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[Page 490]

My Little Town Derevne

(Derevna, Belarus)

53°42' 26°34'

by Aharon Broide

Translated by Ruth Murphy

It was a small little town with old wooden houses and roofs covered with straw or shingles, and a Jewish population of approximately between 50 and 60 Jewish families. Derevne had at one time, belonged to the province of Vilna and the Ashmian District, although it was quite far from both cities. Their villages bordered on the Nieman and Sula Rivers that were connected to the districts of Navaredok and Minsk. The nearest railroad station to Derevne was in Steibtz and one had to travel thirty kilometers by horse and wagon to reach it. The Jews of Derevne would buy merchandise in Steibtz or in the nearest big city of Minsk, and the agricultural products were purchased from the peasant farmers, and then sold in Steibtz. In the years 1910-1912, a telegraph line was established from Steibtz to Derevne and later, a post and telegraph division was opened in Derevne. How did they manage their postal communication before that? It was indeed difficult, and unfortunately nobody is left from the older generation to tell us.

The Christian population was poor White Russians of the Catholic faith. Their soil was not very fertile, yet a few Jews made a living from trading with them. On the other hand, there were a few wealthy noblemen and landowners, who also owned forests. Derevne did not have Jewish Forest merchants or forest employees.

Among the wealthier Jewish families were: Yakov Neufeld, the Tsharne brothers, Khayim Shloyme Kaplan, Fyve Shimonovits, the Hurevitses, and a few others. Their stores were in their houses, and they did not have dedicated shops. Derevne had a few butchers, artisans, peddlers, and poor families. As Thursday was the market day, gentiles from the villages, and merchants from Steibtz and the surrounding towns, would converge on Derevne. On this day people had to earn a living for almost an entire week.


The Rabbis of Derevne

Reb Fyve Golub was the rabbi in Derevne for twenty-five years. After his death, his son-in-law Reb Avrom Peisl, served as Rabbi. In the last years Reb Avrom-Leib Patelnikov, who was renowned as a good speaker, was appointed Rabbi. He died as a martyr for the sanctification of the Holy Name, together with his wife and two daughters, and the few other remaining Jews of Derevne.

The Jewish people of Derevne lived with fear and suffered many tragedies. If a malicious gentile would get drunk on a market day and create a commotion, that would be enough, for all the Jews to hide in their houses and be afraid to go outside. In 1915, when the front was established fifteen kilometers from Derevne, soldiers and Cossacks were stationed in the town. One morning Artzik the pharmacist, his wife Khane, and their two small children were found murdered in their home. In another incident, the cantor and ritual slaughterer Reb Shaul, was murdered as he walked home on foot from Minsk – he was killed in Harian not far from Derevne. When Hertzl the wagon-driver, who traded in horses, was once traveling home from Nalibok, a gentile asked him for a ride. As soon as Hertzl let him on to the wagon, the gentile dealt him a staggering blow, killed him, and hid him in the forest. The town was then in turmoil, and people searched for him for days. The murderer calmly went off to another town to sell the horses, but he was caught there. He revealed where Hertzl was buried in the forest, and was sentenced to death.


Culture and School System

Before the First World War, Derevne managed with a couple of Kheyder teachers but there were no schools. Later Derevne progressed, Zionist activity commenced, and a Hebrew school was founded. A doctor, a pharmacist, a barber, a watchmaker, and a little factory producing lemonade and soda, came to the town. One could also see a movie, the road was paved, and in the summer months a bus traveled back and forth on the route Nalibok-Derevne-Steibtz. On the same day one could return home. Derevne was considered more important than Nalibok because Derevne had a Jewish cemetery, and those from Nalibok had to bring their deceased to the cemetery in Derevne.


Community Organization

Since the time that Poland decreed that each district town must establish a community with a Rabbi, Derevne became attached to the community of Steibtz, together with Rebzevitsh and Nalibok-Swerznie. Derevne had one representative in the Steibtz community. People from Derevne would come to Steibtz to vote in new elections. In Steibtz there were two Rabbis, who sought election, so those from Derevne would travel free of charge to the elections in Steibtz. Both sides would rent wagons, and in addition give the important guests a good lunch, and also pay them for not working a whole day.

[Page 491]

This is how the Jewish community lived its life, sometimes better, sometimes worse. People suffered, there were cases of murder but no mass killing, until the German murderers discovered the faraway, poor little town of Derevne, and a bitter fate overcame the Jews there, too. The first decree was to leave their homes; everyone was driven out, marched on foot with a sack over their shoulders, from Derevne, Volme, and Nalibok to Rebzevitsh. Among them were sick women and children, and whoever lagged behind on the way were shot dead, among them the son-in-law of Fyve-Shmaye, and weeping little children.

The end for the Jews of Derevne was sad and terrifying. There is a special article by Shlosberg from Nalibok about the annihilation of the Jews of Derevne.

Honor to their memory!

The survivors of Derevne were: Aharon Broide, Fyvl Khorak, Eliyahu Khorak, Etl Khorak, Yakov Shimonovits, Yudl Davidovits, Avrom Berman, Etl Krasilov, Yitzkhok Gurvits, his wife Khayke and their daughter, Fyvl Tsarne, Sarah Kantor from Gran, Leah and Fanye Gurevits from Gran.


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