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[Pages 72-78]

Chapter 3

Scenes of Nature

[Page 72]

The Shtetl in Winter

Translated by Judy Grossman

Rivka Levitt: How beautiful the shtetl was in winter. The trees were covered with snow, and the whole shtetl was as white as a bride dressed in a white gown. The air was fresh and pure. The lake would be covered in ice a few metres thick, and horses and wagons could cross it. The wagon drivers used to drive great distances – at the time wagons were the means of transportation – and more than once the Gentile driver would fall asleep at night (he was usually already drunk), the horse would stumble, and the next morning they would be found frozen.

It was a pleasure to skate and to slide down the slopes on sleds. We would slide down and fall over, and nothing happened. I remember that Avraham Slep would polish the iron on the sleighs and decorate them with bells.

On the long winter nights my mother would serve tea and “varenye”, broad beans, in a central plate, and alongside them sauerkraut and frozen apples that were taken down from the “boydem” (attic) where they were stored in large amounts. Such a frozen apple would be placed in a pot with hot water, the ice would peel off, and then we would suck the apple – which had turned brown from the frost – and it was delicious. We would have fun, and the clown among the older group would put a piece of ice on the girls' necks, where it would slide down to their backs, and then they would have to try and remove the ice from under their clothes. How we laughed!

Hillel and Ella Schwartz and their son Hanoch (Purim 1933). “It was a pleasure to slide in sleds”. Esther Shapira (the teacher from Antalept [Antaliepte] with Yehuda Slep, the teacher from Dusiat (on the left) and Lonka Kopolovski (from Antalept).

Batya (Levitt) Aviel: We would hang up the laundry in the attic, and several weeks could go by until it dried. The sheets were frozen, and the shirts and pants became shaped like figures. We loved to look at these shapes. We would move the “arms” and “legs”, and the “figures” would be set in motion.

Shayke Glick: When frozen laundry like that hung outside, it was a frightening sight, especially at night.

The children from the school went out and shouted: “Uncle Shneior (a play on words for 'shney' - snow in Yiddish) has come.”

The teachers Yehuda Slep (right) and Hillel Schwartz (left)

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