Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
During the days of Czar Nikolai I, some Jews were allowed to settle on land only in a small number of locations in Russia. The city of Ruzhinoi [today Ružany in Belarus] was privileged to have had two such [Jewish] agricultural colonies established near it: Pavlova and Konstantinova. This was what [a settler] Yosef Storevelsky wrote about them in the [Russian Hebrew newspaper] Ha'Melitz ,1882 (242):
The colony was founded by thirty families who settled in it in 1850 and another fifteen families in 1851. The settlers came here to the colony from Yashinovka, Piesk, Liskova and Volkovisk. In the beginning, we experienced some bad years. Our land did not yield crops, the costs escalated and without the work in the factory for wool clothing, established by the Pinnes sons in Ruzhinoi, we would have died from hunger. Gradually we held on. The land was enriched by fertilizers, which we bought with our hard earned money in Ruzhinoi. Our farm animals increased in numbers, and we made an honest living from the crops of our land and the milk from our cows. We now have 25 field plots, the same as the number of the families. The number of people is 120 males and 124 females. Out of the thirty families that have originally settled here, five returned to their native towns during the first five years, as they were not fit for working the land. Their land was taken away from them by the government. Every one of the plots is of the size of 25 disiyatins [about 68 acres]. Three of the plots are meadows, one plot is for buildings and gardens and sixteen plots for sowing of all sorts of crops. The craftsmen among us include nine house constructors, seven industrial factory workers, three tailors, four leather craftsmen, three wall builders, one pottery maker, one carpenter, two blacksmiths, two cooks (butchers). Some of us were also serving as waggoneers in the city.
In the Konstantinova colony, on the other side of Ruzhinoi, there were eleven families.
The Jewish farmers were diligent, working their land most of the hours of the day. However, they set aside time for both work and Torah. This is what Yosef Storevelski tells about that in the Ha'Melitz (second year 1862 11,13):
Twelve years ago, thirty families arrived in Pavlova. We lived in hunger and scantiness for seven years. In spite of that, we built our own Beit Midrash [Jewish Synagogue and learning house], during the first five years, without relying on anybody, not even the wealthy man the late AryeLeib Pinnes. We accomplished everything on our own. It has been five years now that we have been hosting a scholar Rabbi and teacher. We give him crops for the sustenance of his family, and a place to stay. We also give him firewood and candles and even a Ruble every week. He teaches Khayei Adam [Life of Man Jewish law book by Rabbi Avraham Danzig (17481820)] and the bible every day. During Shabbat, he teaches the weekly Torah Portion, and morals every Shabbat Mevarkhim [Shabbat before the beginning of every Jewish month].
From the eve of the [Jewish] month of Kheshvan until the spring, we study the bible and Mishnah vigorously. There are also some people who study Gemara. The allocated time for studying is between Minkha [Jewish afternoon service] and Maariv [Jewish evening service]. There are people who remain beyond that allocated time to study farther. The children's Kheder is in the women's section. It contains three levels (grades), employing three teachers. Their salaries are paid by the parents. The Russian language is also being taught there.
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