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Sefer Vladimirets

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A Community Home

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Penina Tcherniak

** Webmaster Note: The following translation was generously provided by Lior Mordechai Burko.  We have presented it here exactly as it was translated for us. 

Translator’s comment: This Chapter is written in somewhat old fashioned and literary Hebrew, not dissimilar from that of the Hebrew novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth  century. I tried to be faithful to the meaning more than to the literary style of the author. Small parts of the original are in Yiddish, with words also in other languages. I have made comments to that effect at those places in the text.

A COMMUNITY HOME

It shan’t be an exaggeration to say that were one to make a truthful description of the reality of our home, one will end up drawing pictures and spectacles of the reality of the town as a whole. The windows and doors to our home were wide open – many were those who passed through, entering and exiting – as it was a conference house and a making place of many matters. Public affairs were its character, and of each and single member of our family. Mom, dad, the brothers and sisters – each one added threads to this fabric. Father was involved with matters of the shul and the Chassidic community of which he was a member. Mother, as much as I can remember, was a charitable woman, who took to her own heart the troubles of others. My brothers were dealing with public matters, each one in his own way: Zionist parties, drama company, various institutions etc. Not just once was my brother Nathan advocating John Doe who got into trouble with authorities. The girls contributed too to this reality in their own way, and thus you felt at home a sort of a crisscross of the many troubles the town was subjected to. 

 I am picturing now: Jonah Riback, who owned a grocery store near us, got into trouble with the Polish government. So high were the taxes they levied on him that he could not possibly pay. Government officials have already arrived to impound his merchandise. I can picture Jonah coming urgently to our house all pale and embarrassed, and I can see my brother Nathan, coming out to the officials, handing them 20 gold coins at first, to stop the collection process. Following him arose Itkiz-Meir Riback, telling the policeman: “If Nathan Tcherniak is giving 20 gold coins, I am giving 30 gold coins.” And thus several townsmen are standing up, reversing the sanctions, and the merchandise is being returned to the store.

 Nathan was taking care also of the troubles of the Jewish communists of our town. Many of our youth fell for the views of the communists, and some were arrested by the authorities and thrown in jail. When a Jew is in trouble, help must be offered without further ado. Indeed, even this time the request was made to Nathan: Which lawyer should we retain, how do we ameliorate their verdict? And he would go, mind and soul, into the heart of the matter.

 I believe our home was affected by the spirit of Mother, who died at the end of World War I. She was a compassionate woman, carrying the yoke of the child-filled house with wisdom and generosity. When our brother Nathan grew up he went to Rovno to work in a candy factory, so that he could make his own living and get out of Mother’s apron. In the factory Nathan was injured badly when a barrel fell on his leg. World War I was just starting, and Mother could not sit idle: she took Nathan to Odessa to save his leg from a handicap, but she was not successful, and Nathan had a limp.

 Mother was a typical virtuous woman [in the sense of Proverbs 31, 10, L.M.B], a quality that was manifest during the days of crisis of World War I: She would divide the potatoes, our main dish at the time, equally among the people of the household, and to the Jewish soldiers who resided with us.  These soldiers did not have respectable clothing, and I remember mother taking from the dresser long, wide towels, part of her dowry, and sewed clothes for them. As was the costume of those days, the fabrics were dyed suitably, and the problem was resolved. Some of these soldiers resided in our house, and the question of beds wasn’t too troubling either. We used to remove the internal doors – and there’s a bed. She used black flour to prepare challahs, from the potatoes she made a pie, called locally teiglechtz, and the guests, the soldiers, were sitting at our table, dining with us, and making dinner pleasant with chanting cantor style and prayer. To this day I can hear the tune for “As a Shepard sees his flock,” which they sang many times passionately. During Succoth the sukkah was obviously too small to hold such a large group, but even then a solution was resourcefully found – very simply, we ate in shifts, and everything was in its right place.

A young man and a young woman, for example, who started being romantically involved, used to come to mother also, to share their secret with and to hear a word of advice. Indeed, she made much impact in many different areas.   

My brother Sender was considered a revolutionary and a liberal. He used to wear a black shirt and a wide belt, his boots were shining, and his pants were gallipea [riding pants that are wide at the thigh and tight at the calf as they were tucked under the boot – L.M.B]. He used to hold extreme views, and he too was handsome, kind, and eager to help. He too moved out to Kiev, to find a job and help mother out, and I recall that when he returned he brought her a wig and a new dress, as a gift from a son to his mother. To commemorate the event the entire family went out to take their picture. Sender was very active in the “Support for the Fallen” organization, and during the typhoid epidemic of World War I was working night and day with the many sick people, taking good care of them. Most families were struck by typhoid, including ours. Mother contracted this sickness too, and dies at 39. Sender kept the mourning costumes for an entire year. He was in very deep grief, and removed himself from anything that would compromise the sense of bereavement. He walked around bearded all year long.

Father was living in his own spiritual world with his own idiosyncratic principles –

a world of God fearing and nobility. He was ordained as a rabbi, but never thought of making a living or a profit off his Torah. On weekdays he would not eat meat, to emphasize the uniqueness of the Shabbat, for only for its honor one eats meat. He would eat only dairy foods on weekdays. On weekdays he would cover only half the table with a tablecloth, also for the honor of Shabbat, for only for its honor one covers with a tablecloth the entire table. He was not always approving the behavior of young people, but even he knew occasionally to sweeten his verdict.

 The drama company often rehearsed in our house. While father was going to Melave Malka [the festive traditional meal of Saturday evening in addition to havdala – L.M.B] the youth would gather up and rehearse. They would often borrow father’s capote [the long coat traditionally worn by Chassidim – L.M.B] and his kerchief… When we were preparing for a drawing and we needed to make lottery tickets, wither for a drawing to benefit the school or the Keren Kayemet [the Jewish National Fund, JNF – L.M.B], our house was again open for action. Shows normally took place of Saturday nights, and many people would come – the audience was from neighboring towns. And then we could sense that father too would help. Only formally he was upset, but in practice he was supportive: opened the yard’s gates for the farmers’ wagons that brought in the audience; guarding the gentile so that they would not steal; and undertaking chores for us. Two weeks before a show, and for days after, our house used to be as busy as a terminal. 

 Mother’s death was a blow from which I could not recover. Days and nights I would not stop crying. People who came to our house used to say I might go blind, God forbids, from crying so much. Zelda Bas and Chava Gurzik used to come and instruct me with housekeeping chores, as I was still a young girl. They did everything around the house, washing the hair of the young children, clean and tidy up. Also Golda-Leah, my aunt, was helping, “taking challah,” making cholent and such. She used to make me stand on a bench, so that I could get to the pot on top of the stove, and then she was teaching me how to remove the foam from the soup. Father was thinking, nevertheless, that the kosher level of my cooking was questionable. He was very worried, and always asked if all was right. And I was cooking and crying, not saving on the crying.

 Many a time did I have trouble in learning [how to cook]. It once happened that a pot with boiling milk turned over and spilled, and I was badly burned. One time the fish got turned over and got dirty with dirt, and father saw me in my distress, consoled me in good spirit, and said [in mixed Yiddish and Hebrew]:   “My girl, don’t be upset, let the fish be your atonement, one may  perform one’s duties also with a herring.”

 The house was always full of many guests, and yet we kept it like a treasure, and it was clean and tidy. By ourselves we could have never got a house like us under control but for Zissle the Deaf – this is how she used to be called in the shtetl. Zissle was a deaf widow, and she had two sons and one daughter. One of the boys was part of the shtetl’s orchestra, of all things, as a drummer. Indeed, it was a sort of a balancing thing, to his mother’s hearing impairment. Zissle used to do certain chores only. On Mondays, for example, she came over to bake bread – her chores were usually the biggest ones, and those that required special skill. She used to make latkes, or make meat kosher. She knitted and did patchwork, and even sewed. She understood what we wanted of her by reading lips. Zissle was one of mother’s greatest admirers, and used to cry over her from time to time too.

 In most houses, all that was made ready and kosher for Passover would be kept as is until the holiday. We weren’t like that, because we couldn’t keep things like that for a lengthy time because of the grain silos and the store that was attached to the house. We therefore made the preparations for the holiday late and in great hurry, which was remindful of the exodus from Egypt. We, the girls, were always worried that we would not have enough time [to finish all holiday chores].

“Look, at Zelda’s they are already washing the curtains, and at John Doe’s that are already making this and that as preparations!” – this is what we would worriedly say. Father used to console us and said, “silly girls, what are you worried about? We can hire help and work diligently. We can subcontract [the chores], and you shall see that we shall sit to the Seder table with all of Israel; All sit to the Seder table at the same time, no one is early and no one is late.” 

A few days before the holiday we all joined forces as one as work doubly as hard, and finish on time. Indeed there were homes in our shtetl, which of worries to the Passover kosher level would not rely on older preparations, and would go back and clean and purify yet again.  Father would work with enthusiasm and fervor, wash all the dished, prepare two barrels of water for the entire holiday, filter the water through a special fabric, but he wouldn’t drink this water – to be on the safer side – and during Passover he would drink only milk, not even tea would he drink, nor taste sugar. If we ran out of water during Passover he would not bring up more water from the well near the house, because it was open and there was a risk that the goyim would make it khumetz. For that reason father would go to “Gerlania,” [a nearby village, L.M.B] that had a close well – a well whose waters were pumped using a pump so that the water couldn’t be make khumetz, and he pumped water up there. Fearing something of the food would stick to the dishes so that they would be khumetz he would wash all dishes by himself, and wouldn’t count on us. He would even grind the horseradish himself, and would do so with great joy.

 Youth of all ages, according to the ages of the many people of our household, would always fill up our house. And not just them, also farmers who would take a wagon in the wintertime [The author uses the Polish or Czech word “wózka,” meaning probably a small wagon. The proper Polish word for wagon is “wóz”, L.M.B] would go to our grain silos for this and for that, sit down in the large kitchen by the teptchen [unknown polish word?] and make themselves comfortable.

 Our friends would frequently argue loudly, hitting up the arguments, and father sometimes got upset with them and would speak harshly at them, but he would feel bad about it immediately, and as he wanted to appease me he would find the way to make up:

“Ah, pani melamed [‘Mister Teacher,’ in mixed Polish and Yiddish, L.M.B],” he would address one of our friends, “would His Honor wish to have a good cigarette?”

Sometimes someone would say, “Zelig Tcherniak is a weird Jew. He lets his house be a common place for all, so that he doesn’t have a home of his own.”

 Take khalutzim in transit [on their way to make Ali’ya to Eretz Yisrael, L.M.B] as an example, who would get by chance to our shtetl, would find our house open. And we would make a big party for a poor khalutz from the shtetl that was about to make Ali’ya. We would keep leftover food from our balls for parties like those, but it was not enough, so we – I and also others – would add more food from the house. 

This is how our house was on weekdays, and also on holidays. There were some of our friends, the closest among the youth, who finished off early the Passover Seder in their own house, and came over to our Seder. As we were reading “Pour out Thy wrath” [from the Haggadah, L.M.B] and opening the door for Elijah to enter, not once did a whole gang would come – we saw Elijah only in our imagination, but we saw the gang with our eyes of flesh and blood. With the conclusion of the Seder father liked telling chassidic stories, quoted off those who told them first, stories of things that happened many years ago. Even Yaakov Einsenberg, who liked Hassidism, used to come to us for the conclusion of the Seder, and would sit with us until very late hours. I recall now a washing bowl of glass [in Yiddish, for ritual washing of hands, L.M.B] that father, as he was reclining used to wash his hands in.

 My brother Sender was then in America, and father would suddenly remember and sigh:   “Ay, Sender’ke, where is Sender’ke now, who knows if he is sitting in America  by a spread table [for the Seder, L.M.B], who knows?”

 Among those who would come to our house, on holidays and weekdays, was also Chaim-Meir Wolichover. He was a dear spirited person. He was cheerful, and knew how to entertain people. He was one of the actors in the drama company. His parents’ house was one of the smaller houses, but when he had the entertainment spirit he would say, “what’s there to say, one cannot even compare your house to ours, as our house is unimaginably nicer!” When a foreigner would come to town Chaim-Meir would say, “Let me prove to you I know the name of the guest.” He would call various names randomly – Moshe, Aaron, Yoseph, Pinchas, Shlomo – until by chance he would call the man’s name, and he would of course turn on hearing his name, and Chaim-Meir would triumphantly proclaim,   “There, you see, I guessed right, his name is such-and-such.”

 Public affairs that my brother Nathan was frequently engaged in were manifest also in the following incident. The local faction of HaShomer HaZa’ir was illegal. The activities of out-of-town lecturers and group leaders was clandestine, and the police were thinking all these young people were communist sympathizers. It so happened that the police found out about the arrival one emissary who came to our town. A police search was promptly carried out, and many of us were arrested. The police were baffled: “Batya Tcherniak cannot possibly be a communist, for she is coming from a bourgeois family.” They couldn’t settle the contraction. The police chief told Batya, “I am releasing just you, but I’m holding all the others under arrest, and will release them only if your brother comes down here and pledge for them.”

 The legal status of the faction and police suspicions had many aspects that resulted in various incidents. One time we petitioned for a permit to hold a dance ball to raise funds for public needs. We prepared a buffet and a lottery that we were to include in the program. Two nights before the ball, that was about to take place at the polish Kina, the preparations were already fervently underway – our house was like the fair – we baked and cooked and we got projector lights. We prepared 350 lottery tickets at that time, prepared special napkins, and all that with much enthusiasm making it “big.” After moving everything to the ball hall, and even turned all the projectors on, we all went home to get ourselves ready for the ball, get dressed and prepare out spirits. When we came back to he hall, we saw the worst: police. And the policemen were handling the food and the equipment we had brought, bagging them all up in big bags. They said the permit was given for dancing only, and all the food there indicates intention to trade. I was so upset I burst in tears, but my tears were of little help, and everything was brought over to the police station.

It was clear to us someone had told on us. At first we were very depressed, but after that, we were endowed with new spirits. All of a sudden we woke up and cheered up, and even united after the troubles we had. To spite them, we said, to spite them we would have the ball without all the food. We were taken by a wave of enthusiasm, and we started with the program – dancing was very excited, and continued until the dawn of morning. And revenue was very high…

 A number of yeshiva students who came from out of town used to eat in our house. This is how it was when mother was living, but after her passing, when the burden of the household was on me, father was fearing that it would increase the burden too much, and he wanted to stop this tradition. I disagreed, and demanded that boys would continue to eat with us. Chaim Pinchuk was very excited with my behavior, and wanting to please me he said, “if this be so, I pledge to contribute each month to the Keren Kayemet.” He pledges, and his word was good for it. I recall that Batya, being a young girl, had a hobby of her own – and even that one was of public nature – to make a bride and bridegroom happy [making a wedding couple happy on their wedding day is an important Jewish mitzvah, L.M.B]. She would dance for them Freilik [a particularly joyous dance to klezmer music, L.M.B] with alacrity and flexibility, the audience was having a good time, and she was known as “a mitzvah dancer.”

 At first they didn’t want to admit Batya into HaShomer HaZa’ir. After all, she came from an orthodox house, and this might harm the foundations of the movement and its spirit. This was one school of thought, that of the nay sayers. Against them there were also supporters, and they had their own reasoning: As the Tcherniak’s house was very popular in town, it may attract more kids to the movement, i.e., admitting Batya to HaShomer HaZa’ir may help with recruitment of other kids – and this viewpoint prevailed.

I did not belong to any movement myself, but I was assisting both HaKhalutz and HaShomer HaZa’ir. They were equal for me.

 One day Berl Frimer of Sarny was invited to give a speech and strengthen the local HaShomer HaZa’ir faction. He spoke with much charisma and enthusiasm, spewing flames, until the walls literally shook. Policemen who were passing by heard that someone was giving a speech with so much stamina, and came in to see him. The assembly was, of course, illegal, and Berl was arrested, may something like that never befall you, and was taken to Police Headquarters. None of our attempts to release him was successful. The Police were having one winning argument: whoever speaks with so much stamina and charisma must be a communist. We knew Berl was a good man, and felt a lot of remorse. If we couldn’t release him immediately, at least we could make his stay in jail easier, and this is where I entered into the heart of things. Police were in the Lerner House, and I and my friends were making cocoa with cake and eggs, put it all on a tray, cover the food with a neat napkin, and send the delicacies over to our prisoner. One day I even cooked chicken soup and sent it to him, as if imprisonment was a dangerous sickness he was suffering from, and therefore the first thing to do is to make sure his food is appropriate.

 The matter of taking care of others was a property of our town, and our home in particular. If one of the regular clients did not show up in the store to buy groceries one day, say, it would not have gone unnoticed, and people started to be worried. “Ah,” they would suddenly awake from the worries of retail, “according to our calculations he should have come already; maybe he has no money and didn’t feel comfortable buying with credit. Yankel, take some of this and some of that, bundle it, and send over to him.” Or they would wake up and say, “it is already late and John Doe is still not here either, it might not be a trivial matter, maybe something bad has happened.”

 But sometimes people were also get burns in our house. Father knew how to reprimand. Pesach Brill, who was a known liberal, used to frequent our house. Pesakh knew father was not happy with his conduct, and he wanted to make peace with him somehow. “Reb Zelig,” he would address father, “could I serve you with a good cigarette?”  One day father approached him with visible anger, “How dare you come to my house? You, that the goyim say about you that you visited the village and publicly ate treifa [unkosher foods, L.M.B]?”  Pesakh tried to defend himself: “Mr. Tscherniak, this is only gossip on their part, how can you, sir, believe I would something horrible like that? Indeed I ate in the village, but it was only halva, nothing more.” Pesach’s denial made father happy, and he said, “I could sense this could not be true, I knew it, that you would not eat treifa.”

 We, the girls, were responsible for the household. Yaakov, the younger brother, would take the carriages for long haul trips, a full night he would travel. On a winter’s night we would be worried about him, and prepared everything for him: his gloves, and fur, and sandwiches for the road. In the grain silos they would load his coaches, they numbered ten, a real convoy, and Yaakov would take the load to Sarny and even to other places. Father would always warn him that on his return he would consider the Sabbath, lest he returns, Heavens forbid, after the candles are lit. “It is not that I suspect you would not honor the Sabbath, but sometimes the devil could make your travel unwillingly longer, so that it is proper to make haste and leave early.”

 If it happened that Yaakov was late to return on Sabbath eve, we were very anxious and we, the girls, tried to conceal this from father, hand Yaakov his Sabbath cloths, so that father would not notice him being late. On one such occasion we did not have a chance to iron what needed ironing, and Yaakov said to us reassuringly, “even if my pants are not fully ironed, people will not chase after me on the street. Only if I am in debt people will chase after me. It is therefore not a tragedy that the fold in my pant is not quote right.”

 Yaakov was quite a character. On their Christmas, when the Christians went to church, many of the farmers would come to our house, and sit with us as if it were their house, waiting for the church bells to ring. Yaakov would sit down at that time balancing the store’s books, and would also listen to their blabbering in exquisite detail. They spoke of fields and of woods, of cows and of crops, and later he would report jealously on what they said: “If only we, the Jews, could be nature people like them. How natural is their talk, without unnecessary cleverness.” Yaakov was not much of a scholar, but his talents and understanding were unusual. He was smart and clever. He spoke Russian and Polish, and people used to say “he was the brains of town.”  I remember there was a business  established in town, and the partners were in dispute, and that led to many fights. Yaakov was then a boy of 14, and as an arbiter he brought them to mutual agreement. In anything he did there was always a measure of seriousness and reasoning.

 Our brother Pesach had a totally different take on life. He approached it lightly, without too many deliberations. He was always happy and in good spirits. In his company people were used to laugh and enjoy his wits, and jokes, and his acting talents. Whenever someone got sick, Pesach would be among the first to visit them, arriving early and leaving late. He enlisted in the Polish military, and was under the impression that his lack of seriousness and pranks would be useful for him there too. He experienced much trouble for that, and was even frequently jailed in a military prison for those. Pesakh especially loved singing, especially cantor liturgy, and above all a cantor who prayed with much passion. On occasion Pesach would leave the Stolin Hassidic Shul, where we used to attend services, and would go to the Trisk Hassidic Shul to hear the Shokhet [ritual kosher butcher, L.M.B] Ben-Zion Milstein. Ben-Zion’s prayer was a deep experience for Pesach. Out-of-town acting companies that were short of an actor would often ask Pesach to fill in, and he would participate not for a fee. On the contrary, he would always be willing to support these companies, that usually were very poor, and he would even give them produce. 

We were considered a well off family in town, but even so the town’s communists showed us their favor. This could perhaps be called an exception, and they would say, “when bourgeoisie’s judgment day arrives, we won’t prosecute the Tcherniaks.” One communist used to say semi-jokingly, “The fact that the Tcherniak family has a nice home does not sadden me, because after the revolution we shall confiscate the house and it would become ours, but I am terribly saddened by their good foods, because we can no longer confiscate all the delicacies they have eaten over the years.”

 I vividly remember the day of the great fire [1934 T.]. It was on Lag B’Omer, which fell on a Saturday. Batya woke up early that day, and went out to the forest with her friends, to take part in the census that the faction was holding. In her haste, so that father would not notice her leaving, she forgot the food I had prepared for her. When I noticed it, I took the food, and went out secretly to the forest too, also to observe the formation and the raising of the flag. On the way I met Chaya’le’s mom and Schwarzberg’s mom, and they went there with me. We arrived at the edge of the forest, and we intended to go near the gathering place only when the ceremony starts. To our amazement we saw it was all silent. We went to the gathering place, but couldn’t find a living soul. Many items of food were thrown all over the ground, and our impression was that of a disorderly fleeing. We exited the forest, and saw much smoke billowing upward from the town. At first we thought it was the farmers who were burning up what was left in the fields, preparing them for seeding of buckwheat, until we bumped into one of the area’s Czech colonists, and he said to us, “Don’t you know the town is burning?”

Since I left the house secretly, the members of the household started looking for me. A rumor that I stayed in one of rooms or one of the buildings and that I got trapped in the flamed and was burned alive started spreading. And then I arrived… When they saw me they immediately sent for father. He was very upset, and whispered to himself [in Yiddish, L.M.B], “God be blessed, so you’re alive, one doesn’t need anything more, God be blessed!”

When the fire started my sister Rivka in Ha’Khalutz preparation camp [for Ali’ya to Eretz Yisrael, L.M.B] in Nisbeizh [?]. Rivka told us how she found out about the fire. It was a summer day after she came back from work. She was seating on the balcony in the camp’s apartment, resting up. One of her comrades was passing by holding the newspaper. She took his newspaper and started reading, and there was a short story” The town of Vladimirets is utterly burned down. “I couldn’t stay where I was,” Rivka said, “and the very same day I was given leave to go home for awhile. I was riding by train for many hours. It looked liked eternity. At 2 AM I arrived in town, and I couldn’t recognize the place. Empty grounds. Only the remains of fireplaces and their chimneys were left. I knew the place of our house by the pile of barrel hoops. Yes, this is where my house was, I mumbled, and tears were filling my eyes.” And so she was standing in the middle of the night on the ruins of our house. Rivka went to where we were staying, a temporary place. It was in the edge of town, a place with no windows or doors, with only three folding beds. This was our new house and all our furniture. Of all our belongings the only thing that was left was Yaakov’s bed, and father was sleeping in it. Rivka stayed with us for two weeks, and then went back to camp. Father would go daily to our burned down house, looking through the cinder and ashes, each time finding another remaining thing: A copper dish, and old heater, etc. And he would bring them over to the new place. As if they were relics of life destroyed, and one must keep them. Father put all of the things he found in the attic of the new house, but the landlady was not happy about that. She said the ceiling would collapse. Father knew a lot of suffering and used to say, “Children, this cannot go on like this, I must stand up for myself, we must rebuild our house.”

 When mother died father was forty-four. He would not remarry under any circumstances. Mother’s memory, so he would say, was the foundation of the home and the inter-connection of all the members of the household. If he remarries this foundation would be shaken. He wouldn’t go to the rebbe, like most chassidim do, so that the house would not be left during the Sabbath without the head of the household. He was an example for a man who keeps the purity and sanctity of family out of love. The rebbe was unhappy about father not visiting with him, but he grew to accept it, because he knew it was for pure reasons that he avoids visiting him. But when the rebbe was visiting town, father would take full participation in the singing and the joy, and all the commotion associated with the visit.

In our house the chassidim would gather and recite the chassidic tunes – either before the rebbe arrived as part of preparing for him, and after he already left – because of the strength of the impression he left behind him and the desire to keep and nurture its memory.  

When father saw the need he would be firm. Not just once did I see him speak firmly, even with the most esteemed Polish officials. He was satisfied with little, and used to say, “A man does not live to eat, but eats to live.”

 There were days that we were very well off, and the farmers who would come to our house had their own way of saying it, “the wealth of the Tcherniaks could come to them from just the empty sacks, even more so from the full ones.”

Many had a connection to our house, even on regular days, and even more so when there was a special reason to come to our house. When my brother Nathan would return from summer camp in Tchikochink the house would fill up with lots of curious people who came over to hear what was happening in the world, and Nathan would wonderfully tell all he had heard or seen. Even those who suffered from bad luck knew a hand would be reached to them in our house. I recall, for example, Wolf the water carrier, how he would walk around during the night singing while carrying the buckets full with water. Even on winter nights, when the well was covered with much ice and getting to it was dangerous, he would walk and sing. One time, as he was arriving to us, I heard him say [in Yiddish, L.M.B], “For you I am willing to carry water, even for percents.” This was a broken and senseless expression, that no one fully understood, but its origin was in some fondness to our house, that he wanted to express in some way. We had in our yard a laborer called Marco, a goy, and he was very dedicated to the house with his heart and soul. The goyim used to joke at him, and say that surely he was in love with one of the Tcherniak girls. In truth, Marco loved the house in its entirety. Marco invited us, the younger people, to his sister’s wedding. We even made a Jewish torte, and brought it as a gift to the wedding. Marco was infinitely happy.

 And here I have drawn some lines on the character of one house – which was our house in Vladimirets. Such noble characters were typical of many, many houses. With all his heart father wished that the wholeness of the house was kept, but its connectedness started to slowly fall apart. That happened when we made ali’ya to Eretz Yisrael. Here I can tangibly picture the party for my ali’ya, and I can remember Nathan’s words, that he said with much emotion and tears, “blood is not water,” Nathan said, “and therefore it is so hard to say goodbye to a sister.” And I, during that party and also for many days after it, was like reliving those childhood days after I was orphaned of my mother, and once again I would cry days and nights for the agony of separation. Father walked me to the train station. We said nothing on the way, we were walking in deep silence, but the distress was great. Some said I was not doing good to leave father alone, and this only made me sadder. For his entire life he sought to keep the house together, and we, we did not repay him what he deserved.

 I did not have quiet times, not during the travel and not even when I arrived in Eretz Yisrael. Even years later, when I was living in Gedera, I would get emotional to tears every time that I recalled it. I would listen to the doves in the back yard’s birdhouse, to the chirping doves, and I would think that they are crying with me and for me…

I remember that Zelda Bas wrote to me after my ali’ya, that father, who was quiet all the way when he was taking me [to the train station], was upset and depressed on the way back home. She stayed overnight in our house because she was worried about him. In the same letter she also said he could not sleep all night long, he was standing by the window, as if he was watching something distant, and she heard him whisper to himself [in Yiddish, L.M.B], “Who will bring back my daughters to me, my dear daughters?”

This is how he was whispering to himself, looking through the window into the dark night.

 Father’s grief was great, and so was his loneliness. Two years after I had settled down in Eretz Yisrael he asked that I come for a short visit, at least, in Vladimirets. He never wrote letters himself, and only my brothers wrote to me in his name…

I arrived to Eretz Yisrael at the time of the pogroms that started in 1936 and lasted for a number of years [This is the so called “Great Arab Revolt” of 1936 – 1939, that was in fact an Arab uprising against Jewish immigration to the Jewish homeland under British mandate, and was directed at both the British and the Jewish settlers. It started with a strike and non-payment of taxes, but was accompanied also with terrorism, armed attacked against civilians, and political assassinations, L.M.B]. Traveling from one place to another was very dangerous, and everyone just stayed where they were living and avoid moving around. But this circumstance gave me a good pretext to explain to father why I couldn’t, for the time being, visit in Vladimirets. “Imagine, father,” I wrote to him, “that I haven’t even seen Jerusalem, our holy city and the city of our aspirations, and how could I leave the land before I have seen Jerusalem?” I was thinking that father, out of his deep love for Jerusalem would understand me and would find the reason acceptable…

And it was so until the Second World War broke out, and the days of the horrible Holocaust arrived, and the hand of annihilation was everywhere…


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