It's the 10th year that Jews from Telekhany in Israel are lighting a candle in memory of their sacred martyrs. The 10th candle is being lit in Tel Aviv on the 12th day of Av, in honor of their sacred memory. Seventeen years have passed, but the wounds are still fresh and open, and they will not heal as long as there is even one Nazi beast alive and free.
The town is overgrown by weeds, it is crying. Big cities have gradually recovered. Telekhany still bears the devastation they left in their wake – death and destruction.
Telekhany was a flourishing town with spirited dynamic young people; their characteristics were inherited from the first fighters from before World War I, the "Brothers and Sisters". At that time the "Brothers and Sisters" fought heroically against those who exploited them, and our youth followed in their footsteps after World War I.
When our parents returned to devastated Telekhany after World War I, we were still small children. They struggled hard to make a living, but spiritually they lived beautifully. Everyone found what he needed. Among them were Zionists, chasidim, non-chasidim, etc. The point is that nobody became demoralized under the yoke of everyday life. Everybody loved the printed word and everybody avidly read books. They kept Jewish traditions and observed Jewish holidays. Together with our parents, we children joyfully celebrated Passover, Shavuot, Simchat Torah and Chanukah. But this ideal didn't last for long. We children grew up, and each one chose his own path according to his own inclination.
The children grew into fine and happy young people. They aspired to work and to be industrious. They didn't want to become "Luftmenschen -- jack of all trades". Everyone learned a trade. In Telekhany the main professions were tailoring, carpentry, shoemaking, with a blacksmith here and there.
The young people were divided into different political parties. Sometimes they argued with each other, but they also participated in joint activities. But there was one place that united them all: the beautiful, flowering the little avenue where they enjoyed taking a stroll together and from where songs could be heard all over town until late into the night. Everybody in town, young and old alike, liked to meet the steamboat arriving from Pinsk each evening. If the boat was ever delayed, people would wait for it until midnight. They felt something missing if they didn't hear the sound of the boat's horn, or if they didn't see the water in the lock rising toward town and then later falling again. Next morning if somebody was yawning, you would know that the boat was late the day before.
Meeting the boat became a kind of ritual that lasted until the canal waters froze. But then again, the frozen canal brought fun as well. On Saturday mornings young people liked to take a stroll on the ice to Voulk Lake. The children skated, and the adults got a little winter sun, enjoying the children's happy laughter as the children ran and slipped on the ice.
Thus my little town enjoyed both winter and summer, and a happy life obviously made active young people. They loved life and strove to make it useful. They were focused on life's purpose, which was their main principle, and due to that principle each person sought to learn a trade, and excel in their work so they could always live normally. Everything they produced was filled with love. The Rightists used to say that if they were able to love working in the Diaspora, they would love working in Eretz Yisrael. The Leftists cited Lenin's words: "If you love your work here and now, you will like it under a proletariat system also." Thanks to these sacred goals, our young people lived active and happy, and their parents were proud of their sons and daughters.
Before I start writing about the political parties that divided our youth, I want to briefly immortalize my parents of blessed memory; our good neighbor Yisrael Mashiach and his wife; my friend Rifka Beinishes and my teacher Chaim Yeshayahu.
My Mother Malke Reuvens
This beautiful, tall person. Where are the words to describe her while my hands tremble and my heart pounds?
When the fatigue from her hard workday passed, her mild candid smile spread over her pretty face, and she was in a good mood, Mother would gather us children in the dining room, around the big table and told us beautiful children's stories. With her beautiful and rich language she enchanted us and excited our children's fantasy. When we grew older, she told us stories about wars, revolutions, and finished by singing the French national anthem, the Marseillaise. With this anthem she expressed her militant character, and with the stories she expressed her rich imagination. At the same time, however, she was a down-to-earth person. She ingrained in us the conviction that a person should not wander, because it destroys one's livelihood. Her slogan was: "Even a stone grows in one place." Oh, dear mother, who is able to express the horrendous pain? Death to your killers! For you, the eternal memory of your children and all freedom fighters.
My Father Reuven Gurstel
The working man, the enthusiastic chasid, the active Zionist who worked with such endless dedication and devotion for his ideal. His little son Motye asked him once: "Father, why do all people have lands of their own, except the Jews?" He cried bitterly in response to the question. Oh, how far I was then from your idea, Father! But when I stood years later with my little son Reuben in Israel, on a plaza and heard the proclamation of Israel's independence, saw our Jewish fluttering flag rising higher and higher, announcing our freedom, I saw our people standing there with bowed heads and tears of joy flowing from their eyes. Then, father, I fully understood your tears from years ago. And my heart ached for you father, who couldn't live to see the fulfillment of our age-old dream.
In building this land, we honor you father. Be your memory sacred and eternal.
Yisrael Mashiach and his wife Sarah Mashiach
Our best neighbors. Yisrael Schwarzenberg, the tall man with the friendly smiling eyes and skillful oven builder. He made his ovens as fast as a person can braid a challah for the Sabbath. Here he put up the base, and then before you know it, the chimney is already on the roof.
When he stood there looking satisfied at his work, you would think that he was working just for pure pleasure rather than for his livelihood.
Mashiach [Messiah] was his nickname. People in town liked to come to his house on long winter nights and sit at his table and pour glass after glass of hot tea from his samovar that stood in the middle of the table. They would enjoy drinking and telling stories from the past and of the future. His wife, Sarah, a tall and honest woman like her husband had warm kind eyes. She kindly offered her snacks and listened to their guests' conversation. The next day she would come over to Mother and discuss the issues. Their warm house is unforgettable. May their memory be engraved in our hearts!
The parents of my friend Rivka Beinishes.
They were a nice quiet family. They lived on the outskirts of town, on the road to Sventevolye. Her mother was a refined dear woman, and her father, a hard worker. When their five sons and three daughters passed the street, it seemed like the earth is trembling under their steps. They were the personification of health and beauty.
Rivka, my friend! The epitome of diligence. She worked nightshifts at the sawmill, and during the day she would help her mother in the house. She was in the fields in summer, and worked in weaving in the winter. She was always helping a friend or a little brother.
Rivka, Rivka! The memory of you will be sacred to me forever.
And last but not least ---
Chaim Yeshayahu Shneidman
My teacher who taught me the alphabet. I would like to dedicate a few words to my childhood, the poor childhood we all shared.
Coming back after World War I to the demolished town, Chaim Yeshayahu lived near the glass factory, and we lived in town, in Uncle Yankel's house. Since we studied into the late evenings, we had to bring a bottle of kerosene [probably meaning a kerosene lantern]. On our way home, the Landowner Filipowitch's dogs would attack us. Our cries would wake up the half sleeping town. At that time we also suffered from the terrible illness of malaria [trans.: should probably be typhus, since malaria is a tropical disease]. We often had to leave kheder and go home with chattering teeth. When we got home, our little bodies fell right into bed, suffering from chills and high fever. There was no doctor in town to help us.
In such a bitter childhood, Chaim Yeshayahu was our beacon. His small room was warm, and he radiated warmth and beauty, something which warmed and healed us children. I still remember him teaching us the song, Oifen pripetschuk brent a feirel [On the stove burns a fire], Yehudit stubbornly refused to sing along. So he patted her little braids in a fatherly manner and said: "Sing, sing, Yehudisel, why are you quiet?" The little girl then opened her mouth and sang. I can still see Chaim Yeshayahu's laughing eyes. I was sitting open mouthed after he finished the biblical story about Joseph being sold by his brothers. I expressed my astonishment over the misdeed carried out against Joseph. Chaim asked me, "Do you like the story?" "Yes, yes" I answered, "continue the story."
He used all his inborn pedagogic skills to enrich and sweeten our lives, cure our souls damaged by the recent war. He wanted to teach us not only the alphabet, but also how to laugh and have fun. His patriarchal look has never left me ever since I came here. He embodied the greatest virtues of the Jewish people. Praise and honor to his memory!
Now I can return to the youth of Telekhany, to whom I dedicate my article. As I mentioned earlier, the youth were active they weren't reticent about seeking the truth. The main question was regarding which path to follow. Their slogan was "Know yourself first. You will then know what your life's purpose is, since knowledge is the basis for reaching the goal."
There were three political movements in Telekhany: the Chalutz [Pioneer], the Left Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion], and the Communists. Each person strove where his heart and will led him. There were also young people who were not affiliated politically they were the children of the wealthy. However, their education wasn't better than ours. On the contrary, we never ceased to educate ourselves, while their main goal was material attainment. They also, however, loved reading books. Workers, craftsmen and simple poor unskilled shift workers all enjoyed reading, because they found intellectual satisfaction in reading as well as an opportunity to spend a couple of hours with the protagonists of the books.
It should be noted that a few years before I left (I departed in 1935) there was a modern Hebrew school in Telekhany, as well as a Polish school standing on a hill. The parents decided to bring in a woman teacher from Pinsk. One child after the other thereafter became attracted to a modern education.
There were political disputes among our youth, just like there are everywhere in the world. However, as I mentioned, there were activities that were undertaken together, and they were very successful, i.e. the cooperation in developing the library and other things. There was one place where in the beauty and mystery of nature the young people forgot about their disputes and arguments. It was the place where they were all united. In the evenings they would go out to stroll on the alleys and row on the canal. The beauty and stillness of nature brought hearts and minds together for the great thought of brotherhood and peace! They sang worker's songs, revolutionary songs and love songs.
I can still hear the words of one song that so strongly lamented the fate of the poor:
The youth would walk along arm in arm until dawn because they all loved the stillness of the evening, and their souls longed to hear the sounds of nature, and lie and relax in its bosom. It was in the evening that nature revealed to us its entire splendor! Our feelings found themselves in a quiet tune, and we would just lie down, carefree, on the green grass and stroll along the fragrant paths and alleys. The water rumbled along freely, accompanying our singing.People drink and have fun,
And their pockets are always full,
Yet I don't drink or have fun,
And my pocket is always empty.
(This song was in Russian and this was the introductory refrain).
The greatest expression of beauty was on Friday evenings. The young people would breathe quietly, listening to the sounds of the breeze, which they would then follow with revelry and song. Their parents were sleeping soundly on the Sabbath, and after midnight, when the leaves started rustling, the frogs croaking and the crickets chirping in the dark nooks and crannies. After midnight nature began its real symphony the sound of the animals that were grazed by the shepherds in the hot daytime hours. This was the sign for us that it was time to go home.
We tiptoed home ever so quietly, and got into bed, making sure not to make the slightest sound to awake our parents, who were fast asleep at that time, and waiting impatiently for their pets. The next day, when daylight broke, we would hit ourselves, realizing that we were going to be late for work. However, the candlesticks on the table reminded us that it was the Sabbath, and we could relax as much as we wanted, and thanked G-d that he provided toiling people with a Sabbath.
Political Party Activities
I can't say much about the Halutz [Pioneer] movement, since I wasn't involved with their activities, but so I don't misrepresent anything, I am going to only record what I actually remember.
The members of the Halutz were extremely enthusiastic Zionists. Their slogan was to shake off the despondency of the Diaspora, and aspired to a complete redemption in the land of their fathers. Their activity focused on this idea, and they diligently studied the history of the Jewish People. In the summer they would organize seminars.
The Pinsk members would come to Telekhany and work in the sawmill. They would work diligently and with love, because they were dreaming about their homeland, for which it was worth sweating and toiling. In the evenings, they would go around with their koleikelach that would carry on boards and pilenas during the day; their joy and laughter used to cut through the air.
The Telekhany members would spend time in training in other places. They would stay there and work for a couple of years or longer. Some considered this training program a difficult activity, but they all believed they were working toward their goal of traveling to Palestine, building the Land and fertilize its earth. And did they ever fertilize it! They turned deserts into blooming gardens, and under the burning sun they added one brick to another, building their homes. They did this with the same devotion as they worked when they were in the Telekhany sawmill.
Now, on to the Left of the Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion]
The Left of the Poalei Zion believed that the redemption of the Jewish People could only occur in Palestine. They also believed in a socialist society in Palestine, and that there, in the center of the Jewish People, the proletariat would bring about their redemption and that of the entire Jewish People. They believed that Jewish class interests demanded a large area, which was possible only in their own territory.
There was a large library in town, and the readers elected the librarians. The readers eagerly devoured the best of world literature. The librarian would propose a book to a reader according to his knowledge and age. Everyone was careful not to ruin a young person with an inappropriate book. Since there was no movie theater in Telekhany, the minds of the young people remained as pure as crystal; there was no foreign influence to affect them, since Telekhany was far from larger centers, and each person shaped his own life without foreign influences.
Literature evenings were held from time to time. I can still remember the trial over Gladkov's book Cement, and how people concentrated on the defendant and plaintiff. They talked about the main protagonist, Dasha, and whether her ethical conduct as woman, wife and mother was correct. Each person offered his own opinion according to his own feelings about the issues involved, and was deeply concerned about the fact that the story took place in the opening stages of the Russian Revolution, when people were trying to figure out how to arrange his own life under the new circumstances. Most people justified their parents.
The Left Poalei Zion also had a drama club, and their performances were a great event in town. Young and old, and even the summer cottage residents would flock to the performances. The residents of Telekhany would welcome and escort the performers with stormy applause. They did it over and over again! This was the best occasion for the performers to be able to show their artistic talents, and since they would rehearse their parts, the result was very natural and beautiful. The Telekhany audience particularly liked tragedies, which would leave them with a strong impression. In fact, they actually liked seeing themselves on stage.
A couple of times we were visited by a theater group from Vilna, but not everyone could attend the performance due to the high price of the tickets. Once in a while a silent movie would also be shown in Telekhany. People were hungry for some intellectual stimulation. Sometimes a member of the Left Poalei Zion would come to town to give a lecture. When Zerubavel came to town, it was a major event, and everyone flocked to hear him. Younger people were a bit disappointed because they used to discuss the same issues day and night. Their parents especially enjoyed his stately presence and white beard, and they were highly impressed that a Jew with a beard could speak so freely about worldly issues, and then go off with the young people and sit on Yisrael Meltzer's bridge until midnight (Zerubavel used to stay at the hotel near Yisrael Meltzer).
Another pleasant and special evening for the young people was when Erem came as an emissary from Palestine. We surrounded him and devoured all of his stories. After he finished speaking, he would teach us Zionist songs and a shepherd's song that I can still remember. On that evening, I could imagine seeing a sheep prancing down from Mt. Gilboa.
An important part of our lives was when people took trips from the Pinsk area to Telekhany. Our town would come to life when the guests arrived. Pinsk school children would come on a field trip to the beautiful Polesia region, and members of political parties would come to visit their friends. The city folk used to love coming to visit us. We welcomed them warmly, and they loved to lie on the green grass when the town was fast asleep. The waves of the water in the canal moved softly, and the waterfall would break the silence with a pleasant faint sound, while a July breeze would caress their foreheads. When they would come home to sleep at their friends' houses, they would be surprised with fresh milk and tasty biscuits that mothers had prepared especially for their guests.
The Telekhany residents warmly greeted their friends. It was a way that only a small-town ordinary person could greet someone from the Big City, who even personified the great, rich and cultured outside world.
We were especially attached to our friend Topsha. I remember one Sabbath when we were all traveling on the steamboat to Vihonoshtz. It was a wonderful trip. Our friends from Pinsk treated us like their little brothers and sisters, and Topsha told us all stories about the big world out there, and we swallowed everything she said.
It was a time with a full and active life that taught us as much as the best schools or universities.
In the last pages of my article I would like to speak about the heroic boys and girls who kept their activities secret. Their lives were in danger merely for thinking about a better tomorrow.
They brought their ideas into every home. They were dedicated only as faithful honest idealists can be. They not only sought to change the regime, but also to change people so they would be mature to take on the great day that would bring about the new order that would liberate all the suffering, weak, oppressed and exploited masses, and thereby remove the clouds, allowing the sun to shine forever!
According to their beliefs was the range of their actions. They sought to bring the light of the new ideas to every dark corner. The story of their activities was as follows:
In my town of Telekhany there was a poor stooped woman, abandoned by G-d and Man, with the name of Meryankelicha, because of her husband, Meir Yankel. The only significant possession that she had was a son, Mordechai Zucker, who lived in Pinsk. One fine morning Mordechai appeared in Telekhany after being chased out of Pinsk for his communist activities.
The teenager was unafraid, and quickly found a new platform for conducting his work. He started thinking about spreading his ideas, and very quickly started attracting an audience to listen how to liberate mankind from his shackles.
The teenage boys of Telekhany, who were excluded from any form of productive work, joined the movement, seeing themselves as the vanguard of the struggle for freedom and justice. They enthusiastically spread light and knowledge in the far out corners of the Telekhany region. They were afraid of nothing, and never relented from their activities. During the dark summer nights they plodded through the deep sand, and in winter, through the deep snow and swamps. They filled their backpacks with proclamations and kept right on going. They lived the ideas that were in their hearts. Their activity had a strong effect, and attracted followers. The peasants in the area started to rebel against high taxes, and the Jewish community also respected these boys, who seemed never to tire or be afraid of their work. Whenever a member was in danger, a member of the Left Poalei Zion would help him out.
Their activities were so numerous that they gave no rest to the police. They were arrested, and then new publications and proclamations would come out again, like snow falling on the street. It went so far that the police in Telekhany were on alert day and night, and even their police superiors from Kosov would thunder into Telekhany like a gang of bandits, and strike people mercilessly all over the place.
A rumor circulated in Telekhany that everyone in town was a communist. Avramele the Scribe was involved in commerce, and he had to report where he came from. He was turned into the Grodno police. A teenager from Telekhany went to Slonim and got grabbed by the head, 'Where are you from? From Telekhany?' He then got flogged that night. There was a girl found a blouse made from red fabric and hanged it at the park. So then there was a roundup in town as the police searched for the person who hanged up the "red flag." I could recount many such stories.
I remember May 1, which fell on a Friday. Everything was green and in bloom, just like it's supposed to be in May. The fragrance of lilac was in the air; our house was surrounded by yellow sand, and the golden rays of the penetrating sun hit the yellow sand harmoniously. Everything was bathed in Sabbath calm. Suddenly, as if from underground, terrorists appeared, casting fear through everyone. Not only did people silently and painfully protest their arrival to disrupt the holy holiday and Sabbath calm, but even the barking of the dogs in the gardens sounded like a rejection of those who quite suddenly appeared in the quiet town, violating the Sabbath and the holiday. It didn't take long for the communists and those suspected of being communists to end up lying on the floor at the police headquarters and being kicked by the rubber soles of shoes and flogged on the shoulders.
I hated the Polish rulers from my earliest youth. I remember how when I was twelve years old I went with other children and women to gather berries and mushrooms. When we returned from the forest with our full baskets, the landowner, Filipovich, arrived with his assistants and two dogs. He stopped us and grabbed all the berries and mushrooms. He even took the new basket my mother bought for me. At first I was speechless. Then I screamed out, "Give me back my basket! Give me back my basket!"
He claimed that since we were out gathering in his private forest, he was missing something. The peasant women always brought him something of what grew in the forest.
I remembered the injustice, and many of us tried to figure out a way to get even with them. An opportunity arose only many years later.
We used to have a sea celebration with a large parade, and the Polish rulers believed that G-d only had them in mind when he created the beautiful natural environment of Telekhany. The police wanted to celebrate quietly, and arrested everyone for the celebration. They built a bridge across the middle of the Telekhany lake, and brought out an orchestra. The little walkway in the canal was all lit up, and everyone in town strolled around it. Three of us girls sat in a corner and planned to show them that they could never keep the forces of struggle behind bars. So we considered attaching little red flags to boards and sending them out with the current. We waited until more people arrived, and then we did our job, sending the little flags to their target, and they got there.
They went crazy, as Sarah Krupnick described it. She had the buffet out there on the bridge that night. She raised her hands to heaven and thanked G-d that there were others besides her brother Leibel, who was then sitting with his friend Mordechai Zucker in the birch kartuz.
They didn't only go after the teenage boys, but made their parents' lives bitter as well. The parents suffered in silence, but deep down they were proud of their heroic sons. The boys were the kind of people who had to run away from Telekhany in the middle of the night and leave Poland entirely. Others spent five or six years in prison under terrible conditions. Their mothers' eyes were soaked with tears over their sons! The fathers walked with their heads bowed. After several years the boys returned from prison, and the entire town went out to greet them. Their mothers washed away their tears, letting a soft smile cross their faces. Their fathers once again walked erect, and their sons resumed their activities.
The struggle in Telekhany continued for several decades uninterrupted until the arrival of the Nazis, who drowned everyone in blood.
I wrote these pages with the blood of my heart, and when I finished, it happened that I left the cemetery with an oath to remember and never forget the Amalek of every generation! May these lines serve as a brick for the monument that will be established for the martyrs by the freedom fighters.
Sol (Shlomo) Landman was among the few Jews of Telekhany (and nearby region) who survived the Nazi murderers in the Soviet Union. He now lives in Washington. He started his life all over again, opened a small business, married and came to Los Angeles with his wife for a visit.
The Telekhany Yizkor Book Committee met with him for two days. We had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand we were happy to be with a living fellow émigré from Telekhany, and on the other hand it was painful to hear him describe the horrible torture of our martyrs at the hands of the Nazis. He lived through awful inhuman experiences during the Nazi period. At the same time, he recounts, it seems that the wounds were starting to heal, and then something happened and they were opened again. He would be quiet as if he had been poked in the throat.
We looked at hunchbacked Sol as he was sitting there. He was unrecognizable. Only a few minutes earlier we had shaken hands, and he had been smiling; he was over six feet tall. He had broad shoulders and was middle-aged, with an open brown smiling face like that of a healthy villager. He had changed so much!
He rubbed his tall forehead with a rough hand down to the corners where his black hair was turning gray, and started speaking again.
"As you know, Telekhany was ruined in World War I, but Jews are very stubborn people. So Jews of Telekhany returned from various cities and towns where they had been deported, and built Telekhany all over again. There were no glass factories anymore. Only the sawmill was working. Children were off to work, and their fathers became small merchants and brokers. They opened small stores, became shoemakers, tailors, carpenters and bricklayers. They made a living off of each other and from their hard work. Others received help from the United States. Electricity came to town, and so did an electric bus. The train started running again. Making a living was hard because of the intense competition that arose among the merchants, and unemployment grew among the youth. However, Jews lived with the hope that G-d would help."
He paused for a couple of minutes, as if he were taking pains to say something.
"I was still a young boy, and I can remember how the Jews of Telekhany said that despite the difficult economic conditions they opened a Jewish school for the children, as well as a library, which Yosef Glick, the local rabbi, and the youth of Telekhany helped to set up. Various organizations were started: the Poalei Zion, the Socialists and the Communists.
"Anti-semitism and the reaction in Pilsudski's nationalist Poland became stronger under the leadership of Beck and other anti-semites. The activists among the youth were sent to the Kartuz-Bereza (a prison for political prisoners) with long prison terms. The hate, distrust and economic insecurity interfered with the rebuilding of Telekhany. Unemployment increased and children went hungry. Mothers cried, begging G-d for a 'little war' so their children could go into the army and have something to eat. This is how people lived during the decade 1931-1941."
Sol paused again, smoked his cigarette and continued to tell the story with bitterness:
"G-d of war noticed the motherly tears. World War II broke out, and even though people could feel it, things were still quiet in Telekhany. A few days later we heard that the Bolsheviks had entered Brisk and nationalized town property. Storekeepers and businessmen in Telekhany believed life would be better under the Germans. Rumors circulated that the Bolsheviks did nationalize property, but the Jews obtained work together with all the non-Jews, and the government sent the children to school to study. Young people went deeper into Russia. Then German spies organized bands from among the ignorant peasants. There was a rumor that the Bolsheviks were going to come and nationalize and seize things.
"The situation became more critical by the day. Nazi spies incited the peasants to hold pogroms against Jews. They pillaged, killed and beat Jews in the streets. Jews stood up against them with empty hands because the weapons held by the revolutionary young people were buried, and those revolutionaries were in prison.
"Our house was not spared either. The pogrom gangs broke in at 2 AM and stole everything. This went on for six weeks. I was not at home because I was off with the Bolsheviks. It was extremely difficult to go away. I left my wife and two children, parents, sister, brother - a large family. My father kept bothering me, asking what and with whom I would be doing whatever with the Borvesa (the term he used for the Bolsheviks). I asked him, 'Father, are you responsible for the results?' 'No, my son…..' he responded sadly. I left, and remained alive. Those who remained behind perished, and were annihilated. My friend Asher Gurstal and I are the living witnesses of the destruction and annihilation of Telekhany." He wiped the perspiration off his forehead and continued.
"When I left Telekhany with the Red Army, I met Jewish families in the wagons along the way. These were families fleeing Telekhany. I asked them why they hadn't taken along my wife and children. Their silence seem to say that my family were no longer among the living."
Sol looked at Gershon Gurstal. He spoke of his father, Alter the Carpenter, and how he had had the honor of dying a natural death. He did, however, get a taste of Nazism. They had torn out half his beard. We looked at each other with silent pain and fear for Gershon's weak heart.
"We the young people fought against the wild beast in human form. Before the Nazis arrived in town, Asher Gurstal, Ephraim Klitenick, his brother Leibel (now in Poland), Dov Landman, my cousin, Yisrael Kez (in Israel), a few non-Jewish young men from Voluka and I organized a self-defense unit. We got and hid weapons to face the enemy. However, a few of us left with the Red Army, others went to Palestine, and many of the leaders were put into prison. The weapons remained in where they were, and were never used.
"After the war I had an opportunity to remain in the Soviet Union to study and work there. However, since I knew myself that my entire family had perished at the hands of the Nazis in 1944, and the location of the remains of my parents, I felt an obligation to return to Telekhany and bury them properly.
"My friend Asher Gurstal (a little older and weaker than I) and I encountered many difficulties, suffering and misfortune on the way back to Telekhany from Russia. We traveled mostly by foot. Once in a while a peasant in a wagon would take us along. Silent discomfort separated us; we got off the wagon and continued walking. Though we knew that not all gentiles participated in the destruction of Jews, we were afflicted with suspicion.
"After several long and difficult weeks of suffering along the way, we arrived in Telekhany. The town was empty and dead. There were two long mass graves where there was once the glassworks street. With broken spirits and hearts we finally arrived in Viohonotshtch. Entering my house I found a familiar gentile family. We stood at the entrance and looked on in silence. We couldn't utter a word. A door to another room was open, and I could recognize our closet. Then I noticed some of our furniture. 'Shloma, how much? I'll pay you.' I glared back at him, and then sat down on a wooden chair, exhausted. With tears in his eyes the peasant described to me how the destruction occurred:
"'The Nazi army ordered the Jews of Telekhany to stand in rows of 25 people, and to dig two long trenches. When they had finished, the Storm Troopers gave the order to shoot. The Germans carried out the orders and shot them, and the Jews fell into the graves one after the other men, women, children and the elderly.' The gentile crossed himself."
Sol's voice was choked with tears. His face turned gray-colored. He was reliving the experience. He collected himself and continued.
"The mayor of the town received an order from the Nazis to exterminate the rest of the Jews. Those were my parents, and none of the gentiles wanted to do it. They said they had nothing against the Jews and didn't want to kill them. The mayor himself went to our house, called out my parents into the yard and shot them. My father first, and then my mother."
He dropped his head as if he had no strength to hold it, and then after a brief pause started speaking.
"I am a strong person by nature. However, when I heard this from the gentile, I started to see my whole family before my eyes. The fact that the gentiles in our house were making excuses for themselves infuriated me. 'Let's go!' I said to my friend Asher. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. The peasant and his wife stopped us: 'Stay with us. We'll give you the biggest bedroom in the house,' they begged us. To show us how sincere they were, they again crossed themselves.
"We decided to perform the burial as quickly as possible and then leave. We obtained a permit from the rabbi and the Soviet authorities to bury my parents according to Jewish law. We couldn't obtain any linen to wrap the dead half-decomposed bodies. The peasants brought us long draw hard straw. I wrapped them and brought them to their eternal rest."
We, the committee of 10-12 people, remained seated with bowed heads and breathless. We felt like we were sitting shiva for the martyrs of our hometown. Someone broke the silence and asked a question: "Is it true that the Soviet authorities had given permission to turn the synagogue into a warehouse for grain, and had turned the cemetery into a gasoline station?"
"Yes, that's true," answered Sol. "We must always tell the truth," he added.
"How did the Jews live under the Soviet regime?" I asked.
"They confiscated the property of the rich, and sent them to work along with the poor. Write down everything I am telling you, and put it into the Yizkor Book. I am so busy in my business that I never have any time. No, I can't."
We understood that the real reason why he told us to write everything down was because he couldn't relive the agony a third time. We could see that on his face.
From our hometown we are fortunate there are
still a few men and women spread out all
over the place.
They all decided to record in a yizkor book
their murdered mother, their murdered father.
So that they should be remembered,
and so that future generations should know
that the German murderers annihilated the lives
of six million Jews.
Along its streets that went up in flames,
my poor youth wandered around.
Above you and me, the same sky
that delighted in your bloody conflicts,
are now delighting in my teardrop
that fell onto your burned body.
I ramble, I look for some sense,
a support to hold my memory,
of how a town of Jews were sacrificed on the altar.
It's deserted, but the wind
quivers over a stray old page.
Only a few letters remain,
recounting generations of life.
The scent of beards, candles and kiddush wine
waft through the air.
I hear a mournful tune, and ramble and cry along;
My lips quietly blaspheme:
Why, why should only a stray page
be left to tell how Jews went up in flames?
I wander, and each step burns my memory,
each stone is a witness;
Trees rustle quietly, telling secrets.
I turn my ear; I want to hear
their secret, the essence of their lament.
Speak, trees, speak!
We were once friends,
And perhaps in your shadow
is my never-ending dream;
at the very top of your branches
that kiss the heavens
flutters my old smile.
It's quiet, it's on an early morning.
The wind washes away the last sign
of my wandering steps through the ruins of my town.
September 1, 1939 is a famous date it is the date when World War II broke out, when Hitler's hordes attacked vulnerable Poland and took it over in 17 days. This date was the start of the great tragedy that resulted in the inhuman deaths of six million of our People.
The same date will always be recorded in my memory because it was when my lifelong dream of emigrating to Palestine was crushed. At that time I was already on my way to Palestine, and was waiting in Warsaw for notification about the second departure of the transport (because the first time, it returned from Romania. We had been a group of a thousand men involved in illegal immigration to Palestine). Instead, I found a German airplane starting to bomb Warsaw.
With great difficulty I was able to receive permission to leave Warsaw and return to Telekhany. The trip from Warsaw to Telekhany took ten days, and more than once the train was hit by a hail of bullets and bombs from German airplanes. On September 10 I arrived in Telekhany by foot from Sventevolia (because the small train had become paralyzed).
Telekhany was under the impact of the events of the previous ten days. No one knew what to do. It seemed a bad idea to wait for the arrival of the Germans, but on the other hand were the Soviets, and the question was whether they would open the border to people fleeing Poland so as not to fall into the hands of the Germans. A large group of young people, however, decided on the second choice to go to the Soviet border and face whatever would happen. We figured no one would shoot at us.
Everyone prepared clothes, boots and food, especially dry crackers, and just waited and followed closely the radio reports about the battles in order to decide when to leave. On the evening of September 16 after a short meeting, we decided to start our departure for the Soviet border the next day.
We felt very bad. Most people had to say their goodbyes to their parents, who couldn't decide whether to leave on a trip that was mostly by foot. We wondered what the fate of those remaining behind would be, and were wondering even more about those walking to the Soviet border. Whatever the outcome, there was no other way out. The older people found it difficult to abandon everything they toiled for with blood and sweat their houses and few possessions. They wished their children well and blessed them that G-d should lead them in the right way; they told the children that they would accept their fate, whatever it would be, in Telekhany.
The next morning, September 17, everybody in the world were impressed to hear the announcement from the Soviet regime that the Red Army was extending its "fraternal hand" to the people of west White Russia and west Ukraine to assist them. The situation ended with our unending joy since we could all remain at home, and instead of us having to go to the Soviet border, the Soviets were coming to us. A small part of the Jewish population, merchants, didn't hide their chagrin, worry and disappointment. They knew that private enterprise was abolished in the Soviet Union, and they worried about their businesses and future.
A few divisions of the broken Polish army started passing through Telekhany. One of the officers who were unable to bear the affront warned us not to be happy. They were going to gather forces and chase out the Bolsheviks and the Germans. As revenge, the Polish soldiers committed various offenses: they shot civilians (Aharon Landman, Yitzchak's youngest son, was wounded) and forcibly took away a few young men as far as the Krogelevitch villages and even further. The police in Telekhany ran around like drugged mice. Many young Jewish men who had been serving in the Polish army returned in half-civilian clothes.
As mentioned earlier, the Jewish population, which had suffered earlier, now started breathing easier, and had to begin taking care of their own defense and facing a short period of time without any local government. Jews realized the danger of anarchy. This period lasted for almost a week, until advance Red Army soldiers arrived, and people gathered at the police headquarters (near Avraham the Scribe's brick house). It was a warm day, and all day long smoke rose from the chimney on the police building they were burning their papers and documents.
It was the evening of September 18. People were hanging around on the street in front of the police headquarters waiting for something, though not knowing what they just felt something had to happen. On the balcony of the police headquarters stood the police commander and our representative, Rabbi Glick, brothers Leibel and Ephraim Klitenick, as well a few eminent members of the communist party in Telekhany. The commander briefly announced that they were leaving town. A few policemen were leaving their wives and children, and he assured the people that nothing wrong was going to happen to the people. In order to protect life and property, the commander gave out all the weapons at the building, except for revolvers, to the representatives of the Jewish community headed by Rabbi Glick. Rabbi Glick and the commander shook hands, and the rabbi announced to the assembly in Russian:
"From now on the government of Telekhany is in my hands. Whoever does not obey my orders will be punished very strictly. I am appointing Leibel Klitenick as the new commander in Telekhany."
Apparently Telekhany was the only case where there was such a procedure of the government being officially handed over by the Polish police. It was also the only case where a rabbi assumed power and appointed a commander. In addition to the tremendous impact it had on the crowd, this act was rare in the history of the revolutionary transfer of power from the government to the Bolsheviks.
The town went about preparing to meet the Red Army. A tower was built on Sventevolia Street, and was decorated with greenery, and people had to start sloganeering in Russian. I remember how I was asked to write the slogan (I could draw and paint pretty well). I didn't know any Russian, however. Someone came across an old moldy Russian book and showed me which letters to make. I followed him letter by letter and copied the letters over onto a large red piece of linen, without understanding what I was writing. Anyone at all who could help out with the preparations to meet the Red Army did so. Girls sewed red flags and decorated the People's Clubhouse.
Everyone was greatly disappointed when, instead of greeting an army, a jeep arrived in town carrying 3-4 officers and soldiers, who announced that soon Soviet rule would be established in town, and representatives would arrive to set up a socialist system.
The jeep left immediately, and we were again left without a governmental authority. The Jewish youth were then called to a meeting, and Leibel Klitenick handed out the guns. The group called themselves the Red Guard, and they intended to maintain law and order until the establishment of a local government. I remember that Beinish Mozrirer (Lieba Chaya's son) and I patrolled Sventevolia Street every night starting from the mill in Smolnia.
Everyone participated voluntarily and faithfully for several months without any compensation. When the Soviet government later paid each person fifty rubles for their work in the Red Guard, some complained that this meant they were serving in expectation of compensation. This showed how enthusiastic the young people were about the change in regime.
The arriving Bolsheviks started their propaganda, telling about life in the Soviet Union and painting it as paradise. The bragging of the new Soviets was rather curious. For example, when they were asked whether some kind of item was available in Russia, they always responded that they had huge factories, "what else do we need?" "Do you have lemons?" asked one Jew. "Oh sure, we have many factories that make them!" was the retort.
All of the arrivals from Russia were very poorly dressed, and when they noticed the difference in the way we were dressed, they responded that they had been mobilized directly from the factories and fields, which is why they arrived in work clothes. They also didn't want to reveal the lack of clothes and food in Russia. Then they bought as much as they could from the stores. Our prices were much lower than prices in Russia. For example, a pair of boots cost us 30 zlotys, while in Russia they cost 300-400 rubles. In terms of currency exchange, the boots cost the equivalent of 30 rubles.
Soon basic necessities became scarce. Even bread, sugar, biscuits and other food were available only after standing in line. However, a revival of community and cultural life wasn't concerned with that. There were many meetings at the Folks House, where the Soviet constitution, laws and practices were discussed. The various Soviet institutions were set up, and the young people started learning Russian. There were various courses on various subjects, such as bank employment and other specialized fields in the newly created offices. Due to the fact that the Jewish young people were more educated and dedicated to the new situation, they therefore filled all job positions. My younger sister Esther got a job as an employee with the government bank, and as far as I remember, for a brief time she excelled in her work by performing more bank operations than the norm.
The newly created conditions stimulated the young people to study. It should be remembered that studying in a gymanzia high school was very expensive, so very few people were able to send their children to study there. My parents tried to make it possible for me to attend high school, but after two years of study at Chechik's Pinsk high school, I had to quit in 1933 because the international economic crisis reached Telekhany as well. My father was unemployed because no one was building houses, and therefore there was no need for windows and doors. I started to work for my father in carpentry and continued to do so until the Bolsheviks came to town.
I knew that the same teachers were teaching at the high school that I had left 6 years earlier, so I departed for Pinsk. The teachers still remembered me and had been pleased with my work I had been one of the better students. The winter of 1939-40 was a bitter one. The weather was very cold, wood was very expensive, and people had to wear their winter coats in the house. I had to spend two months preparing for the exams that I was going to take in the second half of the year in January 1940. I pored over my books day and night because in those six years I had forgotten a great deal. I also wanted to skip a class so I wouldn't have to study with children younger than me.
Our nourishment was tea and saccharine (because sugar was too difficult to obtain) with bread and bilberry jam that my mother made. Despite the difficulties of cold and hunger, I passed the exams. Classes in the first three months were taught in Yiddish, and at the end of the year, the last two months the school was run by a White Russian, and classes were held in Belarussian. How we disliked the coarse peasant language; we even had to study White Russian literature. However in the next school year (the last year of high school), the school went back to teaching in Russian, and everyone was very enthusiastic about going back to Russian.
Unfortunately, my hopes for completing the year and going on to study in a Soviet university were dashed. Two months after the start of the school year, a draft was imposed for all those who had not shown up to join the Polish army. (The Polish army took men at 21, while the Russian army drafted boys at 18). On Yom Kippur my parents, siblings, friends and acquaintances accompanied me and three other Jewish boys to the train station from where we were leaving, without even knowing our destination, for service in the Russian army. My parents shed a tear, but no one ever imagined that this would be the last time we would see each other.
I traveled together with Eliyahu Sender the tailor's son, Berl Ziskin the tailor's son, and Feivel, the son of Lemel Baum.
We traveled in closed troop transport train cars, and additional cars were added to ours along the way. On our train there was a group of boys from nearby towns and cities, including my cousin Aharon Shmuel, Rivka's son, who was eventually killed in the first days of the battle in Leningrad. There were cars that included Tajiks and Uzbeks in their national costumes, such as ladies' housedresses. They didn't know any Russian, and spent their time trying to figure out how to escape from the train, something that even our own group never thought of doing.
We passed through various train stations in the Russian areas. These were painful pictures that were engraved into our memories - barefoot and abandoned children surrounded the train crying to us, "Grandfather, throw us out a piece of bread." Since we didn't know where we were, I named the station where the train stopped Rivatskoya. Later I found out that it was on the way to Leningrad.
We arrived in an unpopulated area in the middle of nowhere not far from Murmansk, but we found concentration camps filled with arrested "settlers" and other criminals, kulaks and former wealthy Russians (who had been sent there after the 1918 revolution). When we arrived in October, the cold winter was already there, and it was dark almost the entire time, except for a few hours a day of a little light. Summer was the opposite, sunlight almost all the time; right after sunset, the sun started coming up again.
I didn't give up my hopes of studying, and for a short time I was accepted as a student at the Leningrad Institute of Technology. I had just sent off my first examination project when the war with Germany broke out, which made me forget about my studies. I marched off to the front, where I remained until December 30, 1945. I saw two of my friends from Telekhany killed before my eyes. They were the ones mentioned above, except for Eliyahu Sender, who remained alive, and who I met again after the war.
I would like to simply recount a typical event regarding the internal experiences and struggles that are worth mentioning and which took place one day. It was actually a calm day, with no bombing or shooting. We were lying inside the trenches, and there was something that was bothering me. I thought I was going crazy and my heart was going to stop. I couldn't figure out what was bothering me, so I decided that if I were fortunate enough to survive the war, I would try to find out what happened on that same day. I noted that it was August 4, 1941. Four years later I realized it was the day that the German murderers killed all the Jews in Telekhany, including my parents and family.
My mother didn't say much about herself, but I knew that she had a difficult childhood. After my grandmother Slava had born him five children (four daughters and a son), and when the children were all still small, my grandfather Fishel divorced my grandmother, who out of embarrassment returned to her hometown, leaving all the children with our grandfather.
My mother Chana was the eldest daughter of my grandfather Fishel, and she was 9 years old when she was forced to assume the material and emotional responsibilities for her younger siblings.
She used to tell us that at the age of 9 she already knew how to make and bake bread, using a small stool to reach the oven. My grandfather didn't wait very long to remarry. Life goes on, and he married Gittel, the "speaker," and the children felt they had lost their father too. They didn't feel like they had much of a home.
After they grew up they went off around the world. Two sisters, Naomi and Beila, and brother Hershel, went to the United States. Our mother and her sister got married in Telekhany. The subsequent struggles with life's difficulties now began. Our father, a hard worker, a capable auctioneer and builder, worked from sunup to sundown, but didn't make much of a living. Our mother was a person naturally gifted with initiative, clear understanding and thriftiness. She opened a milk store, carried cans of milk from estates, sold butter and cheese, raised her children and sewed their clothes at night. Her hands were never idle, and because of her diligence the children never knew hunger.
In 1904, when the Russo-Japanese War broke out, our father was of military draft age. He didn't want to give his life for Russia, so he decided to go to the United States, where many others of his age had gone. He arrived in the United States after living through enormous danger and difficulties, depending on various agents. Mother remained alone with two children, Hillel and Feigel, and another on the way. These were difficult years for her until Father managed to get himself on his feet and learn a new trade, which took some time. In the meantime Mother was without a livelihood.
Grandmother Beilka loved my mother and would help her out when she was in need. Father was in the United States for four years. In 1909 he returned to Telekhany, though his luggage got lost along the way. He had saved some money, and our family's life was made easier.
I was born in 1910. We already had a nice home that was built together with Grandfather Fishel. Father usually worked outside of Telekhany in nearby areas, traveling with other carpenters in the summer months. The carpenters didn't work in winter because of the cold and snow.
I remember when Grandmother Beilka died. Father was at work out of town, and if I remember correctly, he was reached by telephone. Grandmother was a valiant woman. Grandfather Hillel Yaakov had been paralyzed while he was still a young man. It happened when he spent 9 months in jail for having signed as a witness to release Hillel Brombergs from the army.
Grandfather Hillel Yankel was a strong fellow, but sitting in prison with nothing to do affected his health. Shortly after leaving prison he became paralyzed, and at the age of thirty he became ill and then passed away. Grandmother Beilka was left behind with her 8 children, 5 sons and 3 daughters. Those remaining alive are two sons, Leiba and Froika. All the children were bright, honest, industrious and cheerful. They were known as good singers and were all married. They had children and raised them. Uncle Yehoshua Stolyar was especially known for being enterprising and intelligent. He would make the biggest podrads and put together the plans himself even without being a certified engineer. He had an outstanding sociable personality and a deeply human soul.
I loved him as much as I loved my own father, even when his economic situation was poor, he never lost his courage, and was happy with the little that he still had.
Five years after my father returned from the United States, the air once again began to smell of gunpowder. I was barely five years old when the first German airplanes appeared overhead. Everyone, young and old, were trembling from fear. The murder of the Archduke in Sarajevo was the excuse Germany needed to declare war.
My father had to be drafted, and we were extremely nervous about it. He didn't want to give his life for the "Papa Czar," and tried to extricate himself with money and was constantly worried. The war was in full force and the Germans were winning.
After a year of war the battles approached the Oginski Canal. An order was issued to evacuate the civilian population of Telekhany. The Russian aristocrats were raging and drinking the night before. The next morning, the soldiers received an order to bring out the first residents onto Sventevolia Street. Aunt Esther Leah's Feigel came running to our house in a panic, holding Donele (the child of her deceased sister, Rasha) by the hand. Aunt Esther Leah and Uncle Yaakov Aharon were in Kolonsk, where they managed a leased estate.
Feigel, Hala and Chantsha took off in the direction of Sventevolia Street, trying to save some household belongings from Uncle's house. Meanwhile, the Russian soldiers started plundering Jewish property. In the evening the decree spread throughout town, and the entire Jewish population locked their doors and windows together with everything they owned inside.
We gathered near the empty brick house in the open field under the open sky and spent our first night. The next day we saw how the fires had devoured the life-long work of our parents, and we acquired the new name of "homeless people."
We weren't allowed to remain outside very long. We were soon ordered to keep on moving. Some of the residents of Telekhany headed west, while others headed east, though without a specific destination. We continued our trek outdoors for six weeks, going right into the autumn.
We lived off of mushrooms in the forest and berries that grew in the woods. Here and there peasants had left potatoes in the ground, and we took whatever was available, thereby alleviating our hunger. We didn't see any bread the whole time we were wandering. There was one case when a soldier sold a loaf of bread, but it was as hard as a rock. Hungry fathers grabbed the bread, causing a chaotic situation where people were attacking and hitting each other over that hard bread as if it were a real prize.
Eventually the Germans pushed the Russians deeper into Russia. I remember clinging to my mother from fear as the dirigibles flew overhead. The frequent shooting scared us. We soon came to a Jewish community that was far away from a strategic location on the front. This was the town of Kletsk.
Uncle Yaakov Aryeh came from Kletsk, and he went to his relatives. We stuck close to him because of his wagon, which made it possible for us to transport our few belongings and small children. The adults, however, traveled all the way by foot.
Then new problems arose: getting an apartment and finding a way to make a living. In 1916 our family included 8 people. When Mother would ask about an apartment, everyone would ask how many children she had. Finally we found a room that had three army cots in it. We used them to sleep at night, and used them as tables and chairs by day. We were frequently prohibited from opening the door in order not to anger the landlady, so we used to go in and out through the window. Father was scared of moving around in open areas, so he didn't work. Mother baked bread for soldiers, earning us some money to buy food with.
The Russians were suffering defeats at the battlefront, and the government would make nighttime roundups. The difficult life we had caused my father to age as if he had just been discharged from the army. The rough health and economic situation that we found ourselves in at that time made people sick, especially with typhus. Mother was the first one to come down with typhus, and she was taken to a military hospital. We stayed alone, and then Hillel, Feigel and Sarahle got sick. After every occurrence of typhus, the local health commission would come around to disinfect us, which made the landlady very angry at the hapless refugees who were making her so worried. After a close call with death, Mother got well. The children got older: Hillel and Feigel started working Feigel in gardening and Hillel in unskilled labor.
The war worked its way into a crucial turning point. Soldiers at the battlefront were getting tired and disappointed from the fighting. The Bolshevist party made use of the spirit of the peasants and working masses against the decaying ruling regime. The masses want peace! A new period in our lives began.
We stayed in Kletsk for seven years, and life began to normalize. Father got involved in construction, and the older children worked while the younger ones went to school.
We started to hear rumors originating from Telekhany that residents were returning there, and we started longing to return too. After Chantsha died from a lung ailment, Mother was unhappy in Kletsk. One morning we packed up our things.
We returned to Telekhany in 1923, and found that at the glassworks factory there were still barracks of the glasswork employees from the good old days. Those structures served as temporary homes for the returning residents. We received assistance and started building our new home.
It was hard to live in the barracks. Mother, who under the most difficult of circumstances never gave up, was very nervous. She wanted to make a future for her children. She sent me to a trade school in Pinsk, and she baked bread for office workers.
Little Telekhany had no real opportunities available for the youth. They started thinking about their future. Early on after our return to Telekhany we took advantage of the summer to gather berries, elderberries and mushrooms to prepare food for the winter. In the evening we would gather together at the little alley and enjoy the weather with joyful singing.
Later on, the more serious young people started organizing cultural and political groups. We opened a public library, and would make our very own theater productions.
These productions certainly didn't meet artistic standards. However, there was a desire to be creative. There were also self-study groups and political movements. I am sure that there will appear enough material regarding the political life and activity of the young people of Telekhany from among those who are more gifted than I, and who will devote more time and thought to the topic.
We made sure that there was enough room for our grandfather Fishel and Aunt Gittel in our home. We built a shed and brought in a young cow from Kletsk; we planted nasturtiums and crocuses around outside the house. We had a beautiful vegetable garden on the sandy ground. My mother's eye was on guard for everything, and we felt very much at home.
In 1927 we celebrated the wedding of our Feigel, and the occasion gave great pleasure to our parents. I learned how to sew by hand, after having spent many hours doing it by machine. We gave our parents a lot of worry with our political party activities.
The first arrest in Telekhany after the "Yossel Provocation" was when our Slava was arrested with the rest. The community and our parents suffered a great deal from the frequent police searches and records, arrests and provocations that we were subject to.
I remember when we, the Left Poalei Zion, organized a Borochov celebration at the home of Shimon Gurstel. The mass arrest was provoked when the police surrounded the house, and everybody there was arrested. By chance, all three of us sisters were among those arrested. The police took all of us near the Lubiesha synagogue, and my father was standing in prayer near the window it was the onset of the Sabbath. He saw us escorted by police, and fainted on the spot. Nevertheless our parents expressed understanding for us in view of all the pressure and terrorism of the authorities.
New clouds started covering the sky, and the political situation in Poland became increasingly tense. The fascist Hitler party came to power in Germany, and was preparing its vengeful plans. The new anti-semitic law against Jewish ritual slaughter was the start of the first attack against the economic interests of the Jews in Poland. Anti-semitic speeches were made in the churches, and proclamations against Jews were announced. The first pogroms against Jews in Pshitek and Aptshna portended difficult times ahead.
The boycott against Jewish workers and Jewish businesses was a daily event. Jews were insulted and beaten. The dark forces among the Polish people were raising their heads. The young people increased their clarification among the peasants in the area, and some Jewish young people were forced to leave Telekhany for larger cities.
In 1936, I said goodbye to my parents, younger sister Saraleh and my friends and neighbors, all of whom were engraved into my heart. I said goodbye to my hometown of Telekhany, where I had lived during the best years of my youth; I said goodbye to my sister Slava, who at that time lived in Warsaw. I traveled to Palestine on the Polish ship, Polonia. Our Feigel and Michel and their three sons had arrived in Palestine a year earlier. Our parents and Sarahle remained together. I used to write home frequently, and frequently received letters from my parents and Sarahleh. They hoped for us to all be together.
In 1939 the fire erupted. World War II broke out, and we couldn't even have imagined the gruesome plan of annihilation that Hitler and his hangmen were preparing, and their whole life's work was one big war with few respites.
Everyone, young and old, tormented, emotionally broken, persecuted and defenseless were rounded up and killed on August 2, 1941. Without the slightest tremble the beasts in human form rampaged to satisfy their bloody lust for human blood.
The war in 1939 left us with shocking images of a tragic period. We lost our loved ones, and the purity of their humane lives will always remain engraved in our hearts, and serve as an example for the rest of our lives.
May their memories be honored!
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