** 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
mourn over you, working people of the nation, pure-hearted and
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.
People of the Nation
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.
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…
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.
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.
passes quickly, and a man must support himself all the days of
the year – they worked, therefore, from dawn to dusk.
Nazi beast did not favor any Jew…
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?
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.
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.
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
Passover, he would bake matzo, and when it was necessary, he
would engrave stone.
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…
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.
saw how his trunk was broken in the storm, that firm trunk whose
body branched out, flourishing and blooming.
is no one who will erect a monument in his memory.
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.
shoemaker was replete with delight from his enjoyment of the
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
its trunk became loosened and any ordinary wind endangered it.Nevertheless, it continued to live with confidence.
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.
airplane with black crosses appeared in the skies over
Vladimirets, Gechya was shocked.The eyes that had always sparkled suddenly were
tree was split and fell…
family of blacksmiths were Leibel Wischnia and Gershon Kazak,
who were extremely strong.Their athletic appearance and muscular arms inspired
of the town would ask in amazement:
Jews get such strong men as these?"
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.
of the blacksmiths were not easy – over the years, their number
was a Jewish blacksmith in almost every village.
days when there was no work, and the blacksmiths had nothing to
do.But during the
working season, they worked from dawn until dusk.
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…
lived for a long time – they made fittings for wagons, sharpened
axes and plows, saws and knives.
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
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.
when the Soviets entered the town, Leibel's eyes shone and his
tired face suddenly lit up – here, his desire was being
happiness did not last a long time.His wish for a life of happiness was quickly proven
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.
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
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 …
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
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…
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.
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…
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…
returned, I saw his carpentry shop – the silence of death stood
silently, the walls cried over his fate…
Vinitzer – or Moshe "Kapilushnik,"as they used to call him in
the town, never parted from his hat…
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.
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
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
children grew in this house like mushrooms after the rain – and
what a miracle: plump children, like fresh cucumbers…
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.
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
than once, Bluma would shout at them, because of their great
appetites, and she would finish her shouting with a
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
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…
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
all this, and she swallows a bit of food together with her
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
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…
shoemaker sat opposite the stove and worked with his needle.From time to time, drops of sweat dripped from his thin
his hat peered large and tired eyes, which told of Reb Leib's
great struggle in the war for his existence.
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…
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
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.
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."
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…
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.
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.
he want from me, the murderer?"
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
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…
Ruins, My Town
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.
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
things, we bought them for the full price," they tried to
disappeared; my heart became a stone, and I was not able to say
those houses and dragged my stumbling feet through my dead town.
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
the talented brothers Pesach and Yaakov.No more, dear Netka, who was weak in body but strong in
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
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
patted their shoulders in friendliness as a sign of
satisfaction, and afterwards they themselves shed their blood.
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…
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.
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
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 townspeople would go out for a walk – here, Jews would pass
by, day and night – and now, the fear of death is all around…
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…
silent over the grave of our dear ones for a long time – a grave
without a monument.