by Sura Ajzensztadt
Translated for the Yizkor Book from English into Yiddish by Yaakov Goldfein
Translated from the Yiddish by Toba Ajzenstat
in Memory of My Mother, Sura Ajzensztadt (Sarah Ajzenstat)
I Left Only By Train and By Ship But Not With My Heart
In Novemer 1935 I left Poland and traveled to Canada. I was then all of 17 years old. My father, Sender Zisha, my mother, Toba, my sister, Fotsha, my brothers, Shmuel and Yosef, my friend, Etel Bajer, came to the station to see me off.
Three years before this my family had relocated from Kurow to Warsaw.
The train moved. I didn't realize what was happening to me. I didn't understand the seriousness of the moment. Once more I threw myself to the window to catch a glimpse of the disappearing faces of those most dear to me.
The train carried me with the greatest speed farther and farther from my old world.
There remained, however, memories engraved in my mind. I rescued the memories from the fire. They have strengthened me and comforted me in my loneliness, in my isolation. They have lifted my spirits and awakened faith in me in moments of despair and pain, in moments when I heard from the distance as if truly with my own ears the thunder of German cannons, when it was as if the boots of the murderers were truly treading on my heart, on my brain.
For long years I have led an independent life, in new surroundings; new faces are all around me, new voices sound in my ears, but…I will never free myself from those other faces, from that other world and its sounds. I don't want to free myself from them!
My Father. Father!
My father's voice! Sender Zisha's voice. I hear in my mind the sweet soft melodiousness of his voice when he sang together with his students and when they davened mincha-maariv.
The quiet and calming sound of his voice when he spoke with people. A voice of wisdom, of integrity. I know that not just I but also others felt and thought this way about him. It was not without reason that he was an official and secretary of the Jewish community in Kurow for many years. It was not without reason that people of different characters gathered around him. He was beloved in the town, by his students (he was a teacher of Gemurah and taught older children), by his family, friends and acquaintances. Everyone felt a warmth toward him, a trust.
|Sender Ajzensztadt and his wife Toba Elenbojgen and children: Tovia, Shmuel Simcha, Yosef Aron, and Feige the parents, sister and brothers of Sura. All perished.|
He himself was not from Kurow; he was born in Jozefow nad Wisla. He married a Kurow girl (Toba Chanas, Simcha Elenbojgen's daughter) my mother, may she rest in peace and chose the town as his dwelling place because the town and its people entered his heart. In time he came to love it and was thought of as one of its own. It was a mutual love.
I can't tell of his having done great deeds, I do know, however, that his mind was often occupied with higher thoughts. Greatness of spirit surpasses other, more worldly, greatness. Wealth, prominence, and importance did not turn their backs on my father. On the contrary, he could have achieved them! However, he distanced himself from them because he didn't want to sacrifice his inborn simplicity, his modesty.
Thanks to his simplicity he found a common language by which to communicate with great and small, with the poor and the rich. Among his friends there were people of various attitudes and of opposing views such as Hershel Rapoport and the freethinking Yosel Lerman, Yosef Leib Grosman, who was his learning partner for Shabbes study, and a Yankel Wajnrib, Shulim Goldberg.
A few of his acquaintances, close ones, had the inclination to distinguish themselves; they wanted to outdo others in wisdom, in wealth, but my father dealt with them by giving them the benefit of the doubt, with patience and understanding. But in fact it was the unsophisticated, the simple, quiet
people who were his best company because he felt himself to be one of them. Spending time with them, getting to know their concerns, was a pleasure for his spirit. He often said that there were not any entirely ugly people in the world. Every human being, even the most obese, the most detestable-looking, has a beautiful face when smiling. He always used to instruct me: Laugh, Sura, you should always laugh! And I listened to him.
This was how Sender Zisha went through life, with a lovely smile, if not on his lips then in his spirit. With a smile and trust in every person, an innocent and naïve faith in the goodness of human nature.
And that faith of his held him fast in his place, in his world. Faith strengthened my father as it did thousands of other simple, devout Jews and then it led them into the deepest despair when the great world tragedy came.
He did not believe in war. His deep belief in the Creator distanced him from the thought that such savage things can even be imagined.
What became of his dreams and ideals when he beheld the last stark moments in their full horror? That for certain must have been much more painful for him than his physical suffering.
The Natural Joy of Youth
My Kurow, which has been preserved in my thoughts, was a town of youth and life. I spent my years of blossoming and maturing there. The years from 7 to 14 are especially engraved in my memory.
At that time I could not yet see the shadows of life, the need and the want, the evil and the hatred which pressed in from all sides. The little town has remained in my imagination as a bright place, full of sun and laughter. I remember no unusual troubles, no struggles. For me Kurow was and has remained to this day a paradise for young people. I lived and grew and that alone transformed the everyday and gray routine of life into a romantic adventure.
The girls of my age, my circle, had to find by themselves ways and means to get amusement in life. We had to invent pastimes for ourselves. There was no radio in town, no movie theater, but we enjoyed ourselves in especially interesting ways.
We took pleasure in Shabbes achim, enjoying being together, laughing and singing out our energy, our joy in life and our youth.
Those moments have remained in my soul like a reservoir of light and spring from which I am still nourished to this day. It seems that nature, the joy of our growth, protected us from worries, from thinking too much about serious matters.
The avenue of tall linden trees near the German cemetery, the not always sweet-smelling pond in the meadow, the open fields they blocked out all sad moods and feelings. We were part of the open and wide world of nature, simple and unpretentious,
|Tovia, the brother of Sura. He traveled from Eretz-Yisrael [to Poland] to visit his parents in 1939 and perished there.|
and in our own youthful and naïve way we grasped the meaning of life. We had an innocent happiness.
I rememer how, on a hot summer day, we used to go swimming in the little stream, the Kurowka. A group of boys, just at that time, would find an excuse to pass by and we made comical efforts to hide ourselves in the shallow water because we didn't have bathing suits.
Often we would go for long walks in the woods. It was wonderful to hike through the fields and woods together with a cheerful group of young people. But when there wasn't anyone to go with me I would go walking by myself.
For example, there was the Lubliner Way. With my girlfriends at my side I used to stroll along this road numerous times back and forth. We used to parade between two boundaries the town hall in town and the well-known yellow house near the linden trees.
My devoted girlfriends, Chavale Rozenzon, Freidele Lipsman, and others. They were always active, always vivacious with them things were never boring.
The step of a Kurow person, the tempo of life, was slow and measured. We had enough time and everything in the end got done. It was not without reason that we were called by the unpleasant name Kurow creepers!
The certainty that there was enough time to do everything enabled us to benefit more from the surrounding beauty. In the winter time we often used to go sledding on the hills around the town. How much joy and laughter were then carried on the wind!
Overcrowded and Yet Comfortable Dwellings
I also remember, however, the poverty of our dwellings. On average a whole family lived in a dwelling consisting of just one room. But a group of young girls didn't want to relinquish their youth and we got together at one of the girls' places to spend time together. I remember my friend's dwelling. In one corner stood my friend's father at his work-
|Etel Bajer, daughter of Moishe Aron [Bajer] and Shifra Kawa, and grandchild of Hersh Mechel [Kawa.] Perished.|
bench. In a second corner stood the beds. And in another corner the housewife was busy at the large oven, magically bringing forth delicacies from the rusty pots.
Somewhere else, in yet another corner, stood the large barrel of water and in the narrow passageway the group of girls used to gather, singing, rehearsing skits, or simply talking about other girls and boys… When parents were there to see, a boy was not supposed to be anywhere near their daughter.
At our frequent get-togethers at the house of any of the girls we sometimes used to start a dance a little polka or a hora. Then the gifted Ruchel Szildkrojt would accompany us on her violin.
At the time I attended the Beis Yaakov school we would often put on plays. Our plays were based on themes from the Tanach, such as the megillah of Esther, Ruth, or Chana and Her Seven Sons. The roles of the sons were played of course by girls. We performed with such enthusiasm, with such sincere feeling, that we were hardly aware of our awkward acting, our silly make-up, our odd decorations…
|Blima Elenbojgen. Perished.|
|Avraham Leib Wajda. Perished.|
A Last Word
In particular, Feige Gitel Wajnberg excelled in acting ability playing a variety of characters with grace and talent.
Feige Gitel Wajnberg, sadly, played her last role in the liquidation of 1942. May God avenge her blood!
Feige Gitel's face will never be erased from my memory. Together with her there will always live in my thoughts the dear images of all my other girlfriends: Chavale Rozenzon, Blimale Elenbojgen, Ruchel Szildkrojt, Etel Bajer, Chana Toba Grosman and many, many others.
Of what were you guilty that they murdered you in such a beastly fashion? You live in me, in my mind, in my feelings. I think of you often together with my saintly father, mother, sister, brothers, and my whole family.
For all of you I write these few inadequate and childish words.
You all are my essence, my being, my soul. You will always remain in my memory!
by Avraham Lerman, Montreal
Translated by Ala Gamulka
Donated by Rhona Fink
The Germans during WWI
I left Kurow in 1915. It was immediately after the tragic death of my father. He was killed by a German bullet in WWI, when they had occupied all of Poland. During the fighting, the Germans sent all the Jews to Vonvilitz. My father did not want to move. He always said you cannot escape death. That is how he remained in Kurow and ignored the great shooting in town. Early Monday morning (it was the 22nd day of Av), he took his tallit and Tfilin and went to the synagogue to pray. On his way home a bullet found him and he died with his tallit and Tfilin under his arm. Several Jews, who had remained like my father, buried him under a barrage of bullets. I was then in Lublin. My parents did not allow me to stay in Kurow. I arrived in Lublin on a Wednesday and by Friday Lublin was occupied by the Germans. Every day, I walked the streets looking for people from Kurow because I was looking for news from home.
On Wednesday, the 22nd of Av, I met Shlomo, son of Gershon and asked him if he knew what was going on at home. It turned out that he did not recognize me. He told me that he had heard that Shmuel Avraham was killed. I did not ask him anything else. I searched for a way to get home as soon as possible. I found out that the road between Lublin and Kurow was closed because there was fighting going on there. I ignored this and I left Lublin and went on the road to Krasnik. There were Austrian soldiers on that road, marching towards Lublin. Late at night I reached Beltsshitz.
The first Kaddish
The town looked as if it were after a pogrom. Store doors were torn off and it was quiet like in a cemetery. Jews had fled to Lublin and simply left everything. As I was walking alone, I saw a house with its windows dimly lit. I knocked and a Jew appeared at the door. I felt a little better. I sat there until daybreak. I arrived in Vonvilitz around 10:00 o'clock. There I met many Jews from Kurow they were still afraid to go home. I went into the synagogue, prayed and recited my first Kaddish. I then continued on to Kurow.
When I arrived in our home, I found the doors shut. I remembered that a key was left with Yankel Baruch Melamed. I could not find out where my mother and sister had gone. In Kurow there just a few dozen Jews. I spent Friday and Shabbat there. On Sunday, Jews began to visit me and towards evening my mother and sister arrived from Miechov.
I went to Canada in 1921
They found out the tragic news where they had been. We sat Shiva and then sold whatever we had. We then moved to Lublin where we somehow settled.
I could not find work so I began to trade in blue glass(?). Several times a week I went to marketplaces and I made a good living. I went to Kurow often because I had a girlfriend there that I loved very much. Actually, she is now my wife-to a 120. Her maiden name is Sara Nudelman, daughter of Israel Moshe (leather shopkeeper) and Hannah Raizel. We lived in Lublin for six years. In 1920 we received immigration documents from my wife's sister in Montreal, Canada. We were married that year and in 1921, my wife and I left for Canada. We have been here for 33 years.
I left Kurow almost 33 years ago, but its image is still in front of my eyes. It is as if I were there today. I cannot imagine that our Kurow has been destroyed and is now a mountain of ash. My cherished, unforgettable town of my birth, I will remember you forever. My entire family, my friends and my father's burial place- there is nothing left. However, in my memory and in my heart, you will be etched for eternity. I will never forget.
The teacher R. Meir Yaniver
As if it were today, I see my first rabbi, the teacher of young children, Rav Meir Yaniver. He was a tall man with a long brownish beard and piercing eyes.
Well inscribed in my memory is the day when my father brought me the first time to Heder. I looked around and I saw children sitting on benches made of long pieced of wood and placed low to the ground. It looked as if the children were sitting on the ground since there was no floor. My father, z l, spoke to the
Rabbi and left immediately. The rabbi led me by the hand and sat me down among the other children. The children were all strangers. I felt alone. I almost cried. That moment, my mother came in carrying a large paper bag in her hand. She gave me the bag and said:
Take it and share with all the other children.The bag was full of caramel candies. I immediately began to share and my mother kissed me, said something to the rabbi and left. I felt I was among friends. The rabbi called me and sat me at the table. He recited the Aleph Bet, which I already knew. My father had taught it to me. The rabbi was quite pleased with me. He pinched my cheek and told me to return to my seat.
I do not remember how long I studied with Rabbi Meir Yaniver. I do recall that, once, I was in synagogue for Mincha prayers and the rabbi came over to my father and said:
R. Shmuel, you little boy can now begin to study Chumash, but I am not a Chumash teacher. Listen to me and take him to Mordechai Leib.
The second teacher, Mordechai Leib
It did not take long for me to go from Meir Yaniver to Mordechai Leib. He was a Jew of middle height with a short black beard. He had a sad face with red, sickly eyes. He always took small pieces of cotton which he soaked in water and he placed them in the corners of his eyes. He called the liquid eye water. He wore a velvet hat with a large brim which covered the eyes. He constantly groaned. He suffered with a sitting illness and always used a cushion.
He taught in a quiet, calm way and he seldom shouted. The stick lay on the table in front of him. It was only to scare. If he ever picked it up, he would leave it hanging in the air. He never used it on a child. However, his son David who was his assistant, inflicted pain on us. He used to pray with us in the mornings.
From the left hand to the right ear
His fondest enjoyment came from pulling ears. The worst was that he always settled on the right ear. He was a lefty, but it always happened that we sat with our right ear near his left hand. During prayers, when we reached Ahava Raba Ahavtanu he started with the ear. When we said Vaitra, he would say: It is written Tara and he pulled the ear. He did not believe in hitting nor in shouting- only pulling ears. Once he pulled my ear really hard (of course, it was the right one). When I came home, my mother noticed that I was touching my ear. She came closer to me, looked at the ear and shouted:
Who did this to you?I held my tongue and did not tell her. However, she found out from another boy who was in my class. The next morning my mother went to the Heder. From that day on, David stopped pulling ears.
I immediately began to learn Chumash. A special meal was prepared in our home for the first recitation. My parents, especially my mother, were in seventh heaven. I studied with Mordechai Leib for three years. When I left him, I learned Chumash with a little Rashi and I understood everything as well as the rabbi did
The rich boys- the wise one and the not so wise one
My third rabbi was Simcha, son of Pessach. He taught Gmara. Even though I really did not know Chumash, especially not Rashi, I was taught Gmara.
However, I did learn something from Simcha. That is, it was better to have been born to rich parents than to poor ones. This was especially felt before Passover: we learned the Haggadah. To represent the four sons he chose four boys, two rich ones and two from poor families. The first two, the wise one and the not so wise one were the rich kids and the poor ones- the mean one and the one does not know how to ask. It was not because the first two were the smartest or the more capable ones, but it was to respect their parents. It was felt also when the recitations were done in the evenings. A meal was prepared on those occasions. Every boy had to bring 20 kopeks, poor or rich. The Rebbetzin cooked noodles with soup and meat. The Rabbi bought a bottle of liquor. Evening prayers were done following holiday script- up to Shomer amo Israel la' ad. We then began to eat the meal. The rich kids were placed in front and they were given liquor and larger portions. It was only when we were going home from Heder that we were all equal, all basically the same. All chanted the same tune and all struggled in the white snow.
More a matchmaker than a teacher
I did not study long with Simcha. My father saw that I would never become a rabbi- as my mother had wished.
A son of R. Yosef, son of Itzik, resided in Pilov and was not making a living. He left his wife and children and came to Kurow. There he became a teacher. I was one of the eight students that he acquired. My father said that this teacher would teach in a different way than the other teachers. He was a short man with a blond, sparse beard. He had wide shoulders. That is why he was called Meir the wide one. He wore a new robe, a white sash and shiny shoes- he did look different than the local teachers. The learning was also different. In addition to teaching, he had another job: he was a matchmaker. He would often go away for two or three days. He told the students not to tell their parents that he was gone. They were to come to Heder and study on their own. We listened to him and came to Heder. However, in the summer we would go to the small stream to swim. We went home to eat during Heder time. Every week we had a few happy days When the rabbi did return, the learning was not worth anything. We used to study with him, but not he with us. This continued for some time
until the parents found out. They all came to the rabbi and asked:
Can it be true? How can you do something like that?The rabbi replied- his wife was sick and the children did not have food. He promised it would not happen again. The parents decided among themselves not to pay him tuition for the time he did not teach.
Every time, the rabbi yelled at us asking why we did not bring any money. One time, about two or three weeks before Rosh Hashana, he took us to his sister's house (Her name was Tema. She was Yoma the tailor's first wife). When we entered the house, he called to his sister and whispered secrets to her. Addressing us, he said:
All of you, go home and demand tuition money. When you receive it, bring it to my sister. She will reward you for it. Each one who brings her money will get a shofar.No one brought any money and we did not receive any shofars. The next day, when we entered the Heder, we did not find the rabbi. We discovered that he left for Pilov and would not return. This is how the Heder of Mordechai Garbes was no more.
Since I did not have a Heder to attend, my parents wondered what to do with me. My father did not want to send me to another teacher of Gmara, Meir, son of Dobre, or Shlomo son of Yoske. He saw that I would not be a diligent student. I was too young to be apprenticed to a trade. Aside from that, my mother did not want me to become a shoemaker or a tailor. It was better to wait until after Succoth to decide what to do. I was very happy to be free for a few weeks. However, I was not really that free. I had to pray in a loud voice so my father would make sure I did not miss a word. After eating and benching I had to study Tehillim on a daily basis. Again, in a loud voice so my father would hear. Then Chumash and Rashi followed. I had to do the weekly portion. This is how I spent the entire day from early morning until late at night. We do not even need to mention Shabbat.
A rabbi or a fool
Immediately after Succoth the rabbi from Miechov, z l, came to Kurow. He stayed with Itzik Schneir. My mother really believed in this rabbi. He had blessed her and predicted she would have a son-me. I was the only son of my parents. As soon as the rabbi arrived, the town was delighted. The news reached the surrounding villages and many women came to Kurow from Merkushev, Vonvilitz, Konskivolie. The town became alive. Of those who came, the majority were women. One of the important followers of the rabbi was Zangwill Bliakhazsh.
Once, when I was reciting Tehillim, my mother said to me:
Avraham, today we are going to the rabbi.It was the first time in my life that I went to see
a holy rabbi. It was also the first time I was in the home of Itzik Schneir. In a small house, full of women, sat at a table, a Jew with a yellow beard. He was dressed in an old jacket, with a kippa on his head. He had a goose feather with which he was writing on a piece of paper whatever a woman was telling him. The woman put down a few copper coins on the table. The Jew said:
It's not enough.The woman added coins. The Jew opened the door and told her to go to another room.
When my mother received the small written note and the Jew told her to go to the other room, she said to me that when I go to the Rabbi, may he live along life, I should greet him. In the second room I saw the rabbi sitting on softly covered chair, near a table piled with books. He was wearing a large robe with a velvet hat on his head. He had a nice black beard with some white hairs. I approached him to greet him. His hand was soft and smooth. He read the note and asked me if I was able to learn. I answered that I could. The rabbi said to my mother:
Woman, if a Jew can learn, he will do so. If you want to apprentice him to a trade, make him a good one.He did not say anything else. We went out through another door that led to the alley, near the house of Mendel Mulis.
The first modern Heder
At that time, David Hersh Strasburg (he was then called David Hersh Soltes), opened a modern Heder with the permission of the soviet authorities. When my father heard about it, he immediately met with David Hersh and sent me there to study. This was the first time I went to the Pirovny(government permission)Heder, as it was called. I liked it and I loved the teacher. Everything was new for me. First of all, the teacher himself- David Hersh. He was a tall Jew, a little bent, with a black beard. A kippa on his head and nicely and cleanly dressed. David Hersh was a modern Jew, a scholar, with a great deal of knowledge -for those times. He knew Russian and Polish and was a Zionist sympathizer. Secondly, the room was clean and airy. In front was a desk and a chair- for the teacher. Further there were benches on both sides- all the way to the wall. One side was for the girls and the other one for the boys. There was aisle in the middle. On the wall there was a large picture of Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovitch. On another wall a big table where the children learned arithmetic. It was a pleasant view when one entered the Heder of David Hersh. There we learned to write in Yiddish and Russian (at that time, the Russian government did not allow the study of Polish). He also taught us Tanach, Chumash and he made sure we understood everything. All would have been fine, but it was a Pirovny Heder. Every afternoon a Russian teacher would come to the classroom to teach us the Russian language and arithmetic. As soon as he came in, all the children
had to stand up, take off our hats and greet him. We had to, unfortunately, study for a whole hour, with bare heads. This created a great worry in town, especially among the Hassidim. It went so far that the Heder was excommunicated.
I remember one day, in the morning, a female student by the name of Sheindel, daughter of Shmuel Itzik, entered the Heder and told the teacher that boys and girls shook hands when they came in. They also walked home together. David Hersh smiled and asked the girl to sit down. He was a stubborn man. Nothing stopped him and he continued on his way. Later, even Hassidic people sent their children to David Hersh, so they would learn to write a letter to a Russian address.
In the Russo-Japanese war Russia suffered a great defeat. The revolutionary opposition to the Tsar was fully alive. Kurow stood out with its Bundists. In town, there were always two Russian police officers.
In Vonvilitz there was, in those days, a Russian officer, very good-looking, tall and healthy-looking. He was quite strict. However, he could not really use his abilities since in Vonvilitz there were no Bundists. He walked around looking for something to do. The authorities decided to exchange both officers- the one from Kurow was to go to Vonvilitz and the other from Vonvilitz to come to Kurow.
It did not take long and one fine day, Pavel Malachov (that was his name) arrived in Kurow and immediately started to show who he was and what he can do. I liked his image, his uniform and his long sword.
Once. On a summer evening, I saw him standing at the crossroads of Pilov, Warsaw-Lublin. I was near the vault of Yona Montshes and I watched him. Suddenly, a song was heard from the Pilov road. It was revolutionary tune. Pavel stood like a hound and looked, but he did not see anyone. It was becoming dark and the song came from far away. The song grew louder. Pavel hid under the cross that was there and began to listen. Soon, a whole group of Christians and Jewish youths came. As they neared, Pavel jumped from his hiding place and shouted, holding his revolver:
Stop!They all stood scared. No one tried to escape. Pavel began to hit left and right. When he finished, he said:
Now go home. If you again want to sing these songs, I will shoot you like dogs.Petrified, they all ran home. It was calm for some time. They believed Pavel: he had stopped the revolution.
Two months later, on a Wednesday evening, winter began. A frost. Almost no people were seen on the street.
There were still some Jews in the synagogue, warming themselves near the oven and telling stories about the Vonvilitz market that they had just come from. Around the synagogue there were some young men studying with a beautiful Gmara chanting. In the houses it was after dinner. Suddenly, the entire town was shuddering. In the night three or four shots were heard. Then, it was quiet again. A great fear was felt by the Jews. They remained sitting in place like stones. It took a few minutes to recuperate. They were afraid to go outside as each one was sure that Pavel Malakhov would shoot someone. Slowly, people began to come out of their houses. When they arrived in the marketplace, the entire town was assembled there and some information was obtained:
Pavel had gone to Efraim, son of Itzik, Shnier and wanted to buy sacks and gloves. Suddenly shots were directed through the window which was closed. Efraim threw himself down under the table. Pavel saw the revolutionary and wanted to shoot back, but at the same moment, he fell.
Efraim began to shout and people began to come. They saw the police officer lying in a pool of blood. They called Haim Shmuel, the Felsher. He checked him and immediately ordered him to be taken to a hospital in Lublin. He was taken there. He died on route.
In the morning, many police officers arrived from Pilov and arrested some gentiles. However, they were soon let go and freed. They never discovered who had shot the officer Pavel Malakhov.
The black Satan and homegrown bandits
A short while after this event, rumors were spread in Kurow that in Ukraine and Russia large bands of criminals were organized under the name Black Satan. They are in the habit of going from town to town, from village to village, to organize pogroms against the Jews. No one knew where these rumors originated. No one had read it in the newspapers. The news grew and the Jews were petrified. Businessmen who came from Lublin told us that the whole country of Poland was afraid and in Lublin people are afraid to sleep at night. Even Avraham Mordechai Mechels, the only theatre person from Kurow, who traveled to Warsaw every Sunday, told us that in Warsaw people are afraid of the Black Satan.
In the synagogue, one Jew related that in many Ukrainian towns where the bands had passed, not one living Jew remained.
In Kurow, we began to think about what should be done. At that time, the Jewish and Christian youths were united. The gentile Lis Savarey, the oldest revolutionary in Kurow, said that there must be self defense. Arms needed to be acquired. Only money was needed. Since the Black Satans target only Jews, money had to be collected among them. This is how it happened
Every evening (they were afraid to go in the daytime) Lis and a few friends went to rich Jews, such as Shaul Levinson, Israel Gozshitshansky, Itche Shnier and others. No one really knew if they got anything and how much.
One early evening I saw the money collector going to Shlomo Leib Machles' son. He was Fraidel Raizel's husband. I was very close to them and saw how they collected money. I immediately went back home and I could watch from the window. Shlomo, a difficult person with a large stomach, sat at the table, scared.
He did not know what was happening. Lis Savarey came to him with a paper and told him how much he should give. Shlomo was not one of the big donors and he hesitated. A Jewish friend of Lis told him:
If you don't give, they will slash your stomach!He immediately drew a revolver. When I saw the revolver, I ran home. Another time I saw them at the home of Moshe Khalfan. When they came to the door, it was locked on the inside. No one wanted to let them in. They took out a revolver and began shooting.
This continued for a long time. Every early evening, they went out with their revolver in the hand to collect money among the Jews of Kurow- in order to defend them Later it turned out that this Lis Savarey was a big criminal. In the end, he actually was shot in the village of Slovinek, near Lublin.
Preparation for defense and then escape
Rumors were heard that the Black Satans were coming closer to Lublin. The Jewish members said that their big leader, Lis Savarey left to buy arms. No one should be afraid. One early morning, it was still dark outside, someone knocked on our door. Father asked who it was. From the other side the reply was:
Get up, the Black Satans are near Kurow!When my father heard the news, he woke us up. We quickly got dressed and with great fear, we did not know what to do. It was already light outside and Father went outside to see what was happening. He immediately returned and told us that all the Jews were going to the synagogue to pray. After prayers they would recite Tehillim. My mother had, in the meantime, packed all necessary items, in case we had to run away. She sent me to Zlata, Shaul's, the mother of Yankel Baruch, the teacher. She was a baker. She ordered me to bring bread. I knocked on the door. They only opened the door when they knew who it was. The person at the door was Leiezerel Einbinder, Zlatke's son-in-law. Although he was already an old man, he stood with an axe in case it was a Black Satan. All the stores were shuttered and all the vaults locked. The town looked like it did on the eve of Yom Kippur before Kol Nidrei. On the synagogue street I saw Elkaleh, Shlomo Zekel's. Behind her there were many women. Elkaleh held a large siddur in her hand and yelled in a frightening voice:
Come to synagogue to say Vidui. We will hide in the cemetery behind the gravestone.On the way back I saw many Jews and gentiles marching in rows, armed with sticks, stones, axes, shovels and rakes. They were marching towards the Lublin Road.
I saw Simcha, the son of Leizer the shoemaker. We armed ourselves with two stones and we followed them. Just past the chancellery, we stopped. This is where it was decided we would receive our guests.
Suddenly, we saw, in the distance, two riders nearing us. One on a white horse, the other on a black one. Everyone was sure this was them. No one uttered a word. It did not take long and we saw that these were two Jews from Merkushev who were sent to warn the Jews of Kurow. They jumped off the horses and began to shout:
Jews, save yourselves! Run away wherever you can!The Black Satan had left Merkushev and had already reached Garbov.
What happened later, I do not know. Simcha and I were among the first to run away. We ran aimlessly to the market square. When we stopped, we heard a woman saying:
Come here, boys.When we turned around, we saw a woman sitting on a cart. We ran to her and she told us to climb up. We did so. The driver whipped the horse lightly and we began to move. The woman told us not to be afraid and that all the women from Kliment were alive. She was taking us to her home.
It was quite cold outside. We were not dressed for cold weather and we began to shiver. The driver did not hold back the whip on the horse since he wanted to get home quickly. On the way we encountered a cart with the priest from Kliment. The priest, when he saw the cart moving quickly towards home, asked him why he was doing it. The driver crossed himself and told him what was happening in Kurow. The priest then said:
If 'they' are tunning away, I understand, but why are you doing it?The driver crossed himself again, smiled and continued on his way. When we reached the village, Haim Elye came out of his house, wearing a large overcoat. His right sleeve was on, but the left one was hanging (he was missing his left arm). He brought us into his house. We both went to the stove and warmed ourselves up a little. When we felt warmer, we realized that we were hungry.
When it became dark, we were afraid to have any lights and we sat in in darkness.
Even then - a bunker
Haim Eye and his wife discussed how they would hide us over night. It was too dangerous to stay in the house. They decided to go to their neighbors for the night. They took us to a pit filled with potatoes. They placed us
there with many rags. We used some of them to cover ourselves and some to lie on. We lay in the pit, hungry, frozen and afraid to utter a word. I don't know how long we sat there because every minute seemed like a year. Whenever we heard a sound in the cellar, our hearts almost stopped. The cellar door opened and Haim Elye told us to climb out since we did not have to be afraid any more. The Black Satan was not coming back.
We immediately ran into the house where a lamp was lit. Haim Elye's wife offered us pots of warm milk and bread. When we were sated and warm, we told them we wanted to go home.
We were given a place to sleep, but we could not sleep all night. As soon as daylight broke, we got dressed and Haim Elye drove us out of the village and showed us the way home.
When we came to Kurow, it was early morning. There was great happiness in town when they saw us coming home. We told the story of our survival. When we asked what happened with the Black Satan, no one answered because they felt ashamed and outwitted. This is how the big scare of Black Satan ended.
When I sat down to write my memoirs from my old home, I did not imagine that it would be such a long story. Since the Kurow Yizkor Book is a remembrance of that world and there must be a space for all former residents, I will end my part in it.
by Dvoyre Taytlboym
Translated by Tina Lunson
Do you even remember when Togfeygl was the Hebrew teacher? The school cared about and treasured each one, but paying tuition to provide for the teachers did sometimes not occur… And perhaps they did not have it.
The fee due to Keren kayemet l'yisroel was lacking. Togfeygl was the patron at the time. He considered taking the 200 zlotych from the tuition the fund. But it was not enough for the fee for Keren kayemet l'yisroel. No small thing! They decided to present a theater piece and salvage the situation. They performed Nomberg's Mishpokhe under the direction of Yankl Nisnboym of blessed memory. The success was tremendous. They easily covered the 200 zlotych for Keren kayemet l'yisroel.
Meyshe Sholem's Shtrasburg
He was the best tailor in the town. He was much beloved among the Christians and by the Jewish downtrodden. When there was a Christian celebration, Meyshe Shtrasburg was an invited guest. The Christian doctor declared to him:
See, Mr. Moshko, I am a lot better off than you.
How are you better off than I? asks Meyshe.
I, says the doctor, if I make a mess of things they are buried and it's over. And if you make a mess you won't be pardoned for ten years. Just look, how my sleeve is poorly made, how it binds me!
My Dear Town
Dear friends and buddies - where are you?
Do you remember the times when everything was in place to move to erets Yisroel? How beautifully each of you portrayed the dream of the homeland? And when you saw that the dream could be realized you pulled back, were afraid of the reality and so stayed sitting at home. But what kind of home did you have instead? Hunger, poverty, fear, suffering, having to borrow against your merchandise for the fairs. That was your reality. Where are you all, my dear ones? When you rise from your graves [when Messiah comes] you will be proud of our homeland. We work, we build, we live free and satisfied, honorable and dignified!
But it would be even more beautiful, and more lively, if you dear ones and the whole town, had packed up and come to the land of Israel. How lovely that reality would be!
The school Ha'tkhiya [rebirth, revival], founded in 1916 in Koriv
by the Zionist organization and headed by the Shtrasburgs
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