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[Page 359]

Sixth Chapter:

The Revolutionary Movement


My Poor Home

by Aharon Gorelik

Translated by Odelia Alroy

My father was one of the best teachers in Bobruisk, but I didn't have the opportunity to go to Cheder, and I didn't go to school: firstly, because I was always poor and didn't have clothes, secondly, because father was always teaching the older children.

At home, I had to do all the work: carrying water and wood, helping mother grind the kernels of oats, to help my father, who didn't earn enough from his teaching. Grinding grain was a livelihood for many families in the outskirts of Bobruisk.

My mother used to argue that father didn't earn enough to live. But we children loved our father anyway, and everyone in the town had great respect for his proficiency in Kabbalah and for his writings from time to time in the Ha-Tzfirah [“The Epoch,” a Hebrew-language newspaper published in Poland]. True he had a great flaw—he was not a social climber, he was unable to get many pupils and he also didn't have a suitable cheder, where he could teach the children. Father should have taught me after cheder, in the evening, or Shabbos after the lunch. But he had a habit of getting up at dawn, awakening me and taking me to the morning prayers, to catch a bit of Torah there. The result was, that in the evening I would fall on my face—asleep—and therefore I could not listen to the discussion of the Gemara. And early in the morning, when father would study Kabbalah with the drivers and other neighbors from the surrounding villages, I looked in the book blankly.

Our house consisted of one room in which the oven was the center. It was big, in the style of the time, and everyone in the family would during the day climb on it to warm their bones. In winter it was very cold in the house. The floor was made of limestone, and absorbed the cold. We took turns climbing on the ledge to get warm. One would go up, the other would come down. Put on father's wool jacket to bring in wood, water or to run to the store to get kerosene. The worst thing was to stay in one spot in a corner near the door. There stood the millstone to grind the oats, in order to earn bread, of which there was only enough at home to smear one's lips. We would see how the bread disappeared while it was still fresh, almost live. At night we would turn up the oven, close the shutters and make the house like a sweat bath. We placed boards on the stools, and on the boards a mattress and that was a bed. We put a mattress on the table as well—another bed, on the floor quilts, pillows, stuffed with straw—also beds. We covered ourselves with clothes, furs, whatever was at hand, the more to keep warmer. In the midst of it all, the hens would enter under the oven, and the air would get so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The long winter nights in our house I remember well, while the summer nights would fly like birds.

When I became 11 our family began to get smaller. My older brother, Reuven, a 17 year old diligent young man with an excellent mind, went off to the Yeshiva, in Paritchi, to study and he would eat at people's homes there on assigned days. He became ill (his lungs) and he came home and lay on mother's and father's only bed and suffered until Erev Pesach when he died with everyone watching. During this time, mother and father slept on a board spread over stools.

Directly after Pesach, at my bar mitzvah, I went to work at a workshop making overshoes. I was a student for only three years. The first year I received a pair of overshoes, the second year 10 ruble and a pair of overshoes, and the third year—50 ruble—that is a ruble a week. I was supposed to earn a ruble a week the third year. I was salivating about my anticipated fortune. My parents were not pleased that I went to the shoemakers' street, it disappointed them that I became a tradesman. But I did as I saw fit.

In the shoemakers' workshop it was warm, there was a white coal stove, the windows were padded, like the rich people. Before, when I would go past Goldzin the boot maker with his leather business, I would think, that that must be good work, when I can learn that trade!

The workday was long, the boss, his wife, the children and the workers all bothered me: the boss's screaming and stamping with his feet was like the sky was falling. Goldzin, the boss, had a habit of taking care of his health. He pitied himself that he was too busy with his business. He was quite chubby, with a fat ruddy face, and a blond beard and a healthy appearance. After a hearty supper he would lie down and take a nap. Afterward, in the evening, after his nap, he would come into the workshop and yell that the workers are too slow, and he would direct his anger at me, as if I were responsible for the workers who were laughing quietly and whispering. He would squeeze my ear and I would feel the blood rushing to my face. I would vow that even if he were to collapse I would not have pity on him.

In town it was considered that Goldzin was a rich Jew. The soldiers from the post would come to buy boots as well as people from the neighboring towns. On a Sunday or Monday, everyone would come to urge us to hurry and finish their boots and overshoes, leggings and everyone was screaming, faster, faster—the carriages have to leave.

On the table were pots of glue. We spread the glue with our fingers, hands, and clamp the boot legs and lay them near the heaters so they will dry faster. I'm anxious to sew a pair of boots because before they leave, the soldiers will toss me a few kopeks. But Shmuel Pearls, the sewer, doesn't allow me to learn the trade. And Chaim Kalb, the older one, is even worse than he. He pushes and shoves for them to hand it to him. His machine is going and he works and eats. And he eats like there's no tomorrow. He grabs things from everyone and continues to promise me that he'll teach me how to sew. In the meanwhile, I smear the glue on the boots, I wipe my hand on my apron, and with my apron I wipe my nose and brow, which sweats from heavy work. Late at night, I still have to clean the workshop, gather up the trash, sort the larger pieces of leather and prepare myself for the work of tomorrow morning.

Chaim Kalb, the older master, made my life altogether miserable. He would often call me: Bring apples! Bring cookies! Bring two kopeks of candy! In summer I didn't mind, but in the fall or when it was very muddy, in my torn shoes, I didn't like to go out in the cold. The worst of all was that Chaim Kalb liked hot blintzes. Ten blintzes was his portion. The saliva would run from my mouth, when I would imagine the taste. I'd have to wait until Dvoirah the baker would bake them and my boss doesn't want to hear about it: Where are you going? Where are you taking that sack all the time? And one isn't supposed to say. So I get the blame. And if the blintzes weren't large enough? My fault. Chaim Kalb would curse me. When I'd ask him what he wanted from me, his answer was that when he was an apprentice, they would beat him.

One time it happened that Chaim Kalb wanted his blintzes on two plates, one atop the other and quickly. It's raining very heavily outside—cold, awful. I tell him that I don't want to go but it doesn't help. I see that I am going to be beaten, so I go off with a clenched heart and sorry thoughts, but I brought the blintzes but not as he wanted in two plates. I brought them in the downpour but in the covering of my glue pot and the kerosene for the machine, that I would use daily. I'll never forget Chaim Kalb's red eyes, his angry nose and open nostrils and his two fists with which he came upon me, like a wild animal. I myself don't remember what happened. Whether from fear, or hate, and perhaps both together, I grabbed the pot with fresh glue and put it over Chaim Kalb's head. However big he was, he was covered with glue as well as the blood that ran out of his nose like from a tap. That is all I saw or heard….

In about a week, when I got out of bed with broken bones, everyone said that Chaim Kalb was lucky that he didn't lose his nose. My father, the gentle Jew, didn't approve—this was not a piece of Jewish work. It doesn't suit his teacher's status.


My New Boss

I went into Lazar Fishel's boot workshop knowing a bit about the trade. I also, suddenly, grew a bit, got taller and went around with clenched lips, probably still angry with Chaim Kalb, but happy that I got even with him for a whole year's torment.

Both the new boss and apprentices and the workers knew about the incident in Goldzin's workshop. The boss, a good, clever Jew, hired me for a year and almost jokingly said: Don't hit yourself, if it's not necessary. And a wonder happened! All the apprentices had great respect for me and even the workers understood that they should be careful in handling me.

For Lazar Fishel, the workshop was most important and his leather business a side line. The boss would also work and teach the apprentices. Everything went smoothly. He immediately saw that I was interested in cutting the leather with the knife, so little by little me got me accustomed to the board, as an assistant cutter. After Pesach, when one works only until the fire is lighted, until about Elul, so that the evenings are free, we felt as though we were working half-days. All the workers would leave to go home at the same time, and so we could talk about many things.

Lazar Fishel's workshop had a good reputation in town. We were among the first not to light a fire at night to work, with the boss in agreement. Following our example, everyone did that.

One time someone named Shmulik, a shoemaker's son, who lives on the paved road, quite a bit older than I, stopped me: Is it you who beat up Chaim Kalb? he asks. I get a bit flustered. I get the idea that perhaps he wants to get even with me. I stand still, look at him and am ready for anything. I don't say no, I don't say yes. He looks at me and smiles. I become ashamed that I'm silent and ask:

“So what?”—

“Nothing”—he laughs and gives me a friendly slap on the back: “You're a good kid!”—and goes away.

Later, I found out that Shmulik belongs to the Pruzanisher Chevre, and he's a big leader. Chaim Kalb belongs to the Katzabisher Chevre and he wants nothing more than to get even with me. I have to be careful. I don't belong to any Chevre, but it looks like the Pruzanisher Chevre will be good for me. I always disliked the Katzabisher Chevre for their carrying on in town, for their steady fighting. Their fights were fearful, they would split heads without any reason. Fights would break out which would last all Shabbos, until late at night. The toughs and bullies would fight, children of gentle parents.


Poverty Is No Shame

On the first of May, I again met Shmulik the shoemaker. This time to my wonder with a book under his arm. I thought, he's probably reading a novel by Shmeres. We used to read Shmeres novels every Friday night after supper for many hours.

“Listen”—he says to me. “Are you working on May 1?”—

“What kind of holiday is that?” I asked him.

“What do you mean?” he laughs. “It's already a workers' holiday in the big towns. He asks me to go for a walk with him. I follow him and I still think that something is going on. I'm still careful about being beaten.

“Do you know”—says he to me—“I never spoke to you face to face, I never knew you well, I'd like to talk to you about a lot of things.”

I wait impatiently as to what he wants to entrust to me.

He started to speak about our poverty, and I still don't know what he is trying to get at. I have no idea what kind of tack this is to get to know each other. Because I don't want to remain silent, I answer—Of course, I know. I'm a bit ashamed, as though I wanted to hide it, that he must know about the bitter poverty of my family. From childhood on, I was used to hiding my poverty so that no one should know because poverty was a shame….

We spoke for a few hours that evening and I learned that Shmulik is even poorer than I and that poverty is not a shame. Like a cloud had been lifted from my eyes! He told me about people, neighbors, whom I knew well, who had no food in the house. And at the same time he told me about the rich men in town, about the Rabbi, the Priest and noblemen—he didn't differentiate—and how they were all ready to draw blood from the poor workmen in town. He talked about 10,001 things in such a manner he led me to understand that I saw that this was no slander, no envy, this was but an example, like read from a book, in order to make it clear to me about what he spoke about.

When we parted, it seemed my head was enlarged, my eyes more open. I looked around on all sides and more than ever I saw the stars in the heaven. I felt a warm brotherhood to Shmulik, a gratitude, for such a hearty, truthful, humane conversation—the first time in my life.

It was late and I hurried to get home quickly with a buried treasure in my thoughts.

At home everyone was already asleep. I climbed into my bed quietly and with open eyes looked into the quiet darkness. I awaited daybreak. Quite early, as usual, my mother told me that it was already time to get up to go to work. Outside, the summer sun lovingly greeted me and I thought I entered a new world. Through Shmulik's talk it came out that it is the duty of each person, who understands life more, to bring that to others and the others to others, until all will understand about life and justice.

When I came to the workshop, I wanted to open everyone's eyes, but I became even more quiet. I felt my poverty, I simply didn't know how to tie my thoughts together, which I thought were so clear. Reading the pamphlets that Shmulik promised to give me was my eager expectation. I didn't have to wait long. Shmulik met me near the workshop and quietly gave me a well-worn pamphlet, “The Long Work Day.” He told me to hide it and not to show it to anyone because it was not a kosher pamphlet.

This pamphlet “The Long Work Day” was my first guide to a new knowledge and life. This gave me a measure and a way in my attitude toward people. I began to know who were my comrades, my friends, and who my true enemies. From this pamphlet came forth a world of things, that I hadn't known before. I began to regard business luck as a plain swindle and thievery, rich people as leeches and blood-suckers, and in the foolish poor the true people. I thought: Such a small book and it tells so much!


I Become Aware

In a few days, when Shmulik saw me again, he was in seventh heaven with my “broad understanding” and the impression that he made. When we reviewed the contents of the book again we got its true meaning. I wanted to yell out so that everyone would hear. Shmulik warned me that one had to know how to tell the truth, that one had to do it with a plan. First, one had to be careful and discuss it only with people who wouldn't blabber about it.

Secondly, he told me a secret, that the Minsk branch and the Vilna branch have already decided through many meetings. They are accomplishing wonders and they will win an eight-hour day. They are all good fellows, he said as though he were one of them.

I decided that it was up to the workers to improve the conditions. This secret did not enable me to rest. If they can, I thought, everyone can. I felt happy that I knew such a secret.

The second pamphlet, as I recall, was “Morons on the Volga.” From the Russian that my father had taught me, it wasn't easy for me to understand it all the first time. I read it a second and a third time, and this little book made a special impression. The political aspect overwhelmed me, I became frightened. I had to get used to understanding the link between politics and the battle for a better life.

This book applauded the memory of the assassins of Czar Alexander II. Sophia Perovskaya, Gesya Gelfman, Calturin and others were depicted as great heroes, people of the people and for the people, who opposed the tyrants and injustice to the people. I read this book at a time when older people confided in us, the younger people, that the heroes of this book, were taken away in black carriages and they certainly are no longer alive, and that we should beware, as of fire, the gendarmes, because they are always searching for whoever talks and thinks about such matters. This book introduced me to the crises of the heroes as though I were one of them. I wanted to repeat their deeds, but with more courage and sacrifice in order to free mankind.

To tell the truth, when I read this book quietly, I thought that the walls hear, the windows see and everyone knows my thoughts. Nevertheless, I read it again and again, so did it capture me. In the street I looked about to see if I was being followed, I imagined I ran into a policeman, and every now and then I checked my pocket to make sure I hadn't lost it. I guarded that book like a precious diamond.

Little by little I got used to the idea that no one sees or captures so quickly, that the walls don't have ears. I began to like the thought, that I know something that no one else knows, and that I know already what is better for mankind. I, Shmulik and Yosl began to meet very often. Mostly we read books at Yosl's house. His father, a night watchman, his mother—a servant in a wealthy home, we had the opportunity to be alone for many hours. We swallowed every word in the books, that were popular at that time and went from hand to hand. Mendele's “Nag,” Spector's writing, Dineson's work and I. L. Peretz's “The Seamstress,” “The Sisters,” and “Bontshe the Silent.” The last was something special, which we read to every new person whose head we wanted to open quickly. One time, I purposely left “Bontshe the Silent” open on our table, so my father could look into it and see that I understand what to read. This deed made me a lot of trouble. But about that later.

We looked around and the summer was gone. The days of Elul (fall) and the evenings became longer and one had to work with lamps. It became sad. We worked a lot and when one works into the evening, one doesn't know when to end. In truth, during the summer we met with many young men, at first we discussed the Minsk unions and their shorter work day and that it is no more than right for workers to have a specified time to work, but we had not yet agreed upon what that should be. Shmulik, alas, became very busy, he would be away for several days at a time, and sometimes he would arrive with a sack of books under his arms—“a real intellectual.” Yosl told me a secret that late at night he saw Shmulik with Bernstein the pharmacist—They both were walking like true good friends, he adds.

In town it had long been rumored that Leon Bernstein was a mystic. He was tall, had dark black curly hair, a small face, a big nose and big eyes—a strange appearance. In summer he wore a hat, in winter a big, black stove-pipe hat and a walking stick. He would often gaze out of the window through his big telescope, where there were big bottles of blue and red liquids.

Shmulik and Bernstein? I puzzled. Soon I remembered that the heroes of “Damik na Volga” were also from rich, intelligent families, perhaps like Bernstein. And my respect for Shmulik increased but I didn't ask him about it. It was not “conspiring”…Shmulik was very happy with me and Yosl. He brought us books which we read immediately. He was also happy that we were getting to know more and more young men in town.


The First Workers Circle

Not every young man understood the “Long Workers Day” and we only had one copy of “Morons on the Volga” and we didn't want each one to take it home. So we decided to gather the young men at Yosl's house in an evening and that I would read it to them. I was successful that evening with the reading. Everyone was happy. In a high spirit, we decided to meet regularly and read.

This was the first organized meeting in town. The first evening there were seven, the second evening nine came. A new member came and brought a girl with him. Soon we decided that girls are as important in the movement as boys. Galka, the girl, was outstanding in how quickly she grasped everything that we read and spoke about. She proposed to recruit seamstresses and even servants. Everyone was agreed that we need as many people as possible. Where? In the movement.

And it did indeed start to grow. It quickly became known in town. In the streets boys and girls were seen carrying books under their arms. They were running to the library. There was a run for our “unkosher” books, that somehow we acquired. Our hearts were happy with our great acquisition of ideas and so many friends in such a short time. Walking in the street we had to nod our heads often to our new acquaintances. Yosl's house was already too small for everyone. Galka's house was also too small for all the girls that she enlisted in her movement.

One time we make a count to find out where we stand and we see that we are growing and that we can take more people into the movement. We have to decide something. We chose the best of our young men for a private meeting. So we have a private meeting. Soon we decide to select a committee. The movement already has a head and a body as is appropriate. We have to enlist the workers. From the assorted books that we read we knew that we are the proletariat, that even only our hands and our interests—it does not matter to which trade we belong—we are of the same class.

Quietly we, I, Shmulik and Yosl, we ranked even above the committee. We decided things, made plans and brought them to the committee, to execute them. Once, Shmulik tells us a secret that since we three have to know a lot, he invites us to meet “Mashke the Organizer” who just came from Minsk and knows a lot about the Minsk movement. How surprised we were when we found ourselves in Mashke's room with Bernstein the pharmacist. We brought each one into the room separately, carefully, as it should be. Nevertheless, I thought to myself, that it's not quite enough, because I thought that we went off in faraway streets and it's scary but interesting.

Bernstein the pharmacist was a person who could tell you word for word what he had read in books. That evening he recited Hauptmann's “The Weavers.” We sat intently and visualized the poverty of the weavers in Silesia. Since we had experienced poverty in our town in Russia. Galka cried, a few other girls sobbed. Suddenly I concern myself with my own poverty, with my shabby clothes, and I feel grown up equal to others, next to a comrade and teacher like Bernstein. I feel a brightness in my soul, that will always illumine my battle for the working class, for the proletariat. A curse on the Czars, generals and bosses. I belong to the world proletariat! I became a newly titled person. From such a poor man, a lowly boy, I suddenly became a proletarian.

In addition to everything, Itzik Yoffa, a soldier in uniform, came on a leave. He belonged to the Bersht (Union) in Vilna and was a good friend of Mashke and Bernstein. He came to visit with those close to him. He took off his jacket, his soldier's cap, and greeted us happily. His smile brightened the room. We welcomed the proletariat and wished a plague on Czar Nicholas. From the small problems of our organizing; of establishing a branch in the near future, my head was now concerning itself with world problems—how to get rid of the Czar and change the world.

Bernstein starts to sing the “Marseillaise” in a bass voice, which I heard for the first time in my life. A bit later, Yoffa, the soldier, sings “Arise, Workers.” And Mashke, Bernstein, and Shmulik join. Before leaving we decide that Bernstein should teach us political economy. I was not such a good learner when I studied with my father, but in Bernstein's class I showed great ability because it made sense to me.

We were involved in getting more workers in the movement and Bernstein, on his part, tried to attract more intelligentsia, more teachers for our circles. One of the teachers, Fein, also a pharmacist, understood that we must learn grammatically correct Russian. The Jewish worker, he argued, would not be freed alone, but with the help of the Russian people. So we established a class to learn Russian grammar with the comrades of the movement and from time to time we would smuggle in a bit of agitating.

In the meantime I realized that I was getting older, and it's time for me to stand on my own feet. From childhood on I was drawn to the big city, to a lighter and brighter life. More than anything I felt my lack of education, especially in comparison with the teachers of our circles. They had studied at gymnasia, at universities. I was envious of their elegant Russian, which they spoke fluently. But it took a long time until I tore myself away into the world: meanwhile, an important event occurred in Bobruisk.

One beautiful morning we learned that not far from our house they uncovered a secret printing press and they arrested a woman, a child and a man. Later I learned that this was Mirel Sirkin. This changed all our plans. The easy path for our work disappeared. Weak, middle-class children drop out and therefore those who remain are ready to give their lives. We are getting used to the thought that there are spies who see and watch and probably over us as well. There is talk that some of our people are stopped, spies are watching day and night. So we had to call a secret meeting and work out plans how to carry on our work quietly and safely.

Our movement didn't have any books. No names were listed and marked, but everyone had a nickname. For example: Aaron, with the black hair and dark eyes was called, naturally, Aaron the thief. A second Aaron—Ara, the tailor—a third—Ara, the tall one. It was the same with those called Leib: Leib, Kolesnik, Leibe, Esther with the crooked feet, after his mother, the cripple. So also the girls: Galke—the red. A friend, somewhat tall—“The Beauty.” “Chaya the Beauty.” Everyone had their secret name.

Whatever good work one did for the cause, that is how he got his name. Many girls wanted to be known as “The Beauty” and many guys wanted to be as important as Leibitschke Kolesnik. The young men and women bloomed in the movement, like a beautiful garden. Most of the nicknames added charm, as though each was appraised according to his worth. People enjoyed fitting suitable names which lasted a lifetime as the person's shield.


A Young Man Among Men

Leibitschke Kolesnik was a young man who quickly became important in the movement. He had previously been a leader of the Pruzaner Group, a good fighter, a mischief maker. When he found it “necessary” he slipped out of the wheel repair shop, where he worked, and with a club in his hand, he split heads right and left. He'd make trouble for the Butcher's Group without mercy. He spared no blows for the “Gentiles” from the Minsker plan, who attacked Jewish children, when they left school. He would face down drunken soldiers, who bothered Jewish beards and payes [earlocks] in the street. He also, more than once, got even with a policeman.

It occurred to me that Kolesnik would be a good guy for our movement, but approaching him was no easy matter because you simply needed to be his equal. He'd laugh at our “bourgeois” youth as chumps who run when attacked. My luck was that he apparently knew about how I'd brought Chaim Kalb the blintzes and how I gave them to him with the pot of glue… Kolesnik regarded this episode favorably. He printed it in his humor piece “A Young Man Among Young Men” and gave me such a slap on the back that I saw my grandfather from the other world. From talking to him I understood that the young men were up to something and that they were hiding from him. But it was enough to discuss our struggle, so Kolesnik listened and thought hard as one says: I've waited a long time for this.

Leibitschke was unable to hold his whiskey and we wavered for a long time, if he'd been able to stop drinking. But it happened that the Butchers Group hired itself out to a boss, who wanted to get even with his workers, who had struck. This was almost the first strike in the town. All of us were disturbed by such an ugly piece of work. We expected that police, gendarmes would interfere but we didn't expect trouble from Jewish hoodlums. So we decided, once and for all, to make an end to it.

Leibitschke Kolesnik was an appropriate person to entrust our decision. “Do you understand?”—I said to him—“poor workers want to improve their bitter lives and the Butchers Group stand in their way….”

I had never seen Kolesnik so earnest. He heard me out and let out bitter curses. His language was such that I had never before heard from a Jewish mouth. As much as I asked him to wait, think about what to do, it didn't help. He had, it seems, immediately decided what to do. And he didn't wait long. That same evening, he attacked two of the Butcher's Group youths, Yankel Zubatin and Pinea so that Zubatin was taken to the hospital with a split head and Pinea took a long time to revive. After this there was another brawl between the Pruzanisher Group and the Butchers' Group. It became very important for Kolesnik and his group to confer about what to do. It was even more important to get someone from the Butcher's Group over to our side.

The police, it seemed, knew why the brawls were taking place and they openly rooted for the Butchers Group. Leon Bernstein, the pharmacist, undertook to talk to Kolesnik to tame him. Chaikin, a young doctor, one of Bernstein's friends, undertook to visit Yankel Zubatin in the hospital and influence him to stop the brawls.

Yankel Zubatin, a young man from the outskirts of town, was being raised by an uncle, Zelman Kobile, the richest butcher in town, who night after night would slaughter cattle. At an early age Yankel became his right hand at the slaughterhouse. He became accustomed to the smell of blood and autopsy at an early age. Whenever he fought with the young men, he, it seems, thought he had to carry on as though in the slaughterhouse. But Yankel was the child of a poor widow, whom he loved very much. She worked very hard as a maid to earn her living. One only had to remind Yankel about his life, his mother's life, how he'd been punished because she had been unable even to send him to a proper Cheder, and Yankel was roused from his stupor. Doctor Chaikin, born in Bobruisk, knew what was going on in many homes, and he reached Yankel in his weak point. Yankel listened well to Dr. Chaikin, who made him understand, that it wasn't in his interest to fight for the bosses against poor workers who are in the same situation as he is.

Leibitschke Kolesnik was certainly happy with a close conversation with Bernstein. As a guest, would Leibitschke have ever been able to speak to Bernstein, face to face? With one word, the leaders of both groups began to pull in the same direction. Bernstein and Chaikin decided to bring Kolesnik and Yankel together and straighten out their grievances. I, Shmulik, Bernstein and Chaikin witnessed the meeting. Both had bowed heads, downcast eyes, but they shook hands and Leibitschke Kolesnik was the first to call Yankel “comrade.” It was a holiday for us. The leaders of both groups of our movement! So we pleaded with both that they should influence their members to make peace between them.

The fighting didn't stop right away. The bosses wanted to stop the workers movement, so they called secret meetings and spread false stories about us that they said would cause pogroms and other troubles. The informants let the authorities know that we were children of the poor people and not the upper classes.

I don't know which “fine Jew” told the police about our secret names but we knew that the police were aware that Leibele Kolesnik fought with Yechiel Isaac the teacher's son and that indicates that he is the one in charge. Near my house we noticed that late at night a person followed me like a shadow. More than once my mother thought that robbers are approaching. I knew that no one was looking to steal our poverty. Certain people began to come into Bernstein's pharmacy and ask for remedies, that Bernstein himself didn't know about. They couldn't tail Kolesnik. He always noticed them behind him. If the person saw him, that person had lots of trouble. If a policeman blew his whistle on a dark night, we already knew that someone had a split head.

Little by little, we got used to the spies, outsmarted them, ducked into courtyards, moved to another street quicker than the spies. In need we even ducked into a shul to “pray.” In summer we would meet in the woods or boating on the lake to carry out our work. We had larger assemblies in the fields where young men stood watch and guarded us. But the time came when I felt that I must leave Bobruisk.


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