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[ Page 77 ]

and went to the home of Shlomo from Lipnik, where they started to act up again. Shlomo's sons started to flee, and the hooligans started shooting and severely wounded one of them (Shlomo's sons, the Gutov brothers, now live in Chicago with their families).

        [Photo:] First row, seated from right: Yehudah Zilberstein, Ezra Weissman, Eliyahu Eisenstein, Menachem Averbuch, Avraham Gratch. Standing from right: Shalom Gratch, David Epstein, Yosef Gratch, Tevel Zbar, Itshe Goldman

        On the first day, the commander of the debtors called together a few householders in Drohitchin and to everyone's surprise declared that no one should be afraid, and that we would see that things would be peaceful in town and in order. He sent out patrols through all the streets, and any soldier who bothered a Jew was punished. After 6:00 pm not a single soldier was to be on the street. He also promised to provide white flour to bake bread for his soldiers. (Apparently the democrats has found out that enough "communist zhids" had already been killed – ed.).

        The commander kept his word. We slept well the next several nights, and woke up relaxed. Many Jewish families started baking white bread for the debtors [sic], and some challah for themselves. They took the opportunity to bake white (American) buns that hadn't been seen since 1915.

        Whenever we heard the debtors sing their well-known pogrom tunes such as, "Russia, Russia, I suffer so because the Jewish commissars are robbing you," a chill ran down our spines. This is how the Russian peasants were poisoned with anti-Semitism (and with white buns – ed.). It was no wonder that they forgot the rivers of Jewish blood. Thank G-d, we didn't suffer from these "guests."

        Before the debtors left Drohitchin, the commander contacted the city householders and requested a signed document that the debtors conducted themselves well while they were in town. Naturally, we gave him that document, which demonstrated that the bloody game of the debtors had come to an end, and that they were going to show a more humane face. (In England and the United States people realized apparently, that there was no way Bolshevism could be defeated if Jewish blood was flowing. – Ed.) As we learned later, the end of the bloody White Guards and all other murderers had arrived!

Drohitchin under the Polish regime

After the debtors left Drohitchin, the Polish authorities set up a civilian administration, created law and order in town. Later, after the Russian-Polish War, aid started arriving from the United States. A few wagonloads of rice, white flour, boxes of clothing as well as money arrived from the United States. R. Eliyahu Eisenstein, who came to Drohitchin as a representative, brought alot of money. Eisenstein also provided money to build a Jewish religious elementary school and

[ Page 78 ]

to complete the Houses of Study. In particular, aid arrived for women whose husbands were in the United States, and who were in great need and hunger during the war. Shops started opening again as well.

        Nevertheless, we had to endure much suffering from anti-Semitic Poles. In particular, the soldiers of General Haller's army displayed anti-Semitic behavior. (It's interesting that these soldiers were actually recruited in the United States – Ed.). These soldiers tore out the beards of Jewish men, and threw Jews off moving trains. This happened to me personally.

        When I once traveled from Warsaw, a gang of General Haller's soldiers from Brisk got onto the train I was on. The conductor, noticing the danger facing us, immediately closed me inside his cubicle. The soldiers started banging on the door until the conductor assured them that no one was in the cubicle. They then left.

        Since I felt that Jews weren't going to have a good life under the Polish regime, I started thinking about going to the United States. With G-d's help, my family and I were brought to the United States in 1924 by Drohitchin emigrés, where I served as a rabbi in New York.

Menachem Averbuch          [Photo:] Menachem Averbuch, murdered


The calm Polesia shepherds –
A gift.

The heavens are cracking a smile,
like a child just waking from sleep,
dispersing gray thunder,
and bringing in a springtime wind.

Waking up from a long sleep,
the stream opened its eyes wide
next to the road,
and is gone in a flash.

Flocks of birds crying and singing
over pastures, fields, swamps and marshes,
kissing and hugging,
telling secrets in the silence.

Sticking out its green top,
the stalks of rye from its bed;
Makar, the peasant and his horse,
He just plows, he just sees.

The shepherd chases his herd on Friday,
sings and plays a tune,
By twisting and tying,
A shepherd never tires.

In his sack,
a thick slice of bread,
a bottle of milk –
that's his meal.
over pastures, forests and marshes
he strides along with his herd.

Days and weeks, through rain and sun,
the pasture is his home,
even when there's thunder, lightening and rain,
his only shelter – a tree!

When the sun sets in the forest,
shadows fall down to earth,
the shepherd leads his herd back home,
fattened cows and horses.

Shepherd tunes are his company,
full of sadness, a bad mood,
because the fields are sparse
and gardens small.

Because his hut is small and poor,
because there is no joy there,
because the youth have gone away,
and old age has now arrived.

This is what the children of Polesia sing,
about the poor homeland,
where G-d has struck with a full hand,
forests and marshes.

Voices from Pinsk, Bug Canal, 1939

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