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Shchuchin portion of Shchuchin Yizkor Book

 

[Page 59 {145}]

Chapter Two

Between Two World Wars

Translated by Chaim Charutz

Donated by Gary Katz

(The following two paragraphs - ten lines - in Yiddish. The rest of the page in Hebrew)

Aliya to Palestine in 1936 Thanks to Saving a Polish Soldier in 1920.

My Aliya to Palestine in 1936, when the gates Palestine were closed to Aliya, was made possible at the recommendation of the Polish Ministry of Security and External Affairs. The reason for this recommendation stemmed from an incident in 1920, during the war between Bolshevik Russia and the New Polish Kingdom, which had been resurrected two years previously, after 150 years of bondage. On one of those days, a military unit of Polish Legionnaires arrived in our then home village of Demotchvy, near Shtutshin. During the night, a unit of the Russian Army attacked this unit. This forced the legionnaires to retreat towards Grodno. One of the Legionnaires, wounded during the battle, remained stuck within the barn next to our house. I found him there early in the morning. I told no one about this; and, though I was a youth, I treated the Legionnaire for about a week while the Russians were still wandering around in the area. I changed the bandages on his wounds and gave him food and drink. After his wounds had healed and the Russians had disappeared from the area, I sent him off one night in the direction of Lida, where Polish Army units were concentrating.

After a while, I forgot about this incident. However, in the mid-1930's, when the desire to go to Palestine strengthened in me, ("certificates" were unavailable), the idea sprang up in my mind of looking for this legionnaire. I wrote to the Ministry of Security in Warsaw and told about the above incident.

(p. 60 [146]) It was indeed discovered that that Legionnaire was a senior and important officer in the Ministry of Security. He did not deny my story and even personally dealt with the procedure of awarding me a "Medal of Excellence" for my deed. After I asked for a recommendation for the award of a "certificate" from the British Government, he dealt with this as well.

While in Shtutshin, I had been a member of the Beitar Movement, and even before that, I had been raised and educated in a country village. Therefore, when I made Aliya, I turned to agricultural work and have continued to do so all the days of my life in Israel.

Yitschak Epstein

 

[Page 60 {146}]

The House of my Father-Teacher

My father-teacher, Reb Yitschak-Mendel Levin, was one of the leaders of the community and a public activist in many fields. Even on "Market Day" (Thursdays), instead of helping in our dry-goods store, servicing the villagers and "keeping an eye on them", Father used to be busy with the matters of Jews from the area who had come to Shtutshin to trade or to settle various formal matters in government agencies. Father was popular in these agencies as a representative of the Jewish community. Not only the "Voit of the "Gemina" (Local Council), but also the "Starosto" of the "Powiat" (Regional Council) used to come home to us and be alone with father for long periods on various matters because they appreciated his personal intelligence and recognized his public integrity. Father used to exploit these opportunities of good spirit by raising Jewish problems and issues (private and public). That was how he achieved improvements and rebates for public purposes for the inhabitants of the town and the region from government leaders.

My father-teacher's house was a committee-house for the politicians of all circles and classes, organizations and institutions. To our house came the activists of the Jewish Foundation Fund and the JNF, the teachers of the "Tarbut" school, the heads of the Zionist movements, the functionaries of the merchants' association and others like that. A diverse "association" of youngsters always filled our house. These were the boyfriends and girlfriends of three sons and three daughters, (I was the youngest of them), which my mother-teacher, Leah, bore. She passed away in Shtutshin the spring of her life.

My father-teacher was an enthusiastic Zionist and, when my turn came to make Aliya, (in 1938), he parted from me with a smile on his face, and said: "You are travelling to the Land of Israel by ship, while I shall walk there by foot." He did not manage to do it. He went to his end leading his community on the way to its doom. This was the same community for whom he worked all his life. In the same way went all my brothers and my sisters; Leibel and his wife Hella and their two daughters; Herschel with his wife Chana and their daughter; David with his wife and daughter; Chaike with her husband Khanan Gurewitz and their two daughters and son; and Zlotke with her husband Avraham Kaur and their daughter. Let their memories be blessed with the memories of all the inhabitants of my town Shtutshin, who were exterminated by the Nazis and their allies.

Freidka Levin (Shoshana)

 

[Page 61 {147}]

The Shomer Hatzair Cell

We did not succeed in housing our cell in a suitable and spacious apartment because we did not have the financial means. However, it was a common cell for an active and pleasant community life for a large part of the youth. We had three groups ("Young Lions", "Scouts", and "Veterans").  Each of them was active in areas that the movement determined for them in the fields of spiritual and physical education and preparation for Aliya. This activity included many areas: distribution of "blue boxes" and stamps of the JNF and Zionist Congress Shekels; lectures, discussions and "Question and Answer Evenings" on Zionist, political economic, literary and other subjects; advanced studies Hebrew and Land-of-Israel studies; public meetings and debates; active participation in the activities of "Hechalutz" and the League for Working Israel; assistance to the "Tarbut" school, the municipal library, public and cultural circles of a Zionist and progressive nature; and other similar things.

The nature hikes and tours, the sporting and scouting activities, the traditional parade on Lag Ba-Omer, and the exit to summer camps far from the town had a considerable influence, not only on the lives of members of the Shomer-Hatsair, but also on the lives the youth and the town generally. The influence of the Zionist educational activity for self-realization among the members of the Shomer-Hatsair was also emphasized by the number of people who joined the movement's Training Kibbutzim in Poland. These were a relative majority among the "Hachsharaniks" from Shtutshin during that period. These were: Batya Arkin, Batya Grodzeinchick, Gutte Galperin, Sarah Listovsky, Yehudit Marshinsky, Leah Nochkovsky, Pessia Prochansky, Chainke Tsukernik, Channa Kolbovsky, and Miriam Kaplan (all of whom are in Israel), as well as Taibe Galperin, Tsvi Yanchuk, Sonia Losh and Raphael Friedman (who did not manage to make Aliya, and died in the Holocaust).

The Holocaust ended this wonderful creation of the Shomer-Hatsair circle in our town. (P62) The impure hands of the Nazis spilled the innocent blood of our friends. At their head was the dearest of men, Yaakov Radonsky, who, over a period of years, developed the idea of harmony and peace, and trained them for Zionist-Pioneering Realization in the Land of Israel.

Miriam Kaplan (Milman) - Israel

 

[Page 62 {148}]

The Joseph Trumpeldor Pact - Beitar

After the bloody incidents of 1929 in Palestine and the strangling declaration of Passfield's "White Paper", the Jewish youth were disappointed, waiting and asking - Whither? Livelihoods in the town contracted. Anti-Semitism in Poland became worse. The winds of Pogroms started blowing from the large cities of Poland. In their wings was the poison of German National-Socialism.

The return home of our best members, Yitschak Zhamudsky and Simcha Marshinsky (from their high-school studies in Grodno) and Eliyahu Zuckerman (in Lida), laid the foundation of Beitar in Shtutshin. Other founders of the movement were Yitschak Schneider, Alter Ratman, Eliezer Nissan Katz, Shalom Zuckernick and Yitschak Epstein.

(P149-63) The Beitar branch in Shtutshin developed and included many spheres. Among the activities, we should especially mention the establishment of Beitaric Pioneer training at the Rozhanka Railway Station, with the active assistance of Arye Shevach and his wife Elka (nee Schneider). We should also mention the agricultural training at Yatvitsky, the farm of the Polish Krabia, Donin-Burkovsky (with the active assistance of Shalom Vititsky, who lived with his family on the farm).

The Beitar Branch in Shtutshin gathered around itself a number of intellectual youths, dedicated to the Zionist Idea, who dreamed of fighting for the Land of Israel and settling there but did not attain the dream. With the fall of darkness on the House of Israel in Poland, the best of our friends also fell. Let their souls be blessed.

Shalom Tzukernik

 

[Page 63 {149}]

The Public "Beer House"

Quite a number of the Youth and the young people used to wander around the town without interest, action, or even purpose. The possibilities for release from this distress were very limited. During spring and summer, there were excursions in the nearby forest, lying on one's back in the "Frisodes", outside the town, or swimming in the Tureikah River at "By the Rock", where once there was a water mill. During autumn and winter, there were card games in hidden places. At the beginning of the 1930's when a few "Beer-Houses" ("Piviarnyes") opened in the town, a few groups of people of the above type started gathering in them during daylight hours. In the beginning, those sitting in the Beer-Houses used to be content with drinking soda water and beer, licking ice cream and sucking sweets, while casually chatting or arguing about everyday political matters. However, when these things began to be boring, the owners of the Beerhouses were forced to consider how to attract customers and how to lengthen their stay. Thus were the games of chess and dominos introduced into these beerhouses (the playing of cards was prohibited in public places).

In the course of time, the "Beer House" of Eltchik, Binyamin-Hyams, (Litsky) in Vilna Street, became the center of these games during all hours of the day and evening. At first, the main groups concentrated there were the members and supporters of the "Bund", the "Zukunft" and the "Kultur-Liga", because Altchik (Eliyahu) was one of the activists in these movements. (He was also the distributor of the Bundist Plakat-Zeitung newspaper.) Later, however, the place became a permanent clubhouse for all the chess and domino players in the town - intelligent and simple-minded, Zionists and non-Zionists, secular and religious, ex-political prisoners (Communists), and others. Merchants and tradesmen, drivers and laborers "stole in" to this public Beer-House for an hour or two, not only to follow a tense game, but also to listen to folksongs, chazanut and operatic arias sung by the active players or Kibitzers, either solo or in choirs, during the games. In those bleak days, this was a positive relief from the feelings of despair and bitterness that worsened from day to day within the destructive reality of a life of idleness in which a large part of the town's population found itself.

Isser Tzuckernick

 

Pages 64-82 {150-168} are all in Yiddish. 

 

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