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[Page 71 - Yiddish]

The Svir Journals

By Herzl Weiner

Translated by Mindle Crystel Gross

Edited by Toby Bird

The well-developed folk- library, the reading-room, the many daily newspapers, weekly journals and monthly publications, the frequent discussions and readings, the many-branched political activity, the very strong social pulse – all this had results. Not only was there discovered in Svir a circle of talented artists, but there also was a group of writers and literati.

The Svir literati group did not attempt to win any support anywhere else. They dedicated their entire energy in elevating the cultural level of their little town. They found a good method for this by publishing a weekly newspaper.

Between the two wars, the Svir literati group was able to publish several journals, the best of which were: The Pakel and From Our Life. Outstanding editors were both brothers Miller, Avrom Yitskhok and Henekh.

The following are examples of each of the Svir writers:

Poems by Avrom Yitskhok Miller

My Little Fiddle

I had a little fiddle,
Unusual, an antique,
And would often play a song
From famous works.

Many years passed.
I spent time with her alone.
My youth was lost in her,
In her sweet crying sounds.



Stars appear in the sky.
The day is passing by.
The street noise quiets,
As does the daily business.
The air is cold, one's nose freezes,
And still, it is pleasant to go.
The frost cuts as with steel,
And the eyes tear.
Shimmering, twinkling before the eyes,
Millions of snowflakes from afar,
And no matter how we turn our heads,
The snow shines all around.


Winter sport on the frozen lake


On a Clear Night

The moon swims across the clear sky
Surrounded by a million little stars.
Quiet is the night, there is no wind.
Everywhere dead, the earth silent.
Everything is sunk in deep sleep.
Only the moon moves about,
But soon, even this will end,
And the night is quickly over,
With her secretive shine.
Once again, the day will arrive
With its wild devil-dance.



The sun is burning.
The world has now burst into bloom.
I think that all is good and beautiful.
We seed, we cut, we thresh, we plow,
Only our world is – no evil should befall us –
Large and broad, but with trouble.
Wherever one goes, wherever one is,
The sword is already prepared,
And souls are trembling
At the angry word “wars”.
Only yesterday, we stood
And waited on the balconies
When, like roosters,
Angry, men looked at each other,
And after a while, probably
Another war would erupt.
A miracle, a dream happened,
And all passed, meanwhile, peacefully.

[Page 74]

Poems by Henekh Miller

1. Like a young pale widow
Who mourns her husband,
The moon swims languidly
In an easy, breezy fog.

2. The stars accompany her
On her far way
And they blink so nicely
And they dance without end.



1. The air is hot and suffused
With a sweet flowery aroma
Bright white clouds
Swimming on high.

2. Bent as if ashamed
Are the pretty branches
And dream like drunken
From the air.

3. Butterflies flit about
In the fields, on the air
And they dance and jump
Quite drunk with air.

4. It is also spring in the forest
Birds flit, sing, jump.
In the forest, the old king.
Reaps joy from the sounds.

5. At all of this with great pleasure
the sun looks down and shines,
and from the skies, the blue
rays spill down, spill down.



1. People rush and rush
For that small piece of bread.
They become confused because of this
Which was spread over the whole world.

2. People rush and rush,
For that little bit of good fortune.
Riches will not be had
To live lucky, without problems.

[Page 75]

A Poem by Khaye Kurtski


1. Life is lonely,
Like the death of the field.
Often he comes back
And finishes like a hero.

2. The years are lonely
And saturated with need
A person like he is born
To suffer for the smallest piece of bread.

3. Lonely is the hour
and every minute of life,
and all the troubles of the world
are all because of a false striving.


It is Difficult to Find

I know, my dear, that it is difficult for you,
So don't look for the truth, there is not much,
And should you ever find the truth,
Then you should know how dear it is,
And to care for and honor such a person
Who is as clean from falseness as a crystal.


Silent Tears

How bitter my tears may be,
I have swallowed them for many years.
No matter how difficult my life may be
I carry it quietly under my heart.
Painful was my youth
Without a bit of brightness and light.
I always dreamt, hoped,
Looked anxiously at the morrow, And then,
The morrow also passed,
And still no brightness or light.
Somewhere there is a beautiful world,
But mine is a dark one.


A Poem by Reyzl Khazan

(now Shoshana Drobkin)

You, too, came here,
To the choking air of injustice.
You say that it presses upon you, it is not good
To be among people who thirst for blood.
So don't be chosen from all others.
Be equal with all others
Who do endless things
The world suits you.


[Page 77]

A Poem by Sonia Tabarisk

The Dog

A dog barked, barked
From early morning until late at night,
Until he felt terrible,
And suddenly fell into deep thought
For a piece of a hard bone,
For a bone among the garbage,
It is not worthwhile to stand here
And bark unnecessarily.


The youth of Svir did not only express in these journals their feelings and thoughts, their dreams and strivings. All of the social, cultural, political and economic life in the town was reflected here. They wrote about everything and everything was discussed.

Naturally, what interested people the most were the questions of the youth. Henekh Miller devoted many articles to these problems. In Our Life, No 11, of July, 1923, he portrays, for example, the good qualities and desires of the Svir Jewish youth. This was following a literary trial about Mendele's text, which attracted all of the Svir youth, regardless of the differences in their beliefs and parties. Henekh Miller became interested in the feelings which the youth exhibited. In this article, he expresses his pleasure with the fact that the youth forgot their differences for at least one evening and united in satisfaction around a literary-drama circle.

Henekh Miller and Malke Fisher,
of blessed memory


Henekh Miller wrote, “that the literary trial refreshed the youth and brought in a sort of renewal of soul, a holiday atmosphere”. At the end of the article, he appealed to all the young groups to strengthen the collective work, together to create, and this would be useful in all community institutions in Svir. In a second article, he speaks about the existence-question of the Jewish youth and reaches the interesting conclusion, that a professional school must be opened.

Ruven Meyer Reznik does not avoid the question of the speculative prizes. In an article with the meaningful title: A Holiday for the Parasites, he describes the scarcity of things in town and the rise in the cost of the prizes: “Hah, hah, it is lively, joyous, running, flitting about, whispering, a tumult, a commotion. What has happened? It is already almost a big deal, a holiday for the shopkeepers, an excitement, and a tragedy for the poor population.”

Moshe & Rokhl-Leye Miller, of blessed memory and their family


In another article, Ruven Meyer addresses the question of the importance of noble descent to the Jews. He describes how a decent Jew is prepared to have his daughter marry an unemployed youth, one who relies on others for sustenance, one who is bankrupt, and even to one who is sick, anything not to enter into a family with no standing.

Avrum Yitskhok Miller, in a number of articles, tackles the problems of reading books. Like everybody else, he strives to read that which interests him, and is related to his feelings. Therefore the library must accommodate itself to the various preferences of its readers. For the youth, it is necessary to have romance novels and for the school children, travel books, discoveries and new developments.

Most importantly, he complains about the sad fact that in Svir very little Jewish history is taught.

He writes: “One is not a Jew without the history of the Jews. One is blind and dumb if one does not know Jewish history. Only with a Jewish heart, with Jewish sense and with Jewish nationalistic teachings. can he who studies Jewish history be a Jew”.

He also believes that too few Hebrew books are being read.

Moshe Drevyatski writes an article about social institutions. He arrives at the correct conclusion that it is not a good thing that each group is involved only with itself, is self-absorbed and creates a sort of world unto itself.

Berl Alperovitz writes very interesting articles. Naturally, he is consumed with sports questions. Once, in 1923, there was a football match between the Svir and Sventsyon players, which ended with the official score of 0-1 in favor of Sventsyon. He came out against them, and claims that the result was an unfair one, that the Sventsyon players, according to his opinion, did not deserve their goal.

“The 11 meter kick was given and the ball was returned back by the Svir gatekeeper, but the ball was immediately, once again, kicked by one of the Sventsyon player who was in the penalty field. This is not permitted. With an 11 meter kick, nobody except the kicker is allowed to be in the penalty field”.

Since the Sventsyon players triumphed and shouted three times Hurrah, Berl Alperovitz

gives this example” “Once upon a time, somebody went to the ritual slaughterer and asked him to kill his geese. The slaughterer asks him how many geese he had, and it turns out that in total, only one goose, and she is already dead”.

On the lake in 1933


Alperovitz concludes his article

“Certainly the Sventsyon football players will also talk about the goals which they gave to Svir, but if one should ask them how many goals they gave, they will also have to answer “a dead one”, a false one”.

In three separate articles, Avrum Yitskhok Miller describes the football match between Svir and Mikhalishak. He describes how the Svir players came Friday evening on foot, almost to Mikhalishak, how they crossed the deep river and rested in the forest. He describes the welcome in Mikhalishak, and above all, Svir's great victory

Before the match, Berl Alperovitz made an important speech about the physical development of the Jewish youth and at the end, stressed the necessity of establishing a tournament and sport club in Mikhalishak as well.

Henekh Miller always wrote about sports in every newspaper.

A number of articles by Alikim Kovarski were directed to questions about music and cantorial music.

The teacher, Chaim Rogov, wrote an interesting article called Shehkhiyonu, in which he greets the founder of the Zionist Socialist youth organization.

It is interesting that from all the newspapers we received, we learned that Shloyme Khetser had presented a talk about Morris Rosenfeld and Yakov Dov Gordon. The rabbi's son-in-law spoke about the Hebrew literature and the Tanakh, Chaim Rogov gave lessons about cultural history.

An interesting announcement was made public on January 20, 1924:

Do you want to enjoy an evening?
Do you want to benefit from one evening?
Come Saturday evening, to family night
A program of enriching content
Buffet and entertainment
Come all.

In short, everybody who looks through the newspapers and their many editions which appear in Svir, must be astonished and wonder at the courage and energy and enthusiasm which the Svir youth had.

In the 20th edition of From Our Life, the editor published an article with the headline 20 Editions.

He writes therein:

“With much happiness and pleasure, we are publishing the 20th edition of From Our Life. We have covered a lot of ground under very difficult and terrible circumstances. These 20 editions demonstrate on what level the youth of Svir stands, relative to culture and development”.

However, poetry did not appear daily. The most important reason was that when the most talented left in later years, younger talents appeared in the journals, such as Hertsl Viner, Khanon Viner, Ekhad Miller, Dovid Hayt, Shmuel Dobkin, yosef Zlatayavke and many other friends, boys and girls.

Jewish youth near the Memorial on the hill


Modest and without pretensions, they all influenced and created, and all those who remained alive may to this very day, be proud along with their friends with whom for tens of years they were fortunate enough to become educated and work together for the good of their little town.


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