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[Page 190]

About the Vysotsk community
that is no more

This tiny shtetl, a long way, about eight kilometres, from the railway station of Udrytsk, situated on the banks of several rivers. On one side the broad river, the Horyn, and on the other side small streams.

Throughout the year it was possible to get to Vysostsk. You would cross the river Horyn in a raft (parom), then you would arrive in Vysotsk. In spring, when the snows melted, getting to the shtetl became difficult. The roads deteriorated, when the water from the streams rise on its borders, overflow, embrace, blend, flood all the surrounds, and the appearance of the shtetl is like an island isolated in a sea of swamps.

The traveller who feels like visiting this remote corner at this season is not to be envied. Quite a few hurdles confront him before he reaches his destination. From Udrytsk he would travel some distance by cart, get out of the cart and get into a fishing boat, the boat anchors by the goishe gas[516], pass on foot the goishe gas submerged in deep sand and come on to the 'main' Jewish street, the start of which was next to the local authority house (from the direction of Stolin) and come to the market, which was surrounded by Jewish houses. Several alleys branch off from the market.

The majority of Vysotsk Jews were hard-working people, tradesmen, honest people who earned a living from the fruits of their labour, who made do with little and were happy with their lot. Not many of them were shopkeepers.

Stocks of potatoes stored for winter, until the next crop, flour for baking bread, a barrel of pickled cabbage, a barrel of pickled cucumber, a portion of meat for Sabbath. Sometimes people even managed to get meat during the week. This is what Jews of the shtetl had to eat.

The amazing thing was that in this remote shtetl young people were full of life, educated, cultured, with national aspirations and a clear understanding of international issues, just as they had of matters concerning Jews. And they were divided up into various splinter groups.

Relations between the Jews of Vysotsk and their Christian neighbours were friendly, peaceful; they lived in peace and there was no resentment between them.

Clothes cupboards were not in fashion in the shtetl homes. Instead a wooden box on four iron wheels would be found in every home. Small wooden boxes, simple,without paint, without tin covering, without iron rims with a small lock. In these boxes the poor people kept holiday clothes, bridal dresses, bed linen that mothers had been collecting for their daughters for many years, and various other items they regarded as valuable.

Fires often struck the Vysotsk homes with their straw roofs. The people were very alert to pozharim.[517]


Dovid, son of Shleyme Shtoper


When the call of pozhar rang out at dead of night and when tongues of fire took hold of the straw roofs, the first act of the Jews of the shtetl was to bring out of their houses the boxes on wheels in which 'the treasures' were hidden.

When the German murderers arrived the axe fell on the Vysotsk community. The axe fell on the survivors of the Jewish slaughter in Dombrovitze, who had found temporary shelter in Vysotsk. The axe fell on the women and children of the

[Page 191]

community of Horodok who had been banished to Vysotsk after the Germans had already killed their husbands and their parents.

The German murderers and their Ukrainian and Lithuanian accomplices, who abused Jews of Vysotsk, tormenting them, pillaging their property and possessions, robbing whatever they came upon, emptying the boxes, taking their people out to their death, to the valley of slaughter, to a pit that had already been prepared, dug out in the fields beyond the shtetl, in the opposite direction to the old cemetery.

Some time after the slaughter of the Jews of Vysotsk, one of its Christian inhabitants told us about Chava, wife of Yekhiel Borovyk, whom they saw walking her last path, her arms linked with her three daughters, as beautiful as flowers.

[He told] about the rov of the Vysotsk community, stepping on his last road/path covered in his talis[518] [and about how] he refuses to take off his talis, wanting at all costs to avoid taking off his clothes and remaining naked, as the Germans had ordered. On the edge of the pit the killers killed him with the butts of their rifles. He told us about a Jewish doctor, a refugee from one of the towns in Poland, who on his final journey encourages the Jews of the shtetl as they are taken to the slaughter. These were his defiant words to the Germans:

'Accursed killers, you turn the blood of innocent people into rivers. Your defeat is near, the day of your fall is approaching. One day we will take revenge on you, accursed killers, accursed Germans…'

They also killed the doctor with the butts of their rifles.

May these lines be a memorial on the graves of our martyred brothers who were killed at the hands of the German killers:

a memorial to my husband Dovid Shtoper and our two children;

a memorial to my sister Miriam, her husband Moyshe and their two children who were killed with terrible cruelty by the Ukrainians (gang of 'Bulba'[519]) in the forests near Prasidovke [Prasodivka].

A memorial to forty Jews of Vysotsk who hid in the 'zamlinke'[520] and who, one night, were all killed by the 'Bulba' gangs.

A memorial to Aaron Sheynman who was killed by the village of Rechitze on his way to us in the forest.

  Bat Lea


Avramle, son of Dvoyre and Dovid Shtoper

[Page 192]

The family of Shleyme Shtoper – 1932
From right to left, standing: Lea Shtoper and her husband Mendl Shabetz, Aaron and Mushke Shtoper;
Sitting: Dvusya, the mother Riva-Malka and Dovid Shtoper


Shleyme Shtoper
Dvusya and Dovid Shtoper
and the child - Shleyme, Mushke's son

[Page 193]

Tamar (Tama) Borovyk-Yesunov


She was born in Vysotsk in 1908. Her parents were Chava and Yoyne Borovyk. She grew up in her parents' home, a religious, traditional home with national aspirations. She studied in the Tarbut school in the shtetl, was a member of HeKhalutz HaTzair and the Khalutz. In 1934 she went off to the training kibbutz in Kamin Kashirsk[521].

With the help of a relative of the family she made aliyah in 1938. A year after her marriage in the Land she gave birth to her daughter Bruria. While she was pregnant she became ill with a malignant disease and in 1943 she died leaving her 2-year-old daughter.

May her memory be gathered in eternal life.


In Israel, October 1963, at the party to celebrate the wedding of Bruria Yesonov: some of those who had left Vysotsk


Arie, Tzipora and Dovid Durchyn

[Page 194]

Nekhama and Dovid Kortach
The teacher A. Kant


Chaim Asher Lieberman
(from Zhidin)
Tzvi-Arie and Menukha Lieberman (from Tuman)


From right to left: Bella Lieberman-Smokat, Aaron Roznkrantz and his wife Khashke Lieberman, Malka Liman (from Tuman)

  1. Yiddish: Goy street return
  2. Yiddish from Ukr./Russ. : Pozhar, fire + Hebrew plural suffix return
  3. prayer mantle return
  4. Ukrainian People’s Revolutionary Army followers of Tara Bulba-Borovetz (1908-1981) return
  5. this probably means ‘little gathering place’ from zamlen (Yiddish: to gather) return
  6. Kamin Kashyrskyy, north-west area of Volhynia province return

[Page 195]

Our family in Milyach

On the other side of the river Horyn as you come eastwards you see the village of Milyach in all its glory. About a hundred and thirty years ago, a short while after the peasants living in the village had been freed from the panszczyzna[522], from the yoke of slavery of the porets[523], a Jew by the name of Hershil Perlshteyn came to the village from the nearby shtetl of Dombrovitze. He built a house for himself that was then called a krechma[524],a place where villagers assembled every Sunday to drink a glass of spirit and buy some necessities such as paraffin, salt and so on. They did not need any other provisions. Everything they consumed they produced themselves. They would also make bread to eat and clothes to wear.

This Jew had three sons: Avrom, Ayzik and Yakov. The three of them helped their parents until they grew up and married, each building a house for himself. Children and grandchildren were born. Some of them also moved to other places and even emigrated, until about ten families remained in the village. All of them were descendants of one man among about one hundred 'Goy' families, peasant farmers.

My parents Feybush-Shraga and Shifra had three sons and five daughters. Two died while still very young. Chana, Chaya and Khasil survived. My sister Chana and her husband Rotberg had five sons and one daughter. Mordekhai and Yakov made aliyah to the Land. Chaim, Hershl and Kalman and the daughter Breyndl remained in the village. My sister Khaya and her husband Avram Leyb Feyglshteyn had three sons and one daughter, Chaim-Hersh, Asher, Menachem and their daughter Masha who lived in Klosov[525]. My sister Khasil and her husband Shleyme Tinkl had two sons and a daughter, Yehoshua, Pinkhas and Leah. Moyshe Beer my brother had two sons and a daughter, Hillel, Yosef and Sara. He had a grocery shop next to the railway station. And my brother Leybl, who got married in the shtetl Lakhva[526] with Fanya Pinkhasovych, had two sons and a daughter. All of them were prey to the filthy teeth of Hitler's soldiers, may their memory be wiped off the face of the earth.

Jewish tradesmen would sometimes come to the village from the nearby shtetl of Vysotsk looking for work among the Goy peasant farmers, sewing a coat from sheepskin, sewing or mending boots in the winter days, building a house from wooden beams, making an oven from bricks inside a house etc. One Jew by the name Eliahu-Moyshe Borovyk, whom I remember at the age of about seventy, would come every summer to the village and would go for a week into the forest with oxen to put them to pasture. On Sabbath he would come to us in order to be among Jews and pray with us. At the end of Sabbath as darkness fell he would return to the forest to the oxen, a distance of fifteen kilometres, on foot.

One Jew by the name of Beynish would come to the village as a pedlar, bringing matches, needles, salt and similar products to the local homes. In return he received grain which he would grind in the village mill, then bring his family flour ready for baking bread. The income from peddling was extremely meagre, for the 'Goys' had very limited needs. Even matches they would use sparingly for they made fire with the help of stones. They made their clothes for themselves from the material that they themselves wove.

Beynish would come to the cheyder where we, the Jewish children, were sitting and studying. More than once he would demonstrate his great knowledge in

[Page 196]

the content of the studies. He would ask and answer questions from the Bible orally as if from the book. There was not a question or a passage in the Bible that was asked about that he did not know how to answer precisely and promptly.

In the 80s of the last century the period of service in the army of the Russian tsar Nikolai was five years. A Jewish young man would look for all sorts of ruses, like bribing the authorities or inflicting harm on himself in order to show himself weak. Anything in order not to serve in the army. Of my grandfather's five sons it was my uncle Chaim's fate to serve in the army as he was strong and healthy. Nothing helped to get him released, not bribery and not self-inflicted harm. After that he hid from the authorities. But after some time they caught him and took him to court, where he received six months' imprisonment. After his release from prison he had to serve his period of time in the army in full. A short while after his release from the army the First World War broke out, and in 1914 he was conscripted as a reserve soldier for the war. His wife Sara-Leah and his only daughter Batya-Reyzil stayed with her parents, that is with my grandfather and grandmother. The house was large and spacious. In one large room stood the Aron Hakodesh[527]and in it the Sefer Torah[528] which my grandfather had bought for it. On Sabbath and holidays on Yamim Noraim[529] they would gather in this room to pray together with other people.

After the First World War the young people left the village, some emigrating to Canada and others to Australia and some to Eretz Israel. Those who remained in the village were all killed in the Shoah. Not one survived.

What I have recorded here on paper will preserve the holy memory of the dear relatives who were and are no longer alive.

  Eliezer Perlshteyn
Ramat Gan

[Page 197]

Pesya Gempl
Rivl Ryzhy, her husband and their baby son

  1. Polish: serfdom return
  2. Yiddish: landowner return
  3. Yiddish: tavern return
  4. now Klesiv, a village c. 25 km. east of Sarny (close to the village was Klosova, the granite quarry that became the training kibbutz for the Zionist youth) return
  5. a village c. 80 km. east of Pinsk (Belarus) return
  6. Holy Ark, in which the Sefer Torah is kept return
  7. Book of the Torah (five books of Moses) return
  8. ‘Days of Awe’, the period between the New Year and the Day of Atonement return


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