Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Ingrid Rockberger
Kil'yanovka was located in the province of Podolia, near the town of Lityn, which was considered by the residents of Kil'yanovka as a noteworthy city. They considered the closest city to Lityn, Vinnytsia, as a real metropolis. The residents of the ‘rest of the world’ did not consider Vinnytsia as a big city and when it was conquered by the Germans, they did not even bother to boast about taking it and just announced about the progress of our armies.
There was a single street and twenty houses in Kil'yanovka; however, despite its minuteness, it was the whole world for its residents. I was 12 years old when I left it along with the rest of its residents.
It was founded during the period of the snatchers. A group of Jews who served a substantial time in the Czar's army, settled it, under the promise that their children would not be conscripted into the army due to the fact that they were land owners.
My mother Feiga Adler, may peace be upon her, was a third generation in the colony. Her sisters were married and moved to other settlements so my grandfather's plot was divided between her and her brother. My father, Meir Astitas, came to the colony from Berdichev. He learned agriculture from my grandfather, whose daughter he married, and settled there. My parents had a plot of land of 250 disiyatins [675 acres], 50 of which was swampland and the rest was good agricultural soil. Our house was surrounded by orchards of fruit trees, a vegetable garden and a plot for cultivation of field crops. We had a cowshed, housing 12 cows as well as a geese and chicken coop. We also grew sugar beets, which we supplied to a factory in the city of Luginy. Compared to the neighboring villages of Bahrynivtsi, Meidan, Novoselytsya and Lysohirka, Kil'yanovka was a prosperous colony.
The above mentioned villages supplied us with hired workers during the burning season and also to collect the sugar beets. The shepherd also came from one of the neighboring villages. We sent the milk to Lityn and merchants who came from Odessa and Kiev bought our milk products (butter and cheese). Apart from oil and salt, we didn't need anything. The farm supplied all of our food needs grains, wheat, vegetables, fruits, milk and even meat. We pickled any excess from what we grew, in barrels located in the cellar, to use all year round. During the long winter days we sat at home, fattening geese and preparing groats and chopped food for the cows. In the evenings, we gathered in one of the residents' houses. The hosts would bring up, from the cellar, a bucketfull of kvasnitzes to serve to their guests. The women baked potatoes, which were served with sour cabbage or a pastry stuffed with cabbage. The children sat next to the adults and did their homework. All the children were taught by the melamed to read and write as well as Torah and arithmetic (in Yiddish). The Kheder and the melamed moved,
in turn, from one house to another. Every resident hosted them for about 46 weeks (one of our melameds, the old man Shlomo Kutin, resides today in Haifa). All of the children aged three to 18, sat on long benches and studied together. What was special about our kheder was that boys and girls studied together.
Those of us who were thirsty for knowledge, continued their studies in the elementary school in the village of Meidan, and later on moved to Lityn or even Odessa. One of the boys, from the Shternges family, studied medicine in Kiev, and immigrated to America at the end of his studies.
Except for studying, the kids were burdened with duties on the farm: feeding the animals, picking fruit, hoeing and mainly drawing water from the valley and hauling it up to the village which was located on the mountain.
On Sabbaths and festivals, the residents changed from their working clothes and dressed with their satin capotes and gathered in the synagogue, which stood in the center of the street. The synagogue contained a holy ark covered with a goldembroidered red velvet curtain and a decorated Torah scroll. The residents were pious in their religion and were very strict about keeping the commandments.
A Jewish person with a blue box [JNF donation collection box] would visit us once in a while. Under his influence, my father planned to sell his estate and make Aliya to Eretz Israel. However, in the meantime, the First World War broke out. All the people who were obligated to be enlisted were forced to enlist. My brother Shmuel served for two years on the front and returned to the village when the revolution started. Upon his return, he organized a group for selfdefense…
The pogroms could have been seen coming on the horizon. One evening, the neighboring villagers attacked the colony. They gathered all the residents in one house and locked them up. One of the children sneaked out through a window and fetched the defenders. They only had three guns among them, however their shooting drove away the rioters. Three days later, eight of the gang members came to the colony and demanded the weapons. Intimidated by their threats the colony surrendered its weapons. We were attacked a few days later. The attack took place in the evening; some of the residents escaped to the forests. We witnessed them looting our house until the morning. They seated us on a bench in one of the rooms after my father refused the demand of the rioters to go down to the cellar as they intended to throw a hand grenade and bomb the entire family. My father recognized the rioters and said to them: I cannot believe that you, our people, would do something like that to us. The rioters drew back and claimed : We are foreigners here, we just came from Kiev. The rioters killed my father and my two elder brothers, may Gd avenge their blood, in the morning. During that night, the rioters murdered 10 of the village residents. The adult men escaped to the forests and only women and children remained in the village.
During the following three months, the rioters robbed the property of the entire community. The harvest, animals and seeds for sowing were transferred to the neighboring villages. We wandered around in the forests. When we returned home for a short while to pick fruits from our fruit trees, the gang members came and drove us back into the forests.
All of us fell sick, but we could not lie down even for one day, and did not receive any medical treatment.
When we recovered , we dressed like peasants and were hired to work in the fields of the nearby villages. Some short while later, we moved to the city. When the regime changed and the Reds took over, my father's murderer was arrested. My mother was requested to testify in his trial. The court messenger came to us on Shabbat, and my mother, who feared testifying, did not want to desecrate Shabbat. However, the Rabbi of the town of Lityn demanded that she should gather her courage and he allowed her to travel on Shabbat. The murderer was executed by shooting in the courtyard following her testimony.
Many gentiles tried to benefit from our ruin. A policeman (gorrodovoy) in Lityn offered us to come and live with him. He offered his help in bringing the Passover dishes from our attic. When Mother arrived at the house, several rioters, showed up by chance, and tried to injure her. She was saved because one of the rioter's horses went wild. Several days later, the gorodovoy brought Mother several pictures he happened to find in our house, when he went to take our property, as if with our permission.
My sister and I decided to leave that country. I joined a group that was organized in Lityn, which planned to make Aliya to Eretz Israel. This was the Sixth Group of the He'khalutz from Ukraine. Many years later, I found out that one of my sisters returned and resettled in Kil'yanovka, which turned into a Soviet kolkhoz. She resided there until the Nazis annihilated Ukrainian Jewry.
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