Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
Dzhikevines was a little hamlet, no more than 3 kilometers from Haydutishok. In between there was another little hamlet, Stortzun. A Russian saying goes: small, but smart. This describes Dzhikevinessmall, beautiful, friendly and intimate.
Fields and forests, streams and valleys, surrounded this hamlet. In the summertime, the 20 families traded in fruit, vegetables, pigs, wheat, corn, oats, cherries, peas and most important, flax. These were very plentiful here. The land was soaked with milk and honey.
Not more than 20 families lived here, 5 of them Jewish. These Jews were actually peasants, they worked the land. Each family owned a 10Dusiat, about 110 Dunas of land. They all earned a living mainly from the flaxwhich grows like thin sticks and doesn't need to be cut, just torn with its roots, dried thoroughly and then beat to release the seeds.
The seeds served a double purpose. Part was left as seeds and the rest made wonderful oil. The dried sticks of flax were tied into bundles and were shipped to the textile mills. Besides the flax industry, the lush fields produced an abundance of other produce: corn, wheat, and all kinds of grains.
Around each house, the peasant had his own yard filled with fruit trees. Besides this, each family owned a shed, a few cows, hens and geese.
In the winter, when there was no work in the fields, the peasants, Jews and Christians, occupied themselves with the Voske. They drove to the train station bringing assorted goods back and forth.(transportation or trade). From the Jewish families in Dzhikevines, 2 brothers became very well known in this trade in the region: Chaim and Hirshe Tchernatsky. They had 2 large and intermarried families: Chaim had 4 sons and 5 daughters; Hirshe, 5 sons and 2 daughters.
Rabbi Chaim's house was quite impressive and had its own synagogue. All year round the Jews prayed here on Saturdays and holidays. Only for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur,
the Jews went to Haydutishok where they prayed in the old synagogue. For the small children they hired a Melamud (teacher) who was also the Torah Reader. The older children drove or went by foot to Haydutishok where they studied in various cheders. The Dzhikevines Jews were famous in and around Haydutishok for their warm hearts and their open hands. Every Thursday they arrived in the shtetl to sell their produce and to buy housewares, cloth and trimmings, and baking goods. It was also an occasion to buy fresh bagels at Rabbi Shneur Kuritzki's bakery for the children.
Night time, when the market ended, when the Dzhikevines' Jews barely had enough time to harness their horses, the poor Haydutishoker Jews would gather around them. They knew for sure that these Jewish peasants would give them some alms(money for the needy).
On this site and in the courtyard of the old synagogue, the poor people came to beg and also use the facilities of the synagogue for shelter.
Every traveller or student, passing through Haydutishok, knew that the nearby settlement were good Jews and heeded the commandment of Feeding the Needy.
On the way to Dzhikevines, you could always see people travelling in that direction. It wasn't only on Saturdays that you found a Dzhikevines Jew eating with a poor man at his table. Relations between the Christian and Jewish peasants were very friendly. The Jews thanked God that they were brought here and were blessed with good health and good fortune. This was the way they lived, until one time a tragedy struck at Rabbi Chaim's home. Like I mentioned, he had 5 daughters and 4 sons. The oldest was Zlata and the youngest, Sarah.
When it was time for marriage, Zlata, was to have a large wedding at her home. Many guests were expected to arrive from the whole region. The groom's family was also large.
A month before the wedding there was much turmoil in the shtetl. Baila, Rabbi Chaim's wife, was known as excellent housekeeper and organizer. Her cooking and baking were works of art. Baila, at last, was marrying her eldest daughter, and there was no rest day and night. She wanted to present her daughter with a grandiose wedding, to be remembered by all children and their children. Baila fried tagelach (small pieces of dough), cooked, baked tortes and lekach (sweet cakes), made her own wine from apples. She was so happy that she was able to prepare such a feast fit for a king (pooh, pooh)[against the evil eye]. There was no doubt that this was such a beautiful wedding for Chaim of Dzhikevines. The Chuppah (ceremony) was scheduled on a Tuesday in the evening. It was a cold and rainy spring. Sunday was a downpour. Baila didn't pay attention to this. She ran from neighbour to neighbour, house to house, she trudged through the muddy fields, God forbid anything should go wrong before the wedding! Baila caught a very bad cold. Monday in the morning she came down with a very high fever. A doctor arrived immediately from Haydutishok, who diagnosed her with a lung infection.
No special remedies were available in those days. Baila suffered all of Monday and in the evening got worse. In the middle of the night she died, exactly before the wedding.
Difficult, very difficult to see this! There were no telephones. They didn't know how to reach the inlaws, to tell them not to come.
Very early in the morning, some friends went to the Rabbi in Haydutishok to ask his advice. He told them to postpone the wedding by a week until the bride gets up from sitting Shiva (mourning the dead).
Instead of preparing for a wedding and to greet the groom, they had to prepare for a funeral. All the peasants, Jews and Christians, harnessed their horses to bid farewell to this good and righteous Baila.
At the cemetery, the wailing and screaming of the 9 children could be heard in the entire region. On the way to the funeral they were met by the inlaws, who knew nothing and could not understand such a tragedya few of their wagons were approaching the funeral with music and dancing.
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