** Webmaster Note: The following
translation was generously provided by Diane
Moore. We have presented it here exactly as it was
translated for us.
A Well of
native town of Vladimirets were many
villages, like Kananits, Dubivke, Kratshamke, Azira, Navaki,
Andreye, Palavle, Zhelenitse, Davalye, Zhulkin, and many more.
Each village had its Jewish families, for whom our town was a
center. It was so on weekdays, and still more on holidays, like
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Between our town and the
villages were links of trade and provisions. A lot of
families, and especially the “peddlers”, made the rounds of all
the villages and came home for Shabbos. Among them were some
who used to go over the villages, week in week out, and others
who went around the villages at special seasons, for instance,
harvest time, or winter. They would buy whatever they
could, and do whatever business presented itself – pigs’
bristles, hides, various plants; also animals, like a calf, a
cow, or a horse, a hen or a rooster, and so on.
around the villages were various tradesmen – tailors,
shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths and others – a long chain
made up of different links; and so people lived, one from
another. Life flowed in its habitual channels. One
cannot say that these were very grand businesses and that people
lived wealthy lives; on the contrary, many were far from that,
but need was not excessive either, and it was characteristic of
our Vladimirets Jews to be contented with what they had.
In the shtetl
were indeed richer people, who were the merchants and
businessmen. The population there was not homogeneous.
Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and even Gypsies lived in the
shtetl. There were several families who considered
themselves real plutocrats – anyway, in the eyes of the
shtetl-dwellers. I still don’t know exactly in what their
wealth consisted. To such “rich” people one might bring
his bit of savings, for a daughter’s dowry or some other
purpose, and the rich ones would act as bankers. They also
lent money at a certain percentage. One must stress that
the whole town was like one big family. All the
inhabitants were bound to one another, by real kinship or by
marriage, and all participated in various Chasidic
congregations, each with its synagogue, ritual slaughterer, and
cantor. [unreadable sentence not translated]
I recall young
people who studied at cheders and yeshivas, and then became
teachers. But in the shtetl they couldn’t make a living
that way. They had to set out into the wider world, to
find a career. Mostly these youngsters stayed in the
shtetl. And a son generally followed in his father’s
footsteps, and learned his father’s trade. The daughters
followed their mothers’ example. And when the time came,
each of them was glad to marry, and not wait too long. Most of
the young people in those years were not caught up in dreams and
ideas, and they relied on God’s commandments.
Thus life went
on in the old days. But with the coming of the 20th
century, the way of life was shaken up. The broad world
began to draw the young people. The world even imposed
itself on the shtetl. New winds began to blow. Many
began to realize that the holy studies learned in cheder and
yeshiva were no longer enough, and started learning foreign
languages as well. People already understood that one must
educate oneself and get around. . Now we became eager
witnesses not only to the wanderings from Vladimirets to the
nearby villages, but also to long distance roaming, to the big
cities, in search of fortune and the light of progress.
Young men went out to find work or learn a trade. Everyone
talked about the stream of immigration to the great Russian
cities. Emigration to America is a chapter of its own;
such a breaking from the shtetl was a spiritual crisis, for the
roots in the shtetl were deep and to tear oneself away from
one’s origins and family was a frightening thing.
In the old
days, when a daughter married, the custom was that her husband
would board with his father-in-law. In those days this
seemed natural and self-evident, although it did bring financial
difficulties. Life was simple and modest. But when
one was away from the shtetl and met the great world, the
contact could be difficult and the disruption great. It
might happen that a son would leave the shtetl, go to a big
city, settle there, and bring his whole family after him.
In the shtetl too, there were great changes – new outlooks, a
new way of life – expressed in costume and in the way houses
were arranged. Teachers began to come to the shtetl and a
lot of the youth of the town became teachers themselves.
The effect was great, especially at holidays when all the young
people who had gone away started coming home. So it went
until the first World War, which was a sort of earthquake to the
old way of life.
to America was at
first for economic reasons – to earn money and send dollars
home. And when they came back to Vladimirets, some went
out again in pairs, two strong workers, calculating that the
earnings would be better for two. Many of them had no
trade. Many arranged to bring out their families.
The greater number settled in
Detroit, and spread out from there.
Also they branched out to Canada and
Argentina, and even to
Brazil, Uruguay and
other places. The emigration was a miracle for us, because
without it they would have been destroyed along with all the
Jews in Vladimirets.
In the years
of the first World War, many Vladimiretsers in
advantage of prosperous times, and became rich. Their
children put down roots and many of them rose to the highest
positions in American society; for example, the son of David
from Androye, who became a well-known lawyer. A big family
descended from the midwife Charna included a lot of doctors,
engineers, lawyers, and big businessmen in the American way.
There was also the family who were called in the town “angels”
Or the family of Shalom Leibkes; I can’t recall them all, and
will be satisfied with the names I’ve mentioned, who are a like
a reflection of the rest. I will only mention one family, that
of Chaim-Leib the shoemaker, from which came many well-known
people. This is just a selection from our town.
The fact that
the connection among our people is still strong today, in
as in Israel,
shows how deep the spiritual bond was among Vladimiretsers, even
when separated. Thus it becomes clear, the bond to the old
home and the willingness always to help and support, a habit
which found its highest expression after World War II when it
led to setting up the committee in Detroit which began at
once to seek out and actively support surviving Vladimirets Jews
after the destruction.
They were the
first who put together a list of the rescued; they joined with
the Vladimiretsers in Israel and began
to offer support to all Vladimiretsers whose whereabouts were
known. They got word to the families about who had
survived. And thus the Committee fulfilled a very
important task. Its work reverberated and there came to
the Committee’s address money and various packages for the
survivors. I won’t mention the especially distinguished
contributions here. In truth everyone took appropriate
part in the mitzvah of help and support. The
did wonders in the way of helping. The landsmen from Detroit were the initiators and the spirit of
the movement, and they sent the instructions to the other
cities. This was characteristic of the
landsmen even before the war. They had laid the
foundations of charity, with the help of the Vladimiretsers in Israel. I don’t know how much
their contributions amounted to, but I believe it added up to
tens of thousands of dollars, in help for individuals and for
institutions. Another tradition took root among our
landsmen; when a guest from Israel came to America, he awakened a general joy.
Everyone rejoiced with him and was drawn to him, just as if he
were really family. And it was the same when an American
was a guest in Israel.
I stress this
fact, because the idea of Vladimirets Jews is not bounded by
geography and has become a noble way of life, for the quality of
our town belongs to all who have common roots, and now they are
scattered over the whole world. All remember the old home
and are linked to it. Our landsmen in Israel form an important center, in
which is reflected the many-sided being of our town. And
all of that is expressed in times of joy and of sorrow.
It seems to me
that the concept of a magnetic attraction fits our town.
Its nature has become for its people a source of nostalgia and
longing. The former village peddlers longed to come home
for Shabbos; its children who wandered to far cities to educate
themselves wished to come home for the holidays. And in
the same way its children who have become emigrants and have
wandered over wide seas, they too still awaken in their memory
its special being. Even after its destruction.
Vladimirets of the dead is no more. It still lives in us
as a Vladimirets of the spirit, imbued with all its good
qualities and uniting all the dispersed in a bond of deep