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[Page 303]

{Pages 145-149 in Hebrew section}

Radzivil Characters

by Leyb Ayzen

Translated by Tina Lunson


Boris Yefimovitsh Koltun

Everyone knew him for his library of various theater pieces. It was no easy thing to borrow a play from him to perform. First one had to make a sacrifice–a watch and two zlotys–and sign an obligation document, and count the pages to be sure there was not, heaven forbid, a page missing. Besides that, all the books were marked with a stamp and with a special Russian inscription:

This is my book, as God is my witness,
whoever steals the book, may doom befall.
Those who did not know, read this:
Boris Yefimovitsh Koltun, Ogrodova 22.


Yosele Peysi–Rudes

Not everyone remembers him. He was a provincial, and not everyone understood what he said. He lived in the Lodging for the Poor charity's old–age home. When Yosele approached the management with the request that he be sent to a health resort, he got the response that only the very weak and crippled were sent to a resort. A brilliant idea occurred to Yosele: he had a pair of shoes made, of which one had a high heel, and he learned to limp on one foot so that he appeared to be a “real” cripple. The home then sent him to a health resort.


Pinye Shnayder

He was a small–time artisan and a big–time pauper, burdened with a large family, with children each one smaller than the other who thought only about food. Chane–Keyle, his wife, had to help earn their living. She fought hard to bring a loaf of bread into the house, and that was almost gone with the first portion.

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Chane–Keyle was a frequent visitor at her neighbor Rachel Milder's, who helped her with anything she could, and Chane–Keyle poured out her bitter heart to her. In their great poverty, Chane–Keyle brought a fresh little soul into the world each year. And when Rachel Milder tried to persuade her that in such a situation she had enough children, she naively answered, “What other pleasure does my Pinye have from me besides that?”



She had four sons and a daughter, each taller than the last, all shrewd grain merchants, and they all sputtered when they spoke. They knew nothing about love or romance. The marriage brokers banged on the doors; they were respectable matchmakers. But the sole respondent was always the mother, and when the broker Yekele Shteynberg presented a match with a dowry of $1,000, the mother replied, “For that money, he can take sick leave with me for a couple of years.”

No one fought against the tax collection authority harder than Kuzmirkekhe. Every time the authorities came to inspect and the house was full of grain, she stopped up the chimney so that there was so much smoke that no one could breathe inside, and the inspector had to stand out in the street and write down what she dictated to him.


Malkele Yuntsikhes

She was a woman of marriageable age, but not so young, she was over 30, and would always say, “Whoever wants to get married should come to me.” To my knowledge, up until the war, nobody came.

When the Russians arrived in 1939, Malkele dealt in several forbidden items, such as whisky, soap, and other things. Seeing through the window that someone was on the way to search her house, she quickly put the soap among the bedclothes and hung them outside to air; she covered the bottles of whisky and balye with piles of dirty laundry. She herself stood sweating and scrubbing clothes with all her strength, singing a song all the while. The end of the story: after seven hours they had found nothing.

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Binyamin the Water Carrier

Not everyone knew him, he lived at the Kitas' house in the cellar, had a wife named Dvorele, without children. He was also blessed with his family, a mother–in–law named Chakentekhe. She was a Jewish woman not to be dismissed. She always slept with her daughter …

Binyamin himself was very reticent and shy. And when Dvorele went for a stroll on the Sabbath with her husband and met her friends, she presented her husband, saying, “Introduce yourself, put out your hand and say Binyamin.”

That saying was widely repeated in Radzivil.


Motele Savory

He was an errand boy, an orphan. Good people had concerned themselves with doing the commandment of making a wedding for Motele and Rachel, who had fallen in love at first sight–at the wedding at Shintsiuk's, through the window. The wedding went off very well. The author of these lines was a participant and also took part in the wedding preparations, and later the circumcision, too, was attended by a large congregation. When R' Yosel Shochet looked around and saw that the fine sawdust was missing, Motele was sent to bring it. He returned very quickly, but instead of the fine sawdust, he had brought farina meal.


R' Shaye Fishkes

He was always merry, happy with everything. He loved to do a commandment. When Motele Savory was married, Shaye was the main person to see that everything was done just right. He went around with his horse to gather all the necessary food and equipment that people were providing for the event.

And when Shaye made a wedding for his daughter to a certain Zanvele from Brody, there was no end to his joy. He celebrated for a whole week and could not be parted from his bottle.

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Then, when Shaye was seen two weeks later, with his head bandaged and two black eyes, and people asked him, “Shaye, what happened?” he answered, “I went to see my son–in–law on the Sabbath…”


R' Moshe Chadash

He was sexton at the Barani Study Hall. He also went about with the charity box for the Burial Society, and for the Radivil householders, he distributed invitations to weddings and circumcisions.

During the same week that Leybish Porochobnik made a wedding for his daughter, Leybish Kozultsik's mother died. As Moshe finished his rounds with the charity box, he remembered the tickets to the wedding that were still in his pocket. Seeing Fayvish Norban in the street, he shook the “give for the commandment of burial” box and called out “Leybish Porochobnik and his wife invite you and your family to the wedding canopy on Friday…”


R' Moshe–Aharon the Cemetery Man

He was also a sexton, at the Magid's Study Hall. A kind and sincere Jew in every regard. He had to put up with a lot of trouble from his beadle, R' Binyamin, who constantly squabbled with him. R' Moshe–Aharon would stand at the reading desk with his snuff in his hand, quietly listening to the abuse, smiling and not answering a word. And when people would say, “R' Moshe–Aharon, why aren't you saying anything?” he would answer, “Bring me a receipt from Beyrel–Volf and I will talk with him.”

Everyone knew that Beyrel–Volf gave out the receipts from the Burial Society…


R' Yankele the Sexton

You always saw him happy, with a smile on his face and with some witticism. He led the food for the poor institution, collecting money to help people in need.

He was a frequent visitor at Dobtshak's. And when Dobtshak told him how difficult it was that he could not get his wife and son out of Russia, Yankele took it upon himself to make it happen. He disappeared from Radivil for two weeks, ostensibly to travel to Truskawiec. He got across the border with a smuggler, and with great pains he was successful in bringing back Dobtshak's wife and son.

This was sensational for us in the town in those days.


Sore–Beyle the Butcherette

Not everyone knew her–she was literally a saint. By day she worked in a butcher shop; at night she mended galoshes. She did not give heed to this world. Offering a free loan service was her main commandment. The poor customers at the butcher's already knew that Sore–Beyle would be sure there were a few zlotys to travel to the fair to buy a few things. And when she did not have money to lend, she took her own silver candlesticks to Gitil to pawn. That is how she was able to perform the commandment of a free loan service.

Every Friday, you could see Sore–Beyle going around with her huge apron, collecting pieces of challah for needy families.


Tsile Badaker

I lack sufficient words of praise to say about the noble woman Tsile Badaker, who faithfully gave to the poor strata of our town. Not everyone knew her, but this writer came to her more than once in a pressing situation to request support for someone in need. She did not even ask whom it was for; she just gave with a generous hand to anyone who turned to her for help. Besides that, Tsile Badaker took part in and helped all the philanthropic institutions in our town.


Beyle–Rive Vaynshteyn

This was a woman who was like a mother to the Pioneer youth in our town who used to gather in her crowded home on Pochaev Street to talk over various problems, make presentations, and discuss Zionist topics. One always felt a warm atmosphere there. She demonstrated such devotion and faithfulness to the youth that other mothers could not conceive of or understand it.

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She was always happy, with a smile on her face, until her immigration to Israel with her entire family.


M. Grinberg, A. Landsman, an important man in Richmond, America, build an estate in Israel



by Leyb Ayzen

Translated by Tina Lunson


{Page 153 in Hebrew section}

The Lively Funeral

Our stories took place not only in Radzivil but also in the city of Brody, in 1928.

Death notices suddenly appeared on walls along the streets of Brody that the great merchant Mr. D. had passed away, a sudden death, and that the funeral would be held at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

The story began with a Jewish tinsmith who lived in a cellar with his wife and five children in need and want, and who could not pay the required rent to the building proprietor, Mr. D.

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The then–active professional union of the Brody working class involved itself in the matter and intervened with Mr. D. about ameliorating the eviction of the abovementioned neighbor, but without results. One fine morning, the Jew was sitting outside with his family, without a roof over their heads.

As a protest against the rich man's dealings, it was decided to hold a lively funeral: they brought the bier from the cemetery and, with a large gathering of people, led the funeral procession through Leshnev Street, Market Street, Gold Street, and Lemberg Street up to the house where the person in question resided. An even greater crowd assembled there, some in the know and some not, to pay their last respects. Photographers worked with all kinds of equipment to take more pictures, which they would sell among the crowd. Arriving at Mr. D.'s house, a special cantor from the movement intoned “God, Full of Mercy.”

A delegation of three members of the professional union negotiated and got 1,000 zlotys from Mr. D., which in those days was a good sum of money. Besides that, a lot of photographs were sold, and all of that went to arrange an apartment and work for the poor tinsmith.

This event was quite a sensation in that time, in Brody and all its environs.


{Page 152 in Hebrew section}

The World to Come, Sold for a Sack of Flour

Anything can happen in the world, including to us in Radzivil.

The story I am describing here took place in the 20th century, when culture for us was at a high level.

One cold Sunday, when all the shopkeepers and merchants were gathered in the Barani Study Hall–not only to pray but just to have a chat about politics and in general hear how Jews were faring in the world–they talked over various things, complained about problems that had nothing to do with Jewish folk, until as usual they came around to the topic of the world to come.

The participants, freethinking Jews who had no worries about making a living, could enjoy discussing it.

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The grain merchant, Mr. B. T., wants to show that there is indeed a world to come, and one only has to be over 120 years old to merit it. There is also the Great Overseer, God, who pays every person for good or for bad. The shopkeeper, Mr. H. K., does not agree with Mr. B's conclusions and proposes that he sell his portion in the world to come for a sack of wheat flour. Mr. B. agrees. They shake hands on the deal, and Mr. B. T. counts out 33 zlotys (the value of a sack of wheat flour).

The congregation joked, made fun, and laughed at this great trick, and H. K. of course considered it very wise, telling his mother about the finalized transaction. His mother almost fell into a faint, and she demanded that he go right back and nullify the agreement. It was quite difficult to convince Mr. B. T. to sell the double share of the world to come, but others got involved, and with much effort were able to annul the deal for two sacks of flour.

The flour was distributed among the poor folk, and the town residents could not forget the big trick for a long time.


{Page 153 in Hebrew section}

Anything Can Happen

Among the few wealthy people of our town Radzivil, Leybish Prochobnik, of blessed memory, holds a special place. Of course, he did everything in his power to keep his only Leybish Prochobnik, from falling into gentile hands, and he got him exempted from military service. When Mikhel stood for the draft, the military doctor Rabtshenko from Dubno was persuaded to inscribe one word–nyezdolni, not suitable–for the price of $100.


Leybish Prochovnik and his wife


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At the same time, something grievious happened: there was a gentile in town with the same name, Mikhel Prochobnik, and with his luck, he was released first. The error was soon cleared up, but it was too late.

Behind closed doors, Leybish Prochobnik had to give another $100 to the scoundrel, and it would remain a secret.

But the news spread through the town like lightning.

A few days later, the gentile came with his hat in his hands to thank him, saying, “Thank you, Mr. Prochobnik, sir, for your kindness.”

The people of Radzivil certainly remembered that one.


{Page 154 in Hebrew section}

A Pauper with a Starched Collar (A True Story)

That is how this Jew–certainly from Lemberg–looked. He wandered into our town, not, heaven forbid, to beg for a dowry, but to collect money for the “poor brides” fund–in order to make a wedding for his own daughter.

Arriving in Radzivil, he set up his first meeting with me, at the recommendation of Beyrel Lober. He greeted me very politely, said his family name with a smile, and faced me directly: “I haven't come to you for dowry funds, but to request your help in getting several addresses for flour brokers, because I come from that line of work, too. Now that I need to marry off my daughter, I must turn to my associates, who will help me out of a tight spot.”

That was the introduction of a Jew, an intelligent pauper with a starched collar and a stately appearance who spoke with a German accent. Obviously, it did not take me long to put together such a list; the Jew went around to the mills, calling each by his family name on the list so as to make a better impression. Our townspeople presented themselves well and gave generously.

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He came back to my house and ate a good lunch of soup that he had ordered earlier. Then my guest lay down for a little rest. When he got up, he was interested to know whether there was a study hall nearby and whether wealthy people prayed there. He prayed with great focus, almost like a rabbi, and did not forget to observe the congregation. He did not speak with anyone, received a few greetings, kissed the mezuze, and went home. Dinner was prepared according to his order. After the meal, he led me into a chat about the days before World War I and after the end of the war. He began,

“As a young man in '14, I started dealing in cattle, even though I was a tailor by trade. It went very well for me, but the war interrupted my plans. During the war, I supplied meat to the military, and that was good business. I think that here in town there are many butchers. Would you be so kind as to give me their addresses?”

I put together a list of all the butchers.

The second day, after eating a hearty breakfast, my guest went out to all the butcher shops, spoke with the butchers like an expert tradesman, and once again came back with a good sum of money. In the evening, he again directed our conversation to the same theme. He further related,

“When the revolution broke out in 1917, I was a great believer in the working class, but in time I was persuaded and lost my sympathies for their Marx–Engels program because I come from a religious family. Then I went back to my old trade, tailoring, until 1922. I believe that there are many tailors here in town. If it's not too difficult for you, give me the addresses of my former colleagues, and I'll visit them.”

And the third evening, we talked about the time after the war and the current situation in Poland (he was also well versed in politics). Realizing that this was all tied to his money collecting, I now wanted to hear his fake stories. He told me more with great earnestness:

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“I could see that there was nothing much to gain from tailoring, and my God–favored wife was against it, so I gradually began dealing in bookkeeping supplies. I was good at that line of business, and it took off, I made a good living at it. Most unfortunately, my wife died after a terrible illness, and I was left with two daughters and a son. Perhaps there are sellers of bookkeeping supplies here? I hope you could do me the favor of giving me their addresses.”

I wrote it out again and believed from his invented stories that I was putting fellow tradesmen together.

After working over the bookkeepers' suppliers, he rested for several hours. After, that he suggested that we go for a walk. He spoke again about his stormy past and about how he had worked at Frenkel's mill as a bookkeeper and how, after the Great Fire, he was left totally at sea. “Having nothing else to turn to, I became a cantor in a small synagogue. The trustees were not happy about my past, so I had to leave the post I had held for that little while. Meanwhile, I got my daughter engaged to a very fine young man and a good tradesman in the wood business. Perhaps I can align myself with him, because my blessed father had a sawmill before the war, so I am also skilled in that line of work. These border regions are known for their huge forests. Aren't there sawmills around here? Perhaps it would be possible to visit them? I've promised my daughter a dowry as well as a trousseau, and that has forced me to travel the world to collect the money. I think that with God's help I will leave your town after the Sabbath. Of you, good man, I have only one request: could you please find a few couples who can put together a few zlotys. It will be considered a good deed for you, because it's not appropriate for me to go from door to door, except as a failed merchant.”

I tried asking whether it had been rewarding for him to come to our town, and he answered calmly that 250 zlotys was a very good take for a few days in a town like this. He strongly praised all those who had helped him, and me above all others, because I was the master of ceremonies and he was celebrating the wedding… And he went on, “I'll go talk with the gentlemen at the Barani study hall again. I believe they'll be sympathetic and help me out in my current difficult situation. On Sunday, I'm going to Dubno–perhaps you have friends in that town?”

Sunday morning, my guest left our town, taking his leave with many thanks and adding an invitation to the wedding. Mr. Beyrel Lober, of course, came to ask about provisions for the guest he had brought me; whether I was satisfied or not, one had to pay. He promised to bring me more guests.

This story stayed in my memory and taught me to recognize people not by their appearance or character but by their speech and narrative.

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Names and Nicknames in Radzivil

by Leyb Ayzen

Translated by Ellen Garshick

Abe Rupture Beyrish the Cheerful
Avraham Handy  
Avraham Cholavke Duvid I Forget
Avraham Chitrik  
Avraham Pigtail Hersh Casino
Aharon Bird Hershele Shantsiuk
Atyek Hershel Chopper
Ayzik Joker Hersh Dumpling
Itsi Kozik  
Itsi Painter Vove Kakinsh
Itsi Head/Brain Veve Stromp
Itsikel Harmless  
Alte Stocking Cap Chune Firefighter
Eli Goat Cantor Little Demon
Eli Cabin Chayim Leyb Puzzle
Eli the Naked Chayim Kutsik
Arke Point  
Asher Calm Down  

[Page 315]

Yaneke Moshe Fitsi–Tate
Yosele Peserode  
Yosele Tsaliuk Nute Jumper
Yosel Tshulies Nute Mandiyadie
Yosel Tsizis Niegramatne advacat
Yosel Shot Nisye Kutsiperik
  P. Ch. D.
Lander Tongue/Flap Patsyekh
Leyb Raven Pidhoytse
Leyb Mak Feyge Bird
Leyb Dunai Woodpecker
Leyb Panes Fish Carcass
Leyb Tomcat Ladies' Heel
Leybishe Carriage Master  
Leyzerel Poptshik Kuzmierke
Motele Bellybutton Pain in the Carriage
Motel Bibke Kradikhe
Motele Whatchamacallit  
Mote the Cow Laugh Rachel Zshukevekhe
Menashe Cherry  
Menashe Whip Shaye Toot
Mendel Sponge Cake Shaye Loshek
Mordekhay Lenzik Shie Angel
Mordekhay Suitable Shlome Potato
Moshe New Shlome Sheep
Moshe Tsherdinek Shmuel Sinai
Moshe Advisor Moshe Counselor


Names from Towns and Villages

Avraham Sosover  
Itsi Sestratiner Avraham–Yehuda Berestechker

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Itsik–Leyb Truvetser Yechiel Parniativner
  Yisrael Kripitser
Binyamin the Dubner  
  Leyb Baratiner
Dvore Beremeler  
Duvid Harachover Motye Baranier
Dudye from the Grobelke Moshe Tarnopoler
Dudye Poloner Moshe Tisliver
Velvel Leksinitser Kalman Sitner
Chave Mervitser Shie from the Krish
Chayim Yanivker Shalom Chotiner
  Shalom Chelemer


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