An Old Portrait
by Aleph Katz
Translated by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
|On a wall in a museum, an old portrait,
After years of silence, suddenly started to talk
When it was stirred by a warm glance
And a sense of youth from the past.
The portrait speaks and discloses on the wall:
I look out of the frame onto a strange-wild world
Also he whose smile is mirrored now
I now remain a stranger, alone,
by Shmuel Mandelkern, Tel Aviv
Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD with Hanina Epstein
The Russian Revolution and the Jewish Reaction
With the fall of the Tzarist regime in Russia and the establishment of the Revolutionary government there was happiness and joy in all the towns of Russa. The Jewish and non-Jewish populations all together espoused the slogan brotherhood of peoples, love and fraternity between individuals and among peoples. All the racist discriminations were annulled going forward, as if they never existed.
The Jewish population in that same period related in different ways to the Revolution, aligned with their social composition.
The Jewish bourgeois, among them, captains of industry, heads of large businesses and others, did not embrace all the nice slogans with great enthusiasm, and especially, it goes without saying, the slogan what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine… because immediately they had partners in their sizeable possessions, which had passed to them as an inheritance from their ancestors. But with no choice, they choose silence and hoped for the future.
The situation of the young people was different, and most of all, the youth who were studying, the externals as they called them, who were thirsty for study their entire youths, for science, for different types of continuing [secular] education, [because] all the doors to higher learning, the universities, and academics, which had been shut in their face until now were suddenly thrown completely open, and all the Jewish youth drank thirstily from the secular teaching (Torah) and wisdom (Hokmah). And this segment of youth was not distinct from the all youth who studied.
The Jewish workers, who were scattered and dispersed with no organization all over Russia, suddenly found themselves as free people, unfettered, and master of themselves and their own opinions. All the slogans about brotherhood of nation, freedom, peace and friendship, rang nicely in their ears, and they embraced the slogans of the Revolution with great joy. It is perhaps notable, that in all the cities of Russia, in the establishments of industry and all the other workplaces, their happiness was very conspicuous; their participation, awakened in rallies and assemblies, in different celebrations of worldwide workers was recognized.
The situation was completely different in small towns, like Mlynov and similar ones.
The bourgeois here …were not [true] bourgeois …their entire property was a 4 by 4 [store], with shelves for merchandize, but with no merchandize …and all shop owners had in fact two worries: one to support his family, and the second perhaps the situation of his neighbor was much better than his, and this would bring hatred and jealousy between Jew and Jew. Nonetheless, he was happy in his portion, he didn't complain, he was satisfied with little, and some say that he didn't even know what he was lacking …this same Jew didn't distinguish between the repressive Tzarist regime and the liberated Revolutionary regime. All the matters of the Revolution, [namely], the ousting of the Tzar, and spilling of blood (of course, not in Mlynov), didn't bother him whatsoever. What occupied him were the partially empty shelves which were shrinking daily, and not knowing what will happen each day.
The apples don't fall far from the tree. The youth of the town grew up without education (Torah) and work, and their lives were completely idle and empty. Most didn't learn a trade due to a paucity of workshops and parents unwilling to teach their children a trade, like shoemaking , tailoring or carpentry, lest that work damage the reputation (yihus) of the family, that they had continued for generations. And thus, they would reside in their parents' home and live off of them. Just as they didn't care about their way of life, so too they didn't care about change of government. And like their parents they continued to be idle and wait for what was come. This was the situation in small towns and those like them in all the areas, and they thought that their work would be done by others.
Strike the Jews and Save Russia
After some time, however, things turned upside down, and the matter started at the top, in other words among the leaders of the Revolution. Each one of them thought that only he was capable and suitable to stand at the head of the people and Revolution. That's when they started overthrowing each other. Yesterday, so and so deposed so and so, and he had his reasons, and the next day it was reversedand he had his reasons. And all the removals were accompanied by the spilling of blood, and, of course, Jewish blood. And here in this case too they had their reasons and excuses. When a new regime was established it lacked the labor force and management in all the government institutions, [including] the military and municipal, and the external Jewish youth, who were knowledgeable and aware, grabbed the work openings mentioned above and filled them with great success in all areas it was this phenomenon that were like thorns in the eyes of the antisemites, who remained left over from the days of the Tzar, and when they saw in all the institutions mentioned above Jewish youth vigorous and working and filling responsible roles, they found (an opportunity) in every change of regime to lay the blame on the Jews, and take vengeance and spill their blood. And the slogans of brotherhood of peoples and the like quickly became the slogan, Strike the Jews and you save Russia.
At that time, there was no Jewish institution or body that would raise its voice and express the sentiment that Jewish blood is not a free for all and cannot be spilled without consequence. The Jewish bourgeois worried about its capital and wealth and the enthusiastic youth stood powerless and helpless.
Thus a chaotic situation was created in which violence prevailed and the pogroms began against the Jews. One liability in this was that Jews in every place thought that the pogroms would not reach there or their town. In other words, the Jews from Odessa thought that the pogroms would be in Kiev and not Odessa, and therefore there was nothing to be agitated or alarmed about, and the Jew from Odessa thought the opposite. In the final analysis, both turned out to be deceived. This was more or less the thinking of all Jews in every single place. For example, a Mlynov Jew was sure, that tragedy would not reach Machiper from Slobada, and the pogroms would be in Zhytomyr, Zvyahel, Berdychiv and so forth. In other words, [they would occur] there, that was far, far, away but in Mlynov? Who would dare?
Especially in Mlynov they did not believe that someone would do something bad to them, after the death and burial in the Mlynov cemetery and in the unique tent of the Admor Aharon Karlin from Stolin. Jews of Mlynov had complete faith that his merit would protect the Jews of Mlynov and the surroundings. In fact, nothing bad happened to the Jews of Mlynov. There are those who believe that it was the result of the Rebe's merit, while others believe it was due to capability of defense. The believers will believe.
At that time, there were two different kinds of pogroms with many variations: namely, political or antisemitic forms. In places where there was a regime changeeach and every regime which came to power, one day the Whites and the next the Reds arising to govern, would go on a rampage against the Jews with murder, plunder and rape. Reverberations of these pogroms came from afar and crushed the spirit, souls and independence of every Jews who was there. The depression was great, not knowing what would happen daily, and every small town waited for the bitter fate of its Jewish residents. This was the situation in around Kiev, Berdychiv, Zhytomyr and Zvyahel. The situation was different in our area: Dubno, Rovno and Lutzk, places where the non-Jewish population was not nourished from antisemitism and national politics, but from local antisemitism exclusively.
And this is how matters began: since a substantial segment of Jewish youth even in our areas recognized that it required only a short time to master the Russian language inside and out, it grabbed government positions thanks to its intellectualism. By contrast, the non-Jewish students were not able to attain government position, lacking education and knowledge [thus it] created national jealousy which ate at each and every one of them. In every place and time, they heard the cry: the Jewish government a day will come and we will slaughter all the Jews, and their end will be like the Jews of Zhytomyr, Zvyahel, Berdychiv and so on. This slogan was on the mouth of the youth and seniors alike.
And thus very slowly, with the bad rumors the tragic deeds also reached our area …but in spite of this our situation was different and matters developed differently: From the area between Kiev and Zhytomyr until the Russian Carpathians, a large army of the Tzar was based, with its senior elite officers and equipment. And they were living there separated. Without participating in the different uprisings.
They seized encampments in the large estates of the Polish nobility and relaxed there without worrying about their families or the regime. A battalion like this with a large and vast army, with all the different types of equipmentI remember, they even had even a private trainfound a place to station itself in the village of Smordva close to Mlynov, in the massive estate of the Count Liudochowski. And since the Ukrainian population from the villages close by like: Berehy, Smordva, Bokiima, and others, suffered heavily from a lack of food and clothing, they befriended the soldiers of the battalion just mentioned in order to enjoy the abundance of food, the footwear and clothing that were under military control. Not much time passed before the residences of the villages were wearing Tzarist military uniforms, until you couldn't distinguish between a military man and civilian…In exchange for all this, the farmers in the surrounding areas would incite the encamped soldiers to attack the Jewish population, with the goal of plunder, rape and even murder. And since the village Smordva was in total 6 km from Mlynov, and therefore the prerogative of being the first born was bestowed on Mlynov …
Among the soldiers encamped in Smordva was a battalion of calvary on white horses. They began to visit Mlynov during the night, with the goal of plunder and rape. Their activity was as follows: They would knock on the window of a certain house and request [the occupant] to come outside to show them the road that goes to Lutsk. Those who believed them and opened the door they would break into the house and take whatever they found.
In the morning, when the Jews would gather in the synagogue to say morning prayers (shacharit), each would tell a neighbor about the events at night, and he would say the prayer of survival (birkat hagomel) that it ended the way it had. Of course, these appearances greatly worried the Jewish population not knowing what would happen daily. In addition to the attacks that happened locally, there were other attacks by other remnants of the Tzar's military that wandered from place to place, directed by the antisemitic Ukrainians, who followed behind them with wagons and empty sacks in order to participate in the looting.
In the meantime, rumors arrived from nearby towns about attacks by the Drifters that were accompanied by plunder, rape and murder. I remember that most of the deeds mentioned above were carried out by the Sixth Division whom they called the Sixers (zekserlekh). And if the local antisemites wanted to instill fear in the Jews, they would say, Just you wait, the 'Sixers' will arrive and do to you what they did to the Jews of Mizoch, Shumsk, Kuniv and others. Regarding the visit of the Sixers who stayed in Mlynov opposite the Ukrainian church (tserkva) (the Russian Orthodox church) this matter [to be discussed] separately. There were also Jews that were ashamed to admit that these plunderers visited them in their homes.
The Idea of Self-Defense
If you asked yourself and wondered, From where did the idea or original suggestion come to establish self-defense in Mlynov?I too asked myself this question, since my father and grandfather were not men [who embraced] defense. And my answer will be to meet that obligation.
The idea was born one Sabbath at sunset and the answer is easy to understand. One thing I knew, that to establish a force like this it was necessary to establish it in the local minds and community, and while Mlynov, in truth, was a community comprised of young people, middle aged and older peoplebut the opinion followed the head of the community, like Rabbi Avraham Moshe Ahrones, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Lamdan, Rabbi Mordechai Meir, the sexton (gabbai) of the synagogue, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, Rabbi Efraim-Fishel, and others. I knew full well, that if I would go to the synagogue with idea of establishing a defense, their response would be as it is written, unless the Lord watches over his city, the watchman keeps vigil in vain … Therefore I turned to each person individually, to implant the idea and convince them that they needed to lend their support to the defense establishment effort, because they were shop owners, whose entire possessions were first in line in the danger of plunder, along with all the other related dangers.
The direct petition was to Israel Halperin. Nute Iskiewicz (the two of them committed themselves entirely to any activity that was called for), Yehoshua Goldseker, Yaakov Goldseker, Moshe Goldseker, who was called Moshe with the beard, and so forth and so on. And they made a direct appeal to the heads of the community in the large synagogue. They accepted the idea without great resistance from their side. But there was a catch to it. Their condition was that firearms not be used, but only … walking sticks. In other words, a defense unit would go out with sticks against the plunderers who were armed with firearms…and this is how they explained the matter. If we had firearms, and during the attack we, God forbid, killed one of them the following day they would come with the instigators and wipe out the Jewish residents from beneath the heaven…
It is worth pointing out the origin of the idea of sticks: this is how defense was conducted inside of Mlynov. The administration of defense in essence began in an ordinary way with two policemen, and for their reinforcement there was an obligation every night that a man take his turn from the residents of the town. This man did not, God forbid, go about empty-handed, but with a large, stout walking stick, the height of a person, and on it was stamped the municipality with red wax. From its heavy usage over the years, you in fact could no longer see the stamp or the wax, but they knew that this staff, which came to you from your next-door neighbor, obligated you to guard duty that night. And on the following day you passed the staff to your next-door neighbor. I remember that this inanimate staff was not received warmly. But what could one do? the law of the land was law.
That's where the idea of defense with sticks came from. Of course, there was general resistance to this idea, but who could disobey the elders of the community (kehilla)?
We also knew that we would obtain firearms only with difficulty from the civil government in Dubno without agreement of the community leaders. Meanwhile, a state of disagreement developed between the obligatory nay-sayers and those in favor, in the synagogues, in the bathhouse, in the street, and in every place.
It is interesting to mention one episode that occurred: since the youth had gathered and were arguing near the home of R. Fishel and Abraham Gelman, R. Fischel, who was hiding behind the wall of his house called out to us and said, Friends, look, from here we can see the house of Yehuda-Leib [Lamdan], for example. If the attack is there we will be standing here, and we will see and hear what is done there, at which point from here we will yell, Help! Help! and will begin to run in the direction of that house with the stickswill the plunderers not be afraid of us and will they not flee?! If so, why do we need weapons? …
After the arguments, which lasted a few weeks, with no apparent movement or concession from the leaders of the community, and we knew that they were going to stick to the [rabbinic] saying, Once [ a witness] gives testimony, he cannot retract and give [contradictory] testimony, we started suggesting to them that we get firearms in a symbolic way only: we reduced [our request] to 10 rifles for all the defense. We knew that if they gave approval for firearms, they would not go further and count them. But their response was a forceful no. Since the town, its people and its honor were precious to us, we agreed in the end to a defense with sticks and whistles, all means to summon help from all the residents of the town, in other words, even from those who were sleeping in their homes.
Defense with Sticks
The key turning point came with bad tidings that reached us about the plunder, murder and rape of Jews in nearby towns. Much of it was done at the hands of Ukrainian anti-Semites, the future partners of Hitler, who were spreading all sorts of false rumors, [for example,] that in such and such a town they had slaughtered all the Jews, and in another they had killed, burned and the like. All of this inclined us towards concessions and to start activities. And while I said above that the idea of defense was born during the Sabbath eve at sunset, the activity of defense itself was born literally on a Friday night. One Friday afternoon, a tumult arose from the youth who were obliged to present themselves after the Sabbath meal in the large synagogue in corridor (Palush). We chose the corridor, because there was not a home that agreed to accommodate us, the young people and future members of defense, for this purpose, since it smelled like explosives. It should be noted that at the time in Mlynov there wasn't a spacious enough house in which to accommodate all the youth, and therefore, the most fitting location we found was the Palush [corridor] of the large synagogue.
It is interesting, that the heads of the community at that time, who were all God-fearing observers of commandments, did not pose the issue of desecrating the Sabbath, in line with the saying, Saving a life overrides the rules of the Sabbath. Immediately after each one finished the Sabbath meal at home, the youth starting streaming without exception to the corridor (Palush) mentioned above.
And the organization was as follows: We broke into 4 brigades. The role of one brigade was to guard Shkolna Road, which began at the corner of the house of Yoel Goldseker, and ended at the last house on the street, at the home of Yose Meir's (son). The role of the second unit was to guard the road that began from Yoel Goldseker to the Shulman house, after that the house of Muti Lieberman. Since this road was short, the duty of this unit was also to keep an eye on the town center, the square next to the house of R. Judah Lieb, and R. Muti Meir Shrentzel. The third unit guarded the second square that began at the home of Beynish Schwartz to Kruzhuk and they also had responsibility to keep an eye on the entire surroundings, including the bridge over the Ikva, that lead to the estate of Count Chodkiewicz. The fourth brigade remained reserve in the corridor [Palush] to help in time of need for any of the brigades that needed its help.
The enthusiasm was great, and everyone wanted to join to the brigade that had the most dangerous spot. As a matter of fact, it was not known from where the trouble would arise and which place was more or less dangerous. Since the first enemy during that time were the horsemen from the army stationed in Smordva, and they were the ones coming to plunder at night, the brigade had to keep an eye on those riders whose telltale sign were white horses. Upon spotting one of the gangs mentioned above, the brigade was to shout for help from the other units by means of whistles that they received and in general make a racket and awaken the residents of town for help.
The First Defense Incident
The first incident happened at one o'clock at night, when the first brigade from Shkolna Street returned from its patrol of the road next to Yosel Gelberg's. When they reached the synagogue, they detected at a distance, from the other end of the same street, next to the home of Mr. Fishel Teitelman, the recognizable white horses were tied across from it, by the fence of Mendel Mandelkorn. Immediately they made alarm signals and all the units came quickly to the vulnerable spot. Fate ordained that it began with a good deed (mitzvah), would you believe, in the home of Mr. Fishel.
The event unfolded as follows: The riders approached the home of Mr. Fishel and broke into his home. The horses were tied, as previously mentioned, by the fence of Mr. Mendel Mandelkorn. Since Mr. Fischel's son, Anshel, bought and sold manufacturing remnants, they pounced on the discovery, and gathered up whatever was possible to gather with their hands, among other things the underwear of the men in the household, and when they heard the hullabaloo outside, they thought, God only knows what force was coming to attack them, and they began to quickly flee from there mounted on the horses, and left behind all the possessions that they had stolen.
Since the brigades received orders not to draw close to a vulnerable spot, but to create noise from afar since they had no weapons, they acted accordingly during this incident, and in the meantime, intentionally at the start, they gave the plunderers time to get on their horses and flee … their retreat by Shulman Street.
In the meantime, all the units gathered around the spot of the incident. Those retreating smelled [a trick, namely,] that the noise was loud but the hands were empty without weapons, and the proof was that that there was no shooting at them, [and thus] they regretted their retreat, turned around, and opened fire on the defenders. There were no casualties, but because of the noise, all the residents had awakened and come out of their houses in their underwear; finally the plunderers left.
Even the Ukrainians in Mlynov were happy, among them Dominic [the priest] and others, apparently because we succeeded in expelling the horsemen; this was like the situation where [Moses' father-in-law] Jethro rejoiced, they patted us on our backs for the great success, and their primary interest was in how many shots were fired from our side…obviously, we had not revealed to them the secret [that we had no weapons]. Meanwhile, dawn was breaking. Every mother with rising panic sought out her son. No one went back to sleep, and as was the custom on the Sabbath, the entire community, went to the synagogue to pray, and especially with curiosity to hear about the events that transpired during the night.
It was a custom in small towns, and Mlynov among them, that for every important communal matter: such as the rising stench of the mikvah, or the gathering of money to buy wood for heating, to warm the homes of the poor in the town, or on the eve of Passover the flour of Passover [i.e., the charity for needy families to buy matza and other Passover necessities] they would delay the reading of the Torah until the matter was resolved, obviously after lively debates. This is the way it happened this time, after morning prayers (shacharit): they delayed the reading of the Torah, and the members of defense announced that they no longer guard without firearms in hand, and the proof was provided by the events of the prior night. But that time too there were the obligatory nay-sayers. Their claim was that if we had firearms, we would certainly kill one of them, with that result that they would gather all the soldiers in the area, and among them all the antisemitic farmers nearby and wipe the town off the face of the earth. The debate ended with no immediate result, but with the assurance that after Shabbat they would do something.
The First Rifles
In order to squeeze an agreement to buy firearms from the leaders of the community, we began again to negotiate and offer proof about the importance of weapons for us. We wrung out of them an agreement to accept weapons from the militia in Dubno, which was called P.P. and we traveled to Dubno with the documents in hand, in order to receive the weapons. At the head of the delegation was Israel Halperin and when we got to Dubno, the men of the P.P. did not look favorably on the request and their objection was that they also lacked defense and that this would cause us trouble. We argued that while technically speaking they didn't have a defense, the men of the P.P., most of whom were Jews, owned personal firearms and they had the strength to defend the Jewish population of Dubno.
Since they could not convince us, a negotiation commenced about how many weapons we would receive from them. We insisted that was needed a minimum of 10 rifles, as we had told the leaders of the community in Mlynov. After arguing, they squeezed us down by three rifles and we received only seven. When we returned to Mlynov in the evening with seven rifles, waiting for us by the home of Israel Halperin, was not a small group, and every one of them had to feel a rifle in his hand, as if this was a Torah scroll that they received from Mount Sinai…
Indeed, with the reception of the weapons there was great joy among the group, and by the same token they were happy about getting a smaller number of P.P. insignias, although some difference of opinion emerged related to the distribution of the weapons every evening among the units. Every unit claimed that the area it was guarding was the most dangerous and should take precedence. And that precisely that unit was isolated among all the other units. Each claimed that it had the expertise to care for the weapons and therefore should be the one to shoulder the guns…for these reasons and for reasons of self-defense, we felt a need for additional weapons.
There were different opinions and suggestions about how to obtain additional weapons. Among the best was the suggestion to buy weapons from the Drifters, who were ready to sell not only weapons, but all kinds of goods which they had anything to make money. However, they were liable to sell you the weapons today and the following day send authorities or just their friends after you who would threaten and demand the return of the weapons, even without returning what was given in exchange. Furthermore, they were capable of selling you weapons with one hand, and with the other shooting you on the spot. Therefore, it was the general opinion that this was not the way to buy weapons needed to arm all the defenders, which was our goal: everyone capable of carrying a weaponshould carry a weapon.
I Looked to Buy Additional Weapons
Just as the idea of defense was born on Sabbath eve at sunset, so too the idea about where we could purchase weapons came to me on at sunset on a Sabbath eve. I made the decision without asking because had I asked neither those at home nor my friends would have given permission, because of the grave danger involved in this to enter into the jaws of the lion and purchase the weapons from the large army that was in Smordva, from which all riders had come, our known nighttime visitors. No trivial thing! Therefore, one morning I got up and dressed with a military hat and uniform, I saddled the beautiful red horse of my brother, Isaac, and rode straight to Smordva. When I arrived, I asked the soldiers who were around the village, for the location of the Colonel's residence. They showed me the house from a distance; I arrived there. I encountered two sentries, who stood by the gate of the Church with rifles with bayonets, and I requested permission to go into the Colonel because I had an interview with him; they requested that I wait a minute, so they could enter and confirm with him.
I received approval to go in, and upon entering his room, I said to him, Hello, comrade!
He responded, Hello, what do you have to say, young man?
At that moment, a heavy sense of dread came upon me, and I could not finish my sentence, and I said to him, I came to you to buy something, but I didn't specify what I wanted.
He stood up quickly from his spot, put on his overcoat, approached the door and said, Come, let's go. And he went outside. He walked and I followed. He didn't say a word to me. In the moments that passed as I was walking behind him, I was reminded of the [biblical story about the] Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), in which it is written, And the two of them walked together.
We walked through the village and after a few minutes of walking came to the area which belonged to Count Liudochowski, which during the years of reform, had turned the grounds into a place of horse stables and a dairy barn for cows. Since the period of revolutionary chaos, the farmers of the area stole everything without receiving punishment and perhaps this was the cause of the great appetite to plunder possessions of Jews all these areas were renovated, cleaned and served as different storage areas for the large army, which encamped in the village. When we reached one of the stables, he took me inside, and told the sentry who was standing there to open the curtain and revealed to me a vast storeroom of military coats. He pointed to them: Buy as much as you want.
I answered him, I don't need this.
Fine, he said, and called me to follow. By the way, from the suggestion he made, I understood that he thought standing before him was a Jewish boychik, a speculator, who wanted to get rich reselling merchandise. When I left there with him, he brought me to storage unit 2 and told the sentry exactly what he said to the first. The latter opened the curtain and showed me a storage unit filled with dress military uniforms of a very exceptional quality. And when I told him that I also didn't need these, he brought me to storage unit 3 and there I was dazzled by chrome boots of exceptional quality, the like of which I have never seen. But all this abundance did not attract me or tempt me, because my heart was set on weapons exclusively.
When I said to him, I also don't want this, he called me back to his room, sat down and asked me, If so, what do you want? I answered that I wanted to buy weapons. I said to him,
You know that the entire Ukrainian population in the area exploits the new regime as a means of personal benefit, and after they plundered the vast wealth of the Polish upper crust, the wealth that was supposed to fall to the workers' government, fell into their hands; and since with food comes an increase of appetitethey turned to robbing and plundering the belongings of the Jewish population. All the good deeds they did they lay the blame on you and the Bolshevik army, which does not enhance your standing. On the contrary, this makes you stink and be hated by the Jewish population in particular, and by the non-Jewish population in general. Therefore, we decided to organize a local defense with weapons in hand, in order to repel all the attempted attacks on us for plundering and robbing. And for this reason, I came to buy weapons from you.
Then he immediately asked me, which weapons I wanted. I said to him, Rifles.
Responding to me he said, I'm willing to sell you not only rifles, but machine guns and canons. I responded that we were not interested in attacking anyone, and therefore machine guns and canons were not necessary, and furthermore, I didn't have any place to store them. Just the rifles, therefore, were sufficient. He asked me what price I was willing to pay for a rifle. I answered that I wouldn't quibble on price and I would pay him what he asked. He answered in jest, that since a Russian rifle weighs 13 pounds, therefore, you pay 13 rubles for each rifle.
I agreed to the price. I consulted with him regarding the transport of the rifles from the storeroom to Mlynov. I explained to him, since I needed to ride with them past the villages of Smordva and Berehy, and since the non-Jewish population is hungry for weapons, therefore there is danger that may befall me on the way, and they may kill me and take from me the weapons. Therefore I am planning to take only 10 rifles each time and to put them 5 at a time in each sack, and to tie the sacks on both sides of the saddle, so they won't be visible to the eye. But because of the long length of the Russian rifle, and the length won't fit inside the length of the sacks, therefore I request [the following] of you Since I see a large welding workshop under your authority, please give an order to shorten the barrel of the rifle as I request.
He enlightened me about this request, Listen, if you shorten the barrel of the rifle, it will cease to hit its target. I responded that I understood this but since our goal was not to attack or kill, but only and exclusively for defense, we would be satisfied with them missing their target.
Immediately he walked with me to the welding shop, and commanded the supervisor as follows, when this man comes with rifles and wants to shorten them, do this for him. Immediately, he said to bring 10 rifles, to shorten them as I requested, so that I wouldn't return home empty-handed.
I Got Rifles!
With the completion of the transaction, I rode homeward on the red horse, and on the two sides of the saddle were bound two sacks with rifles. On the way home, I felt great relief, as if I was bringing the Jews of Mlynov complete salvation. The company [of defenders] received me with great joy. From then on, I went daily and each time brought 10 rifles, that were snapped up among the members of the defense, and each became like private property of each member, since everyone paid voluntarily from his own funds, and we didn't need a general fund raising campaign. In a short time, we had acquired 200 rifles for the town, even though the members of defenders numbered 70 young people. From this we determined that apart from the weapons in the hands of the young people, there were domestic weapons for every man in every home.
Once the weapons were acquired, the seat of the defense [organization] was in the streets of the town, and in particular in the central square by the Russian orthodox church (tserkva).
Every member of the defense knew that from 56 o'clock in the afternoon his place was outside and especially in the central square, and there was no need to draw up a personal list or to make a special announcement [to get members there].
Until the establishment of the defense, the lives of the Jews of Mlynov were paralyzed. In other words, tradesmen engaged in almost no work; they were nourished with difficulty from [the things grown or purchased] in the past; the shop owners did not open their stores, essential goods could not be found; the focus of their effort was to gather, one time here, then there, and especially in the synagogue between afternoon and evening prayers, to hear the news, what was known in advance of the bad tidings from the towns close and further away, some which were correct and some not, and life was full of predictions without knowledge.
But with the establishment of defense a new light began to shine on the Jews of Mlynov. All the bubba meisas ceased, and each and every person went back to his work. The shop owners opened their stores. They threw open their shutters and their two doors and way of life returned to normal. The key business was salt, which at that time was scarce, and kerosene. It is interesting that kerosene flowed from the same source from which I purchased the weapons, since among all the assets in the hands of the army units which were stationed in Smordva, there was also tens of thousands of barrels of kerosene, that during that long period supplied the Jews of Mlynov, Mervits, Demydivka , Berestechko, on the one side [West], and on the other [East], a flow to Varkovychi, Mizoch, Konov and until Ostrera. This entire flow passed through the hands of Yitchak Smordebeer, brother-in-law of Mr. Eisik Leib Klepatch and even though I knew the source of the distribution, and the sellers, it never occurred to me to seek good fortune from them and get rich. When I finished the weapons business with them, they did not see me there again.
After we purchased the rifles the human capital, in other words, the volunteers from the community, came on their own. As previously noted, the place for the youth each and every evening was in the Church (tserkva) plaza, which was in the heart of the town. There was no need for any call [to duty] mobilization, and so forth. The volunteers came out of feeling [of wanting] to protect the honor of the town and its people, and it all happened automatically.
I must give special praise to the memory of Moshe Gitelman, who was called MosheRachel Faivesh's [son]. He was the lead supplier of rifle bullets especially for the defense and for the men of the town in general. It is worth pointing out the means for purchasing the bullets. Since MosheRachel Faivesh's was a carefree young man, he would put himself in danger near every day, and would connect with the remnants of the army units, who would pass nearly every day, back and forth past Mlynov, who were called Drifters; he would approach them directly with the words [in Russian] Kerus Tovarishchi (Throw it friends) and he would show a crate of bullets. The comrades understood the hint and without negotiating would throw a crate or two with bullets and make the exchange. Not once was negotiation required, and he answered [in Russian] [word unidentified] spasibo, thank you very much.
Thus, we also had no lack of bullets. As a result, all the material required for defense was found in abundance: the will, people and equipment.
The format of guarding and inspection was conducted in the following way: the gathering place that had once been the corridor [Palush] of the synagogue moved completely outside, by the square. From there, the units would go out to Bathhouse Street, by the main road that goes to Lutsk, to the primary road that goes to Kruzhuk and Mervits. One unit went to the two bridges that go towards Keretz, one unit was along the road that goes to Ozliiv and last but not least, the road to Rivne; there a large unit gathered, and the place they were stationed was the home of Mr. Tzodik Shulman. It is possible that this came about because of…the daughters of Shulman, Sorke, Chaika, and Pepe; all of them live today in the United States.
Since this house was the last house, encircled by a large expanse of fields, which leads towards the villages of Slobada, Ozliiv and the main road that regularly was busy with movement 24 hours daily, and because there was suspicion that attacks and malicious events would arrive to the town from this direction therefore all the training was conducted by the Shulman home as if facing a battle front. There, every evening, they would defensively shoot tens of thousands of bullets. The noise of the shooting would reach all the farmers near and far, and it was accompanied by all different kinds of Russian war songs; this put great fear into the people of the villages, so they wouldn't dare try any type of hostile action towards the people of Mlynov.
Not much time passed and the reputation of the Mlynov defense was praised in the whole area, and the fear that arose spread and grew among all the villages in the area and all the various kinds of plunderers among them.
There were days that friends from the nearby villages would come to me, intending to spy, and ask, Every evening we hear reverberations of your defense with massive shooting at a distance, but where is your force and how big is it? During the day, in fact, we don't see anything, so where are they? What is their strength? And more …
I had one answer for all of them, We have great strength in people and equipment, and we lack nothing needed to keep away all those with malicious intent towards our town. In the day we rest and at night are alert to anything happening … I thought to myself of the [biblical story about] torches in tails [of foxes] that Sampson sent to the Philistine camp, which caused great fear and consternation in the camp of the enemy (Judges 15:4).
Organizing Defense in Demydivka
And he saw that it was good and that everything was organized for the benefit of the entire population, [at which point] I extended my influence to the neighboring town of Demydivka, which was a distance of 18 km [11 mi] from Mlynov. I traveled there to organize the youth, who also understood in that time of need that they needed to defend themselves by having weapons.
As an example, I showed them the defense in Mlynov and with the intention that they see and faithfully adopt the model. It was apparent that that I didn't need many words or persuasion and in the house of Gelikel Kolton (apparently here too the impetus [to gather here] was the beautiful daughters) the youth gathered, from the very best of Demydivka, among them Moshe Firer, Moshka Liter, Shemoah the teacher, and Issachar the idler, Eliyahu Kolton, and so on and so forth …They bought weapons and their reputation was also known in all the surrounding villages.
One fact from those days: one day at sunset, a special representative came on behalf of the Demydivka defense and announced that a murder had taken place. What had taken place was as follows: In Demydivka, there was one Jew named Moshe, who would go door to door to gentile homes, and he would lend some rubles on interest, on a small margin, and he lived his life in great poverty. One day he entered the home of a borrower in the village of Admuvka and requested his money, which then amounted to 3 rubles. The borrower asked him to the forest near the village, on the pretext that his money was hidden there and that he would repay the debt. Instead of the debt repayment, he swung an axe and killed him.
News spread quickly throughout the town, and the eyes of the Demydivka's residents turned to the young men of the defense, and they hoped to hear from them their opinion about how to respond to this act of murder. For this purpose they summoned us the men of Mlynov to caucus together about what to do about this incident.
The news reached Mlynov at 4 o'clock towards evening. Immediately, I ran to Shimon - Noah Moshe's [son] Schechman and I said to him, Bridle the horses to go to Demydivka; I related the whole matter to him. Since it was winter, we traveled in a winter wagon, and after an easy hour we were in Demydivka. In the homes and on the streets, they were speaking of the incident, and when they saw us, men of Mlynov who had come to help them, they were very happy and surprised we had gotten to them lightning fast. Immediately we organized a meeting and the following was decided: Since the praiseworthy reputation of the Mlynov defense had been established in the area, and the region knew that a defense had been established in Demydivka, it was imperative that we not delay in responding, because if we did, they would think that we were weak and this would harm us in the future. Therefore, it was incumbent on us to travel immediately to the village of Admuvkah and insist they hand the murderer over to us. Of course, there were also other opinions. There were those who thought that this step too hasty and that we should wait a few more days. But we held our ground. We included a number of members from the Demydivka defense and we headed out to the road.
When we headed to the road, most of the town was outside. They accompanied us with a sorrowful doubtful gaze: Who knows, they said, If they will return alive.
When we reached the village of Admuvkah, we entered straight away to the Soltice (the town head) and we said to him: Since in the area of your jurisdiction they killed a Jew from Demydivka, therefore, we, men of the Mlynov and Demydivka defense, come to you, not for war and quarrel, but with the modest request to hand the murderer over to us. After several answers and different excuses, which did not make sense, we said to him forcefully, Let it be understood, that the blood of Jews is not taken freely and we won't budge from here without receiving the murderer.
When he heard the forcefulness of our request, he told us, that he alone is not able to take full responsibility [for the decision], and therefore he requested more time from us until he would go consult with the village committee, but since we were afraid that the consultation outside the house would be hostile towards us, we therefore advised him to call the members of the committee to his house and in our presence we would sit together to consult jointly. He accepted the advice and went out to call the members of the committee. When he left the house, each one of us individually thought to himself, who knows what they are liable to do to us … after some time, the owner of the house appeared with a number of the town's committee, and we again began to reiterate our request to them directly. Of course, they also were not eager to fulfill our request, and we therefore realized that we needed to engage them with greater forcefulness, and we told them that we didn't intend at all to withdraw our demand and return from the town empty-handed, because by doing so, we would be strengthening the hands of the criminals and murderers, and on account of them innocent and hardworking people would suffer. We added, Let it be understood that we are just emissaries of the defense, and in fact your village is surrounded by members of the Mlynov and Demydivka defense, and we are not responsible for the harm they are likely to cause you; they are likely to burn your houses, cowsheds and barns and if so, why should peaceful folks thereby suffer on account of some irresponsible murderer?
When they heard these words, one stood up spontaneously and said [with a Polish curse], Let him get cholera, [translated to Hebrew]: (Let this crazy man go to hell [azazel]). Come and we will go to his house and hand him over to you, and you can do what is good in your eyes.
After several minutes we were at the house of the murderer, who made a very pitiful impression upon us, and he began to beg us: A demon attacked me and incited me to commit the crime.
We responded that we were neither judges nor interrogators. We will take you now to Demydivka; you will stay overnight with us, tomorrow we will send you to the county seat of Dubno, and there you will go before the court. Since in our eyes you murdered a person, we cannot bring you unrestrained, and we need to tie up your hands and feet. Without waiting, we took rope, we tied up his feet and hands, and put him in a wagon and hurried to Demydivka.
Logically, we assumed that all the people of Demydivka, men, women and children, would be waiting for our return in peace. And thus it was. When they saw that we had returned with a gentile (goy) in the wagon, they understood that this was the murderer, and they all broke out in joyous shouting. The joy was twofold: a) that we returned in one piece and had not been injured and b) that we succeeded in bringing the murderer. But something happened which pointed to the pessimistic and depressed spirit that prevailed among the Jewish population in every location without exception: When we wanted to bring the murderer with us into a house [in town] in order to recount the negotiations that had taken place with the town's committee which had delivered the murderer to us every single person was afraid to bring us into his house, lest his house and name would become known to the people of the village and they would harass him and his house.
And since Moskeh Firer, son of the shochet (kosher slaughterer) Rabbi Meir Firer, was active among our circles, and because in the small town the house of the kosher slaughterer and Rav was in the communal home (public house) therefore without asking and against his will we entered his house [namely], all the members with the murderer…
The house of Rabbi Meir the shochet filled in the blink of an eye until there was no room, and all the men of the town, including their children and infants, filled the plaza in front of the house, which was in the center of market. All of them shouted out together, Give us the murderer, and we'll give him what he deserves. But those inside the house, refused to send the great discovery outside, and, as a matter of fact, set upon the find [i.e., the murderer] with walking sticks, shovels and anything else at hand. Only then did a number of those present intervene with Rabbi Meir the shochet at the lead, and with tears actually in their eyes, they implored [everyone] to leave him alone, and that his blood not be spilt in Demydivka, because after [such a] deed, the residents of Admuvka will come and take vengeance against us. When they saw that their cries and requests were for naught, they covered the murderer with their own bodies, and created a barricade between the fired up young people and the murderer. I remember that Rabbi Meir the shochet turned to arguing that if we, the men from the Mlynov defense, finish the work, and return in peace to Mlynov, then the response of the Admuvkah residents and all the trouble bound up in this, would fall on the leaders of the Demydivka men, and especially on his house. The members continued the beating of murderer, but at the same time knew to keep him alive, in order to send him alive to the authorities in the county seat of Dubno. The night of guarding continued until day break, and then we brought him half dead to the authorities in Dubno.
Thanks to this activity, which made a great impression on all the residents of Mlynov and in particular on the members of the defense, the stock of the defense increased, and we were appreciated, not only by the Jews, but also by all the people in the area, and they obeyed and listened to everything that the defense said.
This operation doubly increased the energy, especially of the youth who were active in the defense, and its leaders, and they continued to guard the property and especially the lives of the Mlynov Jews.
The guarding continued perfectly organized on its own; without [the need for] ordering or mustering [anyone], each of the young people knew that at twilight his place was in the square outside the Church (tserkva). For purposes of strength, they also enlisted, so to speak, men for reserve duty who were more senior and had families, like: Israel Halperin, Nute Iskiewicz, several of the married yeshiva students from the Goldsekers, Meir Kwasgalter, and more. And after the arrangement in town, almost everything was restored to normal, namely, the shop owner opened his store with no fear or worry that he will be plundered, the tailor returned to his needle, the cobbler returned to his awl, and the merchants returned to villages, with all kinds of merchandise, and everything was being conducted properly. And by their knowing that the guard of Israel did not slumber or sleep, these married yeshiva students very gradually began to be tired after their day work and they began to lag in their guard duty participation as before…
The breach [in commitment] grew day to day until in the end the young people were affected and they began to whisper complaints among themselves why was it on them to guard every evening the possessions of Abraham Batya's [son], Yosef Halperin, Yaakov Holtzeker, and so on and so forth … then I asked myself how to restore the prior momentum, to evoke fear, as at the beginning, of the horse riders who would visit each and every night in our town to burglarize and plunder and such. Since turning back the wheel was just good advice, we therefore established a unit of men from the defense as an intimidation mechanism for the shirkers, those who allegedly were sleeping in their beds in the afternoon instead of participating in guard duty, and who thought that their work here and there was being done be done by others…
The Intimidation Unit
The creation of an intimidation unit, came about as follows: Oh well, [we would need] soldiers for the unit, instead of plundering horsemen from Smordva, we had own…….but horses where could you get them? The proverb says the cure comes before the injury [meaning, a solution appears before the problem presents itself].
And what occurred happened this way: Who doesn't remember one of the Mlynovers and folks from Mervits, Mr. Abisch Shapovnik, zl, the son in law of Mr. Yosel Shachna's [son] from Mervits and father of Levi Shapovnik, zl, who was tragically killed in the Shoah. Mr. Abisch was a classic beggar, in line with what's written [in Scripture], Without food for sustenance, without clothes to wear, naked and lacking everything. Everything by him was lacking, and for some reason he thought that if he bought a horse and a wagon these would serve as a means of livelihood for his family. But in the end, this added just another ravenous being (on four legs), which suffered sharp hunger with the rest of the family.
According to worldwide custom, a poor and hungry person visits homes to request bread to eat and clothes to wear and so on. Progress had produced great results [i.e, getting the horse], but before the four-legged creature needed to go begging to the houses of the two-legged creatures, the blond horse of Mr. Abisch found a big meadow for his sustenance: Since the farmers who would come to the town for trade would place their wagons with horses in all the empty lots of the town and there were many like this the farmer would bring them food in a feeding trough (Oflakis in a foreign language) they filled the food from all quality stuff befitting their [word uncertain] during their stay in town. When they left the town, remnants of the food were left in the middle of the streets, and this was more than enough to sustain the horse of Mr. Abisch.
And since the horse wandered most of its days in the open areas of Mlynov and sustained itself from abandoned property (hefker), we deduced a comparable rule, that the horse also was [by technical legal standards] abandoned (hefker) and belonged to the public, and we had permission to use it for our holy purpose…what did I do? Under the cover of night, I mounted the horse with khaki clothes, as was custom then (all the people wore military khaki clothing at the time).
Surrounding me walked ten members of the defense Unit One, trained well to imitate the neighing of horses. About 50 meters from us defense Unit Two was ready; their role, if the need arose, was to draw near to the weak spot, to drive out Unit One and grab its place.
And here [is how it was carried out]: I was at the head of Unit One, riding our horse, [and] and would draw near to the window of some average person, and begin to knock on his window and request that he come out to show me the way to Lutsk, exactly the way of the real attackers before the defense had been established. The [chosen] person, who was scared and terrified, came to the window to explain to me the way to Lutsk, because he was afraid to come outside, and in the meantime, I would hear him standing [on the other side of the wall] opposite me commanding his wife [in Yiddish], Khaye, quickly take the money, and throw it into the oven… And while he was afraid and trembling, the unit of two-legged horses entered, and began to kick their feet and neigh like horses, and some of them would imitate the voices of calvary, like Sty, Sty! (Stand Still) thus, the typical person wondered to himself how many riders would attack him.
During the back and forth between me and that person and the noise of horses, Unit Two would begin to charge with whistles and Russian songs. All of this with loud voices, and then the head of the first unit would say in Russian: Comrades, the men of the defense are drawing near, let us flee! When the typical person saw with his own eyes that the riders were fleeing from fear of the defense, he would run outside half-naked and in great joy thank the group for saving him from the attack of the marauders.
And during the following morning, when he was come to the study hall, his story was on the lips of everyone, and all of them were unanimous in saying that it was forbidden to shirk guard duty and would go to join the activity with the young people. Thus after a number of such operations like this during several nights, one evening in this street, and the following in another street the sloppy participation reverted to the way it used to be and there were no further incidents of refusal.
From all the fuss mentioned earlier with fictitious riders and horses, which in the beginning was created as a means of deterrence against the waning interest in defense activities, became over time a means of amusement, good and joyous entertainment with diverse, unusual episodes. And here are a few of them:
Clearly, the young defenders were only human, and the guard duty, which began from 56 in the evening until five in the morning was a heavy burdenthey therefore needed to seek out different forms of entertainment. And he saw that it was good the people [of defense] began requesting from time to time to continue the bogus attacks and the sacrificial victim was [selected] by majority choice. Of course, the lot fell to families that had beautiful daughters.
The home of Mr. Hirsch Holtzeker, which was in the middle of Shkolna street, was a house that stood out from the other houses on the street, with a fence and large yard, with fruit and fruitless trees; it was similar in fact to the house of a Polish nobleman, and fate decreed that in this house there were beautiful daughters, beautiful in appearance and full bodied, a true delight to the eyes, and whoever saw them was reminded of one of the dreams of Joseph in Egypt…and it was not surprising, therefore, that one evening the lot fell on the house of Mr. Hirsch Holtzeker with the beautiful daughters.
I remember the very night we advanced to the yard of Mr. Hirsch [Holtzeker] with a loud racket on horses with their riders. I stood opposite his window and I demanded that they show me the way to Lutsk…Since Mr. Hirsch was already old, and the daughters, as noted, were too beautiful to reveal themselves when showing the soldiers the road to Lutzk, that responsibility fell on the son Yantil to represent the family. (His name was Yankel and not Yantil, but because he could not pronounce a k nor g we also were not obligated to). And while this Yantil stood opposite us, without opening the door to come outside and show us the road to Lutsk, he gestured with his hands and with a variety of different expressions the direction to Lutzk, and then I heard Menucha, one of the daughters, say, Oy va-voy, what will I do if, God forbid, if they enter the house? And her sister Gitel answered her [in Yiddish]: Be mute [then translated in Hebrew]: (Be silent), They will recognize the voice of a woman and then we are lost… As usual, the back and forth continued about ten minutes and finished when, as usual, the members of the defense arrived and drove us away and the gag broke up with wails of laughter from each member…
The following day, when this Yantil bumped into me, he said to me, Shmuel, I am certain that you spoke to me last night, but one thing I don't understand, where did you get so many horses? … Participating in this conversation was also Eta, the daughter of Shimon Holtzeker, who had returned from Kursk, and who was lodging with her uncle Mr. Hirsch [Holtzeker], and she continued with a pat on the shoulder: [in Yiddish], May you be stricken with apoplexy, Shmulik, then [continuing in Hebrew]: Out of fear, my uncle soiled his pants. And then after her, Yantil let slip: [in Yiddish], Yes, yes, father shit his pants… [then in Hebrew] I don't envy you if he knows that it was you.
And thus the group continued with this fun entertainment for a long time. And so that they [the town's people] wouldn't become suspicious that there was favoritism for anyone, or a vengeful side of anyone, we also didn't skip the houses of R. Yosel Maizlish and of R. Aharon Kubal.
This last person was the only one who recognized us, and courageously yelled to us from the house: [In Yiddish], Shmuelik, are you leaving? If not, I am coming out with a pole to crack open your head [then translated to Hebrew:] (Shmuelik, go away, otherwise I'll come outside with a 2x4 and split your head). Needless to say, we didn't keep negotiating with him and we left.
Military Maneuvers and Exercises
No less interesting were the maneuvers, that we organized nearly twice a week. As noted, our central meeting place was in the Church (tserkva) square; we chose this place for two reasons:
And neither [company] drew close to each other all night [alluding to Exodus 14.20]. I thought of that legend (midrash) when standing each night with our bonfire opposite our uninvited guests in front of their own bonfire. I don't recall one incident from all the nights of guarding, when one of us drew near to them for any conversation, or vice versa that one of them drew near us for any purpose, even though the space between us was negligible. The impression was, that on one side was a force that intended to plunder, rob, and so forth, and on the other side stood a resisting force, and it is very possible that this force of ours was the reason they didn't contend with us.
If some of these Drifters got up after eating from the bonfire and took leave from the rest of the members, the members of the defense began to follow them immediately, out of suspicion that their intention was to separately carry out some scheme.
For important and essential operations, there were different military exercises and training. Among them: marching, standing correctly, and others. The activity was conducted under the supervision of Mr. Nuta Iskiewicz, zl, since he was a Russian military man and perhaps also successful, even though his age and family situation was different completely from our situation, that of younger men. It is worthwhile pointing out that he dedicated himself completely into this work with all his energy and devotion. He was like one of the young men, and perhaps even more so.
Whoever saw or heard Nuta Iskiewicz, marching in front of the unit, marching correctly, a whistle in his mouth, was seeing, not volunteers or men [called up from] reserve, but a real, regular military…I don't recall even a single evening from all the days of guarding when Nuta Iskiewicz was absent, even though he was very busy day to day in his shop of glass items. Mr. Nuta conducted activities in the evenings that were [planned] for improvement, not less than twice a week. And in evenings that were not [planned] for improvement, namely when the Drifters, the uninvited guests, suddenly stayed the night, about whom we got intelligence in advance from our friends, namely, men of the towns around us then [on those nights] his operation was full of much needed momentum.
One morning, female farmers from nearby villages appeared to buy what they needed from the Jewish shops, and they leaked information, including terrible news: some town was plundered, another a murder, and they warned us that now it was our turn, so to speak; as a reward for the good news, they requested different discounts on their purchases and the like.
Even though we didn't regard this news as completely trustworthy, because we knew that some of the information were intended to scare people of the town, nonetheless, some of the news we necessarily took seriously. In preparation Mr. Nuta Iskiewicz implemented an additional routine activity, a special activity which was like a spectacular display.
And his usual method in special operations went like this: In the central place (in the square of the Church [tserkva]), he would station a unit of 1520 men, and he would take one unit to be a formation in the road that goes Dorashti to Mlynov, and the second unit he stationed by the municipality and thus similar to an aerial formation, they formed one line, and via signals with different whistles which were prearranged, the two units would begin to march at the same time, and with Russian marching songs, such as The girls are in the forest and we follow them and such. The sound of the marching, whistles, and singing made an impression like hundreds of trained marching soldiers. The two units would unite into one large unit by the synagogue and [by the house of] R. Chaim Berger, and they would march together to the house of Beynish Schwartz, and then return in the direction from which they came. The intention was to confuse the guests and make an impression and the critical thing was that they would not see our miniscule numbers. This maneuver was very successful, making the required impression and would be repeated all night long.
Another maneuver which we initiated nearly every evening, and was no less important than the first [was as follows]: since we definitely knew that 90% of our friends didn't know how to use a rifle, and the men on reserve duty were almost afraid to hold a rifle in their hands, so much so that the wives of these men would warn their husbands when they left for guard duty: Yukal, for God's sake, be careful with the rifle. therefore, out of caution, we would go out each and every evening, in separate units of about 20 men, to the field by the road towards Uzhynets' and Sloboda, by the house of Mr. Tsadik Shulman, and train there in the handling of rifles, shooting practice and the like. This activity was also accompanied by song, and the noise of the shooting and song made an impression on the people of the villages mentioned above and they thought that in Mlynov who knows how many soldiers and defenders are there.
The location of training mentioned above was chosen for several reasons: 1) the field opened toward the surrounding villages. 2) [we could visit] in the meantime with the beautiful daughters of Shulman: Sarah-keh, Chiya-keh and Pepe, who live in America to this day. 3) The house of R. Tsadok and Pearl Shulman was the only house in Mlynov, that was beloved by all the Mlynover youth, thanks to their support for youth engaged in cultural activities and such. Therefore, it was unanimously agreed that the maneuvers should be done close to their house, in order to bring the girls out of their isolation, since this house was the last at the end of the town. Each evening, the shooting practice would begin at 8 and ended at midnight no trivial thing on behalf of those who lived in the house. And thus because of three things: defense, the [location of] Shulman's house, and Shulman's daughters, some men from Dubno, who also feared for the Jews of Mlynov, would visit us in Shulman's house, at night no less, for a meeting, tactical instruction, and the main purpose was the encouragement of our men.
Among the men of Dubno, I remember, there was a Georgian, who was not Jewish, who remained in Dubno, a leftover remnant of the Drifters, with the goal to help in the defense of lives and property of the Jewish population, and it was he, among others, who gave us instruction as follows: 1) don't be the first ones to initiate a battle with men of the regular military, 2) avoid meeting face to face in war. His reasoning was that we are not able to withstand this, and we will always be the underdog. He taught [us] to scatter in the streets nearby, behind every fence and house, and from there rain fire without stopping.
But don't act that way, he said to us, in the event of an attack by the antisemites from the villages. With them, he said to us, conduct the battle face to face, because they will not hold a position, because their fear is great and after some shots from our side they will flee for their lives.
It is worthwhile pointing out, that this Georgian friend was very sweet, very handsome, beloved and cherished, by all and in particular the Jewish girls.
May his memory be blessed wherever he is. With him a young man from Dubno visited us by the name of Vilner. He was one of the beloved actors from the Dubno theatre, who lives now in one of the cities in the United States.
The trainings under the direction of Mr. Nuta Iskiewicz, the visits to the house of Shulman and the firing practice across from the villages of Sloboda and Uzhynets' to the east of the town all these were like an occupation and entertainment for the young and the long night passed by pleasantly. All that is related above truly became a routine obligation, and no one thought to avoid participating in guarding even one night.
Guarding was 99% concentrated at night, but also small incidents, of less significance, occurred by the light of day. I the writer of these lines I was a witness to what was happening in town during all the hours of the day. My partner and companion was Moshe Gitelman who was called Moshe Ruchel Feivish's [son]; I mentioned him above as the purchaser and supplier of bullets. And it happened, one day, when we were strolling about the streets, we saw from a distance that a man, in a uniform which we didn't recognize, was coming closer, clearly with a rifle in his hand, and at first glance the very beautiful boots [of Moshe] caught his attention, leather chamois, the work of the hands of the shoemaker Shlomo Kreimer. (It is worth pointing out that he was as his name implies: His family name was Kreimer and he in fact had crooked legs, in Yiddish Krimer). The soldier mentioned above turned without hesitation and barked an order to Moshe: Take off your boots, comrade!
Since the two of us were not frightened children, I said to him, You will get the boots, but not in the middle of the street. Let's go into one of the nearby houses, he will remove [them] and you can put [them] on, and everything will be settled, and he can go in peace. We entered by chance into the house of the shoemaker, Shlomo Kreimer, and the man was close on our heals. As expected, the owner of the shoemaking workshop did not receive us with great joy, from fear perhaps something else from his handiwork will appeal to the unknown soldier… but in those days and in that situation at that time one did not refuse. Moshe sat on the shoemaker's bench, took off a boot, and I, as mediator, suggested to the uninvited comrade to put on and wear the boot, [to see] if it was his size.
The fine boot of Moshe fit the foot of the soldier, as they say in Yiddish on the tip of the nose. He made an effort to put his foot in the boot, but it wouldn't happen. I said to him, Friend, take off the boot please, since it doesn't fit your foot. He obviously didn't want to give up the windfall, but in the end, when he wanted to relinquish the boot, this also wasn't possible. The effort to remove his foot from the boot was accompanied by known, spicy Russian blessings [i.e., curses].
When I offered my help, to extricate him from the situation, he rejected my help and said, No, No, let him give me the second boot and I will manage…
When I heard his refusal of my help, I seized the opportunity, with him in an uncomfortable situation and unable to pursue anyone, and turned to Moshe and said, Take the opportunity and flee with one boot! Moshe didn't hesitate. He opened the door and he fled …when the soldier saw what happened he began to shout, The son of a bitch, where did he flee?
I said to him, I am not responsible for him, chase him if you are able… In the end, with great difficulty he got the boot off, and with a curse peppered with sons of bitches he left the house in disgrace and went on his way.
And here is the second [incident] also involving boots. In those days the most elegant clothing of the young people was French. Etched pants and shiny boots. I also desired boots like these. While the color of most boots was black, I was very lucky to have brown boots the color by which all the military officers adorned themselves. I had a big daily argument at home with my father, zl, when I put on the boots, You'll see what those boots are going to cause you… I obviously paid no heed to his words. Each and every day I would put on those aforementioned boots.
Thus one day, when I saw in the street there was some movement of mounted soldiers, I went outside out of curiosity to see what was happening. And while standing innocently by the fence of our house, three of the military riders drew near and turned to me with advice: Friend, remove your shoes. Having learned from experience I told them that they should accompany me to my home, and I would willingly give them the boots. Since they didn't know that I was standing beside my house, I took the opportunity and told them to follow me a bigger distance. After a number of steps, I got the idea to bring them to the smithy of Aharon the blacksmith (Koval), for two reasons: 1) he was a courageous man, 2) he was my uncle, and 3) it was a workshop. When I drew close to the smithy, I went in, took off my jacket, and approached the bellows they used to stoke the coals, and began to work, as if I was one of the workers there. Aharon Koval immediately understood the situation and did not say a thing, but simply waited to see what would happen.
At that moment, the soldiers stopped in the gate of the smithy on their horses and yelled to me: Friend, take off your boots.
I replied, Friends, I am the blacksmith's apprentice and only with great effort do I earn enough for clothing; and you are going to take my boots?
My words, apparently, made little impression on them, and one of them got down from his horse and approached the place where I was and said to me, Show me your hands! When he saw that my hands were those of a gemara boy, he called out jokingly to his friends, Look, comrades, at the hands of a blacksmith, and showed them my clean, white, hands.
I said to them, Friends, the period of the Tzarist regime has passed when all workers are dressed in dirty torn rags, with blackened faces and hands, etc. Now we wash well, dress well before we go outside and we look like everyone else.
Then the third [soldier] said: Come let's leave him, and they left…
The Sixers Are Coming!
The men of defense in Mlynov at that time were gaining more and more self-confidence; they neither feared nor were impressed by the rumors that were spread by the antisemitic farmers from the villages in the area. We knew and were confident [that] in the event of an attack upon us by independent forces, that we would prevail. The main preparation was for the unexpected, for we didn't know when and from where the surprise would come from the Drifters who were moving about here and there, from place to place.
The main fear was from the men of the Sixth Division that they called the Sixers. And if a Jewish shop owner, for example, did not agree to the price for herring, a kilogram of salt, etc. immediately the threat would come from the buyer, who was a farmer: Just you wait, soon time will come when the Sixers will fall upon you and do to you what they did to the other towns nearby. This is how it was in the convenience shops, textiles stores, haberdashery, etc. This refrain was repeated day in and day out. Of course, this influenced the members of the defense to be motivated and prepared.
Then we received word that finally the Sixers would come to us to spend the night. Since the place designated to spend the night and for dinner was opposite the Church (tserkva), we expanded the guarding that same day while it was still daylight; we organized a large bonfire, and around it was a large segment of the defense members, singing different songs that inspired cheerfulness and raised the spirit; that was on one side. On the second side, marching under the direction of Nute Iskiewicz, which included Bathhouse Street and Kruzhuk Street, they too were singing different songs, and on the third side trained shooters by the house of Shulman. All this together made an impression like you were in a battlefield. At night, clearly, the impression was very striking. Our Sixers indeed came for an overnight stay during the expected evening, as was their custom in every little town. But their situation was different than in other small towns. They were impressed by all of the commotion mentioned above, and they didn't leave their spot all night. Obviously, we followed them with great alertness, their numbers I don't remember, but they were armed properly, and there wasn't an incident in which one of them left the group for a stroll at night about the town. Towards morning, when they got up and began to gather their belongings to leave the town we breathed easier and knew that the fear was behind us. It is worth mentioning, that the news of the Sixers overnight stay flew throughout the town, and all the Jewish inhabitants were at the ready in their homes all night long. During the first quorum (minyan), for praying at dawn in the synagogue, the first conversation of the worshippers was about the overnight stay of the Sixers in town, which passed without any loss of life or property.
The overnight stay of the Sixers, which passed peacefully, did not satiate the palate of the antisemites in the area, who had hoped in vain for something happy. After a number of weeks of rest after the threat of the Sixers, farmers from the area came with a threat and another story. Rumors spread that a unit of soldiers was going to attack us one night soon, and the attack would be sudden. They even indicated from which road they would come. They said the marauders were going to come from the side of the main road of the cemetery, in other words, from the east side of the town. Obviously, not all the guarding was directed to that side, but instead towards all the roads leading to Mlynov, but preparation and special attention was nonetheless directed towards the eastern side.
Whenever preparing for special incidents, including this one, we adjusted the method of meeting and preparations. For this incident, we decided to meet those [soldiers] who were not familiar to us, not as defenders against an army, but as army against army. But how could we do this? We knew that the top of certain kinds of trees falls regularly year to year, and decomposes on the ground, and at night gives off a light like phosphorous. Therefore, we sent several of the defense members to the forest of Uzhynets' and they brought back the material that sparkles at night, and it occurred to me, that we could give the material to the women of the town, who could make all kinds of military symbols, like stars, honorary ribbons, and more, and we could attach them to the shoulders and chest, and suddenly, overnight, we would be transformed into a regular service of military men (only at night …). This [wearing of badges] was also included in the different entertainment activities and the group didn't want to remove them even for a regular night during the week. It is worth pointing out that all the different kinds of ribbons, and badges of distinction, were apparently made with such discernment that it was not possible to tell the difference between them and the honorific badges received by the regular military.
Indeed, as noted, the work on stars and ranks was done by the girls of the town, but the oversight was done by Moshe Grenspun zl, from Parmilovka, who, by the way, encountered his tragic death in Russia. If I am not mistaken, also Ahron Berger (now Harari) who is living in Kibbutz Merhvaia, was a great help in the work mentioned above.
The preparations continued for the encounter with the unknown [soldiers] who, according to the reports of the farmers in the area whose words we didn't fully trust, were supposed to come via the forest of Uzhynets'. And of course, every evening we paid special attention to that side. And I remember that one Sabbath eve when the company was in high spirits, we saw from the main Rivne road that the riding soldiers had turned off onto the dirt road that came towards town. We had no doubt that finally these were those unknown ones who were heading towards us to execute their scheme. The only question among us was whether they were the scouts ahead of the arriving camp, or the perpetrators themselves; from the distance we noticed only a small number of riders.
I don't know who gave the order but, as in all the incidents, the order arose spontaneously. We organized in rows one behind the other, with rifles on shoulders, the officers with whistles in their mouths, and the rows began to move towards them. The space between them and us grew closer from moment to moment. And when we advanced in the direction of the main road to Rovno, they advanced in direction of the town.
Suddenly we saw that they had stopped in the square that was in front of Dikan (the priest's assistant) which was northeast of the church (tserkva). At that exact moment the order was given to the column of defense to halt. It is worth pointing out that the column moved at the pace of Russian soldiers, organized in Russian military formation, One, two, three! Immediately, they took their rifles down from their shoulders and the formation stood at ease, and the area that separated us was about 50 meters, a very small and limited space. But the situation was already impossible to change, and we were primed for what would go down. Given the closeness, we could hear their words [and] one asked another, Which army is this? The question arose, apparently, from the impression made by the organized marching and clothing with the honorary emblems. The answer came immediately, the Devil knows them. And immediately followed the suggestion, You know what, comrades, come let's turn back. And immediately they arranged themselves and returned the way they came. We followed behind them in their footsteps, of course at a good distance, and when they got to the main road that goes to Rovno, we reached the house of the beautiful daughters of the Shulman house. The girls saw what was happening through their windows and they welcomed us joyfully, which was customary almost every night.
After this evening and the prior evenings involving the Sixers, including the frequent meetings with the Drifters if, after all this, no disaster occurred, it was a sign that all the terrible things that were likely to happen in our town were behind us and we felt a kind of respite. Thus, almost all the members of the defense returned to their work and daily lives, whether assisting in a shop, with trade, or in labor. Obviously, we didn't neglect the defense, and we nourished it almost every evening as a valuable asset. It is noteworthy that the defense united and drew the youth close together, something that didn't exist in Mlynov before its establishment.
Since there was no industry or even small workshops in Mlynov, everyone was dedicated to trade and commerce blossomed then, and since this was in essence a time of war, the essential necessities, like salt, kerosene, and more, were not to be found, except in the underground. But the profit in the commodities just mentioned was great, and provided the temptation to engage in this trade, which in my opinion was not an appropriate thing to do. For example: the farmer from the village would need to pay a large portion of his wheat or barley for one kilogram of salt or a bottle of kerosene and so on.
Not infrequently we heard resentment about these unreasonable exchanges, and I am sure that this bitterness continued to leave its mark in the days following the war.
As noted, the core commerce was in salt and kerosene, work that was easy with a very large profit. But I admit without shame: that in order that others not view me as an unsuccessful man, [who was] negligent and so on, which was not a great advantage for [a good] matchmaking, to support a family, etc., I also engaged in this trade…My area for this commerce was in the west [of town] until Berestechko, and east to Mizoch, even though the roads were dangerous due to the Drifters, since, on the one hand, all the roads were in their control, and on the other hand, since the farmers were angered about the large profiteering in essential goods. They would attack on the roads and knew, that if a Jew passed by one of two things were the case: that his pockets were full of money so he could buy goods or because he had sold goods and this would induce attacks of robbery. Their slogan was: Stick 'em up. And for refusing to obey, not a few paid with their lives. They would attack their victims in two [types of] places: in a dusty place during the summer and a muddy place in the winter, or on a slope up a hill, two places in which it is not possible to flee or travel quickly. There were those among the Jewish youth who, in the places previously mentioned, were accustomed to [proactively] confront the evil and scare the robbers with gun shots. This possibility was presented to nearly all the youth, since almost all of them were members of the defense and went nowhere without their rifle.
The flourishing commerce, the meetings with friends, and occasionally parties with a drink of alcohol, did not weaken the devotion to guarding of life and property in our town. On every trip, near or far, towards evening an invisible force pulled you home to happily take part. And just as a religious Jew would hurry during the late afternoon leading up to the Sabbath to reach his town before the Sabbath began, so the defense members would hurry and be punctilious to arrive home, in order to be present at the appointed time, and not be late even by a little.
In those days, without a newspaper or news by telegraph, the population was nourished by word of mouth, in other words, news from the synagogue shared behind the warm stove and more …and it is worth pointing out that though most of the news was from nonofficial places, most turned out to be true.
Among the previously mentioned news was a whisper that the Germans had made an agreement with the Ukrainians, that they would gain independence under a German Protectorate and somewhere they had already established a government called Hetman, at whose head was a fellow by the name of Skoropadsky. But in exchange for the deal mentioned previously, Ukraine was obliged to help the invading German army with men, with equipment and most importantly with food, which was so depleted in Germany, after the military defeat.
Jews in the area greeted these rumors with great joy, since they had faith that the Germans would destroy all the local gangs, drive out the remnants of the Russian army, that had caused the Jewish population grief and fear of the future.
The rumors about the establishment of a new reign, a Messianic kingdom as it were, that to the Ukrainian Jews would resemble a German protectorate, passed from mouth to mouth, from person to person, from town to town; and what accounts for all of them expecting the coming of the Righteous Redeemer? There was no doubt that the matter would surely come to pass. The only question was the timing, in other words, when? Following the suffering of the Ukrainian Jews, the constant fear without end, the Jewish population wanted to receive and live under any government, as long as, obviously, change would come to the unruly situation that had previously victimized the Jews, and they adopted the Ukrainian idiom, It could be worse, but it will be different. These rumors, indeed, to a great extent unburdened, psychologically speaking, the general population and in particular, the members of the defense, but the defense regiment, guarding etc. continued as before and the young people had commerce and work in one hand, and in the other hand the rifle.
Attention then turned towards what was going on in Ludmir, Kovel and Lutsk etc, since we knew, according to our reckoning, that the conquerors would come from there. There was general interesthow the Germans would execute the invasion of Ukraine. Would there be resistance from the crumbling Russian military, [what would be] the reaction of the local population and especially the Jewish [population], and the opposite the behavior and relationship of the invaders to the population in general and Jews in particular. Not much time passed when we heard that the Germans were advancing towards us in giant strides.
Then on a clear day we learned that the Germans were already in Kovel, and on the following day, we heard that they were already in Lutsk, and since we already knew that that area didn't have any regular or non-regular Russian military, we estimated that in another day or two, they would be in Mlynov.
During that time, exactly in fact the day the changing of the guards occurred, I was spending the day outside of Mlynov. During the evening when I returned to town, I found in the courtyard opposite the Church (tserkva), where we had invested so much planning and energy, a large number of German canons. I went into my house, so they could see that I had returned safely home and then I ran straight to the synagogue, the place of the slipper post [i.e., word of mouth news], in order to know how the guards had changed and what tomorrow would bring?
In the entrance to the corridor known as Palush, the place where initially the possessions of the defense had been kept, exactly in that place, a German officer came towards me, accompanied by Pochbar Prystufa (the Ukrainian who became notorious in the days of Hitler. They told me about him, that in the period when they put up barbed wire around the ghetto of Mlynov, he was the one who checked and found that the space between the wires was too large, and that it was possible to find a way for food to enter, God forbid, to those living in the ghetto), he pointed towards me, [indicating] that this is the very same man who heads the defense in town.
There on the spot the commander asked me if I was that man who led the defense. After my affirmative answer he asked me if we had weapons, how many and what type? I answered him, that I didn't know the precise number but apart from the rifles we didn't have any other weapons and I added, Since the goal of the defense members was purely to guard the lives of the town's population, we did not need weapons apart from the rifles.
Then he said to me, Tell the Jews, that they should bring all their weapons to the Commander, so I don't need to send my men to gather the weapons, otherwise matters will be far worse…
After this instruction they brought me to the apartment of Moshe Aharon, the sexton, which was part of the synagogue, and I found young Ukrainians inside who were being guarded by German sentries. No one knew the intent of imprisonment. I was extremely angry since I was the only young man, from the youth of the town, among the non-Jewish boys (shegetzim). After several hours, about 8 in the evening, I turned to the head of the sentries and explained to him, Since I was on the road traveling, I didn't eat all day, and I am thirsty and hungry; I beg you to accompany me to my house, so I can prepare dinner. He asked his supervisor and with his agreement went with me to my home; I ate and drank and returned to the place of imprisonment.
The development of these events was very difficult for me. It was clear that all of us were imprisoned I being the only Jew from Mlynov in order to help the Germans, according to an agreement the Germans had with the Ukrainians. We were brought to Lutsk and after many adventures after many days of wandering, I had a chance to escape from this entire situation. I returned with the help of my father to Mlynov and from there they transferred me, for the sake of additional security to the town of Mizoch, where I stayed with my relative.
And in summary, the agreement between the Germans and Ukrainian to give independence to the Ukrainian plunderers, and the ban by the German governing bodies on weapons that were in the hands of the defense members, determined the fate of the defense, and thereby ended the magnificent matter of defense in Mlynov.
And if your child asks you in the future what was the strength of the defense in Mlynov, which succeeded in all its operations and which retained its position for an extended period? I don't have a specific answer. One thing is worth mentioning: the most important factor was the unanimity, indeed the will, the great discipline without supervision and without arrogance, without authority or commanding officers, neither big nor small. It seems to me, that this was the biggest success of all. I don't remember even one tiny, small incident in which a member of the defense refused to fulfill his role or obligation and so forth. At the beginning of this essay, we mentioned that those opposed to defense were principally among those who sat in the study hall (beit midrash). Their claim was: since the remains of Rabbi Aharon from Karlin, the Admor, is in the ground of Mlynov his merit will protect us from all evil, and there is no need at all for defense, rifles and the like …Those who believe will believe, for the fact is that during this entire period, there was not a small town that did not taste of plunder, rape or murder, but only in Mlynov nothing bad happened through the merit of the Admor, let [one who believes that] live by his faith …But it must be added that the principal cause nevertheless was the defense.
Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein
A multitude of doves making love to lovers (ahavim)
Among the branches of the oak in the thickness of the forest (hayar)
There we sat also slaked our lovers' thirst (dodim)
On the trunk of a tree, we carved our names with a blade (be-taar).
While still day the trees there are animated
How my dove is making noise and rebellious
Dr. Solomon Mandelkern
by Helen Lederer, United States
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah Bereliner Fischthal, PhD
Commissioned and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
It was during the time of the first World War. A cold winter day, a burning frost, a deep snow. The Germans are getting closer to our town Mlynov. All of us are taken out of our homes. The soldiers intrude into the synagogue sanctuary and pack us inside, like sardines. We are lying in great anxietynot knowing what to expect. 2:00 a.m. An angry wind howls, like devils dancing. A banging is heard. Soldiers are standing with guns. They order everybody to go out into the street.
The soldiers have brought wagons, which are standing there: Pack what you can on the wagons, and youwalk. The horses can barely drag themselves in the deep snow. Women and children shlep after the wagons on the way to Varkevetsh. Everybody's hands are busy grabbing provisions for the children to eat. My mother, Gitl (Pesye Khoylye's daughter), has four small, crying children shlepping along with her. Also my Aunt Soreke (Pesye Khoylye's daughter) is going, carrying something in both hands, with her little girl Dvoyrele. After having walked a few versts, Soreke looked around the child is not there!... She screamed; there was a commotion; Soreke ran back. The soldiers with their rifles drove on and said that the Austrians use searchlights on us; they will see her walking, and they will shoot. Soreke crept back and found Dvoyrele in the snow, passed out!
It is day. We get to Varkevetsh. We come to our relative Nakhman Leyb. There is not even room for a pin. There is my grandfather, Leybush Gershon's; both his daughters Chana-Gitl and Chaye; and other refugeesthere is no place for us. And there is no place to go to. Frozen, tired. . . at last we see a cover over the cellar-- the only empty spot. We put a feather bed on it, and we lay down, exhausted.
The next day we were on the way to Oziran. Until we managed to get there is another chapter.
In Oziran we learned that we had to walk from there to Rovne. With great effort and suffering, a few people with us made it to Rovne. However, not a single house in Rovne had room for more people; all the houses were filled up with unlucky refugees.
So we stood, my mother with the children[aunt] Soreke, her little girl, and Basye-Chaye (Malke's daughter), a pregnant woman during her time who was pitifully shivering from the cold.
It is said: a gentile makes the exile longer . . . Imagine that near us stands a coachman and speaks Yiddish the same as we do. A lover of Jews. He even gives money to the rabbi, to help the poor. . . And this angel in a human image takes all of us under his protection. Namely, he took us to his home through an underground doorso that his antisemitic wife would not see us. Over there we stretched out our tired bones.
Coming out into the street, we learned about the Joint Help Committee from America; they gave out packages of food to every refugee. So my mother stood in line and, thank God, we now had what to eat.
Basye-Chaye (Malke's daughter) suffered labor pains, and after much anguish she gave birth to a child in the cellar. The coachman kept us four months and provided for us. His name will always be on my lips.
In the summer the Austrians left, and most of us from Mlynov returned home. I remained with a cousin, Gitel Sotiver; I studied from the same teacher as her children. When my mother wanted to have me near her in Mlynov, I returned home.
We went through much fright and suffering until we made it to America. Thank God that this all happened in my young years, and I was able to overcome it. May the future generations know of better times with peace spread over the entire world. Amen.
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