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[ Page 13 ]

The gubernia of Grodno included the following regions: Grodno, Lida, Novgrudek, Slonim, Volkovisk, Pruzhany, Brisk and Kobrin. Apparently, Drohitchin was then part of the uyezd [district] of Kobrin.

Before long, Napoleon Bonoparte began his wars against Russia (1812), and the war did not spare Drohitchin. However, because of the Pinsk marshlands, Napoleon was forced to turn back.

The Poles of the area were unhappy with the Russian government and attempted two uprisings against it: in 1830 and in 1863. Both times, however, the Poles were defeated. These rebellions were very bad for the Jews of that area, who suffered at the hands of both sides.

[Photo caption:] A part of Pinsker Street (spared by the fire) under German occupation in 1916.


The area surrounding Drohitchin was untouched by wars for over a hundred years, however, the situation did not remain calm for the local Jews, who remained subjugated by the Czarist government. In 1914, on the ninth of Av, the Jewish day of mourning for the Temple of Jerusalem, the Russian-German war broke out; it was the history books call World War I.

The Germans entered Drohitchin in September, 1915, and remained there until November, 1918, when they withdrew back to Germany. The two months from November until the end of 1918, were months of anarchy, when every person did whatever his heart desired. At the end of 1918, the Ukrainians occupied Drohitchin, and lorded over it and the whole surrounding area.

The Ukrainians didn't last very long. In January, 1919, the Bolsheviks arrived and instituted new rules and regulations. That regime, however, didn't last very long either. In March of 1919, the Polish Legionnaires entered Drohitchin. Their arrival brought about a new era for the whole region. The Polish wanted to take the area by force; Jewish blood was spilled there, and a lot of Jewish property and possessions were plundered.

Things were just beginning to settle down, and the inhabitants of the area were just starting to get their lives back to normal, when the Polish-Bolshevik War broke out in July, 1920. At first the Russians were winning and were already at the gates of Warsaw, but their luck ran out, and the Polish army started to drive them back. In the meantime, the volunteer army of General Bulak Balakhovitch, the leader of the White Guards, decided to "help" the Poles. The "help" they offered the Poles is a story in itself, a story written in Jewish history with tears and blood!

The peace treaty between Poland and The Soviet Union was signed in Riga in March, 1921, and resulted in Drohitchin and the Pinsk region being annexed to Poland. In 1925 Drohitchin became a separate district, which included Yanove, Khomsk, Motela, and the surrounding villages and hamlets.

The Polish government controlled the area until September, 1939 when World War II broke out. The Red Army arrived, and took the whole area and instituted Bolshevik system. The Bolsheviks controlled the area until June of 1941

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when the Germans attacked them, took over all of Poland and Ukraine, and almost got to the gates of Leningrad and Moscow.


The bitter wars and the German atrocities during those years of blood and fire will never be erased; they are etched in the minds of everyone, especially in the minds of the Jewish People. Those bloody years, from June, 1941 to July, 1944, when the Germans annihilated seven million Jews, will never be forgotten! We will only mention those German beasts with a curse on our lips because of the fact that they wiped out hundreds of Jewish communities without even leaving a trace.

[Photo caption:] Drohitchin young men, members of the Betar Organization, learning how to shoot.

In July, 1944, Drohitchin became part of the Soviet Union. Very little is known about the town and its inhabitants: how many there were, their economic condition or their cultural achievements. From then on, a veil has hung over Drohitchin, and only rarely does a ray of sunshine break through to the town, which is now four hundred years old.



As we have already observed, Drohitchin was already mentioned four hundred years ago. Whether Jews were living there at that time is unknown. An old Jewish document tells us that there existed, as early as 1652, a Jewish community in Drohitchin. In the registry book, The State of Lithuania of the Councils of the States of Lithuania, Drohitchin is mentioned together with Pinsk, Lekhovitz and Khomsk as having to pay 40 shok in taxes. From the registry book, we learn that the Jewish population of Drohitchin was small, but was large enough not to be ignored.

Another document, dated January, 1679, indicates that the Jewish community of Drohitchin was then part of the Jewish community of Pinsk, and from the same source we learn that there was organized Jewish life in Drohitchin. The Jews of Drohitchin, together with the Jews of 13 other towns that were also part of the greater Pinsk community, promised to be responsible for repayment of 1500 zlotys [Polish currency] borrowed from Kalakovski, the priest of Pinsk to build a hospital. Evidently, the hospital was also used by the Jews of Drohitchin.

This event also indicates the level of poverty of the Jews of Drohitchin and the other aforementioned 13 Jewish communities, since thirteen communities had to co-sign a loan of 1,500 zIoty. The document also indicates that if the annual interest charge of 150 zloty was not paid on time, the priest had the right to demand a three-fold increase. He even had the power to jail the Jews of the aforementioned towns, and to keep them there as long as he wanted. He could also confiscate their property until the entire sum was repaid. The Jews didn't even have the right to appeal.

This is how the Jews of that time were virtually enslaved to the Roman-Catholic clergy.


There is another document from July 18th of same year, indicating that the Jews of Drohitchin did not let themselves be exploited. The document states that the tax collector in the District of Pinsk, Michael Botvina, complained that when he came to collect the taxes from a group of Drohitchin Jews, they refused to pay. In addition, they attacked him, tore his clothes and drove him out of town.

This example of protesting against the ruling government was a common occurrence among the neighboring gentiles, but it demanded extraordinary courage and bravery for the Drohitchin Jews to stand up to a government official.

We also read of a complaint dated September 13, 1698 that was lodged against a Drohitchin Jew named Moshe Polyak, a broker who worked for a nobleman, and who beat some peasants and stole a horse and wagon, some grain and other items for his nobleman. This complaint tells us something about the pride of a Drohitchin Jew.

The tradition of courage and defiance was also transmitted from father to son in later years as well. In correspondence to the journal, Hamelitz, (18 Cheshvan, 5643 [October 31, 1882]), we read a letter about a pogrom that occurred in Drohitchin, and in which the local Jews defended themselves quite well. The letter states that, on Friday, October 1, 1883, [there is obviously an error in one of these two dates]

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