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[Page 348]

Ryki was my home

Szymon Grajcar

Translated from Yiddish to Czech by Michael Dunayevsky

Translated from Czech to Polish by Andrzej Ciesla

Translated from Polish to English by Caroline Ullman

I was born in Wola Gulowska near Adamow, where my father owned businesses until the first World War. The war affected our family dearly. The market fell, but nevertheless we remained in the same place.

My father was born in Zelechow and kept in touch with not only buyers from Zelechow, but also Ryki. He frequently travelled to these towns and always returned full of fond memories. In Ryki, he often caught up with old friends and was most happy when he could daven with a minyan, with good and kind Jews. There were 8 children in our family: 4 boys and 4 girls. We all received a Jewish and a secular education. My father paid for teachers and melameds. He wanted us to remember our roots, for us to be aware that we were and would always be Jews. Like every father, he wanted us to know how to learn Torah and to become good and G-d-fearing people.

My oldest sister Cyrel married Faivel Tajtelbaum from Ryki, known to everyone as “Leia`s Faivel”. With time, my sister became very attached to this town. We also fell in love with it and its Jewish population.

Immediately after finishing school, I came to Ryki to learn a trade. This happens in youth, I had many dreams, but in the end I found myself learning to be a tailor. From my very first day there I felt at home in Ryki. There was a healthy pulse of Jewish life. The youth participated in wholly in cultural and social activities. I also joined these activities, which clearly increased the wealth of my knowledge and culture.

In 1934 my second sister also married a man from Ryki. His name was Israel Tajchman, also called “Israel Szebeles”.

During this time, a terrible tragedy befell my family. My sister Perla died three weeks before her wedding. Tyfus was rampant in the region and it did not avoid our home; Perla was the one sacrifice.

The same lot was dealt to the daughter of Eliezer the baker, who also died before her wedding.

In 1935 I moved from Ryki to Warsaw, where my eldest sister lived with her husband and children. Although I stayed in Warsaw until the start of World War II, I kept close ties with Ryki and often visited family. By that time my mother was already a widow, and each of my visits made her very happy. My sister Cyrel also lived in Ryki with her husband and eight children and my youngest brother Joseph, who currently lives with his wife and three children in Montreal.

In 1936 in Ryki, undoubtedly like in many other towns, one could feel the effects of the fascist party, which turned its hostile propaganda against the Jews, as if Poland didn t have any other problems than the “Jewish issue.” The fascist activists didn t hesitate from acting upon the smallest provocation. Besides their worthless propaganda, they attacked, shot and incited against the Jews. It was during this time that my father died from a fascist bullet, which was shot through the window.

After the start of World War II in 1939 I stayed for a while in Poland. I desired with all my strength to help my family and arrange for their necessities of life.

In the middle of 1940, Germans seized me to work and I was badly beaten. I realized that bad times were coming and that at some point I would no longer be able to help my family. It was for this reason that I decided to escape over the “green line” to the Soviet Union. I took my youngest brother, Joseph, with me. We were both driven to the forests in the deep north. There, we survived everything that thousands of others did in Soviet exile.

After the war we returned to Poland, where we encountered the terrible tragedy. From our whole large family, only four survived. My oldest brother Avrom survived because he jumped from the wagon on the way to Treblinka. His wife and ten year old daughter died in the gas chambers.

My youngest sister Faigele also survived, as she was hidden by a peasant family in Wola Gulowska.

My mother, sister Cyrele with her husband and children Hershel and Rachel, my oldest sister Ester with her husband Note and their four children, they were all dealt the same fate as the Jews from Ryki. They stayed together until the last day. At the time of the liquidation, they, with the other remaining people, were sent to Treblinka.

My brother Jochanan lived with his wife and three children in Lysobyki near Kotsk. They also perished in Treblinka. Many thousands of Jews were incinerated at the camps. The smell of burning flesh was carried over the entire region. It travelled to the nearby villages. It was there, that all of those close and dear to us were lost. There lay in the ashes the whole morality of the Christian world.

The world was silent and that silence is a shame for this world, which shook off the yoke of responsibility for those heinous crimes.

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