by Eliezer Schwartzblatt
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
At the outbreak of the German-Russian War, I lived in Sarny and worked as a manager in a military unit and as such I received a train car for me, for my two workers and our families. My family included myself, my wife and three little children. Our youngest daughter was then three months old.
Friday evening on the 4th of July, the Russian forces left Sarny, and I went with them. The family parents, sisters and brothers-in-law (my younger brother, Israel, came with us) accompanied us to the station and took their farewell. Who could have imagined, that we said farewell for eternity We believed that we were going for two weeks to Kiev and will return. However, upon coming to Kiev, the city
was evacuated and we continued on our way, during the cold nights, in an open car, because the one that we had received in Sarny had been confiscated. We traveled for an entire month, until we reached the Caucasus, where we remained until October. When the Germans approached, we continued our journey, to Uzbekistan. There we endured difficult times, but the hope that the war will soon end and we will return to our dear parents, sisters, brothers and friends gave us the strength and the courage to withstand the difficulties.
However, how sad and bitter were the news: After Sarny and Rafalovka were freed by the Soviets, I hurried to write letters to our beloved in the two places, but the answer came not from them, but from a friend, Yona Glueck, who wrote that nobody was alive any more. Hearing the most horrible news that we could have imagined, I froze and my great pain cannot be described.
In 1933 I was married in Sarny. My parents continued to live in Rudke, and I had the great pleasure to visit them there. It was on the holiday of Purim, and I traveled with my father zl to Bielskovolie, to pray with a Minyan [a quorum of 10 Jewish adults who can pray together]; the prayer was conducted in Yakov Freiman's home. This event is well etched in my memory, because during my childhood we would walk, during Holidays and almost every Sabbath to Bielskovolie, to pray in a Minyan. On Rosh Hashana [Jewish New Year] and Yom Kippur we went there by carriage, on the eve of the Holy Days. The visits are eternally kept in my memory.
In 1945 we arrived in Sarny again, but we found only three large mass-graves, over which we cried bitterly. To Rafalovka we couldn't even go to cry, because the bands were roaming the forests and it was still dangerous.
I am the sole survivor of my family and I mourn every year remembering those who perished. The Memorial Day is on the 16th of the Jewish month of Elul. May we all remember in the coming generations, the tragic day when our dear and beloved perished for the Sanctification of the Holy Name.
My parents: Mendel son of Yitzhak-Yakov, born1882; Tzipa daughter of Yosef and Rivka, born 1888.
My sisters: Rachel (born 1904) and her husband Baruch-Bintche (born 1900) and their four children; Meve (born 1912) with her husband Israel Hodshi and 2 children; Ester, born 1914; Pesia, born 1930.
My brothers: Nechemia, born 1926; Yehuda, born 1928.
by Arie (Leibl) Goz
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The Chaim Goz Family from Rafalovka consisted of six brothers and one sister. Chaim Goz passed away on 4 Nissan 1936. The oldest son, Yankel Goz, had a wife and four children. He was a forest merchant. When the war between the Germans and the Russians broke out, he hid in Zavelotz, at the Christian Skiptchik's home. When the Christian informed the Germans about him, he was taken to the Sochovol Mountain and murdered. The other brother, Simcha Goz, lived in Dombrovitch with his wife and one child. He also came to Rafalovka, and while walking from the Rafalovka Station to Old Rafalovka, he was caught and handed over to the Germans. He was also killed on the Mountain. And the third brother, Kalman Goz, was murdered on the same mountain, with his wife and child. The mother, nee Rivka Wachs, with the brother Yehoshua Goz and the sister Sara Goz were taken out of the cellar where they were hidden, brought to the Bachov Mountain and killed by the murderers. Only one brother, Sheftel Goz, managed to hide in the Ostrow village. Four days before the end of the war, the Cossacks came and murdered him, and buried him on a hill below Ostrow.
I, Arie Goz, am the lone survivor in the entire family. In 1956 and 1958 I was in Rafalovka and I was told the story of each family that perished by the Nazi murderers.
[Reported by the only brother Leibl Goz]
by Penina Besserglick
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
My mother Rachel Manin, may she rest in peace, passed away on 20 August 1974 (20 Av 5734) at the age of 56 years. Several years earlier, as she hoped that a Yizkor Book will be published to perpetuate the memory of the shtetl Rafalovka, she wrote the following, which became almost a last will:
I, Rachel nee Zhuk, today Manin, request that the following should be included in the Memory Book of our Shtetl Rafalovka. I am proud to tell this, here in our land, where our children and grandchildren will not have to taste the bitter taste of exile. We have our own schools, where Jewish children are not called Zhid.
I would like to relate several things that I remember at times. Friends from Rafalovka visit me and often they talk about the founding of the Hebrew School Tarbut and the Jewish children who learned there.
Those people don't know, and have never known, about the many children who did not have the chance to go to the Tarbut school, although they were as talented as other children. They begged their parents to enroll them in the Hebrew School, but to no avail. My father, for example, would say that boys must go to Tarbut in order to learn Hebrew, and girls can go to the Polish school. My father insisted, and my brother Avraham indeed began to study at Tarbut.
I and my younger sister Chana had no choice, and we were enrolled in the Polish School, because in the Hebrew school we had to pay tuition. Together with other children, whose parents were not able to pay, I went to the
Polish school. This sad phenomenon in the shtetl was never questioned, a fact that hurts me to this day. When I will have the privilege to become a grandmother, I shall tell my grandchildren what had happened to me, as it did to all Jewish children in those times. Unfortunately, there are in Israel former Rafalovka residents, who are ashamed to tell the story.
Well, we went to the school that was located far, and there was a long walk. The school was located on the road to the nearest village Sochovolye. After such a long walk we arrived in school with our hands frozen and our entire body cold. More than once, gentile boys would attack us and beat us, over the ears as well, which hurt very much. Already as young children, we heard the word zhid many times a day; and later, when we reached grade four and five, we felt the anti-Semitism everywhere.
One day, the Principal and the teachers requested that next day we bring 20 Groshen for building the School. Next day, the children brought the money and the teacher gave out receipts cards on which the head of Marshall Pilsudski was printed. I put my card in my schoolbag and during recess I went out to play, as did all the pupils. Suddenly I was called by the Principal:
- Just come hereFrightened, I approached the Principal and what had happened? One of the Polish pupils had made holes on my card, in the eyes of Pilsudki's picture and told the Principal that I had done it. I burst in tears, hurt by the lie and slander, and I declared that this was done by one of the anti-Semitic pupils, who hated Jewish children.
Who had done this ugly piece of work? I don't know that to this day
These are the words written by my mother Rachel zl May her Memory be Blessed!
by Arie Yadoshlivi
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
It seemed as if God Himself has taken a few houses and thrown them here to the ground so looked the shtetele in the eyes of someone who came from the East, from the side of the mountain. On the West, the Stir River flowed majestically, on its way from Lutzk to Pinsk. And between the mountain and the river, lived the working, solid Jewish population with its craftsmen, shopkeepers, villagers, who were all well-liked by man and God. They were loyal to their fellow men and trusted each other. Their word was more precious than money.
This was how life went for many years until it was cut-off by the German murderers.
The Old Dayan [judge in a Jewish religious court] from Old Rafalovka
Among the spiritual leaders of the shtetl, whom I remember, I see in front of my eyes the figure of the old Dayan, a short Jew, speaking with a Lithuanian accent, a black hat on his head that was full of Torah. He would always walk with his walking-stick in his hand because of his old age from his home to the Libishayer synagogue, where he would sit on his East-Wall seat with a large Gemara [Talmud] open in front of him, and study.
He would not preach long sermons, because the truth should be told there was very little that he had to call to the attention of the public. Every Jew in the little shtetl prayed every day and Shabat was rigorously kept by everyone. The moral status of the Jewish population was high and there was no need to preach morals in front of the Jewish community.
Only on Shabat at twilight, at the Se'uda Shelishit [the third meal of Shabat], when there was almost dark in the synagogue and the Neshama Yetera [the special, extra soul of Shabat] would still cling to the holiness of the Shabat, not wanting to enter the weekdays [the six days of work] then would the Dayan sit with a group of people and teach the Torah.
My memory still preserves the beginning: King David says Happy is the man who fears always (Proverbs 28:14) As if a spark of the Holy Spirit was lit in him, and years before the shtetl was cut off from life, he knew that the constant fear was, and should always be, present.
He was content with little even according to the concepts of those times. His economic sustenance came from selling to the housewives a few packages of yeast for baking the Sabbath Challah.
Because of the river, which flowed in Old-Rafalovka, the Dayan arranged divorces for the entire region. It was told, that a man from Olizark once came with his wife to be divorced, and the Dayan asked, as was customary, 10 Zloti. The man said: Rabbi, be careful with the price, and from time to time you will receive from me similar payment
In the year 1933 he passed away peacefully (lit. died by a kiss). Saturday morning he was at the synagogue, there he fainted and was taken home. At the end of the Sabbath he recited Havdala [which marks the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the weekdays], lay down and never got up.
May his merits protect us.
R'Chaim Goldman (The Staroste)
He was called Chaim the Staroste, because once, at the time of the Czars in Russia, he was writing for the Volost (administration). His neat, calligraphic handwriting was found on all documents issued by the Volost. But this was not enough to provide sustenance, so he was also a melamed [Torah teacher of young children]. Every Jew in Old-Rafalovka could testify that he had learned with Chaim the Staroste. I was part of the last generation of little boys, who studied Torah with Chaim. He was strict with his pupils many of us had the privilege to feel the taste of his Kantchik [a special whip, used by the melamed to punish the pupils].
He was also the cantor in the Stefiner Shul during the Days of Awe [New Year and Yom Kippur], and all former residents of Old Rafalovka remember, how in the afternoon of Simchat-Torah the people would gather near the Stefiner Shul and R'Chaim, an old man in his eighties, would climb the ladder to the roof and then another ladder to the higher roof
until he reached the chimney. Standing by the chimney, he began to recite Yitgadal Veyitkadash and the entire community would stand outside the Shul and pray Mincha with him.
At the end of Simchat-Torah, one of the wealthy members of the community would stand in the center of the shul and announce the deals for the next year: 1 Zloti a few pieces of wood; 3 Zloti hay; half a Zloti a measure of rye and so on. This symbolized the hope that the produce that year would be plentiful and cheap.
How R'Chaim the Staroste ruled his pupils, I heard from Alter Schneider the blacksmith. He was then 45 years old, and Chaim the Staroste was 80. The blacksmith said:
- Believe me, that when I see today the Staroste, my teeth begin to shake in my mouth.He died before the great tragedy, in his own bed. As he lay sick, we came to visit him, and he would teach us Words of the Torah:
- We find in the Torah, in the Prophets and in the Writings, that bread sustains the heart. So I am asking, how do I endure, if for a whole week I have not tasted a piece of bread? The answer comes from the pasuk [verse in the Torah]: God shall support me on the bed of illness, and this is the power that keeps me alive R'Leib the Shochet (ritual slaughterer)
As if through a fog, I remember the quarrel between Yosef the shochet and Leib the shochet. This quarrel has divided the shtetl into two camps. But during the last few years, the slaughtering was in the hands of R'Leibl. A third shochet, R'Zalman, came as well, but that was already a very short time before the destruction of the shtetl.
R'Leib, a learned Jew, would every week walk 8 kilometers to the Jews in Bilskovolie. There lived a Jewish estate owner, by the name of Gottesman, who conducted a big woods business and owned a sawmill. Every week, R'Leibl Shochet came
to slaughter for his families. On this occasion, he also emptied the JNF [Keren Kayemet] boxes that were placed in the homes of the Gottesman families and brought the money to Rafalovka to the JNF representative, who resided in the shtetl. We were all amazed at the large sum of money collected 100 Zloti and sometimes more. After the Gottesman family liquidated their businesses and made Aliya to Eretz Israel, he would receive every year, before the holiday of Sukkot, an Etrog [citrus fruit] from the Gottesman's which for us was a fresh, sweet-smelling, greetings from Eretz Israel.
Alter and Yankel Schneider had their workshop not far from the mountain and the brothers Shlomo and Moshe Kushnier had their workshops near the river. In the center of town there were the workshops of Leizer Goldberg the blacksmith and of Mendel and Itzik Kushnier.
At the beginning of the winter, as well as during the days of snow and frost, there was also a large store open near the workshops. The farmers from the neighboring villages would come in the middle of the night to iron the animals, especially the horses. At three or four in the morning, one could hear the noise of the hammers, beating on the iron and hardening it. During the long winter nights, lying in bed under the warm blankets, the noise of the hammers of the Jewish blacksmiths gave everybody a feeling of security the night was quiet, because Jewish craftsmen did not sleep, they were awake.
It was the same during the summer. The Christian farmers would come with the sickles and scythes to repair and sharpen them before the harvest. The work was an art. We, the boys, would stand and watch them work at the hot, glowing metal, melting and fusing the irons together, and listen to the strong blows of the hammers on the hot iron, before it cooled off. Then we would remember what we had learned in the I Samuel Book, that the Philistines chased out the Jewish craftsmen, so that they would not make weapons for the Jewish fighters. We considered our blacksmiths the great-great-grandsons of those Jewish craftsmen, who knew indeed how to make weapons.
There were also times, when the Ukrainian youth began behaving aggressively toward the Jewish population,
and our friend Yitzhak Kushnier, who had golden hands in the iron craftsmanship, made a kind of gloves which we carried with us, thus when there was an attack, we could reply properly.
As compensation for their work, the blacksmiths received money or money's worth chicken, eggs, fruits or the like. They worked hard all week long, and Friday, at mid-day they washed, put on their Sabbath clothes and went to shul, to receive the Holy Sabbath.
Together with their families, they were transferred to the ghetto in the Station. Mendel the blacksmith was in Old-Rafalovka, when the Ukrainian police assembled all Jews and took them to the Station, before the liquidation. He went back to the Station and joined his family, not even trying to save himself, as some of the others did.
Binyamin Reznik and Yosef Dik, the Carpenters.
Almost all of the Old-Rafalovka youth went through the Carpenters Course, with one of the two carpenters in town. During the summer they worked in the villages, repairing houses, as well as schools and their furniture for the pupils who would come in the fall. The time of work was not exactly 8 hours, and during the winter evenings, the lights in the carpentries were seen quite late.
In the years 1937-1938, the JOINT organized productive work for the Jewish population, as planting fruit-trees, keeping bee-hives etc. Yosef the carpenter was the first to install a modern bee-hive in his yard and his attic. Besides the honey that he received from the bees, he received also, from time to time, the gift of a poisonous sting, as compensation for his devoted work
Binyamin Reznik perished in the ghetto. Yosef the carpenter fled from the ghetto and remained in hiding at Christian acquaintances in Warsaw. At the end he was reported by the Polish teacher Kokoshinska to the murderers; she lived in the home of the Christian and thought that if the Jew were not around, she would inherit his property.
The two Threshing Floors in Old-Rafalovka
As one entered the shtetl from the side of the mountain, one came upon the threshing floor of the brothers Yidl, Yankel and Yehoshua Brick. Their father Leizer zl had been the owner of the threshing equipment, which, in his time, worked in a primitive way. With his feet he would put the entire apparatus in motion. As boys, we would look on and wonder, how the elderly man was standing on the little platform and with the movement of his body and legs moved the stones that tore out the groats from the kernels. His beard was full of chaff of barley and oats. In later years, the threshing floor underwent improvements, and was activated by horses.
The Brick family was connected with the Kanonitch family from Vladimiretz, since two brothers of the family took as wives two sisters of the other family.
The other threshing floor was in the center of the shtetl and it belonged to Hershel-Shaye Gloz. He owned a big building, with smaller ones added on the sides. Often we would see someone carrying some logs into the courtyard - and we would know that a new little building or hut was added. In general, the whole thing was almost an industrial enterprise, where they worked with several kinds of grains. These went through many sieves, until they were clean. There was also a machine that prepared food for the animals this was moved by horses, walking all day-long on a big wheel, which moved the entire enterprise.
On Friday at around mid-day, work stopped and he freed the horses. They lay on the ground for a while, then got up and neighed loudly, as if announcing the end of the six working days.
I remember one episode. Once, one of Hershel-Shaye's horses died. As it was lying on the floor of the stall, the officer was called to write out the proper document. He was a Ukrainian in his 50-es, who knew how to sign his
name, but not much more than that. So we stood around the dead horse, and the officer did not know what to do. Just then, Itzik the lime-maker passed on his way to the shul, with his prayer-shawl under his arm. When he saw the people standing around the dead horse and the Ukrainian at a loss, he said: He doesn't know what to write, let him write sus met [Hebrew for a horse died].
When the children grew up a little, they began to manage the business, and the father would watch from the side and see that everything was in order. If there was some misunderstanding between the farmers and the Jewish population, Hershel-Shaye would always know how to patch-up things with a bottle of brandy, as the custom has been for generations.
Hershel-Shaye, his wife and his children met the fate of all the others who perished.
Some of his children survived and live in Canada.
by Arie Yadoshlivi
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The village of Bilskovolie was situated 8 kilometers from Old-Rafalovka. Quite a few Jewish families lived in the village; they formed a community of their own, with their own minyan. The shochet [ritual slaughterer] from Old-Rafalovka would come once a week to perform his services to the members of the Jewish community. At times, one could meet in our shtetl a Jew from Bilskovolie of the Freiman family or R'Meir Kushnier. That was usually for the reason of matchmaking [shiduch] or plain business. Before the holiday of Sukkot, we could also meet Bilskovolie Jews looking for an Etrog [citrus-fruit for the special blessing during the Holiday], or people would come to visit the rabbi for a chat about the events of the day.
Several Jewish families lived in the village Multshitz, but since it was far from our shtetl about 18 km. Jewish villagers would seldom come, except during fairs or special market days, occurring several times a year. Some would come from the village to town for business matters.
Multshitz was a rich village, and the local Jews earned a good livelihood. But the Gentiles in the village were known in the neighborhood as robbers and quite a few Jews were destroyed by them, during so-called quiet years. I still remember one morning in 1936: Yosef Morik, a Jew of about 80 years had been robbed and killed during the night and in the morning he was brought to the shtetl, in order to give him a Jewish burial.
The Jews from the Sopatchov village had a good relationship with the Jews in Old-Rafalovka. Never a day passed, without meeting in Old-Rafalovka Jews from Sopatchov. They would come for their trade, or to buy a calf and slaughter it for the Sabbath, or get some pig's hair, berries, or other matters concerning Jewish livelihood.
During 1932-1933, a kibbutz of the BEITAR movement was active in Bilskovolie; it enlivened the entire shtetl.
During the winter they used sleighs. The owner of the sleigh tied the horse to the telephone pole and entered the shop to do his shopping. As boys, we were waiting and when nobody was around to see, we would untie the horse and ride the sleigh a little. Returning, we could hear from afar the shouts: Where is the sleigh and the horse? we jumped off the sleigh and the horses would go back to their rightful owners.
During Holidays, since the Sopatchov Jews did not have a quorum of ten adult men for prayer [minyan], they would be hosted for the day by people in our shtetl. I remember: once, on the holiday of Purim, Yona Weissblatt came early in the morning to hear the reciting of the Megillah. The gentile driver of the carriage put his horses at the fence, near the Libisheyer Synagogue. The horses were very nervous, probably tired, and every time Haman was beaten during the reading [according to the custom that every time the name of Haman was mentioned in the Megillah the listeners would make noise with their gragers or other means to kill Haman] they tried to run. The driver did not understand the reason for the big racket inside, and decided to investigate. When he saw inside all the little children with sticks and other arms In their hands ready to beat Haman he fled, full of fear.
On the eve of the Days of Awe [New-Year and Yom Kippur] some of the Sopatchov Jews moved to Rafalovka and resided with relatives, in order to spend the Holy Days among Jews.
At the end of Yom Kippur, in the evening, a gentile would come with his carriage to drive them back home. He would come at about three in the afternoon, park his carriage near the synagogue and go in, to wait. After the evening prayer he would take the Jews home.
Several Jewish families lived in the village Kolodi across the Stir River. In order to come to the shtetl, they would have to cross the river.
One of the Jews, Loozer, knew by heart many passages from the Holiday Prayerbook. Another special figure was Menashe from Kolodi, a simple, short Jew. After finishing the last of the Yom Kippur prayers, the prayer of Ne'ila [closing] when everybody shouted the words Leshana Haba'a Birushalayim [next year in Jerusalem] he would say, jokingly, Yea, next year in Kolodi.
I remember another Jew as well: he was called Aba from Ostrovetz, was very good looking and he was one of the guests who came to the shtetl for the Holiday.
by Baruch Smali
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
A colony of Jewish farmers, craftsmen and various other occupations, Olizarka, existed for years before the great tragedy of the Polish Jewry.
At the outskirts of the settlement lived a Gentile, who served the Jews on Sabbath and holidays, doing for them
work that the Jews are not allowed to do on those days. He spoke fluent Yiddish. Some 14 kilometers separated between Olizarka and Vladimiretz. Olizarka was a unique place on the map of the Rovno region. Even the local dialect was very different from other dialects, for example those of Vladimiretz or Sarna.
The main quality that made the Olizarka Jews different and specific was their occupation. They earned their sustenance by farming were farmer in the full meaning of the word. By their existence they denied the argument of the anti-Semites, that the Jews were not fit for working the land, and they avoid it because it is hard work.
Olizarka was a small island in the great sea of anti-Semitism in Poland.
Olizarka was also a market for good, qualified craftsmen, who, during winter, would go to the surrounding towns and find work. Olizarka was renowned by its house-painters, who embellished houses and ovens.
There were also other craftsmen, like shoemakers, tailors and an ironsmith, a descendant of the famous dynasty Baril in Vladimiretz and also a few merchants, some peddlers and some chicken merchants.
My uncle Rudi was a resident of Olizarka, and thanks to him I remember the place with respect, particularly my uncle Baruch Rudi and his family.
My uncle Baruch had three children two sons and a daughter, all married. The daughter lived in Zalucek. The younger son, Yidl, lived in the village Sopatchov. The elder, Zishe, left Olizarka with his family and made Aliya to Eretz Israel, and settled in Kiryat Motzkin.
My uncle would go to Vladimiretz to visit the graves of his parents and he would visit us as well. He had a farm. In 1934, when entire Vladimiretz was burned by the great fire, he came and helped us rebuild the house. I replied with a visit.
My uncle was already at the Golden Age, yet his step was lively and energetic. His silver beard presented a portrait of a land worker, a farmer. I traveled with him on his wagon, helped
collecting hay and loading the wagon. He honored me with holding the whip, and the horse took us home.
A good lunch was waiting for us. During the meal, his son Zishe disclosed, that he obtained a certificate to go to Eretz Israel.
My uncle received the news tragically. Zishe, the oldest son, was his crown, his love. During years they have plowed, sown and built together. My uncle Baruch was a wise Jew, and he understood that they separated forever. Unfortunately, this is what happened. His kind smile disappeared from his face.
Zishe settled well in Eretz Israel, and always dreamt that he would bring over his entire family. But WWII broke out, bringing the destruction of Jewry and an end to his dreams. The shtetel Olizarka shared the fate of the Jews of all Europe.
Soon after the beginning of the war, the Nazis began the annihilation of the Olizarka Jews, robbing and violating the craftsmen's shtetel.
According to the order of the Germans, the Olizarka Jews left their homes, went to the Rafalovka Station and then were transferred to the ghetto together with all the Jews in the neighborhood. In August 1942, the Nazis and their Ukrainian partners chased the Jews out of their homes in the ghetto and drove them on foot, young and old, on the Death March. Grandfathers carried in their arms frightened grandchildren who cried bitterly, and so they were brought to their formerly dug graves not far from Suchovolie. They were forced to undress and as they stood at the edge of the grave they were shot dead. Zishe mourned his home, his family. All his dreams came to an end.
In our country, after the proclamation of the Jewish State, another war broke out. Seven Arab states attacked the little country Israel. Zishe was recruited to the army. Then an unexpected tragedy struck: as he was transporting, in 1948, food for the besieged population in Jerusalem, he fell in battle.
Like a thunder, the tragedy struck the entire family. So was the lively Rudi family from Olizarka extinguished.
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