** Webmaster Note: The following
is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov
as sponsored by George Zilbergeld.
Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).
FRAGMENTS OF MEMORIES
One of the
things for which our town was famous was its fires, some small
and some large.It
seems to me that a fire is also first in my remembrance of my
day.I was then
four or five years old.Suddenly, the town was filled with the ringing of bells –
these were the bells of the church, which were used to warn the
residents when a fire broke out in the town.I was at school.Quickly, many parents, who had hurried to take their
children, gathered there.I was not brought to our house, but to an empty lot
between the churches.There, I found a large pile of movable possessions that
people had succeeded in rescuing.Our house had already gone up in flames.The fire jumped from house to house, from street to
families remained homeless.Many people came out of that fire with nothing, without a
The tenants crowded themselves into the houses that remained,
making room for the "burnt-out ones."We went to live in a house that was next door to the home
of the Tscherniak family, until our new house was built.This fire was called "the great fire."Smaller fires were common in Vladimirets, and they
There was a
fire department in the town.They had horses, wagons and barrels of water.Most of these firefighters were Jewish volunteers.Many times we awakened from sleep to the fearful sight of
the windows being lit by the shine of flames.My father would hurry out of the house, energetically
slamming the door, and run to the location of the disaster,
diverting his attention from our house and the possessions that
had to be rescued.
Most of the time, the firemen succeeded in preventing the spread
of a fire, although most of the houses were built of wood.
were no extremely wealthy people there.The most successful families were only well-established
and had a respectable income, most of the population – traders,
storekeepers and craftsmen. But there also were many poor
people, some who were given public assistance and some who
suffered the disgrace of hunger and did not want to receive any
help in spite of their difficult situation.Most of the families had many children.Many families were supported by "giving in secret."There also were other forms of assistance, such as the "G'milut
Chasadim" [Benevolence Society]; "Somech Noflim"
[Support for the Fallen]; "Hachnasat Kalla" [society
giving financial and other assistance to brides], "Maot
Chitim" [society providing matzo and food for the Passover
holiday], and more.
The people who were occupied in all of these organizations did
so after their day's work, and did not do so in order to be
rewarded, at least not in this world.
and Zionism did not contradict each other, and in Vladimirets
you could find many Jews who were very religious, but at the
same time, they also were dedicated Zionists who taught modern
Hebrew to their children.Many of the young people knew Hebrew, and they spoke it
were youth organizations in our town, such as "HaChalutz"
[The Pioneer], "HaShomer HaTsair" [The Young Guard], and
Beitar [the Jabotinsky movement], general Zionists, and
more.What is sad
is that so few managed to be rescued and emigrate before the
how did we learn Hebrew?Many learned in private lessons, mainly with Chaim-Shalom
house was small – I remember a narrow room with a large table,
around which a few girls sat.They sat there and listened for a few hours a day.The coughing of the teacher's wife was heard from behind
a curtain – and here, at the table, we heard the teacher's
to these two voices simultaneously.I always admired the cleanliness of the house and the
nasturtium flowers that were planted around the outside – a
flower garden next to the home of a Jew was very unusual in our
afterward, when I had already left Vladimirets, the image of the
teacher, the appearance of the small, low house and the
yellow-orange flowers arose in my memory as a single perfection.Years later, when I came from the Land of Israel to visit
in the town, when I went out for the first time to walk through
its streets, my face was turned toward this small house, to my
elderly teacher, who by now no longer was occupied in
happy he was at this meeting and when he heard the living,
Land-of-Israel Hebrew I spoke, he said:
know, my dear, that one should not be jealous of a son or a
that Chaim-Shalom Bokser was the man who established in our town
a generation who spoke and knew Hebrew, teachers among them.Included in this category were his three sons, who
continued to teach Torah in Hebrew schools.Bokser, as stated, was the foundation.The continuation came in different ways.
there were attempts to establish a Hebrew school.New teachers arrived, and with them new methods.And after that, again, there was independent study with
Ziniuk, Dumnitz, Maglan, and more.
no high school in our town, and the young people began to
disperse to distant places of Torah, mainly to the seminar in
Vilna, and even to the college in
Warsaw.Those who were unable to leave the town began to busy
themselves in public matters, in the activities of HaChalutz,
the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund], the dramatic
club, and other youth groups and political parties.At various times, they enaged in illegal activities – and
at one time, they also established a self-defense organization.The men learned how to use weapons, and they were
prepared to be called in case rioting gangs would come.At the end of World War I, these gangs wandered around
the area, looking for victims and prepared to enjoy themselves
with Jewish property.I think that the self-defense organization deterred them
and prevented suffering of the residents.
Zionist activity was also illegal at one time.There arise in my memory meetings at our house that were
disguised as holiday parties, so that no evil-eye would control
them.The table was
set with wine and delicacies, and friends sat around it and
conducted serious conversations.The younger children were put to sleep in another room,
and I was among them, but my eyes refused to close.I knew that something unusual was happening there, and
how could I fall asleep?This was no ordinary party with refreshments.Therefore, there was a desire to hear everything, even
though not all of it was understood, and here, the girl got out
of bed and quietly approached and put her ear to the door, and
listened and prayed that none of the members of the party would
get up to open the door, that no one would know that she stood
there, and no one would interfere.
I was that
girl who listened. I was all excited by the secrets that
Among other things, that time I stood behind the door, I heard a
voice that I didn't recognize.This was someone that they called Burak.He began to say the blessing over the wine, and his voice
girl next to the door understood only a small part of what he
said, but nevertheless, one portion was absorbed, and its
content remains stored in my memory to this day:
from one shore, and I didn't reach the second shore.They don't allow me to reach the hoped-for haven, and it
is difficult for me to return home."
return!" was heard from a few, from different corners of the
I could not
listen to more than this.I don't know if this was a collective declaration, or
whether it was an actual confession, but the words caused a
storm in my heart, and from then on, I was immersed in my
before me a man who was a wanderer and that the ground was
pulled out from under his feet, and in my heart, I vowed not to
be like him.I
would remain attached to my people and my origins, and the shore
toward which I would strive would accept me with open arms.
I did not
see this man again.
I also did not ask about him, from concern that the secret would
be known, that I had stood behind the door and listened to
things that were forbidden to me.
passed, and I grew up.And my oath, the oath of my childhood, I fulfilled.I was the first pioneer from my town who emigrated to the
(except for the Zelishnik family, who travelled a year before
worries, my parents helped me prepare for the trip.The entire town celebrated.They held a large farewell party for me.Young members of the [Zionist] movement, adults, and my
various teachers all participated in the party.They accompanied me with speeches, songs and music.I felt that each one of the participants regarded me as a
member of his family, or as his representative, and that every
one of them was praying that I would succeed.This was a wonderful, youthful awakening, but its
continuation did not come.A number of years passed, and no one came up to the Land.
arrived in the Land, at first I worked in building, and
afterwards in the orchards.I wrote about it enthusiastically to my parents and
Possibly this matter, which enthused me so much, deterred my
young girlfriends and mainly their mothers – fear of the hard
work and difficult life.
way of thinking was completely otherwise.When I came for a visit in 1929, everyone found me
healthy and happy, and full of impressions from my life and
travels in the
Land of Israel.My stories about the Land were accompanied by pictures of
its scenery, photographs that were taken during my trips, and I
think that the quiet waters were shocked and awakened to wave
that visit, I was asked many, many times about life in the Land
in general, and about my life in particular.The thirst to know and hear was great, not only among my
close friends, but also among the adults, who met with me and
the young people in HaChalutz and HaShomer HaTzair.A feeling of emptiness in the community life of the town
and the lack of chances for a better future, were the portion of
entertainment at that time, during those days without a dream,
was walking down the length of the main street or to the park,
the entrance to which was not always allowed, or walks in the
forests and woods in the area.In the evenings, the youth would gather to sit together
to sing.A few were
excellent at playing music on stringed instruments.Sometimes, they would spend time playing cards.This entire way of life now ceased to be satisfying.There began movement toward a way of life that had a
vision and higher importance.Many of the youth went out to hachshara
[preparatory training for living on a kibbutz in the Land of Israel],
but only a few received permits to emigrate.
emigration was already limited.Established people who had enough money to emigrate, were
worried about their possessions, because they didn't know what
they would do once they arrived in the Land, and so they
remained in the town.What a pity, what a pity!
returned to the Land after that visit, I succeeded in obtaining
aliya permits for members of my family, and thus rescued
them from the bitter fate that found the majority of the
townspeople, among them my Uncle Ben-Zion and his family.
once, I have thought about that silent vow that I made behind
the door when I was a girl – and how good it is that I have been
rooted all these years in the actual ground of the
of Israel, at Kibbutz
Tel Yosef in the
JezreelValley.Here, I work in the orchards, here my children and
grandchildren were born, and from here, I will continue to also
visit the dear town of my birth in my memory, along with all of
the glory that was hidden there.