by Sonia and Mendel Teitelman
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
Jewish families in our shtetls and the surrounding villages generally felt satisfied.
However, we remember very few people of whom we could say that they were truly happy with their lives. The very small number of Jews who were surviving without strenuous physical and emotional exertions cannot be compared to the happy Christian population.
For example, in the Mlynov area, there were quite a few so-called princes, counts, and similar aristocrats. That was a class of people who played a very prominent part in our neighborhoods of Mlynov, Smordva, Ostrozhets, and many other places whose names we barely remember.
|Fradl, [one of the] typical characters in Mlynov
From the photos of A. Harari
Every one of us knows and still remembers how these people lived until 1939, in their beautiful palaces, with beautiful gardens surrounding them, with all the comforts that could be found, with servants, and with steady farmhands to handle the animals, the fields, and the forests. A number of Jews derived their livelihoods from the prince with his estate by handling production, and by buying and selling. It was not unusual for a Jew to be despised and humiliated in order to eke out his little livelihood. It was similar with various leases of the aristocrat's properties, like rivers, mills, and also with leases to catch fish, chop wood, and many other things that had a connection to business.
Income from Noble Estates
Count Chodkiewicz of Mlynov, until the beginning of the twentieth century, owned a large water mill together with the Ikva River. The mill was always leased. Jews had leased it for many years until it burned down in the first years of the century. People talked for a long time about the beautiful, large mill which, by the way, had generously supplied an income for several Jewish families.
A locksmith's shop, which had several hundred workers, was also on the Mlynov estate in those years; I don't remember any Jews working there. We used to say that on the one hand, they provide jobs for the Jewish population, and on the other hand, they would very often perpetrate damages and get drunk. A drunk Christian, in general, hit Jews. But what does a Jew not tolerate in order to earn some money? So, they accepted everything with love. Also, there was a Smoking Room at the Count of Mlynov's estate. I do not remember if Jews had an income directly from the Smoking room or not, but anyway it counted as a part of the local large industry.
In Tsarist times, the whiskey factory was a monopoly; the entire fortune and the raw materials belonged to the Count.
However, production was strictly measured by the Tsarist government, and a tax collector had control over every drop manufactured. Right after it was produced, it would be transported to the distillery center somewhere far from Mlynov, and from there poured into bottles. It was sold retail in the so-called Hurt [group] monopolies. A monopoly owner could only have been a Christian, not a Jew. A royal whiskey monopoly was in Mervits, also owned by Christians. A few Jews also kept liquor secretly and sold it in smaller quantities, such as in quarter-bottles and in glasses, and they received their income from that. I remember such a barkeeper in Mervits, Menditshekhe. In addition to selling quarter bottles to Christians, which was naturally not enough for her to live even in poverty, she had another supplemental income: teaching girls how to pray, how to read the Shma prayer, how to make the blessings. That was the highest education that a girl was permitted and could get in Mervits at that time. Even in the last years, teachers started to sprout. We can imagine the standards, but that was in the very last years, before the First World War in 1914. Usually there were individual exceptions to the rule, which was how our people grew up.
A good farm was located on a part of the Mlynov estate in Mervits. The field was hundreds of hectares large. There was also living inventory and an ox field; that was for oxen raised specially for meat, nourished with the malt grains from the distillery. The malt grains were stored in large barrels, especially for this purpose. Then it was taken from the distillery in Ozliiv, through Mervits, to the Mervits estate. The oxen were harnessed two in the front and two in the back, and in the great mud of the unpaved road, the strong oxen would shlep masses with difficulty, and bring them to the farm.
Another livelihood provided by the Mervits estate was the leasing of a dairy farm. My wife Sonia's grandfather, Mordkhe Matis [Gruber], may he rest in peace, had maintained one.
|From the photos of A. Harari|
Afterwards it was managed by my Uncle Yankev Gruber, may God revenge his blood. The milk was brought by Oyzer (Tomish). In my grandfather's house, they kept the milk in primitive earthen milk-pots until they made butter and cheese, also primitively, and the products were brought to Dubno. As usual, the workers from the estate were also consumers in the Jewish stores. The farmhands also sold their poor products to the Jews. Even though they displayed their anti-Semitism whenever they could, still, in various times, among various families, there was an ideal of some trust and respect among the greatest part of the population. The relationship between Jews and Christians was still in some measure loyal, even honest. We cannot say that an anti-Semitic attitude was missing in our lives, because that was always there, but it was far from what it was just before the Second World War. The greatest anti-Semite and murderer would not have dared to use such a tone as did our Christian good friends in the last years.
In short, lawlessness did not rule in the earlier years.
Another prominent livelihood that Jews had as lessees from the princes was fishing. Until the end of the First World War, the princes owned many of the rivers (during the Polish rule the rivers became nationalized), and the aristocrats used to lease them to Jewish fishermen for a certain time frame. The lessees of the rivers mostly caught their own fish and traded them; they would only rent help from time to time.
Mayer-Yankev and Zekhraye and others whose names I do not remember were fishermen in Mlynov. Usually, there were also Jewish fishermen in Mervits, who lived from that. Their grandchildren are today in Haifa and in Kiryat-Binyamen near Haifa. As to how many Jews from our neighborhood, businessmen and craftsmen, labored hard and bitterly for their piece of bread, is well known. But the Jewish fishermen labored much harder in their profession, summer and winter. The work was mostly night work, by the shine of fire. In the biggest snowstorms, when it was cold and windy, they remained in their boats on the river, searching for fish. The work made more than one sick. I remember also a tubercular Jew from Mervits, a fisherman, who died young from his job. And yet, volunteers for this difficult income were not missing. I remember how the neighboring Christians used to make fun of the fishermen when they would go to greet the Count at the New Year. They made fun of their appearance and expressions at the Polish blessings, because Polish was strange to them. Making fun of a Jew was a usual thing.
For the prince on the estate, in addition to business, there were carpenters, harness-makers, and so on. Also, animals needed to be taken to pasture for the entire summer, for a price. There were other various connections to an income with the counts and their goods, which the Jews in our area needed very badly in order to make a living. Even though the profits were not big, and even through the gains were not large, and even though they were often humiliated, still, necessity ignores everything….
Financial Relationships with Christians
There were also a smaller number of well-to-do Christians with whom Jews always had negotiations, as for example Pakhiluk from Perverediv who also had a small fortune in Mervits, and similar one in Dorostoy, and so on. Regarding the Christian Pakhiluk, it is appropriate to remember him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, who should not be deprived of praise, which he earned quite kosher. There were, however, suspicions of ugly behavior from his grandchildren in the time of our great tragedy. Pakhiluk had a tradition of sending packages every Passover to poor Jews who had sat practically the entire cold winter without possibilities of earning an income. Pakhiluk did this until the end of his life. He also made a few Jews happy with an inheritance; one of them lives in Haifa. Jews in the area had trade relations with himhe himself was clever, he had been a Justice of the Peace, and he knew outstandingly well the Jewish situation. He ruled according to his own understanding and not according to the governmental laws. And that was really the best assistance, for he humanely and nicely supported Jewish needy families.
There were also lesser aristocrats in other villages, who were also in various connections with Jews, but I do not remember any good deeds they may have performed…
In our neighborhood there were a few villages that were populated entirely by Czech people. It is also appropriate to stop here too, and to say that the largest part of these Czechs deserve praise for their behavior in the time of our tragedy. These Czechs started to wander into our neighborhood in the beginning of the 20th` century. Their development started with a very intensive colonization, beginning with buying fields with forests. Coming from poor Austria which became Czechoslovakia, they settled in poor huts the first year.
They worked hard and sold trees to exist. They took out the stumps themselves. They made brickyards and made their own bricks, and they constructed beautiful houses with them. Thanks to their efforts, their value of the houses rose every year. My father, may he rest in peace, financed them until they stood on their own feet. Through all the years, he had a good trade relationship with them.
In our area of Lutsk, Dubno, and Rivne, there was a heavy Czech colonization. Under Polish rule, there were a quarter of a million Czechs, with a Czech Consulate in Kvasiliv near Zdolbuniv.
As better people from the western lands, everyone listened to them. In the war, we can openly say that thanks to the Czechs there was still a small trace of Jews remaining. For those few Jews who survived, it is thanks to their help. There were a few exceptions, because they also had a few bad people, but a small number.
Regarding the general Christian population with whom Jews came into financial contact, some were better, and some were worse. That means in general there were a few Christians who were decent, and the Jews working for them earned money and they were happy. But the larger part of the Christian population, even in the good times, was not decent to Jewish merchants or craftsmen.
So many Jewish craftsmen, from all branches, gave the Christians credit in order to have them as customers. It was very difficult to collect the money from them. They made all kinds of excuses in order to not repay their debts to the Jews, who badly needed their payments to exist.
The Jewish craftsmen, like masons, carpenters, joiners, and others, received most of their earnings from the surrounding villages.
With great effort they labored long hours in the day at their difficult tasks. It can be said that the larger part of their salary for their hard work still remained with the Christians, who used various excuses again and again to not pay.
Struggle for the Piece of Bread
I remember the hard labor of the toiling merchants and craftsmen in their difficult conditions in the village. Poorly nourished, partly for reasons regarding keeping kosher, and working from dark to dark, resting in the farmer's barn in dirt and in dust; and then, after finishing his hard work, the Jewish craftsman's pay was postponed until the end of the summer, when the farmer would be free of his fieldwork. When it was already winter, when the poor craftsman had no work to do, he used to run around to his debtors, and with great difficulty collected portions of the debt. As long as there would be dough for Shabbes to make bread--
When I remember all the particulars with which I was well acquainted, my heart cries within me. Dear God: Jews lived like that from generation to generation, and never examined their poor, shameful lives, not striving for anything better. How painful it is to remember that life of the Jewish merchant and craftsman, how many days and weeks they and their children sat around actually with no bread, without a piece of wood, to warm their apartment! And that is how they suffered their entire lives, from generation to generation. In the meantime, they had to swallow the treatment from their clients, from better to worse. I remember the majority of such families whose entire lives were a struggle for that dry piece of bread. Little, very little, brightness shone in these houses. Every day, up until today, I see them in front of my eyes.
And when a mental account is made of those lives up until the catastrophe, the account is terrible. It is unfathomable. What kinds of sins did those people do to be so tortured all the days of their lives?
I could reckon long columns of such abused people, who in their entire lives did not see a light shining and, in the end, were still so tragically murdered.
As an example, we will bring here a few families, and from them we will be able to imagine the lives of the supposedly better-off families.
In poor Mervits lived Menashe Shteynshnayd. A clumsy Jew, a son of a water carrier, himself an undertaker, and more such. Had once a wife, but then became a widower. After the First World War, he returned to Mervits with an illiterate son and a hunchbacked daughter. They lived the first years in an earthen hut. A few years later they built another hut, with quite recognizable patches. The son had his father's trade, but certainly with even fewer blessings. In addition, he was an animal driver. And from all the work he was able to save enough for a calf, in order to have a little of their own milk. The son married, and he continued with his trade. The daughter was a housewife until the catastrophe. She fed the cows, and in addition, a few chickens. Year after year, sometimes they were happy. They never felt that they lacked anything. If one can call this a life, even this very life, the murderers of the world took it away by force. The victims had kosher souls and kosher bodies.
And now another image, a little clearer. There was a Jew, with the name Shaye Nudler. He was called Shaye Eli Mordkhe's, may he rest in peace. The father Eli Mordkhe was a basement-digger, and possibly a house painter, and in addition to these two jobs, for Passover he would bake matzas in his house. How this very Jew could afford to have a house, even one like that (with a straw roof), I do not know, but he had it. In this very house sons and daughters were born. Practically all had one source of income: they were masons and seamstresses; we can say they were skilled artisans. The son and his brothers worked for good artisans in Lutsk, and they were first class in their profession. All the brothers and sisters married, and led separate lives, all similar.
I was closer to Shaye's children; a few were practically my age. They were working people, good artisans, and laboring under the same conditions mentioned above. And in the winter, there was not enough bread in the house to satisfy them. They had a house full of children. All learned skills. A few of them, up until the Holocaust, were already independent and good artisans. The measure of distress, they all together and each one separate lived with, cannot be described! And in the end, all murdered, unprotected by their honors and by the fact that they built up the entire area, built the best houses. Many of them were never paid until this day. What artisans would now rebuild the ruined world, from which our enemies would surely profit? And the same question comes up, why?? Whom did this family hurt??
Take my brother Yankev Yoysef Teitelman, may he rest in peace, and family, and my sister-in-law Chaika Shikhman, may she rest in peace, and family, and many similar to them. Until the First World War they were raised in so-called richer houses. They married. Then the First World War came, and they had to wander around, homeless. When they returned at the end of the war, they were already without wealth. They struggled to make a living; they labored hard and lived in poverty; but they raised very successful children. Nobody could have given their children a better education with their resources. They barely finished public school, and the children grew up needy, but smart. And their end? Bitter and sad. Their good relationships with the surrounding neighbors in the villages did not help; just the opposite: the neighbors helped to murder them.
We could publish here a large list of various merchants and artisans from Mervits and Mlynov and from the area who seldom complained about their suffering. Old men and women, honest, who were impoverished their entire lives in spite of working hard. And all were killed so tragically with their children, who had never seen anything good in their entire lives. A few of themthe so-called grain and animal merchants, who possessed horses and wagons, then the means of communication, formed a class of strong people who knew much and toiled hard.
And they did thatthey labored hard. They were very competitive; they rushed and worked long years. Woe on all of them in their lives…
We could, understandably, mention very many names in assorted occupations, but you will see in all of them the same pictures and the same kind of life, in practically all details the same, with small differences. The end was also the same for everyone…. Take, for example, the Mlynov tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, joiners, and blacksmiths. We portrayed these craftsmen earlier, whose work was in the area, seldom at home, and how difficult their lives were. And yet, they were satisfied with their arduous work. Now the artisans who worked at home, as much as I can remember, used to work 12-15 hours a day. And how did they benefit from it? Who from his toiling had the possibility to live better? And in more comfortable apartments? To give children a better education? Or afford to go on a two-week vacation, which was necessary for all of them for their health? Except for Moyshe Zider, may he rest in peace, and his older son Zelig, that is how it was with all craftsmen: they worked hard, and their lives were hard.
Regarding the storekeepers, with small exceptions, most worked hard, long hours. They were as competitive as they could be, and more than they could be. They satisfied themselves with small earnings, as long as they could exist. Additional competition came from a giant store founded with the Ovshem title, established not so much to earn money, because that was unnecessary, but to ruin the Jews. To maintain a client, one had to work long and hard, and earn little. How in those times could one think about improving one's life?
Grain merchants, wagon drivers, and innkeepersif each one would be mentioned with his details, it would make a thick book. The wagon driversYoysef Vortsil, Kalmen Fishman, Arke Nudler, Fishl Kritser, Yekhezkel Liberman, and Yitskhok Kozak they also worked 18 hours a day carrying heavy burdens on their backs!
With the paths and bad highways, I think that today none of us would be able to make such journeys. They shook more than the lulav… and what did they gain from their efforts?
A few from Mervits came to them, Ahrn Kalir and Mayer Vortsel, not even talking about those like Borukh Likhter, Arki Shamesh, or Fishl Kleyburd, who officially had a different income. This was additional income, when the other was insufficient. I only remember their hard labor and impoverished lives, even though there was happiness sometimes also. Naturally, nobody could hope for better.
The Mlynov hotelsa chapter by itself. They were a continuation from old times, when nothing was motorized yet, and people with their loads could move only by horse and wagon to other places. On the journey, the horses needed to rest and eat. In Mlynov Khayim Berger and Yehuda Leyb Lamden, may his memory be a blessing, had such inns for people and their horses. For that purpose, they had large houses, with a few rooms, as well as large barns for their horses and wagons. That lasted until the Second World War, although towards the end there already were a few buses. How the inns earned enough for existence, I do not understand up until this day.
There were some celebrations for holidays; we danced a freylakhs happy dance at joyful occasions. On Simchas Torah, who could equal our joy? We felt we could be happy until eternity. A plague on our enemies! Did they have Hanukah, Purim, Simchas-Torah?
Yes, a satisfied but a poor, very poor life.
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
by Eliyahu Gelman, Netanya
Edited and Translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD with Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
I want to record memories of two people of our small town who perished in the Shoah. Two who left our town for the enlightened Odessa but came back and put down roots in her.
Bentzi (Bentzion) Gruber he and his friend from Mlynov, who later in life was the well-known poet Yitzhak Lamdan, were students of Bialik. Later they said that Bentzi preceded his friend the poet of the future in writing stories that were sponsored by Bialik but which nonetheless he did not publish, and they remained handwritten in his possession. He returned to the small town and settled there. He married the beautiful Genia Margulis and his life was no different from that of other people of the town. He was a grain trader. But I always saw him as the classic enlightened Hebrew man (maskil), a man of much knowledge, in Tanakh and its interpreters, in Hebrew and Yiddish literature, Russian and general [subjects]. He was brighter and sharper than all the others.The second:
Why did he stay and not get carried away with the aspirations of his friends [to go to the Land of Israel or other educated individuals]?
This is a mystery that has no answer.
Hersch Leib Margulis. Hersh Leib was completely different. He went to Kiev to teach in a Russian school. The winds of revolution also swept him up in their orbit. And in the first days of the October Revolution, he was appointed a judge in the new regime.May their memories be a blessing.
But he also left Kiev and returned and settled in his birthplace. What moved him to do so I do not know. But he was so very different from the other people of the small town, in his mannerisms and clothing, in his behavior and humility.
He was first to greet the elderly and young, with a smile full of good will that lit up his face.
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
by Yosef Litvak, Jerusalem
Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein
Mr. Yehuda Leib Lamdan, may his memory be a blessing
A learned man, God-fearing, righteous, a lover of humanity and beloved by all, shy of accolades, but esteemed by the people of the town, including the Christians.
Until the First World War, he made a dignified living, more or less, with a convenience store, that was managed by his stepmother and his daughters; the store was destroyed and burned during the War. In the period between the two World Wars, he earned a livelihood with greater difficulty from his home serving during market days as a restaurant for the Jewish merchants who came from elsewhere. Periodically, a guest would come to stay overnight during non-market days.
During the First World War, one of his sons [Moshe] was killed by the gangs of General Denikin. His second son, Yitzhak Lamdan, made aliyah. With him in his home he had become a widower in 1917 was a married daughter, with her husband but no children.
All his life, he was dedicated to the work of the Creator. At 4 o'clock in the morning, in summer and in winterhe would rise and begin by reciting Psalms and [the section of morning prayers called] Korbanot after which he studied Gemara. At 8 am, he would go to the synagogue for morning prayers (shacharit) and remain there in prayer and study until 12. After a meager midday meal, he grabbed a nap for a short hour and again returned to his studies. Afterwards, he would return to the synagogue for afternoon prayers (minha), evening prayers (maariv) and group study. At a late hour he would return home, eat a light meal, continue in his study (mishnah) until midnight. Only when he was confined to his bed would he not visit the synagogue. Otherwise, nothing deterred him, not even the worst weather hard rain and snow storms, mud, and dark nights in the town that had no lights or sidewalksfrom walking to the synagogue, which was relatively speaking far from his house, he being older than 70 and frail.
He led the congregation in prayer (shaliach tzibur) and read the Torah (baal korei) all his life without thought of compensation. His prayer and singsong Gemara reading were full of feeling, pleasing to the ear, and sacred trembling would penetrate the heart of those who heard it. Despite his challenging troubles and personal suffering, he never complained, and he lovingly accepted his lot. No one was happier than him during [the festival] Simchat Torah. His sincere joy infected and inflamed the congregation, and no one compared in spilling sincere tears and merit through [the prayer] Tefila Zaka and in the recitation of Lamentations (Eicha) during Tisha B'av.
Many preferred to go to him with questions in matters of kashrut [the Jewish dietary laws] and with requests to resolve disputes. The elderly gentiles also honored him and thought him a holy man. He was nice to everyone, adult, child, very religious and nonreligious, ally and non-ally. He served as a supreme moral authority, and he would render decisions periodically in public matters and between one person and another and he would pursue and make peace.
He lived long and died at a ripe old age of 76, in the month of Cheshvan 5701 (November 1940), six months before the Nazi conquest. He was fortunate to die in peace in his bed, before the invasion of the Nazi troops, and he went to his grave, accompanied by all the Jews of the town with crying and in bitter eulogy.
During the months anticipating death at the hands of the Nazis, many Jews of the town prostrated themselves on his grave and implored him to intercede to annul the evil decree, but the gates of mercy were locked.
Mr. Mordechai Meir Litvak
My father, Mordechai Meir Litvak, of blessed memory, (18811942) educated, modest, a trusted community worker and active Zionist. Though he was weighed down by worries about livelihood, which came with great difficulty (a small fabric store), he dedicated a lot of his time to public activities.
In the first years after World War I, he organized and administered welfare activities in the town on behalf of the American government fund and the JOINT [American Joint Distribution Committee]. He set up a kitchen to feed children and to distribute necessities and he organized the committee for assisting orphans. After this, he set up and administered, without renumeration, a charity fund to help shop owners and tradesmen. Similarly, he set up a bank for the same purpose, which lasted only two short years. In the domain of Zionist activities, he managed the local Palestine Office which organized the aliyah of the first pioneers in the years 19231926. He served as established chairman of the elections committee for the Zionist Congress, and he was one of the essential active members in all Zionist activities: the distribution of shekels, funds, culture and so on. His home served over the course of years as a center and as a home for the committee for the local active Zionist members.
During the period of the Nazi occupation, he was appointed as secretary of the Judenrat in the ghetto. He carried out this obligatory and wretched role, with integrity, dignity and decency. He was cruelly beaten a number of times by the Nazi rulers for his refusal to fulfill the extortive demands. He died a holy death, with my mother, of blessed memory, at the murderous hands of the Ukrainian police during their attempt to flee from the ghetto a few days before the mass murder of the community, near the end of the month of Tishrei 5703 (beginning of October 1942), and their burial spot is not known.
May their memory be a blessing. May their souls be bound in the bonds of everlasting life.
R. Mordechai Chizik
The teacher Mordechai Chizik zl was the teacher with emphasis placed on the word the. And thus they called him R. Motel the Lerner (teacher). The fact that the youth and children of town all knew Hebrew, was due exclusively to great merit of Mr. Mordechai Chizik. It was he who imparted to them all the foundations of the language. Some continued independently with reading and study and reached a serious level of language mastery; others did not expand their knowledge. But thanks to the knowledge their teacher imparted to them in childhood, there was not one young person in town who didn't know how to read and write elementary Hebrew. For about 35 years he instilled Torah into the children of Israel and was fortunate to teach the children of those who had been his students. He didn't teach just Hebrew, but also Bible, the history of the people Israel, and Gemara. In large measure, his virtue should be credited with the Zionist atmosphere in the town. His two sons made aliyah to the Land [of Israel] as pioneers to the Kibbutz Beit Alpha. The younger son died in 1959.
In addition to his educational efforts, he was also an active community participant and during his life served as chairperson for the branch of Tarbut (Culture) and as authorized representative of the Jewish National Fund (Karen Hakayemet of Israel).
May his memory be a blessing. May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.
Batya Mohel (19061942), of blessed memory, daughter of kosher butcher and inspector, R. Eliezer Mohel, of blessed memory, a moral and spiritual figure, refined and pure. She dedicated many years to the activities of [the Zionist youth groups:] The Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair), The Pioneer (HeHalutz), and Tarbut. She served as the highest authority for the local Pioneer youth. They abided by her counsel and her guidance in public and in private matters.
Unfortunately, she was never authorized to make aliyah to the Land [of Israel], even though she had spent years in Pioneer preparatory training (hachshara), because of a physical deformity (she was lame). Because of this deformity she was not able to join her two brothers and two sisters who succeeded in fleeing by foot from the town before the arrival of the Nazis.
She was cruelly murdered with her parents and two smaller sisters in their house trying to hide on the day of the slaughter.
May her memory be a blessing. May her soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
by Boruch Meren, Baltimore
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
The Goldsekers and their branches were well known in the shtetl and in the area. They were honorable people, and everyone respected them. Who did not know Hersh Goldseker, or, as we called him, Hersh Slobodar, since at one time he lived in the village Sloboda?
Each of the five brothers had sons and daughters, as many as God would give. As it is stated in the Scriptures: And they multiplied and increased (Exodus 1:7). There were sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All followed the righteous ways of their parents. They accepted matrimonial matches, and they celebrated weddings. The wives had children while some of the men stood in the grocery stores and sold kerosene and salt to the Christians. Others dealt with grains. Business was not bad.
My grandfather, Hersh Sloboder, was a clever contractor. He employed bricklayers.
|Yankev (Yaakov) Holtzeker and his family, may their memories be a blessing|
He worked mainly for the Count (Chodkiewicz). He was always repairing the two large palaces, which had been damaged in the First World War. The estate was the pride of the shtetl. It was surrounded with tall acacia trees as well as with angry dogs, who did not permit Jews to go inside. But the Count respected Hershke. If any Jews needed to see the count, it was my grandfather Hersh who was the messenger, the ambassador. If anyone needed feed or pasture for the cows in the shtetl, Hersh Slobodar handled it with the count.
All the brothers had nice, respectable houses, with yards and with orchards of fruit-trees. In the Trisk synagogue they had seats of honor with oak reading stands at the eastern wall. And they had influence! They also helped repair the Study House that was destroyed after the First World War; they erected a fence around the Holy Place (cemetery); and they fixed, pardon the comparison, the bathhouse.
By the way, I want to remember here two important established families, known in the shtetl and in the area: the Lipekhes and the Bergers, who donated much money and advice to all the Jewish institutions in the kehilla. Khayim Berger was the treasurer of the synagogue, and his brother Yosl was president of the Jewish kehilla in the shtetl under the supervision of the Polish communitywhich was practically the government, and that is no small accomplishment!
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
by B. M. [Baruch Meren]
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
He was a quiet, decent Jew. A respectable head of the household in the shtetl. His sons and daughters helped him with the oil mill, which provided a good income; he was regarded as a wealthy man in the shtetl. He generously gave charity to all needy institutions. Poor people, who used to come from out of town to gather donations, received a good meal in his house as well as a good donation.
The entire family was murdered by Hitler, may his name be blotted out. The only one in the family who survived was Shloyme. He died in Baltimore in 1969, leaving a wife and children.
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
Yafa Dayagi, Kibbutz Ramat David
Translated and edited by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD with Hanina Epstein
I remember Mlynov starting in 1926, the year I entered first grade. Until then the whole family lived near our flour mill, which we expanded after the First World War. The place was called Mantyn, after the name of the village nearby. Our house and the flour mill stood alone on a wide area with fields, grasses and water. In the beginning, we utilized the water to turn the flour mill, and later we used the water also for a fish pond. Parallel to the river rose mountains and hills that were partly covered by woods and vegetation. Truly, the place was beautiful beyond belief. During the summer the place was truly a vacation spot. As children we loved to hike in the forest, to gather strawberries, to gather flowers, and to dip on the warm summer days in the chilly waters. By contrast, life during the winter was hard; then it was as if we were cut off from the world by snow and rain. Mlynov was about 3 km [1.8 m] distance from us.
Along the road to Mlynov was the very small town of Mervits. My parents lived there before the First World War. After the War, a few dozen families returned there and established themselves. Their livelihood was typical of the traditional livelihoods of Diaspora Jews.
|A photo of children in the people's grade school in Mlynov (Class 7)
In the middle from the right Rabbi Gordon, the Russian Orthodox priest, the principal of the school, and the Catholic priest.
The children continued in the path of their ancestors and thus from generation to generation. By contrast, Mlynov was completely different. The effervescence of the youth was like that of the larger world; later this awakening began in this smaller town of Mervits. The children began to attend the school in Mlynov. The youth began to participate in the [youth] movement and thus began the contact between the smaller number of youth in Mervits and the youth of Mlynov. I remember that when I first began to attend the Polish government grade school, we still didn't live in Mlynov and when I passed the town [of Mervits] I disseminated the news the children of Mervits began to follow in my footsteps to the school [in Mlynov].
|A group of friends in Mlynov. Young Friends
Original courtesy of Miriam Aharoni
Before then, Mervits children would go to cheder and to private teachers who, of course, were not certified. Given that we had a large family of children and all were of a young, educational age, we moved our residence to Mlynov. Our parents built a big, spacious house and during the course of the years it became a center of [the youth group] Pioneer activities. All the youth older than me belonged to The Pioneer (HeHalutz), except for [my brother] Tzvi, of blessed memory, who belonged to The Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair). I belonged to the The Young Pioneer at the beginning of its formation. My sister, Miriam, took up the mantle of responsibility for The Pioneer and The Young Pioneer, devoting herself to the movement with fervor and dedication later, when she passed it on, I assumed the movement's mantle of responsibility. This is what the atmosphere in Mlynov was like that influenced us. The youth were lively and tempestuous. The movement was the center of life, and perhaps even more than this the Holy of Holies.
The Polish government looked unfavorably on us. More than once the police chief called our father to warn him to cease the gatherings in our house. To them the activity looked like Communist activity. On the other side, my principal at the Polish school called father concerning why I belonged to the organization (the movement), and more than once he warned that he would expel me from the studies. The area where we lived was an area of Polish and Ukrainian gentiles which is where their gmina was (the regional council) and my grade school. It is not surprising, therefore, that we were always under prying eyes. But none of this prevented our home from being a center of activity. Our parents were willing to risk endangerment and they didn't want to hinder us.
Ultimately, the movement required self-realization. Two of my sisters, Miriam and Baila, and also [my brother] Tzvi went for preparatory training (hachshara); Baila was in general the first of the Mlynov youth who went for preparatory training. A short time after they left I was still very young I also left my parents' house and went for preparatory training. This was before Rosh Hashanah. The work before the holidays was exhausting. I was not familiar with any kind of work, but the strong will gave me the strength to endure it. Later, I specialized in the saw and cutting wood. After a hard day of work, in very poor conditions which prevailed then in preparatory training, I was pulled into local social activities. My preparatory training was in Radyvyliv, near Brody in Galicia. I loved the location of preparatory training very much and leaving was hard for me when I was approved for aliyah in 1936.
The dream didn't materialize quickly. At that time, aliyah had ceased and a significant crisis swept over the Pioneer and Kibbutz movement. The branches [of the movement] dissolved and preparatory training was finished and only a few of small central kibbutzim continued to function. I remained stuck in my parents' house and looking forward to aliyah for three years. The whole time I kept up a connection with the kibbutz in Będzin that I belonged to. Every so often I prepared for aliyah, and each time they would be canceled due to a shortage of certificates. But I didn't despair. Many quit but I remained impatiently waiting for aliyah in 1939 I was fortunate to make aliyah to the Land [of Israel] as part of Aliyah Bet, exactly two weeks before the outbreak of the War.
The trip was one of a kind. About 6 weeks we were traveling on a ship carrying livestock, with a number of people that exceeded what it was supposed to carry. Instead of 180 people, there were at the start 800 immigrants, all members of the Pioneer movement, from Poland, from Lithuania, from Romania, and from Bulgaria. In the middle of the trip, in the heart of the ocean, another couple hundred immigrants joined us from Czechia, who had spent months scattered on the sea and in hospitals. I remember that night while I was standing on the deck, seeing a terrifying sight: in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean, they were transferring from ship to ship broken and shattered Jews which is the moment I began to feel and see the massive tragedy of the Jewish people.
On the boat there was an unbearable crowdedness with the joining of these immigrants. A person could not move from the place in which he or she was standing. There was no food or medical means. The consequences did not tarry. An epidemic of terrible dysentery broke out, the heavens and seas decided our fate. As a result, a female friend from Lithuania died in the middle of the sea, whose sister waited for her in Kibbutz, who I went to see in Tel Yosef. Another female friend [died] already within sight of the shores she longed to see with her own eyes
And if these sacrifices of the epidemic were not enough, two young men fell from British bullets: The first during an attempt to reach the shore of the Land [of Israel] was attacked by a British guard. The young men were standing watch by the top ship officer when they fell. Later, after much suffering and hardship, our boat entered the harbor of Tel-Aviv and ran aground on a shoal, as planned. Of course, we were incarcerated by the British, and after many efforts from the Jewish Yishuv [settlement], we were freed after 10 days from the detention center.
Question: from where does the strength come to bear suffering like this and to overcome all obstacles? And the answer: Mlynov and other towns like these kindled in the heart of many of her young residents the great fire of faith in the Pioneer ideal and thanks to this we were fortunate to remain alive and be here. The heart aches that most of them, and among them our large family and extended family members, were not so fortunate.
And these are the names of my sisters, brothers, and parents who perished: (parents) Shimon, Tova; (brothers and sisters): Tzvi, Benjamin, Shmuel, Ester, Brendelah. And also my maternal grandmother Pesia, of blessed memory.
Only one sister, Rachel, and two relatives, survived the nightmare of the eradication and were fortunate to come to the Land [of Israel] and rebuild their family. The wounds still will not heal forever. Only one comfort remains, that we fortunately have a State of Israel. And a prayer is on our lips for peace between us and our neighbors so that we are able to continue to build and be prosperous.
by Sunny Veiner, Haifa
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
In the Whirl of Battle
In difficult days of despair and fright
Something happened today in the world.
The day has not yet made an account,
In the Chaos of Life
I accompany today.
Life is a storm-wind;
I remain standing alone in the whirl of life.
I feel a warmth is hugging me
And calling mecome, come…
Do not stay on one place - - -
This is not the last card…
Fate In Dream
To you who strove and dreamt,
The bullet will not scare me
I discovered my eastern land,
A Little Bird in the Early Morning
Today someone knocked
A little bird in early morning
In the blue morning
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