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[Page 341]

Yefeh–Nahar and Dobroye

[No longer exists]   (Dobre, Ukraine)
47°24', 32°19'   47°19' 32°27'

Yehoshua Bar–Dromah and Tzipora Bar–Droma–Gallili

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

I was born in the colony of Yefeh–Nahar [Beautiful River]. In 1908, my parents moved to the colony of Dobroye and lived there until the October Revolution.

The colony Dobroye was divided in two parts with three lakes separating between them. The small part was called the “Polish part” (probably because its residents were natives of Poland), while the larger part was called the “Lithuanian part”, whose residents were natives of Lithuania. The two parts were connected via dirt embankments. The Lithuanian part was more developed, perhaps because of its proximity to the Yavkino train station (the station was named after a large gentile village which was located rather far from the station).

A grove was planted between the colony and the nearby train station. The colony's cemetery was located near the grove. The colony of Dobroye

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was different from the colony of Yefeh–Nahar in its heavy soil, sticky swampy mud and the poor quality of its water. It was known that the water in Dobroye was not tasty, and whoever settled in it would cover the roof of his house with sheet metal and dig a whitewashed pit by the house to collect rain water.

During the last year of the First World War, members of “He'Khalutz” [The Pioneer] movement came to work in the colony under the influence of my sister, Tziporah Bar–Droma–Gallili, who studied in the agricultural department of the Kharkov University and was also a member of the center of the “He'Khalutz” movement. My mother z”l convinced the farmers in the colony to accept these pioneers to work in their farms. The pioneers worked in the field, vegetable garden, cowshed and stable.

There were vegetable gardens in all of the yards, even by residents who were not farmers. There were cows in almost all of the yards. Some had only a single cow, and others had more than one. The excess milk and milk products were sold to people who did not have cows. Several housewives took care of chickens and grew chicks for self–consumption; however, there were no chicken coops. Every farmer owned farm animals, namely horses. Some had a single pair, and others had several; some farmers owned riding horses. When the district minister visited the colony, the colony youths would perform horse riding maneuvers as a reception along the main street which was called the “Train Station Street” since people were coming and going to and from the train station through it.

Vineyards were introduced to the colony under the influence of the JCA agricultural school in Novo–Poltavka. Farmers began to plant vineyards replacing the vegetable gardens.

During the dead season in the winter, there were some farmers who worked as waggoneers. They would harness a pair of horses and go to the train station to welcome guests who came to the colony and bring them to the hotel or to their hosts' houses. Some of them worked in transporting goods to and from the city of Nikolayev which was located about 60 kilometers from the colony.

The awakening public life in the colony was felt particular with the break of the First World War when the regime started to expel Jews from areas adjacent to the battle–fields between Russia and Germany. The heads of the committee, who handled the expelled refugees, came to the colony, to persuade the residents to accept the refugees courteously, and to arrange for their arrangements and lodging. A big crowd would gather in the big synagogue of the colony, old and young, to listen to the visiting public official. When the refugees arrived, the colony residents accepted them courteously and helped them settle down locally. A Hebrew school was established for their children by the “Tarbut” [“Culture”] organization, and the teacher taught his students using the “Hebrew in Hebrew” method.

In the spring days of the Russian Revolution, namely during the days of Kerensky's government, a substantial flurry of preparations toward the constitutional assembly took place. The Russian Jewry psyched–up for a national autonomy: “A personal autonomous national rule” – was the term coined specifically for the Jews, since they had no homeland. It meant giving the Jews in Russia national civil rights and recognizing the Jewish public as a unit, the same way an individual is recognized as a civilian who enjoys civil rights if he pays his civil taxes and fulfils his duties appropriately, even if he or she is not an owner of land. Based on that

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idea, an autonomous territory for the Russian Jewry was not considered an acceptable concept. The Jewish parties sent propagandists to all of the Jewish communities and did not skip over our colonies. One of the leaders of the “Bund” organization – Merzhin himself (a relative of a local owner of a private pharmacy), arrived for a debate. The local Zionists called the Zionists in Nikolayev for help in debating such a “lion”.

Yehoshua Bar–Dromah (Tel Aviv)

The accounts from the failed 1905 Revolution arrived at our colony of Yefeh–Nahar too.

We heard about the pogroms in Nikolayev, Kherson and other places. Rumors also arrived that the farmers of the neighboring village of Privolnoye, intended to cross the river of Inguletz [should be River Ingul, or Inhul] at night and conduct a pogrom in our colony. All the men organized themselves quickly for self–defense. My grandfather, R' Yaakov–Leib Barinski z”l, dressed himself with a coat, girded on a black silk sash, which he used to wear during a prayer, stuck a “Kliuchka” (an elongated and sharp hook used to pluck straw from the heap for heating) and an ax, and left with the defenders in the darkness. They brought us – the children and the women, from the streets adjacent to Saba's [grandfather] house, over to the elementary school of the colony, a large and beautiful red–tile roof building, built of stones. They packed all the belongings from the houses and expensive garments and brought them up to the school attic. Other children and women gathered in the synagogue (also a large and the most beautiful building of the colony). The men went out of the colony to “meet” with the rioters at the river. The courage of the Jews frightened the gentile farmers and they ran away.

During the years of 1905 – 1906, many young males and females Social Revolutionists (S”R's ) and Social Democrats (S”D's) came from Nikolayev, Kherson, Ekaterinoslav and other places to hide in our colony. The colony was distanced from the railroad tracks and visits by the officials of the authorities were not frequent.

Saba had several daughters and they had girlfriends. His house was considered a house of the educated, and everybody was treated courteously. Therefore, all the “hiding youths” gathered at the house on Shabbats for joint book reading sessions (“Tchitki” in Russian). I was a small girl of eight years old at the time, and I was tasked to play at the gate, stand on guard and warn against any surprise visit by the police officials.

During those days, a Social–Revolutionary (S”R) underground was active among the peasants in the colony surroundings. The result of that “activity” was apparent during every evening when we witnessed fires in large estates. The people who lighted the fires were the peasants. One single estate, which was leased by a Jew named Levinstein (from Novo–Poltavka and Nikolayev), was the only estate that was not burned by the Russian peasants.

After graduating from the studies in the elementary school, many of the girls in the colony studied with female teachers, privately. Twice a year, in May and August they traveled to the cities of Nikolyaev, Kherson, and Voznesensk,

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to take the high school (external) examinations. The boys traveled to “Yeshivas”. There were only two girls who studied in high schools those days. I recall one episode: My aunt, who was a very successful teacher, taught many girls and prepared them for the external examinations. She also taught boys, among them the son of the colony's Rabbi who said: “It is allowed to study arithmetic and Russian with the daughter of R' Yaakov–Leib”. That aunt taught a girl whose father did not allow her to take the external test, for fear that she would be writing on Shabbat. The aunt went to him while he was sick and laying on his death bed. She was asked to give him a “handshake” [solemn promise] that his daughter would not write on Shabbat during the examinations. The teacher agreed. Sometime later, she had to run around the high schools in Nikolayev and Kherson, during the examinations, and find a high school where the examinations were not held on Shabbat. At the end, the girl graduated from a medical school. She was a Zionist and has served as a physician in the Siberian exile. She made Aliya to Eretz Israel and served as a physician there too. She died there at a young age. She was the famous – Dr. Bilha Poliastro z”l.

Many of the natives of the colonies were involved in self–studies and continuing education and participated in joint readings. When the revolution broke out in 1917, the stream of the youths (which was called “emigration”) from the colonies to the big cities began when the gates for high education were opened for them.

*

The first physician serving in the colony was Dr. Gitl – daughter of Moshe (Ekaterina Moiseievna) Dorfman. My father z”l was the secretary of the colony assembly at the time (seated in the “House of Offices” [the administration building]). He interviewed her in his office while she was still a 25 years old youngster, right after she graduated from her medical studies in Switzerland. She handed him over a letter from the “Zemstvo” [Provincial Authority], which sent her over to become a physician in the colony.

The members of the assembly management team were dumbfounded and asked each other: “How could we manage with a female physician in a colony where the Rabbi is a sick man, suffering from a severe medical crisis, and requiring the frequent help of a physician?” They intended to summon the colony honorees for consultation; however they first turned to my grandfather, R' Yaakov–Leib Barinski z”l, requesting to hear his opinion as he was considered a smart man and was respected by them. Saba talked to the physician. He was positively impressed with her and went to the Rabbi Yaakov Tokarvitz to talk to him. The Rabbi agreed with Saba's assessment that medicine does not distinguish between a man and a woman and that every physician is G–d's messenger. Dr. Dorfman was accepted as a physician and served in the colony for three years. When she came to Saba to meet with him, she handed him her hand (she was not aware of the custom among religious Jews who avoid shaking hands with a woman). Saba handed her his hand. The affair of the “hand shaking of a woman's hand” became quickly known in the colony and many came to him with a question: “How could you?” Saba explained that it was a greater sin to insult another person by not responding.

The colony of Yefeh–Nahar stood on a beautiful hill which descended down on an inclining slope towards the river of Ingul. Beyond the colony, there were the vineyards and a large grove. The streets were wide

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and were designed to crisscross each other. A yard of about one disyatin (about 12 dunams – [about 3 acres]) surrounded each house. A street of German settlers was located at the edge of the colony (descendants of the German settlers who served as counselors during the first years and who established sample farms for the benefit of the Jewish settlers).

Upon the approach of the holiday of Shavuot [harvest holiday and a celebration of the giving of the Torah], the children of the colony would go out to the hills located outside of the colony, with sacks in their hands to gather fragrant weeds and honey flowers to spread them in the rooms on the floors. They brought them also to the synagogue. The smell of the fields and the white acacia, the milk dishes and the tale about the sky opening during the evening of the holiday excited me all of those years, wherever I was during the days of Shavuot. I remember that, as children, we refused to go to sleep before midnight. We wanted to discover the “concealed” which was supposed to uncover itself after midnight. We sat down outside and waited. Obviously, as my grandfather used to say, we fell asleep just before the “concealed revelation”.

*

I came to know Dobroye in 1908, when my family moved from Yefeh–Nahar to live there. My father z”l was transferred to serve as the secretary of the “House of Offices” (“Prikaz” in Russian). The work of a secretary then, was not the same as the work today. He would start his work at 7 o'clock in the morning and finish at 7 – 8 o'clock in the evening, and would also bring with him home, “thick books” to work in the evenings, until very late hours of the night. The concepts of an annual vacation, accumulated recreation days or social conditions did not exist then. The secretary handled all of the settlers' affairs: development of the budget (“Smita”), organization of the general gathering of the settlers, writing of settlers' applications to the government, performing inquiries and managing courts (courts were held by elected judges once a month), approving the birth certificates issued by the colony Rabbi who was a government official, assistant to the Chief Rabbi – which was also named the “Rabbi acting on behalf of the authorities” (Rabbiner). The colony's Rabbi was responsible for handling the records of births and marriages, and issuing birth certificates approved by the colony's secretary. In cases when the Rabbi did not know Russian, he would be content with signing his name, and the whole certificate would be generated by the colony's secretary. When a male was born to a colony farmer, he was entitled to an addition of farm land (disiyatin) from the land reserves of the colony. The secretary was responsible for marking the location of the additional land plot allocated to the farmer. As government officials, the secretary and the “Schultz” [village elected leader] were responsible towards their superiors: the Police Commissioner (the “Pristav”), and the villages' commissioner. The District Officer and the “Zemstvo's” representative would also visit the colony often. The responsibilities of secretary and the “Schultz” increased at the beginning of the First World War. The authorities took an oath of loyalty to the state from all the secretaries and the “Schultzes” of the colonies and the villages, and announced that if they would find a deserter within a colony, the secretary and the Schultz would be sentenced to three years exile in Siberia.

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Despite of that we had “dodgers” staying in the colony and not just a few. Every time when the authorities came to look for them (mostly during Fridays), we – my mother z”l, myself and our gentile domestic helper – wandered around in the colony's streets to notify the “deserters” – after all they were all Jews. On the other hand, there were quite a few youths from among the colony natives who served in the army and went to the front.

During those days, they did not distribute the letters to the houses according the address on the envelope. People would gather at 11 o'clock in the morning and 4 o'clock in the afternoon in front of the “House of Offices”, and the names of the addressees was read right there – outside of the building. There were quite a few people who cried when they received letters from the front. There were also letters received from far–away America, from people who managed to get away during the war. A letter like that would “travel” for almost a three month period.

During the days of the First World War, Jewish refugees from the border areas between Russia and Germany and from Lithuania and Poland arrived at the colonies located near the railroad, such as Dobroye, Novo–Poltavka and more. The colony adults and the youths organized to provide economic, social and cultural assistance. A committee was nominated to handle every type of assistance. A school in Yiddish for the refugees' children was established by the OPE organization – “Khevrat Mefitzei Haskala” [“Organization for the Dissemination of Education]. We accepted their youths among our youths and joined their elder youths to our Zionist clubs.

People from the Central Committee for the Assistance to Jewish Refugees came from time to time to investigate the state of the refugees in the colony and provide financial assistance.

During the years of the Russian Civil–War (1917 – 1920), “Grigorovich” gangs (named after the Ukrainian leader – Hetman Grigorov who conducted a war against the Bolsheviks) and the gangs of the “Greens” (Zliyonevs in Russian named after their commander Zliyoni) assaulted our colony. The colony's residents became refugees, and along with the refugees from Lithuania, escaped over to the nearby colony of Yefeh–Nahar in order to distance themselves from the railroad.

The White Army too, on its retreat from the Bolsheviks, was shooting at the colony from the train cars, and would also conduct surprise attacks. Our youths who went out to the train station to defend the colony, were murdered by them by cold weapon, and then the rioters entered the colony (since the murder was executed by cold weapons, other people did not get warned). The colony residents had again to move to Yefeh–Nahar which was located farther away from the railroad. A few days later, the Red Army caught up with Grigorov's gangs in Nikolayev, where a battle with the conquering Germans was taking place, by the White's [Ukrainian leader] Skoropadsky's forces. We then returned to our colony.

The colony of Dobroye, like the rest of the colonies, played a major role in training “pioneers” for Eretz Israel. As early as the years 1915 –1916, when I was studying in Kharkov, I was a member of the Eretz–Israel committee of the “He'Khaver” [The “Comrade”] (the Students' Zionist Union), and later a member of the “Tzeirei Tzion” [Zionist Youth] organization. Even before the establishment of the “He'Khalutz”, I suggested to begin training members of Zionist organizations in our colonies. When I presented the idea, all the members of the Eretz–Israeli committee were

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astonished to hear about the existence of the Jewish colonies. The general question was: “whom do these colonies belong to?”

During 1916, the first groups slated for agricultural training organized in the cities Kharkov and Poltava and arrived to Dobroye to work. During the holiday of Passover, when I came home for vacation, I began to organize the farmers to accept the young female and male students to work on their farms. My mother helped with that task substantially. It was not that easy to gain the acceptance of the farmers. They cringed at the idea of accepting a Jewish student to do hard work. They would say – “has anybody ever heard about anything like that before?” However, in the summer, when the students “pioneers” came to work, the farmers woke them up at 3 – 4 o'clock in the morning, each saying to his pioneer: “Wake up pioneer. Over there, in Eretz Israel, you would have to wake up even earlier”. The pioneers had accepted that burden with love and joy. Following the “He'Khalutz” conference in Kharkov, a year later, the movement's center managed to assign many “pioneers” to the colonies for training.

During the years 1918 and 1919, following the October Revolution, an agricultural cooperative consisting of “He'Khalutz” members who were staying in the colony for training (natives of Kharkov, Poltava, Minsk and Ekaterinoslav) was established in Dobroye. They owned several beehives and a vegetable garden, and some of them worked as temporary workers for the colony farmers. The members of the cooperative participated in the defense effort when the hooligans of the Grigorian “Greens” gangs and their collaborators – the farmers from Yavkino village – rioted in our colony. The local defense force was not sizable, and we did not own any firearms. Some of the pioneers were killed during the riots, and one was lost along unsafe roads on his way back home to Poltava. However, some of the cooperative members were fortunate to have found their way to Eretz Israel.

During the initial days of the Revolution, messengers came from Nikolayev, to train the colony elected officials how to establish a farmers' and workers' council. The general gathering of the colony residents took place in the big synagogue. The new constitution allowed those who were not farmers to organize themselves in trade organizations, and these organizations were obligated to send a representative to the elected assembly. During the general assembly meeting, one of the honorable farmers – Berl Kosoi (a relative of Yona Keseh, Israeli Kneset member) stood up, knocked forcibly on the stage and shouted: ”Blood would be spilled before we allow people who were not farmers to vote. There is a danger allowing them to do so. People would realize that there are people who are not farmers here, and will convert the agricultural colony – “the Kolonia” to a town – “Mestetchka”.

As a Zionist, I was proud by his worry about the agricultural character of the colony. It is a pity that in our own country today, that feeling does not exist, and every agricultural settlement in it aspires to become a large city in Israel.

Tzipora Bar–Droma–Gallili (Tel Aviv)

 

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