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[Page 248]

In the Neighboring Settlements


Jews in the Villages of the Sarny Area

by Meir Walkin

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

For generation after generation, Jews lived among the Ukrainians throughout all of the expanse of Wolhynia and Polesia. And this was the situation also in the area of Sarny. The largest village in the area was Nemovychi[1], where there was a police station, a school, and the offices of the government for all nearby villages.

Most of the Christian residents of the village tilled the soil, and the Jews that were there were the storekeepers, retail cattle merchants, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, etc. Even before Sarny had become a city, the village of Nemovychi was a spiritual center for all the nearby villages. For the High Holy Days, families would come to Nemovychi from Znosychi, Czudlo, Kam'yane[2], to hear the refrains and harmonies of the [holiday] season.

There were two scheduled prayer quorums in Nemovychi, divided according to the adherence to the Rebbes of Stolin, Trisk and Berezne.

The residents of the village excelled in their study of Torah, and because of this, there were Torah scholars in Nemovychi in whom Sarny took pride. The family of Aryeh Walkin was well–known. The head of the family was enlightened, and progressive, sending his sons to be educated in Odessa and Vilna. The mother of these sons, Ri'kl Walkin, was known in the area as a hostess who invited guests, and someone who helped the poor and the needy. She was privileged to die, in the presence of her family, two days before The Slaughter.

The oldest of her sons, R' Shmuel Walkin z”l especially stood out for his scholarship, being a man of culture and an ardent Zionist. He was a teacher in Sarny and in Vilna. He founded and was the Headmaster of a school in Rokitno, a school in Minsk, Mazowiecki, and Volkovysk. Many of his pupils in The Land, recall his memory with affection and respect. He died, together with his family, in Treblinka.

As soon as the Nazis entered Nemovychi, the Nazis hung Dov (Berl) Gurfinkel, as his hands were tied to a tree. He expired after several hours of agony. A terrible fear fell upon the Jews, whose lives and possessions were treated with abuse. All their living assets were taken from them, and in the passage of time, they were compelled to leave the villages and to be concentrated in the Sarny ghetto. Along the way, a number of them were plundered, among them Ri'kl Walkin. The bandit was subsequently executed in the year 1944.

The lives of the village Jews in the ghetto was unbearable. There were among them those who were able to sneak out of the city and head to the village, in order to see if they could scrounge some food, and they were shot along their way, as was the case with the young man, David Shimon. Despite the fact that these people were accustomed to life in the wild, only very few had the capacity to escape, and even fewer remained alive after having placed their faith in their neighbors and their honesty. Abraham Pearlstein, Gurfinkel, Mush'keh and her son, Moshe'l, and also Shlomo Goluboszka, were all captured after several months, after the slaughter in the ghetto, and they were killed.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shown as Nemovychi on Ukrainian maps. Return
  2. Possibly Kam'yane–Sluchans'ke Return

From the Way of Life of the Jews in the Villages

by Nehemiah Gildenhorn

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

It was not difficult for an individual to fulfill his obligations when he was located in a congested Jewish environs among his brethren in Israel.

Such was not the case for a Jew, whose fate in waging his war for survival, found himself in some far–flung village, with few [Jewish] families among the hundreds of Christian ones.

The Jews in the villages were able to maintain themselves during the period of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. In overcoming the vicissitudes of the times, they were able to afford to bestow a Jewish education on their children, by retaining teachers – who were not that easy to keep hold of, and they did not withhold their support – with all that came to their hands – for their refugee brethren who fled the sword and pogroms in the Ukraine, sharing their bread, and putting their own lives in danger, by providing these refugees with forged documents of the local régime in order that they be able to continue on their way to the larger centers of the country.

In the village where I was born, Jalna (named for the thick pine forests that ringed the village) there lived, approximately 120 Christian families and 4 Jewish families. One of the families, the Maturin family, used to obtain permits for residence in the village, in accordance with the well–known regulation, ‘Czarta Usidlustii’ (The Pale of Settlement for the Jews). This family was harassed by the police with no surcease, which would squeeze out bribes by various means. I can recall that more than once, my father Ber'l z”l, would appease the ‘Uradnik’ and for a time, relieve the family of suffering, without this becoming known to those who suffered. This was the same practice of the other families who were in control of these permits.

And here is yet another incident that sheds light on the relationships that existed between the families spread through the villages: In 1923, I was called to present myself to the military draft of the Polish Army in Sarny. With the help of Mr. Moshe–Itzik Nagel z”l (the father of the officer Joseph Nagel in the Israeli Police), I was able to be excused. When I wanted to convey my gratitude to Mr. Nagel for what he had done, he chastised me in a friendly manner, saying that he had done this out of his own inner conviction, and this was not a place for gratitude.

The news of my being excused reached Mr. Joseph Nagel (brother of the one who did this, and the father of the three sons who are today with us in Israel: Shmuel, Simcha, and David), in the shtetl of Skhov (Tomaszgorod) on Purim. An opportunity like this, to deliver good news to a Jew – would you let it grow stale, even if the matter is enveloped in a bit of effort? Mr. Nagel harnessed up his horse to a wagon, and willy–nilly, made his way through the muddy terrain associated with the melting of the snow, for a distance of 12 km, to Jalna in order to deliver this good news to my parents.

Despite the fact that they were at a distance from any Jewish urban center, the village Jews were alert and perhaps because of their isolation, even more so that their brethren in such centers, to everything that took place with regard to their brethren throughout the length and breadth of the country. I remember the stories that were told about the appearances of Dr. Herzl before rulers and monarchs, and the deep sorrow that pervaded us all, at the news of his death. The discussions over the speeches of the lawyer Gruzenberg[1], Rabbi Mazeh[2], and others at the Beilis trial in Kiev, carried on until the late hours of the night. In our home, there was a place for the pictures of all these people who took part in the defense of Beilis. Everything that took place regarding Zionism was not unfamiliar to the village Jews, and they did not stand in the way of their children who went to training camps for Halutzim in order to make aliyah to The Land.

The Jews who were spread out in the Sarny vicinity were like this. Each one was considered to be a master among his people, designated by his name and a nickname: – ‘Mott'l der Bieler[3],’ ‘David of Skhov,’ ‘Moshe Salutsky from Jalna,’ ‘Ber'l of Jalna’ (that would be my father z”l), etc. The nickname of my mother Ethel z”l, was “The Pedigree from Berezki,” because she traced her origin to the village of Berezki, as was the case of my uncle, R' David Feigelstein (my mother's brother).

Also known, was the resonance and musical prayer for R' Yitzhak Isaac Maturin, that was enjoyed by only a minyan and a half of worshipers. And who, in the area, did not know my uncle, R' Baruch Feigelstein, who mastered the melodies of the Rebbe of Stolin R' Menachem Zalman Briskman from Skhov – his reading of the weekly Torah portion remains etched in my memory to this day.

Jews of this sort did not assimilate, nor did they pollute themselves. They were Jews within the confines of their tents, and ordinary people when they went outside, and in days of stress and discrimination, they knew how to stand with strength against masses who were incited against them, and their faith in the eternity of the Jewish people never wavered.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Oskar Osipovich Gruzenberg (in German transliteration – Grusenberg; Russian: Оск ар Осипович Грузенберг; 1866–1940) was a prominent Russian defense attorney.
    Gruzenberg was born to a family of a Jewish merchant in Kiev in 1866 . After graduation from a gymnasium (high school) in Kiev, Gruzenberg enrolled in Kiev University to study jurisprudence. He made a name for himself defending striking workers and members of the revolutionary parties. He also participated in the defense of Beilis in the infamous case of blood libel.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Gruzenberg Return
  2. Mazeh, Yaakov Isaevich (1859–1924), Russian rabbi, publicist, and Zionist leader. Born in Mogilev, Yaakov Mazeh lost his father at an early age and was raised by his maternal grandfather, who gave him a thorough Jewish education. While studying at the gymnasium in Kerch (Crimea), Mazeh was shocked to overhear an antisemitic remark by the reputedly liberal Tsar Alexander II. Mazeh remained observant–unusual for his era–while studying law at Moscow University. He then practiced law for a time after graduation.
    An excellent speaker, he gained nationwide fame when he appeared in 1913 for the defense in the ritual murder trial of Mendel Beilis to refute the charge that Jews needed human blood in their rites.
    http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Maze_Iakov_Isaevich Return
  3. Someone who barks. Return

[Page 250]

Klesów – The Village, Its People and Fate

by Joseph Zuliar

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

The appearance of my village of Klesów is etched in my memory in the form of one street, broad and long, along which were spread out the low–slung wooden houses, with roofs of straw or branches of trees for Ukrainian farmers, fifteen Jewish houses (among them houses of means and others of a middling sort).

This minimal community conducted its unique way of life in a sea of farmers and gentile toughs. When you raise up every one of them in your memory, from the old to the young, you get the impression, one way or another, that you have walked into one of the stories of Mendele or Sholom Aleichem: Here stands Leibusz before you, with his gold–like beard! Verses of the Pentateuch and Rashi commentaries flow from his mouth, as he accompanies their translation and explanation with a pinch into the soft part of the little boy that had gotten in his way: ‘He says (the book tells) – v'Amarta – and you shall say , l'Moshe – to Moses, because then…’

And here is Mendli Szeintukh, with the tiny beard on his chin, from whose eyes emanate Jewish fear, poverty, and unending worry about making something of a living.

And here is Shmeryl Shapiro, with the beard of gray–white, quick of step, and staccato in his speech, his gait belying his age, a stern, miserly man, being fussy about the cleanliness of his dress and his table.

And here is Baruch Pinczuk – a rawboned and strapping man. I will always see him with an axe tucked in his belt. For sure, he is heading for the windmill to repair a broken stake.

And then there is Yankl'eh Khaver, diminutive, who hears, yet doesn't hear, enjoying to surprise a child – his grandson, or just any old child – with a pinch in the cheek.

And here are Motil, Israel, and Meir Frumin – the quiet and taciturn, standing beside a coterie of conversing Jews, as they listen on, participating in the conversation with simple shrugs of their backs only.

And Yekhiel Gottleib, tall and broad–shouldered, always quiet, tranquil, with a smile splayed across his wide face, slow and simply tough, but soft like the wood that he is shaping with his carpenter's plane.

And his opposite – Shmulik Schulner, small but quick, his entire being full of life, his hand is like his tongue, his body in constant motion without stopping: ‘I will show them’… ‘I will prove to them’… ‘Who is right’…

And was I to raise up a day into my memory, one of the days in Klesów, whether a day during summer, or a day during winter, I will always see Yekhiel Torok the Glazier before me, walking down the middle of the street, carrying potatoes in the corner of his garment, or a bit of seed – the payment for work that he had received from one of the gentiles, and following him, one of his sons would be walking, Berl or Noah, ???? glass under ???

All of them worked and toiled, and along with them, their wives, to bring bread into the home for their children.

Among the women was the widow, Dina'keh Zuliar, who by her own energy and strength, carried the yoke of earning a living for her three children, until they became ‘men.’

Despite being immersed in the exigencies of making a living, the parents looked after the ‘essential Jew’ in their children, and not only with regard to their traditional religious education.

My father Joel z”l, had, as one of his primary concerns, the retention of a Rebbe, to come to the village each school term, and in later years – a teacher. We were fortunate to have teachers who could immerse the traditional subject matter into a more modern educational foundation. They taught Hebrew using Hebrew (Ivrit b'Ivrit), inculcating into the ears of their pupils also those things written in books, and what was transpiring in the larger world, and their lessons even impinged on political matters. On winter nights, every one of their students, who would be sitting at a long table, would read an article in ‘HaTzefira,’ and not simple reading: the student was required to delve into the depth of the writing, explain it, as if it were a Talmudic argument.

And so the young generation matures, alert and radiant, aspiring to new things, and to the wider world, Zionism and to becoming a Halutz.

During the decade of the twenties, there was the first attempt to establish a chapter of HeHalutz in this location. A parcel of land was leased and planted with grain. This attempt failed. After several years, the youth of the village were among the people striving on behalf of the ‘Stone Cutters' Kibbutz of Klesów,’ and in all of the lists, during all of the years of its existence, the youth of the village had officers in it.

An important turning point in the history of the village of Klesów came with the introduction of the railroad approximately 3 km distant from it. This turn of events was felt profoundly, along with the Polish conquest, and the expansion of the activities of the lumber factories and stone quarries in the village and its surroundings. At first, the Jewish settlement in the new place beside the railroad station grew slowly. The first of the families to extend their branches in that direction, even many years before the Polish conquest were: Szeintukh, Zuliar, Shapiro, Turowicz, Handelman, and Gruber. Immediately after the conquest, many additional families were added from the nearby villages, and in the end, there was a migration from Sarny, among whom, at the start, were the families of Susnik, Goldman, Turkenitz, Juz, Scheinman, and others.

Klesów was transformed almost into a town, whose economy, especially that of the Jewish community in it, was made up of two Jewish occupations: (1) the stone cutting business of the Feinstein family, whose leader was known as a Zionist and someone who was active in Jewish life. And in a similar fashion, (2) the Margolis family ran their sawmill under the direction of Mr. Lerner, a Bundist, in his political outlook, but a person who knew how to stand up to the Polish authorities to protect the dignity of the Jew. As was Feinstein and also Lerner – both opposed the instances of [forcible] eviction of Jewish workers, and members of the Halutz training camp. Their stand on these issues aroused a favorable impression and much respect from the side of the Jewish collective.

From here on, I can only offer the following about Klesów: that it grew, expanded, and became more comely until… until, along with its sister communities, drank deeply from the cup of sorrows, drinking it to its end.

A few survivors, here and there, remained from this community. They succeeded in reaching us, and among them there are those still lost on known and unknown byways, and they too cock an ear to what is going on with us, and are full of expectations for a new life.

[Page 251]

How the Kibbutz Was Established in Klesów
(From One of the Founders)

by Gila Turkowic–Salutsky

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

One time, as I was sitting on a bench under the birch tree that stood beside my father's house, in the company of Motik Zuliar and David Bienstock, Motik turned to us with a proposal to establish a Kibbutz. We agreed to the proposal. But we did not know where to get additional members. Motik proposed that we connect with the committee of the HeHalutz branch in Sarny and to organize a joint training initiative.

We turned to Mr. Leibusz Frimer v”g, who served as the director of the stone cutting works, and we asked for his help in arranging work places for those Halutzim who wished to prepare themselves to make aliyah to The Land of Israel. Mr. Frimer promised to help us as much as he could, and indeed he stood by his promise and helped the Kibbutz a great deal.

Our proposal to establish a Kibbutz was favorably received by the HeHalutz branch in Sarny. This agreement was sealed between HeHalutz in Sarny and the Klesów members, for the establishment of a training location that for a period of time was called: The Kibbutz of the Stone Cutters in Klesów, associated with the HeHalutz Branch in Sarny.

On one Saturday night, the Sarny Branch members Weinblatt, Danenberg, Berlinsky, Zingerman, Torok, Kunik, Leah Steinworcel, and at their head, the member Simcha Finkelstein (today, Evven–Zohar), visited us. There were other members as well, but sadly, I no longer remember their names.

These members spent the night with us, and on the following day, went to work at the stone quarry. When they returned from their work, the question of the settlement was raised. I recalled that Mr. Hersh-Leib Portnoy had an empty storage facility that could be used for training. We succeeded in getting him to permit us use of this facility, and his wife Batya agreed to let us share the use of the oven, since I ran a kosher kitchen, and accordingly she instructed me in cooking, in which I was not particularly good. And so, this was the way training began in Klesów.

The day was dedicated to work, and the evenings to dances. From the outset, added members came from the location and its vicinity. The Jews of Klesów extended their support to the Kibbutz to the extent that their means permitted. My father v”g would turn over wagon loads of wooden lumber, even if the productivity of the membership was not substantial. Frequently, my father would challenge me with ‘your Halutzim.’ Despite these sort of complaints, they would be invited back again at a relatively immediate opportunity.

During the first days, the Halutz branch in Sarny concerned itself with providing the Kibbutz with eating utensils and the food itself. The relationship between the Kibbutz and the [Sarny] branch was very tight. After a while, the Kibbutz began to purchase provisions locally. Not only one, of hundreds of gold pieces, did we end up still owing to the storekeeper, Mr. Moshe Szeintukh, seeing that our expenses by and large exceeded our income. The butchers Abraham Eisner, and Shimon Schulner provided choice cuts, and every Jew in Klesów helped to the extent of their capacity.

On Saturday nights, many of the Jews of Klesów would come to watch the dances of the Halutzim. In a similar fashion, the young people of Sarny would come to spend the evening at the Kibbutz. The member Kotelczuk, today named Czuk, the secretary of ‘HeHalutz’ in Sarny, would visit us frequently and keep up the connection between the Kibbutz and the Branch.

With the winter drawing near, we were compelled to abandoned the storage facility. We found a new domicile in the home of Czycuk. A number of days after the move of our domicile, I was fortunate to be able to make aliyah.

The first contingent of olim that had the opportunity to make aliyah numbered about forty people. On the day of departure, all the Jews of the town came to see us off, and with tears in their eyes they wished us: ‘May we see each other again in Our Land.’

[Page 252]

The Establishment of the Kibbutz in Klesów

by Sh. Evven–Zohar

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

Along with the growth in the number of members in our branch in Sarny, so grew the demand for more activities. We received the first news of the establishment of Kibbutzim for training (Grokhov and others), but we did not have a clear view of their approach and way of life. We knew that it was not enough to simply be registered at the branch, and that simply the will to make aliyah was insufficient, it was also necessary to get prepared for aliyah by means of physical and professional training. Since most of the membership had never even tasted manual labor in their lives, they began to train themselves and to study under various craftsmen, Jewish and Christian, how to make locks, tinsmithing, and others. It became quickly clear that we were not going to make much progress this way, and the news that reached us about life in The Land – Kibbutz, community, etc. – stimulated us as well, to organize a Kibbutz and go out to work together.

At the beginning of the summer of 1924, we initiated and completed our search for an appropriate location for a training Kibbutz. We said we would located it in one of the many forests in our vicinity, but after a clarification with those Jewish people who offered employment, we saw that there was no hope to do this. We then tried our luck with the stone quarry at Klesów, which was close to Sarny. When we first appeared in Klesów before the manager of the stone quarry, since he was known well to us, we told him, that I, along with a number of other members from our city – I cited names that he recognized – wanted him to take us on as workers at the stone quarry. His first response was: ‘You haven't found anyone else to make fun of? You little boys want to be stone cutters? Don't be silly and go home,’ He began to demonstrate how devoid of rationale our entire program was, because he didn't believe it would give or add anything at all. We then proved to him that our proposal was serious, and if it is not his desire to help us, we will have to find other means, seeing that we did not come with the intent of making large amounts of money, but rather to find a place where we could live a worker's life, the life of a Kibbutz, for the purpose of then making aliyah to The Land.

After many entreaties, he agreed to bring our proposal before the central management. The decision was favorable: ten members were taken on for a trial period to work. Our joy knew no bounds. Without publicizing this among the many, out of a suspicion that parents and family members would oppose it – we quietly packed up our effects when we returned home, and showed up for work in Klesów. First of all, we had to find a place to live for ourselves. With the help of local young people, we uncovered a barn, which we thoroughly cleaned, and arranged whatever ‘furniture’ we had: some boards set up in one corner for sleeping, a table, another corner, kitchen, etc. Among the ten comrades who came from Sarny was one woman, and with our arrival in Klesów, two local women joined us , to provide some part–time help, and they began to take care of supplies. On the first night, we had our first meeting, and we gave this name to the Kibbutz: ‘The Kibbutz of Stone Cutters in Klesów.’

On the first day that we showed up at the quarry, we had a victory, but also not without some disappointment: the manager of the work in the quarries had not organized for us to integrate with the other workers in all the hard labor. Rather, we were put to the lighter work such as: gathering the broken stone, moving boards around, etc. We saw ourselves as denigrated. The Christian workers, especially the older among them, laughed at us, about our ‘white hands,’ but their attitude toward this slowly changed. After a short while, the management became convinced of our work competence, and allocated work to us along with the other workers. Over time, we took over a large part of the jobs at the quarry.

News of the Kibbutz reached the entire vicinity, and tens of members turned to us with the request to be taken on in the Kibbutz, however our ability to take on additional members was limited, because of the lack of an agreement on the part of the management of the work to engage more than 25–30 workers, and also because of a lack of suitable accommodations in that location. Despite this, we remained alert to possibilities, and from time–to–time would add an additional Halutz, until the end of the summer, at which time we numbered about forty. After we had taken over, as previously noted, a large part of the work at the quarry, and felt more confident in our abilities, we began to seek out additional forms of work in the facilities in Klesów. Jewish employers took a positive stance towards our proposals, and a little bit at a time, we penetrated into the work of loading wood and cement in the train station. With the addition of this work, we were then able to expand the Kibbutz and receive additional members.

With our expansion, we moved out of the old barn, to take up residence in a separate house that was rented to us by one of the farmers. In the large room of the house, bunk beds were set up, having two levels – as sleeping quarters, and at the other end of the same room – a table for eating, and in the corner, a secretariat.

It is not possible to overlook recollecting the enthusiasm with which the members went out to work, and came back. On the street leading to the quarry, the residents there already knew that at certain set times, the ‘Palestinians’ would be passing through. The members marched in rows, day–by–day, to the quarry, and the song and melody could be heard at a distance.

When the summer passed, and the winter gathered its force and came, our situation became more difficult, especially when the Kibbutz took the decision not to take any assistance from home for warm clothing. Most of the members did not have warm clothing, and all the clothes that we had brought from home had been worn out, as you might expect, and had become tattered. It was at that time that the central HeHalutz came to our aid, and a special delivery from that center even came to Klesów. With its arrival, a stream of new life was injected into the camp. The fact in this was that we were not alone, contributed to giving us the strength to continue.

The working conditions in the wintertime were more difficult, but we became accustomed to them. Our membership, whose numbers increased, were busy, apart from securing provisions for the home, also with light work around the quarry: the cleaning up of the broken rock, and the like. The watch in the group was a model, organizing the day in a fixed agenda from the start. In special cases, once every other month, people got a day or two off, but these were rare. The connection to the center became permanent, and from time–to–time, its members would come to visit us. In the winter of 1924, the first of our nominees were fortunate enough to make aliyah.

Once in The Land, we sought to continue our work in quarrying stone, and in this connection, actually had a brief engagement in one of the quarries near Jerusalem.

(From the book ‘Sefer HeHalutz’ 5676–5699, Published by the Jewish Sokhnut, Jerusalem)

[Page 254]

A Portrait of the Klesów Man

by Yitzhak Tavenkin

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

What is it that Klesów engaged in? Did the roads that were built using Klesów stone actually reach there, or was the stone taken from the quarry, the grain harvested by the members of the agricultural training section of HeHalutz? The tangible worth of the produce from Klesów do not convey the value of its work in terms of character. The stone was central not for monetary gain, but rather to transform something within the person. Stone was quarried in order to shape something in the human being, to transform him into a person from Klesów, someone who could tame the land, a working man, a man of the commune, who believes in the goodness of people; in order to train the person, his soul, his will – all of him. Its worth expressed itself in the somber appearance of most of the mass of Jewish youth that went through the many Kibbutz training camps. It was not the physical substance of the work that was transforming, nor was it the thing that comprised the spiritual assets. The value of these undertakings lay in the great educational value that was intrinsic to them.

Every movement in the world creates an image of what, according to its concept, represents the ideal man, the image of the man that it desires. It might be the persona of the ultimate man, the anointed of God, a monarch or a ‘Führer’ in the fascist movement. What then, was the image of such a man in our movement, that which hovered in front of Klesów, and HeHalutz HaTza'ir? It was the image of the anonymous soldier: me, you, him. Just as we sang from the poem of Tczernikhowsky: ‘You are the image of a Maccabee’ – an image that lived within you, that you have to sculpt from your inner being, just like the sculptor, who in his mind's eye can see the stature that is buried within the raw stone, and all of his work is oriented to reveal that image, by taking away all the superfluous pieces of the stone. This is not the image of a striving person, who aspires to reach his natural level, to measure himself by it, or to be guided, or submit to it, but rather this is an ancient form, deep inside you. Distance yourself from familiar characteristics, and you will naturally come to gaze upon the image of the ideal Halutz, the image of the working man within you that is desired. The innovation in this movement was the synthesis that each individual was the raw material that he himself would sculpt himself into the worker, Zionist, a working man of the agricultural commune. The image that hovered before him was: to be different, the image of another man, different from the images of all the people in his vicinity, in which he currently lives and is growing up, a man who is simple in his way of life and manner, simple in what he eats, wears, and the work that he does, in the rest he takes, his leisure and dance. In this simplicity, and in its realization through day–to–day living, there was an enormous fortification of character that would be needed in confronting the revolution to come.

It is not only the goal that has to be clear to the masses; no less compelling to them, must be the way to achieve it. They are seeking the form of that goal that stands out, fully–shaped, not hidden, but rather one that you can actually feel with your hand. This search is identified with the tribulations along the way. One who describes the movement in Klesów, is not only portraying the final goal, but also the explicit means to get there: the life of a worker, a life of equality, cognizance of the rules in the Diaspora, etc., and still in that Diaspora: in training, in the designated Kibbutz training camp. But what was reflected in this, was the fact that the person who was becoming a Halutz, ceased to be the person that he or she was previously, and begins to implement the revolution needed within, and will not retreat. And does not return ‘home.’

Klesów! What is tied up in that name? There is not a single kind of undertaking, but rather a single type of person: a potential that was revealed to every youth, to every simple person among Jewry: to be productive, to be different. It was like a sticky dream that did not skip over a Jewish dwelling in the town: the possibility that I, you, and he, that everyone will be able to attain it, to make it become real. The news that, in this place, ordinary people were quarrying stone, and along with this were also singing and dancing, and they were living in a commune, and that they are not exceptional, and that everyone can live like, and be one of them – had within it a sort of legendary force that changes the face of life itself. This was not some sort of myth about a form of hero, or a leader that was bringing followers after him, the one who gives commands that we should follow in his footsteps, that we should defer to him, and receive his lore. No, the ideal was a different one: you and I can become different; all of us have the capacity to uncover the essence of what we are, that is buried deep inside of us. It was in this manner that Klesów became a driving force, that pulled in throngs, not by means of any special boons, and privileges. It was only after many years that it earned the privilege of granting permission for aliyah via a certificate. And therefore, in it, in Klesów, there were great difficulties. In the stone quarry, for sure. And in a distant place, far distant to be sure, on the Russian border. And this made Klesów a furnace–point of the entire movement: the educational ideal for each and every one, equality to each young soul, that everyone could become a man of Klesów, a man of the Land of Israel, a man of the commune. Klesów nurtured the persona of the dominating Halutz of The Land. And to achieve this, is told by the way the person is educated.

The belief that dominated Klesów was that this young person – even though he had come for a certificate – could be trained; and especially so under these difficult conditions, with all their lack of pity. This lack of pity was not derived from the [Spartan] living conditions, but rather in the fact that there was no way back, there is no refuge, to place to which to flee, and there was no retreat to another way of life, to go back to one's father and mother. There is no training without a political ideal. It is possible to achieve that in the day–to–day way of life, and in the consistency of the training process, and there is a certain cruelty to such consistency. This cruelty commences with the beginning of a working man's way of life, of the ‘abandoned one,’ where one cannot escape from the problems of love, the family, and of the world around you, that it is possible to obtain a resolution to all of this within the context of being a working man, a man of the Kibbutz, who already while still in the Diaspora, has begun to live the life of The Land of Israel. In place of a narrowly defined form of political training – a training of the character, in substance. The cruelty came with the decision that one did not permit one's friends the freedom to return home. It was incumbent on the individual to remain in Klesów under all circumstances: to be here, and here to reform one's self.

There was no participant that Klesów would give up on and say to him: leave. This was a cruelty that came with a measure of kindness, and not once did it give up even on a backsliding participant. In what lay this cruelty? It was in the predetermined relationship, its fanaticism, and in its training content. It lay in educating the individual from within, and to elicit the great things from inside of him that could be accomplished. This was their educational ideal, not for a specific part of them, not confined to a specific trade, but rather in a creative emphasis, that is cognizant of the striving associated with the new proletarian life. An emphasis on the romance of revolution, the ??? of the communal living that existed, communal living in The Land, a commitment to the future of Israel on its own soil, defense, as if we were at Masada, the uncovering of Jewish heroism – an emphasis that all of these things ??? its ideal. The people of Klesów, those who know how to dance, even without food or clothing, but to dance the dance of love – it was in them, in those days, that there was a recognition that they were carrying out a mission, it was as if it had become a religious movement, the movement of a mass of Jewry moved by a great faith in their own capacity to build. It was like this, that the people of the religious reformation were like, at the end of the Middle Ages. And because we were privileged to have such a movement, for moments like this in Klesów, in its ‘dawning,’ and in other Kibbutz training facilities, to which the people came for a certificate. These moments of affection and dedication to their place, represented tremendous character, and because of this, each and every one, in Klesów, and in other training facilities, had such moments. – – –

[Page 256]

The Jews of the Village of Karpylivka

by Yentl Burko–Pearlstein

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh


A Group of BETA”R Youth in Antonovka (1934
Standing (Right to Left): Moshe Leibik, Aharon Shavit, Eliezer Shustak, Meir Raby


A Group of Halutzim training at the Raskin sawmill in Sarny (1927)


The Election Committee in Antonovka for the 18th Zionist Congress elections
Sitting (Right to Left): Rivka Kolodny, Moshe Leibik, David Zilberman, Simcha Melamed, Moshe Fialkov, Aharon Stern (Shavit).
Standing Guard: Meir Melamed, Moshe Kaplan


A Group of Leaders in the Hashomer HaTza‘ir Movement (1924)
Standing (Right to Left): Moshe Potoka, Ber'l Cirulnik, Scheur Gunik, Leib'l Berlinsky, Shy'keh Scheinman, Ze'ev Zingerman, Moshe Juz, David Torok, Moshe Zingerman
Second Row: Tzivia Gabuzhna, Eydl Kantorowicz, Nechama Walkin, Faygl _Parvorodska, Hassia Weinblatt, Freydl Torok, Penina Feld, Freydl Kornblum, Baylah Lifschitz, Esther Torok, Meir Stein, Leib'l Murik
Third Row: Eliyahu Ruzhy, Ben–Zion Murik, Szaftrik


A Gathering of the BETA”R membership in Sarny, with the Chairman of the Tzahar leadership, Baruch Ostrowsky (1933)


An Encampment of Hashomer HaTza'ir in the year 1922


Today, after so many years of upheaval and unrest, when we have finally been privileged enough to reside in our own home, in a Jewish country; long after our old home in the Diaspora was destroyed, and only now, a mere memorial is being set down there – the past rises like a wraith, which seems so close, and cannot be forgotten.

Years will pass, and new generations will rise up, who perhaps will no longer wish to recall the way of life of their grandfathers and the bitterness of the Diaspora, but perhaps, once in a moment of repose, leaf through this book of sorrows. Accordingly, let this memoir be one of the bricks that form the general memorial, which is being erected for our children and children's children. Let them also be able to cast a glance at how their grandfathers and great–grandfathers live in that bitter Diaspora, in the cities, and also at the Diaspora within a Diaspora – in the villages.

As a model of the villages, who were so similar one to the other, let me utilize my own birthplace, Karpylivka, which lay ten kilometers from Sarny.

Karpylivka, a somewhat long built–up street. Two rows of low–slung huts, covered in straw. In the middle of the village was a church. There were gardens and orchards, and near the houses, quietly growing willow trees. And behind the village, on hillocks, windmills and broad meadows.

Among the huts, one can find some larger houses, covered in shingles or tin. The windows will be hung with coverings, out of which there emanates a sense of good feeling and grace. These are the Jewish houses. On a few of them, there are hung signs written in Polish: ‘sklep spozywcze[1],’ ‘spjzedaz tytoniowy[2]’ and the like, which determines even more that a Jew lives here, who is making a living from a small store.

Who knows when, and in what manner, the village of Karpylivka was created. How the Jewish residents came here and settled here. It is noteworthy, that all of the Jewish families in Karpylivka all had the same family name: Borko, and they were all related to one another.

I do not know from whence my grandfathers came here. I only remember, that in the village, five brothers resided. These were my great–uncles: Jonah, Zelik, Ber'l, Sholom, and my grandfather, Abraham–Shmuel. These very five brothers, who raised a separate tribe, brought daughters into the world, who in turn caused the branching out of a large family, to which I belong.

When the elder David passed away, the children took over their inheritance, and took up residence in these very same houses. The five brothers, my great–uncles, left many sons and daughters after them, who in turn created large, multi–branched families: Velfl, Abraham–Hirsch, Mendl, Yekhiel, Miriam, Manya, Israel'ik, my father Eliezer, and his two brothers Leib and Moshe.

To the extent that I can remember, this was a family of merchants and scholars, that vibrated with its pedigree, and not to mince on the truth, but to be accurate, they played the greater role in day–to–day life.

Who in Sarny and its vicinity did not know my great–uncle Jonah v”g, who was known as ‘Jonah of Karpylivka’? He was tall, handsome Jewish man, with a distinguished face of a good Jew, and he elicited deference and respect, from the first glance. Apart from his commercial skills and scholarship, he had a great ambition, that was often circumscribed with egoism. If someone that he had come in contact with would not keep their word, that would be sufficient for him to never speak with him again, or let him cross his threshold.

The festival holidays come to mind, when the Jews used to come together for prayer. And if the younger set could not control themselves and remain quiet during services, the thunderous voice of my great–uncle Jonah would be heard: ‘Shaygetz! Grabber Yung!’ This would suffice, to cause the klatsch to fall silent as the fishes…

Also, the more mature Jews were intimidated by his glance, which exerted a special power and effect. No one wanted to dare and contest his will, or in any way impair his dignity, as if he were the patriarch of the family.

Perhaps the awe of him came as a result of his considerable mercantile endeavors, which he conducted. He dealt in large stables of oxen, and had connections in Warsaw, with merchants, and was known as a substantial merchant and scholar. His motto, which was bequeathed as a legacy to his entire broadly branched family, was: ‘Whoever plays with a needle – he is the one who gets the needle.’ And despite this, money was not the central thing with him. As an example, he would obtain considerable pleasure, during the time of a celebration, from the habit of taking out a larger sum of money from his wallet, and step on it with his feet.

I recollect, as if it were in a dream, when I was a child, my parents took me to the wedding of one of Uncle Jonah's daughters. This was one of the biggest weddings in the area, with music, a band, and many guests.

As a very ardent Stolin Hasid, he danced the entire time with great enthusiasm, sticking the lap skirt of his coat into his gartl. For each dance that he ‘commissioned’ from the musicians, he paid several rubles, but the money that he paid them, he scattered into the air, and ripped up the individual ten–ruble notes into small pieces, stepped on them with his feet, and shouted: ‘Play musicians – money is but mud’…

It is also worth mentioning my father's brother Moshe, or as he was known, ‘Moshe the Cantor.’ This was a tall, handsome Jewish man, who bubbled over with humor. His presence at a wedding graced the entire happy occasion. He would distribute refreshments, received guests, and seated them with dignity.

Moshe the Cantor loved elegance fiercely. He dresses himself fastidiously, and his black silk scarf with white stripes was a conversation piece.

His principal source of sustenance came from being a broker in the forest. After this, he was a teacher of Russian and The Holy Tongue, and in old age, when he lived in Sarny, he became the Cantor at the Kupeczeska Synagogue, because of his pleasant voice.

And that familiar refrain still resonates within me, at the time of the singing of zemirot, or at a Sheva Brachot, and we also, the children, would sing along with him, ‘tarrai,larrai, lakhai, lakhai.’

My great–uncles, Zelik and Sholom were, just like my great–uncle Jonah, dealers in quartering oxen, and in forest products. All of them were scholars and respected Jewish men, who enhanced the town that was sensitive to its pedigree. The son–in–law of my great–uncle Sholom, Aharon of Khinacz, who lived on the Ulica Ksziwa in Sarny, sat and learned day and night, and personally wrote a Torah scroll, who, together with his wife Manya, on the eve of the outbreak of the war, accompanied it under a canopy, along with musicians and many guests.

In this manner, the five brothers created, or continued the ‘dynasty’ of the Borkos. When they had all passed away, they left behind sons and daughters, who took over the legacy of their parents, and grandparents, and became merchants. To be a craftsman was considered ‘off bounds, and unclean,’ and was a trait that could detrimentally affect marriage prospects…

These were the sorts of Jews that were from Karpylivka.

And finally, it is worthwhile to recall the young people, who, by that time, harbored much larger aspirations and striving, notwithstanding the fact that these aspirations by–and–large, became dissipated only in dreams.

The youth of Karpylivka was torn, no less than the young Jewish people in the cities, to go off into the larger world, and was eager to pursue learning. They were not willing to accede to the monotonous rhythm of small village life, and indeed, spent most of their time in the city, where they got their education, even though the best teachers and melamdim were brought into the town.

Getting an education in the city came with difficulties. It was solely thanks to this requirement, that my parents maintained a residence in Sarny, ‘zapalesia,’ and I would spend the entire week studying in the city, and come home to the village only on the Sabbath. Often, this return proved difficult, because the river would overflow, and it was difficult to traverse the roads, but it was tied up with the warmth of coming home, and the anticipation of our mother, awaiting the arrival of her children from the city.

As an example of how the young people of the village strove to become educated, and tore off into the [larger] world, can be illustrated by the fact that my brother Abraham, who died prematurely, at the behest of my mother, of blessed memory (also killed by the murderous Nazis), went off to a variety of Yeshivas, in the outer world, and obtained [Rabbinic] ordination. Later on, he became a teacher, and wrote serious poetry.

My mother, Chava, who came from Anderua near Volodymyrets' from a family of Rabbis and ritual slaughterers, forest product merchants, and scholars, constantly struggled to see that her children studied secular subjects as well. She did not stint on energy, to assure that her children would attain that goal.

Many of the young people of Karpylivka went off for training, and joined the pioneering movement, youth organizations, and later voyaged to the Land of Israel, where they put their shoulders and hands [to the task], of erecting and building up the Jewish state.

The youth of Karpylivka wrote a glowing chapter during the time of the war. They participated in the partisan battles with the Nazis, and many of them remained alive.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A grocery store Return
  2. A tobacco store Return

[Page 259]

The Antonovka Train Station

by Aharon Shavit (Stern)

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

Approximately 40 Jewish families (about 200 individuals) lived in Antonovka, the train station at 20 km distance from Sarny, on the Sarny–Kovel line, among 200 Christian families.

In the Antonovka vicinity, there were large villages, that also had large Jewish populations: Horodets', Krycyl's'k, Velyke Tseptsevychi, Mala Tseptsevychi, etc. The influence of the Jews in these villages, on the Christian populace, and on the nobility was substantial.

Most of the Jews of Antonovka had come from the villages named above. The principal occupation of the Jews of that locale was to engage in the commerce of forest products. The railroad station served as one of the important centers in this trade, and in the distribution of the lumber to all ends of Poland. In addition to this, there was a central station and a terminus for ??? train (Wanzaka Torowka) that connected the entire area, such as Volodymyrets', Dąbrowica, etc. Because of the trade in forest products, there was a distinctly identifiable Jewish populace resident all year around outside of the village.

The economic and substantive circumstances of the Jews in this place was good (poverty was, in general, unknown), the standard of living was high, and all of the children were educated in local and outside schools, and community life was lively, especially on the Zionist front, the international funds, etc.

Most of the populace belonged to the Betar and Tzahar movements, who were also active among the peoples in nearby villages. The guardian of the Keren HaKayemet was R' Simcha the Melamed, a Jewish man of handsome presence. A man of the people, who was committed to this endeavor with his entire heart and soul, and not for purposes of receiving any recognition.

The central community undertaking in this place that became famous in the entire vicinity, was the library. Everyone dedicated themselves to the raising of funds, in all ways, for the benefit of the library. It was rich in the best of books, especially those that appeared before The Second World War. Thanks to this dedication to the library, both the adults and young people were able to read, and learn from the rich literature that had been received as our own legacy. There were also a number of extensive private libraries, of which the library of Mr. Malinicky the hotel keeper, stood out, he being an enlightened Jewish man, and a good Zionist, in whose home one could encounter almost on a daily basis, the adults and young people alike, who made use of his library.

This small Jewish community decided to erect a synagogue. The building was put up by our own labor without any external help. The synagogue also served as a center for gatherings that took place in that location. After the building was completed, a Rabbi was retained, R' Yitzhak Peczenik, the son of R' Nahum Peczenik of Dąbrowica, who directed the Jews of the locale in the ways of Torah, and in the doing of good deeds.

R' Simcha Kolodny, a dear Jewish man, served as the Head Gabbai for all the years, a man of dignified appearance and of sensitive soul. He was accepted by the entire populace. His origins were in the village of Horodets, a scion of the extensive and multi–branched Kolodny family, many of whose offspring were spread throughout the towns of the vicinity, and part of which are found in Israel.

The scions of the large Stern family were among the most active in all aspects of the community life, in general, and specifically in Zionist endeavors. All six of the sons were active and alert in the life of the community, to the point where the gentiles nicknamed them ‘Palestiniczki.’ Only two of these sons managed to make aliyah to The Land, and even here, they did not cease in their community activities.

The inclination of the young people of this place was to leave Poland and reach The Land.

During The Second World War, the train station was destroyed. The train station and all the workshops were burned down. A part of the Jews of Antonovka fled to Russia, and after many trials and tribulations, reached The Land, however the larger majority was exterminated by the Nazi scourge and the Ukrainians, and were interred in Sarny, and a portion in Dąbrowica.


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