I have many memories left of my shtetl Dusiat, and the school, of which I was one of the first pupils, holds a special place.
The Tarbut School in Dusiat was an excellent school. Students came to study there from the town of Ezerenai [Zarasai], which was twice as large as Dusiat. We had serious teachers. I remember the teachers Yudel Slep, Hillel Schwartz, Zvi-Hirsh Hammer, and the Bible and Chumash teacher, the melamed Avraham-Moshe Schmidt, who used to pinch the boys and was very observant. Yudel and Hillel were more modern.
The Tarbut School, Dusiat, 1923
Top, standing from right to left: Esther and Rivka Orlin, Chaya-Rivka Yudelowitz, Rivka Steinman, Elka Slep (daughter of Chaya-Tzipe), Mirka Karanowitz, Freidke Kagan, Batya Shub
Second row: Yitzchak Aires (son of Avraham and Chana [Chatzkel]), Benyamin Adelman (son of Chaim-Leib and Hanna-Geile [Slep])
Third row: Yaacov Charit, Yitzchak-Itzke Steinman, the teachers: Zvi-Hirsh Hammer, the melamed Avraham-Moshe Schmidt, Hillel Schwartz and Yudel Slep, Efraim Zeligson, Yitzchak Aires (son of Yudel)
Seated: Shaul Levitt, Berl Shub, Micha Slep, Rasya Kagan, Henka Slep, Rivka Levitt, Rivka Melamed, Yoel Zeif
We had four years of schooling. We learned Hebrew, arithmetic, geography, history, Torah, and we also began learning the rest of the Bible, and Lithuanian reading and writing. I was very good at history and read a lot.
I remember that when we began studying, I discovered that my grandfather Chanoch Chatzkel was very well informed. He truly deserved the respect he received. All the surrounding people called us Henechs Einiklach (Chanoch's Grandchildren). We were known as good students, and when our father saw that we were diligent at our studies and making progress, he was proud of us, and used to say that at least something good had come out of the war, as the founding of the Hebrew schools was a change that occurred after WWI.
I went to the Hebrew Gymnasium (high school) in Utian [Utena], and at the time I also joined a pioneering movement. We would hold literary trials, and I remember topics such as Why don't we have a country of our own; We weren't favorable, even though we were talented; or It's impossible for us to develop our abilities.
When I returned home I became active in the branch of Hechalutz Hatzair in Dusiat, which was headed by Daniel Zeif. I was in charge (a counselor). I would sit at assemblies with the younger members twice a week and teach them to write the Hebrew alphabet, and later on I also taught them how to write letters and how to address an envelope properly.
They would send us explanatory material about Hechalutz, and I remember reading the story of Kfar Giladi and Tel Chai and Yosef Trumpeldor to the young members from the book Mesila.
Movement activists would come to visit us, and I remember Yitzchak Poritz, who was active in Rakishok coming to us, and also Chanoch Patz. The emissaries taught us songs, and we frequently danced the hora and sang songs of Eretz Yisrael. They always praised the responsible work being done in the Dusiat branch.
Apparently only those who intended to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael joined the Hashomer Hatzair movement, and I wasn't one of them.
Members of the Histadrut (organization) from Dusiat and Antaliept, 1925
Top, from right to left: Abba Poritz, Chanka Slep (Sara's daughter), Alte Yosman, Dovid-Leib Aires, Leah Segal, Tevke Rade (from Antaliept), Alte Slep (Avraham-Mane's daughter), Berl Zilber (Dov Caspi)
Second row: Rivka Orlin, Breinke Yosman, Leah Visakolsky, Chayke Karpuch
Front row: (-),(-) (both from Antaliept), Freidke Kagan
A few years later
The adult members in Dusiat
Standing, from right to left: Berl Zilber (Dov Caspi), Rivka Orlin, Berke (son of Chasl-Leah Levitt), Kehat Slep, Zusel Levitt (son of Chaya-Hene Levitt)
Seated: Chaya-Rivke Yudelowitz, Batya Shub, Abba Poritz, Pessia Kagan and her brother Kehat
In front: Elka Slep and Elka Charit
The family earned its living more from the Gentiles than from the Jews. Many Gentiles came in and out of our home, drank tea with us and pretended to be our friends. But many times I heard them saying Zidas Parkas [in Lithuanian, dirty Jews].
There were occasional reciprocal visits, but generally very few people socialized with Gentiles. The enthusiasm for Eretz Yisrael came, first and foremost, because of anti-Semitism. There were talented people among us who were not accepted at universities or conservatories because they were Jewish. My sister Esther, who had studied at a teacher's college, also had trouble working as a teacher because of anti-Semitism.
When the Gentiles opened the cooperatives, they all had signs beside them explicitly stating Don't buy from Jews, or The Jews are parasites. The eyes of the Jews were opened to seeing that the solution was a country of our own. I had an immigration certificate for Palestine, but my parents didn't allow me to immigrate. They said: Did we raise seven children to remain alone?
The eve of Purim 1939 arrived. The pharmacist Chaim-Aharon and my father they were good friends were, as usual, the last to leave the synagogue after the reading of the megilla [Megilat Esther - Scroll of Esther]. As they were leaving the synagogue, the Gentiles threw stones at them. Chaim-Aharon suffered an injury to a finger and my father to his back. The next day in the synagogue people deliberated whether to report the case to the police, and in the end they decided to overlook it.
My father was a member of the town council, and shortly after this incident he was expelled, and a Gentile from elsewhere took his place.
In 1939 we already sensed the dangers of the war. In Ponivezh [Panevezys] they had already attacked Jewish shops, and then my parents understood that the time had come for me to leave. When I was about to leave for South Africa, my parents said to each other: Better that she leave and not remain in the hands of the conquerors I went to South Africa as a tourist, since there was no other possibility. I recall that when we were already sitting in the bus the driver was Baruch Krut my mother fainted outside, and my father supported her.
Why didn't they all leave? Because everyone had a shop, merchandise, and how can you leave everything just like that?
I corresponded with my home via letters, especially with my brother Avraham. There were already hints about the situation in his letters, for example: The buriklach [meaning the Russions] are not tasty now. About my mother he wrote that in one month she had aged ten years.
In South Africa I married Zamke (Zalmen Friedman from Abel). We went through hard times. I didn't have it easy. In Springs I worked as a butcher, in Natalspruit we set up a farm, and our daughter Musha was born there. From there we moved to the Orange Free State fifty kilometers from the center, and later on we came to Warmbaths.
I never told anyone of the difficulties I went through in my first years in South Africa, not even to my children Musha and Yudke, and I can't even talk about them now.
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