A favorite saying in Druya was; When a rooster crows in Druya, all four provinces hear it.
Druya had two railway lines, a small local line running from Dukst and the second one, which was a major line, was completed in the year 1935. It went through Varpaieve, Vilna, and Warsaw. About 4,000 souls resided in Druya in the year 1939. About 2,500 inhabitants were Jews and 1,500 inhabitants were Christians. There were eight synagogues. The Great Synagogue with its about 250 years of history, was famous throw the region since it had the largest and most beautiful ark in the entire Vilna district. The ark was topped with a Russian-Romanov style eagle which stood on top of the heads of two lions. The Synagogue had been built by Duke Sapehi as a gift to the Jewish population. At that time, he had also built a Catholic church. The second synagogue, which was called the Great Beth Midrash, stood opposite the Great Synagogue. There was a house of study on its premises, where there once had stood a yeshiva. In later years, the scholars and Mithnagdim used to pray there. The third synagogue was called the Hassidic Minyan. Those worshippers had their own Rabbi and they conducted themselves as Hassidim of Shneur-Zalman's sect, the (Lubavitsh) Chabad. The remaining synagogues were the Kapustzer Minyan (Hassidic), Kalman's Minyan (Mithnagdim), Ishe-Meir's Minyan (Mithnagdim), Zalman's Minyan, and on the other side of the small Zadruike river, a very small synagogue. Besides Heders, there was also a Talmud Torah for the poor children.
Among the well-known Jews in the shtetl was David the Cantor. He and his son were both accomplished musicians. Shmuel Moldin was famous as a prayer leader, while Getzl, the sexton, was well-known as a sermon giver. He would lead study groups in the Beth HaMidrash. He also had the first Jewish library in the shtetl and for a small fee he would lend his books out. The prayer leader in the Great Synagogue was Itze-Leib, the ritual Slaughterer.
The following organizations existed in Druya:
Author, folklorist and Zionist public official. Alter was born in Druya in 1870 and studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva. Later he moved to Odessa and was the secretary of HaChultz. Member of the center of the Russian Zionists. Editor of "HaOlam"(1909-1912),"Reshumot" and "Miyamim Rishonim". Published "'Ktavim Letoldot Chibat Zion Veyeshuv Eretz Yisrael", "The Book Of Tel Aviv" (1935), "Pinsker and his times", He also worked for different Hebrew periodicals. His Yiddish works appeared in Peretz's Yom-Tov Bletter (Holiday Pages), in Yid and in Friend. His two volumes on Jewish folklore were published in Hebrew and printed in Odessa and in Jerusalem in 1922. He also published a large collection of Jewish jokes (more then 1,400) in 1922. Three-volume anthology of Jewish humor, Sefer HaBdikha ve-HaKhidud [Book of Jokes and Wit]
He also edited the chapters of Modern Hebrew literature, folklore and geography of Eretz Israel in the Hebrew and German Encyclopedia "Eshkol". He died in Tel Aviv and his grave can be found near Bialik's grave, since they were intimate friends. A collection of his assays "Ktavim Nivcharim" was published in two volumes in Tel Aviv.
In 1905 was a member of the editorial committee of Hazman. Was the publisher of Hachaver a newspaper for the youth. He was very dedicated to the Hebrew language. During the First World War he settled in Moscow and translated some classical French and English literature to Hebrew. (Oscar Wild, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Viktor Hugo)
In Moscow he experienced some great tragedies, the Bolsheviks murdered His son and his son in law died at a young age. He returned to Riga were he died in 1920 of a heart attack. Books written by him;
'The writing of Y. B. Toviev- research topics of literature and language (Berlin, 1923)
Ozar hameshalim vehapitgamim (Odessa) The Hebrew origin in the jargon Jewish Names
two plays; Bimkom Drasha (Warsaw) and Hashorer Bebeito (Pietrekov)
The beloved Chaim Buzak wrote the school administration letter after letter, demanding that teachers would be rehired. Each word held a pained cry of Have pity and save the school! as if a mother, who is saving her only son, uttered the words. There were still no teachers. Weeks flew by and dispatches were sent out. Heartrending letters continued to be issued. Chaim Buzak threw aside his own matters. He traveled to Vilna's Central School Board, and demanded, I can't and won't go home without teachers! The school reopened. All was fine, but the rent still needed to be paid. The financial situation of the school was desperate. What could be done to improve it?
The members of the school administration and close friends of the school came together and raised a limited sum of money. During those years a livelihood in Druya became grievous and with much obstacles, so they managed this feat only with great toil and headaches. However, with the school in danger, would there have been any excuse not to give? They gave! But why did they give? It was not just to fulfill an obligation or to get notoriety. The newspapers didn't publish names and they didn't dream of recognition by the powers that be. They gave because of their love to the children!
This was the way that a small group of stubborn teachers and supporters worked, day in and day out. It is easy to mention twenty years of the past, but for these twenty years, there were all sorts of obstructions and complications. There was a constant effort made to survive the events, to struggle with problems as they come and not to break . . . not everyone could do this! Our school was honored by these sacrifices. Let us all therefore stretch out a hand, put our shoulders to the wheel, and help support the school in its difficult struggle to exist. Let us become partners to this sacred work of the Druya school officials!
Leib Entin relates the story of the Russian arrival, September of 1939:
The Russians came to Druya during the month of September of the year 1939. The Jews, as well as the Christians, greeted the Russians with joy, since they were fearful that the Germans would take control of the area. However, soon they were displeased with the system. The Soviets first ordered that stores would stay open and that merchandise could only be sold for the Polish zlotys. Afterwards, it was announced that only a hundred zlotys per person would be exchanged for one hundred Russian rubles. The remaining zlotys which people had plenty of, completely lost their value. Private enterprises died immediately. Later, the government ordered that co-ops and workmen's associations be set up. Everything belonged to the state. Some merchants were hired as managers and others as common laborers. Skilled craftsmen such as tailors, shoemakers, and carpenters were organized into cooperative workshops. The regime was made up of members of the local population. The former police chief was a Jew and his entire family was sent to Siberia as a punishment. Because of this sentence, the family survived and they now live in Israel. The Great Synagogue was turned into a flour warehouse and the Jewish Folkshule became a Russian school.In June of 1941 Germany attacked Russia. As the Germans arrived they established two ghettos in Druya. One was actually in the shtetl and it began at Leib Pukin's house at the bank of the Droike River. The second ghetto was beyond the cemetery. Unfortunately, we weren't able to gather more details here in Argentina, since very few escaped and survived the slaughter. All the rest were shot and all the Druya Jews were buried in one common grave. The slaughter took place on the second day of Tammuz 5702 (July 17, 1942). For more details read the Druya Yizkor book which was published in Israel.
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