Photograph Albums
Sefer Vladimirets translation
Vladimirets Information
Vohlyn Region
Vladimirets Surname List
Accounting for Everyone
Family Stories & Writings
Exhibits
Links
Sefer Vladimirets

read more

 

I will Mourn

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Baruch Smola

** Webmaster Note: The following is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov as sponsored by George Zilbergeld. Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).

I WILL MOURN

I will mourn over you, working people of the nation, pure-hearted and oppressed.  You pass before me, and I see you as you were then.  But I will see you only with the eyes of my soul, because the axe was waved over you and you were cut off.  My heart will dream of your generosity, your troubles, and your glory.  It will dream and mourn simultaneously.

Working People of the Nation

The Baril family was solid, like a magnificent tree.  Its extensions reached very far, across the seas; you could find every profession in this family, but their most frequent occupation was construction work.

They dealt in this work for many generations, carrying out building projects in the towns and villages.  They passed the axe on to their sons after them, the tool of their trade which they had received from their forefathers… 

When the Holocaust descended upon the Nation of Israel, the axe of the Baril family also had a task – their son Isaac took it with him, tucked it into his belt, and fled with his family to the forest.  He carried out the first acts of revenge against the bloodthirsty Germans with the axe in his hand.  And thus he was able to obtain weapons and food, for his own survival and the survival of his family.  But Ukrainian murderers searched for and found their "nest," and when he returned one day from the forest to his den, he found the members of his family murdered.

Isaac wandered alone in the forest for many days.  He was well acquainted with the forest – because that is where he spent most of his days, together with his father, his brothers and cousins.  He built luxurious villas for the estate owners with boards from its pine trees.

The days of the Jewish craftsmen were difficult.  With the coming of spring, loaded with large sacks containing their tools, they travelled through all of the settlements of Polesia, looking for work.  They went home only for the Sabbath.

Summer passes quickly, and a man must support himself all the days of the year – they worked, therefore, from dawn to dusk.

But the Nazi beast did not favor any Jew…

And not only the Nazi beast – the Feodorov partisan camp did not hurry to accept him into its ranks, because they found out that the lad was a Jew, and why did they need a Jew in their ranks? 

When he finally was accepted as a partisan, they gave him the most difficult assignments.  His stormy spirit knew no rest.  His thirst for revenge never stopped…and indeed, he derailed and destroyed many trains carrying military deliveries. 

During a German manhunt, he was murdered by a bloodthirsty partisan, and thus the exploits of the life and bravery of our dear fellow townsman, Isaac Baril, came to an end. 

Isaac's father, Avraham-Aharon, was a very talented man.  His blessed hands knew how to do everything – carpentry and construction work – and the work of barrel-makers and tinsmiths.  Toward Passover, he would bake matzo, and when it was necessary, he would engrave stone.

It was actually wonderful, how this Avraham-Aharon, whose only education was what he had learned in the cheder – knew precisely how to engrave letters and drawings on the monuments.  Lions with uplifted tails; trees at the height of their bloom – from them he suddenly cut off a symbolic shoot – a sign of life that was plucked at its prime…

Until the actual days of his old age, when he was already bent and tired, he still did not relax his grip on the axe in his hand.  The generous smile on his shining face, and his sense of humor – did not depart until the great destruction arrived.

His eyes saw how his trunk was broken in the storm, that firm trunk whose body branched out, flourishing and blooming.

And there is no one who will erect a monument in his memory.

The most widespread craft in our town was tailoring.  Like all professionals, here also, there were better tailors and less skilled tailors.  Some did their work in the villages and were frequently on the road, and some did their work at home.  Among the latter was the Smoliar family.  Their skill at sewing merited them an important position in this field of work.

Gechya the shoemaker was replete with delight from his enjoyment of the children.  On Fridays, toward the time of candle-lighting, Gechya would dress in his Sabbath clothes, comb his white, lovely beard, and, slightly hurrying, would walk to the synagogue to pray.  Gechya was already old, but he resembled a tree that grew on the river bank.  The waters of the river slowly licked away the ground at its feet.  Consequently, its trunk became loosened and any ordinary wind endangered it.  Nevertheless, it continued to live with confidence.

Gechya merited a great deal of pleasure – innumerable grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  All of the chambers of his heart were filled with joy.  His lips always murmured a prayer of thanks to G-d for His kindnesses that he had done for him and his family.  Worry about a livelihood did not have the strength to darken his happiness.

When an airplane with black crosses appeared in the skies over Vladimirets, Gechya was shocked.  The eyes that had always sparkled suddenly were extinguished.  The tree was split and fell…

Among the family of blacksmiths were Leibel Wischnia and Gershon Kazak, who were extremely strong.  Their athletic appearance and muscular arms inspired fear.  The goyim of the town would ask in amazement: 

"Where do Jews get such strong men as these?"

Sometimes the courageous among the villagers would attempt to compete with them in a wrestling match.  But the first squeeze of the hand was sufficient for the villager to collapse on the ground.  Another squeeze, and they already were begging for kindness, to be left alone. 

The lives of the blacksmiths were not easy – over the years, their number increased.  There was a Jewish blacksmith in almost every village. 

There were days when there was no work, and the blacksmiths had nothing to do.  But during the working season, they worked from dawn until dusk.

Like the voices of the roosters in the dimness of dawn, from smithy to smithy, the sounds of the hammers striking the anvils spoke to each other. Very early in the morning – the town was still asleep, and the morning prayer of the hammers was already awake… 

Thus they lived for a long time – they made fittings for wagons, sharpened axes and plows, saws and knives.

Leibel was a naturally quiet person – and that is how he carried the burden of supporting his family – always quietly.  Deep in his heart, Leibel carried desires for a better tomorrow – and from time to time, the light of hope would shine in his eyes – it would be lit for a moment, and quickly be extinguished.

When Leibel would meditate about his brother-in-law Berel, his imagination would rise up without stopping.  His assistant in the smithy, Pinchas Grushko, would sometimes tell him wonderful things from Russia – how the workers lived there in wealth and happiness.  Leibel would listen to his words without any reaction – he listened and was silent.

In 1939, when the Soviets entered the town, Leibel's eyes shone and his tired face suddenly lit up – here, his desire was being fulfilled.

But his happiness did not last a long time.  His wish for a life of happiness was quickly proven false.  His heart was filled with great pain when he heard his children asking for bread to satisfy their hunger, and a slice of bread was hard to obtain, even for money.

Leibel stood for many hours in "line," he and the members of his family – and he didn't always receive his portion.  The entire population was standing in line – the residents spent day after day in such lines.  The days of nightmare and disappointment continued, on and on. 

Leibel's brother-in-law, Berel Muchnik, was one of the Bolshevik activists in Vladimirets.  In 1918, when the Bolsheviks withdrew from Vladimirets, Berel also left the town of his birth and went to Russia.  Kanonitz, Schreiman, Grushko and others went with him at that time …

And here, after many years, Berel returned to Vladimirets.  All of his companions from long ago, all of his neighbors and friends, now hurried to him, raining questions upon him.  But he, Berel, who long ago had been an excited and tempestuous lad, sat next to the table and was silent.  He didn't tell a thing.  And only with a whisper, he revealed the secret of secrets – all those sons of the town who left with him for Russia were no longer alive, and Berel did not know even where their graves were located.  Tears filled Berel's eyes and ran down his wrinkled cheeks… Leibel was shocked.  He bit his lips and his heart became stony with pain.  "It is forbidden to talk about it," warned Berel…

Mendel Leifer was an artisan carpenter.  In the summer and also in the winter, his carpentry shop worked at full steam.  A real community of carpenters came from his workshop and spread out all over the world.    At his place, they worked according to the amount of kerosene in the lamp.  They would fill the lamp twice, and when the kerosene was finished, the workers stopped working. All, of course, was according to the instructions of the owner of the shop.

Mendel won the great honor of working for the landowners.  He taught his workers the ways of the world, how to kiss the hand of the landlady when they came to her house.  With some fear, he would speak with these providers of work, standing at attention and holding his hat under his arm.  But with all of these "successes," his life was no different from the lives of the other carpenters, and he also did not have such a great income.  All he wanted was to establish a pleasant home.  He ate very little; he limited his ordinary expenses, and indeed, he established a wonderful home – he hoped that better days would come… 

His house is still standing, but Mendel is no more … somewhere, outside the town, he found his death – he, the members of his family, and the sons of his town…

When I returned, I saw his carpentry shop – the silence of death stood there.  Silently, silently, the walls cried over his fate… 

Moshe Vinitzer – or Moshe "Kapilushnik,"as they used to call him in the town, never parted from his hat…

The Jews were amazed at him, and even made fun of him:  isn't it strange that a man should walk around in a hat on an ordinary weekday?  But Moshe did not pay attention to the criticism – even more so – he was proud of his hat. The Jews of Vladimirets should know that I am from a big city – that I am from Rowne.  They must respect the hat.

Moshe was an expert in his profession, shoemaking.  None could compare with him.  But that was not a guarantee of a livelihood.  All his life, he lived in Meir Wolff's apartment, in his guest room.  The furniture was none other than two wooden beds, a closet and a crib that was tied with ropes to the ceiling.  The crib was always occupied.  When the baby grew big enough, the parents moved him to their bed.  The children grew in this house like mushrooms after the rain – and what a miracle: plump children, like fresh cucumbers… 

Thursdays were the most difficult days for Moshe and Bluma – this day shortened their lives.  Toward evening on Thursdays, Bluma would come home from the store with a basket in her hand.  When the children saw her, they would begin to clap their hands with joy.  Bluma would give each of them a candy.  The children protected their candies and were careful not to put them in their mouths.  They only licked them, with great appetite.

In the twilight of dawn, on Fridays, the children were already awake.  They lay in their bed and listened to the sounds coming from the kitchen, as if the sounds had the strength to satisfy their hunger.  More than once, Bluma would shout at them, because of their great appetites, and she would finish her shouting with a heart-breaking sigh…

The hour was very early, and the children already got out of their bed and entered the kitchen.  She gave each one a pancake in his hand.  The pancakes were very hot, and they shifted them from one hand to the other as they went out of the kitchen.  Bluma also allowed herself to take half a pancake and taste it – the children had already gone back to bed… The barrel of water standing in the hallway waited patiently for Bluma.  During that time, she would wash the floor on Fridays.  After that, she sprinkled yellow sand on the floor, and the house would already look festive; it was ready for the Sabbath.

The children were already washed, and they waited for their father to come back from the synagogue to the evening meal.  That is how they waited every week… 

Here, Moshe came in.  A wide "Shabbat Shalom" filled the room.  On the table stood the candles.  The fears of Thursday were over and gone.  Moshe recites the Kiddush.  Bluma brings the food to the table…the children eat the Sabbath food not only with their mouths, but also with their eyes.  Bluma sees all this, and she swallows a bit of food together with her tears.

The house of Leib the shoemaker looked like a chicken with wings spread out, sitting and dozing – the residents of the house multiplied from year to year.  The straw roof was large and the house was small.  It looked like the roof was forcing its walls down to earth.  The walls were crooked, here they bent inward and there they bent outward.  The master inside the house was mainly the large stove.  Under the stove there was a special niche for chickens… 

Leib the shoemaker sat opposite the stove and worked with his needle.  From time to time, drops of sweat dripped from his thin face.  From under his hat peered large and tired eyes, which told of Reb Leib's great struggle in the war for his existence.

Behind the stove were several beds.  The windows of the house were low, near the ground, and thus their panes were sometimes broken.  The great protector of the house was the stove, against the cold of days of rain and snow… 

All his life, Wolff, the water-carrier, carried the full pails.  He never complained about his bitter fate – on sunny days and stormy days, in light and in darkness – the more difficult and bad the weather, also the more the spirit within him was stormy, and his heart-rending songs became more energetic and shocking.

His step was heavy, as heavy as his life.  It was as if his boots, which were full of water, sighed when he walked in the winter.  There were those whose feet froze in their boots, but he, Wolff, did not pay attention to such minor details.

On Fridays, Wolff would go, as did all of the Jews, to the bathhouse.  That is how it was in those good days.  But even then, there were haters of Israel who plotted – here, policemen, accompanied by their officer, would cross his path and ridicule him – Wolff did not withdraw.  He approached the officer, and with his heavy hand, he would bend his head down to the ground and give him several heavy punches, saying "Here, next time you will know how to make fun of Wolff the Jew."

Wolff was beaten by fate, but he was a Jew with all his heart.  On the Sabbath, he would go to the synagogue, and with a strong, sweet voice he would repeat after the chazzan [cantor] and acknowledge his prayer by saying Amen.  On Yom Kippur, he fasted with everyone…

Wolff related with derision to the Nazis and to the ghetto, its restrictions and limits.  He did not recognize them.  Who would be able to force him, who?  Who had permission to order him where to go? And where not to go?  The world belonged to him.  He was born here.  This ground was his.

Wolf went out of the ghetto, dragging his starving limbs.  It was already many days since Wolff had eaten enough to be satisfied.    Circles of light and color leapt before his eyes.  His heart went out to days gone by: where were those days when good women would call him to come in and eat something on the Sabbath?   He put out his tongue and passed it along his dry lips, as if he wanted to kiss the dream of his memories.  A weak smile lit his face, and suddenly, he heard the voice of a Nazi.  The voice cut off his happy dream.

"What does he want from me, the murderer?"

But the murderer was already standing in front of him.  He stood in front of him, face to face…

All of his contempt suddenly awoke in Wolff, and he spit into the Nazi's face.  Really…

The German was confused for one moment…Wolff was not satisfied, and turned here and there to find a rock…With a rock in his hand, his revenge would be more actual…The Nazi recovered very quickly.  He held out his pistol and murdered Wolff with a shot.  Blood was spilled.  The blood of Wolff, the water-carrier.  His eyes were still open, and his fists were clenched.  And in the town, it was quiet…everyone cried in secret, without raising a voice… 

Over Your Ruins, My Town

After the destruction of our town – I travelled to Vladimirets.  It was in the fall of 1947.  I could not believe that Jewish Vladimirets, the lively, full of life Vladimirets – no longer exists.  But, to our great sorrow, that is the honest truth.

I passed through the town – I went from house to house, and from street to street.  No door opened to me, not even a window was opened.  There was no sign of life, no shadow of life – nothing.

I entered a few Ukrainian homes – murderers of our fathers – they received my arrival with obvious fear – in every one of these houses, my eyes saw Jewish property.  They took the trouble to explain to me how the furniture, bedclothes and other items that belonged to Jews had reached their homes. 

"All these things, we bought them for the full price," they tried to explain.

My tongue disappeared; my heart became a stone, and I was not able to say anything.  I left those houses and dragged my stumbling feet through my dead town.

Here, I stop next to the house of the Tcherniak family – this house was always lively and full of life.  But now – the silence of death.   Five years have already passed since the murder, and it is as if the atrocity is being born now.  Windows are broken.  The holes in the windows are stopped up with bags of straw.

No more, the talented brothers Pesach and Yaakov.  No more, dear Netka, who was weak in body but strong in spirit.  All the years, he didn't stop awakening and calling the townspeople.  His voice was so clear and penetrating.  No more, his friend Shlomo Goldberg, who would repeatedly tell us in his deep voice that also we Jews, like all of the nations of the world, had our own country. 2000 years – so he would repeat and remind us – we are in exile – he also fell with the fallen and did not merit seeing the arrival of our national independence.

Tears choke my throat.  My heart is torn within me.  Bowed down and depressed, I go further.  Here the Zhuk family lived.  In my mind's eye, I see the terrible picture that I had heard from witnesses – how the murderers dragged their daughter Devorah from the arms of her parents and molested her.  Here, the Shefin family lived.  For many years, the members of the family sewed hats and sold them to the goyim.  Summer hats and winter hats – fur hats lined with velvet and with oilcloth.  The goyim tried on the hats and looked with great enjoyment.  They patted their shoulders in friendliness as a sign of satisfaction, and afterwards they themselves shed their blood.

No more, our lively youth.  Not a sign of life or remembrance.  No more, our beautiful sisters – the wonderful daughters of Vladimirets – in whom fathers and mothers held so much hope…

Today is Sunday.  The skies are dark with clouds.  The rain is pelting the windows.  I lean on the window and wonder – in my mind's eye I see the living town.  There, weddings appear before me.  Parents lead their sons and daughters to the wedding canopy … I am still sunk in my thoughts, and suddenly – the rescuing sound of their doorbell…

Here, I see the Ukrainians, spillers of our blood – but I do not see them in my mind's eye, rather with my actual eyes.  They are going on their Sabbath day from store to store, dressed in holiday clothes, but the clothes they are wearing are not theirs – they are the clothes of our fathers.  I feel that the ground is trembling beneath my feet.  I cannot remain here.  I go outside.  The passersby regard me with murderous eyes.  They look at me and go away.

The day before our community was destroyed, the principal of the Ukrainian school Shiperkowicz, the music teacher Garitzky, the doctor Ostapenka, and the secretary of the gmina [municipality] Kosisko, sat together over a bottle of whisky and all of them signed a certificate stating that, as the representatives of the residents, they request the destruction of the Jewish community. 

I ask to go to the grave of our martyrs.  An elderly Ukrainian takes me to the place.  "Here, this is the place," says the old man.  "The sign is that the third pit isn't full.  At the time, a fence was put up here, but it was destroyed."

I stand and look at the pits.  The end of a wonderful Jewish community.  Here, on the road to Zhulkin.  Here, we would walk before Shavuot to bring greens for the holiday.  Here, the townspeople would go out for a walk – here, Jews would pass by, day and night – and now, the fear of death is all around…

Jews lived in Vladimirets for many generations – many generations built their lives here – they withheld food from their mouths and sleep from their eyes, and so, with dedication and hard work, they built their lives…

I stood silent over the grave of our dear ones for a long time – a grave without a monument.


1997 - present © Copyright Terryn Barill. All rights Reserved.
If you use any portion of this site, please use sections in their entirety, and give credit accordingly. Thank you.