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[Page 15]

The town of Olkeniki

Translated by Sara Mages


Landscape and Residents

If the words of our poet [Shaul Tchernichovsky] “Man is but the imprint of his native landscape” are correct, we carry within us the wonderful landscape of our town of blessed memory.

The town of Olkeniki resided on a low hill in the Vilna district of Lita. Around he town there were extended pastures, vegetable gardens and limited agricultural areas. At the edge of the fields, dense forests surrounded the town from several sides. These were pine forests that were used by the town's residents for various purposes. In addition, there were also Christmas trees, tall oak trees, and poplar trees – that were used as ornamental trees.
I don't know if the town was planed when it was built, but the way it looked in the years before its Jewish destruction, it was, both in planning and structure, a wonderful organic unit that supplied all the needs of the town and created a suitable balance between all of its inhabitants.
Three rivers flowed near the town. The most important river was the Merkys River, the Šalèia River, and the Geluža stream. The meeting point of the three rivers was called “Shuruk” by the town's residents.

The village of Zervynos was located north east of the town, and the homes of the Jewish village of Degsnës (“Selo”) were located to the west.

There were around ten streets and alleyways in the town. All of them concentrated around the big market, which was divided into two streets next to the hostel. The town's buildings were built from wood apart from 3 stone buildings. There were 3 two stories buildings, and the rest were one story. The roofs were slanted and there was an attic above the first floor. At the entrance to the house there was a small covered porch with two benches. The porch was also used as a Sukka. A chimney was located on top of the roof. During the winter the windows were doubled. An additional window was added and sand was inserted between the windows. The windows were tied together with tree-moss, and were decorated with colorful forest berries that also protected from the cold.

There was a small cooking oven in each house. A section of the oven was built in the shape of a bench where they sat during the hard winter hours to warm up. There was a large cooking oven in the homes of the rich, and their heating oven was an open fireplace with a niche for firewood. Also people from the middle class had a big oven in their homes.

Icicles were formed on the roof above the entry porch, and the ice created beautiful designs on the windows. Before Passover one of the windows was removed and stored in the attic.

Each farmer had a vegetable garden which was cultivated by his family members for their essential household needs. There was a cow that lived in the cowshed where the homeowner prepared a supply of hay, straw and fodder. In the summer, a gentile shepherd took the cows from the village and returned them in before evening. The cow's milk supplied all the household needs. The mother milked the cow with her hands. Some of the milk was drunk immediately, and some was used for cheese, butter, yogurt and kefir. There were some who also sold their products.

The town's Jewish center was located in the Synagogue Street, Eishyshok Street and the alleyways that connected them with the market. The gentiles didn't live there. The Jews lived with the gentile in the streets behind the church, and at the end of “Ostry Konitz”

[Page 16]

The soil in town was good and most of the Jews had small plots near their homes. Usually, there wasn't a garden that wasn't tended by its owners during the spring. There were also those who sold their products, vegetables and potatoes, to the townspeople.

In addition to the self-production of each home, including the baking of challot for the Sabbath, the townspeople bought various staples in the stores like: herring, small fish and halva.

A meadow – “Stavo” - was located on the eastern side. It was covered with green grass most of the spring and autumn, and a whitish carpet of shining bluish snow in the winter months.

This meadow was the bottom of a reservoir that stopped the water of the Merkys River by a dam near the village of Ðnipiðkës. The water was directed to the wheels of a water mill that was built at the 18th century at the edge of the town. The remains of the mill and the dam remained until the last days near the wooden bridge that led to Eishyshok. The “history” of the town was located at the back of the meadow. There, you were able to see the white tombstones and the Ohalim[1] of the new and the old Jewish cemeteries.

Who knows if the tombstones were left in their places, and if anyone visits them also today? Our parents, brothers and sisters, weren't buried in their town's Jewish cemetery. They were led for slaughter and burial to a neighboring town.

On Rosh Hashanah Eve 5702 [1941], our loved ones crossed the bridge over the Merkys River, that connected Olkeniki and Eishyshok, for the last time.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. Ohel (pl Ohalim) - tent - a structure built over a grave as a sign of prominence of the person buried within. Return


Liora Bebet, Ruth Goldman, Yael Seinfeld, A. Sidi, M. Mendelowitch, M. Nusem. According to the description of A.S. Ferber.



The Bima [pulpit] - the synagogue in Olkeniki, Vilna
district, was built in 5558-5562 – 1798-1802
Engravings on the pillar- the synagogue in Olkeniki,
Vilna district, was built in 5558-5562 – 1798-1802


The Great Synagogue and Beit-Hamidrash



A fortified synagogue
The Napoleon's “Parochet” [curtain for the Torah
Ark] was donated in 1812. Olkeniki, Vilna district.


Between Mincha and Maariv [between the afternoon and evening prayer service]


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