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Sefer Vladimirets

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From the Journal of Memories

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Yaakov Bas

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

FROM THE JOURNAL OF MEMORIES

Our family's connection with the town Vladimirets began in 1911.  We were residents of Brisk.  That year, our father passed away, and our household, burdened with children, no longer had any chances of survival there.  The worry of supporting the family now rested upon my big brother, Benjamin, who was a pharmacist by profession, and he decided to find an appropriate place to open a pharmacy – in one of the provincial towns.

My brother travelled first to Lubomil, to our brother-in-law, who was also a pharmacist by profession, to consult with him as to the steps he should take in order to achieve his goal.  At that meeting, they decided to take a trip together and visit the various towns, until they would find what they were looking for.

TO A NEW LOCATION

One day, as they were sitting on a train travelling from Kobylye to Sarny, they began a conversation with another Jew who was sitting near them.  In the course of the conversation, they found out that the man was from the town Vladimirets, and that his name was Baruch Kanonicz.  Not only that, but it became apparent that Baruch had known our father, who used to visit the area around Vladimirets in connection with his business in the forest trade.  Now, the conversation became one of actual familiarity, and when Baruch found out that my brother wanted to open a pharmacy in one of the towns, he spoke a great deal about Vladimirets.  He said that my brother should travel there and he would be surprised at the chances available.

Together with Baruch, they left the train at the station in Rafalovka, and went out on the road to Vladimirets.  The distance from Rafalovka to Vladimirets was 18 kilometers, which they travelled in a vehicle belonging to the wagoner Isaac "der Viecher."  ”Viecher" means "Arab"  - the origin of this nickname certainly was the fact that Isaac's face was dark-complected.  Isaac was an easy-going Jew, who took his time.  He didn't hurry, and he was certain that he would not be late for anything.

These were the days at the beginning of spring – everywhere there was a pleasant breeze and the joy of awakening.  That day, there were many wagons travelling toward Vladimirets.  This fact also caused some comfort.  The long road through the sand was not difficult to travel now, but even so, they travelled slowly – and listened to the stories and explanations of Baruch, a native of the area.  They were so absorbed in their conversation that they didn't see how the long road ended.  Suddenly, they found themselves standing in Vladimirets.

By chance, the day they came to Vladimirets was a Christian holiday – and the day of the annual fair in the town.  The market square was full of crowds of villagers who had come to buy and sell. Christians and Jews who had come from nearby towns set up many stands and booths of merchandise.  The shops were crowded with all kinds of buyers.  Indeed, there was one pharmacy in the town, but when they saw the storm of buying and selling all around, they came to the conclusion that here there was room also for a second pharmacy.  My brother and brother-in-law did not hesitate for long and decided to try.  And so, thus we tied our fate to the town Vladimirets.  After the decision was made, Benjamin began to look for a house that was appropriate for a pharmacy.

At that time, Yisrael Beider, a resident of Vladimirets, built a large mansion not far from the Christian church.  My brother began to negotiate with Yisrael Beider, and leased an apartment in this house from him along with one large room for the pharmacy.  Yisrael promised that in two months, the apartment would be completed and we would receive the key. 

Approximately two months later, it was already summer. All of the members of our family, myself among them, travelled the same road from Rafalovka to Vladimirets.  When our family got off the train in Rafalovka to travel from there to Vladimirets, we found our oldest brother, Benjamin, who was waiting for us.  Standing with him was a Jew holding a long whip in his hand, and we understood that this certainly was Isaac the wagoner, of whom we had already heard, and that he would drive us to our destination.  And indeed, it was Isaac.  We didn't even have time to look around to know where we were, and Isaac already hurried us and loaded all of the bundles and suitcases into the wagon – he did this like a professional – and there were places in the wagon for all of the members of our family – Mother and four brothers.  Our fifth brother remained in Brisk for a time, until he would complete his studies in the high school.

Isaac the wagoner took care that we would feel good and comfortable during our trip.  He installed seats for us in his long wagon – on long boards placed across the width of the wagon, upholstered with soft sacks filled with straw.  On the sides, at the edges of the wagon, he attached poles and additional boards to protect us, so we wouldn't fall down, G-d forbid, out of the wagon, when the wagon rolled over the dirt road.  For me and my two younger brothers, the trip in the wagon was a special experience.  We had grown up in a big city, and horses hitched to a wagon, which actually travelled, was likely to awaken pleasant thoughts in the heart of a young lad.

The wagon was hitched to two horses:  one white, and one red.  A bell was attached at the head of the long shaft, which rang all the time, I didn't know why, but this tune filled me with joy.  Sometimes, when the road was on a downward slope, the horses would go faster and it was as if gaiety ruled over everything; sometimes the road sloped upward and then the horses appeared to be tired, and Isaac the wagoner would try to encourage them and talk to them, telling them that they should understand the situation and try a bit harder.  For me, this trip was full of surprises and novelties.  It was the first time that I travelled a long distance, through fields and forests.  At first, our road passed through a forest.  Every sound in the forest attracted my attention.  The echoes and songs of the birds of all kinds enchanted me.

I sat next to Isaac, and he occasionally explained to me whatever needed an explanation.  When the wagon left the forests and made its way among the fields, I also was excited by the new view.  The ground was covered with all kinds of field plants, some tall and some short.  What mainly drew my eyes were the waves of standing grain that moved in the wind, like a wide, golden sea, among them fields of rye and wheat, barley and oats.  The time passed quickly, and with it we passed over the road that separated Rafalovka and Vladimirets.  When we drew near to the town, it seemed to me that Isaac became more serious and grave.  He took the reins in his hands as if he were preparing for a mission that required special attention. 

From afar, the crosses on the Christian churches pierced the sky, and around them crowded many small cottages with red chimneys pointing upward from their roofs.  After a few minutes, we entered the town itself.

"Nu, I have the honor to present to you:  this is Vladimirets, make its acquaintance!" said Isaac, maybe seriously and maybe humorously.

Now, we travelled down a long street, on both sides of which were houses built of wood.  These were houses we had already seen recently, and they were similar to each other.  Now, we also saw the two Christian churches, and it was as if they broke this unity.  And here, we arrived at a house which was different from the other houses.  This house was built of red bricks, and here we stopped.  The building of the house had not yet been completed, as promised.  This was Yisrael Beider's house, where we would live in the future.

Again, Isaac began to trouble himself – he now was unloading the wagon and we stood, watching and wondering where we had been thrown.  It began to rain.  A spirit of depression overcame us and the children began to claim from Mother that we should return to Brisk, but we were too late.  Isaac had already received his payment and wished us good-bye.  And we, from that day onward, attached our futures to that of the town Vladimirets.

The promise that our apartment would be completed on time was not fulfilled.  Until it would be ready, we were given a temporary apartment in the house of Chana Rizhy, who was known as "Chana de malachte" ["Chana the angel"].  This was the home of very generous people, and we were happy for their good will and the great concern they showed toward us.  I myself, in the way of children, became acclimated very quickly to the new place.  Chana's children: Litman, Gedalyahu and Yachtze, were about my age.  I remember that Gedalyahu made a special impression upon me.

He certainly wanted to make my acquaintance, but he didn't find a way to do so – therefore, he ran past the window of our apartment – looked in for a moment, granted me a short smile, and fled.  I called him several times to come back, but for some reason he didn't, and continued to enjoy his game – peeping in, a smile, and fleeing.  It was only that the sight of a 10-year-old boy, dressed in the uniform of a public school in a big city, drew his attention, but he didn't have the courage to approach me.

After a short time, I went to learn in one of the town's cheders.   I was required to exchange my uniform for the ordinary clothes of all of the children in town.  I quickly found roots, and found many friends.

My first teacher was Chaim-Shalom Boksar.  I remember that Gedalyahu Rizhy, Yaakov Kanonicz, Yehuda Appelboim, and others learned together with me in this cheder.  Chaim-Shalom's school was located in Zlata Lifatah's apartment.  This was one large room.  The floor was a dirt floor, sprinkled with yellow sand.  Zlata was a poor woman , burdened with children, and she rented a room in her house only because she needed the income.  We were unable to continue our studies in this place because Zlata's children made a lot of noise and disturbed us.  Chaim-Shalom had no choice, and he moved the location of our studies to his own house.  This house was smaller, but it was quiet and very clean.  Even we children were ordered, when we came through the door, to bend down very well, because if we didn't, our heads would bump the lintel.

Here, there was a homey, family feeling.  We even related to that lintel with a forgiving smile.  Chaim-Shalom made great efforts so that our handwriting would be pleasing, rounded and curled.  To this day, I can hear the lovely tune in which he taught us chapters of the Bible.  Not only Chaim-Shalom the father, but also his two sons, Avraham and Hershel-Leib, took part in our education.  Eventually, they travelled to Vilna, where they completed their education in the Hebrew Seminary, and became certified teachers.

My second teacher was Velvel Borak, the son of Eli Baraz.  Here, the regime was strict and more severe.  We already were big lads and the desire to be freed of our studies and relax was greater – Velvel's strictness was perhaps required.  In this school, we sat together over the books for 12 hours straight.  Almost.  As mentioned, we already were grown and in the winter, we continued to learn at night.  The main part of our learning now was Talmud.  We were tired from the long hours of sitting, but when we heard our teacher's voice saying that it was time to go home, new strengths awakened in us.  We made a great affair out of preparing our tin lanterns, put on our coats and went out into the dark night with sounds of joy.  The group slowly dispersed and the voices died down – each boy going his way, only the lantern with him to show the way over the marshy autumn ground.  

Over time, we began to rule over Velvel, instead of his ruling over us.  We were a class of 15 hooligans who tormented him.  Against his methods of discipline and control by means of the ruler and whip, we had our own methods – sometimes we declared a strike – we would not open our books as a sign of protest.  Sometimes we ran out of the room and left the teacher alone.  In situations like these, when he felt he was losing, our teacher was not accustomed to distressing himself.  For distraction, he would begin to roll a cigarette.  After he scraped together the remains of tobacco that were scattered in his two pockets and mixed with remnants that were not exactly tobacco, and he was somewhat pacified by the cigarette, he would ask us to show some good will and concentrate on our studies.

In other fields as well, I was already integrated into this company of youth.  I had a very close relationship with my friend Gedalya Rizhy, who was our neighbor, and this closeness was expressed in our joint activities.

Near our house, there was a shop belonging to a Pole by the name of Nyafidawicz.  This Pole had a large grocery store and he was a serious competitor of the Jewish stores, but that is not what encouraged me to "take care" of him.  Rather, it was something else altogether.  In Yisrael Beider's house there was a large cellar that was rented to that same goy, the store owner.  At the end of the summer, our Pole would fill the cellar with large, beautiful apples.  We would look at this fruit, which was a feast for the eyes and delightful to the nostrils, through the cellar window.  There was no possibility of buying some of this fruit, because the Pole was keeping it for the winter, when the price would be higher.  We lads quickly found an idea:  we got a long pole, and fixed a nail at one end.  We passed this "bayonet" through the window and thrust it into the pile of apples.  One apple would be trapped, of course, by the nail, and we would bring it out to us through the window.  It seems to me that to this very day my mouth remembers the taste of those apples – the fruit of our landlord's garden.

There were other teachers in Vladimirets – such as Yisrael Manishin and Ephraim Menashes.  They were the teachers of the beginners, who were helped by assistants called "bahelfers".  The job of the assistants was to accompany these little schoolchildren to their homes.  They also would help the teacher in the actual lessons, and if it happened that the Rebbi would doze off, he had someone to rely upon – his assistant would faithfully take his place.  In Vladimirets, the position of assistant teacher was not treated lightly.  Even young men who were advanced and educated would take such a position, and they did not regard it as being less respectable.  It is true that the salary was not high – a few rubles for a "period", which was about six months.  In the end, these assistants left their jobs to be independent, whether as teachers or in other professions.  Many of them became shop owners and a few became teachers in the neighboring villages where Jewish families lived.  I remember that Avraham Valichover and his brother Yaakov did that, and so did Avraham Garmarnick, and others – they lived for a year or two in the village and with their wages they supported their families, which branched out and whose needs became greater over time.

Many of the youth who didn't find a place to earn a livelihood in the town went out to look for it in the cities of Russia.  Some of them tied up their bundles and sailed across the sea – to far-off America.  Of these, I remember members of the Volok, Freidman, Teitelbaum, Sosniak and Chizi families, and many others.  First the men would travel in order to prepare the ground.  Accompanying those who left on this long journey were their faith and the prayer that the day would come when they would bring the rest of the members of their families, even their elderly parents, to them.

The emigration from the town moved on two routes – one to America, and the second to inner Russia.  The immigrants to America, after they established themselves in the golden land, supplied the town with material assets – dollars and packages.  Those who left for Russia supplied spiritual assets – newspapers and books.  But they did not have influence with these assets alone. 

When the holidays arrived, many of the sons of Vladimirets who had left it for the big cities gathered back in the town.  Their presence and lack of means made a great impression on those youths who remained in Vladimirets and wished to also go out into the wide world.  Nathan Tscherniak, for example, was one of those who spent many days in the big cities.  When he came back to Vladimirets, he troubled himself to plant there the same culture that had influenced him in foreign parts.  Nathan was a talented fellow, and when he told about the wonders of the wide world, his mouth produced precious gems.  An audience of the curious would gather around him, and those who had never left Vladimirets even once would listen with a feeling of inferiority to the wonders taking place in the big cities, their eyes filled with amazement.  Nathan's words were occasionally spiced with mockery and satire, and everyone drank them thirstily.  But Nathan was not satisfied with such a non-obligatory conversation. He would call meetings, gather the youth and awaken them to a change of values and to action – he read to them from Zionist literature, and thus he planted in them the desire to organize themselves and dedicate their time to Zionist and social activities.

The first fire that I saw in Vladimirets, a fire in a small town generally, was in 1912.  We were still newcomers to the town.  One summer day, after the Shavuot holiday, we suddenly saw flames spreading out and passing from house to house.  Alarm swept through the town.  When my mother saw that the fire was coming closer to Moshe Melamed's house, she said that I and my little brother should go outside and run in the direction of the fields.  But I already regarded myself as being big and responsible, and I didn't want to rescue only myself; not only the person should be rescued, but also the possessions.  I remember that I hurried home and grabbed a kettle and a few spoons – and with these possessions I ran toward the landlord's holding.  In one hand, I held the kettle, and in the other, I held onto my little brother.  We already were far from the town and here, a village woman came toward us. She stopped us and didn't allow us to continue toward the forest.  We stopped running and saw that the fire was weakening and dying down.  Because of that, I decided that we would go back to the town, and when we returned, we saw that our house remained standing and whole. 

It was said that the fire stopped miraculously because of the influence of the Rebbe of the Chassidim, who was then in town.  This was Rabbi Velvele of Trisk, who was the guest of Reb Velvel Kanonicz.  While the fire was raging, a group of about ten frightened Chassidim hurried to the Rebbe, calling, "Rebbe, please save the town!" Indeed, the Rebbe then went out to the burning house with some of his followers, and when he arrived, the miracle happened; the wind changed directions, the fire turned toward Katoczyna, and the homes of the Jews were out of danger.  When they began to investigate and search for the cause of the fire, it became clear that the fire broke out first at the home of the elderly Stoliner shochet [ritual slaughterer], Reb Asher-Yisrael.

There were a few shochtim in Vladimirets – each congregation of Chassidim had its own shochet, but there were no special slaughterhouses in the town, and in general, the yard of the shochet's house was his workplace.  In the yard, they also would pluck the feathers from the chickens and put them in crates, baskets, and bags.  When a large amount of feathers had accumulated, they sold them to traders.  The sale of the feathers added somewhat to the shochet's wages.

That day, the day when the fire broke out, the elderly Reb Asher-Yisrael wanted to heat his samovar and drink a cup of tea.  For some reason, the samovar did not heat up enough and the shochet's wife took it outside and put it next to the storage shed where they kept their sacks of feathers.  The wind was blowing, and the coals in the chimney of the samovar flared up.  One spark blew toward the shed and fell among the feathers – very quickly, the house was engulfed in flames.  And from there, the fire spread to Hershel Shuch's house, until the miracle occurred and the town was saved…

 DURING WORLD WAR I

The declaration of war in 1914 brought confusion to Vladimirets, as it did to other towns.  Many men were drafted, and were even taken, by the Army.  Life in the town changed completely.  The community institutions and activities were limited and restricted.  Contact with the United States was suddenly stopped, which meant that the sources of support of more than a few families were cut off.  Now, they had almost no means of survival.  Many shops were closed.

Rumors arrived from the front about the defeats suffered by the Czar's Armies.  In the beginning, this was hearsay only, but not many days later, the rumors became visible.  It was August 15, 1915.  On that day, Vladimirets saw the first divisions of the Army as they withdrew eastward, pursued by the victorious Germany Army.  Together with the withdrawing Army, long lines of refugees arrived in our town. Many train cars were crowded with families and their bundles, who were running away in fright from the front, without knowing where to flee.  The Jews of Vladimirets were seized by the same fear, and they began to think of fleeing.  Many of the refugees exploited this mood and began to sell their vehicles and horses.  It was enough for one family to buy this kind of "team" and other families already followed in their footsteps.  My brother Benjamin was among these buyers, and it is no wonder, because Yisrael Beider, who owned our house, and Velvel Kanonicz, set an example for him, and he saw what they did and did likewise.

The horse and wagon that my brother bought were not of the best, and it was no wonder:  what did a pharmacist know about horses?  Nevertheless, we were confident that we had done a great thing and if, G-d forbid, the evil hour would come and we would have to escape the ravages of the War, we would have something on which to depend.  In my eyes, the matter was very agreeable, without any connection to the emergency situation.  A horse and wagon, to me, were something to answer to.  I had already tasted the experience of travelling, when I travelled to Vladimirets in der Viecher's wagon.  My  brother Benjamin understood my feelings and allowed me to take care of them and bring them to the podbor [resting place, an inn]…

The town was tense and expectant.  The first Cossacks could already be seen, armed with long lances and dressed in wide blue trousers with yellow stripes down their sides, most of them wild-eyed and bearded.  They began to wander down the streets of the town, their eyes looking in every corner.  There was great fear of the Cossacks, and it was not unjustified.  They didn't only wander through the alleyways, but they also began to enter the houses and ask for brandy.

I remember that a few of them entered our pharmacy and began to make demands that liquor be given to them.  They didn't only make demands, but also began to search with their hands through all of the various medicines, and even to take whatever they wanted.  We were confused and didn't know what to do.

At that moment, the city tax collector, who was also appointed by the government to oversee the work in the landlord's "gralnia" [whiskey factory], entered our store.  In this gralnia, they manufactured pure alcohol from potatoes grown in the landlord's fields.  The production was shipped, generally, to Russia.   At that time, the landlord's storerooms contained a large quantity of alcohol.  The tax collector estimated that when the armies camped in the town found out about it, they would come to take the alcohol, and this was likely to bring disaster upon the town, especially upon the Jews, after the soldiers would become drunk.  That day, not only soldiers were seen in the town, but also ordinary villagers, who were not usually seen there.  The conclusion was that they also had come for the purpose of robbery 

Now it was the time for our horse and wagon.   We hurried and packed some of our bundles in a few crates and loaded them onto the wagon.  I was the expert regarding harnessing the horses, because I had been interested in this previously.  Since I saw that my brother failed to do this job, I took the task upon myself.  Time was of the essence.  We were very afraid of the gangs – whether soldiers or villagers – and it was forbidden to linger too long.

A long line of wagons left the town, traveling toward the narrow-gauge train tracks.  At the head of the line travelled Chaim Kantor.  He was both instructor and guide.

We were not far from the gralnia.  The sound of an enormous explosion frightened us.  When we looked behind us, we saw large flames and plumes of smoke going up from the landlord's alcohol factory.

Later, the matter became clear to us.  It turned out that the noble tax collector wanted with all his might to forestall the evil expected to befall the town, and therefore he destroyed all of the pools of alcohol in the factory.  A large part of the alcohol was indeed destroyed; part of it broke out of the pools and flowed over the ground.  Many farmers hurried to enjoy the windfall and came with pails to rescue what they could – alcohol mixed with dirt.

We in the line of wagons continued on our way – but very quickly, many of the horses refused to go any farther and would not move.  The horses stopped next to a Polish village and would not go any further.  They certainly were hungry, and here the aroma of the fields of autumn spelt reached their nostrils.  Nearby, not far from the village Burkys, was the brickyard that belonged to the owner of our house, Yisrael Beider.  We freed the horses and gave them liberty to graze in the fields of spelt.  Here, we spent the night until dawn of the following day.

At dawn, with the confidence that daylight inspires in the hearts of men and after the fears of the night in the fields, the children who were with us began to cry and ask to go home.  It was decided to send out a delegation of scouts, who would go back to the town and see what the situation was there.  My brother Benjamin was chosen as part of the delegation.  In the town they found many soldiers, who wandered around past the deserted shops.  Our house looked like it had gone through a riot; everything in it was destroyed and broken.

The Army that came to the town remained there and settled into the houses.  Meanwhile, the German attack was stopped.  The officers of the Army requested that the Jews return and open their stores, so as to supply everything needed by the Army camping in the town.  The Jews were promised that quiet would be preserved and any offenders among the soldiers or the village population would be punished with all the strictness of the law.

At the time when this calming and promising information reached us, we were simultaneously given other news:  Chaim Kantor came running to us in the forest and told us that the German Army had surrounded the area and that all of us were prisoners.  A great happiness ruled over us Jews – it was nothing, what was it to be in the hands of the Germans and to be rid of the yoke of Fonya [a derisive term for the Russian government].  The joy was so great that many began to lose control and bless each other with mazal-tov [congratulations].  The delegation that had returned from the town found us in high spirits, and didn't understand why.  Afterwards, it became clear that some clown had cooked up the story and confused everyone.

Everyone who had fled, returned to the town.  The Jews returned to work.  The shops were opened and were filled with the merchandise that their owners had succeeded in hiding in various places.  Meanwhile, large troops of soldiers arrived in the town.  The soldiers bought as much as they could, of whatever came to hand.  The earnings were great and happiness again visited our homes.  The town took on a new form.  Vladimirets became the center where the headquarters of all of the Armies camping in the surrounding area was located.  I remember that the headquarters was located in Gedalyahu Shlita's house.

Now, Vladimirets stood as a sign of great activity – many of its Jewish residents would go out, from time to time, to the large cities of Russia, there to buy various products needed for the soldiers.  These were not only the storekeepers and traders.  Ordinary Jews also found enjoyment in the situation.  The Army requested that it be supplied with baked goods – black bread and white bread, and all kinds of cakes.  The Army authorities brought wagons to town loaded with flour, and they distributed the load among the various houses whose owners had taken upon themselves the obligation to bake for the Army.  Everyone regarded himself as a born baker.  Because of the lack of livelihood, these days were a real salvation – widows, such as "Chana di malachte" [Chana, the angel]; Golda-Leah [Teitelbaum], of blessed memory, and many others, took the burden upon themselves.

The Army personnel would bring a gigantic sack of flour to one of the homes, and overnight the flour would turn into baked loaves of bread.  The profit was the "pripiak," the additional weight that comes to baked bread from the water added to the flour.  Indeed, no great blessing was seen in this hard work, but there was no lack of bread to eat.  Of course, among the Jews there were resourceful people who knew how to make a profit in hidden ways.  During the baking, they would add a lot of water, which would increase the weight of the bread.  But this deed showed its signs in the quality of the bread, and the Army personnel immediately reacted.  Whoever provided defective baked goods would not receive any flour.

Another branch of livelihood was preparing cigarettes.  Jewish traders brought tobacco and papers from Russia, and we would fill and roll them, and sell them.  I remember this work very well, because in the home of my mother-in-law, Golda-Leah Teitelbaum, they would bake bread at night and during the day, they would roll cigarettes.  All of the children – Teivel, Zelda and Zelig – would sit and fill thousands of cigarettes.  The cigarettes would be given to one of the contractors who supplied this commodity to the soldiers at the front.  Many people did this work, and the profit was good.

The town's character was recognized not only in the economic field, but growth and progress could be seen also in community and cultural affairs.  All kinds of actors from among the Army people, as well as the intelligentsia, came to have a strong connection with the townspeople and left their mark – plays, recitals and various kinds of parties were now very frequent.  The town had a drama club, which was assisted by actors from among the soldiers, who were real professionals.  They participated in the club's activities as producers and advisors.

This glory was temporary, not permanent.  As stability increased, livelihoods decreased.  Many families again lacked an income.  Contact with America – the source of support and assistance – was cut off.  At that time, there was a big public meeting in the large synagogue, sponsored by the youth.  The chief speakers were Shlomo Goldberg and Nathan Tscherniak.

At this meeting, it was decided to establish an institution in the town called "Support for the Fallen."  Pairs of youths went out to visit homes in the town, mainly the homes of the well-established families, and each of them promised to donate to the new institution.  Chosen to be on the institution's committee were Velvel Freidman, Shmuel Kamin, Michael Freidman, Yaakov Bas, Chava Garmarnick, Nathan Tscherniak, Pesach Tscherniak and Zelda Bas-Teitelbaum.

But these donations were not sufficient to fulfill the many needs.  Therefore, we turned to several residents of the town whose economic situation was improved.  These families traded on a large scale.  They would bring wagons to town loaded with sugar, flour, salt, and more.  Among these families were Leizer-Leib Rosenfeld, Peisa Fegel, Yitzchak Grushka and others.  Consequently, we imposed a fee on every wagon of goods that arrived in the town.

Every evening, shifts would go out and lie in wait for the wagons loaded with merchandise.  I stood together with Shmuel Kamin for many hours, and our work was not in vain.  Here, we saw the wagons coming.  The owners of the merchandise knew that they had to live with the youths in peace.  They knew this from a business point of view, and they paid the tax that we imposed on them.

 DAYS OF TENSION AND REVOLUTION

The War continued.  The fronts were established over hundreds of kilometers.  Many found their deaths in the battles, many – in diseases, in the trenches of Polesia and its swamps.  And even though Vladimirets benefitted, generally, during the War, there also were many hardships and difficulties:  for example, it was forbidden to leave the town without a special permit from the "Pristawo".  I remember that at that time, my oldest brother, Benjamin, had to travel to Kiev to buy merchandise, and he did not succeed in obtaining a travel permit.  He travelled anyway, without the permit.  The authorities found out, and as punishment, he was ordered to leave Vladimirets, which was within the military area.  He then moved to Kiev.  Now, the burden of the household fell upon me.

One day I travelled to Kiev to buy merchandise, and arrived at my brother's apartment.  That night, we woke up to energetic knocking on the door.  When we opened the door, there were several Russian policemen standing there.  They woke up everyone in the house.  I showed them my permit, but they didn't like it.  They suspected that I was evading the Army.  I was younger than Army age, but this time my appearance made trouble for me – I was tall and upright.  They asked me and my brother to go with them, and after a long and tiring walk, they brought us to one of the prisons in Kiev – this was a very depressing situation – I was only a young lad and suddenly I was between the walls of a prison.   I didn't sleep all that night.  My brother had more experience.  He sat next to me and encouraged me 

"Look, they will let us out in the morning."

And so it was.  I was ordered to leave Kiev within 22 hours.  Quickly I gathered my bundles and hurried to leave the city.  When I arrived in Vladimirets – I found out that arrests of this kind had occurred here also.  Their reason – undermining the stability of Russian society and concern regarding revolutionary activities.  At that time, in Vladimirets they also began to question various instructors, Army personnel, and among them many Jews. Secret meetings were held.  One meeting gathered in Yehoshua Baruch Beider's house.  The town's youth completely filled the large, long room, and everyone listened with growing curiosity to the speaker's words, in which the symbolic combination "di roite lamtarna" ["the red lantern"] was repeated over and over again.  The meaning of this was that the light of freedom was coming closer and would shine over the heavens of the world.  The speaker was one of the soldiers.

The audience was excited by that evening and were very impressed by what they had heard.  Very quickly, the streets of Vladimirets were filled with groups of soldiers and all kinds of officers who had deserted the front.  They were preaching and explaining that the War had already ended:

"We fought enough, and spilled our blood," they said.

They described the situation in the Army and on the front in dark colors – they told about the many actions on the battlefields in the swamps of Polesia; about the hospitals that were filled to bursting with the wounded and ill.  At that time, there were many occurrences when soldiers refused to fulfill their officers' orders.  Many of them left the trenches and began walking back to their families – their wives and children.  Many of these soldiers passed through Vladimirets, leaving behind them all the bitterness in their hearts.  Those who were unable to return to their homes streamed into the big cities, in order to join the great stream of discontent and revolt.

In Russia, the Revolution had already broken out, which put an end to the regime of the Czar Nikolai.  A new regime arose.  A peace treaty had already been made with Germany.  In Vladimirets, we also immediately felt the new mood.  Now, we were exempt from the yoke of the Pristawo and the Uryadnik [Cossack sergeant].   For example, who in Vladimirets did not remember Uryadnik Valiczka, who lived at the expense of the Jews.  He knew everything that happened in the town; there were no secrets from him.  He knew what the business was of every Jew – whether his business was proper or improper, and in every instance he received his reward – it was impossible not to bribe him.

"For whom, and for what, should one go to the Army?" the soldiers would say.  And mainly now, at the time of war, they would say, in the local jargon, "For whom to give your head?"   Young men who were found to be fit for the Army would hide and disappear from the horizon.  Valiczka didn't care if you went to the Army or not, and therefore it was possible to reach a compromise with him.  But in time of war, Valiczka was not the only one to decide.  The military police wandered through the streets of the town, terrorizing the inhabitants.  Their appearance alone froze one's breath:  they were tall, broad, moustached, and their trousers also had yellow stripes down the sides, stripes expressing enmity.  In this respect, they were reminders of the Cossacks.

Even I passed the test of fear of these police, when I was walking one Sabbath to the synagogue to pray.  On the way, a policeman stopped me and surveyed me from head to toe with his stare.  He winked at me with a wily eye, enjoying himself:  here, he had succeeded in grabbing a draft-dodger.  Indeed, I was under military age, but I looked older than I was.  I was arrested, and brought to the synagogue of the Stepan Chassidim, which had been turned into a military prison at the time.

In the synagogue, I found other Jews from our town who had also been hunted down in the same way.  Requests or appeals were of no help.  We sat in this prison for a few days.  One morning, a squadron of soldiers arrived at the place.  They all were armed with bayoneted rifles.  The soldiers formed two rows next to the synagogue.  With them were members of the military police.  One policeman ordered all of us to go outside.  Members of our families, who were milling about nearby, thought that something bad was waiting for us.  We were ruled by confusion and fear.  The policemen said that nothing bad was going to happen to us and that they were bringing us to Zoludzk, and from there to Rafalovka, to the main headquarters.  We were taken on foot.  In Zoludzk, they put us in a cellar and, again, guarded us as if we were criminal offenders.  The elderly among us, who had more experience, were not very upset, and they encouraged us, saying:  "don't panic," which did calm my spirits.    Indeed, when they brought us to the station, the ground was already prepared for our release.  At that time, the Teitelbaum family had opened a liquor store, which was managed by Teibel and Zelda, and while I was being brought to that place, they took all possible measures toward our release, mainly for me, because at that time I was already a close friend of Zelda's.

 SELF-DEFENSE

When we returned to town, we found that there were complaints against the entire local regime.  The waves of the Revolution and the uprising that began on the warfronts were carried from there to the large centers of Russia and also to the small towns, including ours.  There already were no gendarmes in Vladimirets.  Instead, a temporary militia of volunteers was being organized, and a temporary city council was chosen.  In all of these, our Jewish brothers had a respected place.  Participating in the city council, for example, were Alter Bik, "der stalmach" [bicycle builder]; Yehudel Raban, the barber, and other residents of the town.  The Jews of Vladimirets received weapons, mainly swords and pistols, which were easy to obtain in those days.  Soldiers who had fled from the front lines willingly sold part of their weapons.  Our town was close to the front lines and was one of the first points through which the fleeing soldiers passed.  There were some among the soldiers who wanted to "amuse themselves" with the Jewish population and tried to rob the stores, and several groups of them succeeded in doing so.  When we saw that the situation was getting worse, we youths organized ourselves for self-defense.  Among those who participated in this defense I remember Eliyahu Garmarnick, Ben-Zion Zhuk, Aharon Kanonicz, Meir Pinchuk, Chaim Lipaches' son, and many more.  In order that the community would recognize that they really were keepers of order, they wore a special band on their sleeves, on which the letters "V.P.M." (abbreviation for "Vladimirets Praviliga Militz") were written.

The gangs of deserting soldiers and other scoundrels from the villages were not discouraged, and they tried their strength again.  One evening, these gangs went out and attacked Chaim Shmuel Resnik's store, but Chaim Shmuel objected, and he was seriously injured.  After that, the defense force grabbed one of the rioters and brought him to Antonovka, where the headquarters of the Revolutionary Army was located.  The verdict was carried out immediately. This position of the defense force took away the appetite of the scoundrels as if with a magic wand.  Now they hesitated to endanger themselves.  A similar situation existed in all of the villages until the new regime became established, when a squadron of soldiers was sent to our town from the Revolutionary Center, which was in Lutsk.  When these soldiers arrived, the Jewish self-defense team was disbanded.

Anarchy took over the town again.  In addition to all of the other troubles, a terrible typhoid epidemic now spread through our town.  Many residents of the town died because of a lack of food and medicine.  Two brothers – Leizer and Sam, the sons of Yehoshua Rizhy ("der malach" – "the angel") were taken to the hospital, where they died.  Others who died were Arel Kanonicz and the tailor Shlomo Yurkes.  The disease did not skip over any house.  The one doctor who was then in the hospital, Markish, a Jew, by the way, could not control the situation and he was unable to help the multitudes of patients.

The economic situation grew worse.  Even though the typhoid epidemic brought with it a prohibition of free travel, the Jews of Vladimirets travelled regardless to the surrounding villages to find a livelihood.  Everyone who went out on the road during those days took his life in his hands.  At that time, Nachum Kanonicz, Yaakov Kanonicz' son, left Antonovka for Vladimirets.  Robbers attacked him on the road, stole everything he had with him, and murdered him.  Indeed, the plague of the gangs was also widespread at that time.  They exploited the days of confusion and the between-regimes situation of the country very well.

One morning, at the hour when the townspeople were still asleep, screams were suddenly heard out on the street.  When we came to the window, we saw that armed soldiers were standing in Yaakov-Asher's house, where there had been a fabric store, and many prisoners were being squeezed inside.  That morning, the supporters of the old regime reigned again, and it was they who had taken over the town.  Thirty-three prisoners were held in the cellar, and all of them were brought from here to Dombrowicz, where a local regime had already taken over the surrounding area.  The judge, the moustached investigator, the Uryadnik, the Pristawo, and their entire retinue, slowly murdered these prisoners.  After they cleansed that town of revolutionary elements, a regime like the one in Dombrowicz was also established in Vladimirets.  Klistran Kutz was appointed officer of the police.  He operated according to the orders he received from the Center in Dombrowicz, and thus he ruled over us.  One day Klistran came with representatives of the new regime and demanded a tax from the Jews of Vladimirets in the amount of 25,000 rubles.

The entire Jewish population gathered in the large synagogue.  Everyone was confused and didn't know from where their help would come.  There was no other way but to make a list of all of the residents and impose a monetary tax on each one, according to his ability. Consequently, the representatives of the Jews sat at the table and began to make a list, but the people immediately became agitated.  Mendel Yisrael-Yossel's got up and shouted:  "I will not give such an amount.  Let Menachem and the boys give it."

The shouting didn't stop until Klistran himself, in all his glory, came to the synagogue.  But even he was not able to change the situation and he returned to the headquarters and reported that he had not succeeded in getting the money from the Jews.

One Sabbath, a squadron of soldiers with machine guns was sent to the town.  They were stationed at a few points around town, in order to instill fear in the Jews and move them to give the amount of money demanded.  A time was set –by the end of the Sabbath, the Jews must gather the money, and if not, hostages would be taken.  Even now, the money was not collected and the soldiers passed among the houses and arrested their hostages. 

I was among the nine hostages, because I didn't allow my mother to go with them.  The hostages were the shochet for the Stolin Chassidim, Asher-Yisrael; Pinchas Rizhy; Yaakov Asher's son Sender; Meir Lipke's Rissel; Menachem Guz, Yaakov and Yisrael Beider, and a few others.

They took us up on the platform of a train car, and armed villagers guarded us.  At night, they brought us to the headquarters in Dombrovicz.  We were accused of terrorism, because the people of our town did not collect the requested amount of money.  They threatened that the same fate that had met the 33 prisoners was waiting for us.  We spoke to them and explained that the Jews of Vladimirets would not desert their brothers and that they certainly would pay the imposed tax tomorrow.  They accepted our words, so they allowed us to go out into the city to find a place to sleep, but we were to go not too far from the headquarters, and return to report back to them in the morning.  We were happy for the change in our situation.  When we came back in the morning, we found out that they weren't paying any attention to us.  When we turned to them, they answered, "Meanwhile, go away.  We are busy with more important tasks."

And indeed, they were very busy that morning.  Many Army troops had been concentrated in Sarny, who planned to attack the perpetrators of the new regime.  When this news reached us, we didn't wait there very long.  We turned around and headed back to Vladimirets.

When we arrived back in Vladimirets, everyone was very happy, because they all had been certain that we wouldn't return. 

Army squadrons from Sarny in Vladimirets were not long in arriving, and the entire new regime fell apart.  The new Ukrainian Army now seized control of the region, including our town.  When we received the first newspapers, we found out that a new, democratic government had been set up in Kiev, with a Jewish finance minister.  Again, hope lit the mournful faces of the Jews.  There even were Hebrew letters printed on the new government's money.  Was it nothing, a thing of no importance? 

I decided to take advantage of the atmosphere of freedom and the good chances of continuing my studies.   My goal was Kiev.  Again, there were no interferences from family or the authorities, as there had been in the past.  I and my friend Reuven Beider left Vladimiretz on a winter morning and traveled to Kiev.  We were accepted by the school of pharmacy, without any obstacles.  Our difficulties were in finding a room, and after we found one, our troubles didn't end.  We had no heating, and both of us were given over to the tortures of frost.

Freidel, Shalom Leibke's daughter who lived in Kiev, came to visit us one day and asked us to move, to live in her apartment, because she had to stay in the hospital with her small daughter.  We accepted her offer and became the masters of the house.  There was a small coal stove in the house, which we heated with thin sticks of wood.  With this stove, we warmed ourselves when we needed to, and on it we even cooked our meager meals.  Everything was going along smoothly…

And then, the city of Kiev was bombarded – with heavy artillery.  The shells fell on the houses and many of them went up in flames.  A shell hit the house we were living in and caused a lot of damage.  The city was under siege.  It was impossible to go out of the houses.  Hunger began to be more and more oppressive.  We would search through the garbage cans, where we found pieces of leftover food to quiet our hunger.  One day, in one of the rooms we found a sack of millet.  We cooked it and ate ravenously.  I was struck with severe stomach pains from this millet.  I had a very high fever, but leaving the house was fraught with danger.  Wounded and dead people were lying in the streets.  Our situation was totally bad, and we didn't know how to rescue ourselves.

While we were still in this condition, suddenly the door opened and my brother entered with a soldier.  I recognized him as Yehoshua's son Manis.  When my brother found out about the situation in Kiev, he went out to look for me.  He found me bent over in pain.  My brother, who was familiar with Kiev, went out under the protection of the soldier to look for medicine for me.  Since he was a pharmacist, somehow he was able to find a doctor and even to obtain the necessary medicines for my recovery.  After a few days I felt better, and when I was fully recovered, we began to pack our bundles and went out on the road.  After many difficulties, I arrived back in Vladimirets.

The distress of those days was very, very obvious in Vladimirets.  People were stricken with hunger and their clothing was ragged.  Houses were deserted and damaged.  The residents of the town lost their ordinary livelihoods and began to look for new sources of income.  During those days, a new profession was very notorious in the town – producing liquor.  Almost every house became a factory for producing "samogon".   Whoever was occupied with this work had the opportunity to receive the raw materials for his production from the villagers – all kinds of grains – but not everyone knew how to produce an excellent drink.

My mother-in-law, for example, learned how to do this work, and she excelled at it.  After she made a bottle or two of samogon, she would take her production and when it got dark outside, she went to the goy's house, where she gave him the drink in a hidden place like the granary, so that his wife wouldn't find out, Heaven forbid.  When the goy saw the longed-for liquid, his heart turned over with joy, and he paid generously – not with money, but with value for money, such as rye seeds.  My mother-in-law would pour the seeds into a sack and carry it to Yehoshua Miriam-Dvorah's flour mill, grind the seeds into flour, and bring food to her family.  Many people did so at that time.

At that time, people also produced good, distilled wine, secretly and in a primitive way.  It was mainly the Volok family that was blessed with this expertise.

One night of Chanukah – the snow covered the earth, and we, a group of young people, wanted to go sleighing.  In spite of the emergency situation, the wishes of youth were not extinguished in us and made their demands. Our Yaakov Eisenberg harnessed his horses to the sleigh and we – Pesach Tscherniak, Gedalyahu der malach, Michael Freidman, Yaakov Kanonicz, and even myself and Zelda, our friendship being already strong at that time – all of us travelled to Dolgovolya, to visit in the home of our friend – the beautiful young girl – Shaindel  Musal, Asher-Aharon's daughter.  When we came back from there, we went down to see Teibele, Sarah Charne’s daughter.

Theirs was a small, but very clean house, carefully arranged.  The floor was spread with golden sand.  Cleanliness shone from every corner.  They welcomed us warmly.  You would never be able to guess that in this house, so perfect in its order and cleanliness, many children were cared for and that they were so poor – the main livelihood of this family was now obtained from making liquor.  Teibele, the beautiful and delightful daughter, who was always quiet and somewhat shy, changed during the days of war.  Now, it was she who bore the burden of support.  Teibele honored us, the guests, with a bottle of drink.  The bottle was clean and shiny, and it seems to me that to this very day I can see its sparkling light.  A boiling samovar stood on the table, and even it was clean and shining like a mirror.  We sat down to enjoy ourselves, and the entire time I wondered how this woman succeeded, in such difficult times, to respectably support her extended family.  Her husband was in America, and now, no support arrived from him.

Greater Russia was in the midst of a revolutionary struggle.  The fighting units of the old regime regarded the Jews as the cause of the change of power and they took out their anger on us – these were years of pogroms and murders in the Ukraine.  One day rumors reached us that squadrons of fighters, named "Machnowetz" and "Balochovetz" were attacking the small towns, murdering and robbing.  The fear was great.  And one day a gang of this type also arrived in Vladimirets.  They gathered in the square next to the church.  Their first visit took place in our pharmacy.  They said that from now on, they were in control, and therefore they could take what they wanted on credit, and in due time they would pay for everything in hard cash.  They took medical supplies and packed them in large bundles.  At that moment, there were horrible screams outside.  From the window, we saw how the gang members were leading the teacher Henich Kamin and forcing him to walk, with lashes from a whip.  They had found illegal liquor in his possession.  During that time, Berl Baril was murdered on the road to Vladimirets, and many died in the typhoid epidemic.

 DAYS OF GOOD TIDINGS

But during the War, we also heard good news.  One day we heard the news that the government of Britain recognized the rights of the Jews to establish a national home in the Land of Israel – the Balfour Declaration.  Everyone was excited by the event, and young and old went out to celebrate the great day, at their head the Rabbi, Rav Shlomo Shlita.  Children came out with blue and white flags, and the local orchestra joined the celebration – Shlomo the tailor with his flute, Mitra with his violin and Lazer Nissel beating his drum.  At the head of the procession rode Avraham-Yaakov Oler, the sexton of the synagogue, on a horse decorated with an embroidered tablecloth.  The Christian residents of the town looked at us kindly with great curiosity:  here, the hour of the Jews to be like all the nations has arrived.  Not only that, there also were Christians who actually joined our celebration.  That day was immortalized by the town photographer, the Christian Pashka, with many photographs.  I believe that some of these photographs are in the hands of people from Vladimirets.  It was a time when light and darkness were mixed together.

Years passed.  The regime was already in the hands of the Poles.  During the first few years, the Jewish population had a feeling of equality and freedom.  In our town, as in others, cultural institutions were established.  Youth organizations were formed.  Delegations from Warsaw and the large cities of the district came to Vladimirets and made fiery public speeches about building the Land of Israel and revival of the nation.  Our lives began to flow in the paths of days of peace.

The first Zionist meeting that I remember was held in Avraham-Yosef Volok's house.  Now, when remembering that family, I must tell something about the house and its owners.  Avraham-Yosef Volok was a Karlin Chassid.  He was a G-d-fearing Jew, with a yellow beard, tall and broad-shouldered.  He walked quickly, because he didn't control time, and he might be late for something, G-d forbid.   He drew his livelihood, like many of the residents of the town, from travelling among the villages.  His wife helped him – she would prepare a drink called "chaleibni kvass" because it was made from bread.  She also would bake cakes from white flour, which became famous in the town.  If an unexpected guest would come, or if someone was sick and they wanted to feed him a more delicate bread,  the people would send for a challah bread made by Tsipora.    They had two sons and three daughters.  The oldest son learned in various yeshivot, but he also acquired a general education and he was very active in public and cultural affairs.  He later became a teacher in the town, and his method of study was very advanced; his language of instruction was Hebrew.

Many of us remember Avraham-Yosef, how he would walk every Friday afternoon through the town, going from house to house, collecting challahs in a bag.   He brought the challahs to his house, and his wife Tsipora would sort them.  After they were sorted,  Avraham-Yosef went out to distribute them to the poor families, so that their tables would not be put to shame and they would not be without challah on the Sabbath. 

Their house had three rooms.  The floor was made of wood planks.  The daughters, Esther and Teibele, invested their best energies in scrubbing and scraping the floor, until it was actually shiny.  Here the youth of the town would gather, upsetting the order and cleanliness, but the daughters were not discouraged, and they always restored order.  Sender, the oldest son, was a Hebrew teacher, and there was a cultural atmosphere in the house.  Just as the father was an enthusiastic Karliner Chassid, so were the children, but their enthusiasm was already directed to other horizons.  At the initiative of several activists among the youth, such as Nathan Tscherniak, Shlomo Goldberg, Sender Volok, the general meeting of the youth organization of the town was held here, in this house, mainly for the purpose of establishing a town library.  As at every meeting of this kind, here there were also many arguments about methods of operation and organization.  I remember that at this meeting, the famous trio of Vladimirets participated – Manya, Fanya and Tanya.  Here, their images arise in my mind – three dedicated friends, closely connected to each other, even though they were different in their temperaments and characters.

Manya – the daughter of Pinchas David – was short, humorous and clever.  It appears to me that nothing was done without her.

Fanya – the daughter of Freidel Sima – was tall and upright.  Her hair was blond and her face was cheerful.

Tanya – she was my sister-in-law – her face was dark-complected, a bit long and beautiful.  She had long, dark hair; she was serious and intelligent.

At that meeting, it was decided to establish the library.  Everyone knew that if the "trio" entered an activity, they would do their best and it would be successful.  Chava and Avraham, the children of Leib Garmarnik, also worked hard to establish the library.  Avraham Garmarnik  was the manager of the new establishment.

The founders lacked money, and the task was very difficult, but the youths began this activity with great enthusiasm.  They spent many hours knocking on doors, collecting everything they could – books in Yiddish, in Russian and in Hebrew – some books were whole, and others were torn and worn.  Some of the residents donated actual money to buy books.  The fact is that a library was established in the town, which became the forge of the spirit of the youth.  From here they drew their cultural and national learning.

Because our resources were thin, we were not able to rent a permanent location for the library, and it travelled from house to house, existing in temporary dwelling-places.  Later, after the dramatic club, whose earnings were dedicated to the library, was established, we were able to rent a permanent hall.  Gisia's house was roomy, and there the youths would gather in the evenings.  The dramatic club also met here, in one of the rooms, to conduct its rehersals.  This club acquired a name also in the surrounding towns, and many of us certainly remember the appearances of David Melamed, when he read from the works of Shalom Aleichem and Peretz.  These appearances were held in the "lesternia," where a special stage was installed.  I remember that the first show was held in the large granary that belonged to the priest – on the way to the town bathhouse.  The preparation in the town was very great.  Crowds of young and old streamed into that granary to see the show.

Generally, the plays were held in the "lesternia."  "Lesternia" is a strange name, and to this day I don't know its origin.  But in our town, everyone knew what the "lesternia" was, and when I remember the dramatic club, it is impossible not to simultaneously bring up this name.  The "lesternia"  was an enormous wooden building with a roof made of wooden shingles.  It was attached to Yosef-Chaim Weinberg's large house – his was a good family with many children.  Their house served as an inn for travelers, and it also contained several shops that they rented out.  These shops had a special value, because they were located opposite the Catholic church.  But they made most of their livelihood from the large, long building called "the lesternia."  This building had two doors, an entrance and an exit.  Every Sunday and on the other Christian holidays, villagers gathered in town, coming in their wagons.  On those days, this building began to fulfill its function – it was a parking place for the horses and wagons.  Yosef-Chaim was paid for this.  Each villager would pay him for a parking place.  And indeed, it was worthwhile for them to be assisted by this location.  Here they had better security than just leaving the horses and wagons in some yard, where hungry cows with appetites roamed free.  These cows would put out their tongues and eat the fragrant straw that the villager had prepared for his horses, and there was no lack of cows with appetites in the town.  Every homeowner had a cow, and sometimes two.  Yosef-Chaim's big building was, therefore, in the right time and the right place.  But that is not all.  The "lesternia" also fulfilled a cultural function of the first degree in the town.  When the dramatic club had completed its many rehersals and the day of the show arrived, the "lesternia" was used as a theatre.  On that day, Yosef-Chaim's cow, which lived there permanently, was taken outside the "lesternia", the place was cleaned, a stage was installed and benches were set up – and it became a wonderful theatre.  And indeed, many of our good memories of those years are connected to that stage.

It was as if Vladimirets awoke with each show, both before the show and afterward.  Here and there one could hear criticism, whether negative or positive, about one or another actor.  The preparations of the club were instructive and full of content.  Each of the actors had his own intentions and ambitions, and the distribution of roles was not always easy.  But in the end, we succeeded in removing these obstacles and the day of the public appearance was a general holiday.

Many of the Jews of the town, who were scattered among the villages for the purpose of making a living, would come into town on Thursdays.  From the villages, they usually brought various products for sale, such as potatoes, barley, pig hairs, eggs, chickens.  Some of these kinds of products were sold by Pinchas David Gorzik or Velvel Chaim Meir's.

Again, our Sabbaths were restful.  Fridays were already a type of entry to the Sabbath.  In the morning, we would heat up the big stove, and on the burning coals we would bake spelt pancakes and eat them with sour milk.  Indeed, it was a Friday, as always, and nevertheless it was somewhat different – notices were pasted on the walls that called all of the residents of the town to come, on the afternoon of the Sabbath, to the synagogue, to hear the Zionist speech.  That Sabbath was like all the others – in the morning, the Jews drank their chicory mixed with milk that had turned red from its long stay in the oven; at noon, they ate cholent and kugel according to custom – in one house, it was potato kugel; in another, noodle kugel, and in a third, stuffed [chicken] necks [in Yiddish “helzel”].  After their Sabbath nap, the congregation began to stream toward the synagogue to hear the lecture, and after the Sabbath, when the congregation was still impressed by the speech they had heard, the activists among the youth would gather in Moshe Schwartzberg's house and continue to discuss those horizons that the talented speaker had set.  They discussed ways of increasing the income of the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] and Keren HaYesod [Jewish Foundation Fund] .  Afterwards, they would go from house to house to collect donations, and everyone would give whatever he wished.

At that time, one of the members of the secretariat [of the Keren Kayemet] visited Vladimirets. He came to organize activity on behalf of the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund].  Polishuk, the member of the secretariat, brought us the first 25 blue collection boxes and we went from house to house to distribute them.  A month later, when we came to empty the boxes, we were excited by the response– 75 gold coins were collected.  This was a very large sum in those days.  The women would decorate their walls with the blue box and set it aside in a place of honor among the other charity boxes.  The box became a noble and celebratory factor at different opportunities – at the time of a wedding, a circumcision, or other celebrations.  Before lighting her candles [on the Sabbath or a holiday], a housewife would put several coins into the box.  But all this was not sufficient.  Therefore, we consulted with the gabbaim [sextons] of the synagogues and with the homeowners whose opinions and influence set the standard, and we explained to them the need to increase donations to the Keren Kayemet.  We came to a general agreement that on the Sabbath, at the time of the reading of the Torah, the men who were called up to the Torah would contribute to our funds.  They didn't agree to that in all of the synagogues, but we overcame the difficulties.

Mainly, the donations were greater during the Sukkot holiday and on Simchat Torah, days on which we organized our own quorum of prayer in Leizer-Leib Rosenfeld's house.  He gladly let us use part of his house, the part where the yeshiva was located.

We had our own cantors.  Mainly, the one who was best at this was David Rosenfeld, who presently lives in Brazil.  Avraham Valichover read the Torah.  Many came to our prayers and made their donations to building the Land.  The habit increased on Simchat Torah.  After the prayers, Nachum Millstein, the son of the shochet for the Trisk Chassidim, would invite the members of the congregation to his house for Kiddush, or we would go to Nachum Tscherniak's house – which in those days was the factory of the souls of the youth.

Who will not remember the celebration of Simchat Torah in our town?  Already in the morning, you would see Yitzchak Valichover and Pinchas der malach in the streets, decked out in kipot and kapotes [skullcaps and coats] turned inside-out.  In one hand, they held a lulav, and in the other, a cucumber – and so they went from house to house "to bless the etrog".  A group of children followed them, enjoying their antics.  In every house, they ate and drank and they would leave, dancing with the children, their escorts…

And the hakafot in our synagogue?  They were conducted with such joy.  But before they began the hakafot, the gabbaim [sextons] of the synagogues had to make Kiddush as required.  It was a saying in our town that the gabbai in whose house the pirazhkes [dumplings] baked in honey were better and the whiskey was finer, had the best chances of being chosen again as gabbai for the coming year. 

The gabbaim of the Burial Society would prepare a very special feast that cost a great deal of money.  The first gabbai was Yehoshua Kushner, who was called "der mazik."  He took care that the drink would be plentiful, prepared all kinds of good things for the feast and he already knew who he should honor with a full cup and the best of everything.  He tried with all his strength to hold onto his position of gabbai.  In truth, this lordly position of gabbai of the Burial Society was regarded in our town as being of very great value.

Not only on Simchat Torah, but also on other days of the year, we were witness to celebrations, mainly of weddings – as is customary everywhere and also in our town, a wedding was held in the city where the bride lived.  A bride did not travel to hold a wedding somewhere else.  A thin, but deep importance was hidden in that custom.  The weddings, in general, were held on Tuesdays, which is a lucky day, or on Fridays, because then the celebration was closest to the Sabbath.  But sometimes, a wedding was held on a Wednesday, for example, if it was Rosh Chodesh [the first day of the month] – a date that gave special value to the day.  And if a wedding is a parlor, there also was a vestibule to the parlor – the "Tenaim."  After the "Tenaim," everyone knew that this yeshiva student and that young woman were a bridegroom and bride.  And everyone prepared for the day of the wedding.  Many people would hold a wedding in the summer, after the Shavuot holiday, mainly during the first two weeks of the month.

A wedding in the town provided an income to many of its inhabitants – fabric merchants, for example, were expecting to sell suits and dresses for the bridegroom and bride  and the various in-laws, and so it was with the tailors and shoemakers – everything in the town awakened in the days before a wedding.

Parents made an effort to have money on hand – the dowry for their daughter.  Generally, no wedding took place without a dowry.  I, myself, fell in love with my heart's choice when I was 16 years old.  We were married only at the age of 22, and even though my love was strong, the members of my family did not allow me to marry as long as the dowry was not promised…Nevertheless, I wish all of the couples, even now, that they will have a completely happy life like we had…

A week before the wedding, there were many preparations.  It had already been arranged with the synagogue's cantor that the bridegroom would be called up to the Torah.  Many people came to the synagogue, even to the women's section, to see how peanuts and sweets were thrown at the bridegroom.  Everyone watched him to see how he would go up to the Torah, and everyone worried and prayed in their hearts that he would not fail, Heaven forbid, because of emotion, to say the blessings properly.  After the service they went home to conduct a Kiddush, and the neighbors and friends would send gifts to the bridegroom's house – one would bring a choice drink and another, a kugel.  The week of the wedding, the bride and groom were forbidden to go outside alone.  A member of the family was obligated to accompany them during these days.  Meanwhile, the klezmer players were invited, and when the actual day of the wedding arrived, the town was already astir.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, you would already see Shlomo the tailor, who was the head of the klezmer band, with the goy Mitra, who played the clarinet, and Leizer beating the drum.  The klezmer had already had many rehearsals, until they came to their actual appearance. 

I remember one wedding in which the groom was not from our town, but from Zoludzk, and all of his in-laws came in decorated wagons to our town.  The wagon at the head of the line was hitched to white horses, a color that symbolizes light and happiness.  When they drew near to our town, a rider-messenger was sent ahead to notify the Jews of Vladimirets that the groom and his family were arriving, and when the good news was known, Rav Shlomo and his klezmer immediately went out, along with many of the young people, also in decorated wagons hitched to choice horses.  So that Vladimirets would not be embarrassed, Heaven forbid, the townspeople, young and old, walked to the outskirts of the town to welcome the visitors.  The entire entourage entered the town very slowly, to the sound of the klezmer music.

LONGINGS FOR REDEMPTION

The town slowly returned to normal after everything it had gone through during the War.  New winds began to blow.  The Zionist movement was a recognized factor in the life of the town:  various delegations would come frequently, calling the youth to organize.  HaChalutz ["The Pioneer"] called upon the youth to go for training and prepare for aliya [immigration to the Land of Israel].  Not all of the parents accepted the matter of HaChalutz and going for training favorably.  It was more comfortable for them for their children to find a real purpose to their lives.  In their eyes, America was better than Palestine.  But not all of the parents saw things that way, and there were some who gave their consent to their children to go for training.  I remember the day when the first certificate was received.  The committee of local Zionists meditated over the problem, and of all of the many who had requested to be among the winners of a certificate, they found Rachel Reznik, the daughter of Aharon ("der eizerer") to be the most appropriate. Rachel was from a house full of Zionism, and the idea of aliya was a holy one to her.  She spoke about her life in the Land of Israel with enthusiasm, a life of work and freedom.  No expected difficulty upset her.  To this day, the departure that the town held for Rachel is engraved in my memory.  That day, almost all of the residents, young and old, were filled with a great deal of tension in advance of this parting.  When the hour arrived to travel, the house and the street were filled with people.  Many followed the wagon to the Sucza Woods.  The young people continued to escort her even farther, all the way to the Rafalovka train station.  All of these escorts gathered in the station, tensely waiting for the train.  When the train arrived and Rachel entered the car, they all began to sing Hatikva and call out, "see you in our precious homeland" with great emotion.

The second person to make aliya also merited a great deal of attention.  This was Moshe-Yudel Waldman.  Many people from Vladimirets do not recognize his name, because Waldman was not born in the town.  The Waldman family – a family with many children – arrived in Vladimirets from Olevsk during the War.  After the War, the economic situation became re-established, trade developed and many traders – mainly forest traders – began to arrive in our town for their business.  The Polish company Paldor was very well-known.  Moshe-Yudel had a position as a tree inspector in this company.  The company's office was located in Sima Nisman's house.  Many of the residents of the town drew their living from that company.  Even the Bas family had a benefit from this firm, which supplied them with office supplies.  The company had thousands of employees from the town and the villages in the area.  The farmers were well-paid, and it is only natural – a farmer with money in his pocket came to the town and bought a lot in the shops.  Indeed, on all levels of the population there was plenty.

 

Moshe Waldman already knew how to finance matters so that the profits would not bypass Vladimirets but would remain within it.  He would pay the farmers with special scrip, that had value only in Vladimirets, and thus the villagers were obligated to buy in our town.

This glory came to the town, of course, at the merit of the Polish firm and the forest trade, but also at the merit of Waldman… But the times changed, and Moshe felt that the forest business was being undermined, that the company's business would end and its office would be closed.  At that time, the newspapers were filled with stories about many anti-Semitic events in Poland.  The Jews who travelled by train were already subjected to actual dangers.  In the large cities, incidents multiplied of injury to Jews.  The cry, "Jews, go to Palestine!" was frequently heard.  In view of all these events, Moshe Waldman decided to leave Poland and make aliya to the Land of Israel.  Moshe-Yudel was beloved by everyone – he was the image of "a good Jew," a provider of benevolence, doing charitable deeds.  If someone needed help, it was Moshe-Yudel to whom he would turn.  And now, when the second certificate was received in Vladimirets and Moshe Waldman joined the list of those who were interested in receiving it, was it possible to reject him and choose another candidate instead?

I remember that Moshe Waldman used to say, "Up to now, I worked and slaved for the Polish people.  From now on, I will turn toward helping Israel, and I will be certain that I am building an eternal home for my family and for my people." 

When the Paritza [landowner] from the village Borovoy, the place where he worked, found out that Mr. Waldman was intending to leave Poland, she invited him to her house and entered into a conversation with him:

"Tell me please, Mosheke, is it true that you are going to leave Poland and travel to Palestine?  Did you consider carefully what you are going to do?  You are travelling to a desolate country.  You are travelling to a wilderness of rocks.  It is unbelievable, that an intelligent Jew like you would do such a thing!"

And Moshe Waldman, who in those days was full of enthusiasm for the idea of revival, answered her thus: 

"My dear lady, I well know that the Land is planted with thorns and rocks.  But this is our Land, which is waiting for us, and we are waiting for it.  We will come there; we will work the Land and we will revive its desolation."

The landowner smiled when she heard what he said, and said:

"If you want so badly to work the land, I am willing to give you a large parcel of land, even 100 hectares, of good, fruitful land, without payment.  Take the land, work it, you and your children, and don't travel to Palestine…"

That is what was told in those days in Vladimirets about the meeting between the Paritza and Moshe Waldman.  And now, when the second certificate arrived, it was given to Moshe Waldman.  He also merited an emotional parting.

The new spirit that visited the town commanded us to give our children a new kind of education, a Hebrew education, in proportion with the days of awakening and longings for revival.  It was necessary to establish a Hebrew school.  In other towns, such schools had already been established. 

Founding the school met with difficulties in our town, because it meant cutting off the livelihoods of many teachers who earned their bread in the cheder.  But in the end, it was nevertheless decided to establish the school.  We rented a large house next to the gralnia where Winakur lived.  It was a large, walled house.  Indeed, the house was abandoned, but its rooms were large.  We were worried about the financial source for maintaining a school in Vladimirets.  According to the old version, people were accustomed to paying the tuition whenever the opportunity arose.  The teachers would knock on the doors of the parents of their students and receive their pay in installments, not all at once, and not according to a set monthly date.

Those who stood at the head of the activities on behalf of the school made many efforts and sought sources of income.  The teachers also showed their willingness to conform themselves to the circumstances and conditions.  At that time, the teachers were Chaim-Shalom Boksar, Velvel Burak, Avraham Garmarnik and Chaim-Shalom's sons.  The teacher Ziniuk, who was not one of the residents of the town, but came to us from Rosochacz, did a lot to establish the school.  Because the school was located at a distance from the town, difficulties arose with the arrival of fall and winter – the children had to tramp through the autumn mud until they arrived at school.  These, and similar difficulties, caused the project to fall apart.  Each of the teachers took some of the children and began to teach them, each teacher in his own home, as before.  Nevertheless, there already was a change in the lessons, since the method had been changed and the language of instruction was Hebrew.

The disintegration of the school was a strange phenomenon in the Zionistic atmosphere of the community and in view of the agitation of the youth, who had a pioneering spirit.  Indeed, the heads of the Zionist community did not rest and were not quiet.  They demanded from the Tarbut Center that it take action in order to establish a school for us that would endure. There were many representatives, and I remember mainly the arrival of Rosenheck, who stayed with us for a few days and acted, demonstrated and organized with a great deal of energy. 

At that time, there was a meeting of the various homeowners who were able to help.  The living spirits in all of this activity were Nathan Tscherniak and Yosef Kagan.  At the meeting a committee was appointed to buy a lot in the town and to begin building a school.  When the decision became known, everyone was happy.  The lot that was bought was next to the poplav [the meadow], across from Isaac "der veyatzur".  The goy who owned the lot was paid in gold coin.  This money was given to us by the Burial Society, which had large sums of money in its possession.  In addition to the lot, we bought wood materials for building from a forest trader from Karchemka. He gave us a great deal of help, in that he prepared the wood for building and even was willing to allow us to make payments in small amounts over a long time.  Our dramatic club also undertook to present plays more frequently and to dedicate the money earned to the establishment of the school.

It should be mentioned that the rabbi of Vladimirets, Rabbi Shlomo Shlita, of blessed memory, informed us that he was willing to enter the activities in order to help build the school, if we would agree that the lessons in the school would have a religious foundation.  For example, the girls would have to learn separately and not together with the boys.  And indeed, the Rabbi participated in the laying of the cornerstone for the school, as did Rabbi Shlomo Yaakov Katan.  That day was a real holiday in the town.  The storekeepers closed their shops; the craftsmen stopped working; the entire town gathered on the lot.  The Vladimirets band, with the elderly Shlomo the tailor, who still conducted his band very well, also took part in the festivities.  Rabbi Shlomo Shlita placed a scroll in the foundation and the band played "Hatikva."

In a short time, the frame of the building was put up and its roof was covered with metal shingles.  The plan of the building was made according to the suggestion and sketch made by Ben-Zion Zhuk.  Hard work and good will were not lacking – our dramatic club was travelling and presenting plays also in nearby towns.

But all this did not help.  After a time, it became clear that the project was greater than our actual ability to complete it.  The building remained unfinished – a frame with a metal shingled roof – indeed, many photographs were made of it.  These photographs were sent mainly to people from our town in America, in order to awaken them to help and to action.  But it is very doubtful whether this building made an impression on the residents of America, who were accustomed to more splendid buildings.

Slowly, the spirit in the town became cooler.  The excitement died down, and the youth became tired.  Many of the young people left the town at that time and went out to training courses, and many of the activists left the town in a search for sources of income.  I, myself, was forced to leave Vladimirets.  Indeed, it was hard for me to part from the town where I had lived the wonderful years of my youth, where I had found my heart's choice, Zelda, the daughter of Golda-Leah Teitelbaum.  We, with our two sons, left Vladimirets and went to Rafalovka.

My connections with Vladimirets were very strong.  When there was a Keren Kayemet convention in Warsaw, I was invited to come, since I had been its approved representative in Vladimirets.  At that convention, D. Ben-Gurion and Jachovitzky participated as delegates from the Land.

I remember that, when I went to the convention, I met Yitzchak Levin from Vladimirets in the street.  I asked him how he was.  As usual, his response was – he put his hand over his heart, and from that I understood that he didn't feel so healthy.  A short time later, I met Yitzchak Pinchuk.  He told me the bad news that Yitzchak Levin had died suddenly while he was walking down the street to the convention…

At that convention, the delegates from the Land claimed that intensive actions toward building the Land should be taken in the cities and towns.  The activities in the towns, including Vladimirets, grew stronger.  The ground in the town began to collapse under our feet.  The sources of income were closed – families branched out and became larger, and the chances of survival became limited.  Many Christians opened shops, which also cut off the Jews' income.  The chances of legal aliya were very few, and the winds of anti-Semitism grew stronger.  And that year, a large fire broke out in Vladimirets, which provided a reason for a few families to leave Poland for the Land of Israel.

A FIRE AND A BLOOD LIBEL

We well remember the appearance of Vladimirets before the fire:  its streets and houses, most of whose roofs were covered with wooden shingles.  Indeed, there were some beautiful, spacious houses, but there also were houses whose age already ruled over them.  Next to every house, there was a ledge or a special seat – places to relax on hot summer evenings.

Indeed, the structure and appearance of the houses of Vladimirets were not modern, but this fact did not interfere with the will of the youth to act and progress.  The town was poor in its outward appearance, but it was beloved and engraved in the hearts of its sons.  That is how the town looked until 1934.

It was a summer Sabbath in 1934 – after the noon meal, at the hour when some of the youth went for a walk to the Sucza Woods, some of them went to the landlord's gardens, and others went farther, to the forest on the hill.  While our parents slept the sleep of Sabbath afternoon, a burning sliver of wood fell next to one of the houses.  On that day, the sun was very hot, and a breeze fanned the fire, which caught onto the straw roof and was quickly carried by the wind to other roofs.  In a short time, almost the entire town was engulfed in flames.

Red fire and black smoke were unrestrained.  The crackling sound of the dry trees burning was heard.  The fire was horrible, and they say it was seen from a distance of many kilometers away.

In Rafalovka, the town where I lived at that time, we also saw the fire and smoke, and we understood that Vladimirets was burning.  Beside mine, there were several other families from Vladimirets in Rafalovka.  Yehoshua Brik, Yaakov Kanonitz' son-in-law, quickly harnessed his horses and wagon, and we hurried to Vladimirets.  The town looked like fuel for a single conflagration, and it was totally impossible to enter it.  Scattered on the fields behind the town were various possessions that the people had managed to save from the fire.  The families themselves looked like they had been thrown on the ground in the fields.  Many of them enquired as to the cause of the fire, and were unable to reveal how it had started, and the secret remains hidden to this very day.

But, as the proverb says, something sweet resulted.  After the fire, a government insurance committee arrived that estimated the damages and paid everyone according to the value for which his house was insured. We also gained a profit from the fire.  For my mother-in-law's house, which was burned down, we also received the amount of the insurance.  It was enough to build a lovely, roomy house in Rafalovka, where we lived with her.

Many families from our town did not invest the insurance money that they received in building new houses in or near Vladimirets, but hurried to pack their bundles and leave the town.  Some of them went to live in the larger cities – where their chances were better.  But a few families made aliya and moved to the Land of Israel – among them were Leah Baril and her children, and the Schwartzberg family.  Other families sent their children ahead, with the consideration that eventually, the parents would follow.

Those who remained in Vladimirets built lovely, more modern houses of brick, attractive on the outside and comfortable inside.

At that time, the winds of hatred of the Jews were already strong in Poland.  The example of Nazi Germany found enthusiastic supporters here.  The ground was already burning under our feet.  Tales were told of attacks and cruel treatment of Jewish travelers – travel by train involved a danger to life, and there were cases when Jews had been thrown out of a moving train.  It is so very painful that many of those who were active with all their souls and all their might on behalf of building the Land of Israel, did not take advantage of the right time to uproot themselves from that land of blood, and did not merit seeing the Land of their longings with their own eyes.

The situation in Poland got worse, and aliya to the Land of Israel was limited.  The Mandate government reduced the quota of certificates.  Now, the desire to make aliya grew by leaps and bounds, but it was possible to do so only illegally.  Many of the youth headed toward the Land – by any means.  The illegal immigrants knew a great deal of suffering and deprivations until they finally reached the shores of the Land.

My brother Yehuda, who was active all his life in the Zionist youth movement, and whose only desire was to make aliya, was forced by a false accusation to quickly leave Poland and immigrate to America.

And this is what happened:    In the ordinary way, a village woman came to my brother's pharmacy to buy a headache powder.  This woman was well-known in town.  It was known that she occasionally had attacks of insanity, when she would wander through the streets of Vladimirets. 

This village woman's husband was from Dolgovolya, and he wanted to somehow get rid of her.  He brought her one day to the forest, murdered her there and covered the body with dirt and forest debris.  The goy was certain that his deed was "smooth," and that no one would ever find out.

But a few days later, when the goy's neighbors began to ask him why they didn't see his Dimena, he didn't stop to think and quickly found himself an answer:

"She isn't around," said the farmer, "because she killed herself with poison."

He brought this up, since he had seen her a few days earlier holding some suspicious powder, and he was almost positive it was poison.  She told him she had bought the powder in Bas' pharmacy.

All this brought the villager to the police, where he added that he was certain that she had poisoned herself, because she had told him that she was going to Bas' pharmacy, and when she came home, he saw that she was holding a small  vial, and she absolutely refused to show him what was in it.

This made-up story was enough of a basis for the Polish police to write an indictment against a Jew.  Policemen, together with Dimena's husband, came to the pharmacy, and according to his testimony they immediately arrested my brother and imprisoned him in the cellar of the police station in Hershel Lerner's house.  They oppressed Yehuda with lengthy interrogations, which he answered by saying that he didn't know anything about it, except for the fact that Dimena had come one day to the pharmacy and bought a headache powder from him, a powder that was permitted to be sold to anyone.

But at that time, in those days of wild anti-Semitic incitement, a Jew could not do a thing to prove his innocence.  

The police also grabbed onto the pretext it had been given, and began to fan the flames of a blood libel:  a libel that the Jews are murderers.  The Jews of Vladimirets and the surrounding area were confused.  A huge fear took control of them.  Every one of us was certain that the matter was falsehood and that we were innocent of any crime.  But the anti-Semitic apparatus was already in operation, at full steam.

Acquaintances of our family who had strong connections with the police did not rest and were not quiet.  Yaakov Eisenberg, for example, put all of the strength of his influence into the struggle and wanted to prove to the police how contradictory and totally unreasonable the story was, but all this did not help.

When it became known that they were transferring Yehuda from Vladimirets to Rowne [now Rivne, Ukraine] so as to jail him in the large prison, the town was filled with fear…

It is known that Jewish peddlers from Vladimirets would visit the villages of our area.  They would bring various necessities to the villagers and trade them for farm products.  These peddlers would stay all week in the village, going from house to house, and during their negotiations, they would hear about everything that happened in that village.  One of these peddlers also came to Dolgovolya.  He was Nissel Bik's son-in-law, Elka's husband.  He was an intelligent, experienced man.   He was not able to accept the idea that this Gabrilo, from his village, would be so cruel to the Jews.  He tried to tried to talk to him, and the suspicion arose in his mind that the matter was not so "smooth."  Calmly and carefully, he passed through the village, which was two kilometers long, and he opened his ears to everything people were saying.

One day, he was in the house of one of his customers who wanted to sell him the fur of a fox that he had hunted nearby.  While they were negotiating and talking, he turned an ear to the conversation of some village women, who were sitting and weaving.  From what they said, he found out that the village shepherds, going with their flock through the forest, had come across a suspicious mound of dirt.  The shepherds' dog began, for some reason, to scrape his feet on the debris and dirt, and a woman's body was revealed in the mound – apparently, this was Dimena.

With bated breath, Nissel's son-in-law ran to the municipality and told them what he had heard.  When the matter became known to Yaakov Eisenberg and Baruch Grushka, who were very familiar with the police officer, they hurried to tell him.  Now, the policemen went to the village, questioned the women thoroughly, and after that, they went to the shepherds.  Again, they questioned them, and it became clear that the women were not talking for nothing while they were weaving – the shepherds led the police investigators to the forest, and there, indeed, they found the murdered Dimena.  Her arms were broken and there were signs of injury on her head.  Now, they took Gabrilo for a strict investigation, accompanied by hard beatings – and he had no choice but to admit to the murder.

My brother Yehuda was released from prison.  But the days of imprisonment taught him that it was impossible for him to remain in Poland, and he decided to leave quickly.  My brother did not have a possibility at that time to make aliya to the Land of Israel, and he contacted our brother in America, who immediately held out his hand with actual help to leave for America.  This event took place in 1938, one year before World War II broke out.
 
 


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