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[Pages 7 & 8]

A Monument to the Town

The Editors

Polish Jewry has been destroyed, and its fate has been sealed; with it, the fate of our dear ones of our town of Turka on the Stryj River has also been sealed. More than two decades have passed since that bitter time, the time when destruction overtook our native town. Nevertheless, the voice of our brothers' blood cries to us from the vale of murder.

It commands us, the few survivors, to erect a monument to the town and its martyrs so that their memory will never end. This will be done in the form of the memorial book that is before us.

With trembling and awe, we approached the holy task of publishing the book. In our hearts we feared that we may be lacking in language, and might not have the ability to express in a comprehensive manner the wonderful section of life of our town before the Holocaust, and especially the destruction itself that fell upon that life. However, if we have succeeded in covering and transmitting even a small portion of the story of Turka -- it is good that we did not neglect the duty.

The chapters of this book will tell about vibrant and flowing life, from the time when the faithful city, the community of Turka and its villages, was still standing on its foundations. It will tell about wholesome, G-d fearing, upright, generous Jews; about rare Jews, pleasant and strong in body, like the trees and plants of the field around them; indeed, the beauty of the scenery and charm of nature gazed upon them.

It will tell about the youth who aspired for freedom and the repair of the nation and the world, who acted with enthusiasm; about dreams and desires that were woven and formed -- and also melted...

It will tell about the destruction and the Holocaust that overtook the town, just as it overtook the entire house of Israel, a complete community was cut off from the book of life! It will tell about the cries of babes who were tossed alive into the grave; about the “Shema Yisrael” that the Jews shouted out at the mouth of the pit. Indeed, the paths of tribulations that our dear ones suffered as they marched upon their final path will be reawakened.

[Pages 8-10]

The chapters of tribulations of the Jewish cities and of our town will blend together into a large scroll of fire that is etched into the raw flesh of the destroyers of our nation, as a mark of Cain -- for eternal shame and disgrace!

As long as they were walking among us, we did not appreciate them sufficiently. We only learned their true value after we lost them... Therefore, these pages shall serve as a monument and an eternal flame to the personalities who were uprooted from among us, and will be the source of influence, pride and splendor for us, and our children after us. We will read them and turn them over alone and together. May the holy souls shine like the splendor of the firmament -- and may their ashes rest in peace.

The Editors


[Page 11]

I Will Never Forget You

by Michael Heisler

I would have long wanted to forget the place of my birth...
However, where Jewish blood flowed freely in the streets,
And where I lost everything of mine --
Can I now ever forget it.

Years have passed, they fly by quickly --
And everything remains in the memory.
It seems that I can hear voices now,
I see you again, as in years gone by...

At times I see you happy, radiating with joy.
With you in your joy -- we walk together;
And at times something stiffens my glaze --
I already see everything engulfed in flames...

In the aroma of the fields. By the light already --
I see you already choked in gas.
The sound of your weeping overtakes me --
I see you buried alive in the earth...

In my memory, I climb over hills and valleys
To at least find a sign of your remains;
I found you in he hearts of Israel
In our own home, already in our own place...


[Page 12]

A Portrait from the Landscape of my Childhood

by Tzvia Nagler-Tzamri of Kibbutz Merchavia

{Photo page 12: Uncaptioned. Tzvia Nagler-Tzamri.}

My native town of Turka comes up before my eyes; the memories as they were woven and etched into me during the years of my childhood. Their splendor has not been darkened in my heart with the passage of years. The images extend to the stories of the Holocaust and its atrocities.

I have not seen Turka since I made aliya to the Land in 1926. Indeed, even before that, my residency there was interrupted during the years of exile as refugees during the era of the First World War, and later during my studies in a different city. However, the unforgettable images and events are guarded with me, and they are a part of my essence.

 

The Town

Here is the center of the town and its main street “Di Alica” with its stores, work areas, and many taverns, bustling with large numbers of Jewish residents. The din increased during the market day sand the fairs, when male and female farmers stream in from its 72 dependent villages with their multicolored garments. They arrive by vehicle or on foot, laded with sacks of produce for sale or barter. The street fills up with the bustle of people and the sounds of various animals that are being brought to the central market. On these days, the shopkeepers and tradesman have a full quota of work, with the “bounty” coming to them in abundance. By evening, one could see the farmers half-drunk -- or even more than that -- returning to their villages, laden with their bartered merchandise. The shopkeepers were content about the successful day.

*

My early childhood years are interwoven with the mountain landscape of “Upper Turka” (Gorna Turka), a mixed neighborhood of half-farmer Jews and Ukrainian farmers. The neighborhood was later called Legionow Street, perhaps in honor of the Polish officials who lived in pleasant villas, surrounded by well-tended gardens. As it continues, the scene moves on to farmers' cottages whose yards were fenced in, shaded with trees, and had a well in the center.

[Page 13]

Roads led from behind the cottages and farm buildings to the green gardens and fields. The Jewish homes, which were generally similar to those of their neighbors, were close to the highway. Here and there, a grocery store or haberdashery could be seen.

The relationships between the residents were proper, and at times even very good and friendly. The members of the two nations knew the realities of the members of the “other religion” from up close. The gentiles knew the Jewish customs, holidays and festivals very well, and never denigrated their traditional foods or sensibilities. There were those who were even able to speak Yiddish.

{Photo page 13: The town square on the market day (Wednesday).}

Jewish farmers lived on the routes from the city toward the villages. Some of them worked the land, and grew fruit, sheep and horses for their own needs. These were wholesome, calm Jews. In the morning, one would see them walking toward the city with jars of milk for their regular customers. The horse merchants who lived in this neighborhood and owned plots of land stood out. They were daring and fearless, with a dynastic business that passed from father to son. The “Konieres” (horse merchants) were well-known. During the fairs, these horse merchants engaged in noisy activities. If their private farms did not provide sufficient food for their horses, at night they would cross the boundaries of their private fields to ensure that their animals are satiated... They were hot tempered, and did not shy away from daring adventures.

[Page 14]

In this neighborhood, where the city and village were intermixed, there was something that attracted the heart, with the ties to the land, to the white cottages among the green, and the charm and Jewish culture that blended well with those houses and imprinted their stamp of stability and of a native place. Their livelihood was not always abundant, but they learned how to be happy with their lot.

 

The Rivers

{Photo page 14: The Romantic Bridge. The Litmierz Bridge as it flows into the Jablonka.}

The town was located on the banks of the Litmierz and the Jablonka, which both flowed into the Stryj River. The multicolored landscape was reflected in them. Life was reflected on both banks. In the village-like, agricultural area, strips of flax grew, which the farmers watered with wooden pitchers constructed for that purpose, so that they would whiten well in the sun's rays. Sounds of rhythmical beating could be heard from afar -- these were the washerwoman who were beating the laundry over a stone, as they washed it in the stream of water. Groups of ducks floated through the marshes, and barefoot children ran about, playing their games. The streams of the long Stryj riverbed differed from each other. There were sections with calm waters, hidden and shaded with ancient willows. In another place, there was a bathing beach for the burning summer. There were sections with willow shrubs that provided bristles for the brooms of the farmers, or willows that merited to be used for holy purposes by the Jews, who made small bundles of them for Hoshana Rabba to expiate sins. The Jews of Turka would gather on the banks of such rivers for Tashlich, as they cast off all of their sins from the year. On the other hand, the gentiles immersed

[Page 15]

the statue of Jesus in the overflow of the river.

In the center of the city, where the water was calm and the beach was smooth, women and young girls went out to wash the dishes, especially on the eves of Sabbaths and festivals. There was more such activity at the time of the koshering of dishes for Passover and the expunging of chometz from the dough troughs and dough boards. The scraping and scrubbing was accompanied by lively conversation and joyous humming. The children played by throwing smooth stones and fishing for small fish and other water creatures. Here and there, there were male and female students who left their noisy, crowded houses in order to find a quiet corner to review their studies before an exam.

As the winter came, the river changed its form and role, and turned into a silver strip. A shiny, hard path was formed over its frozen waters. Winter sleds laden with wood from the surrounding forests traveled along the easy, smooth, clear path. The youth found in it a great arena for winter sports. The bridges over the river represented all types of passages that were invented with the development of culture -- starting from a large tree trunk that would span its width, connecting both sides of the river, ranging all the way to a bridge with poles, sockets, and a parapet.

 

Abundant Beauty -- and a Slithering Snake

As the riverbed approaches the city, beautifully built brides appear that would also serve for vehicular traffic. The pinnacle was the tall viaduct rising above arches of stone that formed the continuation of the railway track on its way to the tunnel in the mountains. Beneath it was a large, wide bridge, known as “The Bridge.” Children never tired of raising their eyes to stare at the noisy train passing by, as they waved their hands with feeling toward the travelers at the heights above the city.

However, the peace and quiet was disturbed in the wake of the First World War. Serious anti-Semitism became exposed. The incited Ukrainians poured out their pent up wrath when the Cossacks penetrated the city. They pillaged the property of the Jews, and destroyed the city without letting up. After the retreat of the enemy, all of the booty was tossed into the riverbanks and the clear water of the river, out of fear of punishment from the authorities. Silver and gold objects, candlesticks, textiles and various types of merchandise rolled along the ground abandoned.

With the second conquest of the city, all of the Jews fled, ran off to various areas of Austria in the hinterland, and lived as refugees in camps. Life in the strange place increased the longing for the destroyed home, for the fields and gardens, for the Jewish existence. After the war, we did not find our house again, and we moved to live nearby. However, the vistas of nature did not change even then, and they received us with their good smile that welcomed back the wanderers. Life returned to its path.

[Page 16]

Turka and its beautiful area, with its forests filled with secrets and everything good, with its cool rivers and springs flowing abundantly, with its flowers that I awaited with the melting of the snow -- these were part of my birthplace. When I joined the Hashomer Hatzair chapter, the splendid body extended outside the boundary. With the excursions of the groups and the chapter, we also went to the farthest-off villages where the summer camp of the movement took place in beautiful surroundings. It is no wonder that when I made aliya to the Land, it was difficult for me to get used to the arid environment. I longed for my original birthplace despite the charm of the “nights of Canaan.” I hoped to visit my family on occasion, to feast my eyes and my heart once again on the landscape of my childhood. However, I was not aware that a poisonous snake was slithering through that bountiful beauty. The seeds of hatred began to be expressed, and deepened their roots in the gentile population. How insignificant was the lot of those whose conscience bothered them, and whose hearts trembled at the sight of the persecutions -- the atrocities of the Second World War, of the human beasts, of the loss of all human feeling, of the destruction of the beauty and the desecration of all that was precious, holy and sublime to us, eclipsed the pure memories.

Indeed, our birthplace turned into a cruel cemetery for our dear ones. The murderers became menacing heirs to the Jewish property that had been amassed by the sweat of the brow of generations.

{Photo page 16: Abba Schneller.}

The youth Abba Schneller grew up in the background of the Carpathian Mountains, in a Jewish Galician town full of the grace and charm of nature. At the end of the First World War, when the Jewish refugees from the town who were scattered throughout all the corners of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire returned to their destroyed home -- the young man began to stand out, and became the leader of the Jewish youth. He established the Hashomer Hatzair pioneering-scouting movement, and he made aliya already in 1920, taking the first group of pioneers from Turka with him to the Land. Additional groups came after him. His name became Abba Hushi, one of the leaders of the Workers' Movement in the Land of Israel, and the mayor of the city of Haifa from 1950.


[Page 17]

There Was a Shtetl Turka

by Menachem Langenauer of New York

{Photo page 17: Uncaptioned. Menachem Langenauer}

Our town of Turka was founded by a Polish landowner already in the 15th century (in a very old responsa, it is written “Ungvar near Turka”). After a few hundred years, the village of Turka became a small town, a Jewish town. At the beginning of the 20th century, Turka was old fashioned, pious and fanatic. All information from the wide world (Lemberg, Przemysl...) came through the wagon drivers who used to transport merchandise. Therefore, it was indeed said about our town that “the sky is plugged up with rags.” The town was situated in a valley through which several rivers flowed -- the Stryj and the Dniester. The latter, which flows through a section of Galicia and empties into the Black Sea, had its source in the Turka region. The lovely villages that surrounded the town were well-known in Galicia. People came to them from the big cities in order to enjoy fresh air.

When the train first began to course through the town through viaducts, a new period of improved livelihood began, including the export of wood and other articles to the outside world. The town was almost 100% Jewish. The gentiles lived outside the city or in the dozens of surrounding villages. Jews only came into contact with the Ukrainian gentiles on market days or fair days. There were boorish Ukrainian farmers

[Page 18]

and a few Polish officials. The Jew, steeped in Torah and antiquity, held himself above the gentile population, despite the fact that worldly affairs were strange to him.

{Photo page 18: General vista.}

The Jews conducted their regular life in accordance with the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch). They would go to the rabbi for Torah adjudications. For personal problems such as livelihood, serious illness, seeking a marriage partner, and the like, they would go to the Hassidic Rebbe. Their garb was specifically Jewish. On the Sabbath, they wore their silk bekishe (long robe) and streimel. The largest portion of the Jews were indeed scholars, simply occupying themselves with Torah and Talmud day and night. The sound of Torah could be heard from all of the kloizes. However, many other people were common folk -- brokers, forestry merchants, furriers, locksmiths, and wagon drivers. All of them were honest, G-d fearing people.

The rabbi of the town from before the First World War until the Holocaust was Rabbi Eliezer Segal Miszel. He was a genius, a student of the Lemberger rabbi,

[Page 19]

and the author of the “Mishnat Eliezer” responsa book. Aside from his scholarship, the rabbi was an expert in world literature, and sympathetic to the Haskalah and Zionism. In a certain sermon, he even compared Herzl to Moses. The Hassidim reproved him for this, but his great scholarship stood by him.

There were many synagogues and kloizes for a small town such as Turka. Every Hassidic group had its own kloiz -- there was a Belzer Kloiz, a Sadagora, and a Czortkower. Aside from worshipping, young and old people would sit and learn in the kloizes. From time to time, youths with curled peyos would snatch a glance at a little Hebrew book under the Gemara. The Beis Midrash was a house of worship for the common folk; whereas the city synagogue, which was called a miniature temple, and where, according to the law, one did not even have to affix a mezuza -- was used primarily for government celebrations -- first for the birthday observance of Kaiser Franz Josef, and later by the Poles for the observances of the Third of May.

The economic situation was not joyous. The wealthy and the middle class lived well, but the poor shopkeepers, tradesmen and brokers had a hard struggle, and earned their livelihood with difficulty. The Jewish community maintained the clergy: a rabbi, two judges. They also controlled the regulations of the cemetery.

*

At the outbreak of the First World War, a change in life took place. Most of the Jews fled the town to escape the Russians, some to Bohemia, and others to Vienna and other places. In 1919, when the war ended and the Turka refugees returned home to Galicia, a new epoch in the life of Galician Jews began, especially for the youth. Having spent the war years in Western Europe, they were strongly influenced by the western German culture.

First, the youth cut their beards and peyos. The girls were also influenced by the German styles and romanticism.

[Page 20]

There was literally a revolution in the spiritual arena. The youth were devoted to German and Polish Literature. Instead of studying Gemara, Yoreh Deah and worshipping, they became interested in Schiller and Heine. In the town, there could be seen the first sprouting of modern Hebrew Literature, the rays of redemption of Zionism, and the hope for the actualization of the recently issued Balfour Declaration.

Hebrew was greatly loved by the Jews, and everyone studied and read Hebrew. It is appropriate to mention the Hebrew teacher Yisrael Moshe Shreiber, who had the greatest influence upon the youth of Turka.

Turka also had a fine library where one could find Hebrew, Yiddish, German and Polish Literature under one roof. As has already been stated, many of the youths lived under the influence of German Literature. As far as I can recall, Motia Szein of blessed memory and many others such as my brother Yosef of blessed memory became expert in German philosophy. My brother even memorized Heine's poems in Hebrew and Yiddish.

In General, Turka had great scholars. The young people were involved with their Zionist education, but unfortunately, they received very little academic education on account of the fanaticism of their primarily Hassidic parents. This was the same situation in almost all of the small towns of Galicia.

However, the call to Zion, to literally go as pioneers to lay the groundwork for the upcoming State, was very strong. Two young, enthusiastic youths come to my mind: Abba Schneller-Hushi and my brother Moshe Yisraeli. My brother stemmed from a Hassidic atmosphere, literally from the kloiz bench and the Gemara. Abba Hushi, on the other hand, was an excellent student who stemmed from a common, working family. Hushi was enthused with the Zionist ideal. He organized the first pioneering group and set out for the Land of Israel. The influence of that deed was indescribable. A band with music accompanied the pioneers, with Hushi, to the station. Later, that group, headed by Moshe Yisraeli, had a great influence upon

[Page 21]

the youth that came later. They, the young boys and girls, paved the way to the Jewish State with their sweat and might.

In the year 1930, I left our dear, beloved town of Turka, with its beautiful mountains and landscapes. Unfortunately, I never saw our native town again.

Nevertheless, I found consolation when I visited Israel a few years ago. I then became convinced that “Israel is not a widower,” and “The eternity of Israel does not lie.” -- when I saw what Jewish genius constructed in our Land.

When I saw everything, I blurted out the traditional blessing: “May this never be spoiled,” and that the great deeds in Israel should be a memorial for our pure martyrs from Turka.


[Page 21]

You are my Witnesses...

by Penina Bamushi-Sternbach of Haifa

{Photo page 21: Uncaptioned. Penina Bamushi Sternbach}

Carpathian Mountains, you tall ones
Are Witnesses to the atrocities of those days;
The mountains trembled...
Szymunka, Zawadiwka, Kicra, Borynia
Were overtaken by nightmares, exhaustion, and pain --
They walked the steps...

Carpathian Mountains, only you know
How a settlement and its people were destroyed and annihilated
In Turka on the Stryj;
How the upright creative life bustled
And then turned into a dirge and lament.

[Page 22]

In the treetops
Of the groves of the Carpathians
An echo still resonates --
The sound of the cries of the dead.
And the young babies
Crying from afar --
The waves of the river will no longer
Silence the agony.

The peaks of the Carpathians gaze
Toward the city of trampled graves
Only you are the witnesses for eternity
For a life that once was -- and is destroyed...

 

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