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[Page 181]

The History of HeHalutz in Lutsk

Moshe and Yosef Shofman

Translated by Sara Mages

At the end of the First World War, we, a group of young people, joined the Zionist movement in Lutsk. Our first instructors were S. Zoitman, Gertibel, and H. Waxman. Our club was at the Kroinstik house. Like most Zionist youth we also aspired to immigrate to Israel, but we still had no training. In 1924, we established the branch of HeHalutz in our city. We were about one hundred male and female members, and we turned to Avraham Glicklich z”l with a request to give us a plot of land to establish the kibbutz on it. It was during the winter when we started to construct the building. We worked hard during the day, and at night we guarded against thefts because the gentiles interfered with our work. Until the building was finished we stayed at Mr. Glicklich's brick factory where we were hungry and froze from the cold. We were forced to “jump” home every once in a while to asked for something to eat. This situation was very unpleasant. We decided to work in any job as long as we could make a living and prepare ourselves for aliyah. In the winter we worked in chopping wood at the Jews' homes. In the first days we suffered badly from our parents. They claimed that we shame them because we are doing the gentiles' work. The first Jewish employers also did not like it but after a short time we proved ourselves. We worked better than the gentiles and also with devotion. We were not ashamed. On the contrary, we were proud of our actions and earned our wages. The Jews in the city praised our work and willingly accepted us to work. There were those who prepared meals for us and also helped us to arrange the wood after we finished our work.

 

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“Ness Ziona” group

 

Winter passed, the building was finished and we moved in. We saved the money we earned from our work and bought three horses and a cart. We also bought cows. We called our first horse “Rishon” [first]. We received quite a large plot of land. We cultivated the land and extracted crops from it for our needs: vegetables,

 

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The first group of halutzim in Lutsk (1920)

[Page 182]

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Lutsk's halutzim in Hakhshara in Kostopol

 

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A group of halutzim with Chaim Shurer

 

potatoes and also wheat and hay for the cows. In the summer we were hired for harvest work by Mr. Yosifov who had lands in partnership with a Christian. There, we worked also ate and slept. Christian farmers, who knew how to work well, worked for them but we did not lag behind them. After a few days we proved that we are not inferior to them in our work and our employer, the Christian partner, even praised us. He added and said that if we work in our country the way we work for him we would see a great blessing in our work. We stood the test. Everyone in the city knew that any work that is hard on the body - we perform it exemplary. The Great Synagogue in our city was built like a real fortress. In order to renovate it, it was necessary demolish the interior walls. We were given this job and we have done it. Avraham Glicklich z”l praised us for our courage. The work in the synagogue was difficult. Our hands were swollen for the first two days and there was a doubt that we could get the job done, but we did not give up, we overcame all the difficulties. We were young. There were Jews who objected to give us the work because they were not sure that we could cope with it. But, in the end, after we finished the job we got a pay raise as a token of excellence.

Mr. Leshner had a sawmill and we also worked there. The gentiles who worked there were healthy and strong and we were skinny Jewish boys. The gentiles looked at us and laughed in their hearts: who are those who will work in this arduous work? But we, the boys, whose only ambition was to be able to immigrate to Israel and build the homeland, stood the test there as well. We worked diligently and with honors until those gentiles admired us. Our whole mission was to prepare ourselves for the service of the people and the country, and to instill a love for this sublime idea in the hearts of the younger generation that would follow us.

We were loyal sons to our people already in Lutsk. When a fire broke out somewhere in the city, we would immediately hop on our carts and rush to help the victims of the fire. As is well known, every fire has a window of opportunity for thieves to steal, and there was no shortage of experts to the matter. We stood on guard so as not to let the thieves to carry out their plot. The head of the fire brigade also knew how to appreciate us and invited us in such cases to help maintain order.

The head of our group was Vitia Katz. Once, his father the engineer told him about the bridge that the government was about to build in the town of Targowica.

 

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A group of Halutzim from Lutsk

 

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The branch of HeHalutz in Lutsk (1924)

[Page 183]

He also told him that the Polish engineer is interested in accepting us for the work but, for some reason, he is unsure of us and afraid that we would fail. After many pleas and promises Vitia managed to get the job. We worked there for three months and finished with great success. At the end of the work a party was held in our honor. It is worth noting the spirit that pulsated in us, the first halutzim in Lutsk. The work on the bridge was accompanied by singing. “Hey Dubinushka1”[1] was one of the songs that inspired us to thrust the pillars deep into the river floor. And there were many such experiences…

We also had a carpentry shop and a well-developed and established farm. Unfortunately, our joy did not last long. One night the horses were stolen from us. The searches were to no avail. The theft was not returned. We also had difficult dilemmas on other matters. Life in the kibbutz among the members was not totally smooth. There were

 

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The kibbutz in Klesiv

 

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Aliyah Company of Lutsk Halutzim

 

disagreements, conflicts and even departures… However, finally the year 1926 came. We received the good news - the permit to immigrate to Israel. There was no end to our joy and many participated in it. The older Zionists held a farewell party for us. There were speeches and blessings. The representative to the Sejm[2], A. Levinson, wished us to arrive to our desired destination and not to return. Our group was the first to immigrate to Israel. Many came to accompany us to the train station. In the station they sang “Hatikvah” and raised the blue and white flag and the excitement was great. The Poles were jealous when they saw such a large crowd of Jews.

We were privileged to arrive in our homeland, but the heart aches for the great disaster that befell our people in the great Holocaust, and for our best sons who also longed to Israel but could not come to it and see its revival. Woe for those who are gone and cannot be replaced…

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Hey Dubinushka (lit. “Little Club”) a Russian working song. Return
  2. Sejm - the lower house of the bicameral parliament of Poland. Return

 

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