Malka Polozhesky-Pomerchik - Kfar Saba
The Hashomer Hatsa'ir cell was established in Korelitz in the years 1927-30 by Chaim Bussel, an energetic young man with an amazing organizational ability. He came to us with his family from the town of Klutzk. He brought with him both the concept and the organizational ability. He succeeded in around him the youth and the children of the school where he worked as a teacher and as an instructor. His impressive appearance, formal dress and his red ties; all these, together with the trumpet parades, charmed the youth who united within the movement. As long as Chaim Bussel was active, the cell thrived and developed. A few years passed, however, and Chaim grew older. He entered regular civilian life. Members began leaving the movement, which started to slacken.
This situation was exploited by the leaders of Beitar -- the Gentvitz brothers, Gertel Mordechovitz, Yehoshua Kalmanovitz and others. They increased their numbers at the expense of the Hashomer Hatsa'ir. The youth were thirsty for activities and, without Hashomer Hatsa'ir activities, many joined Beitar.
When I completed my studies in Novogrodok and returned home in 1934, I found the Hashomer Hatsa'ir movement in a state of torpor. I was happy to find the remnants of the movement:-- Mordechai Shimshelevitz, Tanchum Kaplan, Gutel Kivlevitz and David Lipshitz. These serious people were loyal to the ideals of the movement. We started to revive the glorious past of Hashomer Hatsa'ir in Korelitz. When we first started these steps, we had no resources; I offered our private house in order to begin operations. This was made possible, thanks to my parents, who were adherents of Zionism and progress, and who understood our spirit.
In a short time, we started attracting many of the youth to our movement, mainly from the two schools as well as from among the older youth. We started working on cultural and promotional activities. With the growth in the number of members, there was a corresponding growth in means. We rented a clubhouse from Alter Nachumovsky (Alter der Soifer). Every evening, the house was filled with the joyous and fresh voices the cell's children. The movement once more became a prominent and recognizable in the town. Parades were once more held and the sounds of drums and bugles were once more heard. There were Tu Bishvat celebrations and trips to far places and to the nearby woods in order to study nature. Our members took an active part in the Zionist activities of the town, such as emptying the JNF boxes, etc. I especially remember an important and educational project in our cell. We organized an exhibition of handwork of the young members of the movement. The children put their hearts and souls into the assignment, each one in his own hobby and area of interest. The exhibition succeeded to such an extent that it attracted people of all ages, and all of them talked about it enthusiastically. We contacted the movement's headquarters in Warsaw, who sent us emissaries and lecturers. There was singing every evening in the cell.
Apart from our cultural activities, we also had a political struggle with the Beitarists who were entrenched in the house of Dvoshke Ganswitch (the house was called Die Broine Hoiz). The members of Beitar were embarrassed, because most of their most of their members returned one by one to their origins, to Hashomer Hatsa'ir. Even older members joined: Esther Shkolnik (Horowitz), Masha Kaplan, Sarah Mine Meyerovitz, Libke Sharshevsky, Aaron Farbolotsky, Gisha Stoliar, and others. Even today, a pleasant quivering passes through me when I remember that exciting and interesting period.
The graduates of Hashomer Hatsa'ir were automatically also members of Hechalutz when lively new blood was needed, or energetic and lively youngsters were required. We were like that in those days.
Sitting, from right: Esther Shkolnik- Horowitz David Lipshitz, Masha Kaplan.
Standing, from the right: Tanchum Kaplan, Mordechai Shimshelevitz, Malka Poluzhky (Pomerchik), Aaron Nisselevitz, Moshe Kuznitz.
Malka Polozhesky-Pomerchik, Kfar Saba
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
The town of Korelitz lies on the Rudke River, between Novogrudek and Turetz, 21km from Novogrudek and 14km from Turetz. The town is small - just like all the small towns in the area of White Russia. The streets are paved and lined with stores. The entire center of the town was owned by Jews. There were only a few Christian homes on the street. In fact, the Christian population of the town itself was very small. They comprised just a small percentage of the town's residents. However, the parts of the town surrounding the central area were Christian, and Christians lived in the villages. Korelitz was almost exclusively a Jewish town. Before coming to Korelitz, I lived in the small town of Yeremitch where the Jewish and Christian population was mixed. I simply didn't recognize any difference. When I moved to Korelitz, however, I noticed a big contrast. The Jews and Christians lived so much apart that there was no connection between them.
The specific sources of livelihood in the town were the following: small businesses. The market was bordered on both sides by a row of stores. There were about 60 stores in the town. Besides being storekeepers, a large part of the population made their living from farming. They mainly planted cucumbers which were sold in the large cities. And a large part of the residents were craftsmen and handworkers. There were small machines for cleaning wool.
A certain portion of our young people went to schools in the larger city of Novogrudek. Naturally, there was close contact between the youth of Novogrudek and Korelitz. They tried to bring everything they saw and considered progressive in Novogrudek and copy it in Korelitz. Our girls who studied in Novogrudek were members of HaShomer HaTsa'ir (The Young Guard). Coming home, they themselves began to be very active in organizing a HaShomer HaTsa'ir chapter in Korelitz. The culture of the big city had an influence on the cultural level of our small town.
I studied at the Adam Mickiewicz public high school. I graduated in 1934. I came back to Korelitz and then went to Grodno to participate in a training program under the auspices of HaShomer HaTsa'ir for the purpose of immigrating to the Land of Israel. I was in the training program for nine months. Then I returned to Korelitz because I had the opportunity of going to the Land of Israel in the HeChalutz (The Pioneer) organization. We arranged seminars in which all the teachers of the town's Hebrew School participated. The seminars lasted a week and sometimes two. We used to put out lively newspapers. The Jewish National Fund encouraged and supported our endeavors and tradition.
A group of young HaShomer HaTsa'ir graduates
Second row from right: Sarah-Minia Meyerovitz, Gutel Kivelvitz, Tanchum Kaplan, Shifra Rakovitzki, Minia Lifschitz, Aharon Perevelutzk
The Betar Club in Korelitz came into being as a result of the enthusiasm engendered by Zeev Jabotinsky's visit in Poland. Its founding was opposed by the already existing Hashomer Hatzair and Hechalutz, but with the help of veteran adult members of the Revisionist movement, the Club proceeded with its work. As the opposing groups increased their activities, the town was overcome by an avalanche of debates and disputations.
Eventually Betar members received their uniforms, and the first Betar commander of Korelitz made his aliya. Many others followed, for it was the Betar, in line with Jabotinsky's belief, which preached evacuation of Europe. Unfortunately, not enough heed was paid to the call, and Polish Jewry paid for it with its life.
|Left Placard: Before the aliyah of our brother Mordechovitz to Eretz [Israel] 15 VIII 1935
Right Placard: The Brit Trumpeldor [youth group] in Poland. The Korelitz Ken [local group]
|Right: The home of Faygel -Tzirus Kaganovitz Left: The home of Shabbtai Klachko|
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Yitzchak began his journey as a writer across the small towns and cites of Lithuania in his birthplace, Korelitz. Kith and kin prepared to greet him. The welcome at the station was a demonstration of the people's love and admiration. They took him to the home of the rabbi, his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel Benin, where he stayed during his visit. There they showed him his very own cradle which was preserved as a keepsake of their famous fellow-townsman.
Yitzchak remembered that as a child of six he had thrown a ball onto the attic of a house and he now wanted to find it. And so it was. They began walking along the little streets until Yitzchak recognized an old, dilapidated small house. They made a ladder and one of the boys climbed up to the attic and, following Yitzchak's instructions, found the ball. Many years later Yitzchak wove this incident into his dramatic comedy, Fatima.
During the several days he spent in Korelitz, he would walk with the young people along the roadway and all the surrounding places. Yitzchak sang them Yiddish and Hebrew songs, told them Yiddish stories and spoke about the present day Land of Israel (which he never visited). Once he turned to the young people and said, Dear Jewish daughters and sons, your place is in the Land of Israel. Go there and you will build a new, Jewish life.
This is how Yitzchak described a walk in his hometown:
…. and I'm already walking on the roadway, and it's very joyful. Every living person has left the town and has gone onto the roadway. And the roadway is very long. They say that it extends as far as Kabrin…. And Kabrin is very far away. The sky ends and a new sky spreads out over the town of Kabrin.
And here is a description of the roadway on Friday afternoon before the Sabbath
At the roadway, in the avenues
Your bride sits under a tree,
On the roadway, in the avenues
Jewish girls are taking a walk -
Slender pine trees, red roses -
Sparkling Jewish daughters.
The dark, charming girls
In their Sabbath clothes,
Their hair is somewhat unkempt.
Jewish daughters are modest -
Won't comb their hair on the Sabbath.
And the ribbons and kerchiefs
Tied around their neck -
They won't wear on the Sabbath.
Come my beloved to greet the bride.
At the roadway, on the avenues
Sits a sun-drenched girl,
Sits under a green oak
Sits and waits for you, the groom,
Come my beloved to greet the bride.
A group of boys passed by. A boy wearing a red shirt is leading them. A red shirt - and in the town. It seems that they knew I was a new face in town because, as soon as they noticed me, they began singing, Oh, poor workers. Socialist rebels … and in town.
A few minutes later, another group of boys passed by. A boy wearing a blue shirt was leading them. A blue shirt - and in the town. The boys looked me over and went on. And a minute later, I heard someone say, A home for the Jewish worker. Supporters of the Zionist Workers Party…. and in the town.
I looked up - in the distance I saw the two groups going on ahead to the dark forest. Each of the groups went separately, but the area between them was so small that it was easy for them to meld into one group. More sounds of a song reach my ear. One can no longer tell the words apart. I think it's one song - the two songs become one… Without at all intending to, I glanced into the forest - an argument…. and in the town.
* Yitzchak Kazenelson - Zein Leben un Shafen ( His Life and Creative Work) - by Zippora Kazenelson - Nachumov, Chapter 22, Pg. 150.
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