Memories From Zaretz Street
by Sara Karmi (Serebrovsky)
My memories begin from Zaretz Street, where I was born and where I spent my childhood years. The houses were surrounded by sand, without pavements; and yet, it seems to me, it was one of the largest and most important streets in the town because in Zaretz Street, all the government establishments were gathered. At the end of the street were the school (which the people of the town called "de schalke"), the burnt-out town hall that the children of the street used as a playground, the post office, and also the police station. In this street, Jewish and Christian families lived together in a friendly and neighborly way. Alongside the street ran a river from which the residents pumped water for themselves and for their beasts. There, women did their laundry, children played, and young people gathered together for boating, fishing and swimming. With the river water, we watered our vegetable gardens and tobacco plants.
The end of the street forked and led to the fields of the farmers (non-Jewish, of course) and to the villages that after the war (i.e. WWI) began to recuperate and become a source of income for the Jews. The townsmen used to go there to trade and, in return for their goods, brought back food for the small children.
At the beginning of the week, the workers would stream into the villages: tailors, glazers, cobblers, and carpenters. And among them was my father (God rest his soul). How I would long for him to come home on a Friday: tired, with dusty boots, a walking stick in one hand, and in the other, his wooden spoon and earthenware pot, which he did not want to leave behind for fear that something treif would get into them.
The first house in the street belonged to Noah the shoemaker. In the mornings, he would come out with his working tools to repair the shoes of the farmers; and in the evenings, he would continue his repairs indoors by the light of his lamp. The second house was deserted, but still showed the glory of its past. It was nicknamed the tzevirak because four families went to live there.
The families were poor (either because the head of the family had gone to America or because their house had been destroyed in the war.) They gathered there, within the walls of the deserted house; and together, next to one stove and one oven, they baked and cooked their meager stews and looked forward to better days.
There were two more houses whose look spoke of the glories of their past. Those houses were of Aaron RUCSHKIN der patchter and of Benjamin-Samuel the blind man.
After these was the impoverished home of Tuvia the tailor and his wife Chaia, who wandered during the week among the villages to scrape up a living, but on the Sabbath, their humble, clean home was a house of holiness and in the mouths of their children were the words of the Torah. Only later, I got to know the two houses at the top of the street. They were houses full of youngsters. The houses of Isaac PARUSHEVITZKY and of the ZINN family. In the town, there were no youth clubs. Gatherings and meeting were held in private houses and most such activities were held in these two homes.
Rehearsals for shows and for the choir were held in the ZINN family home. Although it was the house of a widow and orphans, it showed no signs of poverty. Simple wooden furniture, like in most of the houses, a sparkling floor, and a small balcony where Rachel the widow would sit to rest and welcome all passerby with a motherly smile. She never complained of her bitter fate. Every bitter-souled person used to come to her to hear her encouraging words and to accept her help. In the winter, the women of the street used to gather there and sit with her next to the stove.
So lived the Jews of Piesk, who worked and labored and dreamed. They were even willing to be parted from their dearest children for the sake of their having a better future. They lived on in poverty and waited to be reunited with them. But the murdering hand wiped them from the face of the earth.
We bear the duty to remember them all and never to forget.
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