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[Page 299]

Our Families – For our children
and for future generations


Memories from my father's home

by Lipa Goz

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1934, I left for Kibbutz Hachshara in Iwacewicze [Ivacevièy], Polesie. My parents didn't object to my leaving for Hachshara [pioneer training] because they were Zionists. Our home was a Zionist home that gave his sons a national education. All the children in our home studied at “Tarbut” school in town.

Two years after I returned from the kibbutz my immigration to Israel was approved. My parents were happy to have the great privilege to be represented in the Holy Land by their son. In that, they saw a source of hope that maybe one day they will arrive to Eretz-Yisrael.

Unfortunately, a great disaster befell our family and it was like a thunderbolt on a clear day. My young brother, Tzvi, was killed in a sawmill accident. I cannot express this tragedy in words. That black Friday, when the accident happened, was etched deep in my soul. My beloved brother took with him to his grave all the joy of life of our home and our family. The tragedy happened about six months before my emigration to Israel. After the accident, my parents, especially my mother, strongly opposed that I will leave them. My mother cried incessantly and repeatedly said with a broken heart: “I cannot send my only son.”

I was in a difficult situation, without the ability to decide one way or another. As I was skipping between the two thoughts I was fortunate that one Sabbath the Stolin Rabbi came to Rafalovka and he was the deciding factor.

As was the custom on Saturday evening, the rabbi received an audience who came to him for advice and words of encouragement and comfort. On that Sabbath I came home to visit my parents. When I entered, I found them sitting depressed on both sides of the table. Both of them cried that their son wants to leave them and immigrate to Israel. To find a solution, and a way out of the confusion, they decided to go to the rabbi and ask him to decide.

We came to the rabbi. My father z”l and I sat to his left and my mother z”l sat across from him weeping bitterly. My mother recounted to him the story of the terrible disaster that befell our family, and told him that their only “Kaddish” wants to leave them. At the end she turned to him with a request to advise her to do.

The rabbi replied without hesitation that she should let me go and that he pins his hopes on me that the rest of the Jews will follow me, and young people like me, to their homeland. The rabbi asked me personally to remember my parents and to make sure that they will arrive to Israel after me.

Since my immigration to Israel I had the hope and belief that my parents will join me in spite of the unrest that prevailed in the country at the time. I remember well a letter that I received from my father before the outbreak of the war, a letter saturated with faith for the fulfillment of their great aspiration, and among others he said: “we are here in a wave of big clouds and there is hope for heavy rain, only God can help us.”

However, the hand of the Nazi beast, which fell abruptly, put an end to his ambition. I was left a scion of my extensive family. Every year I fulfill my internal duty by lighting a memorial candle and a “Yizkor” prayer.

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For my family

by Tzila Gorodinski née Bliznyuk

Translated by Sara Mages

Dear God, I'll tell you about the pain in my heart, about my past, my childhood, I'll tell you about a girl who loved to sing and write poetry, I'll tell you about my happy family, about parents who worked hard there, far away in anti-Semitic Poland, about a girl who was happy in her family, I'll tell you that I loved you, my great God, you created it all and have chosen us, you disappointed me, my God, a great disappointment.

Suddenly we were here without a shepherd, lost like blind, without a way. Everything was burning around us and the family burned in rivers of blood.

Please look, my God! Jewish bones are scattered in the fields without reaching burial, among them the bones of my family. I'll not be able to speak, to sing you a song of praise, I'll only be able to tell about destruction, tears and little and big children. I'll tell you about children crying without tears, about my sisters, about uncles and aunts, about my father and my mother.

I'll tell you about my home, about my sister Gita'le, about her husband Moshe Melamed, who were burned when she was in the seventh month of her pregnancy, about their two year old little daughter with her big and frightened blue eyes. I looked at my father and my mother. Suddenly they aged so much, they look at pregnant Gita'le, my sister Gita'le. Round and round fire and blood and corpses, everything is burning. My house was torn to shreds, the boards and the walls are burning.

Don't ask questions, my friends, I'll tell you about my sister Chaya and her husband, Naftali Gorenstein, and her family. I'll tell you, my friends, about my sisters Rachel, Rivka and Chana, who have not yet started a family. In the dark, when everything was burning, I asked, play the guitar, cry for my father, Yakov Leib, and my mother, Bella, the wife and the good mother. I'll tell you, my friends, that I, and my young sister Rosa, remained from the entire family, survivors and refugees.

My brother, Tzvi, also remained in the wilderness of Siberia.

I'll tell you about my late husband, Shlomo, who escaped from Nowogrodek Ghetto, escaped to the forest through the tunnel that they had dug. He was relentless and his ambition was to destroy and take revenge on the Germans who destroyed his family and their town. My husband organized and acted in the forest and saved hundreds of Jews who escaped to the forest, but he wasn't able to save the children of Nowogrodek. You were speechless then, my great God, you didn't see, you didn't hear the wailing of the children of the ghettos, among them the children of Rafalovka Ghetto.

The Germans, the Poles and the Ukrainians sang songs of praise to Hitler, songs of praise to killing and blood,abuse of women. They sang songs of praise for the rape of young women and little girls.

My beloved mother, I couldn't help you. I couldn't take you out of the rivers of blood. You were already among the murdered wallowing in their blood. I was left alone. I' extend my hand to you in my dream, crying and see your sad eyes.

I'll tell you, my friends, about my brother, Asher Bliznyuk, who lived in Russia and was the eldest in the family. He, his wife and two sons, lived in Kiev, the capitol of Ukraine in the big Soviet Union. The Jews of the city believed in it. Suddenly, they took them by force, all of them together

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to the forest, all the Jews of Kiev, killed them all and also the members of my family. The Ukrainians were active participants to Hitler's act of extermination.

God, help the survivors of the terrible Holocaust, help the survivors of Rafalovka, a Jewish town that disappeared from the eyes of the world, this world who wanted to forget the killings.

Beloved Rafalovka, you always exist in our eyes, beautiful, calm and quiet. The school where we studied was a shelter for boys and girls, a place for the revival of the Hebrew language. Where are you my beautiful town, I have no pictures of you, my town, I have no picture of the school and not even a picture of the family, my beloved family.

God, why are you chasing us? Look, dear God, everything is blooming around, look at the beautiful mountains and look at the mountain goats climbing easily and happily to their homes in the tall mountains.

Hitler killed all my family. Can you look straight in my eyes? Please God, enough killing, enough tears and sadness. Help my nation, God. Help the masses of miserable orphans.

The Gruber family,
Meir and Chaya Sara

by Rachel Gilboa née Gruber

Translated by Sara Mages

Fifty years have passed since I separated from my beloved family z”l. The family photo is standing before me. It was taken in the afternoon, inside the fruit garden that surrounded our house, on the eve of my immigration to Eretz-Yisrael. My mother, Chaya Sara z”l, that her eyes were swollen from a lot of crying on that day. It was probably resulted from an unconscious sense that we would never see each other again… Behind her standing my sister, Leah'le, she's also very sad and her natural smile was erased from her lips… Rachel, me, the immigrant to Eretz-Yisrael, is standing to her left. Even my face looks serious, very sad and express what took place in my heart during the summer vacation that I spent at home before the immigration. To my left stands my brother, Shmuel. His face is also sealed and expresses the seriousness of the separation. Avraham's bride, Itka, daughter of Nathaniel Meniuk, is standing next to Leah'le. Their wedding took place sometime after my immigration. Missing in the picture is my father, Meir Gruber z”l, who passed away in 1933 and, of course, our eldest brother, Michael z”l, who immigrated to Israel before 1934.

Michael, the eldest, was the first to break the boundary of our town and traveled to study at a high-school in Russia.

The days were the days of the outbreak of the revolution in Russia and the studies were disrupted. Somehow he made his way to Vilna and finished his studies at the Hebrew Teachers' Seminary. He met there his future wife, Miriam Isaacson z”l, and they got married at our home in Rafalovka.

Michael and Miriam had two sons: Moshe, his name today is Moshe Gilboa and he serves as Israel's ambassador in Athens the capital of Greece. Meir Gilboa received agricultural education and today he is a member of a settlement in the Negev. In 1938, my beloved sister, Leah'le z”l, married Ben-Zion Meniuk who returned from Eretz-Yisrael after he studied for one year at the Institute of Technology in Haifa and served

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in the “Haganah.” A daughter was born to them and they postponed their immigration because of his parents' request. Ben-Zion z”l packed, together with me, his suitcases for immigration and wrote the destination, Jerusalem, on them. However, he wasn't able to immigrate before the German invasion.

Ben-Zion escaped to the partisans, was appointed head of mixed group of Jews and Ukrainians and fought valiantly to avenge his family's blood. When the message was received in the partisans' group about the decision to grant Ben-Zion the “Outstanding Partisan Medal,” and he was invited to Moscow to receive it, one of the anti-Semitic partisans shot him. By the way, this testimony was given to the Ministry of Defense by the surviving partisans who live with us in Israel. I, the sole survivor in the family, was granted to receive in his name the “Fighters against Nazis Medal.” which was granted to him on the basis of this testimony.

My brother, Avraham, and his wife, Itka (Meniuk), lived next to my mother at the Schneider family house that they purchased from Leibe z”l. Shmuel, the youngest brother, integrated in the store and worked with father. On the last year before the war he finally decided to immigrate to Israel and left for “Beitar” pioneer training in Baranowicze. When the war broke out he left in order to be with his mother and escape with her to Russia. But, the cruel fate wanted that Shmuel, the diligent and talented among us, will perish together with the rest of the family. People, who managed to escape from the death procession to the pits, told that my mother's last words were “I thank you God that two of my children are in Eretz-Yisrael.”

Our home was a Hebrew-Zionist home. All of us studied at “Tarbut” school. Michael, who was a “Liberal General Zionist,” wandered in the towns during his vacation and lectured about immigration to Eretz-Yisrael. Avraham and Shmuel were enthusiastic members of “Beitar.” I was a “devote” member of “Hashomer Hatzair” and Leah'le moderated the political debates that broke out at the dinner table. A Hebrew paper usually arrived to our home from Eretz-Yisrael, we read Hebrew literature, and spoke Hebrew.

My brothers aspired to immigrate to Eretz-Yisrael but, after the death of our father, they were forced to manage the store and provide income with mother.

A terrible war broke out and put an end to all the hopes of Avraham, Shmuel, Ben-Zion and Leah. They were murdered.

Mt brother, Michael, and his wife Miriam, passed away in Israel.

I survived, I continue the life of my beloved who were murdered by the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers just because they were Jews.

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A warm Jewish home

by Rachel Vitas Translated by Sara Mages

In memory of my mother, Chaya, my father, Shlomo, and my sister, Leah Shmukler z”l, from Rafalovka.

They were pure souls, people that all their manners were always directed to benefit others and not just their family members. They also treated strangers, who visited their home, with great warmth. Light and joy always prevailed at home, especially on the Sabbath when a guest who was in town for his livelihood and for some reason was late to return home for the Sabbath, sat by the table for a meal.

If ever happened, that someone had treated them unjustly with his behavior, first and foremost they searched for the reason, why and how it happened, so as not blame him that he committed the act maliciously. Human love, the need to help others, was an important principle in their life. All the good deeds were done not to receive a prize, but discreetly and giving in secret, because this attribute was rooted deep in their heart.

Can it be that such a bitter and cruel end waited for these honest and good people by the Amalek of the twentieth century who annihilated them, at no sin of their own, among the rest of the Jewish martyrs?

My parents sent their children to Eretz-Yisrael (then Palestine), with the hope that the day will come and we all met here, in our country, that they loved so much. However, they weren't able to fulfill their hope because their lives were cut short by the bitter enemy of the Jews.

They weren't very rich, but their home was open and warm, a home that radiated love to those who lived in it and around it. Until now, over the years that passed since this terrible tragedy struck our loved ones, the heart refuses to believe, you're outraged and you complain, why? Why, those who were able do something against it were silent? Is it because the primary victims of this criminal and murderous act were the Jews?

We wouldn't forget our love ones. Their memory will always be kept within us.

May their memory be blessed!

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May their memory be blessed

by Henya Zlishnik née Lisek

Translated by Sara Mages

In memory of my parents, my brothers and sisters, and the entire beloved family.

I cannot tell about all the horrors that my family have gone through because I left home in 1935 and traveled to Eretz-Yisrael. Anyhow, I carry with me the message from home. It was a warm home, loving and traditional, an open house to everyone, especially to people in need of help. We were seven children at home. Our situation wasn't always good. My father z”l was a builder by profession. My mother z”l managed the grocery store on her own. My father was also employed by the Polish government to oversee the railroad that linked Rafalovka and Sarny.

My parents tried, with all their might, to give their children a good education. We, the three older children in the house, studied at “Tarbut” school, which was a private school and not everyone had the means to study there. Our parents tried to give us from the very best even though my mother had a heart condition and her treatment was very expensive.

I remember that there was a small room at home that was kept for passerby who needed a place to sleep and eat. Also the Admorim, who visited our city, stayed with us. We cleared part of the apartment for them so they can receive an audience and bless them, and, of course, also us. My paternal grandmother came from the Stephen Hasidic family.

No one imagined that such a hatful man will rise against the Jews and wipe out, in such a cruel way, all the good and beautiful. I, my sister and brother, remained.

From my sister's stories about her life in Russia, and also from my brother's stories, it is possible to write a book about the suffering, distress and diseases, that they knew. Only the memories remain, for as long as we live, because the pain is great.

The family was caught after everyone was taken out for execution. My sister returned to Rafalovka from the Soviet Union after the area was liberated from the Germans. Here, she heard about the murder of our family.

A Ukrainian denounced my family and told the Germans that he didn't see them among those taken to death, and then the search began. They found our family, the parents and the children, who hid in the bunker that my father z”l built. A German knocked my sister, who was very beautiful, and said that he couldn't kill something so beautiful. Then, the brutal Ukrainian burst in and killed her.

I ask, where was God, where were our forefathers? We were led like sheep to slaughter and there was no savior. Did the ears of our righteous were sealed when they heard the screams and the cries of the innocent, children, babies and women? I will never accept it. I lost all my loved ones.

I remember when we received the news of the horrible tragedy that befell our family and lived the pain of all the Jewish people. My grandfather, Yakov Zucker z”l, reacted that way: “Yes, my children, these are our sins for not believing in God. The entire Jewish nation pays for it. We have to accept it. To remember and never forgive.”

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The Reizil Dichter family

by Sheindil Leiserov née Dichter

Translated by Sara Mages

I was born in a small town in Poland, Czartorysk, is its name, a place where our forefathers lived for generations.

At the outbreak of the First World War the Germans invaded our town, burnt our homes and destroyed everything. We were forced to leave our town and search for a safe haven in times of trouble. Together with us were my brother, my uncle, my mother, Alter Bakelczuk and his family. We walked in difficult roads until we reached the city of Chelm. There, we, the parents and six children lived in one room. The cold and hunger were unbearable and the days were days of war. Only my parents' desire to return to Czartorysk at the end of the war gave them the strength to endure the hardship.

Indeed, when the war ended we headed back to the town, but we didn't get there. On the way we stopped in Rafalovka, the place of residence of my cousin, Ettel Dichter-Meniuk, wife of Sania Meniuk. With her encouragement and help we remained in Rafalovka. We started to rebuild our life. We went through very difficult years. Thanks to my mother's great energy and the help of the older children, we moved to our own home and started to earn a living. My father, who wasn't well, studied the Torah most of the time. Thanks to him, my mother said, we succeed.

Father began to suffer from stomach ulcers. We traveled with father to Warsaw where he underwent surgery and died a short time later.

Father was buried in Czartorysk, our former place of residence. My father's death was a severe blow to my mother and the family.

Several years after my father's death my eldest sister, Minka, died after a long illness.

My sister was buried next to my father's grave.

Four brothers and I, the writer of these lines, remained at home.

My eldest brother, Sania, married a woman from Czartorysk. They had six children who were orphaned from their mother who died at the prime of her life.

My second brother, Sheikel, married Hindel, daughter of Shlomo Yakov Gruber. They had three daughters.

Yoske, the youngest brother, didn't agree to live in Poland. Despite my mother's objection he traveled to Kibbutz Dabrowica and six months later immigrated to Israel. In Israel, he married Leah Morik, daughter of Eliezer Morik.

In 1937, my brother, Moske, married Sheindil Wajngarten, daughter of Yechiel Wajngarten, and a daughter was born to them. In 1939, he enlisted to the Polish army, fell into German captivity and didn't return.

My brother, Yoske, passed away in 1977 of a heart attack. He left two daughters and a son.

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In their memory and for the sake of future generations

by Tzvi Lesnik

Translated by Sara Mages

We - Yakov, Tzvi and Moshe - sons of the Lesnik family, remained alive and guard in our hearts the memory of our parents, Chava and Avraham Lesnik, and our brother and sister, Zalman and Malka who were slaughtered by the Ukrainian murderers during the liquidation of Rafalovka Ghetto on 17 Elul 5702 - 19 August 1942.

I write what I remember from my youth for my daughters and grandchildren. If they ever want to know their past or the life in their grandfather's and great-grandfather's generation, they will read these words.

I was born, and so were my father and mother, in the village of Olizarka which was entirely populated by Jews. There were hundreds of villages like it. They were founded in Western Russia and Eastern Poland which was occupied by Tsarist Russia.

It was very difficult to exist from the plot of land given to each family, therefore, most of the family men also engaged in other professions, mainly in construction. They generally found their livelihood in construction in neighboring cities.

The annual migration of the men started with the arrival of spring, from Passover to Rosh Hashanah.

All that time the women and the children ran the domestic farm that also included a livestock farm.

In these villages there was a steady depletion of residents for various reasons: relocation to nearby villages and cities, immigration, before and after the First World War, mostly to the countries of America. The villagers' urge to wander was also caused by the desire to escape the poor living conditions. In 1921, our father immigrated (in the Third Aliyah) to Palestine with several members of the village. A year later, all of them returned to their village because of the high unemployment that was at that time in Eretz-Yisrael. Since then, the nickname, “Palestinik,” was stuck to him, and so our father was known in the area.

By the way, at that time almost every Jew, in the villages and in the towns, had a nickname that passed in the family from generation to generation.

In the middle of the 1920s, we moved to live in New Rafalovka, a distance of a few kilometers from our village. The settlement was new and advanced. It was located next to the train station and there were more job opportunities. The population was diverse.

The residents of New Rafalovka were traditional and also imbued with Zionist spirit. Lecturers from various parties frequented our town occasionally. The center of all events and debates was, of course, the synagogue in the town center.

The Hebrew school, “Tarbut,” was a hotbed of Zionism in town. Almost all the town's children studied at that school. The parents covered all the expenses involved in its establishment and the necessary expenses for the existence of the institution.

The anti-Semitic atmosphere, which increased from year to year, darkened the life of the Jews in Poland.

Our youth didn't see the possibility of Jewish existence in Poland in general and in our town in particular.

Many left for Hachshara [training] within the framework of the “Halutz” movement and immigrated to Israel. Our father tried his luck again and 1932 immigrated illegally to Israel, but without success. He was brought back to Poland and gave up further attempts to emigrate. He decided to establish himself and to build the future of his children in our town. My father saw success in his actions.

This situation lasted until 1939, until the outbreak of the Second World War and the division of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union.

There was a turn in the life in the town. Individual and collective rights were restricted and .property owners were left penniless. The political parties disappeared from the area. The Hebrew language was replaced by Yiddish. We accepted and adapted to it quickly because we knew that a war was raging in Europe and it can also spread and reach our region.

The extermination of the Jewish population began with the German invasion of Russia in 1941. Soon, ghettos were established in cities and towns in the occupied area. The Ukrainians, who were allies of the Germans, were appointed heads of the councils, and such was also the police. Jewish life became worthless. Jewish homes were plundered and murders took place in broad daylight. It was done by former neighbors and friends with a logical argument “if I do not take, others would come to take.”

Depression ruled everything. Even if they knew and felt that the ghetto would be liquidated soon, there was no place to escape to because the whole area was hostile. Many entered bunkers that were quickly discovered by looters. And so, the end came to everything in 1942.

Today, the sign and evidence to the existence of the Jews, “there,” in our town, are the pits of slaughtered and the few survivors who live with their memories. All that is left is to bring them up in writing for future generations, eternal reminder, not to forget the past and draw conclusions.

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The Lechetz family

by Yehudit Mutznik nee Lechetz

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1924, my father, Avraham, my mother, Tzipi, and their four children: Yehudit, Tzvi, Ben–Zion and Yocheved, moved from Olizarka, a small and modest village, to Rafalovka the Station [New Rafalovka].

In comparison to Olizarka, Rafalovka was a “metropolis.” It was a new town, vibrant, multicultural and lively. It contained all the parties of those days: starting from the extreme right – Betar, Revisionists, General Zionists, to Hashomer Hatzair, and ending with the Communists. There was a “Tarbut” school, which stood at a high level, and its principal was Yakov Schneider, in time, Yakov Sarid the Director General of the Ministry of Education in the State of Israel. In New Rafalovka there was a public library, a Yiddish Theater circle, a Jewish Drama circle and a Jewish orchestra. Most of the newspapers of those days arrived to the town. In addition, speakers from all parties visited it. In short, a town that Zionist fervor burnt in its bones, essential, vibrant and cheerful.

We moved to this town: I – Yehudit, my sister, Yocheved, my brothers Greisha and Ben–Zion, and my old grandmother, my father's mother.

My father was a builder and started to build a house for the family on his own. Two years later, when he completed its construction, it was a big, spacious and beautiful house. At the same time, and afterwards, he built houses for local residents. This was his craft and he supported his family with dignity and relative comfort. He sent his children to study at “Tarbut” school and tried to give them the best education of those days. In time, when there was no work in town, he traveled to nearby towns to work and bring food to the family.

Many poor people from the surrounding area visited the town and father invited a “guest” every Sabbath.

My mother, a wise and diligent woman, worked hard on household chores and made sure that the members of her family wouldn't lack a thing. Although the work was voluminous and difficult, because the family was large, she found the time to do charitable acts and helped the poor.

It is possible to say, that life was running smoothly at home until the accident. At that time father worked in Stolin. He fell from high scaffolding and had a very serious fracture in his leg. Because of the severity of his condition he had to lay for a year and a half in the hospital, and when he came home he was fitted with a prosthetic leg. He started to work again in his profession with drive and energy. He employed workers from the area, our economic situation was very good and our future life looked very pink. And then, a terrible darkness descended and covered our entire life, the most terrible war broke out.

A few weeks after the outbreak of the war the Russians entered Rafalovka and life went on as before. Father continued to work and employed workers from the town and the surroundings. At the same period of time I married Shmuel Mutznik. We lived at my parents' home and life flowed normally.

For the residents of Rafalovka, and the surrounding area, the war didn't start on 1 September 1939, but on 22 June 1941, with the opening of “Operation Barbarossa” by the Germans. “Barbarossa” –

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the code name for the barbaric attack of the Germans on the Soviet Union, their ally since the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The Germans arrived to our town two weeks after the outbreak of the war and our lives have become worthless. The Germans started to concentrate the Jews in a ghetto and squeezed forty of the town's residents into our house. The hell started and continued until the total annihilation of the Jewish residents. On the day of extermination father was in the nearby villages to collect food for the ghetto's residents and so he survived the annihilation of that day. For a short time he hid with one of the farmers in the village of Balakhovychi until the hand of the murderess also reached him.

Mother and her two children, Ben–Zion and Yocheved, were murdered by the Nazis together with the town's residents. I – Yehudit, and my brother, Tzvi, fled from the town immediately after the outbreak of the war, before the Germans entered our town, and in this way we were saved.

The family of Shlomo–Yakov and Batya–Leah Gruber

by Yehudit Mutznik nee Lechetz

Translated by Sara Mages

Jewish families, from various towns in the area, gathered and came to our town, Rafalovka the Station [New Rafalovka].

My father, Shlomo–Yakov, and my mother, Batya–Leah z”l, arrived from the town of Zoludzk. The Jews engaged in various crafts: tailoring, shoemaking, carpentry and, of course, also in trade, and had all kinds of shops.

The area was rich in forests and traders arrived to New Rafalovka to buy lumber. My father saw to it that the lumber arrived to its destination. My mother had an important part in the family's livelihood – traders slept and also ate at our house.

The town was like one extensive family.

We were a large family, nine daughters and two sons. Of them, eight sisters and a brother immigrated to Israel. Our sister, Hinda, her husband, Shikel, their three children – Drozina'le, Shulamit and Miriam, and our youngest brother, Moshe'le, perished in the Holocaust. May their memory be blessed.

I, and my brother Moshe'le, were like twins. We studied in the same class, played together and, if it happened that friends bullied or hurt him, it was as if they hurt me and, of course, the other way around. I remember an incident when a teacher punished Moshe'le and took him out of the classroom. Tears streamed down my face and when the teacher saw it he brought Moshe'le back to the classroom.

I matured and aged, and now, when the power of imagination attach images to each other, I connect the image of my brother, Moshe'le, the way I remember him, to the image of my son, Yakovi z”l, and the image of, Moshe'le z”l, son of my brother Yosef Gadish z”l. I long for their presence and feel the pain of their absence. [1]

There was a “Tarbut” school in town and we, the children, decided, not once, to speak Hebrew among us and also to enter the stores and speak in the Hebrew language.

Our town was Zionist and contained all the parties. At the congress

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father gave his vote to the Labor Movement even though he belonged to “Mizrachi” and was considered to be a traditional religious Jew.

Father said: my children belong to the labor stream. I will support them because this is their future.

Holocaust is the most appropriate word to express what happened to the Jews of Rafalovka and to my immediate family. May their memory be blessed.


  1. Yakovi fell in the Six Days War in the battle of Khan Yunis – 27 Iyar 5727 (6 June, 1967)
    Moshe'le perished together with the crew of the “Dakar” submarine – 29 Tevet 5728 (30 January,1968) Return

In their memory

Ada Sidelman[1]

Translated by Rachel Zetland

We were a very close knit class and were active outside the classroom as well. The blue box of the Keren Kayemet was very important to us, as was the Hebrew language… Once, we agreed to speak nothing but Hebrew for a whole week. Whoever broke this rule had to pay a fine to the blue box. We spoke Hebrew for a whole week. When our parents would talk to us in Yiddish we didn't answer, or we would answer in Hebrew. They got angry at me more than once, 'why am I not answering, what has gotten in to me? What's this game?…'

I will never forget the celebrations at school. At Hanukah we put a big show on with all the pupils. On Purim, we would all go around the town in our costumes to raise money for Keren Kayemet le-Israel with the blue box. On Lag Ba'Omer we would spend the entire day in the field with bows and arrows. Before Shevu'ot we would go out to the nearby forests with the teacher, pick flowers and vegetables for the holiday. The next day we would spread out in the town with the produce and raise money for Keren Kayemet le-Israel. At the end of the year we would go out on trips. I particularly remember the trip we took when I was in 7th grade. It was a big trip, for three days, to Lutsk, a large city in our area. We sailed on steamboats on the Styr River. I remember perfectly the large synagogue of the Karaites[2], a very old synagogue and a cemetery.

In the Tarbut school there was a big library. From 5th grade I served as the librarian. I remember every book and every author. There was not a book in that library I did not read and then later I recommended books to other pupils. That is where my ongoing love for books began.


  1. Ada Sidelman from the Pugacz family remembers the fervor with which the children at Rafalovka the Station (New Rafalovka) studied Hebrew. This section is partly translated, partly summarized. Return
  2. The Karaites (literally, People of the Scripture) originate in the 9th century C.E., when a number of sects arose and denied the existence of oral Torah. They believed in the strict interpretation of the scripture, without rabbinical mediation and thus became distinguished from Rabbinical Judaism. According to the Karaites, this movement at one time attracted as much as 40% of the Jewish people. Today, Karaites are a very small minority, and most Rabbinical Jews do not even know that they exist.Return

[Page 314]


by Miriam Plum

Translated by Sara Mages

In memory of my parents, Chana and Shmuel–Yosef, and in memory of my brother, Feibel, who perished in Rafalovka Ghetto. Their memory will stay with us forever
The daughter and the sons – Miriam, David and Arye.

We were born and raised in Rafalovka the Station [New Rafalovka] and spent our youth there. In the 1930s, my older brothers left to find their future in Argentina while we wandered to Russia with the outbreak of the war.

Today we cling to the memories.

Like most of the residents of Rafalovka my parents' years have passed with almost no significant events – day after day of the same work, day after day of the same financial worries. Life was orderly and peaceful. My parents were satisfied, to some extent, from what they had. In Rafalovka there were shops, market, train station, and sawmill that was considered to be a factory. In addition, lumber and forests traders operated in the town.

Almost all the people conducted a traditional–religious life. A special atmosphere was felt in the town toward the arrival of the Sabbath and the holidays. Secular people also came to the synagogue on the Sabbath and on the holidays. On those days they used to get together with relatives.

I remember Rafalovka the Station as an advance town. There was a “Tarbut” school in town which contributed that Rafalovka would become a Zionist town.

Chapters of almost all the Zionist parties were active in the town.

It seems that everything is standing before my eyes but, in fact, Jewish Rafalovka no longer exists.

[Page 315]

My family – My parents Bracha and Nachman Friedman, my sister, Freidka

by Yosef Friedman

Translated by Sara Mages

My mother, Bracha Friedmann z”l, from the Susel family, was born in 1898 in the village of Dolgobola near Woldzimierzec [Volodymyrets].

My father, Nachman Friedman z”l, was born in 1897 in the city of Sarny. My sister, Freidka Friedman z”l, was born in 1930 in the city of Zakopane.

After their marriage my parents lived in Rafalovka until 1927.

I, Yosef Friedman, was born in Rafalovka.

In 1927, we were forced to move to the resort city of Zakopane because of my father's illness and, as stated above, my sister was born there.

On 28 August 1939, two days before the outbreak of the Second World War, we left Zakopane and returned to Rafalovka.

In Rafalovka my family was received, by friends and relatives, with a warmhearted reception. My parents rented an apartment at the home of Avraham Lesnik.

In June 1941, with the German invasion of the Soviet Union, I, and fifty teenagers, managed to escape to the depth of the Soviet Union. My parents and my sister, like most of the residents of Rafalovka, remained under Nazi occupation. I only know what happened to my family and their suffering during the Nazi occupation from stories told by the town's survivors. They said that Avraham Lesnik built a bunker in his yard. My family and the Lesnik family found shelter there. A few days later a gentile neighbor informed them, they were taken out of the bunker, beaten and tortured, and then murdered by the Nazis.


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