Frischling (who for some reason was called Meir Punkali, perhaps because his origin was Russia; all Russians were called by Jews of Galicia, Ponye, or sometimes with the added adjective, Ponye Ganev Ponye the thief.) When our family returned from its wanderings in Austria in the year 1919, the building stood empty. My father rented it for manufacturing tombstones, which were then ordered in great amounts to mark the burial sites of those who passed away during the five years of the war. Among the work that we created was a large and beautiful (according to the perception of Hordenkans) memorial stone dedicated to the holy ones whose were killed by the government and who were put to death by hanging by the Russians in the year 1915. These happenings were the result of a belief that the Jews set the city on fire to signal to the Austrians that the Russians were coming.
There was a complete change in those days in the years 1919/1920 in the progress of building in the city. Many houses were destroyed during the war, and there was a need to construct them anew. This was accomplished with the help of the new government of Poland. Building then increased greatly. The builders introduced a newer and cheaper process: bricks of earth mixed with straw were built between the beams of wood that formed the structure of the building. Sometimes buildings were put up from these bricks, even without a wooden structure. As I remember, these buildings were able to stand securely, at any rate, until the year 1925, when I left Horodenka.
Among the houses built out of stone and bricks was the house of our closest neighbor, Eli Yosef Shpierir and his wife, Chava Miriam. Even during my childhood, they were an old, childless couple who were once well off, but who with the flow of time, had lost their wealth. They made a living, with difficulty, by maintaining the bathhouse, which was generally active only on the eve of the Sabbaths and holidays. The building was a too-big, two-story building that seemed very neglected and forlorn. Except for the front wall, all the walls were not plastered and were covered with soot from the smoke of the bathhouse. The building stood on a slope, half way between our house and the road, in such a way that its lower floor with the bathhouse in it, stood entirely underground, in front of the road. The connection between the road and the apartments on the upper level were by means of a wooden bridge ten meters long. This bridge, shaky and worn with age, added its own character to the building. The living quarters contained two apartments, one of which was fit for living or manufacturing. In the course of time, there was a factory for the soap of Isadore Aryeh. He was the son-in-law of Yankel the milkman, who was a farmer in the nearby village and who would appear daily in his wagon providing fresh milk to the area's inhabitants.
For about two years, there existed in this dwelling a shoe polish factory named Levanon. The polish had a picture of the Hebrew high school in Yaffo, and instructions in easy Hebrew, that was popularly called Zionist Globen. In short, this was to a certain extent, the manufacturing section of Horodenka, which meshed with the various businesses that sprung up in our house, from time to time, according to the needs of the time, and the demands of the market and its lacks.
The existence of the industrial district was brought about in great measure from the presence of living waters in this place. The spring flowed from beneath the ground near the door of the bathhouse; its waters were clear and pure. However, the waters were hard and not good either for cooking or for washing. For those whose were not used to it, it was even difficult to drink. Still, their work made possible the existence of this important establishment.
From the source of this water, whose accepted name was, Das Rindel, was an iron pipe that brought the water to our house. The water flowed without interruption, day and night. If we did not use it up, it would immediately flow outside to a ditch and from there to the river. Thus our house benefited from conveniences that were not found in any other house in the city: supplies of water for drinking and sewage. All the other city residents would buy a limited water supply from the water carriers who would carry on their shoulders a yoke with two buckets, or from those who would transport water on wagons. The removal of trash water was simpler. This was cast into the street, in front of the house or behind it. However no damage resulted, since in the summer the water quickly evaporated, and in the rainy season, one bucket of water more or less did not make much of a difference.
The waters of the river were the basis for the main business in our house, which was washing, or, more precisely, the machine for cleaning and ironing white garments till they were stiff and shining. One should know that washing in Horodenka fifty years ago was not like washing in these days. The purpose of washing in our times is to ease the life of the foundation of the house, (a term for Jewish woman) and to make clean white clothes available to her for her family. However, in those days, it was accepted and agreed upon that the foundation of the house was obligated, in addition to her family responsibilities, to wash the white clothes with her own hands, or at least to supervise the washing by the hired washer. It would not enter the mind of a woman to give over her white clothes to a devilish washing machine. If a washing machine had existed in Horodenka, it would have had another purpose, which was bound up with the fashion of those days.
One of the main parts of the male wardrobe was a stiff and shiny collar; many different shapes were designated for this collar, appropriate to the personal tastes and elegant fashions of the wearer. The most selective dressers also wore cuffs, called mandshetn. Regarding the dickey, there were those who insisted on wearing a shirt with a stiff and starched dickey though most were satisfied with a type of a shield called a forlange that they would wear over the shirt. In short, there was a wide pillow designated for treating this particular garment. This was the job of the cleaning lady in Horodenka.
It was not the way of a Jew, especially an inventive Jew, to be satisfied with one profession. My father had another profession that of a sign painter. Due to his natural talent and to the experience he accrued working for a year and a half in New York, he acquired an appreciable knowledge in this field, and produced by his hand an established and perfected service.
Among the signs that he painted, there were two types that could be called professional. The first type was referred to as eagles. In Austria tobacco was owned by a government monopoly. The farmers were obligated to give all their produce to the government and the processing occurred in government factories. The wholesale marketing was given over to specific tobacco markets, which were called by the name of traffic, or to selected smaller stores. Each of these stores was obligated to set up a round sign of uniform size with the two-headed Austrian Eagle. These eagles were a significant part of his work, since every tobacco and cigar store was obligated to have this sign by government decree.
His second type of work occurred during a particular season. There was a business crisis about five years before the First World War. Many Jews went into the business of loaning money to the neighboring farmers (with their fields and property as a lien and security) to enlarge their farm to buy machinery, or to cover the expenses of their flight to Canada. This protected a great number of farm workers, among them many farmers from our surroundings. The loan business apparently had a strong power of attraction, and many Jews were trapped in it, sinking their savings into it.
When the latter was not enough, they took out loans from banks for this need. And behold, a crisis broke out in the year 1912. The higher finance establishments of the country felt that the political horizon was darkening and the war was about to erupt. So they began to diminish credit and call back the loan documents, instead of exchanging them as they had previously done. Because of this, many of the merchants reached a situation where they were forced to declare bankruptcy. In this case, the creditor was able to foreclose on all the property of the debtor, to close his business, and to undermine the foundation of his existence. However, there was a straightforward strategy to prevent this situation. Before the declaration of bankruptcy, documents would be brought to the courthouse, which would prove that the property belonged not to Mr. X but to his relative, or the way it was done in many cases to his wife. Therefore, he made a complete transfer of his property to his relative, friend, or wife. The creditors though could contest the transfer, and in some cases, they actually did so. Mostly however, they were not really interested in destroying the existence of the borrower, and they were forced to settle with him, and to agree to a partial payment of the debt, and to a protracted payment plan.
The change in ownership of the business office necessitated a change in the sign. However, here too a strategy was needed that made it possible to follow the law as well as keeping the sign with the name of the previous owners of the business. The strategy was that on top of the big sign was suspended a smaller sign that carried the name of the new owner, and under it in small print was the previous address in Polish: Pshodtom. When the two signs were joined, one could read, in black and white, that the business belonged to so and so, but formerly belonged to another so and so. The new owners were modest, and therefore saw no need for a blatant display of their ownership.
These signs with the pshodtom on them were for a certain time the style of business for Horodenka and only a few of the businesses were missing them. The preparations for declaring bankruptcy were made as usual in hidden chambers. However, one had to pre-order the signs. Thus my father became, to a certain extent, a member of the secret circle of those who prepared for this move.
My father's occupation of sign painting brought in good money for the support of the family. However, since he worked in this field only to a small extent and sporadically, he decided upon another venture more suited to the large area around the house and the unlimited abundance of water. So in the year 1907, he opened a shingle factory with two friends, Buni Fleshner, may he be separated for life, and Motti Shertzer, who is currently living in Israel. For several years, the factory prospered, until serious competition arose a Polish establishment that the Jews referred to as Der Poviat. Because of this competition, the factory dwindled until it was completely closed.
Years passed. The conditions of the world war wreaked havoc on all phases of life. Some livelihoods withered and others sprang up. Success shined especially on the diligent, who knew how to explore risky businesses. My father was never included in these, but he succeeded in establishing at least for the duration of a year a new kind of factory made possible by the times.
The most popular drink in our place was coffee. This drink was blended with an appropriate amount of chicory that grew sufficiently in the houses of the well off, but was almost zero near the houses of the poor. The main supplier of chicory in our area was the Frank factory, whose product was known by its red wrapping with a green ribbon. (This package also functioned for cosmetics, supplying rouge for the cheeks of the girls of the village and the city). Because of the conditions of the war, there was a shortage of chicory in the country. It entered the mind of Hirsh Birnboym, the close friend of my father, to manufacture a substitute for chicory from roasted barley with an addition of molasses from the leftovers of refined sugar, and a small amount of roasted and ground beet sugar. Immediately an oven was built for drying and roasting. They also set up the machinery for crushing the sugar beets. For grinding, they used small grinding stones called zhorne that were moved manually by the household workers. The products were wrapped in wrapping similar to the Frank product, and were very successful in the market.
It didn't take long before the Russians were defeated and the Austrian army took their place. Because of the dwindling supply of chicory, the army too lacked this product, and the factory began to provide the army with large amounts. But the good days did not last. The Austrian army stood its ground only for a few weeks, and as the army retreated, the majority of Jewish residents also left their homes because they were worried about the consequences of the invasion of the Russian soldiers, who came straight from the front. In truth, these worries were not groundless. The nine city residents that remained were hung for no reason, the city center was wrecked and burned, and many lost all their property.
The suburb Kotikovka that lay on the ascending part of the road opposite our house was populated almost completely by the Ukrainians, with only a few scattered Jews. However, the first houses behind the bridge were Jewish houses. From among the residents of these houses, I recall a few because of the special connection that we had with them. There was the store of Ahron Leib Cohen, where I used to go as my father's messenger when the temptation of smoking overcame him. (There were periods when he was able to conquer this temptation.) There was also the home of Avrohom Cohen, a tall and swarthy Jew. Both of them prayed in the Zion Farein, and therefore stand out very much in my memory. However, the personality that stuck out most in this neighborhood was Noach Shpierer, a very old Jew with a white beard and piercing eyes. He walked like a soldier, energetically, with a straight stature and a protruding chest. It seems that in his youth, he was a man of very strong temperament, with his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against his. As I recall, in my days, he was involved in many arguments in his place of prayer, the big shul. There was a well-known saying that whomever Noach Shpierer offered a greeting, had better hold on to his cheeks with care, out of worry for the consequences of that extension of the hand.
In the midst of the suburb of Kotikovka was also the home of Yossi Shapira, the chazzan of the big shul. He had several sons, whom I remember only the first born, who was known by his nickname, Leizer Bogan. On the other side of the bridge near the main road, there were only a few houses. There was the beautiful house of Shmarya Kugelmas. Near this house was the home of Fishel Wasser. To the extent that my memory serves me, it was actually very difficult to call this place any kind of a dwelling. It was sort of a dark cellar with one tiny window, and if I'm not mistaken, one or two goats also lived in it. The house of Shmarya Kugelmas stood in the corner of a narrow alley among whose residents I remember in particular, Baruch Leib Liser. On the other side of the alley near the main street, there was also one large house. Right behind it, on a hill there was a narrow path that led straight to Yehudah Wolf Shuchner's store, which faced the parallel road.
On this hill stood a cluster of houses with a large courtyard in the center. The real estate owner of Horodenka, Baron Romaszkan, owned this cluster of houses, whose residents were Polish. Around this house was a garden. In one part was a vegetable garden and in another part grew fragrant lilac trees that spread out their fragrance with the coming of spring. After a while, a local post office also was established there.
The name of Baron Romaszkan was bound up with a special image that was seared into my memory during the days of my youth. The manufacture of liquor in Austria was a government monopoly and the primary seller, both wholesale and retail, was centered in a special store in Propinatzia. The distillery that provided the liquor for Propinatzia was in the Baron's courtyard. It was usually transported on a wagon harnessed to a pair of oxen whose long horns evoked fear. The appearance of oxen pulling their burden and transporting their precious liquid was a part of the Horodenka scene of my childhood, and it's impossible not to mention it.
On the other side of the road, opposite the cluster of gentile houses, the wall of the hospital spread out, and after it began the houses of the city. The road took a sharp right turn, and when it reached the crossroads, the main road appeared in its full length and ran through the middle of the market square.
The houses around the market square had a character that was unique among the business sections of the rest of the world. One door was next to the other, in the closest proximity, making it possible to use every cubit of precious space for a source of livelihood. As the popular saying goes: A door in the market is a window in heaven. The exceptions were the first two houses behind the hospital that were built according to the style of the city suburbs. They each had one story with a wooden porch painted white, and around the house, a flower garden surrounded by a wooden fence painted white or blue. One of these two houses belonged to a certain official, and Moshe Kalmus, a clean-shaven Jew of short stature who was involved in land business, owned the other.
Near the house of Moshe Kalmus stood the house of Hersh Leyb Sitz, which was given over completely to the business section around the market. This house also had one story, like most of the houses of the city, but it had two fronts, both occupied by stores that were rented out to different storekeepers. Among these stores I remember two that I want to single out.
One of the distinguishing marks of the Horodenka scene was the open water canals, that spread throughout the length of all the streets between the road and the sidewalk. On one part of the main road, the sidewalk widened and covered the canal under it; on the other roads, the canals were open, and bridges stretched over from the road to the sidewalk. One must admit that these bridges, shielded by railings from two sides, added a picturesque aspect to the city. Together with rows of chestnut trees, they gave a beautiful appearance to the main streets. In the rainy days of summer or fall, and in the spring when the snows melted, the canals were full of water that flowed powerfully to the river. When I was walking with my friends from school, my soul desired to plunge into them with my new boots. They were not worried about the water! So, I entered the canals instead of going on the sidewalk, like civilized people do. This happened many times until word reached my father's ears. He took the opportunity to give me a lecture in the laws of proper etiquette in a captivating manner. As was made known to me afterward, it was the daughter of Zeyde Rindenoy who told my father about the escapades of his son. There is no doubt that this detail reminded me of the owner of this store, who otherwise was no different, that any other storeowner in the neighborhood.
The second resident that I remember well was Meir Frishling the watchmaker. He was one of my father's friends, and daavened with the Zionist minyan. Frequently I went to his store with father, and naturally I felt inclined to check out his work, when he was occupied with those little wheels, alternately taking them apart and putting them back together.
The owner himself, Hersh Leyb Sitz, was known in the city not just because he worked in the city center, but because of his special work. He worked as an unofficial lawyer, what they called, vinkel shrieber. People would turn to him to get some legal advice in situations where a professional lawyer wasn't needed, such as writing requests to legal or administrative authorities. His daughter Pepi was the high school friend of my sister, and his son Eyber sat on the same bench as me in school.
The market square was divided by the main street into two sections of unequal size. On the left of the road was the smaller section, which was designated just for human traffic. On market days the farmers' wives primarily gathered there. They brought eggs, chickens, vegetables and fruit to sell. The other section that was much bigger than the left side was split in the middle by a street that was specially designated for riding vehicles. On market days, which took place on the third day of the week (Tuesday), the square was bustling with an abundance of people and vehicles, and was extremely crowded. On other days of the week, traffic was much lighter.
Around the market square, stores were clustered according to their wares. People's primary livelihood was from the money they made on market days. In my childhood, on the right side of the square, there was a special section of booths, called budkes. These were occupied by peddlers of merchandise, but they could not compete with the storekeepers. The merchandise sold there were five and dime materials woolen thread, cotton for knitting socks and sweaters, cheap linen, etc. There were also booths for selling various baked goods.
From the two sides that were designated for booths, houses stood that were primarily filled with stores. However, there were also some homes, among which was the home of Yudel Ekerling, whose business was small bank loans, and who was called the bankel master.
Among the stores that were in this square, I recall the store of Maltzi Bergman, which was run by his two grown sons, Yossel and Shoel Bergman. Their brother, Leibish Bergman, who had fled to America many years before the war, was one of my father's close friends. The members of that family were experts in fishing, and raised fish in ponds. One of the special offshoots of their business was crab hunting, which supplied this desirable food for many royal houses in Europe. This family also owned a brick-making factory.
The houses around the market square were arranged like the Hebrew letter Ches (i.e., shaped like a doorway - trans.) At the right end stood houses. One of the beautiful homes on the edge of the market square was the house of Yechezkel Shpierer. This house had one level, but since it was built on slightly elevated ground on several steps, underneath it there was room for several stores. These were primarily designated for the business of exporting eggs. These merchants were known as 'egg packers,' since their main work was to gather eggs in cartons and prepare them for export. I remember only two of them: Pinni Bornstein and Toybe Agatshteyn.
I had a special connection with the house of Yechezkel Shpierer, since among his tenants was my uncle, my mother's brother, Mendel Flor. (One of his sons became famous in the thirties as an international chess champion named Salo Flor, and he visited Israel in the year 1934.) I remember my uncle's home very well. I think it was the same style as most of the dwellings in the market square. In the front, of course, was the store. The inside room behind the store was always in the dark, since it received only a dim light from the window in the door connecting to the store and from a window facing the other room. This room too was illuminated only indirectly from the kitchen window that faced the courtyard. In general, these were dwellings without much sunlight or air and enveloped those who lived there in a rather gloomy atmosphere.
Behind the house of Yechezkel Shpierer was a long row of stores among whose owners I remember very few. My uncle's nearest neighbor was Feivish Muller, who also had a grocery store. In this row was also the store of Chaike Shtreck, a capable and unusually energetic woman, who succeeded in maintaining her position in business even after the death of her husband, who passed away in his youth. An exception to most of the stores in that row, which were groceries, was the store of Yehoshua Pomerantz, who sold holy books, religious objects, and some secular story books, and in later years, Hebrew textbooks.
This row of stores was attached to the big market square that served on market days as a gathering place for the wagons of the farmers who came in from the villages. The merchandise that was sold in these stores met the needs of the ordinary person such as flour, salt, kerosene and matches, and other basic needs. The stores in the opposite row were different in character. Some stores sold leather and boots, and only a few grocery stores like those of Yankel Haber and Shlomo Shtreyt met the ordinary needs of the citizens of the city. They sold a greater and more colorful selection of supplies; some even sold delicatessen.
The row of stores that stood almost in a straight line with the statue of the holy mother in the Polish gathering square, opened with the leather store of Binyamin Reichman. Right behind it was a store, which I have difficulty correctly characterizing as it was neither a restaurant nor bar, though a person could always find something there to quench his thirst or quell his hunger. Mainly this was a kind of club where, in a narrow space of four by four, people of all stripes merchants and middlemen gathered to complete their business on a light drink with a snack. There were also unemployed young men who came to peruse a newspaper or to while away their free time in playing chess, either as actual players or as observers (kibitzers, according to chess terminology). The conductor of this colorful gathering was the owner himself, Hershel Sucher. He always stood behind the counter, and even more than he was involved with his business matters, he participated in conversations and expressed his opinions like one of the experts on the burning political issues in Judaism or Zionism. He was always immersed in these matters, commenting on everything and offering a halachic opinion on every issue that came up for discussion or on the political scene. Now, since the innkeeper was a consummate Zionist and one of the main speakers in the group Bnai Zion, his store became a meeting place for Zionists, especially the Zionist youth. There, they would spend their free hours and receive training for Zionist activities and communal service.
Hershel Sucher's store, therefore, was not just a store but also an organization that had a significant impact on the life of the city. From his store on, there were a variety of stores, most of which sold leather and boots. Among them was also the store of Hershel Berman, one of the young Jewish businessmen in the city who was well off and modern. His son Meshulem was one of the select few who were sent to another city to study in high school, even before there was a high school in Horodenka. He would awaken the interest of other young boys when he came to visit for holidays or vacations. He studied in Chernovitz, Bukovina, which was considered a German city, in contrast to the Polish ones that were prevalent throughout the cities of Galicia. In Chernovitz, he boarded with his uncle, his mother's brother. My father mentioned him occasionally and referred to him simply as Fishel Orner, but in Chernovitz he was known as Professor Brener and was one of the heads of the German high school in Chenovitz. At the end of the war, he was appointed the head of the Bukovina testing committee, which was located in Vienna. In the year 1917, when I had to turn to this committee about a testing matter, I received a sealed response from the hands of Professor Brener, and my father identified him immediately as the son of Hershel Berman.
Near the store of Hershel Berman, stood the store of Moshe Shukhner, who was also a leather merchant. His son Asher was one of the outstanding members of the young Zionists group. He was the special chess player of Horodenka, and as was known to me, he was held up as the classic Bohemian, who by his unique life style deviated from the typical nature of the average Horodenkan.
In the center of this row of stores, a wide opening burst forth near the open gates to a space called the Einfor house, which belonged to Shlomo Avraham Shor. He was a welcoming host who was one of the more important homeowners in the city and was in the camp of the most orthodox. His son Kalman Shor, however, was a young man who shortened his beard and clothes, and was a Zionist who daavened in the Zion Farein.
I already mentioned the two grocery stores of Yankel Haber and Shlomo Shtreyt, which were an anomaly among the leather stores in this row. However, I can't just mention the names; I need also to elaborate on each of these families.
Several ties bound our family with the Haber family. The first was Yankel Haber, one of my father's personal friends. He was well-off, deliberate, honest and straight, one of the few who was not involved in monkey business. He had the best buyers and everyone knew you could find the highest quality merchandise in his store. The store was not exceptional in its modern arrangements, but there was the maximum cleanliness that could exist in such primitive circumstances. Aside from the top quality, the purchasers were treated to the pleasant faces of the two sellers, Yankel's wife and his oldest daughter Dunyah, who stood out because of her height and in her striking beauty. The younger daughter Bella Haber was my sister's friend in high school, and was frequently invited to our house.
I rarely had occasion to enter the store of Shlomo Shtreyt and don't know what to say about it, but I think that it too stood out for all those good qualities that I mentioned in the store of Yankel Haber. Here, however, the most important thing was not the store, but the family of the store's owner. The father, Shlomo Shtreyt, was not only one of the most important residents and supporters, but also one of the foremost Torah scholars of the city. Certainly, he desired to raise and educate his children in the ways of Torah and Mitzvot, but transgressions arose and the times were confused. In the midst of the storm of war, the family was uprooted from its place and arrived in Vienna, the royal capital city. Under those conditions it was difficult to protect the fermenting wine from souring in order to protect the children from straying from the ways of their fathers. By the time the family returned from its wanderings, the process could be described by the verse: The children struggled in her womb. The father continued to follow his path, but as for the children, not only didn't they walk in the ways of their father, they were even separated in their own ways. The first born, Asher, became an enthusiastic Bundist, speaking in Yiddishisms. Together with his fellow Bundists, Baruch Itzik Shpierer, Issac Fink, Yehudah-Hersh Sobel, Yossel Katz and others, he founded the Yiddish school, joining the network of the school of Tzishe. He himself spread Torah to Jewish children, many of them among the poorest of the nation who lost the spark of the old cheder, but did not find the way to the revival of Hebrew. In contrast, the younger one, Yehoshua, was an ardent Zionist, active in student groups and political corners, sinking all his talent and energy into Zionism, and above all the 613 Mitzvot, in all their detail.
Two by two, the dispute was drawn into the family and encompassed in miniature the three main streams of the passing generations: the observant stream, those who ignored the concept of exile, and those who saw it as a necessary reality. The youngest son Yehoshua remained faithful to the path, and he is now with us in our homeland. Anyway, the polemic ended as it ended, and woe to us that it ended in such a manner.
I would not fulfill my obligation to the Shtreyt family if I did not mention the youngest daughter Feige. For a short time, she was my student in a small group of girls who learned Hebrew and Bible from me around the year 1922. Among those who participated in this group, I especially remember her and her friend Rochel Kvetsher. They excelled in their knowledge with their true longing to acquire the language in its fullness. Last but not least, I remember the glow of their faces. Rochel was the daughter of the carpenter Shikel Kvetsher. I used to go in and out of his factory that made frames for signs, and at times I went in to borrow carpenter tools for my father's work.
Shlomo Shtreyt's house was the last in this row of houses, and only a narrow alley divided it from the row of houses that enclothed the Chet of the market square. In the section near the Shtreyt's house between it and the main street, there were several small stores. One was the stores of Paye Grapakh, or as she was called, Paiyakale. On the sign still rested the name of her departed husband, Yonah Grapakh. The store was run by the widow and her daughters and was one of the most successful stores in the city. It had two entrances to parts of the store. The stores in this row were so narrow that only if you joined the two stores could you perhaps create one significant space. Garments and trifles were sold in her store. The store supported not just the widow and her daughters, but also the new family that was created when one of the daughters married a man named Vabel, who came from outside Horodenka.
Near the store of Paya Grapakh was a small store that was not concerned with supplying the material needs of the Jewish settlement, but with providing for the spiritual needs of the new generation. This was the store of Motel Horvitz. This was a long, narrow store; a shelf upon which books were organized by category took up half its width. In the second half, there was scarcely any room left for two men standing side by side to walk. I myself didn't go to his store; I was too young in those days all of twelve years old but one of its regular visitors stayed in our house, and so I came across reading material that was sold or perhaps borrowed from this store. Rocklass of Berlin were the primary printers of these books. They came out in a popular edition that was cheaper than the best books from Germany and Europe. Among the books that reached our house, I remember especially a thick volume of Origin of Species, by Darwin, and the dramas of Ibsen and Strindberg. In short, this was serious literature that could open the mind, and awaken the thinking of an intelligent person.
Among the group of readers of the library of Motel Horvitz, I had a relationship with a certain group of four friends who drew their spiritual nourishment from this source. This group included two students in the fifth class of the Polish high school, who, though they came to this establishment a few years late, rose above their older peers in spiritual aspirations. The other two were not students, but stimulated their intellectual and spiritual needs by reading and thinking. This four-fold friendship was captured in a picture that showed the four of them in the year 1913, a short time before the outbreak of the First World War.
The one who stood out the most, and was the most talented, was Shmuel Abbah Sofer, the son of Pinchas, the shul attendant, who served in the courtyard of the Horodenka Rebbe. Shmuel Abba was sharp and quick, and his mouth was always full of wise sayings and paradoxes. He attended high school on a scholarship that was usually given to fellow students who had difficulty in their studies. It seemed to me that he was far from excellent, and in general appeared as a cynic who despised ideals. During the war he disappeared from Horodenka, and never came back. From people who came from Chernowitz, I found out that he was a reporter for the Yiddish paper Poalei Zion, and was killed by the Nazis a short time before the city's liberation by the Soviet forces.
The second student in this group was Voveh Shtrum, who is now with us in Israel. He too was forced to provide for his food and studies through teaching, since his father Kmiel Shtrum was not well off and had a large family. The Shtrum family was one of the few who all went to the land of Israel. Most of them were involved in Zionist activities in Horodenka. I should especially single out Noson Shtrum, whose dedication to Zionist activities knew no bounds, and who put his shoulder to every task that most others shirked. People joked that in each of his pockets nestled a container for each Zionist organization: in one, Keren Hayesod, in the second, Keren Kayemet, in the third, the Shekel committee, and in the fourth, the Hebrew school committee.
The third in the group, Meyer Kron, also settled in Israel, but is not in our acquaintance. If memory serves me, his appearance in those days was that of a handsome, Hebrew-speaking young man who came periodically to visit his friend Berl Mosberg. He was not actually from Horodenka, but from a nearby village. Perhaps his connection to working with the earth influenced him in the pioneering effort to make Aliya and attempt to become a farmer in our land. His Aliyah began in the year 1912, but he quickly became unhappy with the conditions in Israel and returned to Horodenka. With the outbreak of the war, he left Horodenka and never came back. Only in the year 1933, with the deterioration of conditions in Europe, did he arrive in Israel from Vienna.
Finally, the fourth in this group of friends was Beryl Mosberg, who ten years later became my brother-in-law. He was the proletariat among the four; from his childhood he earned his living working in our laundry. The work was arranged in such a way that he was free two or sometimes three days a week. He used these days for reading and self-growth. Thus he merited entering this select group of young intellectuals. About four years before the war broke out, he and I made a pact that we would only speak Hebrew between us. We kept this pact for years until it became second nature. Actually, we were practically the only ones in the city who used the Hebrew language in daily life.
My description of these four upright young men conveys a little of the spiritual atmosphere that rested upon the youth of that generation. These young people absorbed their spiritual food from the books in Motel Horvitz's store. This provided them with a window to the great world of literature and creativity.
Before I leave the market square, I want to focus on two related matters: the police and the theater. There were two types of police in Horodenka, as in all of Austria: the gendarmes under the government and court system, and the police who were under the local city authorities. These two were distinct in their clothes and in their weapons. The first group dressed in hats with sharp copper points and was armed with guns and bayonets. When they were on duty, they appeared mostly with bayoneted rifles. Their appearance alone aroused in the hearts of the citizens a desire to avoid meeting them, and how much more so, their weapons. The city police dressed in civilian clothes, but to delineate their authority, they wore long swords that were never drawn from their sheaths but rather served a decorative function. Among the few police who dominated at that time, I remember two: one was tall and dark and named Benedict; the second was short and had a beard that was almost white with age. He was Michael and the children teased him calling him Michael Tshaporda.
The theatre in my city was very simple. In various street corners they set up slightly elevated wooden beams upon which were set lanterns. Each day toward evening, it was possible to see one of the city police going from lantern to lantern with a ladder on his shoulder to light them. Two or three years before the outbreak of the war, an iron beam was put up in the corner of the market square at the crossroads and a giant lamp was suspended that cast its light over the entire square. But the complex mechanism of the lamp caused the policemen many difficulties, until one of the Jewish advisors of the city council arose and gave some scholarly advice. Before we struggle in vain to turn the policeman into a mechanic, it's better that we take a mechanic and turn him into a policeman.
This corner where the lamp stood was the most prestigious corner in the market square. Practically every year at the time of the annual fair, a group of actors would appear to set up a tent in this corner. The official title of this theatrical performance was A Comedy, and the actors were comedians. One of the most notable acts was tightrope walking over the heads of the crowded masses.
Later the market square was split up, with the main street of the city extending a long way about three or four hundred meters until the crossroads. There, the path turned right, at the side of the courthouse building, and continued to the train station and to the village of Shtorniatin. The main street turned into the road that led to Syniatin.
On the right side of the main street, which was attached to the market square, was the store of Mordechai Shnitzer, which contained iron and building materials. I remember Mordechai Shnitzer as a short old man who ran the store and handled his goods to the extent that his advanced age allowed him. However the life force of the store was his young son Simchaleh, a young man of average height who was always in a state of perpetual motion. His oldest son Chaim, was seen infrequently in the store; he was the studious one in the family. He was ordained as a rabbi, and was the son-in-law of Rabbi Elimelech Ashkenazi. Most of the neighboring farmers who came to buy iron implements for their farms did not notice him dealing with the merchandise. With the passage of time, simple farm machinery like harvesters and hand-driven threshing machines was brought into the store.
In my childhood I was familiar with the store and its owners since I went in frequently, as my father's messenger, to buy machinery or merchandise. After the First World War, there were changes in the family relationships. The patriarch of the family, Mordchele, passed away. The business center was burnt and destroyed during the Russian invasion, and the merchandise was moved to the house of Shnitzer, that stood on the other street of the main street, not far from the market square. Inevitably, Reb Chaim had to leave his four ells of Torah, to be involved with settling the world, and he took part in running the store with his brother Shlomele, who continued to be the first violin in the business. Meanwhile, the children grew up, and the sons of Reb Chaim began to work in the business, together with the older ones.
However, this last statement contains an exaggeration. In truth, the main worker was Chaim's first-born son, Meshulem. The other three sons didn't really work, each for a different reason. Moshe, who was a little younger than Meshulem, had a very leisurely temperament, averse to much activity. On the other hand, Shmuel Abba had overflowing energy, which stirred him to leave his home and city and move to South America. The youngest son Yaakov studied Torah in his uncle's house in Sokol, and came home only as a guest for the holidays. After several years, he was sent to Israel to learn in Hebrew University. Thanks to this, there is a remnant of this multi-branched family even now with us in the land.
After the First World War, in 1919, our family returned to Horodenka as one of the last families to return. We spent a long time in Western Austria, and waited for the opportunity to immigrate to Israel, without wasting time and energy in the chains of intermediate stations on the way. Only when our hopes were dashed did we involuntarily return to Horodenka. Now the Jewish settlement passed through a short time under Ukrainian rule. This period stood out for the deep understanding of the nationalist longings of the Jewish nation. All the Jewish youth, except for those that were caught up in the Bundist spirit, were part of the Shomer branches that were involved in dialogues of Nationalist concerns, and in learning Jewish history and the Hebrew language. At the center of interest were Buber's writings on Hassidim. The youth, who were then removed from Torah and Mitzvot, had a revived interest in Hassidim through the perspective of Buber, and became enthused through it. There were two Hebrew schools in the city, one directed by Illa Libster, and the second by Asher Yungerman; both produced many students. (Parenthetically, Libster was a student of Rabbi Z.P. Chayes in Vienna, who was then engrossed in the study of Aramaic and its grammar. After a while, he went to Paris to learn chemistry and became an inventor. Some say competitors who were jealous of the success of his inventions pushed him out of the field.) In short, there was a spirit of Hebrew in the city, and understandably, Meshulem Shnitzer was also caught up in this spirit. His Torah training, on one hand, gave him an adequate background, and because his interest in Torah was not furthered due to conditions of war, he channeled his interest into the language. Thus, his propensity for Hebrew was more rooted and deeper that that of most of the city's youth. When I came to Horodenka, he was a friend and brother to his neighbor Eliezer Bilder, the son of Menashe Bilder. I was immediately accepted by the group as the third strand. As the saying goes, a threefold cord cannot quickly be severed.
After some time, in 1921, Eliezer left for Israel. However, a year later he returned due to the harsh conditions in the land. Still, he absorbed much fragrance from the land of Israel and brought this fragrance to us. He himself didn't go again, but his younger brother Moshe went a few years later with a group of pioneers. However he died in the land at a young age.
In the course of five or six years, until I went to Israel in 1925, we three used every available hour for the spirit of the Hebrew language. It goes without saying that we were the first on the scene for every Hebrew activity and were involved in every nationalist action in the city. One of the primary functions was to insure the continued existence of the Hebrew school, which usually existed on miracles and stood with a question mark for almost half of each year, between semesters. After the first bloom of enthusiasm and after the volunteer teachers, Yungerman and Libster, left Horodenka, the future of the school's existence was placed on the shoulders of the school committee. These members were appointed from among the most dedicated to the Hebrew language. At that period, the one who generally officiated as a teacher was Mr. Korn, who succeeded very well in his job. There were also courses for completion led by Tzvi Pomerantz and myself. These courses primarily focused on Tanach and Hebrew literature. Only at a later stage did we hire two teachers, Sh. Y. Pineles, and Shimshon Meltzer, who became famous later on as Jewish scribes.
Parallel to the Hebrew nationalist Zionist movement, was an active branch of the Yidishist Bundist movement, whose leaders were Asher Shtreyt, Yossel Katz, Issac Fink, and others. The personal relationships between these leaders and their members were very good. As I mentioned, there were occasions when two sons of a family were members of different movements. Only in one area were there common lines between the members of two groups when the drama group was established in the city. (It is interesting to know that the stimulus for this joint venture came from the need to amass money to put a roof on the big shul, which had burned during the Russian invasion. For this activity, both groups volunteered.)
Concerning this topic the theatre in Horodenka there were three stages. I knew the first from the stories of my parents from the good old days before my birth. In those early years after their marriage, between 1890 and 1895, a professional theatre group came to our city periodically to bring pleasure to the residents. The company's pleasant and well-received presentations came from the pen of Goldfaden: Zvei Kuni Lemels, (Two Timid Creatures), Chinke Finke, Shulamit, etc. My parents, as a young couple not yet saddled with children, didn't miss a performance, especially since my father was close to royalty because of his job designing the posters. The songs and the jokes from these performances served as entertainment in our house throughout my childhood. I also remember the second stage, when the theatrical group of Gimpel from Lvov came for guest performances in Horodenka in 1911-12. I was then about ten years old and was permitted to join my parents in attending the performances. In those days, the star of Yaacov Gordon was in ascendancy, with his plays Di Shechita, (The Slaughtering) Der Vilder Mentch, (The Wild Person) Go-tt, Mentch, un Teivel, (G-d, Man, and the Devil) etc. The third stage came in 1919 to 1923, when Horodenka got a theatre group of its own. It performed plays in Yiddish and succeeded in pleasing many theatergoers, who returned from the cities of west Austria to watch the high-level performances of these professional players.
There is no doubt that the first thrust came about through the visit of a native of Horodenka, the brilliant actor Alexander Granach, in 1918. I was not in Horodenka at the time of his visit, but according to the words of friends who were present, his appearance made a strong impression, and without doubt awakened dormant talents. In truth, many talents were awakened, and one of them, Mendel Diner, became a professional actor after he got his first training in Horodenka. His handsome appearance must have helped him in the choice of this profession. After a while, we heard that he appeared on the Jewish theatrical platform in Soviet Russia. After that, however, we didn't hear anything about him for several years. We assumed that he was swallowed up in this broad land, together with other remnants of Jewish culture that disappeared from the platform of history.
Among those who stood at the head of the drama activity and were the first of its members, the following names are etched in my memory: Isaac Fink, Mendel Diner, Hirsh Sobel, Motti Katz, Dunya Meir, Tziporrah Lindberg, Henya Birnboym, and Etel Treysuber. They presented the plays of Gordon: Der Unbakanter, (The Unfamiliar) and Chasye di Yesomeh, (Chasye the Orphan) and that of Hirshbein: Ba'ym Behrg, (Near the Mountain). The troupe moved away from its fixed setting and performed in the nearby city of Gabozdzitz. Its performances are still remembered very positively by the remnants of that town.
It is also worth mentioning a Hebrew drama group that found its way to Horodenka. My friend Meshulem Shnitzer had an only sister who married a young man named Koch, who I think came from Tluste. The couple lived for a time in Shnitzer's house, and the groom was an enlightened one who knew Hebrew. He grew friendly with us and one day asked our opinion about a play he wrote on the topic of Elisha ben Avuya. I can't remember why the author merited the cloak of dramatist, but it is clear to me that these visitors did have great talent, but nothing came of their visit.
Near the store of Mordechai Shnitzer stood a wooden house of two stories with a magnificent front. This was the most beautiful house in the city. It was the pharmacy of Meiron Luria, whose name was emblazoned on it in large, gold-embossed letters. Meiron Luria himself belonged to the assimilated groups in the city, and his pharmacy was open even on Shabbos and holidays, both because of danger to life, and because its owner didn't care about Sabbath observance. In my early childhood, this was the only pharmacy in the city, until the opening of a competitive pharmacy, The New Pharmacy of the Golden Seal, whose owner was Polish.
Near the pharmacy and the store of Shnitzer, the transportation workers of Horodenka the wagon drivers and the porters acquired a resting spot. There were two kinds of wagons: flat wagons for transporting merchandise through the city and wagons for transporting people to the train. I remember two of the wagon drivers, who were by custom known not by their family names, but by their nicknames, Kopel (or Kopale) Zanki, and Berl Boulai. Besides these two types, there was a third type of wagon driver, who didn't show up much in the city, since they traveled between cities, transporting merchandise from the large neighboring cities, Kolomyja and Stanislvov. Their wagons were fortified with linen canopies to protect the merchandise from heat and rain.
The front of the pharmacy faced the main street and the south side of the building faced a narrow alley that led to the big shul. The shul was a large and tall stone building, a building that remained unfinished for many years. Outside, the walls remained unplastered, and inside you could still see the structure of the roof on its beams, since they didn't have the means to complete the ceiling. Because of the appearance of the shul, one could guess who were the people praying the simple people, remote from both wealth and honor. The fancier and better off householders daavened in the shteibel of the Chorkover of Viznitzah Chassidim or in the minyan of Yudel Pasvig where the misnagdim daavened. Consequently, the big shul remained for the ordinary daaveners who didn't belong to the existing movements. They came to shul only to fulfill the obligation of praying with a congregation.
In the hall of the shul, from right to left, there were two prayer rooms, called palushim, that were designated for congregational prayer, but for a more limited group. These prayer rooms were designated for the same kind of attendees who visited the big shul. The shteibel that stood next to the big shul had a different character. Those who prayed here were householders who didn't have a strong enough connection to Chassidim to pray in a particular prayer room or kloyse. The study house and the shteibel were in the same building, on both sides of the corridor. In this building there exuded a greater warmth than in the big shul, both physically and spiritually.
Following the alley, not far from the big shul, there was a long structure that served as the central meat market. In the middle was a long corridor, and from both sides of the corridor were about twenty sales stalls, one for each butcher. This setup served to insure efficient control over the sale of meat, which was the primary source of income for the community cashbox.
Near the central butcher shop was the special property of Horodenka that Alexander Granach described so profoundly in his book, A Man and his Path, the Proval. This was a deep and wide ravine that extended almost the whole length of the city from south to north, splitting it in half. This division had somewhat of a social character. Across the proval, behind the façade of houses with a respectable appearance, there was a sprawling cluster of poor and neglected houses. This section was called Di Hintergasse (the lower street). The streets in this section were not paved. In the rainy season it was difficult to enter them, and for two weeks, it was difficult to get out safely. Here the homes of the poor were concentrated the shoemakers and the tailors, the wagon drivers and the porters, the peddlers and the middlemen who didn't have a permanent location like the merchants at the center of town.
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Updated 1 Sep 2005 by LA