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

read more

 

Going Home

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Schmuel Kamin

** Webmaster Note: The following translation was generously provided by Diane Moore.  We have presented it here exactly as it was translated. Shmuel focused on a visit back to Vladimirets just after World War I, when Zionism was on the rise and Vladimirets was beginning to show signs of modern life. Some of the people he mentions have pictures in the family photo album.

GOING HOME

It happened in the year of the Bolshevik revolution.  I was far away from Vladimirets, my home town.  I had been a prisoner of the Austrians.  My heart drew me home, and I found no peace; I decided to sneak across the border and return to Vladimirets.  I wandered from shtetl to shtetl until I reached my goal.

So I was nearing the spring where all the young folks used to gather on Sabbath afternoons to drink the cold living water.  And I saw the mountain opposite, where young men climbed and showed their strength and skill.  A wonderful feeling went through me -- I had really come home, to my own shtetl.

Nothing had changed; the same woods as before,, the same paths and fields.  The windmill hadn't changed either; it stood on its hill as before.  But as I entered the town and met my friends and acquaintances, I realized how great the change was, that had come about.  People were not at all the same, and especially the young people.  I found change and progress everywhere.  When I left the town, life there had been just as in previous generations.  People then saw religion and tradition as the most important things, and they were far away from what is called modern society and modern culture.

When a Chassidic rabbi came to the shtetl, then it seemed to go out of its skin.  Then Chasidim from all the surrounding Jewish communities gathered, and together with the Vladimirets Chasidim, they would dance and sing in the streets.  In those years the youth, generally, were absorbed in synagogue business -- absorbed in a sweet melody, in a Talmudic debate; whereas now, in the last years of World War I, everything had a whole new face.

When the news of the Balfour Declaration penetrated the shtetl, the youth were galvanized.    A Zionist organization was founded, people started collecting books to set up a library, there was excitement and eagerness to be doing things, but no clear plan, and leaders and means of carrying out the deeds were lacking.

But now, returning to the shtetl, I saw that all was different.  The library was already a substantial reality.  I found an institution called Asomech Noflim [literally "supporting the fallen"]; one must remember that the needy were never far to seek.  If I'm not mistaken, Velvel Fridman was the first chairman of the organization.  In one of the later meetings, I was picked for this function.

The shtetl had no authority figure.  First the Bolsheviks came in, troops from Dombrovitz.  Then the Bolsheviks went out and Petlura's people (Ukrainian nationalists) came in.  After a while, again the Bolsheviks.  Their staff stayed on the Krasitskys' estate. 

The first thing they did  was call a big meeting to choose a local council, from all the nationalities.  As I was in the Zionist Youth, they seemed to think I was a big revolutionary, so I was chosen for the council, without my knowledge.

I remember an episode that shows how danger hovered over the Jews of Vladimirets when power changed hands.  As soon as Berel Muchnik and I became comrades on the council, we were both targets for several goyim, Jew haters, who boasted that they'd change the government in the town by hanging Berel and me from the telephone poles.To throw some fear into the goyim, and show them a strong hand, Berel went and arrested three of them B the surgeon, and squire's gardener, and the young clerk Taras.  The three were  held for trial.  One fine morning Rabbi Shlomo , of blessed memory,  came to me, with Reb Ben-Zion Fridman, and begged with tears in their eyes that I should see to rescuing the goyim for fear of what might happen. I took on the task.  A city official, a Jew called Grintshenk, a butcher's son, was like a brother to me and he promised me  that he would do everything to free the prisoners.  And so it was done.  At the time of the trial, Grintshenk handled the defense and worked it so the goyim were freed.

I will mention another episode: the Bolsheviks used to requisition flour from the peasants in the surrounding villages.  Some of them were saboteurs who put sand in the flour.  The staff would give out the flour to some Jewish families, who were to bake bread for the soldiers. It happened that the flour mixed with sand was handed over to the excellent Jew, the scholar and teacher Velvel Burak, and suspicion fell on him.  He was arrested and taken to prison, and thanks to an intervention from the Council, we succeeded in rescuing Velvel from a certain death.

When the Bolsheviks left the shtetl, I too had to be uprooted from the town of my birth, and when I returned after a year, I found great changes.  The young people were organized into various groups and movements, and social life was very effervescent.

Our town was generally marked by a special spirit; its Jews were mostly content with their lot, their livelihoods were not troubled;  people had their standing jokes, they fastened nicknames on whole families, and all with cheerful faces and good spirits.  Everyone got used to the nicknames until they became second nature.

Vladimirets Jews wanted their children educated, so we decided to establish a school in the town.  First we succeeded in raising funds for my best friend, Shlomo Sender Volok, an intellectual young man.  To him was added a teacher called Gurvitz, and the two of them started the school, quartered in the brewery building.  It was a modern school with benches and discipline, bells and recess.  There, according to the new system, Hebrew was taught in Hebrew. 

At the same time we organized the Hatzair-Zion party.  Sender was a good teacher and also a gifted orator.  Fate would have it that Sender, the best friend of my youth, should go to Eretz-Israel and return home to perish in the Shoah.

We chose a committee to raise funds for Palestine. We set up a drama club, and we were  really good in that area.  People could depend on seeing gifted actors: Chava Garmarnik, Chava  Gurzik, Zelda Teitelboim, Pesakh Tsherniak, and others.

Our library surpassed all expectations.  Thousands of books were collected there. 

The main question was how to accommodate in one school the hundreds of children who had started their education in the cheders.  We were burdened with the work.  We had no expandable building.  We arranged in four houses a "culture school", with good teachers, under the direction of the seminarians Dumnitz and Margolin.  I, as school secretary, had to take out a certification for the school from the province of Sarna, and I have the certificate to this day.

I will pause here on a few of the dear and kind Jews who have remained engraved in my memory: first our old rabbi, R. Yitzkhak Elihu, his memory for a blessing.  A tall man with a big white beard, a Jew of stately appearance, a distinguished scholar.  His wisdom was so well known that many from our area would come to him to ask advice and receive his blessing.  He made his living selling kerosene, candles, and passover wine -- that was his concession.  Also there remained to him three sons and some daughters.  Benjamin, the oldest son, was ordained a rabbi, but he turned to commerce.  Shlomo, the second son, took his place as rabbi.  Shlomo was a person of high culture, who knew languages and was a good orator.  He was our pride, but he was not in agreement with us, the younger generation, and he thought the modern school was a mistake.  Later he changed his opinion -- witness the picture of the laying of the school's cornerstone, which shows him participating in the ceremony.  The third son, Pinchas, was completely unlike his brothers; he became a teacher.  Michael, the Rabbi's son-in-law, was a Talmud scholar and a man who was satisfied with little.  I had the honor many times to say a lesson for him in Gemara.

Very few of the remaining landsleit recall Khanien, the rich man, a handsome Jew with an aristocratic appearance. His son Gedaliah was a maskil, always well-dressed and clean, who often spoke Hebrew.  Khanien's house was a house of wise counsel.  His best friend was Shlomo, of blessed memory.  The two of them used to play chess and sing a Gemara tune.  Khanien's son-in-law, Yakov-Asher Appelboim, was a thoughtful, absorbed man, always floating in far worlds, with a book in his hand; a great man of his word. The second son-in-law, Moshe Eisenberg, was a learned man, a great merchant, respectable and modest in his ways.  In his great house you always felt at home.  His son Velvel was a modest lad, very cordial.  His brother Yakov was much stricter than he, but he too was a good brother to everyone. 

Pinchas-David Gurzik was a Talmud scholar and a great merchant; his house was always full of people.  His only son, Joseph, had learned a lot of Talmud, and dressed like an aristocrat; he sinned by reading Yiddish in secret. 

Zelig Tsherniak, a Talmud scholar, a chazan and a baal-kore, had looked into many holy books.  In his house it always hummed like a beehive,  from the many young people who used to gather there.  His son Nathan Tsherniak was a noble-minded young man and a true Zionist.

Shlomo Goldberg was always thinking deeply on universal matters; his wife, an eshet-chayil [woman of worth/valor], was the breadwinner, while he was immersed in his books.  Shlomo occasionally wrote poems in Hebrew and Yiddish. Active and sociable, he would get up on the bima and preach to the congregation.  Finally he became a teacher.  It's worthwhile to mention his brother Yitzkhak, a shoemaker, a dear mentsh; his two-room house was a hotel for poor people who came into town.  They would have breakfast with him and he would give them food for the road.  In shul he read Mishnah, and at home he played the fiddle.  He had an eastern seat in the Stoliner shul.

I will remember here also my father Khanokh, may he rest in peace.  He used to sit and study by a little oil lamp. His favorite tractate was Bava-Batra.  Integrity and modesty were his qualities.  I've been told that at the time of his funeral the townspeople closed all the shops.  I myself was not in Vladimirets at that time.

Finally I will emphasize that the several hundred Jewish families from our town were made up of honest and dear people, hardworking and full of Torah and respect for others, who were murdered in 1942 by the bloodthirsty Nazi hordes. 

May these lives bloom as flowers on their graves.




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.