by Greta Chalfin
They say the town of Brody is no more. Supposedly, it has been turned into a restricted, off-limits security zone and there no longer is any trace of the streets, park and buildings where we grew up. Yet the mental image is so very clear in my mind that I could almost reach out and touch the irises bordering the large circular flower bed in the center of Rojekowka. I can hear the wind rustling through the chestnut trees which lined the alleys all along the square park. I can see young couples sitting on park benches in the shade of those chestnut trees and I can remember gathering the chestnuts, knocking off the prickly green skin to get to the hard brown nuts we collected. I can almost taste the fresh wild strawberries, raspberries and blueberries displayed in black earthen pots by peasant women at the park entrance - right near the watchtower - and I can still relish the enjoyment of purchasing a 5¢ chocolate bar from Hart's kiosk in that watchtower and listen to the big clock strike the hour . . .
I remember the statue of Joseph Korzeniowski (Joseph Conrad) at the other corner of the park, where it towered over the street named for him. I can experience the sadness thinking of the untimely death of Urszulka Kochanowska, the 12-year-old daughter of a poet who was born in Brody and who immortalized her in a poem . . . And the pleasure of listening to the weekly concerts performed by the army brass band in the center of the park . . . And the carefree hours our gang spent in the park engaged in a game of hopscotch or "Snail" when we would draw the outlines in the soft ground and jump away in pursuit of a shard of glass . . .
And how much we enjoyed the "Queen" ball game. Tossing the ball to each other at various heights, from lowlands, to valleys, to hills, to mountains, ever higher and higher to the Carpathians, Tatras, up to the Alps, on to Mount Blanc, way up to the Himalayas, all the way to Mount Everest and, finally, to Peak Everest - and when you didn't miss at catch, you became the Queen!
Whenever the handful of us Brody'ers get together, we always seem to go back to such memories. Remember how . . . , and on we go, reminiscing about episodes and events we shared as children. Like the time, around 1940, when we got together for an afternoon in the kitchen of Nusia Parnes. We perched on a sofa and sang songs. Giza Saltzman knew some Yiddish theater songs and sang for us "Di Goldene Sangen."
Remember when the circus would come to town? The big tent erected on the lot off Railroad Street and the menagerie we could walk through and gape at the variety of wild animals. The clown that appeared in Chinese costume, with a pigtail, and sang about Chinaman Foomanchoka who longs for "Shaang-Hai, Shaang-Hai, his beloved land, his own paradise."
Remember when the Yiddish Repertoire Theater would come to our town? Billboards plastered all over the town announcing the arrival of Maurice Schwartz and Ida Kaminska, who would give limited performances at the Music Verein (Society) of Josie Kalb, or Mirele Efros, or "The Dybbuk" . . . ?
Or the Saturday afternoons on Gold Street? It seems that the whole town turned out dressed in their Saturday best to promenade on Gold Street. It was almost a tradition that families would come out and walk together to meet and greet friends and relatives and stroll through the town along Gold Street to the Park or to the Waly's . . .
with the onset of the war all this came to an abrupt end. In 1939
and later in 1941, bombs demolished many of the buildings. From our
gang of playmates only three survived; but maybe these memories are so
very real because they were the last carefree days of our childhood and
contained all that we held dear before it was taken from us forever.
Copyright © 1987 Greta Chalfin
Copyright © 1999 M S Rosenfeld