Arye Blobstein, Jerusalem
Translated by Reuven and Jonathan Boxman
The original name of the town, up until 200 years ago when a few Ukrainians used it as a sheep pasture, was Baranovchi (goats and sheep). The name was altered by the Polish landlord Yozofova, who built a pottery factory, bringing about the settlement of several Jews from Poland and Galicia. Until the construction of the Shepetivka - Novohrad-Volyns'kyi (Zvhil) railroad, Baranovka was a key waystation between Polyanka and the county seat Zvhil, and it was an overnight rest station for wagon caravans and wayfarers in general.
This traffic ended when the new railroad was lain down, and the town became isolated. But this situation did not influence its economic and cultural life. Its 300 families mostly subsisted from trade and handcrafts, and only a few worked in the pottery factory. Many Jews used their energy and commercial sense to forge connections throughout Ukraine and Poland, and exported over great distances various goods, especially those produced in their vicinity: pottery, glassware, lumber, chairs, etc. Thus the economic situation of the town improved.
The Polish landlord effectively ruled the town, determining the design of the street plan as if the small town were a great city. It is for this reason that the town took pride in its external appearance, emphasized by its position on the banks of the Sluch River. Civic pride in their beautiful town, and its peaceful and calm life led its residents to be devoted to one another, like the siblings of one big family.
Few of the town's sons studied Torah for most were occupied full time in making a living. Despite this, the town excelled intellectually, and today we can find many experts who originated in this town in all of the scientific professions throughout the world. The enlightenment trend among the youth started primarily at the end of the 19th Century and even encompassed those without means. The effervescent youth began to emigrate to the large cities, mainly Odessa, and in time a learned generation arose of intellectuals and professionals, including authors, teachers, physicians, and lawyers. Especially noteworthy is Yichiel Ravravi, the son of Reb Shimon Ravravi (the ritual slaughterer), who during his tenure in the Beit Midrash learned six languages fluently. Many of these intellectuals could not find their place in town, and scattered throughout Russia and abroad. The head of the community in Detroit (USA), the journalist Dr. Shmariyahu Kleinman, and a well-known bank manager in Cleveland, Mr. Moshe Guzman, were sons of Baranovka.
Noteworthy among the personalities who worked for the betterment of the inhabitants and the various institutions are: Baruch Shoemacher (zl), head of the community, who was born in Zhvil, Shechne Greenfeld, who was a delegate to the Zionist Congress in Leningrad, the city Rabbi, Rav Shemuel Margolian, and Rabbi Shemuel Blovshtein (zl). These men did not spare any time or effort and established various institutions for mutual aid, such as a savings and loans fund, a commercial bank, a charity fund, a visiting the sick organization, a modern Hebrew school, and more. Baranovka also excelled in national work, and served as a center for Zionist activities for the surrounding communities.
During WWI, especially after the October Revolution, there was massive emigration to the large cities of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. The Petliura Pogroms also triggered emigration abroad. Petliura's adherents attempted to eradicate the Jewish settlement, and on the 7th of Tamuz 5680 (June 23, 1920), assembled all of the Jewish males in the main synagogue, and announced to them that they decided to burn them in the building, as they had done elsewhere. The community was crowded together and terrified. Suddenly Yitzhak Fierbeng (currently in Argentina) stood, and opened the Holy Ark. He passionately spoke to the murderers, and convinced them to accept a payment instead of murdering the Jews.
In 1917-1920, after the revolution, the very successful cultural and nationalist Youths of Zion Organization was established, and worked for the benefit of the various funds. Baranovka served as the center for the surrounding communities. They presented lectures, including by Menachem Rivlov zl, Dr. Pines, and poet Yitzhak Lamdan, zl, who came to us from Zvhil. There were two libraries in town with many Hebrew and Yiddish books. Their members participated in a county conference in Zvhil, and in the Zionist Congress in Leningrad.
With the changes brought about by the October Revolution in Russia, all of these institutions disappeared. In their place the communist government founded new, purely Bolshevik institutions. The era of lively and interesting communal life ended. The settlement slowly became accustomed to the new times and accepted everything with love, until the evil Nazi regime appeared and viciously destroyed the entire town, wiping it off the face of the earth.
by Yaffa Perlmutter
Translated by Reuven and Jonathan Boxman
In memory of my saintly brothers from the Town of Baranovka who were murdered by the oppressors.
My town, Baranovka they called us Baranovker Stritsers. Why? Because we loved cleanliness, order, but also cheerful interaction. (I won't deny that when I think about Europe, I first think about my town, and only then about the surrounding towns.) Our neighbors thought us strange, with our zeal for cleanliness, air, and water. I remember how they wondered when small windows were installed in our double windows for fresh air in the winter, while in the rest of the houses the windows were closed, and sealed with adhesive tape for the entire winter, lest any whiff of fresh air leak in. We were also thought exceptional when we bought a wooden bath tub, to bath at home in hot water, instead of going to the public bath house. The hygienic customs rapidly spread in our town, and we were, or at least considered ourselves, to the most progressive town in the region. We also progressed in social relations with our gentile neighbors. We had commercial and work ties, not only among the fathers, but also among the youth of both religions. We were allowed to meet with them when we had free time from our studies. Even now, when I am deep in thought, habit sometimes leads me to write a few lines in Russian, Evgenia Iakovlevna Perlmutter as I was called in Jewish-Russian society. Not simply Shaynele as I was called at home, or even Zhenia as I was called in grammar school, but only the formal name stated above. My friends also had formal Russian names. But that was only during our youth. I remember one unpleasant incident during my childhood. Our house was opposite the Gentile's church, and some strange force compelled me to go in and peek on what was happening inside, until finally I gathered my courage and went in. I saw the priest, their rosaries, and the faces of the worshippers. No one paid any attention to me when everyone kneeled while I remained standing. A hidden hand tried to bend me and make me kneel, but I ran for my life, and with the feeling that I peeked, but I wasn't hurt. I also peeked at the houses of the Russian intelligentsia, without being hurt by them. We would arrange hikes in the big park in our town. We would also visit the adjacent caves, pick red berries, sail on the Sluch (the wonderful river in our vicinity), and even put on performances together we performed several plays by Chekov. The children of the Russian intelligentsia would attend our performances together with the educated youth, and we dreamt about love and equality. Thus things continued until I travelled to Kharkov to continue my studies during the Red Regime. My sister Bella was already in the Land of Israel. Her face was always toward the Land of Israel. While we were connected by heart and soul, she directed her independent feet towards Poland, in order to reach Israel. In Poland she dedicated all her might to the children in the Y. Belkind orphanage. After a short while, she emigrated to the Land of Israel.
I entered the Girls' Higher Pedagogical Institute in Kharkov. We lived in a dormitory. The winter was hard and brutal, there wasn't fuel for heating, we were half-starving, but we accepted everything with love, because I was devoted to fulfilling the socialist dream and the brotherhood of nations; until one cloudy morning I received a notice that the H Family (our neighbor in Baranovka) informed on us, and I was not entitled to receive government support, because I was a Zionist and the daughter of bourgeois Zionist parents etc., because my father (of blessed memory) had a small tar workshop. He mostly worked there himself, though occasionally he hired a helper. Dad always helped this family, openly and secretly, but their situation was difficult, and they always envied me and my sister, because my parents were always saving food from their mouths to send us to school. As a result of this informing, I was expelled from my studies and forced to return home. Soon, I began to experience bloody incidents. I will forever remember the breaking out of riots, and especially that the rioters vented their rage even on our tree, which was our pride, and uprooted it. This tree gave very special fruit white cherries (called Marlene). We were saved from death only because our pantry was filled with all sorts of preserves and fruit liquors, which my mother (of pure soul and blessed hands) would prepare and preserve in the basement. The rioter who went down to the basement enthusiastically fell on the delicacies, and forgot about us thus we were able to escape.
This record will serve as a memorial candle to our loved ones who fell then and in the days of the last holocaust.
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