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[Page 199]

“Amal is Geven a Stetl”
Ruzhinoy as I Remember

 

Once There Was A Shtetl

Joseph Abramovitsch

Translated by Lillian Olshansky


Dyed is my garment in wine that is bloody;
I trod in the winepress and – all by myself!
The winepress is full, and I am but one;
I called on the nations, but nobody came!

“From Isaiah” – I. L. Peretz

This book of Ruzhnoy was written and published in Hebrew. The publishers of the book, which must serve as a tombstone for the destroyed shtetl, wanted to remain faithful to the old custom of the Jewish communities of conducting the town business in traditional Hebrew. Also, Israel today has the largest number of Ruzhnoyer who still have vivid memories of the shtetl and still live with these memories; and only the Israel Ruzhnoyer Society was in a position to publish such a book. It is, therefore, no wonder that this book appears in the language of Israel. As a memorial, however, this book would not be true to itself, if it had completely muted the language in which the shtetl lived, worked and was annihilated. We place this written gravestone in memory of our loved ones who were murdered as a result of not having come to Israel. In so doing, we must remember the language of our fathers and mothers, the language in which they said their farewells to us with tears and blessings when we left the shtetl. In remembrance of the mother tongue of our shtetl we are, therefore, writing this additional chapter in Yiddish.

Because of limited space we can only give a general overview of Ruzhnoy and her institutions as she remains in our memories.

Ruzhnoy As We Remember It

Ruzhnoy was a shtetl like all other shtetlach of its kind in Poland and White Russia, settled for many generations between fields and woods, near hills with birch trees, near a river with a wooden bridge and swampy meadows, an old and settled shtetl, that had a history of hundreds of years behind her, and that had already renewed her appearance several times.

After every great disaster she replaced her low thatch-roofed houses with brick houses with red roof tiles; from time to time paved the main streets with large stones; renovated the porches, white-washed the chimneys, and appeared young and brave again.

Ruzhnoy had a large market with two double circles of shops. Near them were two churches with tall steeples and large churchyards which contained the priests' houses, surrounded by trees, with their servants and vicious dogs.

From the marketplace the shtetl branched out on all sides, and spread out over a large area with its streets and alleys.

The longest streets were the two main streets - Schloss Gass [Castle Street] and Vilner Gass [Vilna Street].

They were considered more important because of their larger houses and their genteel occupants, because of the factories that used to be there, and because they were authentically Jewish streets.

Schloss Gass – the name is self-evident – recalled a street with a historical palace, in which Polish magnates lived and ruled. It is true that most of the palace was burned down during the First World War, however, the surviving portion looked imposing and gave the shtetl a special importance. The canal stream that quietly snaked through the shtetl imparted much charm to the Schloss Gass. Cutting across Schloss Gass and then Milner Gass [Mill Street], the stream flowed gently over the meadows and emptied into the Ruzhnoyer River.

Milner Gass was named for a large water mill (crafted in an Asian style) that once stood at the end of the street, near the river. The street had two-storied brick houses, and further on were large tanneries and leather workshops that were a source of pride.

Saturday evening, when everyone used to go out to promenade, Milner Gass was crowded with people dressed up in their Sabbath clothes, strolling back and forth.

A little to one side, as if it especially wanted to separate itself from the world, was the Ruzhnoyer synagogue courtyard.

Between small wooden houses, on a wide unfenced plaza, stood three buildings close together. The tallest of these was the “Big Synagogue,” a tall, white-painted building, with tall narrow windows and a half-round tin roof.

The synagogue occupied the place of honor and lent beauty to the whole courtyard with its old aristocratic appearance.

Near the synagogue stood the prayer house, with its thick gray walls, where the rabbi and his assistant prayed, and which was always filled with worshippers from the Talmud Society and the Mishnah Society.

A little to one side stood another prayer house where the craftsmen worshipped. They could not allow themselves time for too much conversation during prayers and readings; between afternoon and morning prayers they had to be satisfied with studying a short section, or to simply say a few chapters of the Book of Psalms before they got back to work.

Not far from these three buildings were two more prayer houses which considered themselves part of the synagogue courtyard: the two-story Agudah Bet Midrash in which there was a place for Sabbath hospitality and for a yeshivah, and the Talmud Torah which also had a regular minyan.

Besides the prayer houses of the synagogue court, Ruzhnoy also possessed various small synagogues in other parts of the town.

The side streets of Ruzhnoy had nothing to be ashamed of in their appearance. It is true they were not all paved, but this allowed them to have large yards fenced in with wooden rails and pickets.

The houses here were smaller, but the gardens and orchards were large.

In the summer time the small houses were almost completely drenched in green. A little less cozy was the Gentile section.

There one was always aware of the mixed smells of fresh hay and rotten manure and garbage.

From the stalls and yards one could hear cries of the domestic animals and the barking of dogs.

The town was laid out in a broad valley between the low Slonim hills on one side and the distant Volkovysk hills on the other; and the naked, half-burned, mysterious palace looked down on all of this from the Castle Hill.

Life and Livelihood

Ruzhnoy had a Jewish community of several thousand souls, which had led its distinctive life over hundreds of years, side by side with a Gentile population that was always alien, separate and, for the most part, hostile.

The Jewish life in Ruzhnoy went along on its own well-trodden path - not concerning itself with what the Gentiles intended and did - without fear, secure and proud, as if it were not the Gentiles but actually they, the Jews, who controlled everything and everyone. With a sort of scorn and indifference they lived their modest lives, did what they had to and what was allowed, in order to support a family in dignity, to study Torah, do good deeds, and be virtuous Jews before God and in the eyes of the world.

As did all the Jews in the area, most of the Ruzhnoyer Jews made a living from trade and handicrafts. There was a time when Ruzhnoy had great weaving and spinning factories and great tanneries.

The Ruzhnoyer woolen blankets, the thick and thin pelts, had a market in the larger world. At that time, Ruzhnoy had its Jewish proletarians who subsisted only on their daily wages.

There were Jewish weavers, spinners, spool winders, Jewish wet and and dry tanners. After the First World War, during the time of the Polish rule, all the factories were liquidated and many Ruzhnoyer wandered overseas to seek a livelihood in the big world.

In more recent times, the Jews lived off their small stores and artisan workshops. Some of them traded with landowners, leasing a mill, having a monopoly on whiskey. Those who had expertise in forest and wood trade were middlemen and brokers of forests. They set upsawmills and built distilleries for extracting tar and turpentine from the wood.

Market days and the large fairs were an important source of income for the Ruzhnoyer. Peasants flocked in from the surrounding villages. Butchers and horse-traders came from the nearby towns. Dealers came to buy fox fur, pig hair, dried mushrooms and berries, and all kinds of different merchandise.

Ruzhnoy also had Jewish farm workers. There were two Jewish villages near the shtetl (the “old” and the “new” colonies), with Jewish peasants who pursued a rural agriculture, working and living like the Gentile peasants in the area.

Members of these villages were among the founders of the early Jewish colonies in Israel. A number emigrated to Argentina and settled there in similar agricultural communities.

Most of them, however, remained in the Ruzhnoyercolonies as farmers.

The two colonies (their official names were Pavlava and Constantinova) were founded in 1850.

Tsar Nicholas I, at that time, allowed a number of Jewish families to settle in villages and work as farmers. Thirty families settled in Pavlava and fifteen in Constantinova. Every family received a plot of ground.

Ancestry and Heritage

Every shtetl has its history and legends that are told and written about in the town chronicles,memorialized on parchment and on the gravestones in the cemetery. Ruzhnoy had its own rich past and lineage and took great pride in its martyrs.

The place of honor in Ruzhnoy's page in history is given over to the “Martyrs of Ruzhnoy.”

This is the story of a blood-libel that took place in Ruzhnoy three hundred years ago, shortly after Chmielnitzki's times.

A Gentile boy who had been stabbed was thrown into the cellar of a Jewish house by Jew-hating Gentiles. They blamed the Jews, whom they accused of killing the boy in order to use his blood in baking matzos. It was then decreed that all the Jews of Ruzhnoy should be put to death. Two young men, named Israel and Tuvieh, sacrificed themselves and surrendered to the hangman. The entire story with all the details of their martyrdom was described in the book “Daas Hakedoshim.”

Since then, a special prayer was said in the Ruzhnoyer synagogues every Rosh Hashonah in remembrance of the martyred men.

Ruzhnoy was also proud of its rabbis. Well known rabbis, who became famous for their innovations in the rabbinical literature, sat on the Ruzhnoyer rabbinical council. Among them was Rabbi Jonathan Bar Joseph, author of “The Salvation of Israel,” printed in Frankfurt in 1720, a valuable book with an astronomical explanation of mystical events.

Rabbi Itzhak Isaac Chaver was the author of several books.

Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Jaffee was one of the first rabbis to involve himself in an organization that encouraged aliyah of farmers toIsrael. He helped lead a group of Jewish peasants from the Ruzhnoyer colonies to Israel, and he himself settled in Jerusalem.

Among the last rabbis in Ruzhnoy was Rabbi Shabbtai Wallach, who was very active and involved. He happened to be an uncle of Litvinov.

The large yeshivahs were an important part of Ruzhnoy's heritage. They were supported by the wealthy Piness and Chvonik families. Many young men were attracted to Ruzhnoy's yeshivahs from other towns.

These “yeshivah bocherim” [students] were assisted by Ruzhnoyer proprietors and landlords who supplied them with “teg” [meals provided at certain houses on given days of the week], and with lodging at an inn.

A separate page would record Ruzhnoy's idealists, its wealthy benefactors, and its ordinary people who did a great deal for charity and good deeds.

They used to talk about one woman who anonymously distributed her rich husband's money among the sick and needy. David the teacher, a Jew who himself lived in poverty, used to cajole money from rich people and give it to poor Jews and Christians. Laybe-Vash, a wealthy Jew, gave away most of his fortune secretly, as anonymous gifts. Others included Jakov Limun, Nyomele the butcher, and more.

Ruzhnoy's heritage included a whole series of devoted community workers who were active in the town proper and later became famous in the Jewish world at large. Foremost among them was Yechiel Michel Piness, one of the delegates to the First Zionist Congress.

In 1878 he liquidated his businesses and settled in Israel, where he was active in various communal activities.

In later years there was Aaron Libeshitsky, who was a Hebrew teacher and writer, and a composer of children's songs and stories.

Zelig Shereshevsky (Sher) was a labor activist in Ruzhnoy and one of the founders of “Zionist – Socialists.” He spent a long time in prison for political activities. In America, as of this day [1957], Shereshevsky is active in the Workmen's Circle and is one of the popular columnists in the newspaper, “The Forward.”

Melech Epstein, the son of the teacher Shmuel Chaim Eppletreger, was to become a well-known labor leader in America. He began his political activities in the Labor Zionist circles and later became one of the leaders of the Yiddishist circles in Warsaw. He came to America as a political émigré. At first he was involved in Zionism, but eventually went over to the Communist Party and was editor of the communist newspaper “Freiheit” for many years.

Moishe Limun was one of the first Zionist activists in the shtetl. He was active in the student circles in Kharkov where he became well -known as a gifted speaker. Returning to Poland, he was selected to be a member of the Central Committee of the Zionist organization, and for a long time was chairman of the Zionist organization in Lodz.

Dr. Laibl Chvonick, a son of the famous wealthy family, left his home and moved to Israel where he was involved with the workers' movement. Disregarding his large medical practice, he always found time for many varied community activities.

Mendke Chvonick was an outstanding chess player. As chess-master from Israel he took part in some international chess tournaments. He also had a top role in the Israeli teachers' association.

Ruzhnoy played a role in the history of the Jewish labor movement. In 1878 a weavers' strike broke out in Ruzhnoy at the Piness factory. It quickly escalated into a general strike of all the workshops in the town. In the Tsarist times of that day, striking was a heroic feat. The manufacturers moved heaven and earth to break the “Bundists,” but they accomplished nothing. The workers did not give in and they won the strike.

In the final years before the destruction of the Jewish community, Ruzhnoy produced young community leaders who continued the idealistic traditions of the earlier generations. These young people were involved either with charitable institutions or were active in political parties. Most of them devoted themselves whole-heartedly to the Zionist cause in the organizations “Hashomer-Hatzeir” and “Hachalutz.” But also, the opponents of Zionism, the youths of communist camps, did their work in accordance with their sincere convictions, and more than one of them languished in prison for many years because of their ideals.

The Communal Life

The legal affairs in Ruzhnoy were conducted for many years in the traditional manner. The rich men of the town, the trustees of the synagogue, together with several community leaders, were obliged, for the sake of good deeds, to concern themselves with the appropriate financial means to be able to support a rabbi and an assistant, a cantor, and ritual slaughterers. They also needed to provide for a bathhouse with a kosher “mikve” [ritual bath], a school for poor children [“Talmud Torah”], a Sabbath shelter for poor travelers and other necessary services. The needed funds came from the tax on kosher meat and from selling “aliyehs” [call to read from the Torah].

Also, money was collected for Passover meals for the poor and for marrying of orphans and other poor girls by the community, as a philanthropic service. In addition, pledges and donations were received from good and pious Jews who gave openly and knowingly.

After the First World War the community relations in the town changed greatly. A new generation of community leaders arose who developed a number of economic and cultural institutions that could have served as models for the adjacent towns. Among the developments were the Consumers' Union, organized by the dentist, Papermaker, during wartime, in order to cultivate the unused fields in the area; the Tanners' Cooperative, a voluntary production association of tanneries; the Food Cooperative, where the members were able to buy various kinds of merchandise at cost price; the Free Loan Society and the People's Banks, which served as low-interest credit organizations for the shopkeepers and craftsmen. A successful children's colony house was run in the nearby forest.

On an intellectual level were the cultural institutions. The older generation used to tell about an underground education circle that existed in Ruzhnoy even before Tsarist times. The tanners and weavers used to gather together on Slonim Hill to read illegal socialist literature.

In later years Ruzhnoy could boast of the Self-Education Society, the Young Zionists (Hertzliah), and the Peretz Library. In addition, the shtetl had a beautiful choir, a drama group, and an “Oneg-Shabbes” circle. The frequent readings, the literary evenings and the political lectures always drew many listeners.

A beautiful chapter in Ruzhnoy's history points with pride to its school system. It was said that Ruzhnoy was especially lucky in having good teachers in the Talmud Torah and its private “chedorim” [religious schools]. The Ruzhnoyer Yeshivah also had a good reputation.

Ruzhnoy was one of the first towns to introduce secular schools. Nearly fifty years ago Ruzhnoy already had a kindergarten: Baylke Rabinovitch was the first in the area to found a kindergarten for four- to five-year-old children. The “Children's Home” during the time of the German occupation (1915-1917) was in itself a successful test in combining learning with handicrafts; and it conducted a children's club and a school kitchen. A new spirit in the town brought in the Jewish secular public school in 1921. This popular way of learning, the steady contact with parents, and the fact that the basic language was Yiddish, attracted a large parents' group from among the working people and made the school into an important cultural center in the town. A year after the establishment of the Jewish school, the Hebrew school was started, and it became very successful in a short time.

The prosperous elements and the Zionist circles saw in the Hebrew school the best means of eliminating the “left” leanings that had grown in the town during that time. Also, the Hebrew school was blessed with devoted teachers, and thanks to them, the Zionist activity was strengthened. Most of the membership of the Zionist youth organization was recruited from among the Hebrew students.

Ruzhnoy was able to organize self-defense groups that could handle pogroms very effectively. It taught the hooligans that the Jews in the town were not defenseless. The first self-defense group was organized in 1905 by the Tanners' Union; and the Ruzhnoyer volunteer firemen (led by Abba Levitan) chased the rabble-rousing pogromists out of town more than once.

During the time of the Poles, the Gentiles knew that a well-organized self-defense group existed in the town. The Polish troublemakers were taught a lesson when they got the notion to “entertain” themselves in the town: Ephraim Gustavsky, Chaim-Isser Abramovitsch and other Jewish young men made the Poles understand that the Jews did not rely on the Polish police to defend them.

In the Claws of the Nazis

It's burning! Dear brothers, it's burning!
Alas, our poor unfortunate shtetl is burning!
Angry, raging winds
Tearing, breaking and blowing,
Fan the wild flames ever strongly.
Everything around us is already burning.

“It's Burning” – Mordechai Gevirtig

Ruzhnoyer Jews shared the bitter fate of all the Jews in Poland. In November of 1942 they were ruthlessly torn away from their homes and sent out on a road of agony to the gas ovens of Treblinka.

In Ruzhnoy the Nazi beasts succeeded in achieving their devilish plan completely. Not a remnant remained of the Ruzhnoyer Jews who found themselves in the town under the German occupation. Only two people have been located until now, who went through the Nazi hell, and, with the Ruzhnoyer, lived through the suffering and anguish of that horrible time. The two are:

CHANA KIRSHTEIN, a woman from Kalish who, in 1939, fled with her husband, JULIAN, from their city, Kalish. In their wanderings they happened to come to Ruzhnoy, and there they met their bitter fate. Julian Kirshtein was shot in Ruzhnoy by the Germans – part of the first group to be killed. His wife, Chana, remained in Ruzhnoy, and in November 1942 was taken to Volkovysk in order to be transported to an extermination camp. Arriving in Volkovysk, Chana Kirshtein succeeded in escaping to the Aryan side and, disguising herself as a Gentile, she was able to stay alive.

DR. NOAH KAPLINSKI, a young doctor from Slonim, went through the great slaughter, when the Germans, together with Ukrainian bands, murdered all the Jews in the Slonim ghetto. Dr. Kaplinski fled from Slonim in July l942; he wanted to steal through Ruzhnoy at night to Volkovysk, and from there get to Bialystok. In Slonim they used to say - relates Dr. Kaplinski – that in Ruzhnoy and Volkovysk the Germans would not kill all the Jews, because these towns together with the entire Bialystok quarter were allocated to the German Reich, while Slonim and Baronovitch belonged to the Russian sector, to White Russia.

Dr. Kaplinski and several other Jews from Slonim smuggled themselves into Ruzhnoy with the help of Gentile guides. They were sheltered for two days by Ruzhnoyer Jews, then wandered further toward Volkovysk. Dr. Kaplinski tells that during the two days in Ruzhnoy they felt as if they were in paradise, having seen with their own eyes what happened in Slonim. They knew what was taking place in other towns, and, therefore, they were very uneasy about the calm of the people in Ruzhnoy. They were treated well in the town, given food and drink. The Judenrat [Jewish Council] provided them with false papers as Bialystokers, all done gratis in order to help. With those papers they departed for Volkovysk free as birds.

Several months later, Dr. Kaplinski met up with the Ruzhnoyers once again. This time he saw them broken, suffering, starving, in the Volkovysk barracks.

We will now briefly include what the individual witnesses narrated at a memorial gathering of Ruzhnoyer that took place in Tel-Aviv.

Chana Kirshtein's story:

The First Victims

“Ten days have passed that we have been under the occupation. The Jews go about under great tension, but they are quiet. Everyone occupies himself with his usual work. They carefully observe all the injunctions. Jews are not allowed to walk on the sidewalk but must walk in the middle of the street; you must take your hat off to every German; after sunset a Jew is not allowed out of doors. Everyone is behind closed doors; they sit in the dark or behind thickly covered windows.

One evening, when the Jews were hurrying home, the Germans suddenly started pulling men from the streets and houses and took them to the synagogue courtyard. After a short time they brought in nearly 1,000 men. The place was surrounded by armed Germans, all standing facing the synagogue and behind them were soldiers with machine guns. The Germans then chose 15 men, mostly intellectuals, put them into trucks and took them off in an unknown direction. Later on it was learned that they had all been shot.

Among the first victims were Jacob Kaplan, David Noah Sokolovski, Julian Kirshtein.” Chana Kirshtein does not remember who the others were.

Pressure in the Ghetto

“The Nazi noose became tighter and tighter around the neck. The restrictions became worse and worse. The Jews were forced to wear the yellow symbol of shame [yellow star]. The Judenrat had to supply more and more workers for forced labor. At every step the Jews were insulted and beaten. New arrests took place and the Germans demanded ransom to free the prisoners. The Jews gathered their money together and gave up their wedding rings. But the Germans never kept their promise. They took the gold and those arrested never came back.

“The ghetto that the Germans allotted to the Jews was so small that two or three families occupied one small room. The Germans and local Gentiles stole the Jews' belongings. Seldom did a Gentile show compassion; most of them helped the Germans in their horrible deeds. There were Gentiles who smuggled food into the ghetto, but they did it only for money. Every piece of bread had to be paid for with something of value.

The Germans took pains to create discord among the Jews. They would bait one against another, force one to inform against another. From day to day, the Jews were pressured and humiliated more and more, and became more exhausted and starved. They were helpless and defeated, not knowing where help would come from.”

Their Last Days

“The night of the first to the second of November 1942, the Jews in the shtetl did not sleep. All night long they heard the clatter of the motorcycles, the noise of movement, yells from the German soldiers and Polish policemen – there was a feeling that something was about to happen.

At dawn the emissaries from the Judenrat came and gave notice that all Jews, from children to adults, must gather on the meadow near the bath. Each one was allowed to take along a small bag of belongings, and the things of value that they owned, as they would not be returning to Ruzhnoy.

All the men with their wives and children would ostensibly be taken to a work camp. The order stated that if one member of a family was missing, the entire family would be shot.

“In the morning it appeared as if everyone was going to a funeral. From every corner Jews were on their way to the place of assembly. Men carried bundles, women held children's hands. Some cried silently, others lamented aloud. Many walked slowly with bowed heads, with empty hands and with a deathlike detachment.

At the assembly place the Germans were waiting, armed with automatic guns and vicious dogs. The adults were lined up in rows; the small children were thrown into wagons belonging to the Gentiles. The checking, the counting and the lining up of the people were accompanied by blows from the heavy blackjacks, barking of dogs and shooting. A mother, who tried to go to her child, who was in a wagon, was shot on the spot.

“The living funeral went on its way. The armed Germans were mounted on horses, and they constantly hurried the Jews on foot to go faster. Those who stopped were beaten murderously, and if one fell and was not able to go on he was shot right then and there. The road - a sandy, difficult road - led to Volkovysk. The day was also blazing hot; seldom was it so hot in November. Exhausted and thirsty, they went forth with their last bit of strength. The Germans behaved like wild animals. They shot for every little thing . The entire route was sown with dead bodies. Very many were shot near water wells. The Germans shot anyone running to get a drink. The languishing children did not think about this and dozens of them met their deaths licking water from the puddles.

“On the third of November the half-conscious Ruzhnoyer arrived in Volkovysk. The mothers looked around and saw that the children were missing. Every family was only now able to realize which of their members were missing. In Volkovysk the people from Ruzhnoy were packed like cattle into dark, earthen barracks, that appeared worse than pigsties, and here they had to wait to be sent to a 'work camp'…”

In the Volkovysk memorial book, which was published in New York by Dr. Einhorn, there is this description of the last days of the Ruzhnoyer in the Volkovysk barracks:

“The Ruzhnoyer Jews occupied the bunkers opposite the Volkovyskers. They took up a block of eight small bunkers. Their quarters were far worse than those of the Volkovysker Jews. The two thousand Ruzhnoyer Jews could not all fit into the bunkers at night, because there was not enough room for all of them on the planks, and many of them had to remain outside. If the death rate of the camp as a whole was high, it was even higher among the Ruzhnoyer Jews. Now, near the transports, they were the first to go to the fire.

“At the designated time, two o'clock at night, the Gestapo appeared in the camp and began to drive the Ruzhnoyer Jews out of their bunkers. Under a hail of blows and gunshots in the air, they were driven out together to one spot not far from the camp. There they were lined up in rows and were closely guarded.

When the required number was fulfilled, they were led to the freight cars that stood in the open field. They were forced into the cars and the train started to move in the direction of the center of Volkovysk. That day the temperature had dropped to twenty degrees and there was a terrible snowstorm. The cries and screams of the people truly split the heavens.

That was the first transport from the Volkovysk bunker.

“By morning the entire Ruzhnoyer block was emptied and the entrance to the camp was locked. Only on the third day did they assign around a hundred young men to 'clean up the block.' Among the bundles of rags and various other things, they discovered several dozen stiffened corpses of the sick and weak Jews who were unable to make the trip on the transport. The Germans had allowed them a slow death, and only when they had all died did the Germans order the block cleaned.”

What goes on in the shtetl after the war no one knows. At the end of 1945, two Ruzhnoyer Jews, returning from Russia, visited the shtetl. The two people are: YANKEL SHAMSHANOVITCH (Yankel Vitzes) and NAFTALI KANTOROVITZ (Naftalke der Garber). The town was almost all burned down. Only the Gentile side streets were untouched. The single Jewish building left standing intact was the big Synagogue. The two visitors could not stay in the town very long; they felt as if they were in a graveyard. The Gentiles looked at them with suspicion mixed with fear, as if they were asking: What are these ghosts doing here?

In the town at that time there were actually two young men, the only ones who survived in the forest – SHMUEL BLISNOSKI, Arke Gomerman's son-in-law, and CHAIM DAVID SAVULSKI, Berl Shepes' son, from the new colony. Shmuel is the only one who remained in the town, and Chaim David later went to his sister in Russia.

Ruzhnoy no longer exists. The little Jewish shtetl of Ruzhnoy has been erased from the world. On the map of western White Russia there is a small black dot, marked with the word “Ruzhany,” but that no longer has any connection with Ruzhnoy.

Ruzhany today is a small half-burned Gentile town. The Gentiles have lot of open space there. They can build new houses on the foundations and mounds of ash from the burned-down Jewish houses.

They are now actually moving from the “Pig Street” to the Castle Street. They carry heavy bags, they take along their possessions – the down pillows, the copper pots and the porcelain dishes, ladles, glass goblets, brass lamps, silver candlesticks and other such articles, that they now have in abundance.

The youth of Ruzhany, the young Gentile men and women, have never seen a Jew. The old people do not want to remember the Jews any more; they want to forget them forever.

They have already knocked down the long fence of the old Jewish Cemetery, they have spread out on all sides the gravestones dating back hundreds of years, they have chopped down the trees, plowed up all the graves…but there remains standing, in the middle of the town, a pale, orphaned building – the Jewish “Big Synagogue.”

She stands, as a solitary, vindictive figure, waiting for God.

 

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