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[Page 193]

Krinik In The Past
From The Distant Past

Translated by Judie Goldstein


From my Contact with Krynik and Krynkers[1]

Yehazkel Katyk

Krynker Thieves

From Grodno I would bring to my kretchma [inn] sweet liquor, and from Krynik – mead and wine that Yochbed the widow would make and was famous for throughout the province.

When I arrived for the first time in Krynik, I drove up to Yochbed the wine tavern keeper's. It was a nice day. I tied up the horse to the rail in front of the window of the large house opposite the stores, in the middle of the market place – I went into the house. When I looked out the window a while later, I saw the horse standing and the wagon separated from him: the “coupling bolt” had been pulled out.

I ran around asking who had taken out the “coupler” from the wagon, such a strange thing to do – I discussed this with Yochebed's sons and decided that it is really unimportant.

The story is: There were in Krynik two brothers who were the leaders of all the thieves in the area: They were called the “Akhim” and all the merchants, villagers, land holders, dairy farmers and tenant farmers had to absolutely deal with the “Akhim” and reward them. They also gave them respect and when the “Akhim” drove around the district they were received with great respect everywhere. One must deal with them and then one is safe from thefts.

So as soon as the thieves see that there is an understanding with the “Akhim” – they will return it; and so as I am a newcomer, they hinted that I must deal with the leaders and make it seem like a “treat.”

I was frightened and astonished: That means, I must deal with thieves and look them in the face and then shake hands? I knew that Yochbed's sons were smart and honest people and would not lead me down the garden path.

Still, it was difficult for me to accomplish, to make the acquaintance of the master thieves and buying a new coupling bolt, I rode back home in peace.

But my friend advised me that I must not rebel against the “Akhim”: The District Police Commandant and the Assessor, a government official, cannot protect me from the gang of thieves. Since I live in a kretchma, alone on a highway, I must get along with them and when they come I should receive them well, give them and their horses food, drink and so forth.


David Moreynu

In Krynik I would buy liquor from Reb David Moreynu, one of the gaon [sage] Reb Israel Salanter's sons-in-law. He owned the Krynki courtyard with the distillery. He was a rich man with eighty thousand rubles, a Jew, scholarly, smart, but an angry man – God should observe! He offended everybody but it seemed to him that he was the one attacked with the greatest abuse.

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But he was capable of behaving decently: his anger would soon pass and he would immediately ask this person's forgiveness, even a frivolous person. This must have cost him dearly. Each one had to say that he was forgiven and then he would kiss the person.

In Moreynu's office there were always a lot of people, all Krynki tavern keepers and inhabitants of the furthest villages. Near Krynik a verst [Russian measure of distance, about 2/3 of a mile] or two, was an even larger distillery that also belonged to a Jew. The wife Yenta ran the entire business – a clever, active woman, very pretty and smart. Her husband was a fifth wheel on the wagon. Nobody knew anything about him and the distillery was in her name. There were some people who did not even know that she had a husband. He was a tolerable man, a teacher, somewhat of a scholar; but she was such a strong woman “a woman in pants”. When he was sitting in the office nobody spoke to him about the business.

She owned a lot of courtyards and two distilleries and ran it all alone. But her liquor she had to sell wholesale, not retail, to the tavern keepers from the surrounding villages – because everyone preferred to deal with Reb David Mareynu because of his honesty and his word was iron. He bought, then sold, and it was expensive, but he never went back on his word.

Truth be told, he often made people suffer because of his angry tongue, his inclination to hate. And then he would beg forgiveness. He could never entirely remove the insult from the hearts of his victims; only his honesty, his honesty! It attracted everyone even the tavern keepers who owed him money and wanted to pay. They would buy liquor at Yenta's, but in the end they would return to him, pay what they owed and do business with him again. They were drawn to him like a magnet.

I bought liquor from Moreynu regularly. But once he attacked me suddenly with such abuse that God should have pity (I had delivered too much in a message). The room was full of people and I was too embarrassed to raise my eyes. I quickly left and Reb David was not able to grab me and beg my forgiveness, as was his habit. I was deeply vexed by this story with Moreynu, especially because now I had to go to Yenta's and her liquor was inferior and more expensive.

In the city people told me that Reb David was eating his heart out because of the story with me, that he had insulted me and wants to give twenty-five rubles. They should bring me to him so that he can beg my pardon and make peace. I had to think about it and wrote him a letter in Hebrew (my weapon at that time). I drive by once and see Reb David with a Jew near the gate, at the road. I get down to give him the letter. I show it to him from a distance. He runs, takes it in his hand, opens it and begins to read. Soon after beginning the letter he was so moved that he grabbed and kissed me and begged me, with tears in his eyes, to forgive him; he did not know me, was confused, disturbed, and so on. I forgave him and then he pulls the horse's bridle and through the gate. He must drive me to the office so that everyone can see he asked my forgiveness.

And so that is what he did. Then he took out a bottle of old liquor, fifteen years old, with cake and cookies and said “l'chaim”. We kissed each other. In the past, this is how a very rich man conducted himself.

From then on Reb David Moreynu “was enamored” of me and between us there was a kind of love.

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Yosel Lieder

Yosel Lieder owned the Krynki korobke[2] [meat tax], and when people said this word, it made their blood run cold. Yosel was the worst of the murderous meat tax holders.

When he came to take the meat inventory, to be sure that nothing was stolen from the meat tax, he was worse than the auditors. When he found meat at somebody's, he would take from the house various articles as a pledge so that they would remunerate him well. He was not afraid of the Assessor or the Police Commandant because they trembled before him, mainly because of the information he had. He was even able to denounce a Governor, about whom he knew something. He was a ruler and no functionary was going to stop him. He would take things like liquor. What could you do?

Yosel also owned a distillery and stole the excise tax, as much as he wanted, and nobody could do anything about it.

The city of Krynik held a large trial. It seemed that somebody was buried without a permit and the corpse should have been inspected. Twelve men, the best of the sextons, and from the Burial Society with Yosel in the lead, should have been banished to Siberia.

The district judge arrived in Krynik for the trial and the entire city was upset. They were afraid of one witness, a gravedigger. According to him he had taken part in the guilty act. To make off with him was difficult because the police had already detained him and were watching him carefully.

When it came time for the gravedigger to testify, everybody shook. Would he bring misfortune to everyone? Yosel Lieder was frightfully red and excited. Suddenly he began to scream with a terrible voice and grabbing his teeth:

“Rubin escape, Rubin excape, escape, escape…!”

The Chairman asked what he was screaming about. Yosel started to stutter and pressed his hands to his mouth and screamed like a wild animal” “Oy my teeth! Rubin escape! My teeth, not for you to think…Rubin escape… my teeth I cannot endure this…Rubin escape…escape, escape, escape.”

Seeing a man in pain with a toothache, people ran to get a remedy, and Rubin the gravedigger, who had understood the meaning of the screams, had quickly extricated himself. When Yosel, who was smart and tricky, noticed Rubin he began his terrible screaming. When he saw that the danger was over, that Rubin had escaped – he took his hands from his mouth and calmly said:
“It is better now”.

And in this way everybody was freed. The important witness, the one who had done the guilty deed, was missing


Reb Yosele Hatzadik
(what people said)

Issy Drayzik

My great-grandfather, Reb Yosele HaTzadik [the pious man], peace to his memory, was the Rabbi in Krynki and on his grave stood a structure, where believers would put notes with petitions.

In the family and in the shtetl several stories and legends were told about him, for example, that in his younger years, during wartime, it happened that a Cossack attacked Jewish women in the synagogue, in the women's section, where they were hiding. There arrived, as if sent from heaven, the young genius Yosef and saved them from the dirty murderer's hands. He threw the Cossack through the window and he died from the fall. Not taking into consideration that lives had been at stake as well as the honor of the Jewish women, Reb Yosef HaTzadik voluntarily took on the punishment of immersing himself every day, summer and winter, in the city river. For years the Tzadik behaved in this manner, immersing himself during the heat and the cold until he became paralyzed and remained lame until the end of his life.

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Before his marriage to the woman who was to be his rebetzin [the rabbi's wife], after she had agreed to the marriage, he sent her questions pertaining to her health in regards to her ability to have children. Reb Yosef gave her to understand that she would give birth to ten sons and a daughter; and so it was.

It was further said that before the Tzadik died he blessed the rebetzin with a living and he confided in her that in the dresser there was money for her to take to live on. For years the rebetzin did this and the gold coins that were lying there never ran out. One day a Jew asked the rebetzin the question of how she made her living, and she told him about the blessing from the Tzadik and about the pair of gold coins that never ran out. However, soon after they did run out.

With the last gold coins the rebetzin bought flour and wood and baked bread. In this way she renewed the miracle and the wood and the flour never ran out. The rebetzin had once again a living. But another time the rebetzin spoke about how she made a living – to a good friend who wanted to know. This time she said her source of income absolutely never ran out.


From the Period of Krynker Revolutionaries

Yosel Cohen

I See Everything Again


Nights past come towards me,
Memories bring me forgotten days.
I remember as if today, as kids we would –
Start fights with children from Mill Street.

I remember as if today the “Kavkazer[3] revolutionaries:
Noisy and chaotic, with hot blood flowing,
Drilling like soldiers we were lead by
The hero of my childhood – Yankl Kotyut.

His face burned by the sun,
With bare feet, already without a color,
He would stop to remind us
Kavkazer” heroism is without limit.

During the day he would lead us comrades in battles
Against youngsters from Mill Street with Feyvel Shnantz;
In the evening he showed us, how at night
The demons dance in the synagogue.

We see corpses, they are studying Torah there –
Our blood turns cold with the rustle of a page;
Yankel Kotyut laughs and drives away our fear:
He dares, as befits a “Kavkazer” revolutionary.


Krynik – difficult, men did not catch its name,
But for me, cozy and close:
There is the market place, the row of stores,
There Jews carry on Shabes [the Sabbath] the cholent [slow cooking stew].

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From very far away I see the images,
My own past life is in them,
I sense the odor of bear paws and horse hides
As sure as the smell of hay wet with dew.

There is my grandfather Reb Yankl-Bunim,
He whirls through the streets and shtetl;
Writing the pinkus [book in which shtetl events of importance were recorded]
And who would win the great prize, an entry by him.

His smart blue eyes look at me,
His deep voice is heard far away:
It is not true that everything has flown away
I see a renewal of what used to be.


Standing in front of me are the Krynker tanners
Who dreamed of revolution, a workers' government
Played in Crime and Punishment on the Sabbath,
Cracked kernels Friday night.

I see the fighters, the revolutionaries,
Wanting to turn the whole world upside down,
Krynik flooded with a multitude of soldiers,
My mother, on the balcony, concealing money.

From the churches the bells ring
In haste young girls run with stones in pinafores
To be revolutionaries with fiery songs:
“Come, sisters and brothers, shorten Nikolai's years!”

I see them together, I see every one of them:
Shlomo'ke Dubrover, Azriel the Fibber,
They whisper, I hear: “In Virian's forest -
Brothers and sisters now we have a date”.

I even remember everyone's face,
The passing years did not make them fade,
Nights they come to me always in a dream,
Memories like a fire glowing in the distance.


My First Master

A. M. Weinberg (Meshal Pinkus)

I remember it, as it happened that afternoon: the moment that was to be the luckiest for me and by the same token, the saddest for my dear mother. I came home from the Volkovisker yeshiva with the idea of stopping my studies and taking up a trade.

On hearing my decision, my dear mother's eyes ran with tears and she did not say one word. She moved off to a corner and had a good cry. For her this meant that her hopes were ruined. She had three sons and she had taken good care of all of them, so that they should become great men. She believed that she would live to see one of them with a shtreymel [fur hat worn by Orthodox Jews] on his head and taking up a rabbi's chair, if not in a large city, then in a small shtetl in our area. Only it turned out entirely differently: one after the other they went off on dangerous roads – on roads that lead, according to her, to the nether world.

Now she has only her last son and here again is the same trouble: the devil had again mixed in and torn her last child from the righteous path.

For me it was the luckiest moment of my life: I would no longer be an idler, a “parasite” or a hypocrite because my desire to study and, for the most part, my belief had been lost some time ago. For me this meant that I could now go and be a member of the large working family and also help overturn the present evil order because I was already by then, as it is said, a little caught up in the story.

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There only remained for me to find a place where I could start to learn a trade. I had not thought of any work other than tanning because this was the main occupation in our shtetl. It was as if – I wanted very much to get a job where the master would be, as it is said, “one of ours” and a little bit friendly, and advise me the right road to take and the secrets of the trade.

As luck would have it, a young man who frequented our house was a master and also “one of us,” as I wanted. He would come around it seems, to see my sister. So, we spoke to him about taking me on to study as a hide preparer. That means, that “we” was really my sister and I only listened. He gave me a looking over and announced that he would take me on as a student and would pay me two rubles a week.

It seemed reasonable to me and I was in seventh heaven: I would become a hide preparer, under a master, my own person and eventually a member of the revolutionary party, this former yeshiva student.

When I arrived at the factory in the morning, with the first look that my master had of me, already he was not as friendly as he had been at the house. His first greeting, out loud: “Good morning, Rav Zelman Sender!” (The name of the Krynki rabbi at that time was Zelman Sender). That made it clear that this was not going to be easy. In later years I began to understand that the bad relationship between us was a result of a misunderstanding. He was a revolutionary, a free thinker and a dedicated fighter against everything that had to do with religion and its various symbols. In me he still saw the yeshiva student. So, he already understood that it would be a sort of good deed to laugh at me a little. I saw the embodiment of the wicked capitalist in my master and thought it was my holy duty to go against him in every way.

After the first welcome he ordered me to clean up and sweep the factory. I got down to work without much enthusiasm and it took longer to do than it should have taken. Therefore he scolded me with a “Rav Zelman Sender, move a little faster!”

When I was finished cleaning – I was ordered to mix the “rutcher.” This meant to mix the standing water with whetstones, with which one would grind the hair from the hide. It was enough to give it a little mix, in order to spread an odor that was impossible to endure. At first I did not understand that he only meant to make fun of me, but as I realized he was up to one of his “tricks,” I began mixing as if I would rather perish than give in to my enemy. Soon the stench spread throughout the entire factory, and the previous grins on the lips of my master and the other workers were transformed into grimaces and they all grabbed their noses. But I heartily continued mixing as if it made no difference to me, until my master ran to me and ordered me to stop. I played innocent and remarked that I had not finished the mixing. That was my first clash with my master.

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Several days later, I hung the hides to dry. The rope was very high and even though I was one of the tallest, it was very difficult for me to reach the rope. I climbed onto boxes and crates, in order to be able to hang the hides. But my master had to notice that a hide had fallen down. So, he screams at me – “What are you doing? Do not step on the hide!” I grabbed it from the box and stepped on the hide and my master turned away grinding his teeth.

Another time I remember was when I was carrying in a tub a little degraded material from one pot to another. I was not paying attention to carrying it straight and with two hands. I carried it with one hand and a little crooked and there was a little bit on the bottom. This my master noticed. He screamed at me: “Zelman Sender, pour it out!” So, what did he think I was doing? I got rid of it just fine. When he went to have his teeth filled, the fillings were sure to fall out because he ground his teeth so hard. I am sure, that only the thought that he had to meet my sister saved me from a slap in the face because then I truly deserved it.

Who knows how long we would have managed in future years if Judel Volkovisker had not arrived in Krynik to do organizational work for the “Bund”. We had to change his job to a place in a small factory where the eyes of the police would not be on him. The situation occurred where I worked and I changed my job according to instructions from the “Bund” – this was the first good piece of work that the Krynki “Bund” had, according to me, carried out.


My Journeys to Krynik

Sam Levin

My first trip to Krynik was made at the beginning of 1890 when I was still in grade school in Horodok. I was then sent to Krynik as a representative of my younger sisters and brothers, to get hazelnuts to play with during the latter days of Passover.

I began the voyage during the Passover holiday with the Krynker driver, Chaim Fesl, who would drive passengers from Horodok to Krynik. Chaim was a short man with a fat stomach around which would always be tied a rainbow colored, wide belt that fit his stomach well.

He seated his passengers according to rank and lineage, some in the back end, others on sacks of oats mixed with chopped straw, that were laid out in the foremost part of the wagon. He rolled into the wagon by putting one foot on the end of the axle and the other on the shaft and the journey began.

There was a noticeable scowl on his face when he looked at his passengers. There were too many women and children. Who would help him to push the wagon uphill or out of the mud on every road?

I made this trip, the first time in my life I traveled alone such a long way, sitting absorbed the entire time in my childish fantasies about the nuts my aunt would give me and how I would bring them back to my sisters and brothers at home.

Arriving at my aunt's, she began to ask about everybody in the entire family. I kept my hands in my pockets measuring them to see how many nuts would fit.

And so hour after hour passed and I continued to measure my pockets. I was embarrassed to ask and she did not offer. She gave me only a piece of matzah [unleavened bread] smeared with chicken fat, that in one bite was gone, because I was very hungry…As for my nuts, the result was none.

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My second journey to Krynik was from Bialystok ten years later. I was already a young man of twenty-one and had come a long way from my Aunt Deborah's hazelnuts. I was already carrying about ideas of freedom, sang revolutionary songs and was active in the “Bund.”

After a secret meeting that Krynker revolutionaries in Bialystok had held (among them was Yankl Katchke, Shmulke Rubinstein, Hershl Pinkes, Shmulke Terkel and others), – it was decided to send me to Krynik with a certain task in mind.

I began the trip from a tavern that the Krynker wagon drivers used as their rest stop and their passengers would gather there.

The short ride took an entire night, and first thing in the morning we finally arrived in Krynik. I lodged with my aunt Henia, who received me in her usual friendly manner. She asked me questions without end, what, who, when – then prepared food and drink for a good meal. Later, in passing, she asked what had brought me to Krynik on a simple Wednesday.

When she heard about my secret mission, she sighed. “Yes child,” she said, “I have already lived through this, my people taught me the Torah. So, God should help you and you should not be deceived because of your foolishness.”

The Krynker revolutionaries received me in a hearty, brotherly manner and before my return to Bialystok they made a farewell party at Shoshke Zelman the kettle maker's house for me. All of the Krynker youth from the sisterhood and brotherhood were there, fiery speeches were given, and everyone from the choir sang revolutionary songs. It seemed as if the government throughout Russia already lay in the hands of the proletariat. They made fun of the Tsar, like at Purim with Haman.

I asked them if they were not in too much danger and they answered that as long as Abrahamel Fortze stood guard outside they were not afraid. He had, they said, a pair of healthy iron shoulders with steel fists that were sufficient to defend our revolutionaries when necessary. The evening ended without any problems.


The Attempted Assasination of a Manufacturer

Betzalel (Alter) Potchebutski / Nachum Anschel Knischynski

Acting on the propaganda against the work givers, that they were the main cause of the existing slavery of the people and the working class – several Krynker “revolutionaries” [from among the youngsters] organized the attempted assassination of Nachum Anschel Knishynski, then the richest man in the shtetl.

Nachum Anschel came from Kobrin, used to trade in Krynki, driving flour to the bakeries. Later he was the bookkeeper for the Krynker, David Moreynu. Some time later he opened a tannery in the shtetl and he built it up until he was the richest man in Krynki. His factory had the largest number of workers. The initiators of the attempt were Leybke Noskes and David Yankl the blond's.

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On a wintry Sabbath night, when everything was covered with snow and no stars could be seen, Nachum Anschel left the besmedresh [house of study] for home with several other men from the shtetl. There Yankl the blond's pressed the trigger of his revolver, a shot was heard and immediately after that Nachum Anschel was stabbed with a knife by one of two conspirators and wounded.

Leybke Noskes was arrested, but a short time later was freed thanks to the intervention and endeavors of Nachum Anschel. A gentile was discovered as part of the plot and arrested. He was also released thanks to Nachum Anschel.

There was another incident involving Nachum Anschel shortly after the assassination attempt. Three Krynker young men, Herschel the Mangy, Chaikel Mutz and Meyer Yankl Bunems stopped Nachum Anschel in the street and begged him for money. He talked to them while approaching his factory. There, he asked why they needed the money. They answered him and he told them he would return with the money. Meanwhile he went into a room and from there called his workers to help him. They grabbed the three comrades, gave them a beating and threw them out.


“Niomke Anarchist”
(As told by his older brother)

Lipa Friedman

When my brother Niomke joined the anarchist revolutionary movement he was only fifteen years old. One time his comrades in the Bialystok movement decided that he should throw a frightful bomb in Krynik. It was thrown from the balcony of the women's section of the synagogue and exploded with a loud crash but there was no damage. A policeman caught him and arrested him, sending him to jail in Grodno. There he was turned over to the district court.

The people, on whom Niomke threw the bomb, hired one of the best lawyers to defend him and were witnesses at the trial. They said that it was not Niomke who had thrown the bomb. Furthermore the lawyer had worked with my father about what he should say and encouraged him so that he would not be afraid of the prosecutor, even if he would be yelled at. The witnesses swore that Niomke was religious and went every day to pray at the synagogue. The judge wanted to free him. But the chairman asked Niomke what he had to say in his defense.

Niomke answered that he threw the bomb and that the witnesses defended him only because they were afraid that his brother would take revenge on them and then he screamed: “Long live the social revolution!” Because he was so young he would not receive the death penalty. He was only sixteen years old. His sentence was to be sent in penal servitude to Siberia.

Part of the way was on foot with a company of political prisoners who had been provided with revolvers, in secret, by their comrades and before the departure they put them in their packs. At a rest station where they were eating their evening bread, the political prisoners revolted and shot the convoy captain and two soldiers, and forced the other convoy soldiers to unlock their chains. First they ran and hid. Comrades had provided them with money so that they could escape abroad.

But Niomke did not want to take any money and did not agree to go abroad. Instead he achieved his goal. He traveled to Grodno and there stood near the gate of the prison waiting for the “official” to take revenge on him. Before, while Niomke was sitting in prison, a group of young girls were brought there. They had been arrested for a strike in the Grodno tobacco factory.

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One of them was a young girl who Niomke went around with. The above mentioned “official” ordered them beaten until their execution. Their cries were heard throughout the jail. Niomke had decided to take revenge on this cruel man at the first opportunity. And he did. When the official left the government office Niomke shot him. He tried to hide, but the police ran after him. He ran into a house and from there managed to shoot a policeman. But the police had alerted the firemen, in order to take him alive. He continued to shoot until he had only one bullet left and then he shot himself leaving behind a message: “I fought for freedom!”


Krynker “Revolutionaries” Who Went Abroad

Betzalel (Alter) Patchebutzki

Menachem Motl was known as one of the organizers of the “oaths” on a holy book and prayer shawls and phylacteries for those gathered in the forest the night before the first tanner's strike in Krynki in 1897. During the strike he ran away from the shtetl, later did his military service and then soon returned home, for the second strike.

Then one day he saw how a policeman beat a striker so he cracked opened the skull of the policeman. People were searching for him everywhere, but he had left the country and settled in Chicago. There he came to understand that the American reality was a far cry from his ideals and he took his life.

Moshe Berl was among the leaders of the first strike and was arrested during the second strike. For five days he was beaten and tortured. He left prison with damaged lungs. Then he traveled to London and there resumed his revolutionary activities as a follower of Peter Kropotkin.

Socialist Activities
of a Proletarian High School Student

Sarah Fel-Yellin

My parents were among the enlightened in Krynki and I would hear discussions at home about exploitation and the injustice of the rich men. My father was a tinsmith and indirectly was involved with the factories – he made tubes, lamps and lanterns for them.

I remember, as if it were today, the Revolt Day of January 1905. I was then barely ten years old, the last child, and my parents took me by the hand and we all went to the demonstration on Schischlevitzer Street, together with the raging population. Young men had confiscated weapons from the police, dressed up with “swords” over their civilian clothes and together with several young women revolutionaries led the march. They also carried banners with messages. The monopoly had been captured, bottles of liquor were tossed out and then they left for Yenta's courtyard.

This was a beautiful May outing, surrounded by a large park, a little further was the Garden of Eden for the poor – Yenta's forest, where every Sabbath the shtetl population created a colorful scene – Parents with children, with packages of food for the day. At the springs people would refresh themselves with a cold drink and fill their bottles. Those who had the strength would go as far as the mill. In the forest there would be gatherings, picnics with speakers who, along with the news from the large cities, also brought courage and inspiration to the overworked of the factories, to the artisans.

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The Great Fire

I see the great fire in front of my eyes. Half the shtetl – the poor section – went up in smoke: from Potchtove Street, Plantanske (my street) up to “Kavkaz”. The houses were wood and dry. The wind carried the blaze from street to street. The volunteer firemen could do nothing. My father was a captain with epaulets and brass buttons – I was always so proud of him, when he would march with the brigade on the market circle near the firehouse. But this time he abandoned my mother and me and left with the brigade to fight the fire. My mother cried, pleaded, but he left to do his duty.

After the fire people settled in with rich people in Garbarsker and Shul Streets and in the Tzerkovner. There in that house, of a good, rich man I first began to understand the difference between rich and poor.

Years later I would often, already like an equal, go to the rich houses to visit my friends from high school. I was the only working class child to go to the high school in Grodno (to my good fortune I was the last of the children and my mother liked education and culture). I would visit the Grossman's, Buak's and Nachum Anshel's children because I was very bright, received the best marks and often helped them. Their houses were beautifully furnished, with trees and flowers, surrounded with leather closets, with the unmistakable odor of wet skins. My poor nose in no way was able to take it, but for them this was perfume, the promise of riches!

A Worker's Reading Circle

1905 left its mark on our shtetl and on all its inhabitants. The workers felt proud and worthy because the first proof of freedom had arrived and broke the pessimism. I was then a young girl of thirteen – fourteen. I already belonged to a socialist circle, fought against “saninshtchina” (to devote oneself to sexual affairs) among the young students. During summer vacations I worked in a reading circle for workers; the partnership was a success. I read (the others did not know how to) and the workers then discussed what was read. I became more knowledgeable as well and proud of my father, the tinsmith, and of my mother, the cigarette maker.

In our home there was already some worker tradition: a father who ran to America because he led a tailors' strike in Lodz; an illegal library hidden in our wood stall. I would devour the books that opened new horizons for me.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From “My Memories” Volume 2, Warsaw 1913 Return
  2. This collection of the obligatory tax on kosher slaughtering and meat, wine and other food products was held as a lease. The meat tax was created for the Jewish community to cover obligations that the community was responsible for to the government. Return
  3. “Kavkaz” means mountain, and is the name of a section in Krynki. A “Kavkazer” is someone from the Kavkaz section of Krynki. Return

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