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[Page 111]

Jewish Krynki between
the Two World Wars


May 1919 – September 1939
Under Renewed Polish Rule

 

In Krynki After the First World War

by Zeev Tzur

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I arrived in Krynki from my native town of Werejki [Vyareyki] near Brzostowica [Berestavitsa] at the age of three, with my mother and sister Elka, after the outbreak of the First World War, when father was drafted to the army. I lived continuously in Krynki with my family from 1914 until 1926, when I went to study in the Technion in Vilna. Until I concluded my studies in 1929, I would visit there only on Passover and the summer vacation. After the disturbances of 5689 [1929] in the Land of Israel, I went out to a hachshara kibbutz in Congress Poland, and only came to Krynki prior to my aliya to the Land in May 1939 in order to bid farewell. Even during those years, however, I maintained correspondence in writing with friends in the town.

Therefore, my memories of Krynki related primarily to my period of childhood and youth. As the years pass and the memories become cloudy, several typical themes stand out, through which the communal image of Krynki is etched upon me. Without doubt, these memories also had a great influence on my future way of life.

These impressions are of a town bustling like a beehive with labor and toil, a center of tanneries, with many workers working in that industry; a city of commerce and labor, with connections to the gardens and agriculture of the surrounding area.

Communal life in Krynki was reasonably developed, especially in this period after the First World War. The weakening of the rule of the Czar in Russia and the Kaiser in Germany, the Socialist revolutions, the destruction and ruin left behind in the wake of the war; the rise of Poland as an independent country – all of these had a shocking and harrowing influence on the arena of Jewish life, first and foremost upon the youth.

In the wake of the destruction, want, and poverty left behind in the wake of the war, with the loss of the former markets in the expanse of Russia for manufactured products – the generation coming of age faced the question: to where?

Even though the influence of the circles zealous for tradition was large in the city, both from a religious perspective, and from the perspective of guarding the accepted way of life – the youth, with their difficulties, with the unemployment, and lack of opportunities for local productivity, started searching for new ways and a change of situation.

The Russian Revolution and the Balfour Declaration aroused a strong longing for redemption. Their influence upon the youth was strong not only from the social and communal perspective, but also with regard to choosing a path for their lives and their future, leading toward emigration.

Many hundreds of Krynki natives immigrated to the United States, following the paths of relatives and acquaintances who preceded them. With the quotas on immigration there, the immigrants began to stream to South America. Another group, smaller in scope but more directed in their aspirations and pioneering in their actions – sprung forth and made aliya to the Land of Israel.

[Note, the photo is missing in the original, but the caption is: A group of youths just before their immigration to various countries, including aliya to the Land of Israel.]

[Page 112]

We are also witness to the formation of centers of cultural activity and strong rise in factions and youth movements during that period in Krynki, following the First World War until the 1930s. These factions and movements had a strong influence in the community and within the youth as they directed their steps toward the future.

In Krynki, there were important centers of Communist youth, the Bund, and pioneering youth – first centered around Tzeirei Zion and then around the socialist Zionist party (left-leaning Poalei Tzion) and the Freiheit movement, organized into Hechalutz and Young Hechalutz.

The ideological, organizational, and political struggle among the factions was not only felt at the time of elections and important communal challenges. Rather it formed the essence of many of the youth as they concerned themselves with their personal lot in life, and sought solutions to the purpose of their lives. Belonging to Hechalutz and Young Hechalutz implied a practical realization of the idea of the movement – aliya to the Land of Israel. This was while the Bund and Communists sharply opposed this path in an extreme and “reactionary” manner, so to speak, distracting the interest of the community from the local revolutionary tasks. Furthermore, while the people of those factions permitted immigration to America, they opposed aliya to “the Land of Zionist dreams, of bogs, fever, and Arab Bedouins.”

 

Kry112a.jpg
The pedagogic council and members of the committee of the Hebrew School, 1923

From right, seated: Beila Klotnicki, Bendet Nisht, Avraham Einstein (principal), Diamant (teacher of Polish), Rozka Cukert
Standing: Bobcha Freidman, Falk, Shama (Sheima) Kaplan, Ethel Terkel, Efraim Afrimzon, Moshe Zolski, Yosel Gabai, Pszpyurka

 

Kry112b.jpg
Hechalutz

 

The centers that served as the sources of educational and ideological influence for the aforementioned factions were primarily the schools: the Yiddish school under the supervision and leadership of the Bund on one side; and the Tarbut School, led by the left-leaning Poalei Zion and forming the base of Hechalutz on the other side.

The first group of Krynki pioneers, who made aliya in 1920, belonged to the generation of the founders of the Hebrew school. The following generations of pioneers were primarily graduates of the school who were members of Hechalutz, and later on, those who had been through the hachshara kibbutzim.

The story of the development of Hechalutz in Krynki is decisively connected to the Hebrew school. Through the years, it underwent changes in its educational aims, in the direction of emphasizing general knowledge and ideological neutrality. However, in the period that I remember, this school was a focal point of pioneering education. It is no wonder that incidents took place in Krynki where children escaped from their houses with the dream of reaching the Land of Israel, similar to Velvele the Fool in Shaul Tchernikhovsky's “In the Heat of the Day.” I recall how the teacher Ethel burst forth in front of the students who had come to class on May 1, 1922, apparently a normal day by directive of the school leadership, and preached to them: “Is this how you sanctify the name of Y. Ch. Brenner?!” (he was killed on May 1, 1921)[1].

At celebrations and festive evenings organized by the school, the stress was on the educational content and connection to the ideas of labor, physical toil, agriculture, simplicity – in short: toward pioneering, aliya, and practical actualization.

The teachers in that school formed groups [to discuss] issues of the movement

[Page 113]

in the area of culture and ideology. With time, the school also served as a headquarters for the pioneering youth. However, the Hechalutz movement reached its pinnacle in terms of its scope and organization power during the 1930s, with the worsening of the general depression, and the increase in anti-Semitism. The influence from the Land of Israel also increased, via emissaries from the Kibbutz and the Histadrut, and with the rapid development of hachshara kibbutzim.

I had already made aliya to the Land of Israel by that time, after having spent approximately two years in hachshara kibbutzim, especially the Borochov one in Kielce.


Translator's Footnote:

  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yosef_Haim_Brenner Return


The Jewish Community in Krynki Between the Two Wars

by Dov Rabin

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Note: The Hebrew sections by Dov Rabin, from pages 113-123, is largely equivalent with the Yiddish sections by Dov Rabin and Shmuel Geler from pages 151-163. Some detail may differ, and the headings and topics are organized differently.

[Page 116]

Kry116.jpg
The committee and leadership of the Cooperative People's Bank of Krynki, 1927

From left, seated: Yaakov Leib Zaleski, Yaakov Lewi, Yaakov Chaim Gosztynski, Baruch Zdytowski (chairman of the bank), Yisrael Kolianewicz (chairman of the committee), Anshel Potseboski, Wolf Wiener

[Page 118]

Kry118a.jpg
The leadership of the parade in honor of May 1

 

Kry118b.jpg
The active members of the Yiddish Folks School

[Page 119]

Kry119a.jpg
The Yiddish Folks School

 

Kry119b.jpg
Committee of the Heshel Papersztejn Library

[Page 120]

Kry120a.jpg
Esperanto course, 1928

 

Kry120b.jpg
The council and committee of Linat Tzedek of Krynki, 1937

Seated from right: Moshe Afrikaner, Beilka Korngold, Sh. P. Nisht, Baruch Stolarski,
Shmuel (Sam) Lewin (guest from Chicago), Dr. Hochman, Garber the dentist, Moshe Garber, Shimon Kotler

[Page 121]

Kry121a.jpg
Women's sewing school

 

Kry121b.jpg
Women's Committee, Krynki, 1930

Seated from right: Zlata Grosman, Michla STolarski, Slova Jaglam, Yache Lopate
Standing: Lifsha Garber, Rachel Kaplan, Sonia Lubelinski, Fani Dzokowicki

 

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