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History of the Community

 

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The Town

by Asher Gurfinkel

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Our town Ludvipol, or, as it was nicknamed by the people “Greater Selisht,” was one of the smallest Jewish communities in the Volhyn district, where Jews have lived for generations upon generations. So small was the town, that people would say that when a carriage or a wagon entered it, the head of the horse would be at one end of the town and the back wheel at the other end… The town had no great beauty and no luxury, and its houses suited its size – they were not large and not tall. The shape of each house matched the place it occupied.

Here was my home, the house of my parents, in the alley that we used to call “Kasrilevke;” these were houses that had not been harmed by the big fire, nor by the fire before that or by smaller fires: the houses have remained in place. Bent and discolored, leaning on one side, hidden up to their “waist,” the windows touching the earth – so the houses were standing, carrying on their humps the pain and suffering of many years.

A summer breeze suddenly came, blew away the wood shavings that covered the roofs and exposed the holes and cracks, through which the autumn rain penetrated and filled the baking and cooking vessels on the floor. The ceilings became covered with various geometrical figures, which disappeared only before Passover, with the big cleaning.

Here was the Korets Street, the street of the “Bennyaks” – Benny's sons, with their tall bodies, loud voices and proud and confident walk. How the goyim were afraid if these sons of R'Benny!

On one side of the street an entire row of houses belonged to R'Benny's sons: the house of R'Gedalyahu and his sons, the house of R'Yankel and his sons, his brother–in–law R'Berish and his sons, R'Hershik and his sons, Aizik and his sons, and on the side – Froyke and his sons. During one of the big fires the entire street burned down and R'Benny's sons built new houses for their families, wooden houses with balconies arrogantly facing the street. Just go and see.

And then there was the “Tailors' Street” – and on it the “Tailors' Synagogue” – the only street that was like a straight line, from the market place to the Dead People's Bridge. How crowded that street was on Saturdays and Holidays at sunset! People would take walks back and forth the length of the street, from the corner by Gedalyahu Benny's shops to Shprise's house across the Bridge of the Dead – the little bridge that marked the border of the town – for leisurely walks as well as for funerals. Under this bridge the Habel River flowed, and the people returning from a funeral would wash their hands, say their farewell to the dead and return to town. From this point the road was open to the ferry on the Slutz, as well as to the wide fields and forests.

How many memories and youthful experiences are associated with this street! On the benches that were placed in front of the houses we created our youth organizations, held meetings of the various committees and experienced our first love. Many a summer night we spent on these benches or on one of the balconies, wondering and dreaming about our future.

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The center of activity on weekdays was the market place. The market was of the shape of a large circle – in its center the various shops. The market was always bustling and noisy, except for the Sabbath and holidays, when the market became silent and the “Center” would relocate to the Tailors' Street. That was the street where the synagogue stood, which was the meeting place of the various preachers and holy men, and the place where the Community assembled to discuss the relationship with the “authorities” and to hear news from the emissary from Eretz Israel. During the elections to the “Sejm” [the Polish Parliament] one of the Poles would burst into the place, with a warning and a demand from the Jews: vote only for the “Observers of the Law!” Here, also, at the time of the Christian holy days, the Jews recited the traditional blessing for the ruling emperor or the president.

Not far from there was the center of the Hebrew Renaissance in town: The Hebrew school Tarbut, built through the efforts of a few Jews, headed by Leibel Chankes – a few young men, who invested hard work of body and soul constructing column after column and wall after wall until they erected a place where the Jewish children would be taught and returned to their nation. How pitiful seemed the pride of the goyim, who had unlimited means to build their schools, compared to the will and energy of the handful of Jews who built this Hebrew School! The sound of the Hebrew language coming from the mouths of the children was like a fresh breeze, a bridge over huge distances – a link between the poor town and the atmosphere of homeland, alive in the dreams of every young person in town.

From here we move to the Alley of the Synagogues – the Bet Midrash and the Great Synagogue. On weekdays the alley was silent, enveloped only in the echoes of the diligent learners and Midnight Prayers. At night the alley became filled with ghosts, whose weeping and lamentation was clearly heard by the old shamash [synagogue attendant] – wandering souls seeking Tikun [reparation] in the Great Synagogue….

And there, near the public bath, was the border of the town, and the stream that we nicknamed “Sluz.” Like a string of precious pearls, pleasant childhood memories of summer days are resting along the small river, as we bathed and swam without the permission of our father. Also memories of Friday afternoons, before the arrival of the Sabbath, with our father and with a bundle of clean clothes under our arms… and also here, was the little bridge that by crossing it you reached the road leading to the far, wide world.

This was the way we lived, we and our fathers and our fathers' fathers, generation upon generation, closely connected to the landscape of the wide fields and the thick green woods that stretched far beyond the horizon. On this landscape, the peasants' various villages were located; our ancestors had a mutual relationship with the villagers and managed to earn a livelihood, most of them by hard and honest work, a few by taking advantage of a villager's error, but all of them – we must not forget – struggled hard for their right to live, sometimes by humiliating themselves in front of the “authorities,” sometimes by outsmarting them and at times even defeating them.

The town had its own history – not a written history, but an oral one, passed from generation to generation. There are several versions concerning the origin of the name Ludvipol. One of the versions tells about a nobleman who lived in a palace – the fort on top of the hill near the Chopkov village on the bank of the Slutz. The name of the nobleman was Ludwik and of his wife Pola.

The histories of the Jewish families are more precise. Every family knows the name of the ancestor who laid the foundation of the family and its business. These were the names of the families: the Moshukes, the Toveles, the Gutels, the Tuvias, the Chankes, the Benyakes, etc. etc. and every family had its own opinion concerning the neighbors, the business and the various occupations – from the right to ride the ferry on the Slutz to the right to lease the fields of the nobleman Moraviow for pasture. All these businesses and relationships were carried out in many different languages – the languages of the goyim and the language of the prayers and the prayer book. What was not understood was replaced by hand movements, until the goyim understood what was being said.

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The history of the town tells us about a past of brilliant days, when its Batei Midrash were full of learners and the wave of Hassidism swept over our town and woke its Jews to a new life. Of the great pious people and scholars we shall mention R'Pinchas Shlomo z”l and the rabbi R'Markel. R'Markel was the grandfather of R'Akiva Chazan z”l, who perished in the Holocaust. I didn't know R'Pinchas Shlomo, but I remember well his son R'Mordechai, R'Motl the Shochet [ritual slaughterer] – the head of the family Shehori in Israel. His noble figure stands alive before my eyes, radiating modesty and endless goodness of heart. How great was his help for the poor and needy – whether by giving anonymous charity or a loan from the Free–of–Interest Loan Fund [Gemilut Hasadim], or by a good word and moral support – all that quietly and tenderly, in a good spirit. From the distant past, as through a mist or a dream, I still hear the sweet prayers and songs, flavored by R'Yehoshua Shochet's Jewish sigh. It seems that these pleasant sounds were the basis of the musical perception and the musical feelings of many of us.

I also find among those memories the Holiday joy and gladness of the festive crowd in the synagogue, lit by a thousand lights. I remember common days and holy days, days of joy and days of sadness. Sometimes, usually on a Tuesday, the entire town woke up from its calmness – and from children in their cribs to old people, the entire town accompanied a bride–and–groom to their wedding canopy. All, invited or not, close family or far relatives, joyfully followed the Klezmer, especially the violin singing in the moonlight with a sound filled with Jewish sadness and joy at the same time. And the great light, the “original light of the seven days of creation” that engulfed the town and lit its dark streets – where did it come from??

Small was the town, planted by the Creator by the side of the roads, far from a railroad or a great center, and the great winds that have blown in the world by–passed it and did not reach it. Yet, a light gust of this great storm did reach the town, and its young people would gather on long winter–nights around lit stoves and petrol lamps, to dream about wide horizons, far new worlds and ways to break the barriers of the narrow and choking town. Some, albeit with poor strength and meager means, did succeed to go out into the wide world and learn, and on Holiday Eve R'Sanye the wagon–driver would take them back to their parents' homes. They brought with them something new to our town – Zionism. Shlomo Chankes was one of the messengers, accompanied by the first revolutionary of our town, Zeibl Feiner. Following this modest beginning, the Hashomer Hatzair and Hechalutz movements were established, paving the way for a live and active youth who filled the streets of our town with new songs and happiness. The result was The Aliya of chalutzim [pioneers] to Eretz Israel.

MAY GOD REMEMBER THEM,
TOGETHER WITH ALL THE RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE OF THE WORLD!


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The Sights of Ludvipol

by Yona Blostein (Raver)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner.

I spent my childhood years in the small town Ludvipol and surroundings – a town that the writer Peretz described as “A small town at dawn, as big as a yawn” [a shtetl beim greinetz, grois vi a geinetz = lit. a shtetl by the border, as big as a yawn].

I can see the town in front of my eyes, with its two main streets, two alleys and the market place, where our house stood and where I grew up. I remember the deep mud that filled the market place in the fall, after the rain. In the winter this muddy place froze and turned into a skating rink for the schoolchildren; in the spring, after the snow melted, the mud remained, sometimes to the middle of the summer. Only years later, the town council started to improve the appearance of the town: the two main streets were paved and the mud disappeared. The wooden sidewalks were removed and replaced with cement, but they remained narrow, enough for two persons only – if there were three, one of them would have to walk on the street. But trees were planted, and stretches of lawn began to appear along the main street. The house owners were encouraged to improve the fagades of their houses, and those who did not have the means to do it were given loans. Little by little, the town changed its face and began to look more cheerful.

A theater, a movie house and electricity did not exist in our town at all. What replaced electricity was the good old moon, and during the long winter nights the young people would rent a sled drawn by a horse, with bells for noise, and ride through the streets – that was our entertainment. It was called, in our Ludvipol language, “a katashke.”

On summer evenings we would take long walks along the streets until late at night, and when we finished the discussions we would gather near the two bridges that connected the town with the village, and there we would sit and dream of the wide world and a better future. The older people would sit on their porches in front of the houses – the place where the social life was led. The topics of discussion were politics, making a living, and, for dessert, a little gossip.

The Zionist youth movements and the “Tarbut” School were the ray of light in our town. I remember the first kindergarten, with the kindergarten teacher Chaya Semelmacher, who taught us the first Hebrew songs. The experiences in the local branch of Hashomer Hatza'ir movement were unforgettable. In the Benei Midbar [desert children] group – the youngest group – we made “bricks” out of matchboxes, to remember the slaves in Egypt. The older group, Hatzofim [scouts] would meet every Saturday afternoon on the hill in the Manshikow estate. The meetings lasted until evening, and we would return to town singing Hebrew songs. On holidays, in particular national holidays like Lag Ba'omer, 20 Tamuz etc. we would make a trip to the woods, this being considered a very important event. We would spend there a whole day, cooking our meals, playing and conducting discussions. The forest, about 3 kilometers from the town, served as a meeting place for the youth movements in the neighborhood

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and as a summer camp for the youth of Korets and Berezne. The social life was dynamic and enjoyable.

Our parents, who have suffered the ordeals of the First World War and the Petliura pogroms, hoped for a better life for us, their children. They did not want us to remain in the shtetl; all their wish was to see us in Eretz Israel – in Ben–Shemen, Nahalal, Mikve–Israel, the Herzliya High–School in Tel Aviv and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The members of the first committee of the Tarbut School organization were very active in supporting the education of the young people, and thanks to them a Hebrew school was established in our town. It is important to mention their names: Leibl Etstein, Motl Etstein, Akiva Salzman, Yitzhak Raver and, may they long live, Leibish Raver and Mordechai Ostrovski. The Tarbut School was like a crown on the head of our town. The study was serious and the relationship between the students was no less than exemplary. The teachers emphasized and encouraged the study of our national culture and in this framework we gave great support to the JNF [Jewish National Fund = Keren Kayemet]. The festivities during Purim, Chanuka, Tu Bishvat etc. were beautiful; for that we have to thank the teachers Avigdor Morik z”l and, may they long live, Chasya and Leibl Morik.

We had festive performances on the Polish holidays as well. One of the plays, on the Polish Independence Day, 11 November, excited even the Anti–Semites in town.

In 1939, when WWII broke out and the Red Army took over Western Ukraine, the language of instruction in the schools was changed from Hebrew to Yiddish and from Polish to Russian. The teachers, who only yesterday talked about Eretz Israel, now changed their tune and talked about the Soviet Union and socialism.

No wonder, then, that the young men and women went through a deep moral crisis. The Soviet–Yiddish school functioned from November 1939 until June 1941 – the German occupation. I cannot write about the events in town after that date, because I left with the Red Army.

 

Rachel Wellman and Sarah Chazan with the flag

 


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Memories from the Beginning of the Century

by Efraim Kozyol

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

I was born in Ludvipol (Greater Selisht) in 1911. Both my parents were artisans and I was the sixth child in the family (after me four more children were born). It was the time of Nicolai the Great and the family was well off. My father was an energetic Jew and he was a merchant, dealing in particular with the old landowner Brotzki. He would also lend money, with interest, to the peasants, and when they returned the loan and the interest they would add from the produce of their farms: honey, eggs, chickens, fruits and vegetables. The children learned at the heder of R'Yitzhak Wasserman, who was a scholar and knew the Torah. Other children learned with Zeidele the melamed and with Motele the melamed. There was not yet a Hebrew school in town, but in the Orishe suburb, some 3 kilometers away, was the Ukrainian school, and the girls went there to study.

One day, Eli–Yossi appeared with a pack of posters, and pasted them on the walls of the houses: they contained an announcement from the authorities – a demand of general mobilization of the fathers and sons from the age of 16 to 60, to serve in the army of Czar Nicolai. My father went as requested, and the situation at home worsened. Meanwhile, however, a rumor spread in town that the greater part of the recruited, especially those who were about to be sent to Finland, can be saved by bribery, if they caused some mutilation to their bodies. The “classical” Jewish mutilation, the fracture of a bone, saved many Jews from serving in the Czar's army, and my father returned home with many others.

Soon new ideas began to spread in the Christian areas. The Revolution came, and the greatest suffering was felt among the rich people, including the Jews, since every Christian envied the Jews who ate Challah every Sabbath and Holiday. The Petliura gangs began to show up in town, soon being accompanied by Haydamaks and plain robbers. One Saturday, one of the gangs lit a fire, threw on it sheets of metal and forced Alter Zhabodnik's children – Binyamin and Avraham – to stand on the coals, while gunshots flew over their heads. Great panic spread among the Jews, and they managed to collect a considerable sum of money, 15 gold rubles from each family – this appeased the attackers and the children were saved.

Following the “October Revolution” and the agreement between Trotzki and Lenin on one side and Poland on the other side the Brisk treaty was signed, and our town was since then under Polish rule. Not only that the troubles did not stop, but an intensive illegal border crossing began – refugees whose desired destination was America. The organizers of this enterprise were the sons of Chaimunye the tailor, Avraham and Gershon Katz, and the son of the wealthy Yitzhak Foigel.

At about that time we had a great fire, burning down almost the entire town. The “treasure chests” of many families – the big boxes where each family kept its most valued objects – were seen floating on the river near Berl's water–mill, burning as if they were on dry ground. The peasants from the surrounding villages hurried to rob what they could, and the rumor was that they succeeded in emptying all the boxes.

Little by little, people began to rebuild their houses, first the well–to–do then the working people. My family has lost everything. On the night of the fire my father was in the neighboring town at the fair, and

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when he came home it became clear that all the money went up in flames, and the peasants did not intend to pay their debts. In addition to that, many of my father's debtors were killed in the war.

The residents of the town barely recovered, and a new blow hit the town: an epidemic of typhoid fever, and we had every day five or six funerals of the victims of the disease. The ordeal did not bypass our home and during one year we lost four members of our family: my sister Chaya aged 17, my father aged 40, my oldest brother Israel Aharon aged 20 and a little girl whose name I don't remember. My mother became ill from all the sorrow and pain.

Slowly, however, the wounds began to heal; the responsibility for our existence fell on the shoulders of my brother Gotil. He was a very capable young man and he began to work as an artisan and a merchant, and our home soon began to show signs of revival. Our mother was still sick, and we all helped her to recover and step out of bed. We did our best to keep house, we did the cleaning and cooking while she supervised the Kashrut. The women in the neighborhood would come to hear our mother read from the book of Tzena Ur'ena, in Yiddish of course [Yiddish pronunciation Tzene–Rene]. We, the children observed the Mitzvot [commandments], we went to the synagogue on Shabat and Holidays, we went to visit our mother in the women's section and she received us all with love and a smile. We were glad and happy that she has recovering from her illness. When we grew up a little, we stopped going to the cheder and studying with the melamed: the spirit of Zionism began to fill every educated home in +town.


The Development of the Community

by Mordechai Wellman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

It can be assumed, that our family was one of the first to settle in Ludvipol after the destruction of the Jewish settlement in Chovakov. Chovakov had been under the rule of the Polish Feudal Simashek, but his castle was destroyed by the Tatars and he lost his estates. Evidence to that story would be the fact that the Jewish cemetery was closer to Chovakov than to Ludvipol. Ludvipol was on the other side of the river Slutz, a tributary of the Horin.

The town was named after the son of the nobleman Ludwig, who married the daughter of another nobleman, her name was Pola. In time, all the land became the property of the Russian Count Moraviov.

I am the fifth generation of the Wellman family. If I consider every generation 40 years, then the father of the family, R'Kalman, arrived some 160 years before the town was destroyed, around 1780.

The town was connected to the community of Berezne, a town about 25 kilometers from Ludvipol, where the registers of our community were kept. Our family was divided into several branches, since grandfather Kalman married a second wife after his first wife died and he was left with several children; if I remember correctly, he had 19 boys and girls. Three of them lived in our town: the family of R'Moshe Wellman, the family of R'Aharon Wellman and the family of R'Yechiel Maral. It seems that the family had connections with Zhitomir, Korostin and Korostichev, since the spouses were mostly from these places. The melamdim who arrived in town to teach also came from the neighborhood of Zhitomir, so we may assume that the town had in general a good relationship with that area.

The members of my family, excepting my father, were lumber merchants and left many riches for their sons. From the size of their houses, 6 or more rooms each, one can assume that they had an abundant income. They owned flour mills, a grease manufacturing plant (for wagon wheels), and many hectares of land. After WWI, as a result of the fact that part of their property remained in the Soviet Union, and also as a result of the pogroms as the town passed from hand to hand,

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they lost their resources of income and started small businesses instead – grocery and dry goods, and also adopted the most common crafts among Jews: tailoring, shoe making and carpentry. There were also 3 flour mills and a plant manufacturing wooden planks.

It seems that the era of the “Cantonists” [forced young conscripts to the Czar's army] also left its mark on the town. I still remember some of the Jews being pointed at by people, who whispered that “their grandfather was an informer, or even one of the 'snatchers' or kidnappers.” In this context, I know that our surname was not Wellman originally; the family adopted an additional name, as did many Jewish families, in order to avoid conscription, so that every young man in the family can be registered as “an only son” – only sons were exempt from serving in the army.

Other occupations in town were: one ironsmith, one wagon maker, two rope manufacturers, one owner of an oil factory, where the owner and his son worked. The others, as mentioned above, were small businessmen and artisans, and, as far as I remember, there were also two or three beggars, who reached even far towns with their “occupation.”

The Polish tax system impoverished many of the town residents: businesses closed and other means of making a living did not exist. No wonder that the young people regarded the Zionist movement as a great hope for the future and most of them joined it: they learned a trade, and spent some time at the Zionist training camp, in preparation for Aliya to Eretz Israel. The “Tarbut” School was very appreciated in town. Not only children studied there but adults as well – every Shabat they participated in the Tanach [Bible] lesson. On Chanuka and Purim we had festive banquets, and on the joyful Holiday of Simchat Tora we had a collection for the JNF [Jewish National Fund]. Lecturers came and told us about Eretz Israel and about the situation of the Jews in Poland – and the town felt that it was a part of the Jewish people although it was remote from the great centers of Jewish life.

 

Victims of the Urbanization in 1938: The Eilbirt family, evicted from their apartment.

 

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I remember that my father regarded as a great honor possessing the letters that R'Oyzer Weizmann, our first president's father, has written to my grandfather, who was his partner in the lumber business. Every letter or parcel that arrived from Eretz Israel – its value was not only financial but spiritual: it was a greeting from the land of our ancestors.

Walking through town, we could hear little children speaking Hebrew. With the establishment of the “Benei Yehuda Association” the schoolchildren took an oath to speak only Hebrew, with their parents as well. We were told that Jaffa Arabs, if they wanted to sell their wares in Tel Aviv, had to speak Hebrew, and when we went to a Christian store to buy something we also spoke Hebrew… The teachers were active not only in school: they worked with the young members of the youth movements and were in close and constant contact with the members of the community. And so, in spite of the difficult economic and social situation of the Jews in town, all found comfort in their connection with the school, which was the true “baby” of the Jews in town. The fact that the entire budget of the school came from the pockets of the members of the community was of less importance. Of all the Jewish families in town, only 2 or 3 sent their children to the Polish school; all the rest went to our “Tarbut” School.

In 1939, with the annexation op the area to the Soviet Union, the changes were not many; we may even say that there was some social and economic improvement. Some shops closed, it is true, but a wave of productivity was felt all over town. Professional co–operatives were opened and many residents were employed by the government. The school became a government school and the language of instruction changed from Hebrew to Yiddish. It must be said that this hurt the founders of the school, who had devoted to it their entire life, and suddenly were pushed aside as if they had not worked at all. I remember that it was rumored that the books from the school library were shredded and sent to the paper factory. I volunteered to this “enterprise”, aiming to save as many books as I could and bring them home; when I arrived to the library, I discovered that many other pupils have done the same… I am not sure whether we understood at the time the meaning of the tragedy, but we felt somehow that the foundation and source of existence of the town as a Jewish town was being destroyed.

Yet, and perhaps in comparison with the situation of the Jews during the last few years of the existence of a free Poland, we imagined a better future looming on the horizon for the young people in town, not knowing that their fate would be tragically sealed on 7 July 1941 by the murderous soldiers of the Nazis…


The Scenery of our Youth

by Shlomo Gurfinkel

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Two small rivers, the Smorodnika and the Habel, flow into the River Sluch. The area between the waters forms a rectangle, flat but slightly inclined toward the Sluch. On the Smorodnika they built a dam, which diverted the water toward the mill, to turn its heavy wheels. By blocking the stream, a wide artificial lake was formed; the water became partly covered

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with reeds and other water plants, but part of it remained clean and served as a bathing and swimming place, for old and young.

On Fridays, the men preferred to swim on the other side of the dam, where the water was deep and the banks were steep and covered with grass. Experienced swimmers swam freely and others just dipped and bathed, to get ready for the Sabbath.

To the East of the river was The Park – a group of large trees surrounding the ruins of the castle of a Polish nobleman, who owned the place. On Saturdays and holidays, people would take long walks in the little wood and enjoy its beautiful spots, alone or with friends. In back of the wood, a large plain extended up to the Sluch. This plain, flooded during the spring, served as rich pasture land for horses and cattle during the rest of the year. Many days of our vacation time we would spend on this plain, free of obligations and discipline. Sometimes we would climb on the ferryboat and help tightening the ropes around the wheels, to make the ferry move.

Sometimes we would find on the shore an abandoned boat. We would board it and row to the steep shore near the ruins of the Castle, then wander through its abandoned rooms and peer into the old, deep well. Rumor had it, that a hidden passage led from the bottom of the well to the bank of the river, and that once a goose was lowered into the well and it suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the river. It was said that the castle was ruined by the Cossacks, at the time of their uprising against the Poles.

 

Survivors…

 

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Sometimes we would walk to the big forest, on the other side of the Sluch, lay down on the earth to rest, think or have long discussions with friends. To our great joy, we once discovered, among the bushes, ripe red strawberry, sweet and juicy. Only at the end of day, as the shadows became longer and longer, would we wake from our dreams and start for home…

 

A Memorial to their dear ones

 


The Jews of the Village Bistritz (Bistrice)

by Shlomo Handelman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Fifteen Jewish families lived in the village Bistrice, near Ludvipol. In a way – considering their particular way of life and feeling of unity in the midst of a large Christian population – they were a subsidiary or branch of the larger “mother-community” Ludvipol. Its people were so involved in the life of the shtetl, whether by family or by commercial relations, that it was sometimes difficult to establish who was the “mother-community” and who was the “daughter.” It was a fact that the Ludvipol butchers, cattle traders, lumber traders and those who sailed on rafts up to Danzig – all drew their livelihood from Bistrice, where they sometimes lodged for weeks at Jewish homes.

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The house of the merchant Alter Marder, his wife Batya and their only son Israel was located at the entrance of the village. The next house belonged to Meir Feldman and his wife Bracha. All summer long he spent on the water, sailing to Danzig with loads of lumber. Then there was the house of Yosef Handelman, his wife Reizl and his two sons Mordechai and Hershel – two very talented boys. The father and his son Mordechai were the first victims of the Nazis; they were murdered and buried near the Lyaski cemetery, on the way to Koritz. The other son, Hershel, joined the partisans and was killed as a hero in the big battle near Lublin. There was also the house of Chaia-Sarah Handelman, her two sons Shlomo and Israel, her daughters-in-law and her grandchildren. Her son Shlomo (the writer of these lines) and his children fled to Russia, and after many troubles and suffering managed to reach the land of Israel and they now live there; the house of Chaim Gurfinkel and his wife Dina, who was from Brezna, and their three children; the house of the Romberg family; the house of Yankel Yoresh, his wife Lea and their children; the house of Yosef Gurfinkel, his wife Teibl and their children; the house of Mendel Romberg, his wife and his two adolescent boys; the house of Noah Handelman and his wife Sara-Lea; the house of Reizl Handelman her daughter Tzipora and her son-in-law Zelig and their four daughters.

All these families lived in peace and felt like one big family; the large Handelman family should be noted in particular. This little group of families numbered two minyanim [minyan = prayer quorum of ten men], and they prayed in two prayer houses, in order to be able to honor the two cantors and the other religious servants in the community. During the High Holidays there was no lack of cantors, Torah readers or Shofar blowers, and the Simchat-Torah holiday was celebrated joyfully, with songs and hora dancing.

Most of the young people in the village were Zionists, active in all national matters. Although their number was small, almost all parties and circles were represented. So, for example, Yosef Gurfinkel was Poalei-Zion Left, my brother Israel Handelman belonged to the Akiva Wasserman group (revisionists), and the majority, among them the writer of these lines, Yosef Hirsch, Yosef Handelman, Godel and Mendel Romberg, who received their training in “Kibbutz Kalossov,” belonged to “Hapo'el Hatza'ir – Freiheit,” later to Dror and finally to Po'alei Zion.

How sad and heartbreaking that all these Jews, fathers and sons, are not any more. They were murdered cruelly by wild animals, thirsty for Jewish blood. However, for me and for all those who survived they are not dead, their spirit is alive and I can see and describe their bright figures and wonderful qualities, their homes and their occupations, their blessed community work and their deeds of charity. To my great and heartbreaking sorrow, my large family and all my friends and acquaintances perished and I am the only survivor. My sacred duty is to preserve their memory in the memorial book for the Ludvipol community. My heart is broken, my eyes are full of tears and my hand is trembling. But our children and children's children will read these words – and may this be the Tikun [salvation of the soul] of our holy martyrs. We shall part with them by words of consolation and revenge: May they be comforted and rest in peace, for their sons have built a memorial for them in the land that was their aim and hope. May they rest in peace, for we have taken an oath: we shall never cease to pray and hope to see their spilled blood avenged.

“You shall blot out the memory of Amalek – Do not forget!” [Deut.25:19]

REMEMBER WHAT AMALEK DID TO YOU! [Deut. 25:17]

 

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