by A. A. AvtichiHadari
Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman
The name Radzivilov triggers many memories, some good and some sad. In Radzivilov, a typical Volhynia town, there were Jews who had been there for generations, and they made up most of the population of the town, even leaders of the town in the eyes of the both Jews and nonJews, most of whom earned their livelihoods from Jewish businesses and their trade with them. Radzivilov Jews knew how to organize both their civic and their economic life during the many different governments that changed hands frequently for many years. They were steadfast during the difficult changes from one ruling power to the next; they endured entanglements during the Polish uprising and conflicts with the Russians. And they suffered from the malicious exploits of border patrolssoldiers and Russian Cossackswho were stationed about three kilometers from town. Radzivilov Jews drank from the cup of hardship as a result of the battles and conquests during World War I, when the town moved from the Russians to the Austrians a few times, but at the end of the war, they knew how to outrage the Russians, showing them up when they rehabilitated both their private and public lives.
Border trade, both legal and illegal, was very brisk for Jews and nonJews, and generally you could say it was crucial for the town. However, incitement against Jews raged in those bitter enemies of Israel who lived in the famous monastery in neighboring Pochaev and its priest, Ilyador Vitaly, who was known for sowing poison and hatred in the hearts of the many Christians who lived in the region and for spreading terror and fear among the Jews. At any rate, and in spite of the opposition of the Black Hundred,  Radzivilovers stocked their stores and even imported decorations from Austrian Brody for pilgrims to the Pochaev monastery. Monks would come for prayer and retreat in their most holy place, and on their way, they would buy basic goods and gifts in Jewish stores. Once, Ilyador the priest, with the help of an informer named Kolka, falsely accused two Jews, a brother and sister, saying that they intended to blow up the holy monastery. The informer, with Skorochodov, the police officer, sneaked out of Pochaev and went to Radzivilov, where the police officer hid the informer in a hotel. While the attack never happened and no one mentioned it among the Jews, the poison was nevertheless planted, and it bore much fruit in the coming days.
The road to the border passed close to Radzivilov, and on it, thousands of Jewish émigrés made their way to Austria and from there to America.
After leaving Russia, their way out was fraught with difficulty, and the passage was dangerous. And tears were many for mothers and children who set out in search of breadwinners who had gone ahead of them and who were soon discovered to be in different locations. Many times, the émigrés were captured and became part of a prisoners' transport, usually on foot. They eventually returned to their original homes, only to try their luck again later.
During Ukrainian rule, from 1918 to1920, the Radzivilov Jews found themselves in the snares of paramilitary bands and many different types of fighters. The suffering was great, and the sword of Damocles hung over their heads every day. And once, when a delegation of Jews appealed to a Jewish Ukrainian government minister named Krasni, who was traveling by train near Radzivilov, asking him for protection, the minister said to them, How is it possible to help the Jews? Even the government itself needs mercy from all the revolutionaries and soldiers. Who knows what will happen next?
Then the Poles conquered the town, and there was a new feeling in town. Many businesses reopened, and the men of the Haganah [selfdefense] that had operated during the days of terror returned. Gradually, community members who had left returned to get organized, and soon the economy improved. The destruction was repaired gradually, and soon the town flourished once again. Men of all types, men of the community who were there, lent a hand in organizing community and civic life and setting up educational and cultural institutions. Very quickly, Zionism took hold of many townspeople, causing many to start preparing for immigration to the Land of Israel.
During the same time, Radzivilov Jews also played an important role in the elections to the first Polish Sejm (after the founding Sejm), which were held in 1922. The Jewish politic declared itself the minority bloc, under the organizing hand of Yitschak Grinboym. There was a great victory, and 55 young Jews were elected to the Sejm and the senate in independent Poland. Young Avraham Levinson fondly recalls the vigor and energy of the Radzivilov politicians, who were Menashe Zagoroder, Moshe Duvid Balaban, Shmuel Fidel, Kalman Taykh, Shumker, Moshe Goldgart, and others from the young generation of Zionists, who proved their great dedication to Jewish and Zionist causes when a propaganda campaign arose in town against the bloc.
Many people in Radzivilov got ready, immigrated to Israel, put down roots there, and consequently brought about the reconstruction of the homeland. But thousands of Jews from the town fell under the Nazi enemyís plunder during the second Holocaust of the house of Israel throughout Europe, and especially in Poland.
The events in Radzivilov formed a link in the chain of the life of the Jews in Volhynia, one outcome uniting and connecting the circle of our generationís history. Radzivilov will forever have a place in the recounting of the days of the congregation of Israel on the soil of Volhynia and in Israel.
Seated (right to left): Zilberman Zev, Tsvi Goldgart, Yehoshue Halbershtet, Moshe Duvid Balaban, Menashe Zagoroder, guest from the Land of Israel Gurzhelka, Ayzenberg of Rovno, Moshe Goldgart, Kalman Taykh, Shmuel Fidel
Standing: Shmuel Fershtut, Yisrael Reyf, Duvid Kagan, Duvid Shnayder
by Avi Sley
Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman
I was born in Radzivilov. But when I was very young, my parents moved to Kivertsy. We return to Radzivilov only in 1909. In 1914, World War I broke out. Our town, which was a border town, suffered badly from the fighting, and many residents fled. But in 1918, many of the inhabitants returned to their homes and began to rebuild what had been destroyed, and in 1920 I immigrated to Israel. Thus I spent very few years in Radzivilov. But even so, the town of Radzivilov is engraved in my memory, so I can offer a few descriptive lines for this book.
Sholem Aleichem once described Radzivilov in these words: It isn't so big, but you can always steal a border. But in actuality, Radzivilov was not so small that it would escape notice; it was a large town, nicely laid out in comparison with other neighboring towns like Pochaev, Varkovichi, Verba, Ozeryany, and others. Radzivilov was a major city compared to these.
From the edge of the railroad station, Pochaev Street ran to the flourmill, which was near the bridge that led to Brody Road and continued some two or three kilometers; and from the center ran a second street with gas streetlamps on both sides. On this street was the fire station, housed in a big garage, to take care of fires, with storage sheds for wagons and stables for the care of horses. On top of one of the sheds was a high tower with uninterrupted views for keeping watch, and in it hung the warning bell. In the center of the courtyard was a high column used for training exercises.
Our town had many large and small streets and numerous lanes. In the center were all kinds of stores with a variety of wares, including Efraim Rayzer's wine store.
The pride of the town was the Great Synagogue, which was magnificently decorated with paintings and woodcarvings. But this synagogue was destroyed during World War I.
There was also a government hospital on Pochaev Street, enclosed by a large gate, on which a large sign with golden letters identified it as the government hospital donated by the government advisor, Moshe Mendil Gintsburg. This very large hospital, made of stone, contained many multistory wings. All of the city's residents received medical attention here, regardless of religion.
|Government Hospital Named for Moshe Mendil Gintsburg|
There was also a Talmud Torah in the town, housed in a modest building that served as a teaching facility for the poor. In 1911, the town elders decided to add another floor devoted to the oldest students who were studying Talmud and commentary with R' Yitschak Leyb the Teacher. There were about 10 students in this class, the best students from the most respected families of Radzivilov and surrounding towns. A Hebrew teacher, Mr. Binyamin Finkelshteyn, was also invited to be part of the school; he taught us Bible and Hebrew literature. The year I spent at the Talmud Torah is etched deeply in my heart because of the great impressions the teachers made on us. R' Yitschak Leyb ushered us into the paradise of Talmud through his commentaries, and Mr. Finkelshteyn bestowed knowledge of Hebrew and Enlightenment literature on us.
R' Yitschak Leyb nicknamed two windows in our secondfloor classroom the town's eyes, and he was right because everyone could see them from the street.
Apart from the Talmud Torah, there were many respectable cheders, a government school, and a technical school for boys and for girls. Although most of the Jews were occupied with their work and their worries about making a living, they did not let these things stand in the way of getting an education for their children. Some sent their children abroad, to large cities and yeshivas.
There were many private teachers, and among them I recall Mr. Fershtut, a Russian language teacher, and his brotherinlaw, who established a Hebrew kindergarten the first onefor everyone in the areaand they all played energetically and sang Hebrew songs there.
by Yehudit Sleyt Luski (Grubshteyn)
Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman
Our house in Radzivilov was a onestory dwelling situated very close to a stream. On the other side was a long, narrow garden that stretched to a pool of water. A nonJewish woman planted vegetables in it during the spring, although many others planted fruit trees. That place was my fatherís private kingdom, where he took care of his plantings like a father caring for an infant. The tree trunks were neatly pruned, the paths were kept clear, the grass was nurtured, and the bushes sprouted like dew around the fence. Every morning before walking to morning prayers, Father would go out to the garden to view each and every flower that had bloomed and every bud that had opened, and he would take great pride in the flourishing garden.
As an ardent Zionist, Father saw his work in the garden as preparation for his future work in the Land of Israel. It was his intention to immigrate to Israel and farm there with his whole family.
Stories of our childhood are centered on our ancestorsí old country: on life during the Bibleís radiant period and the passage and transition to life in a new country. Our ears were eager to hear stories of this land of milk and honey in ruins, which those who were coming would surely rebuild. We never tired of hearing stories about the new settlements, the vineyard harvests, and the guards who stood watch, as well as the souls of the Jews who were there, their strength, and the courage of those who stood guard over the orchards, and so on and so on.
From earliest childhood, we learned Hebrew. I saw a film about the lives of Jews in the Land of Israel when I was three and a half. Everyone in our family saw this film, even babies in their mothersí arms.
Tu Bishvat was a cold and snowy day in Russia, but it was the new year for trees in Israel; and for us it was a joyous holiday when we ate the fruits of the vine, chewed dry carobfoods of the Land of Israeland imagined the homelandís blue skies and sunshine and the trees blooming there.
[Translation editorís note: Tu Bishvat is a Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat (January/February). It is also called the &3147;new year of the trees.]
Father had been planning intently to immigrate, but the warWorld War Ibroke out. Radzivilov, which was situated close to the border, was turned into a battlefield, and in 1915 the Austrians conquered the city. A year after that, in 1916, the Russians reconquered it, and the residents scattered to many faraway places.
I well remember the day we became war refugees. It was on Shavuot, which began on the Sabbath. The house was polished and decorated for a holiday, and the food had been prepared in an oven the day before; but not one person could touch the food. Dread of the future was in the air. Even we, the children, were anxious about what was in store for us. The Austrians withdrew, but the Russians immediately entered the town. The streets were empty and abandoned, there was complete silence all around, and an air of expectation was everywhere. At four in the afternoon, the Russian army entered the town, and the soldiers immediately began to go from house to house, commanding the residents to leave the town quickly for the surrounding forest because the fighting was about to begin. We speedily changed out of our holiday clothes into everyday clothes, gathered up bread and old blanketsold, certainly, in order to leave the best things we had safely in the house. This was quite naive, because my parents thought that everything they left behind would remain untouched. Thus they hid everything dear to us in the closets, including silver and expensive clothing. They locked the closets and the doors, and we set out on our way.
It is important to recall one small episode here. After we had gone a short way, my mother suddenly remembered that she had not locked the kitchen door. We stopped walking, and Father went back to check the door. In the meantime, from afar, gunfire reverberated. But we still waited for and worried about Father. When he arrived, he was laughing and had a smile on his face. The door was locked, and the key was in his hand.
We all walked on, old people, women, and children with packs on their backs. Utterly fatigued, we distanced ourselves from the town. We rested at night, and in the morning we were commanded to go even further from the town. We did this for three days, until we came to Kremenets.
As we arrived in the city, the residents come out to meet us, tea and fresh bread in their hands. Even to this day I remember the taste of this meal … and especially the kindness of the people of Kremenets, who were so generous to us in our time of suffering.
From Kremenets our family went on to Rovno, and there we began to restore our lives. We found a way to earn a living, the children attended school, and we made the best of our circumstances. But our concern for our town was never far from our minds, and after two years, in 1918, we returned to Radzivilov. Many others who were driven out from their homes on foot returned at the same time.
At the place where our house had been we found … an uprooted garden and huge weedswe didnít know where the house was and where the garden was. But we still had the keys that we had taken with us …. Not all of the town was destroyed; there were areas where the streets were not touched at all, but the houses that were left standing were in heaps that needed repair and reconstruction.
Even though we worried about how we would rebuild our lives from scratch, the childrenís education was not neglected. My parents took the initiative to open a school for Jewish students. YehudaLeyb Polak returned as a completely dedicated Hebrew and Bible teacher. He also gave instruction in Hebrew to adult groups. The Yiddish teacher, Mr. Marder, taught in the same school. But my father, who considered Yiddish inferior to the Hebrew language and considered Hebrew the language of the future, forbade us to participate in his classes. And so my sister Sore and I would get up and leave the class during the Yiddish lessons.
In the middle of winter of the same year, a class opened for boys who knew Torah. The lessons were held during the afternoon. I knew Hebrew and Bible, so I was accepted into this class, and as time passed, I was the only girl among 24 boys in the same class. When it came time to dramatize one of the chapters of the Bible, I naturally I was assigned all the womenís roles.
We were all merely 9 and 10 years old. We heard of organizations called Young Zionists and Labor Zionists, but we didnít know the ideological difference between them. At any rate, we were dragged to all of the meetings between those who called themselves Young Zionists and those who saw themselves as Labor Zionists. Soon there was also a Zionist club.
During the same time, my brother Tsvi returned to Radzivilov with the intention of immigrating to Israel. He had been a Hebrew teacher in Rovno. Until then, he began to organize evening classes for young people who grew up there and wanted to learn the language. But no textbooks could be found. Because of this, it was necessary to make lists, and the students would copy them into their notebooks.
|Young Pioneer Chapter under the Direction of Bronye Balaban|
Slowly the Zionist movement grew, developed, and took hold of the residents. I remember from that time two Zionist gatherings called a blueandwhite gathering. The first began with the singing of the song from Psalms called A Psalm for Dedicating the House of David, led by two soloists, Eydel Grubshteyn and Lize Goldberg.  But from the second gathering I recall a Yiddish song that caused an argument between a Zionist and a Hasidic Jew who thought Zionism was a sin:
Listen Jews, oh the news that I have just heard;
Somebody, of all people a doctor,
he has countless transgressions,
and he wishes, so he says,
to lead the Jews to the Land of Israel,
to lead them there,
before the coming of the Messiah.
After the argument, the Hasid was convinced of the righteousness of the Zionists, and the two concluded in a duet:
A boil on the Turkís hand,
and repossessed shall be the land.
During the same gathering, there was also a play about Hebrew guards in the Land of Israel.
In 1920, during the war between the Russians and the Poles, the first group from Radzivilov immigrated to Israel. Aleksander Balaban and my brother Tsvi were part of this first group. Their route was very complicated, and it took them about six months to reach the Land of Israel. When the first letter from my brother arrived telling us that he had already found work on the HaifaJeddah road, there was a great celebration in our houseto him, it was a small thing: a group of Radzivilovers was paving roads for us in the Land of Israel!
The Balfour Declaration really motivated my father. He now believed that a state for Jewish people was now moving forward and getting organized. He became like a prophet in the synagogues, inspiring Jews to rise up and leave the Diasporaís vale of tears and build the Land of Israel and be restored in it. Jews, dear brothers!he said in the synagogues it is incumbent upon us to leave this Diaspora without delay lest it be too late, because the Diaspora is like Sodom to us. As it is written in the Torah: ‘And the men said to Lot (when he was advised to leave that place).’ Today we can take everything we need and leave, but woe to those who linger. Many considered my father to be strange, a Jew possessed by a demon during the night. Just get up, leave everything, and travel to a desolate land? That was just a crazy man speaking! But when Father met people like these, he would open the Bible and read to them from the prophecies of redemption.
As we prepared to immigrate, Father bought a Torah scroll to take with him. In the meantime, it stayed with us in our house, a Zionist symbol, on the Sabbath and the rest of the holidays.
The second immigration group from Radzivilov left in 1921. This group included the Klomensky family, Sore Spektor, and my sister Rivke.
At the same time the brothers Dudke and Shimon Goldgerd founded a Youth Guard branch. Those who were 13 and above were admitted as members. We were all students in the progynasium then, and teachers were forbidden to know that we were participating in a youth movement.
Naturally, this ban encouraged us to hold our meetings, which took place twice a week at the Gun familyís house, as in the expression, Stolen water will be sweeter.
Gradually the letters from Rivke and my brother Tsvi slackened off, and so the desire to immigrate grew. But mother, a woman of valor who relied on having all of her stores and wares available effortlessly in her cupboard, could not be persuaded to forsake her comforts and travel with five children, the smallest of whom was five years old, to a desolate desert. She asked that we wait a few years until the children had grown up. Father, however, ignored all of her complaints and proved to her with tempting words that it would indeed be better to emigrate now. At their witsí end, our parents finally asked the children what they thought: who among you wants to remain here with Mother in the Diaspora, and who is willing to go with Father to the Land of Israel? All of us naturally declared that we wanted to go to the Land of Israel, and so we also convinced our mother. And so we began to pack our suitcases.
The day we left town was very moving. It was on a Monday, April 2, 1922. The train to Lemberg was ready to leave at four in the afternoon, and at 1:30, all the townís Zionists gathered at our house, so many relatives and friends helping as our parents packed our belongings into the wagon and participating in the loading as if they too were immigrating to Israel. We set out finally, and on the main road we encountered a parade of students from the Jewish school, led by their teachers, who were heading to the train station. Many others came with us, closing their shops to see us off. Another group gathered at the train station, and it seemed as though all of the townís residents had come out to bid us farewell. The wellrespected R' MosheDuvid Balaban read a goodbye letter in Hebrew from the community. As the train approached, everyone sang Hatikvah and clapped, and in the end kissed us goodbye … .
The station manager was moved by the joy that he saw before him and the size of the assembly. Twice he held up the train from leaving on schedule in order to have the crowd gracefully separate themselves from us. In the end, the train began its route as the crowd clapped in its honor….
Allow me to say that the warm departure given to us by the townís residents will never be erased from our memories as long as we live.
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