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[Page 324]

My Shtetl Boguslavishok

(Bagaslaviškis, Lithuania)

5505' 2446'

By Raisel Michel-Berzak

Translated by Helen Mitnick

My shtetl Boguslavishok was small, and it was far from a train station, it was between Vilna and Kovno.

Around my shtetl were many farms and valleys, in the spring and summer everything was fresh and green, until today these things are still fresh in my memory about the vast expanse around my shtetl.

The adjoining small shtetlekh were called Shirvint, Musnik and Gelvan. My shtetl was close to Gelvan by about 5 miles. There they had a library with a good assortment of books, also a section of dramas. Boguslavishok was far from the cultural area, so our young people stayed close to Gelvan.

At our shtetl we didn't even have a house of prayer, only an old classroom. The slaughterer was also the Hebrew teacher, who taught the children the alphabet, and then how to pray.

Wealthy parents sent their children to Vilkomir High School. The students would come home on holidays. They also held meetings on Zionism, Socialism, and other literary topics. From time to time they would have lectures.

About sixty families lived in Boguslavishok. We didn't have a regular Rabbi because our shtetl had no means of supporting him and his family. There was a “Kazianer” rabbi by the name of Avraham Pik. He was a great scholar. Our shtetl did not have a doctor, so they called the local priest who helped with the physicals and put up cups and also leeches, or applied hot bricks for stomach pains and lung disease.

Our shtetl was the same as all the shtetlekh around us; it was hard for Jewish people to make a living. Also during the Lithuanian leadership the situation didn't improve, and when the cooperatives opened, the situation of the Jewish people got worse. We also had small merchants, hard working laborers, one tailor and several shoe repairers.

All our people were honest, hard working, simple, but the hard work did not alter their goodness for each other. Till this day I remember the good deeds of our people. Moishe Yosel, Avrum Shimsons, and Hirshke Burshtyn were the drivers of the horses and wagons in Boguslavishok.

The bad economic situation and poverty got worse, so that it created an emigration from our shtetl, especially for the young. The elderly remained in place, dependent on God and the generosity of their children who had left to improve their life. Waiting for their help, the Jewish population got smaller in Boguslavishok. The Jews in town lived so very poor, waiting for better times, and also the hour when they could leave to join their children in their new homes. But the Nazis stopped all hope and all dreams of a better day. They all perished from the German enemy.

Many years have passed since I left my shtetl, but I still have many memories, pictures of my shtetl and my beloved sweet home. I remember my mother being very busy on Friday, and her mild face lit up always when she had the greatest joy over lighting the Sabbath candles, and from the shining brass candlesticks that would light up her face, and were spread over the white Sabbath tablecloth, the floor with sand shining as a sign that Sabbath has arrived and the weekly worries have vanished.

From the small window that overlooked the holy Temple, we could see the gray-haired shammash, Yahuda, who was waiting for the congregants to come and honor the Sabbath. The sun is setting and the congregation is already there in shul, at the pulpit was my father in his Sabbath robe, deep in prayer. On the faces glimmers the soul of Sabbath. When the shoemaker, Shimin Yosel, stands at the pulpit to honor the Sabbath with his glorious tone, all the Jews join in with great joy and delight.

Boguslavishok had dear Sabbaths and good-hearted people.


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