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Chapter Two


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[Page 123]

Memories From Ostrog

by Avigdor Kamerman

Translated by Shalom Bronstein

When the Province of Volhyn was divided between Poland and Russia in 1920 – the city of Ostrog came under Polish control. The Horyn and Viliya Rivers served as the border.

In keeping with the practice in the border areas of Poland, only a Pole was appointed head of the city without considering the makeup of the population. Most of the aides were also Poles, although I was appointed assistant head of the city of Ostrog, serving in that capacity for three years from 1928-1931.

The administration of the city had two “lavnikim” joined with it who were Ukrainians. In my time I was able to replace one of them with a Jew. The city council at that time consisted of twenty-four representatives that were elected by all the residents. Among them were sixteen Jews out of the general population of 16,000 of whom 75% were Jews.

The Jewish representatives had different viewpoints (5 Zionists, 2 Workers, etc.) but they were united when it came to any question raised in the council concerning the Jews. Jewish officials also had a role in the administration of the city. In my time their number increased to eight and this does not count the Jews who provided various services to the city.

The attitude that prevailed in Poland at this time and in the ruling political party concerning national minorities in general and the Jews in particular, was evident in the next city elections in Ostrog that took place in 1930. Because of government pressure and despite the increase of the Jewish population since the previous elections, the number of Jewish representatives declined to 14.

City affairs were generally carried out confidentially behind the scenes, and so it appeared that internal peace prevailed among the various delegations. But, in reality, at times there were tense relations between the Ukrainians on one side and the Poles on the other.

Funds which came from city income were allotted to support the city's Jewish institutions such as the Jewish Hospital, the Jewish orphanage, the ambultorium of the Jewish health organization “Maoz,” the Talmud Torah, the old-age home and others.

However, the allotments were small and were cut without taking into consideration that the amount of taxes that Jews paid almost covered the entire city budget. This amount was not small – 450,000 Polish gold coins. This was especially so since the Jews became impoverished as the Russian-Polish border was very close to the city causing a heavy tax burden to weigh in on them.

Besides this, there was the burden of the taxes collected by the Jewish community to maintain itself and support the community beneficial organizations. These could not function on the allocations from the city which had no relationship to the real needs. However, it should be pointed out that for the most part an understanding relationship existed between the administrations of both the Jewish community and the city.

Among the important public works projects carried out by the city in 1930, were the construction of the large bridge linking

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the new city and the laying of a new road near the large synagogue, where formerly very thick mud prevented access to the synagogue.

During this time, the Jewish community constructed a sophisticated slaughter house. Many visitors came to Ostrog to see its historic sites that spanned nearly a thousand years. They were especially interested in the large synagogue of the Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Edeles – 1555-1631), very old ritual items, the old cemetery, the palace of the early rulers of Ostrog where the Poles now organized a city museum, etc. Among the famous recent visitors were Marshal Jozef Pilsudski (former Prime Minister of Poland), the writer Sholem Asch and others.


The Ostrog Firefighters Orchestra

Top row from right to left: Michael Oksengorn, Chaim Zeigerson, Shmuel Fisher, and others;
Middle row, seated from right to left: Chaim the trombonist, Kastzki (the commanding officer of the firefighters), Noah Feldgoz, Meltzer, Mirotznik and others


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