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[Page 116]

Memories, Memories

by Pesia née Taubes Norman

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan

We lived on Myadel Street. The street began in the market and ended in the Shvitzapola. Exactly what is a Shvitzapola we never knew, but we interpreted it as two words, meaning Shvitza, which means “whistling or making a loud sound”, and the second word was Pola, which meant “field.” When we put the two together, in our imagination we saw a place that was either a street or a field, and the wind would whistle loudly on it. Our house was situated on an incline in the street, across from the post office. To walk all the way to the Shvitzapola required a pretty long journey. It was a house made of wood, and it had a high front porch. My father worked as a wheelwright for carriages and wagons, and for his job he was known as Der Kalasnik, meaning wheelwright. We were a big family. I had three brothers, Yankel, Moshe, and Chaim, and three sisters, Yente, Nachama, and Tirtzah. And I was the youngest in the house. I was only nine years old when I became orphaned from both my mother and father, and all my care and education fell on the shoulders of my brothers and sisters.

In town when I was very young, there was a teacher who was a native of the town. He was a bit nervous and lacking in patience. He taught the girls and we that were pretty boisterous recognized his weaknesses, so we sat amongst ourselves and whispered to each other and when he looked at us we would smile innocently. We knew that this treatment made him very mad, however he did not take it stoically, he repaid us with insults. The occupation of our parents became a weapon of humiliating us. If a girl would write a crooked letter “Nun” and her father happened to be a carpenter, he would say, “Look at your letter Nun, it looks like your father's hammer.” One time he was very mad at me and said, “Look at your samech, it is as huge as your father's wheels.” This made me very mad and I cried. When I told my father what he had said, I immediately cried again, but my father patted my head and said, “Why are you sad, my child? To the contrary this makes me rather happy. I see I have a loving daughter who is so helpful in her father's profession, which is to make wheels.”

But at that point he decided to transfer me to another school, and he sent me to learn with Eliyau Abba, Z”L. He was a Jew that had a heart of gold. He had blue eyes that were filled with kindness and were always smiling. He had a nice beard and was very easygoing. The house of Eliyau Abba was small, and was stuck in one of the yards in the market, amongst much bigger homes. The sun would reach that house only a little bit during the morning hours, but despite all that, it was pleasant to be in this house, and it was as if there was some light in it. It was the light of the smiling face of Eliyau Abba that filled the home, even in hours when no sun would touch the house.

During winter, the little windows would be covered by flowers of frost, but the house was still filled with warmth and love. Eliyau Abba was busy teaching us how to write and would tell us beautiful and enchanting stories. The fathers in town who became worried about the future of their children and were tired of the old system of the cheders, gathered and discussed the idea of creating a Hebrew school. The most dedicated to this project was Mr. Zalman Gvint, Z”L. No difficulty would stop him. He did everything possible until the school became a reality.

I have no idea how the school was funded since the town, which had just recovered from the aftermath of the First World War had no economic resources. I remember that they leased an apartment in the home of Shimshel the Baker. It was a big apartment and here there was no lack of light. The rooms of the school were large, facing southwest, and the sun filled the rooms very generously. We decorated the rooms with different pictures of Zionists. There was a picture of Herzl, there was a picture of the poet Chaim Nachman Biyalik, and Zalman Schneur, and others. The teachers were natives of the town Ilia, near Kurenets. They were the Darduk brothers, and they were very liked by us. At the same time, youth movements were organized in town, and also night classes to learn Hebrew. Berl Darduk would write plays, and the children became the actors and the plays would be performed in front of the entire town.

Years passed and the students and teachers changed. Among the teachers was Badana nee Pintov, (later the wife of the first Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Major General Yakov Dori). In all her soul and essence, she was dedicated to the school and the students and the children loved her dearly. During the fall of 1925, the uncle of Badana, Max Shulman, came from the US. He became very, very wealthy in the US (from the junk business?), and since he was a very generous man, he transferred the entire family to Eretz Israel, and their house he bought from them and donated as a Hebrew school that was named for him.

I remember that fall, it was a very cloudy and rainy fall, and the streets were filled with mud and puddles. Despite all of this, people were running all over town, looking to what the next good deed of Max Shulman would be. First he went to the cemetery to pay a visit to the graves of his forebears, and all the town was watching him. Many joined him in his visit so they could tell what had happened, and many, many stories were told about Max. They said that Max Shulman gave the daughter of Tanhum, who had no hand, a lot of money and soon she would go to Warsaw, where they prepare for her an artificial hand. People told that he gave a huge amount of money to build a fancy bima [a stage] in the synagogue of the Mitnagdim. It was a very, very artistic bima. It had pillars that had braid-like carvings on it, and on top of that, there were angelic creatures with their wings covering the ceiling. It also had sculpted lions and tablets, and all sorts of decorations that would bring to your heart the Bible studies that we studied in school.

There was a Jew in our town by the name of Chanan Shlomo from Dolhinov Street. He lived in a tiny house and people said that he was meticulous and orderly, and even every rusty nail he would put in its appropriate place.

There was a time when Chanan Shlomo was a student in the cheder of Max Shulman's father. The people found out that he had an affaer, two passages written in calligraphy by the Rabbi that the students had to imitate to practice their lettering, so in town they told that Max Shulman paid a huge amount of money to buy the affaer from Chanan Shlomo which was written by his father. It was a most dear treasure to him from his father…

Memories, memories come before my eyes…

Some of my very first memories and also the very last memories of my town.

Memories of the nest where I spent my childhood, the nest that we left many days ago as soon as we grew wings. But we returned to the nest, whether it was a physical return, or more likely, a return in our thoughts and our nostalgia-filled hearts until the storm came and all was annihilated.

kur116.jpg [30 KB]
Kurenets, summer of 1924

The teacher on the left (second line) is Berl Dardak, on the right (second line) is his brother Shmerl Dardak. The teacher in the middle (4th line) is Vilkovsky, a gymnastic teacher who did many other things – was a painter, a photographer, wrote poetry (Yiddish), and married a relative of Shimon Peres from Vishniva. Some other people: First line (top): First left – Avraham Dimenstein; second left – Israel Gvint; first right – Sarah Meirovitch. Second line: near Berl- Rivka Shulman. near Shmerl – Perez Hasid. Third line: First left – Freidale Zimerman. Fourth line: first left (near Vilkovsky) – Ethel Kepelevich.

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