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[Page 151]

My Town

Meyer Kaplan

Translated by Selwyn Rose

My town Sokółka, the cradle of my childhood. How much grace and simplicity was spread over you, pervading everything. Jewish grace entwined with deep-rooted warm-heartedness.

Every day of the year the Jews rose early to continue the work of the Creator with toil and the sweat of their brow, bringing the fruits of their labor home at night. O, my town with your neighborhoods and suburbs, every area and section with its own pedigree, its own past and in their blending together wove a city alive and effervescent, full of life and joy.

Simple Jews, innocent and good, content with their lot, weaving their lives in private, building a home and family.

Public and social lives, mutual and medical help going together and tied up with our town even before there were the modern institutions created to serve the people.

I remember the Schulhof, a place of poor, toiling people, strong and healthy, working from morning till evening, all work honorable in their eyes.

Zabrod a mixture of areas both Jewish and Christian, there two mountains divide the town from the railroad; there was different scenery in that area. There lived Noskie the popular Medic, where most of the residents would be early at his door. From there ran the road to Szyszki and to Bucholowa, a pleasure area for the townsfolk and a meeting-place for young couples. There, were woven dreams and developed ambitions for new lives…the glory of Jewish beauty and nobility.

I recall, from the joys of childhood, how you and how men, women and children – the priceless, radiant children of Sokółka, the gifted and the pleasant were destroyed by defiling hands. Did the enemy know who he destroyed? Upon whom it befell to be cut down? In Jerusalem, the eternal capital we found a gravestone named for our town's martyrs, within Jerusalem we have erected a memorial stone in memory of the martyrs.

The sons of Sokółka are among the builders of Jerusalem, they build, turning their hands to all trades, doing every type of work to build the State, may the hands of all our town's sons in Israel find their hands strengthened, adding turret after turret to her growth, to her security and to the fortifying the State. And with that: “May the name of the congregation of Sokółka be magnified and sanctified forever and ever. Amen”.

[Page 152]


Avraham Shuali

Translated by Selwyn Rose

On the main highway from the town of Białystok, before you come to the beautiful town of Grodno, spreads the town of Sokółka.

As you cross the wooden bridge across the little stream you come to the main road twisting along, Białystok Street, the street in which I was born, thus it is engraved on my memory: long, paved with stones and sidewalks on either side. The houses – lots of houses not one resembling the other. Here houses made of wood, covered with wooden tiles, there a brick-built house with a cement roof, here houses with plastered walls with tin roofs and a few of them still hiding roofs of sheaves of straw, some single-storey, some two-storied, upright and straight, shining – and between them houses somewhat dilapidated and worn, tottering and about to fall, with moss in-terwoven with and covering the walls. What was common to all was that in all of them throbbed the pulse of Jewish life, good Jews, simple Jews, working with the sweat of their brows, dreaming and fighting for their sustenance. Here was woven the legend of the eternal Jew, forged in the desire to be reborn and showered with the first sparks of redemption.

Our town was a spiritual and economic center whose ramifications spread over a large number of towns and villages in the area. The trade and leather industry was the spinal cord of the town's economy although the Jews had a hand in other aspects of the economy, industry, artisanship in order to earn a crust of bread.

With the end of the First World War and the beginnings of the revival of the town, trade was the main branch in the economy of the Jewish population. Five wholesale traders – 3 in the grocery branch and 2 in farm produce – were the life-force of the revival in trade. The five united to form one company – in addition to their own private businesses – that they called E.G.E.F., taken from their initials – Eizen, (Yitzhak and Ya'acov), Grossberg Ya'acov and Epstein Altear and Fuchs Yitzhak. The company imported goods from a distance, from Poland and foreign countries and marketed them in local towns and cities. The trade was in a small number of items like salted items, flour, kerosene, gasoline, oils and cement. The company slogan was: “Large cash turnover, honest generous service.” The name of the company traveled far and won a good name, breaking out of the town limits and growing quite large. Many entrepreneurs came to learn their management principles and the reasons for their success. In their eyes the business earned much respect for the Jewish success story. The company built a massive warehouse next to the railroad station with a head office in town. Rail-trucks loaded with goods were off-loaded into the warehouse and then tens of wagon-masters and porters made their living in the employ of the company.


The Katranski Estate in Białystok Street, Sokółka
(in the photograph - the daughter of the family)


But not by bread alone does a Jew live. The entire public merged into the life of the town and participated in sharing the general burdens. The Zionist movement put down firm roots from the day of its establishment and many of the children and grandchildren grew up under its wings, educated in the light that was projected into the darkness of the Diaspora. Youth and adult alike were active in the Keren Kayemet and much energy was invested in increasing its revenues.

I remember when I was a child – I accompanied my father to work where he made bricks and blocks in the leather-factory yard belonging to Golomb. All his earnings were dedicated to the K.K.L. The work was voluntary and people had to take turns. Many, many people from town volunteered for the project and not a few even added from their own pockets towards acquiring machinery and material for the manufacture of the blocks. The project, which brought in money to the K.K.L. found an echo in towns and villages near-by. The educational value of the project - for the participants and the Zionist movement – was enormous and much larger than the money involved.

It is not surprising that in an atmosphere such as that, in which beat the pulse of fulfilling the dream of immigration that the Zionist Youth developed. Many pioneers in our town breached the walls of the Diaspora and immigrated to Palestine already in the 'twenties and many more continued to immigrate after them.


Next to the Walanski house on Białystok Street
(in the photograph - the Walanski brothers)


Summer Camp of “Hashomer Ha-Tza'ir” – Sokółka at Novo Machalna in 1927


Summer Camp of the “Hashomer Ha-Tza'ir” at Novo Machalna near Sokółka
The visit of the “Tarbut” school administrator and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Kaplan, 1927


Group 'A' on Lag B'Omer


“Hashomer Ha-Tza'ir” – Taking the Oath of Allegiance in the Buchwałów Forest


“Maccabi” in Sokółka


The “Maccabi” Group


The “Young Zionists” Committee


The 8th Grade of the Sokółka “Tarbut” School in 1927, with their teacher Sudkowitz
Standing (right to left): Yehuda Levine, Shimon Kruglach, Abba Antakal, David Tatom, the teacher Sudkowitz, Yaacov Shavranski, Yosef Kapilyoschnik, Nissan Cohen, Yechezkiel Pycker and Eliyahu Hinski


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