by Chaya Vilner-Bruk
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
A town like any other town, in its center a market place with rows of shops; the market is bustling and alive with people; traders and peddlers negotiating with each other in loud voices, wishing to make a good deal and find a compromise agreed on by all. From the marketplace, the streets led out to the edges of the town - where the Gentiles lived.
Despite this, there was a special character about the town. It was picturesque, and sometimes seemed to have been painted by a master artist, or have fallen out of a book of legends, because of its special topographical placing.
Behind the one-storied buildings, forest trees made a verdant wall, with their canopy reaching skywards; the blue waters of the Neiman River babbled merrily, and it seemed as if the river embraced the whole town. The meadow between the Neiman and the forests was colored in fresh green colors that aroused the strong desire to roll over and be mischievous in them. Next to the Neiman stood the castle, adding loftiness to the scene.
The river was noisy with bathers. A short time before the Holocaust, a plaza [bathing beach] had even been erected, yellow sand had been spread and various kinds of equipment had been installed for the convenience and fun of the bathers there.
Rowboats drifted on the Neiman; often songs of yearning and longing were heard from them. The youth sang from their heart's desire to the pleasant sounds of mandolins. Often they would float in silence, while listening to the rumbling of the waves and the beating hearts, disturbed only by a fish leaping out of the water into the air.
Many legends are connected to the Neiman; amongst them the legend telling about how every summer the river demands human sacrifices. And indeed, beneath its quiet waters and its innocent appearance, people would disappear every year in its murky depths, something that caused general mourning in the town, and a temporary withdrawal from bathing in the river. But slowly, the river's iniquity was forgiven, as one forgives a sinning baby, for it was hard not to bathe in its pure, cool waters, seducing one to enter and freshen up on the burning hot days.
From right to left: Avraham Bruk, Gotel Shimshelvitch, Perla Yankelevitch, Nachum Shlimovitch, Risha Nachimovsky
The gentile women in bright clothes were seen washing their garments in the waters of the river, while talking and giggling as only women know how.
When winter came, the landscape changed, the river froze over, and everything was covered in pure white sparkling snow. The pine needles peeped out and became silvery from the snow which piled up on the branches of the tree as if to hint: The Lord of Winter cannot daunt us; the snow-covered castle looked like a white mountain. It seemed that the town was cut off from the whole world, from the point of view of the end of the world. Even the little train (kleinbahn) remained stuck more than once in the snow, somewhere in the middle of the way, and didn't arrive.
The railroad station was located at the end of the town at the foot of Castle Hill. It was an important meeting place in the town. Towards evening, people would come to welcome the visitors who had arrived from far away, or just out of curiosity to see who was coming on the train, to breathe and absorb the strange smells of the fascinating distant regions. An important reason to come there was that, with the arrival of the train, came the mail they were expecting., - maybe there would be luck and a letter would be delivered from the legendary distant Golden Land of America, or from the land of the yearning of the forefathers - Eretz Israel.
Newspapers also arrived by train. They told wonderful stories about what was going on in the wide world. The station was a place for discussions by those who knew about politics, who would carry on with obvious self confidence about any and every subject. Jews, weary and preoccupied with the burden of making a livelihood, did not give up on going to the train station and to the post office, and not only in order to peep at the newspaper.
The area of the synagogues was always bustling with worshippers on Shabbat and Holy Days; every synagogue and its nickname, every synagogue and its congregation who came also on weekdays, to catch a prayer, shacharit in the mornings, ma'ariv in the evenings.
A special event was with the arrival of the maggid [preacher] to the town. I remember being present when one of the maggidim gave a sermon. He had a majestic appearance, with a long silvery beard. At the White synagogue where he spoke, sat Jews studying the Talmud with a tune; around the preacher a group of people sat, thirstily taking in every word he spoke.
The preacher spoke with pathos, alternatively raising and lowering his voice - in order to make his message easy to understand and to wake the drowsy. He spoke with passion in praise of a rabbi, a great righteous man of Israel.
In the women's section of the synagogue, sat several old ladies who never stopped weeping loudly, even if they didn't understand the sense of the preacher's words, even without knowing if the rabbi was alive or dead. The tears flowed from the depths of their Jewish heart, full of sadness and worries.
The smoke of the approaching conflagration was already starting to rise, but the people of Lubtch did not yet feel the flames of rage which were advancing and would soon destroy them.
It is hard to believe that the pastoral picture has disappeared and is no more. In my imagination the blue of the Neiman has become a burning purple - the blood of the martyrs who were murdered and butchered
by L. Perkofchik
(From the newspaper, Golus Radzimi, Minsk, Sept. 1969, P.8)
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
At the end of the 15th century, the Lithuanian knight (the Count), Alexander Kazmirovitch, (as is written, emphasized and sealed in the Document Seals) - gave the castle and its surrounding land as a present to his secretary, Fyodor Kharptovitch, But the aforementioned document, while interesting and broad in scope, does not discuss the history of the existence of Lubtch. The settlement of Lubtch had already existed in the middle of the 12th century. The exact date of the building of the Lubtch castle is 1281. This date was found on a bronze chandelier discovered in the courtyard of the castle.
Thanks to the castle and the market days and fairs that were held in Lubtch, the town strengthened and its inhabitants became wealthy. Many merchants came to the fairs and paid taxes to the owners of the castle. It is known that at the end of the 16th century, Lubtch was granted permission to rule itself. The town's symbol was then a half horseshoe with crosses and three goldfish. At the same time, the first printing office in Lubtch was founded, in which monks would print their holy books. As property of Kharptovitch, the castle passed with part of its lands to the well- known nobleman, Jan Kishka and, from him, the castle passed into the hands of the Radziwils at the beginning of the 17th century. It is thought that the building of the castle from stones had already started during the days of Kishka and was finished by Bogoslav Radziwil, who received the castle as part of the dowry of his wife Hannah.
In the first half of the 17th century, the castle stood, built from smooth stones, surrounded by the waters of the Neiman River. In the Lubtch museum there is a drawing of the town and a photocopy of the document describing the castle of the knights (counts).
During both World Wars, the front gates of the castle and the tower on the Neiman River were destroyed. But the strong walls of the central wing remained intact. At their base, the rooms were reconstructed and are now used by the high school. This comfortable and spacious two-storied mansion has high windows in the walls.
Cedar and bocaccia trees flourish on the wide area around the castle. In the courtyard surrounding the castle, which is fenced in by walls up to the gate of the palace, there is a deep moat with strong walls. There is one underground bridge, mentioned in the days of early Lubtch. On the hill of the castle and around it, where there were ruins, stretches an ancient park with rare trees.
The most interesting structures in the castle are the four towers in the four corners of the castle which constitute a very important monument. The towers, with arcades and square shapes, are covered with grey stone. When the castle was reconstructed, another tower was reconstructed from unworked stone and bricks. This was the second tower and is of majestic appearance, no less so than the other towers. Under the tower is a large cellar and above it are three stories with small, narrow windows and rooms used for different purposes.
The castle in Lubtch on the Neiman can serve as an historical document in the colorful antiquities of Byelorus and as a witness to its special character in the Middle Ages.
Collated by E. Eliyav
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
It is worthwhile mentioning an important historical item that occurred in the environs of Lubtch-Ivyeh, in the years 5570-2 (1810-1812), which I heard from my old grandfather R' Eliezer Kashtzar, may he rest in peace.
He told me that they found an entry in the Record Book of Ivyeh [Pinkas Ivyeh], where it is recorded that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a cold spell hit White Russia (Belarus) which reached 40-45 degrees below zero. Abundant snow fell until after the Festival of Passover; the frost was so strong that the water in the Neiman River remained frozen until the summer months. Many people died from the cold.
In order to commemorate the exceptional event, people from all the surrounding towns met on the Lag B'Omer Festival from Lubtch, Delatitch, Mikolavia and Ivyeh, among them also heads of the Christian sects. They gathered together on the ice of the Neiman River, by Mikolavia, and drank lechaim, to life!.
The event was commemorated in the record books of Ivyeh, Lubtch, and Delatitch.
Right to left: Alter Leibovitch, Chaim Yankelevitch, Kaila Shmulevitch, Mordechai Kivilevitch, Henia Bakst, Moshe Persky, Gittel Zalikovsky
[Information from Allen Katz:
Standing first on the left: Greta Katz (nee Jankelowitz) - Gershon and Chaya-Basha's daughter.
Standing 4th from left: Barney (Beryl) Jankelowitz (Greta's brother)
Standing 6th from the left: Solly (Solomon/ Shlomo) Jankelowitz - first born child of Gershon Jankelowitz
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