The Jews of Volozhin and its regions developed an industry based on the excellent pinewoods that grew in the huge forests and on the grain cultivated in the surrounding fields by the Belarus peasants.
See: A Bundle of memories, page 317 by Osher Malkin
Volozhin Pushtsha (Forest) pine trunks bound into a raft navigated
on the Berezina River for export Khatskl Glik third from left
The Shtetl Jews earned their living by trading with Belarus peasants, who populated the surrounding villages and worked the Count Tyshkevitch's or their own land. The soil around the forests was poor, suitable to cultivate potatoes and grain, but not wheat. The peasants had little money to spend in Volozhin.
Employment became available and some prosperity appeared in the area, when Mister Heller, the most important international wood merchant bought a great part of Count Tyshkevitch's forest at the end of the nineteenth century.
My father Hirsh Malkin, Heller's Wood Works' general manager established the enterprise's main office in Belokorets, (a village 3 Kilometers from Volozhin). The peasants came to life; they received credit to buy horses and tools. The peasants earned money working in the woods. Some sawmills were built in the region. A more decent life became possible in the Shtetl.
Malkin's family descendants in Israel and France received a message through Eilat's web-site from Ms. Laurel Chertow Glikstein, Florida on February 2001.
My 89 old mother remembers the name Malkin VERY clearly. She was a young child, but recalls her father, Moshe Rogovin, speaking with and working with the Malkins in Belokorets. She told me that when the First World War broke out, the Malkins stored some furniture at her house. It seems that the wealthy had to flee. She thinks that they fled to Siberia. They returned after the war and did recover the furniture that her father stored in the attic of his home. "My family was not as well known or wealthy and they were not bothered" she said.
Malkin's family descendants are thankful this lady for the noble services her parents offered their grandparents some eighty years ago.
Jews were prohibited, during the Russian Tsar's rule, from living in country settlements (not cities). For that reason the Jewish lessees built their houses inside town. But actually they lived most of the time on the estates. This was possible, due the local authorities' tendency to take bribes. Our family lived in Sakovshtshina until 1914. The First World War period we spent in Minsk. After the war we returned to Sakovshtshina. There we found Count Tyshkevitch's flourmill, which was moved by water, completely destroyed by fire.
Etl and Meir Shif Photo taken in 1948
They came to the conclusion that the war would not reach our shtetl and therefore the Volozhin inhabitants could relax. Russia was strong and very large. She is free to act as per the Tsar's choice. Russia might lead the war against the Germans in Siberia, against the Avstraks (Austrians) in Caucasus and if so would be her desire she could fight against all her enemies in the large steppes of Ukraine or in the deserts of Manchuria. It all depended on the decisions of the High Command of the Tsar's army. Such was the conclusion of Oyzer der Raznostshik, Volozhin's most competent "Strategist".
Nahumke Telzer, the Yeshiva man, who during the debate was reading a book, lifted his head abruptly and said: Rabeyssay (my masters), Please let me tell you a true story. The audience became attentive and Reb Nahumke opened his tale: A Jew, a poor lessee had six very ugly and nasty daughters. Due to their ugliness it was impossible to marry them off. A shadkhn (Matchmaker) arrived one day into the lessee's home with exiting news. He has an excellent party for the eldest and ugliest daughter, but he could not reveal the bride groom's name fearing the lessee's anger very much. The Jew swore on his Peysses and beard that nothing evil would happen to the shadkhn after the name was told. The shadkhn became courageous and exposed the secret: The suggested bridegroom would be the unique son of count Tishkevith, owner of the Volozhin region's land and forests.
The lessee became very angry hearing to whom his daughter was suggested to be a bride. It could never be. He would never let his daughter to convert. The shadkhn left the lessee's house empty handed.
But the proposed party began to settle in the lessee's brain. His wife too was insisting, maybe it's worth accepting the proposition. We would become rich; it's not a joke to have a count as our daughter's father in law. It could improve and completely change our life.
The lessee called the shadkhn and told him: After strong internal conflicts I decided to give my daughter as a wife to the count's son.
Beautiful, answered the shadkhn , now we have to wait a little, because your agreement alone is not enough, now we should obtain the count's and his son's agreement.
And the moral from this story is, continued Reb Nahumke, you claim that as per her desire Russia would be able to lead the fights in Ukraine, in Manchuria or wherever she would choose, but did you obtain already Germany's and Austria's approval? Are you sure that they would agree to lead the battles in those places, precisely?
The Beys Midrash's caretaker was Itshke der "Shamesh" with "Leybe der Shamesh" as his assistant and Torah Reader. Kopel Deretshinski served as caretaker and Reader at the Aroptsu Shul (Downhill Synagogue). Moyshe Lavit served as Shamesh at the Vilna Street Klayzl and Moyshe Shloyme der Melamed as the Torah Reader.
Reb Refoel Shapiro, the Shokhat Avreml Perski and all the Yeshiva students used to pray at the Yeshiva.
The "korobka" (money box), the yeast and candles were guarded by Leybe Eshke's (his daughter Gitl Eshke's lives in the States).
Avreml Perski served as Shokhat, Velvl Blokh was the Cantor.
The town butchers were Yehuda Khayim, Khayim Itskhok Zoosie (his son Yoel lives in the States) and "Ore der Koltoon".
Bread was provided by: Zlotke di Bekerke (son in the US), Elke di Bekerke, Sorke di Bekerke, Feytshe di Bekerke, Froome Leyzer's di Bekerke and Hirshl der Beker (His son Beniyomke Kleynbord came to Israel on the Altalena and was member of the Volozhin Committee}.
Milk was provided by: Reuven der Arendator (lesse), Golde di Arendatorke and Der Arendator from Kapusgtshine.
My uncle Yoodl Mordkhe and Guershn Rogovin were involved in the fish business. Yoodl Mordkhe was a special person. Short, stocky and hoarse voiced. At that time he was sixty years old. In spite of his age he carried the heavy fish crates on his shoulder. Both of us, we prayed in the Klayzl Synagogue. He abstained from smoking inside the Synagogue and even near its entrance, because a Jew should not smoke at a holy place, it's forbidden. He used to smoke expensive cigars made in Havana. I assume that the entire income from his Fish business went up in smoke… He was a guest in our home at each holiday. We honored him very much.
R' Yoodl Mordkhe went to America a number of times. While he was in the States he became homesick for Volozhin, or when in Volozhin he longed for the States – he used to take his bundle and go to Volozhin. And a short time after he would take the same bundle and return to the States.
Volozhin and America were in his eyes like a room and its anteroom. He used to consider a back and forth journey from New York to Volozhin as Avrom Leyb's on a cart and horse trip from Volozhin to Minsk, or as Hayim Der Galentreyshtchik's by foot 40 kilometers tour from Volozhin to Rakov.
Still alive he provided burial arrangements for himself. Leah Yoel Ore's took his measure. Reb Youdl Mordkhe paid her handsomely for it. Than he bought himself a burial place and paid good money for it to the "Khevre Kadishe". "I want to arrange all I can in order not to create any dispute after I go away" he used to tell me.
The following "Melamedim"(in Hebrew/Yiddish it means teachers in Kheyder-religious teaching rooms) served in Volozhin: Moyshe Shlomo der Rebe, Moyshe Fayve, Simkhe der Melamed from Greyevo and Reb Ele-Itshe Dveyre Elkes der Melamed.
Hebrew language teachers in the "new Version" were: Avrom Gorelik (left Volozhin with his family to the States), Pesakh Yerosolimski and Kamenstein from Mizheyki.
And the following worked in the carpentry profession, Mikhl-Gavriel with his son Hershl, Yoodl der Stoler (Yoodl the carpenter), Myshl Shimen's and Zalmen Shaybe's
Shoemaking in Volozhin was executed by Leyzer Itshe der Shooster, Itshe Getsl, Alter Dvoshke's, Hershl der Greysser, Avrom Itshe the cobbler, and Hershl Elke's (his son lives in Israel).
The blacksmiths were the brothers Ruvn der Shmid, Avrom, Zalmen Wolf, Sane der Zilaner (his son is in Israel), Moyshe Yoyne and Avreml (his daughters are in Israel).
The tin smiths were Ben Ziyon der Blekher (tinker) and his sons.
Leybe Kaganovitsh der Glezer was the sole glazier in the shtetl.
Home builders were the brothers Fayve, Yehoshua and Matess der Muller (the stove mason) and also the family of the "pool-Zhidkes" (Half Jews).
Pharmacies owners were Itshe Shriro (son and two daughters in Israel) and Avrom Berkovitsh (daughter Shoshana Nishri in Israel).
Alter and Meyshke were the town barbers.
There was no running water in Volozhin. Water was drawn from wells by a bucket on a rope and brought home in a pair of buckets suspended on a rod –"Koromislo", from the shoulders.
But it was possible to buy the water at the door from Hirshl Der Wasser Feerer , Itshe Tane's and his son Ore who was called "Ore der zavoznik". Each one of them transported a barrel of water on a horse cart and sold it to the housewives.
Circumcising used to be executed by the town's Feldsher (paramedic) Avrom Tsart.
There were no dental surgeon's in Volozhin; Dentists from Minsk visited the shtetl from time to time.
The only gristmill owner in pre-war Volozhin was Michael Wand-Polak (passed away in Israel).
Wine could be bought in two stores; one owned by Yoohanan Rodke's (The Rebetsin Haye Feyge Unterman's father), the second one by Moyshe Perlman (his grand son lives in Israel- now translating this article to English).
Cloth merchants, providing materials for the shtetl inhabitants and for peasants in surrounding hamlets, were Avrom Shuker, Bashke Mendl's and Rela Levin.
The brothers Mikhl and Moyshe Weisbord, Yankl Rudenski brothers and Levin were flax traders.
Avrom Leyb Kooshke's and Avremke Oyzer's owned the Matses baking "factories"
"Kushke der Amerikaniets" managed the "Talmud Toyre" school.
The single boarding house in town belonged to Velvl Zelig Pshtsholke. Beer was sold by Yosl-Yankl Skloot; Soda water- "Seltsn Wasser" was produced by Yankev Shepetnitski (his son is in Israel). Ele-Meyshe Goldes sold grain.
Vodka was a monopoly product. It was sold in two stores only; one was situated at the market place, the second one that belonged to the Gendarme Bokshtanovitsh was placed "Aroptsoo". Each autumn, when young men were called to serve in the Tsar's army a scandal would break out near the vodka selling stores. The "prizivniki" (the conscripts) from Baksht, Nalibok and Derevnie, on their way to Oshmena stopped in Volozhin. The authorities ordered immediately to close all the stores. The "Novobrantsi" (the freshly mobilized) intended to break into them, but the "pristav", the Ooriadnik (Police officers) and militiamen defended the shtetl, its stores and population with drawn swords.
In Volozhin functioned at that time two Russian orthodox churches (tserkov) and a Polish Catholic church (Kostiol). The relations between the Jews, the "Pop" – the orthodox priest and the "Ksiondz" - the Polish one were friendly.
The count's (graph's) estate was situated in the town centre with the Palace in its center. The count's children, the "Graphtshiks" lived near Vilna with their grandmother. During the summer time they used to be in Volozhin. The count's estate was surrounded by a magnificent garden of fruit trees. Some families leased the garden in common. Only a few select persons were permitted by Zhoovirko, the garden-guard to walk inside this Volozhin Paradise.
A group of Volozhin children once discovered a brand new, until then unseen red fruit growing inside the garden. It was a new plant in Russia, the tomato. The children were attracted by its color and beauty. They chose a dark night to sneak inside the garden and to flee with some fruits. After the escape they assembled to taste the fairy fruit. They divided and tasted the trophies. And as great as their expectations were, the frustration was just as large. They foresaw the sweetness of paradise, they found acidity and sourness. The tomato became known in Volozhin as the… "Khazershe Eppele"- "the piggish apple" (I also heard this story told by my father, he was one of the children –translator's note).
Yosef Yoozl Perski, the "Starosta" served as head of the Kehila. His son Shishon Perski (his son is in Israel) was the Volozhin Rabbi appointed by the authorities.
Volozhin was situated at the intersection of the Vilna-Minsk road with the road to Novogrudek. The shtetl received an abundant number of visits from beggars and emissaries, so the Starosta's hands were full with work.
The shtetl tailors to whom the profession passed by heritage were: Khayim der Shnayder, Yankev der Blinder (sightless), Beniyomke der Ainbinder amd Ayzik Minke's. The hatter was "Yankl Der Kirzhner".
Shimon Di Bord repaired the tile-roofs.
Khayim Meyer Shaye's engaged in rag dealing.
There were two railway stations, Listopad and Polotshan, both situated some twenty kilometers from the town. The passengers were conveyed by Peretz the prodigious who came to Volozhin as Yeshiva student and by Itshe the Tsar's soldier "Nikolayevskiy Soldat"
The distance from Volozhin to Minsk was 80 Km. only, to Vilna more than hundred. Anyway 98% of Volozhin business was done through Vilna. The sole dealer who used to buy goods in Minsk and to supply it to Volozhin shops was Avrom Leyb Shmuel's (Rogovin – his two sons are in Israel).
Mr. Heler, the renowned forest trader, had bought huge forests from count Tishkevitsh. It was an important source of livelihood for the town and its vicinity.
Many Volozhin inhabitants worked in the woods as forest specialists, and in the Company's offices. Among the specialists were Menahem Yoel Potashnik (his grand children are in Israel), Isroel Kaplan, Alter Bunimovitsh, Yosef Kaganovitsh, Moyshe Rogovin, Eyliyohu Brudno, Tsvi Elyashkevitsh, Meyir Levin, Hayim Shulman (his son is in Israel) and Hirsh Yuzefovitsh (his daughter is in Israel). Tsvi-Hirsh Malkin* served as manager of the forest exploitation (his son Osher Malkin* now lives in Israel).
*Translator's note: Tsvi-Hirsh Malkin, the translator's Grand Father with his wife Haya-Riva were murdered by the Fascists in Volozhin on May 10, 1942. Osher Malkin, the Translator's uncle (his mother's brother) made aliya to Israel in 1952.He served 15 years as Manager of Mikveh Israel, the famous agriculture school near Tel Aviv. Osher Malkin passed away during the fall 1973 Yom Kippur war in Holon, Israel.
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