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[Page 238]

In the club of “Hashomer Hatzair”

From the diary of the group

Today is the 11th day of the month of Adar. It's a memorial to the heroes of “Tel Chai.”

In the evening all the watchmen and women, the members of the group, assembled. The hall was draped in black. Brother H. lit the lantern. Our mood was very high. It cannot be described in words.

kob238.jpg [34 KB] - Poale Zion in Kobrin, 1931
A Meeting of the Laborers of Zion in Kobrin, 1931

The teacher Mr. Alkon opened the assembly with a very lovely, beautiful speech. In fiery words he evaluated the wonderful shining personality of Joseph Trumpeldor and he described for us the story of “Tel Chai.” After him spoke Dr. Privolski on the role of the youth at this hour. With feelings of holiness we listened to the words of the speakers which ignited in us the fire of rebellion, the spark of freedom and the love of our fatherland. The picture was wonderful. In the middle, the beloved instructors, and around the brothers and sisters whose eyes were sparkling and whose faces shone. It was as if we heard a voice calling us saying to the people: We fell in “Tel Chai” as messengers of the Jewish people which is now coming to life again! Do continue, you in our path! And a voice as if it came from deep inside us said we will also be like you! We will make our will as steel and will make a road to freedom!

Through the window the darkness of the night could be seen. This night became to us a symbol of the Diaspora, a symbol to the sea of darkness around us. But with the symbolism of “Tel Chai” we will go up and go back to our fatherland. (Kibbutz Shimon – 1923)

[Page 239]

In the House of the Shomri

Outside there is slow rain. The storm wind is whistling. Inside the house there is boredom and quiet sadness. The old people warm themselves by the stove. A young man finds it hard to stay in the house. The house of the Shomri is hinting, calling for renewed life, to the excitement of youth… I went to the house. It is noisy and busy. Meetings, songs. In every corner a special group, how pretty are the lives in that house! Here we created our own youthful surrounding. This is our house. This is where we are spending our most pleasant hours. And see how wonderful the same young men and women whose faces have shown sadness, a worry about existence, in that house they forgot yesterday and its troubles. And without any command there exploded a mighty song, a song of rebellious and bustling youth. And the song told about youthful dreams, about a homeland that is being built by its sons and builders, about Pioneers who sacrifice themselves on the alter of their nation. And there is a message in this rebellion, in this fiery and strong will that strives for a change of life for a new reality.

Hands held together, arms combined, and a circle is created in the dance. Those Shomrim will express all their deepest thoughts, one rhythm for their will, for faith and for recognition “how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together” (Ariyeh Gad “Massada”).

Moments in the Village

Dark night, the skies are cloudy. In a minute there are drops of rain falling on us. In the quiet of the night we can also hear wailing of the wind. We are a group of youngsters who assembled in this settlement. Are we going to be scared by the darkness around us? What does that mean to us, the scary night, if the heart will sing and will announce itself. We are sitting there united and glued together around the fire. Each one stares into the fire which throws out sparks into flames that are going up into heaven and there is a lot that we can see in them. Here are in front of us floating the holy images of the greats in science and people who looked for truth who were burned at the stake. Here are those who were tortured by the Inquisition and were burned at the stake for the sanctification of their name. But this fire is also melting us and bringing us together and raises the person and renews him, the fire that brings the message of the rebellion.

In the darkness of the present and our sad life is being created the fire which lights sparks in the hearts of every young man and young women in Israel and all those sparks together make one big flame which lights the path to freedom, to emancipation, to new life.

[Page 240]

So it is now, too, we are absorbing into us all those sparks from the fire and with their energy we will continue to weave the life of the movement and of the youth in-Israel and by the light of the early members of the movement we will be educated!

The wind becomes harder, the rain is falling and only the echo answers after us the words of the hymn, “though the storms make waves, we will raise our head high.” It is the time for promise. The skies light up. Only a little wind moves the trees. Columns and columns, this camp stands around the flag of the settlement. From among the columns, comes a group of young people who are about to make a promise. The whole camp is in a very high mood. The faces show mental readiness to the future.

These are moments of real inspiration when those who repeat the pledge do so in a loud and crisp voice: “I promise to be a Shomer.” And another camp comes into the covenant with the movement, another camp of young people which has tied itself with the “Hashomer Hatzair.” These moments of promise are engraved in my heart. These moments, as if they are serving as an ongoing fountain from whence we are getting support and strong will to continue despite everything. (Menachem Gari)

Some Sketches of our History

In the month of Iyar, 1920, a group of youth with Moshe Mintz established a unit of “Hashomer Hatzair” in Kobrin, the first one in Polsia. Thanks to the good work and the support of some people the engineer Levits, Dr. Privolski, Bervikonkin, the local authorities verified the establishment of this group. As scouts, their first goal was to develop the body of the Jewish youth to bring it closer to nature and to prepare him for the life of a Pioneer in the land of Israel. They also paid attention especially to trips and to physical exercises and so on. The historic court in Tragota #33 served as a place of assembly. From there they would come out armed with sticks and with bags on their shoulders for trips in their neighborhood. There were also schemes that scouts played and physical exercise. The leader who had complete authority was at the head of the group. He centralized the whole activity. The group grew and the framework became wider. There were streams of youngsters from various neighborhoods and various circles with various values. It was impossible to have a leader with such unlimited privileges so there was a “historic” revolution and as a result there was elected as the head of the organization the brother Chaim Goldberg with a counsel to which were elected Pinchas Goldschmidt, David Lifshitz, Lippa Lifshitz, Chava Novitzkovski.

[Page 241]

In the life of that club started a new era. In the street Klashtarna, at Shmerl the bath attendant's house, they rented a hall. There the group began to weave new life with the direction of Mr. Noach Alkon. The educational work became deeper and stronger in larger groups. That era was really known for its cultural activity which was manifested in a variety of projects. There were workshops for wood workers and for tailors that had a lot of value to the productivity of the Jewish youth. In 1924 there was another group organized, “Kfirim” (which means young lions) the youth group of “Hashomer Hatzair.” The group grew and developed. The work proceeded at a fast pace, and so was the life too in the group until the year 1929. That year was a turning point in the life of our camp and its creativity. There came a time of self realization. The graduates were not ready for a sudden transition and when the personal realization was the most important element in theory and in practice of “Hashomer Hatzair” they had to leave the group. This fact brought an internal crisis to a failure, but then there were new forces that came up which threw themselves into their work with great excitement and they again turned the group into a fortress where the qualities of the Hebrew youth were well developed. The last years did not bring any crises or any shakes. Life flew normally now. There was a new age, a new generation of managers that took place.

The group put its roots in the movement and with a lot of dedication and effort they became an important group that stood in the front lines of our movement and fulfilled its historic mission.

In fifteen years that group collected 12,465 zlotys for the Jewish National Fund. From that group there were 85 brothers and sisters who immigrated to the land of Israel, in that group there were, in the year 1935, 310 people 65 older ones, 114 scouts and 131 “sons of the desert.” (From an account that was published in a special Holiday Edition)

From the Life of the Movement in the City

by Isser Pinchuk

The hand trembles and I am completely shaking when I'm approaching the task of putting on paper the historical dates and the facts from the past. Hasn't everything gone down and disappeared in such a cruel and tragic way?

In 1937, a very hard blow came down on the Zionist movement in Kobrin. After all the effort and the energy that were put in the movement by the heads of the parties and the Zionist organizations, suddenly there were apparent signs of downtrend and disintegration.

[Page 242]

For this day the local authorities were waiting and the head of the community who was appointed by the authorities that helped them quite a bit in executing the evil plan, namely to confiscate the big and famous house on Tragota Street #33. To us it was an awful blow.

kob242.jpg [35 KB] - "Sailing" to the Forest of Shervetsitz
“Sailing” to the Forest of Shervetsitz

The question came up, What do we do? Where do we go? Who would address the authorities to rescind the decision? All the ways were stopped and on everybody there was the fear of the hand that ruled our internal lives. Meanwhile the sounds of the song stopped and the hustle and bustle of life also stopped from the house on Tragota Street #33, which had served as a fortress for our movement in this town. We were in depression. We knew ahead of time that this portended a bad future. It would be very hard for us to continue in such horrible conditions.

Then one fine morning we were told by a messenger that a delegation from the authorities had come to visit the house that they continuously resented. Myself and a few other members quickly came to the place to see what was happening and how true it was. We stood afar on the corner of Tragota and Sadova to see this dance of the devils. And how surprised were we. From among the delegation stood out a scrawny man, tall, whom we recognized very well. One hand was in the pocket and the other one holding a stick and he was describing to his colleagues, the gentiles, the size of the house and all of its characteristics.

[Page 243]

They had destructive smiles on their faces as evidence that they had already made a decision to remove once and for all the “bad” from the house and to instill in it their “holiness.” The situation in Poland as a whole in those days, and especially in Kobrin, was unbearable. There were persecutions upon persecutions, riots and pogroms every step of the way. In the evenings people were afraid to leave their houses because more than once there were unpleasant incidents.

Anti-Semitism celebrated its victory in public. Not the wild mobs but the Polish authorities showed their real face. Here is one typical example: I was once invited to Strosta (the Governor of the District) in the matter of the “Kobriner Wochenblatt” (the Kobriner Weekly) and during the conversation I heard out of his mouth harsh words: “Wait. Hitler will come upon you!” The road of Tragota was mourning. The members of “Hashomer Hatzair” came for the last time to the quiet place and said good-bye. The parting was very difficult. They all crowded around the house whispering and sadly they were speaking about the harsh rule. They mentioned to one another the good and the bad times when the authorities were scheming in a simple and crude way to do away with the Zionist Youth organization.

In the evening they would send armed policemen to visit the clubs of those organizations and their visit would be very polite. The policemen would come in and see young men and young women sitting in lit rooms and conducting conversations about this and that. By the library a young man sat distributing books while in the big hall they danced the hora. But the people in charge, those policemen, did not like what was happening and ordered everybody to leave the hall in a few moments, fast. And in the darkened hallway they took liberty of their evil wishes and they used sticks and they hit the people and there were several injured. On the following day after this pleasant evening, representatives of the committee of “Hashomer Hatzair”, Dr. Lieberman, of blessed memory, who was the chairman, and Broikonkin, of blessed memory, went to the Strosta, namely the District Governor, and told him about the deeds of the supposed law keepers in the club. His answer was very measured: “in the Polish police there are no more academicians” (as if the deeds of the academic Polish people were prettier than the deeds of the policemen).

The day of vacating the place arrived. It was a rainy night. Carriages came to the big house and started to load the property. The eyes were downcast as if we were ashamed to look at one another's faces because of the pain and the disappointment. From afar we saw Bentzi and Itche doing the same work. Without uttering a word we dragged our feet away. We got there with our property, the work of years, to Zemochevitz, to put all the stuff in one of the stables. In one sweep of the hand brought to an end a shining period in the life of the Zionist Youth in Kobrin.

[Page 244]

It was very hard for us to become accustomed to such a life of wondering. Our hearts ached when we saw the loss of our library that was so dear to us, to which we had dedicated our best hours in the evenings. It seems as if the striving to those higher goals can not give us a rest. Nevertheless, our people would assemble once a week on Sabbath in Kofchina and this was the extent of our work. We were thought of as rebellious. The complete Zionist activity froze. The poisonous atmosphere put its stamp on the whole action.

In 1938 the situation became even worse. We found shelter in Shkolna Street in the house of Akiva Weiner. We rented two small rooms and somehow we managed. We kept whatever we had in those wild days. The young group, headed by Joseph Schwartz, accepted upon itself to manage the club and did it with a lot of dedication despite all the disturbances and the difficulties from within and from without. Later the authorities took another step. They closed the “Kobriner Wochenblatt” (the Kobriner Weekly). This was on the 18th of June, 1938. The people involved were really becoming discouraged. There was the beginning of complete apathy. The fear grew to such an extent that people were even afraid to meet other people who were suspected by the authorities. There were individuals among us who saw with big eyes a difficult future and decided to save themselves at any price from the catastrophe that was fast approaching. In such a situation I departed from everything that was dear and close to my heart and I went on my way…

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