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[Page 163]

History and Memories


History and Memories

by Mordechai Ostrovski

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

The young generation does not remember, but our older generation remembers indeed; therefore I am writing these few lines for the younger generation, in order that they learn about the past of their town of birth.

I, Mordechai Ostrovski, was born and raised in Ludvipol, with all my Landsleit (inhabitants of the town). I made my first steps in education in the heder of R'Gershon the melamed, and later I went to the heder of Zev Smole and other hadarim. When I was young there were no Jewish schools, only the Russian School, where they accepted very few Jews. Besides, this school was far from the town, and it was required to go to school – and write – on Shabat as well, this being of course a sin.

For our children we have built a modern school of the “Tarbut” chain, and a vocational school was almost ready as well. We paid this with our own money, although the Polish government did add some support. We were thankful that the government gave us permission to establish our schools. The money for the maintenance of the school and the salary of the teachers' staff also came from our own pockets. We must mention and praise some of the young people who devoted themselves with all their body and soul to this endeavor: Leibel Etstein z”l, Shechna Shemesh z”l, Avraham Wollman z”l and many others, among them myself. We made every effort and used all means to bring this enterprise to success.

We had also a Keren Hayesod and a Keren Kayemet (JNF) committee, a bank that issued loans to help the needy and a soup–kitchen for orphans and poor people. During the first years of the Polish rule, 1920–1925, the JOINT (JDC = Joint Distribution Committee) gave us support. The young people in our town received a good Zionist education. The first Principal of our “Tarbut” School was Arie Morik, who is living today in Tel Aviv.

So life continued smoothly, until the arrival of the Hitler beasts, who murdered almost everyone. A small number survived, some of them by fleeing to Russia; we must mention with thanks the fact that Russia welcomed the refugees and helped. Others found hiding places in the forests. In the ghetto, the Germans caused much suffering and pain. Anything the Commissar demanded we were forced to supply.

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I remember the incident with Chana–Chaya'le, the granddaughter of Moishe Chana–Sara's (Moshe Binder). Chana–Chaya was a beautiful young woman, and the Commissar went to the Judenrat and demanded that she be sent to him – it is sad even to mention the story. She refused to go; then her grandfather Moshe Binder came to her and said: My child, you know, you have learned that Queen Esther refused at first to go to King Ahaswerosh. But by virtue of her appeal to the king, the Jews were saved from the hands of the cruel Haman. Maybe, as you go to the commissar, you will save all the Jews of our shtetl?

I am writing all this in order to “Remember what Amalek did to you”. [Deut. 25:17]

When the war broke out, I fled with my family to Russia and we suffered there a great deal. My wife Rachel died and I remained there with my children until we managed to return to our old home. There I married Rose and we repatriated to Poland. From Poland we smuggled the border to Germany and we stayed two years in a refugee camp. After that we managed to reach our longed–for State, where we live a happy and content life.

Remember what Amalek did to you

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Fires in the Shtetl

by Zindel Wasserman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Our Shtetl always suffered from fires. When one of the peasants from a village nearby desired to make a holiday for himself so he could rob our houses he set fire to a house and the fire spread.

In the early days there were no fire–fighters, and when a house caught fire the people just seized their belongings and fled to the river, or to the open fields.

Rabbis from all over Poland would visit our shtetl. I don't remember all of them, but I shall mention a few: the Stoliner rabbi z”l; the Trisker z”l; the Koretzer rabbi Reb Leizerke z”l; Reb Yankele the Zwihiler z”l; the Berezner Reb Itzikl z”l; Reb Ahrele z”l and Reb Gedalye z”l.

Once, Polish soldiers were stationed in our shtetl. Their sergeant lodged at the house of Moshe Gendelman z”l on Koretz Street. When the soldiers wanted to have some fun, they got drunk and roamed the street; but they always met with the resistance of our youth, who are remembered in our hearts as heroes. Our young people showed them that we were not afraid of them, and they would run away with broken bones.

I don't remember the exact year when the Berezner rabbi Reb Gedaltzie came to our town. He lodged at the house of Gedalia Shtadlen, not far from the home of our rabbi Reb Akiva z”l. One Wednesday evening, I and my friends were walking leisurely through town when we heard cries: Fire!! It was the house of R'Hersch Gurfinkel.

Gedalia Shtadlen's house with its glass verandah was situated just across the street from the burning house. Panic spread through the entire shtetl. People began carrying their belongings out of town, to the river or to the fields.

The rabbi, who was at Gedalia's house, gave an order not to take the things out of the house, but Gedalia's wife, Henye, did not obey. She was very scared because of the previous fires, so she took her children and together they carried out the first bundles – her silk winter–blankets. As they put them down, the wind carried off a piece of burning wood, straight onto the bundle of blankets and burned them down to ashes. Seeing this, they did not take out anything else from the house.

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The holy Tzadik Reb Gedalia went out, stood up against the fire and prayed for our dear Jews. At the same time the Polish sergeant ran by, chasing people with his big stick. As he passed by, without paying attention he lifted his stick and hit old rabbi Gedaltzie on his back. Kopel Shtadlen, who was standing nearby, seeing this ran to the Polish Sergeant and lifted him on his back, running toward the fire. It was clear that he intended to throw him into the flames.

The rabbi and other Jews who were at the scene, begged Kopel not to do it, because no good would come out of it. Kopel put the sergeant down, but he did not calm down himself – he felt that he must take revenge on the sergeant. Meanwhile the fire subsided and no other houses caught fire that night.

Then the beautiful and happy Sabbath arrived. The rabbi conducted the festive meal. Jews gathered around to listen to his explanations and comments on the Weekly Portion [Parashat Hashavua] of the Torah.

On Motzaei Shabat [end of Sabbath] we had the traditional Melave–Malka meal. We danced until late at night and early Sunday morning the Rabbi prepared himself for his journey back to Berezne. The wagon owners came with their horses and wagons, since many Hasidim intended to escort the rabbi out of town. Soon the rabbi appeared, accompanied by his Hasidim and assistants. I had the privilege to carry a chair for the rabbi, to help him climb onto the wagon. As the rabbi and the Hasidim took their places and the drivers were ready to begin moving, a commotion began. What happened? Kopel Stadlen was stretched out on the road in front of the horses and the procession could not move. The rabbi and the Hasidim begged him to leave, but begging was no help: Kopel demanded that the rabbi put a curse on the sergeant! The rabbi tried to avoid speaking curses by his holy mouth, but Kopel did not move. A few long minutes passed, and finally the rabbi said that “we shall see the end of the sergeant.”

The same week, the sergeant sent one of his soldiers to Esther Grinberg, to bring him lunch, as usual. He ate fish, and a small bone became stuck in his throat. He was taken immediately to the hospital and Dr. Piatkovski operated. The operation was successful but the patient died… We received notice from Berezne that anyone who wanted to see the funeral ceremony could come. My brother Akiva, Kopel Shtadlan and other young men went indeed. We stood on the porch of the rabbi's house and saw the procession passing by.

These were the tzadikim in our little town Ludvipol, and these were the young heroic Jews. Their memory will live in our hearts forever.

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There Once Was a Shtetl Ludvipol…

by Batya Hakman (daughter of Yokel Raber), Australia

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

More than 20 years have passed since I left my home as the Germans advanced. We fled to Russia – I and my sister with her husband and child, and we never imagined that we shall never see again our shtetele, our parents, our brothers and sisters and all our loved ones.

I was among the happiest children in our generation; I understood this only when I was in Russia, separated from the whole world, alone, feeling foreign, not knowing what next day will bring.

We lacked nothing in our little town Ludvipol. I had everything: father, mother, a good home, sisters, brothers, a good education at the Hebrew Tarbut School, good friends, love between all Jews in the shtetl… when somebody returned from a trip abroad he would always say that such a shtetele was nowhere to be found and will never be.

What did the shtetl have, that attached to it every Jew? It had a beautiful landscape that surrounded the town, the river Slutch that separated the town from the villages – the sandy bank on the side of the town, where the Jews came to bathe and enjoy the sunrays; on the other bank the officers from the polish army barracks and their wives enjoyed the days. The Ludwik Castle on the mountain, famous for its generations–old stories of demons, and the fields surrounding it served the local youth as a place of pleasurable walks; on Shabat afternoon the Jewish young people would hold there the meetings of the Zionist groups – Hechalutz and BEITAR, and the words of the national anthem Hatikva would be carried by the wind for kilometers. And, beyond all this, the wide expanses where Hershik Benny's and Gedalia Benny's owned fields; there, before the holiday of Shavuot the children would gather branches and greenery to decorate their homes, synagogues and schools, according to custom. In the winter, the children would skate on the frozen river.

The youth did not have to look far for entertainment: as soon as they stepped out of their houses they would meet friends, and together they would take long walks, talk and criticize, until midnight.

The Tarbut School stood at the end of town, and all eyes were directed to it: father and mother, with prayer in their hearts hoped

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Moshe Smolar's Private School (1930)


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that their child would grow to be a good, national Jew. The festivals and the performances of the school were beautiful. The first principal of the school, Mr. Morick and his wife, with pioneer vigor devoted their young years to implant in every pupil general culture and love for the Land of Israel. It was not easy to build and to maintain such a school in such a small shtetele. The Parents' Committee worked hand in hand with the teachers to raise the money for building the school. The teachers, together with the pupils, even organized dance evenings and performances, for the purpose of raising money.

I remember our friend Sheindele Fell, who proudly sang and danced; I remember the pupils in dark–blue uniforms marching at the demonstrations during Polish holidays – the first of May, the eleventh of Listopad [Polish November], and, in an entirely different approach, the Jewish Lag Ba'omer.

I remember the Adamovke forest, where we would go to spend the day among the beautiful oaks and green fields; in the summer people would come from the surrounding towns to their summer–houses, and on Sabbath the young people from our town would take long walks to meet them and make friends.

In Ludvipol, Anti–Semitism was not felt, as it was in in larger towns. Therefore we feel doubly the pain: the same people who ate Sabbath bread at our parents' table, were the first to murder them.

The Jews in Ludvipol suffered their entire lives from the rise and fall of governments, as well as from political and military events – Petliura, Chmelnitzki, the Haidamaks, the Kozaks, Kranski, the Russian revolution, Polish army and again Russians – until Poland took over the lands and Ludvipol remained a Polish town. With every change of power, Jewish blood and Jewish goods were worthless. Every new power or new rule wrought panic on the Jewish shtetele. Our parents remember well the First World War, when hunger and fires were reigning in the shtetl. And when, in 1920, the more–or–less normal life began flowing again, the Ludvipol Jews tried to forget the old troubles and began building and creating anew.

Ludvipol had its own Jewish institutions, as any other Polish town. The Ludvipol Jew was a devoted Polish citizen. He obeyed the law and paid taxes. I remember how Aizik Shtadlen received from the Polish authorities a medal for good citizenship! But we did not forget Zionism either: The “Blue–white Box” could be found in every home, and the finest young people would spend their summers in one of the pioneer [halutz] training camps – in Czestochowa, Lida, Klesow and other places.

After the arrival of the Russian army, on 17 November 1939, the Jew was not the same any more. Worry for mere existence and spiritual depression overcame the Jews. So “the old story” repeated itself: The Jew was stronger than iron – and he became accustomed to the Soviet regime as well. Every person tried to find an occupation for himself and go on with his life.

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I remember the beautiful Tarbut School, where through the windows the poems of Bialik and Tchernichovski were heard. Now one could hear the songs of praise for Stalin and stories about Taras–Bulba and Chmelnitzki. The synagogues became deserted – new angels, new customs. That was not to the taste of our parents any more. The Soviet rule did not last long, however, and our town was no exception under Hitler's rule; with the help of the Ukrainians, the specter of death hung over every house. Our parents suffered great pain, seeing their children leave them, heading toward the woods of deep Russia. Persons who knew my parents in the ghetto told me that my mother said she would gladly die, if only she knew that her children arrived safely in Russia and were alive.

Hitler took away all those who were dear to us: our parents, brothers, sisters, wives and children, and men. They uprooted the Jew, and burned down the shtetele Ludvipol.

After the war, those of us who survived fled wherever they could, all over the world… far from where the great destruction took place. They could not look the murderers in their faces, nor could they eat bread and fruits from the earth that gave forth its fruit from the blood of their near and dear. All of us will remember, as long as we live, the neighbor – the “good friend” of yesterday – the Ukrainian, the German, the Pollack, who would come to our house to extinguish the Sabbath light or add wood to the stove. We bought his grains, his fruits and vegetables, his beef and his fowl, and with what did he pay us?…

We shall remember our dear and beloved families – we shall keep their memory holy, forever!

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A Zionist group says farewell to Yitzhak and Sara Frimak


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A group of girls, members of the Gordonia movement, 1935


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A group of Hashomer Hatzair members, with their teacher Yitzhak Frimak, 1925


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Hashomer Hatzair members, at the departure of Moshe Werner, 1930


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