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[Page 145]

ost145a.jpg
The first Shomrim organization (a HaShomer HaTzair nest) 1923

First from the right: Awigdor Eisenstein (Secretary of the nest).
Last from the right: Mosze Gedanken (Head of the “nest”).
In the center: Pesach Hochberg

The HaShomer HaTzair
Members' Hike to Myszyniec

About 36 years have passed since then, but I remember everything as if it were today.

From the moment we began to plan the trip to Myszyniec, each of us waged a hard struggle with our parents, who under no circumstances would agree to the trip. How could they possibly allow young children to walk 40 kilometers through fields and forests? When we explained to them, however, that a group of responsible adults would accompany us and, in particular, that Pesach Hochberg would be at their head – they finally agreed.

We packed our rucksacks, and early in the morning marched through the old market toward the big iron bridge, on our way to Myszyniec. After a march of seven kilometers, we stopped in the big city of Ladzisk, for our first rest. We opened our rucksacks and ate breakfast with great appetite. Our spirits were high. After a short break, we continued on our way. We sang songs of the Land of Israel in Hebrew all the time, and our enthusiasm grew. The farmers in the area listened to our song and said among themselves that these were the future soldiers of Palestine (they were not wrong, because most of the young people of our group did achieve this …).

 

ost145b.jpg
Members of the HaShomer HaTzair
at a conference in Wingrow in 1935

 

And so, after a few breaks for rest, we finally reached Myszyniec. I remember the first “reception”

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with which Reb Icchak Meir, the well-known fanatic, favored us, accompanied by a torrent of cursing and swearing: “Why are your girls wearing blouses with short sleeves?! Why have you come here, abominations? To spoil our children? Get out of here!” But none of us paid attention to his words. We were literally drunk with the success of our hike. The local population, Jews and Christians alike, received us with warmth and friendliness. We finally got a break of a few hours and went to see the town. In the afternoon, we had a soccer game against the Polish scouts. I do not remember the result, but the impression remains that we won after scoring some goals. Almost all the townspeople were present at the game. For them, this was a big sensation.

Shimon Chamiel, Tel Aviv

 

ost146a.jpg
A group of girls joins HaShomer HaTzair after finishing their school studies

 

ost146b.jpg
A group of youngsters in the Tzofim and Beit Alpha movements in 1932

 

ost146c.jpg
HaShomer HaTzair echelon in Ostrolenka in 1936

In the top row, standing first from the left, the head of the nest, Shalom Chmiel, who lives in Israel on Kibbutz HaMaapil
In the top row, standing second from the left, Beniamin Karlinski, passed away in Israel
In the top row, standing fourth from the left, Fruma Margalit-Yuvan, who lives in Israel
All the rest were killed in the Holocaust

 

[Page 147]

HaShomer HaTzair as a
Scouting Organization in 1921

With the return of the Jews to Ostrolenka after World War I, and especially after the war between Poland and the Soviets in 1920, new winds began to blow in the Jewish street of Ostrolenka. The Balfour Declaration and the famous slogan of Herzl, “If you will it, it is no dream", excited many Jews and awakened in them the hope of a social, economic and cultural revival. The brave deeds of the HaShomer people and, later, Tel Hai, where Trumpeldor and his comrades fell defending the Yeshuv [the Zionist community in Palestine], became a ray of light in the tractate of the revival of the Jewish people in the Land of Its Fathers. All this brought about the establishment of a scouting organization called HaShomer HaTzair in Ostrolenka (in addition to other Zionist organizations) in 1921. Members Sztokman, Awigdor Eisenstein, Mosze Gedanken and Eli Bajuk were in the movement's leadership. In contrast to other cities, where the ranks of HaShomer HaTzair were filled by aristocratic families – HaShomer HaTzair of Ostrolenka opened its gates to youths from the working class, something that aroused in us the hope of real Jewish life. Besides this, there were meetings and trips to cities and towns in the area, like HaShomer HaTzair's march in Ostrolenka, the famous bicycle trip with our sports group to Lomza and Czerwoni Bor in 1925, Lag BaOmer celebrations run by Pesach Hochberg, of blessed memory, comradely outings to the country and our return towards evening, when crowds of Jews came to meet us near the bridge. All these gave serious impetus to the flowering of Zionist activity in the city. A Zionist library and a drama circle were established and, in the municipal theater, a play was presented called HaShomer. Happiness and faith filled our hearts.

To our sorrow, the Fourth Aliyah brought bitter disappointment with it. In Israel, a crisis broke out and almost all the Ostrolenkan pioneers who had emigrated to Israel returned home. Black clouds covered the blue skies of the Land of Israel. This was the hour of the Bund, which rose up and openly expressed its pleasure at the Zionist “failure”.

I remember how one of the Bund's most important functionaries expressed himself at one of their mass meetings: “I come now from the country called Eretz Yisrael, which is supposed to be the solution to the Jewish problem. I traveled its breadth and length, and searched for industry, work and workshops. I wandered on the sands of Tel Aviv until I reached a brick factory. I climbed to the top of the chimney, I stuck my nose in and tried to smell smoke – and there was nothing! Zionist bankruptcy!”

In addition, the migration of some active members of HaShomer HaTzair to Cuba and other South American countries led to the temporary paralysis of the organization in Ostrolenka. People became indifferent, depressed. But in the depths of our hearts there dwelled a strong will for revival, for renewal! We knew that there was no place in the Diaspora for Jewish youth. Under absolutely no circumstances! We felt that it was in our power to make the idea of the Zionist and socialist Land of Israel come alive.

One Sabbath in 1927, a group of Shomrim and veteran members sat in the park, sang Land of Israel songs and decided to establish the HaShomer HaTzair movement anew. Of course, we got “first aid", that is, money, from Pesach Hochberg, of blessed memory. He was a veteran Shomer, a patron and the person responsible, together with Eli Bajuk, vis a vis the Polish government.

HaShomer HaTzair renewed its activity, not just as a scouting movement, but also to implement pioneering. We began preparing members for a new life and hard work in Israel. We also renewed other dormant activities: Keren Kayemeth, Keren HaYesod, the library, etc. Already in 1928, two members, Jehuda Chomont and Chaim Piaseczny, went to the HaShomer HaTzair hachshara in the town of Rosz.

The events of 1929 and the fall of our comrade, Dawid Lew, in the battle to protect Jerusalem, led to agitation in the ranks of the pioneer-Zionist movement in our city. All the Zionist organizations came to demonstrations against the British Mandatory Government in Israel. A protest meeting took place in the study hall's courtyard, with a great crowd in attendance and the participation of youths and adults as one. The HaShomer HaTzair ideal penetrated more and more into the gray lives of Ostrolenka's working masses, and became a serious competitor of the Bund. Keren Kayemet and Keren HaYesod charity boxes made their way into inhabitants' homes and became something holy. Pesach Hochberg's great efforts should be mentioned here. His house became a center of

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Zionist activity in Ostrolenka. He received the “Be strong and of good courage” gold medal from the central leadership for his devotion to the organization. This award was given only to very special individuals who excelled. Evening classes were established under the direction of Gedalja Rozenblum, the well-know Hebrew teacher. The Culture School was founded. It existed in Ostrolenka for only a number of years and then closed, because of financial problems and also because of the opposition of extremist religious groups in the Jewish population. Despite this, we continued holding evening courses, bringing the Hebrew language to the Jewish street.

In time, we founded hachshara kibbutzim. The first garin [a small group of people planning to establish a new settlement] of Kibbutz HaMaapil met in Ostrolenka. A hachshara point was founded in Chmielnik (in the region of Kielc). Twelve members went there, among them four Ostrolenkans: Jehuda Chomont (Icchaki), Fejga Granowicz, Szejna Calka and Chaim Piaseczny. We learned about life and about the insipid difficulties of the day.

Brisk, 1934. The last stop on the wandering, pioneering way before emigration to Israel. A new generation with a different way of life took the place of the veteran members who continued to spin the thread of their ideals …

Many of the Shomrim and pioneers who went to hachshara, and were on the verge of emigrating to Israel, did not get to fulfill their dream, which was tragically cut off by the hands of the German murderers. They will always be remembered by Ostrolenkans in the State of Israel and will live in their hearts forever.

Chaim Piaseczny, Tel Aviv

 

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