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Chapter 1

Earliest Memories:
The Pumpyan years to 1920

Joshua Rassen: I want to talk to you about the memories that you would like to record on videotape. We will be able to talk as long as you like. Let's start in chronological order with the early years, and particularly if you could tell us what you remember about your family, the village, and anything else that you would like to mention before your own personal history begins.

 

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Jacob Rassen: Well, my history begins in Lithuania. I was born in a small town called Pumpyan, or in Lithuanian language, it was called Pumpenai. In Russia, it was called Pumpyanic. The country itself is a small country, one of the three Baltic countries: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Pumpyan was located in northern part of Lithuania not too far from the Latvian frontier or boundary.

 

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What I remember about my grandparents from my father's side – so I didn't know personally my grandfather. I was born after he died. His name was Yossel, or, in English, Joseph, and the family name was

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Rasein-not Rassen, as pronounce here, but Rasein. Rasein [Raseiniai] is a town in Lithuania. Probably he came from that town, I can imagine; I don't know for sure. What I know about him, that he was a comparatively rich man in Pumpyan.

As a matter of fact, Pumpyan was located on the highway, on the track between Riga and Ponevezh [Panevezys]. Ponevezh is a big city in Lithuania. In Lithuania, a city of twenty-five thousand or thirty thousand was considered to be a big city. So Ponevezh is one of three big cities in Lithuania-the first being Kovno [Kaunas], the second being Shavel or Siauliai, and the third being Ponevezh.

Well, my grandfather Yossel Rasein had the business concession of the stagecoach from the government. The stagecoach was delivering mail, parcels, and merchandise from Riga to Ponevezh, going through towns-a small town in Latvia we call ba-usk, or base town-Biersz [Birzai], Posvel [Pasvalys], Pumpyan, and Ponevezh. So you have to be a rich man to have this concession, and you had a great responsibility.

So in Pumpyan itself, Yossel had a big house. I would say it was the biggest house in Pumpyan, well established, and later on, we lived in this house. I was born in this house. That far I know about my grandfather. Who survived of his family was my grandmother, by name Goldie or Golda. She lived in this house, and most of her children were born in this house. It had a big lot in the back, a big garden. Later on, I planted there an orchard, when I was already a teenager or in college. And that's what I know about my grandfather.

Who survived, as I said, the Grandmother Golda, or, as we called her, the Bobbe Golda. She was a proud woman. Although she lived with us, she had her private, separate part of the house, two rooms. She used to say, “Children, you are young people. I am an old woman, so I'll live my life in this part of the house, and you live in that part of the house.” As a matter of fact, she ate separately, and when shabbas came, she had her meal in her own room. I was always with her, making kiddush for her, and I was treated with a part of chicken. That became a tradition as long as I lived with my parents and my grandmother in this house. She died in 1915, if l am not mistaken. I will tell you later the circumstance what happened at that time in 1915.

The relations in Pumpyan between the Jewish population and

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Christian population, Catholics-the Lithuanians were Catholicswas good. The Jews in Pumpyan occupied the center of the town; they called the Postel Street-Ponevezh Street-the marketplace, and the surroundings. The Christian population lived mostly in the suburbs or at the end of the streets.

Josh: How long is the history of the Jewish presence in Pumpyan? Do you know anything about that?

Jacob: Yes, I know something. The oldest man in Pumpyan was a man by the name Shleme Hillel. In my time when I remember him, he was about ninety; his mind was good. I myself and my good friend in Pumpyan, Lev Glitzman-Lev was a writer, a poet, a teacher-we liked to talk with him to find out more and more about Pumpyan, what happened in the early days. So according to Shleme Hillel-and that's true-in the early days, so to say prehistoric days, Pumpyan was called Klein Danzig. Danzig was a big city in Poland. The trade with Germany was going through Pumpyan by the stagecoach or some other way, so Pumpyan itself was called Klein Danzig.

The Jewish population at that time, according to Shleme Hillel, was about two hundred, up to two hundred and fifty, families. In my time up to the First World War, there were about a hundred and twenty Jewish families. During the First World War and after the First World War, the number of Jewish families was reduced to about sixty or seventy, in hal£ So to make it short, after the First World War in Pumpyan lived about sixty to seventy Jewish families.

In the middle of the town, there was a marketplace, an unusually big place, a large square with a little hill in the middle. The market day was on Wednesdays, so the farmers from the surrounding villages brought in the merchandise. All the huge marketplace was occupied with wagons, stalls, and arrangements for the market. The Jewish people mostly were merchants, buying from the farmers all products-they had grains, cattle and sheep and geese, eggs-whatever they had. So the Jewish people, most of them were merchants and storekeepers. There was a part of the Jewish people who were peddlers-going to the vil–

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lages, spending in the villages days and weeks, selling their merchandise and buying from the peasants.

There were comparatively a large number of Jewish craftsmen: two Jewish shoemakers, two tailors, painters, glaziers, and one mechanic, who served the farmers and the other craftsmen. They spent part of their life in the villages, coming home for shabbas on Fridays. Not to come back home for Saturday, for shabbas, was considered a bad thing. I wouldn't say a sin, but it was accepted that Friday you have to be back home to spend shabbas with your families.

According to Jewish saying, the whole week you can work as a slave; the whole week you can work as a horse or to be a dog or to eat anything. But shabbas you are a king, and a king has to come home to spend time with the family. After shabbas, after havdala, Sunday morning the hard work week started again.

So I visualize now, I remember all these places, all the people: storekeepers, the merchants, the markets, the peddlers, the craftsmen. It was a busy population. But the problem was with the young people, with the children. What to do with the children, what will their future be? That was the main problem-that they didn't have the right place in the shtetl, and they didn't have the right work to do. Before the First World War, many of the youth, teenagers or in their twenties, left the country for South Africa. Most of them traveled to South Africa. As a matter of fact, my friends from the cheder, almost all of them went to South Africa-some of them to Palestine, a few of them to South America and, as a matter of fact, they were the ones who survived, who escaped from the Nazi terror and from the occupation of the Nazis.

Who was left at the Pumpyan was the so-called intelligent youth. I was among them. I learned at that time. I started in the so-called gymnasium-gymnasia or gymnasium-that was a high school plus two more classes, or years. It is more than American high school, and my friend Lev Glitzman and another one were left behind. But most of the youth emigrated.

Josh: Let me ask you before you go on to the later education. Could you tell us what you remember about the first years, your parents? Do you have pictures perhaps that you could show us?

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Jacob: Well, I wouldn't go on with my education. That comes later. That comes already after the First World War. So my parents, as I told you, occupied the house of my grandfather Yossel, and my Bobbe Golda lived with us in the same house. My father-that's a true story-fell in love with my mother when she was sixteen years old, and he was a bachelor of twenty-six, ten years older. So that was normal to fall in love, as it is now.

Josh: Were they both from the same village?

Jacob: From the same...oh, don't insult Pumpyan, calling it a village! It is a shtetl. It is different between a village and a shtetl. In the village, usually no Jewish people lived, or single families lived there. In the shtetl, there are Jewish families in multitude; as I told you, Pumpyan had a hundred and twenty families, and after the First World War, sixty to seventy Jewish families. So don't call it a village.

Josh: Okay.

Jacob: Well, that was my mother's parents' objection: that at the age of sixteen to get married to a man, to an old bachelor-an alte bocher, we call it-who is already twenty-six! So he had to wait. So he waited two or three years, until my mother became eighteen or nineteen years old, I'm not sure, and then they married. He was twenty-eight and my mother was eighteen, and they settled. They lived in the house of my grandmother Bobbe Golda.

Well, I have the pictures of my parents here, and I can show it to you, my father and mother. It comes to my mind here that in America, we have Jews of three names: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. In all the time in the shtetl in Lithuania, there was not such a name. We did not know even those names. All Jews, either you believe and you were froom [observant], you went to shul, you sent your children to cheder. You observed more or less the commandments given to us by Moshe rabbenu [Moses]. Then there was a group of people who did not believe, and they ignored most of it.

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So my father was not strictly orthodox. He was not a very froom Jewish man. He was educated as every Jewish young man was educated. He went to cheder, went to yeshiva, and he knows Gomorrah. He studied Mishna. As a matter of fact, in our house was a bookcase, or a case of old, old Jewish sforim, the books of study. We didn't call them books. We call them, even in speaking Yiddish, we call them sforim. There was a whole set of Gomorrahs, of Talmud, a whole set of Mishna, and other Jewish education books. There was a holy case, a holy corner, where these books were kept.

My father was a merchant, a grain merchant, and my mother, as they called her in the old time, was a berye. A berye means an eshet chayil. Eshet chayil means a woman who is devoted to the family and at the same time is a business woman. So she was an eshet chayil. So you can imagine the life between my father and mother was ideal, a good life. They loved each other all their life up to the old days.

 

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My father was, as I said, a grain merchant. We had two horses, two wagons, and two or three young people worked for us delivering the merchandise of grains from Pumpyan to Ponevezh. At the same time, we had a hardware store, the largest hardware store in Pumpyan. There were two other hardware stores-as you call in Yiddish, eisengesheft. Eisen means iron or steel, so in English we say a hardware store. My mother was the manager of the hardware store. She did all the business. She always had new products and brought more and more new kinds of merchandise. She used to go to Ponevezh, once-a-month travel, and every time she came back, she brought new kinds of merchandise.

We renovated the store, and in one corner we opened a shoe store. Selling shoes, a ready-made shoe, that was something new in Pumpyan.

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Up to that time in Pumpyan, if you wanted a pair of shoes, you had to go to the shoemaker; and he measured, and he made a pair of shoes. So my mother introduced this corner of shoes; so people-I would say not the Jewish people, but the Christian population, the farmers-came and bought ready-made shoes. It was more convenient and less expensive for them.

Besides the hardware, we had a corner, a big corner of grain-we call it here cereals-and flour; all kinds of flour were sold. When the Jewish population or farmers came, they could find flour from the best, the highest grade, white, and then darker and darker, and then bran. All kinds were in the store. Then there was a separate corner for herring and fish. Herring we sold in the old country direct from the barrel. A huge barrel was opened, and the farmer came, and he bought ten, twenty, or sixty herrings. Sixty we called in the old time a soke. So he brought his own pail or some kind of other dish, and he bought a soke herring. The soke was cheaper to buy.

So my mother was the manager of the store, and my father was usually busy buying grain, having his light wagon so he could easily travel from village to village and buy from the farmers. There were four or five more grain merchants, so it was like a competition between them to come to the farmer as early in the morning as possible. The earlier you come, the more chance you have to buy the grain from him. So you have to have a good horse and a light wagon. We call it in our timemaybe that is a Russian name-a bridgka, to travel light. He bought. It was signed like a contract between the farmer and the merchant. Later on, we take a wagon, a heavy wagon with a strong, big horse, to bring the merchandise, the grain, to Pumpyan. My father bought mostly grain-rye, mostly, also wheat, and other mixed grain. On the yard we had a big, big place, a storage place. How you call it, such a big storage place?

Josh: A silo or granary?

Jacob: A granary, I will say, a granary, where the wheat was mixed. From one place you bought a lower grade, and another place you bought your higher grade, so you mixed them to have it equal. When

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you accumulated a certain amount-you call it in our time centners; a centner is about ten pounds-and then we sent it to Ponevezh, to the big mills in Ponevezh. In Ponevezh there were three or four big mills where the buyers hold the wheat from the merchants. So my father was one of the largest. He used to deliver to a certain mill; mostly they call it Rubenshteyn's mill. And that was his occupation. Later on, my brother had two brothers in Pumpyan: The older brother was called Yossel, after the name of the grandfather, and the younger brother was called Abba or Abel. So they took over the business, and they helped Father to do the same. I was the educated man, and I was not involved or engaged in the business. But later on, I will tell you later, I learned in the gymnasia, and later on in the university.

Josh: Did you have other relatives in Pumpyan, outside your immedi­
ate family?

Jacob: Sure! It was the custom. The people and family tried to stay in the same place and not to scatter unless you went to Africa, you went to America, South America, or to Israel. I had two aunts, my mother's sisters, who lived in Pumpyan. The younger one-I'm starting from the younger one-Sarah lived in Pumpyan in the house of my grandfather from Mother's side. I did not tell you about my mother's-side parents. I knew a lot of them. So she stayed in their house, and she married a man, Mendel Meisel. Meisel was a well-known family from Ponevezh. Mendel was the youngest brother of the Meisel family, and he settled in Pumpyan in the house, and he was also a merchant, a grain merchant. And besides, there was my bobbe from Mother's side. Her name was Bobbe Tsipa. Together with the daughter Sarah, they had a big house, and the big house was used as a guest house or hotel for wayfarers on Ponevezh Street, so it was convenient. Besides having a hotel, they had also a big room, a saloon, for drinking. Drinking beer was allowed, not sharper drinks than beer. I remember there was a big cellar where they kept the beer. They used to get a big load of beer in barrels and fill it in bottles. It was sold by bottles, a drinking place for beer.

Later on, it was not allowed anymore to have saloons like this. And then it was called in Lithuanian language arbatineh. Arbatineh means a

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teahouse, if you want to translate it. Tea and coffee and food to eat, but no drinks. I will come to the parents of my mother later on, and I will tell you more details about my grandfather and grandmother. So that was the Aunt Sarah.

I am talking about the time up to the First World War. After the First World War is quite different. It changed entirely the whole face and whole Jewish population and occupation, and the whole atmosphere changed after the First World War. First World War I consider the time what we went through from 1914 to 1920, about five, six years, when the country Lithuania was occupied by the Germans-not Nazis in that time. At that time, the Germans were still considered a civilized nation, and their King Wilhelm, I think Wilhelm II, was in place in that time.

Now, the other aunt I mentioned in Pumpyan was by the name of Golda, too. She had no luck. She didn't marry in her younger days, and when I remember her, she was already about forty, in the upper thirties and forties. She had a little store on the Church Street, near the church, and the little store was sitting there and making a living. I don't remember did she live with her parents or separate, but I remember her store. Finally, she got married to a man who came from another town by name of Biersz, and his name was Schindler, Yehoshua Schindler. Later on, in America-he immigrated, and the name was changed to Sandler. He helped her in the store, and he was an educated man. He was a religious man, a scholar, and he was a shoichet. A shoichet, as you know, is a kosher slaughterer of cattle, chicken. But he couldn't be a shoichet in Pumpyan, because this position was occupied by another one. It was a tradition you couldn't come in and compete with another one; so, as a matter of fact, he has nothing to do in Pumpyan, and he turned to something else. I will tell you later on. That is, so to say, a side branch, what he did. So that was the family, the closest family what we had.

Josh: What about your father? Did your father have brothers or sisters?

Jacob: Yes. I personally knew only one of them, a sister of my father. He had three brothers; they all were in America, in the United States. So I know them only by stories and by telling of my Grandmother

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Golda from my father's side. As a matter of fact, when I was age eight or nine, I used to write letters to them in Yiddish. My Grandmother Golda used to dictate to say what she feels, and I used to write the letters to them in America. In America, their name was changed to Rosenblum: Rasein, Rosenblum. And then the younger generation, their children, changed their name to Ross, so the name went from Rasein to Rosenblum to Ross, and I changed it to Rassen.

Josh: I remember Eli Rosenblum. Was he a cousin?

Jacob: Eli was a cousin of mine, and he was the son of my aunt, of my grandparents' daughter, if I am not mistaken. Oh, yes, I did not know her, only I heard the name. And about Eli Rosenblum I learned only in America. I did not know him in Lithuania. So the letter usually started, as I said, in Yiddish, “Mein tayer zun Heshel.” To another was “Mein tayer zun Micha.” Heshel was Harry in America, and Micha was Michael. There was another son; I don't remember exactly his name. So they used to write letters to my grandmother from time to time, twice a year, and send some money-a draft, you call it-for Pesach and for Rosh Hashanah.

Josh: Where did they live in America?

Jacob: Well, Harry or Heshellived in Kansas. And later on, I'm sure they lived in Wichita. As a matter of fact, in 1947 or 1948 I met his son, Harry's son; I met him in Chicago. Harry had a big department store in Wichita, and I always planned sometime I'll visit him, I'll stop there. But up to date, I didn't realize it. When I met his son in Chicago in 1948, he was a man in the fifties, tall and well looking, and, as I remember, he was childless. They have no children, and that came to my mind I could have brought him from Germany after the Second World War so many orphans and so many abandoned children that they wouldn't have place to put them. Well, that's just a story.

I met, as I told you, Eli Rosenblum. He was a cousin of mine. Am I right? A cousin? Oh, yes, his children live in Boston, in Newton. The

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children's name is Ross, and one is Melvin Ross. He is a social worker. He is the head of some branch of the Jewish charities, well-known man, manufactured folding boxes and corrugated boxes. There is a daughter, Ruth Stone.

Well, you know how life is in America. Everyone is busy with his own life, and we met occasionally, but we don't have any close relationship with each other. What happened to the family of Harry Rasein–Rosenblum or the family of Michael Rosenblum, I don't know too much. Since I met the son of Harry once in Chicago, I had no connection with them, and I can't tell you any more.

There was a daughter of my grandmother, of Golda. A daughter, I can't remember the name. Oh, yes, Chana-Leah, a double name. She was married to a man by name Mitel. In America, we pronounce Mi-tel'. In Europe, Lithuania, we pronounce Mi'-tel. Mitel, he was educated man, a scholar, and, as a matter of fact, he was a teacher in Pumpyan. He lived in a house near us, a small house that belonged probably to my grandmother's family. He occupied this small house, but he left Pumpyan probably in 1911-1912, before the First World War, and he settled in Riga. Later on, I was in Riga, and I visited. He was dead already. He died, but I met the family. I met again my cousins. There were three girls and a boy, and finally, I met one of my cousins, Bertha Mitel, or her married name was Bertha Cohen. I met her in Boston. You know her, probably...

Josh: Yes, I met her.

Jacob: ...a woman who used to talk a lot. When you have conversation with her, you had no chance to say a word. So that was that Mitel, or Bertha Cohen. I met her daughter. She had a daughter and a son. We were quite friendly with her in Boston, and whenever we met, she used to tell us the destiny, the bitter destiny, of her two sisters and her brother. She was crying, certainly. She is dead now. So that's the family of my father as far as I remember of them.

Well, as I told you about my grandparents from my mother's side – the grandfather's name was Zalman Hirshovitz; in Russian, Gershovitz. They were also comparatively a rich family in Pumpyan, and as I told

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you, they had a big house, a so-called saloon, and later on switched into a teahouse or cafeteria, so to say. My Grandfather Zalman Hirshovitz was a scholar and the most respectable man in Pumpyan. As I remember him, he was tall and lean and always coughing. He had a disease, probably tuberculosis, or they call it in Russian language tchachodka. He was always coughing, as I remember him, and my Grandmother Tsipa, his wife, did not let him do anything. Just sit and study and learn and occasionally converse with some people. As long as I remember, or before that, he was the gabbi, or the president, of the Jewish shut, of the synagogue, and he was quite respected as a gabbi, and he introduced new orders, improvements in many ways.

What else I remember about him is from when I was a child, probably five years old. We started learning in the cheder about five or six. The first or second year, I was sitting in the cheder and learning with a rebbe and other children when suddenly came in a woman who said, “I want to say to Yakov something.”

“ What is it?”

“ His grandfather died.”

I didn't realize at that time what means to be dead, what means to die. Bur certainly, I saw the faces of my rebbe and the other people, so I started crying. That means I reacted to his death. I remember the funeral. The whole shtetl, the Jewish population and a great part of the non-Jewish population, went to the funeral-to the bet olam, to the cemetery-of my grandfather. So survived in the house, in the big house, his wife, my Grandmother Tsipa Hirshovitz, and her daughter Sarah. Later, as I told you, she was married to Mendel Meisel.

My Grandmother Tsipa, her destiny was quite different. Being in Pumpyan, she was a very charitable woman. She was standing behind the counter selling, taking money, and underneath the counter was tens of packages of food, all kind of food-grain, cereals, flour, and sugar. And every poor Jewish man or woman who needed it came in, and she gave them a package or two packages. She was the most charitable woman I saw, and my mother inherited these features, this character. My mother also was very charitable; exactly she continued to do what the BobbeTsipa did. When it came, I am talking about my mother now, when it came Thursday evening or Friday morning, she prepared, and I

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helped prepare, tens of packages of the same food-sugar, flour, grain, whatever-and I used to deliver food to the poor people's home as a charity. Certainly, we were proud of her.

So my Grandmother Tsipa Hirshovitz lived in this house with her daughter Sarah with Mendel Meisel, a good life. Behind the house was a big yard and a big, big orchard-not as much an orchard as a vegetable garden, the largest in Pumpyan. In American measures, it would be about one hectare; I think one hectare is two and a half acres. I used to spend a lot of time in this garden, and that gave me a sense to like nature, to do a lot of things, planting and replanting and working together with a gardener who worked there. If you remember Uncle Max Hirshonin America, the name Hirshovitz changed to Hirshon-he was born in this house, and I slightly remember him. He used to like also to plant trees, and he liked to spend time in the garden. He was about the same age as my older brother, Yossel, and they were friends, more or less.

Another daughter of Hirshovitz was Aunt Leah. She immigrated to the United States at a young age. I don't remember her from Pumpyan, but I remember her visit in Pumpyan in 1912. No, I'm wrong-in 1913 or 1914, before the war started. She came home, the tante from America with a famous name, a well-known name, Leah. We called her by the name Green. Her husband's name was Green; that's what we were told. A beautiful woman, tall and beautiful eyes, as I remember, being a kid of seven, eight years old, and she brought with her the first gramophone in Pumpyan.

You know what is a gramophone, a record player? It was a big one with a big, big tube: “His Master's Voice” ; it was a dog, and he's talking in a tube and hears his master's voice. We started playing summertime, opened the windows, so the whole shtetl was around listening to beautiful American music. Beautiful American music. At my taste now, I wouldn't call it beautiful, but at that time we considered it the best music in the world. Jewish singers; I remember one name of the singer Lebedev. He was on most records. Usually, they played every evening, but especially Saturday night, shabbesah nacht, when people are at ease.

So it happened an accident with me, an incident. A lot of children
were standing outside at the window, listening to the music. I came. So the maidservant-they had a servant, Elizabetha-played a joke. She

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took a pail of water and just from the second-floor window spilled on the children to drive them away. And who was among the children? Mysel£ I could come in anytime, but, I don't know why, I stood in the line and got wet, and I broke out in crying. “Look what she did to me. I am wet.” This was like a tragedy for my mother and Aunt Sarah. “ Oy, oy, why didn't you come in?” They blamed the maidservant. This accident I remember up to date. I couldn't forget it. It took a long time to dry me up. Probably I was in the center of the group, so most of the water came upon me.

Aunt Leah spent in Pumpyan about three or four months. After
that, she left, and the gramophone took the central place in Tante Sarah's household. “His Master's Voice,” that's what I remember from that time. I didn't know what the meaning of the words are, but it was very impressive, the dog singing or talking into the gramophone.

Well, the destiny of my Grandmother Tsipa was different. As I told you before, maybe, during the First World War, when the war started, we were expelled from Lithuania, all the Jewish population. Lithuania consisted at that time of Kovno Gubernia (Gubernia is like a state); Vilna Gubernia, part of Vilna Gubernia (part was Poland); and a part of Suvalta Gubernia. These three states were called Lithuania. So from Kovno Gubernia, from Kovno itself, and from Ponevezh and from Pumpyan, all the Jewish population were expelled. If you ask me why, because of war broke out between Germany and Russia. First the Russians were successful; they occupied part of East Prussia in Germany. But then a counterattack, and the Germans started coming back and driving out the Russians. So the Russians explained and interpreted that their misfortune came because-you'll never guess, because why?

Josh: Because of the Jews.

Jacob: Because the Jews were spies for the Germans! We were spies! My Grandmother Golda, my Grandmother Tsipa, and myself, all of us were spies for the Germans, and that was the reason that the Germans are successful. So in twenty-four hours, and then was expanded to forty-eight hours, we had to leave Lithuania and all the possessions.

You can imagine what kind of tragedy it was. But, I confess, for me

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it was a holiday-for children a chance to travel, to go, excitementbut not for my parents and not for other people. So we have to sell whatever we could from our possessions. We had to dose the house. A part of the possessions was the merchandise from the store we left with a good friend, a farmer, a Lithuanian farmer name Nikolas Dominus. I remember him well, and he was an honest man, and he promised he will keep it until we came back. He took us in his two wagons. What we could, we took with us, and he delivered us to a railroad station. The nearest railroad station was in Ponevezh, but we were advised not to go to Ponevezh, because there's so many people, we will have no chance to get out in time. So they took us to another railroad station, much, much further, Kupishok. What happened later, that's already another part of the story. So my Grandmother Tsipa was among the people expelled.

My Grandmother Goldie died exactly a day or two days before the Jews were expelled. So people said she was a tzidkonyas. Tzidkonyas means-tzadik, a man; a woman, tzidkonyasa-a righteous person and beloved by God, so that she died in her bed and was buried in the Jewish cemetery. I would say that the funeral was a day before we were expelled.

So to finish the story of my Bobbe Tsipa: Among the other Jews that were expelled, I don't how they went, where they went; we separated. But finally, they settled in a city pronounced in Russian Berdyansk, in the Crimea. That's the right pronunciation? In Russia they pronounce Crim, Crim-ea. They lived there four and a half years or five years. In 1920, when time came to go home, some people could stay in Russia, but they preferred to go home. They figured the trip would take a month, five to six weeks, but the trip back home took a half a year. And she died; she froze to death. No matter how the Aunt Sarah and my Uncle Mendel Meisel tried to help her and to save her, they couldn't. Being in open wagons-railroad wagons, cattle wagons, or some otherone morning, they got up and they found her. She just froze to death. So that was her destiny. She didn't return.

Aunt Sarah and Mendel Meisel came back from Berdyansk, and they wanted to settle in Pumpyan, but they couldn't make a living, and they settled in Ponevezh. After the First World War, I am talking. We'll come back to this, but just now let me make a short remark. All the old

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houses, all the Jewish center, was burnt down. The Bobbe Tsipa's house, the big house, the saloonas-or, as we call it in Yiddish or in Lithuanian language, a kretchme-the kretchme was burnt down, all the row of the Ponevezher Street, Posteler Street, our house on Posteler Street was burnt down, and many other houses. What was left? The two rows of the Jewish stores by the edge of the marketplace. There were two rows of stores that were left occasionally.

Josh: Thank you. We will stop at this point, and later we will go on to the cheder years.

 

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