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[Page 64]

The Dead Maytchet Lives in Every Heart

By Haya Lubchik

Translated by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg

Edited by Jerrold Landau

Twenty-five years have already passed since our home was destroyed, mother, father, sister and brother were murdered, and still our beloved shtetl lives in our memory. As in a fantasy, we see floating before our eyes the large water mill in the neighborhood called “padlezan” – the green fields with the aromatic pine country-house forest and the rooming houses around the forest.

Thus we see our shtetl on a summery Friday afternoon. In the marketplace stand wagons. Gentiles from the neighboring small villages came to Maytchet. They brought things to sell, one a calf, another eggs and a little fruit, another

Market place on a week day

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some grain; and they came to buy what they needed, either goods from the dry goods store, or some shoes from Shinetsky's store, or a hat, a bottle of oil or kerosene. Merchants buy, and storekeepers sell – a small market day.

Standing at the door of the business, waiting for a customer

The aroma of the Sabbath delicacies wafts through the air. Mothers bake challos for the Sabbath, and cook fish. Some cook pike and other cook small fish – the main thing is to prepare for the Sabbath. Children come from school in groups, happy, excited, and joyous, with schoolbags in their hand that had been sewed by their own mothers. Some were coming from cheder and others from the Tarbut School. Tomorrow is the Sabbath morning, where there is no school. The joy is great.

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The sun starts to set in the sky and travels further to the west. Soon comes the loud voice of Moshe, the Shamas, calling the people to synagogue. Business is over. The stores are closed. Shutters are closed and locked, either with two locks, one above and the other below, or with a long iron bar with a lock on the side. Jews go home to prepare for Shabbos (Sabbath). Gentiles travel away from the marketplace.

The sun has already set. Through the glistening windows, veiled with white curtains, twinkle the Shabbos candles in polished brass candlesticks, or in silver candlesticks, perhaps two to a table or three on a table, or perhaps even five. But in every window, through all the panes they twinkle and light the holy Sabbath. Tables are decked with white tablecloths and challahs are covered with various embroidered cloths. The Divine Presence is at rest.

There go the Jews dressed for Shabbos in traditional long coats or jackets. They go to the shul or to the Beit Midrash or the Hassidic shul, but they all go with the same holy spirit in their hearts to welcome the Sabbath.

In the marketplace it is quiet, empty and dark. In the dark, only the white goats roam around. They enjoy the leftovers – a bit of fresh hay, a bit of green grass or vegetables, which the horses left over. Satisfied, they lie down on the gangways or under the roof of the row of stores.

Friday night, after eating and after the songs, the young people of Maytchet go walking in the country-house forest. There one always meets new faces, people from the country houses, who just came to the shtetl. Whoever walks to the train station does this. Some of the youth are from the HaShomer HaTzair (a leftist/socialist Zionist organization). There on the small hill at the home of Sarah the Carpenter woman, the Maytchet youth enjoy themselves. There in a circle they danced a hora by the light of a kerosene lamp and they sang songs of Eretz Yisrael. The resounding voices spread far in the stillness of the night. These are sounds from young hearts that love, dream, and hope that tomorrow will be better and more beautiful than today.

This is the way a poor but beautiful Jewish life was lived for many generations. Mother and father bore the heavy yoke, bearing children and rearing them the same as everyone else, and the young searched in the dark the way to tomorrow. Many centuries the golden Jewish circle endured. And today, in the dead quiet in Maytchet, there is sad desolation in the hearts of the people of Maytchet in the whole world. There are no longer any Jews, burnt up, destroyed, empty and desolate. Our old beloved home is dead, but in our hearts still live the dear Jews of Maytchet. You are with us at all our happy occasions; we call our children by your names, which is a worthy remembrance of you.


 

[Page 67]

Jews in Great Svorotva

By Yesha-ayahu Serebrovsky

Translated by Ron Rabinovitch

A small group of Jewish families lived and worked in some of the little villages that surrounded Maytchet. Even though their homes were in these nearby villages, these people were still considered citizens of Maytchet. They would go there for their civil affairs and for the religious activities.

Among these nearby villages were two with the same name, Svorotva. One was called Little Svorotva and the other was called Big Svorotva. What numbers were used to make this distinction is unknown. But there was a farm of a Polish “Paritz” near the village that was called Big Svorotva.

Among the residents of Big Svorotva was Rabbi Elchanan Gershovitch and his family. He was a teacher and a merchant. Shortly before the war he moved to Maytchet and it was here that he was murdered by the Nazis. Also living in the village was a family by the name of Serebrovsky and the head of this family was a wood merchant. At the beginning of the war the wife of Mr. Serebrovsky was murdered by the Nazis but he and his two daughters were able to flee. They were hidden by local Polish citizens, survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel after the war.

In the village of Novosyulki lived the family of Israel Yehuda Singalovsky, a successful merchant. The local Polish citizens were jealous of his thriving business and made the lives of him and his family very difficult. The family was forced to leave because of these hostile citizens and moved to the village of Dvorets. It was here they were murdered by the Nazis.

Living in another nearby village by the name of Druzdin was the family of Lifa Zochovitzki; they owned the local grocery store. Early in the war he fled to Maytchet and was murdered there. Only one of his sons survived the war and may have moved to the United States.


[Page 68]

Small Svorotva

by Haya Lubchik

Translated by Martin Small and Roslyn Sherman Greenberg

Small Svorotva—This is what my small village was called, in proximity to a second not much bigger village, which was called Big Svorotva. Small it was, since it numbered 70 houses in all, 5 of them Jewish. It lay a distance of 5 kilometers from Maytchet between some not so big hills and in not too deep a valley, surrounded by large forests and fields and an ebullient happy little stream that emptied into the Molchadka River.

The five Jewish families of the village were longtime inhabitants, that even the order that had driven the Jews out of all the villages, was not binding on the inhabitants whose land was handed down from generation to generation, maybe a lucky thing and maybe not. Who knows?

All five Jewish families diligently worked the land and fulfilled the verse: “With the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread.” I remember how my father, may he rest in peace, used to sing this well-known song while he worked, “In the plow lies prosperity…” In regard to prosperity, the story is this: from the material standpoint there was indeed prosperity, while in our house nothing was ever missing and everything was good. But in the realm of spirituality very much was missing. There was not even a minyan of Jews to pray a public prayer. Of course, there was no synagogue. My father constantly complained that he was living a double exile. The whole week, as on the Sabbath, he prayed in the house, but on the holidays and the High Holidays he went to Maytchet to pray. His uppermost dream was to participate in public prayer or to learn a portion of Mishnios between Mincha and Maariv. The problem of teaching the children about their Jewish religion was made more difficult because they had to learn reading and writing as well. A teacher was brought to the village to teach the children.

In order to fill the void of studying Torah and prayer, my father engaged in doing good deeds toward others. When

[Page 69]

he had the opportunity to do someone a favor, he was extremely happy. A needy person never left his house with empty hands. He used to say, “Whatever I earn is not mine. It all belongs to G-d. I am just a temporary guardian, and with his permission, I give to anyone who is needy.” My mother, may she rest in peace, was a real counterpart of his. She worked in the field and the garden, managed the household, and raised the children (we were four sisters). She had many worries and little “naches”, but she was always happy with her lot and participated in the good deeds and charity of my father.

Relations between us and the gentiles were good. They knew that my father Shlomo always had an open ear and an open hand that would help them in their time of need. “You are such a good person,” they used to say, “not at all like a Jew.” In their twisted outlook, a Jew was a bad person. Thus many, many years passed, and when the tragic day arrived, they showed themselves as real gentiles who returned a bad act for a good one. Without any human emotion, they dipped their murdering hands into the blood of their Jewish neighbors and helpers of many generations, and brought atrocities to the Jews of Svorotva.

That is the tragic way the few Jews from our little village got killed. Their holy names are:

  1. Family Hershel-------Channa and her children; Tzippah and her children
  2. Golda's Family
  3. Channa and her husband and daughter; Sarah and her husband and three little boys.
  4. David's Family------- his wife Alta, their daughter Vichne and her husband and little boy
  5. Our Lubchik Family------my father Shlomo and mother Bracha; my sister Bluma and two children, my sister Sarahla and Davidel, my sister Minna and her husband Gershon and their three children: Sarahla, Shifrala and Yankela

[Page 70]

In the Village Yatra

By Esther Malishansky (Lozovsky )

Translated by Ron Rabinovitch

Many Jewish families were living in villages surrounding Maytchet like a garland around it. For several generations the Jews were agricultural people, working alongside the local gentile farmers, with whom they had good relationships. Others were merchants, manufacturers, and agents, selling the agricultural crops and various products from the villages. They led a quiet, rural life. But during the holidays, they would come to Maytchet to celebrate together with the Jews who lived there. Therefore they viewed themselves as being inhabitants of Maytchet.

In the village of Yatra, just 12 kilometers from Maytchet, lived three Jewish families: Jacob (Yankel) and Batya Shmulovits, the Abramovitz family and the Malishansky family. There were also two women who escaped from Novogrudok during the wartime. The relationship between us and the local people was cordial, and we remained there until the first German “Aktion” in the Novogrudok ghetto in the winter of 1941. When the policemen from Novogrudok came to look for us, they began making inquiries of our neighbors. One of them told them to go to another place and then came to warn us of the approaching troubles. After that, the policemen from Potoshipobi came occasionally, so we were forced to flee, each one in a different direction.

My mother escaped to the forest. My cousins Leyuba and Noach Kubal and I ran to the estate in Yatra and hid in the barn. My father and my brother escaped to the home of a gentile acquaintance 3 kilometers away. Shmolovits and Abramovitz escaped to Maytchet. After the “Aktion” in Novogrudok, we came back to the village and found empty houses that were ransacked by our “good” neighbors. All of us remained in one house. My mother returned from the forest but she was suffering of frostbitten legs. Dr. Yaakobovitch, a refugee from Zapholia, came to our house everyday to help her, but he was not successful.

Survivors from Yatra told a shocking story – the few Jews of the village had a Torah Scroll, and when the Germans heard about it they forced the Jews to throw it into a burning oven. When the Germans left the place, the Jews put out the fire and were able to rescue some pages. When they asked the Rabbi in Maytchet what to do

[Page 71]

with them, he said that the rescued pages should be buried in the Maytchet cemetery.

After 5 months, the policemen came and took all the Jews from the surrounding villages to the Karelits ghetto. We were forced to remain in one house. We worked very hard, filling sacks with potatoes and grain, which were sent to Germany. We were also forced to clean the houses occupied by the German soldiers and the local police. One day, an order was received to move some of the people, including those of the village, to Novogrudok. We were a group of over one hundred people walking 25 kilometers. When we arrived in Novogrudok at night, they did not take us to the ghetto but instead moved us to the prison. I vividly remember that night being a nightmare. They made us remove all our clothing and then searched our clothes and bodies for gold. In the morning they moved us to the ghetto and put us in the barn. We were sent to work in a military base. The Germans wanted to abuse us, so we were sent to the graves of the first “Aktion” victims to cut some flowers to bring to the cook. After two weeks they were short of workers in the Dvoretz ghetto, so we were moved to work in the quarries there.

During this time, the Germans took some Russian prisoners to work in Germany. Some were able to escape to the forest, and this was when the local partisans became active. The Gendarme (police) tried to hunt them down, and they sent Jews in the front line to absorb the gunshots. That is how we became aware of the partisans. One day I went to Yatra to search for food with my mother and my brother Meir, and with the help of a gentile, we managed to bring some to the Dvoretz ghetto. Before the massacre in Maytchet, the Jews there supplied food to the ghetto.

Two months after this massacre, my family moved to the Jedon Forest; my father, mother, my brother Meir, and me; Peshe and Meir Abramovitz--his brother Michael Abramovitz had previously joined the partisans.

We were living outside under the sky, and at times worked at nearby gentiles' homes in order to get some food. When winter came, we moved to “Zamalinka”. Sometimes the partisans came and killed German soldiers and the number of partisans grew day by day. The Germans punished the nearby villagers for helping the partisans, so the survivors from the village and from the Dvoretz ghetto joined us.

Near Maytchet were the partisans of “Otriad Beilski”, and I eventually joined them. During Purim in 1943, the Germans searched for the partisans. One group contained 27 partisans and only 7 survived. My father was captured, moved to the Novogrudok prison, and was murdered there. The survivors were my mother and my brother, Abraham Kaplan and his son, Tzim Kaplan and Sonia, Peshe Abramovitz.

I met the seven survivors in “Otriad Bielski. We were there until the independence, at which time we came to Novogrudok and were released in a ceremony, where we received medals.


[Page 72]

The Tragic End

By Haya Lubchik

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(A dirge)

It is deathly still in Maytchet, the townsfolk are happy[1],
The impetuous, stubborn Jews are no more,
Those who stumbled here
With their own Sabbath and their own festivals.
Although we lived in peace with the Jews,
We always thought about pogroms in our dreams,
And when the golden times came,
Why did you remain so indifferent from afar?!…

Come, townsfolk brethren with the German hordes,
Let us murder our former friends,
For what is there better in life
Than Jewish blood and Jewish pogroms?
Fruitlessly did the innocent, holy victims
Wait for a feeling of mercy from the world.
They lived to see the awaited hour -
First they murdered, then they also inherited!.,[2]

There they go, the multitude whom have been sentenced to death,
With pale faces and languid lips.
The fear of death peering forth from their eyes,
Hunched in pain, bowed in tribulations.
Mothers nestle their children in terror,
Fathers are wrapped in their tallises,

[Page 73]

Going on their final way, a multitude of the living dead.
They are escorting their own funeral procession!…

They are quiet, no sobbing is heard,
Only with “Shema Yisrael… and “Echad[3] on their lips,
A shot… And they fall, some dead, some still moving -- Oh earth, do not cover their blood!…
It is dark, even the stones are writhing,
Yisgadal[4] rustles the old, fluttering trees,
Kel Male Rachamim[5] drips down from the silent heavens,
From this funeral, nobody returns!…

Impoverished Jewish Maytchet, what has become of you,
You have been destroyed; your years have been cut off,
A deserted market, without shops, stalls,
The row of shops with their ripped open cargo,
The study hall, synagogue, and Hassidic shtibel,
Stand in shame, dazed with pain -
There is no longer any people to worship there, to supplicate,
No longer anybody to step over the doorstep.

The Tarbut School is enveloped in deep fury
Like a mother who has lost all her children.
With pain, it looks upon the large synagogue courtyard,
Where children used to dance and run merrily.
And upon the wide Maytchet fields
Let there be no more dew or rain,
Let only wild thorns and stones
Adorn your accursed paths!…

[Page 74]

However, a comfort glows in the hearts -
Only the bodies have been annihilated, not the soul…
The dear souls are eternally bound with us,
On joyous occasions, on festivals, they are with us,
We name our children with their names.

We, the surviving Jews of Maytchet

Will always be your burning eternal flame.
With pain, pride, and holy fire We will carry our beloved dear ones in our hearts,
To go through the nights with the worries
And brighten the coming morning,
A memorial of words, and a well of comfort
For your holy, tormented souls!…

Translator's footnotes

  1. The word ‘miestshanes’ could mean townsfolk or estate owners. It is also likely a play on the name Maytchet, as the sound is similar. The meaning here is seemingly a derogatory term for Maytchet townsfolk. Return
  2. See I Kings 21:19. Return
  3. The first two words and final word of the verse “Hear Oh Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is one,… an integral part of the daily prayers, as well as the final words on the lips of a Jew at death. Return
  4. The first word of the Kaddish prayer. Return
  5. The first words of the Jewish prayer for the dead, recited at funerals, Yizkor services and other occasions. Return

 

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