My Town Baklerova
Translated by Sheldon Leemon
My town of Baklerova was dreamy and interesting, surrounded by forests, woods, grazing fields, and fairly high hills. One of them was a beauty site we nicknamed Mount Sinai. Every Lag BaOmer, the youths would climb this hill, armed with rifles and bows, and would celebrate all day on its peak.
Our fields were on the German border. We established trade relations with Germany. For this purpose, the residents usually had monthly passports. I had a passport that was valid for one year because we were merchants of the First Guild. Despite the fact that I had a valid passport, I used it very little, and I would pass through our fields and cross the border illegally, because I usually had large sums of money. Border Police officers shot at me often, but I thought of border smuggling as a sport.
I remember once I had a large sum of money. I was in the company of a young Christian at the time when we encountered a Border Police officer. We jumped on him, took the rifle out of his hands and removed the bolt. We threw the rifle and continued running.
Baklerova was a small town, with only 40 families of different classes: merchants, shopkeepers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and tailors. My uncle Avraham Mirovsky had a mill. This mill worked day and night, because it served a very large population.
There was a rabbi in our little congregation. The last rabbi was Rabbi Hachasman zl. We also had a shochet who doubled as cantor. My uncle Avraham Mirovsky, the miller, was the head of the crowd. For 40 years he served as Gabai. He bore almost all the expenses of the Beit Midrash. There was a Beit Midrash and a synagogue in the town.
My grandfather, the late Rabbi Shimon Eliyahu, told me that he had built the synagogue according to the plans of a German architect, whom he had commissioned specially for this purpose. We children liked to go to the synagogue and admire the beauty of its structure, which is partly made of whole tree trunks. To this day I cannot forget the splendor of the synagogue.
Baklerova lay between Filippova and Dazek. All the poor who would pass through Baklerova knew that at my mother Miriam's, zl, they could get food and a place to sleep On Friday evening, my late father Judah would leave the Beit Midrash last of all and take any of the poor people who were there back to our house.
On one of the days of the month of Kislev, the day that was the shortest of the year, three rabbis arrived with three beadles and with them 3 wagon drivers with sleds, a total of nine people. My mother took them all to sit. The three rabbis were from Pashrusla, from Filipova, and from Ratsk. They arrived at the instruction of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Gadorzansky, ztl, in connection with the affair of our shochet. The three rabbis then ruled that he was forbidden to engage in ritual slaughter.
When I came from Russia to Eretz Israel in 1942, I went to pray one day at the Tiferet Tzion Yeshiva, founded by the Chazon Ish ztl. After the prayers, the Rosh Yeshivah approached me and asked me where I had come from. When I told him that I was from Baclara, he immediately told me that I was Miriam's son and told all the attendees about the whole affair, and that my mother had housed nine people.
The Jews of Baklerova were known to be aggressive. My grandfather, the late Rabbi Shimon Eliyahu, told me about an incident that took place in a village not far from Baklerova. In this village a Jew lived and his daughter fell in love with a young Christian and was about to convert to Christianity. Her family went to one of the accepted righteous men, and he said that when they asked her whether she wanted to convert to Christianity, she would be dumbstruck and her power of the speech would be revoked.
And it happened just like that. The district governor arrived at the ceremony. The young woman was asked if she wanted to convert to Christianity and she could not utter a word. The district governor then said that her silence meant consent. Just then up jumped a Jew, Reb Hayim Leib Ziman, one of the most important inhabitants of Baklerova. He slapped the governor's face, grabbed the young woman, and the Jews took her to a carriage and carried her across the border to Germany. There lived a Jew named Fishel, who sent her to America and thus saved a young Jewish woman from the Holocaust. Such were the Jews of Baklerova.
Another story my grandfather, Rabbi ShimonElihu, told me. Those who wanted to escape from Russia would come to Baklerova, because our fields bordered on Germany, as I've said. There were Jews and Gentiles who smuggled people across the border. One day a young man who deserted from the Russian army came and wanted to cross the border. He met a Jew, AvrahamYankel the shoemaker, who handed him over to a gentile who was supposed to get him across the border. Unfortunately, the young man was caught at the border. AvramYankel the shoemaker came running to my grandfather, Rabbi ShimonElihu, with a cry: Help, a disaster has happened! They caught the young man at the border! And there was indeed a danger that the young man would be sentenced to death, as deserters often were. My grandfather harnessed his horse and came to the office in the places where the young man had been arrested. That officer was always dealing with my grandfather and he immediately ordered his release. My grandfather gave the soldier who released the young man on the officer 5 rubles and the young man 10 rubles. The Russian soldier even escorted the young man personally across the border. He arrived in Germany to same Jew Fishel, who arranged for his passage to America, also.
This Fishel was an interesting character himselfhunchbacked, feeble, not at all an imposing figure. But someone with a warm Jewish heart. He had close ties with influential authorities, and at every opportunity he used his connections to help Jews in trouble. Not only did he not receive a reward, but he added money himself to the needy.
But the survivor's story didn't end there. Since the days of Baklerova, I quite a bit happened to me: imprisonment in Russia, and service in the Polish army.
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Updated 16 May 2019 by JH