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[Page 85]

Hashomer Hatzair
and Other Youth Movements in Ustiluh

by Zvi Hadari (Pomerantz)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The Holocaust ended 21 years ago. Often, I remember my town. It stands in front of my eyes, as if I had only seen it yesterday.

I also see its streets, the wooden houses and the fences peeking here and there. The famous boulevard leading to the beautiful, abandoned palace. We, the youth, used to visit it often when we went for evening walks.

I remember its Jews who struggled all week for their existence. On Shabbat, after a week of hard work and worry, the main street was filled with people. Groups would stand on street corners, holding excited discussions on all world problems. The majority of them were young people, each one with his own heated pointed of view.

I wish to write, on paper, my recollections of the youth and its activities in our town. I was a member of Hashomer Hatzair and I am still its member in one of its kibbutzim to this day.

After WWI, when the battles subsided, there was increased activity among the Jewish youth. It was mainly Zionist. Under the influence of Poalei Zion and Hechalutz, there were many groups, such as drama and advanced study. The large library opened many horizons and brought the youth closer to literature and knowledge. It was a time of cultural blossoming in town. In the early 192os, several members of Hechalutz made Aliyah.

Some time in 1926–27, a new group arose among the Zionist youth. It was Hashomer Hatzair, founded by a group of students in the high school in Ludomir. They began to organize children and youth under Hashomer Hatzair. At first, it was just scouting, but after a short while, we became a Zionist youth movement–socialist and pioneering– with the aim of making Aliyah.

During the blooming period of the branch, the number of members reached 150. The branch was an important part of the life of the youth in town. The best young people joined us. We appeared in celebratory parades, such as La B'Omer, dressed in uniform and carrying flags.

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The branch was quite active in collecting funds for Jewish National Fund and was involved in all that was happening.

The parents of the members were also interested in the activities in the branch and it seemed that they appreciated our work.

 

Hashomer Hatzair branch in 1934

 

The internal newspaper of the branch gave expression to all that was happening among us. We nurtured, in the children, a love of our people, our country and the labor movement. We participated actively in Zionist academies, sports activities, choirs, etc.

The graduating group of our branch was active in Hechalutz.

There were other Zionist movements in town: Beitar and Hashomer Haleumi. It seems that the majority of young people were involved in a movement. They had their own political views and there were arguments among them.

There were non–Zionist groups as well– the Communist Party attracted many Jewish young people. This, in spite of the fact that it had to be done in secret with the threat of imprisonment.

An important contribution to the existence of our movement and Hechalutz was the visit of Yehuda Fleisher, Z”L. We, the young people, had heard much about his activities within Hechalutz before he made Aliyah, as well his work there. He seemed to us to personify the image of working pioneer– a symbol of dedication to the ideals and of personal realization. During his visit in our town,

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Members of Poalei Zion before the Aliyah of Yehuda Fleisher

[Page 88]

Yehuda came to discussions at the branch and meetings of Hechalutz. He expressed his personal fulfillment. He wanted to eliminate the old and to start a new life in Eretz Israel. The appearance of Yehuda left an indelible mark on all those who came into contact with him. He was tall, “taller than everyone”, drawing respect. The youth were charmed by him. Yehuda made a great contribution to elevating the status of the pioneering movement within the youth. After his visit, there was an increase in the numbers of those going to training. Many of us went to training and soon made Aliyah. During WWII, he was killed in a bombing of the Haifa refinery, where he worked. It was a heavy loss.

Today we can only have memories of days past. It is difficult to describe the magnitude of the catastrophe that befell the Jewish world in general and our town and its Jews in particular. Entire families were cut down by these beasts. Everyone lost his cherished people and very few survived. We were unable to help. We did not even know the extent of the terrible events. We can only remember and never to forget what Amalek did to us. To remember and not to forget!!

We will tell our children and their children about the town of Ustiluh, its Jews, its Jewish youth. It existed once and is no longer here…

 

Hashomer Hatzair– older section (1927)

[Page 89]

Leaders of Beitar 1929

 

The Eagles in Ustiluh: 1 Adar 1935

[Page 90]

The Cultural Center in Ustiluh

by Sima Rutenberg (Goldberg)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

I would like to describe one house, in particular. It was the house of Ichel Natz. He was rumored to be a wealthy man, but during WWI he lost everything. He died too early, due to depression and sadness. He left a wife and an adopted daughter. He had no children. The house was large and occupied half a block. After the owners died, many poor families occupied the house. A part was taken over by some young people of the town intelligentsia. They turned it into a cultural center. There was a large library with thousands of excellent books. There were also a reading room and a games room. About two thirds of the local youth were members and twice a week there was a book exchange. Anyone who wished to meet good companions and spend a few hours having interesting conversations on various

 

Library in memory of the thinker, Yehuda Fleisher

[Page 91]

topics, playing chess or just talking, would find what they were looking for in this house. There was joy and happiness in these rooms. From time to time, lecturers were invited to speak on various topics. There were even emissaries from Eretz Israel. In this house, people from different classes would meet and listen hungrily to the emissary from Eretz Israel.

 

The Hebrew Library

 

There was a literary group and I, the writer of this article, belonged to it. We would read aloud a story by one of the classical authors, mostly I.L. Peretz. We would discuss it, each one according to his ability and his world view. Last, but not least, the drama group in which I took an active part. It was the height of spirit. Mainly, the rehearsals helped to forget our daily troubles. I remember an interesting story– the library became a theater. It began with the fact that we would obtain the hall of the Polish school– with payment– before every performance. Once, a week before the scheduled performance, our young men went to rent the hall and were refused. Perhaps it was Anti–Semitism, already felt in our town.

[Page 92]

Or it may have been another reason. In any case, we were quite upset. We decided that we had to put on the play, no matter what. Overnight, the two rooms became one large one. Benches and chairs were brought from homes close and far. The play was presented at the scheduled time. Soon the rumour that the Poles were mean to us made the rounds. The people of the town came in crowds to see our play. They were amazed at the fact what a few young people were able, in days, to achieve. This was our youth…

There was no Aliyah for some time, but, soon, Menachem Kessel and I were the first to do so. We traveled to the Maccabia in Tel Aviv in 1932. As soon as I arrived, I discovered that many of my friends went into training. Some of them managed to make Aliyah before the war broke out, some came on Aliyah Bet. To our great sorrow, the majority of them did not manage to do it. Either they did not believe that there would be such destruction or because they could not afford to do so. They were killed together with the rest of the community in the great Holocaust.

 

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