Podhajce was a time-forgotten town, tucked between a high mountain and the large lake, with a horse drawn fire engine, half-blind town crier, and one automobile.  The huge marketplace was the soul of the town.   Here, every Thursday, hundreds of peasants sold their eggs, chickens, butter and bought their dry-goods.  At the same time, their horses deposited in the market a huge supply of manure, the only source of the town's pollution.

The only car in the town, when it was running, was the source of excitement and pride of the town. When it appeared running at a top speed of 15 mph children tried to outrun it, and touch this huffing and puffing sign of modernity.

A mixture of Poles, Jews and Ukrainians, living in a hateful harmony, inhabited the town; they needed and hated each other. They lived in dilapidated, whitewashed clay huts with flickering kerosene lamps. The few rich people lived in high two-story stucco buildings with electrical lights and hand cranked telephones.

The town had an assortment of celebrities from all walks of life; Bibryk, the half-witted town fool - master of profanity; Ejzenberg the town's crazy man; Wroblewski the one-handed invalid peddling a hateful newspaper "Polska bez Zydow" - Poland Without Jews; Xenia, the much admired and feared part-time madam and semi-retired whore; the Burstiner Rebbe - the religious leader and his Gabbi Joel or business manager, a good client of madam Xenia.

What did the town's people live on?  The Poles owned the land, the Ukrainians toiled their small lots and the big estates of the Polish landowners; the Jews traded.  They traded with everything and everybody and even with themselves.  A ten zloty worth of a bushel of wheat, went through ten hands increasing the price by a whole 50 groshen.

The Jews lived in a close knitted, diverse society; the "gevirim" - the rich men, the "balabatim" - the well to do citizens; the "balmelochis" - the tradesman, the butchers, the shoemakers, the tailors; the "shnorers" - the market women and the middlemen living from day to day.  Most of the Jews were poor, even the successful merchants were not millionaires.  How much money can you make selling five cents worth of sugar?

Despite the general poverty life was passable, food was cheap, entertainment plentiful, and there was no generation gap. Food was cheap, for 50 Groshen one could buy a pail of fresh cherries, a sack of potatoes was 75 Groshen and a live chicken cost 75 Groshen. The only problem was to earn the money.

As for the generation gap, how can you have a generation gap when people rarely knew the last name of their neighbors?  They knew them by their trades transferred from generation to generation:  "Velve the Katzif" - Velve the butcher, “Meir the Schnader" - Shlomo the tailor, or “Meir the Balagule"- Meir the horse driver.

There was no radio or television to isolate the people from each other, to make them lonely.  At 6 o'clock, the youth of the town provided the town with a colorful, un-staged show.  The “Corso", as the sidewalk surrounding the marketplace was called, was full of young couples walking hand in hand. It was a colorful pageant.  The corso   served many purposes. It was a mating place for young people.  Here the town beauties would select their boyfriends.  It was a non-stop fashion show; here Dziunia would show of her mother’s creative talent in copying the latest fashion journals. Because of this show some people called Podhajce the Paris of Galizia.

As other Jewish boys, I started my schooling at the ripe age of three.  I attended the "Heder," - a one room school in which children got a religious training.  At the age of seven I started to attend public school and Hebrew school.  From 8 o'clock in the morning to 6 o'clock at night I attended classes.  It was not a real childhood; it was an intensive preparation for adulthood.

The heder was a combination of a religious school and a nursery.  Our teacher - Nusen the Melamed, taught groups of children of ages three to twelve.  When one group of children was taught the other group played outside, in the small yard.  The Melamed used proven ancient methods of instruction. We repeated in unison the Hebrew words and the Yiddish translation.  For example "Wajdaber Adonai L'Mojshe," and God spoke to Moses.

In most heders the attention and the discipline were reinforced with a “shteken", a stick.  Nusen the Melamed used a belt. "When you hit a child with a belt in the rear end, wisdom flows directly to his head'. He used to say.

The Jews in the town lived from week to week and the most important days in the week were Thursdays and Saturdays.  Sabbath was the holy day and Thursday was the day that you earn the money needed to celebrate the Sabbath.  Each Jew, regardless how poor he was had to observe Saturday with a good meal.  So Thursday was a hustling day; the poor men run around the horse driven peasant's buggies trying to trade, buy or sell while the merchant stood in front of the meager stores hawking brown leather shoes, or colorful cottons for dresses.

The women had a field day; they were doing the shopping for the Saturday's treats, bargaining with the peasant women selling loaves of yellow butter wrapped in green leaves, or buying noisy chickens, geese or ducks.

Buying a chicken was a ritual and art that passed from mother to daughter; first you have to weigh the chicken holding it with the right hand, trying to guess its weight, then you have to turn the chicken around, take it under your arm, blow off the feathers around the rear and see how much fat the chicken has.  After the determining that the chicken has a fat rear end, the bargaining process started in earnest.  The trick was to offer a low price and never let the chicken out of your hand.  It was a loud ritual, the peasant women cursing trying to get the chicken back, the buyer arguing loudly that the chicken has not even one ounce of fat and the surprised chicken cackling loudly.

When I reached the ripe age of eleven I graduated to study the Talmud, the ancient laws of the Jews in Babylon.  I really did not have any interest in knowing what are the responsibilities of the owner of a bull that hit a pregnant woman.  I never saw a bull, and couldn't tell apart a bull from an ox or cow.  It was much later in life I recognized the benefits of early extensive intellectual training.  Some famous lawyers or physicians started their development in heder at the early age of three.  This was their real head start.

One of my earliest memorable events is the great fire that almost burned down our house.  Behind our house, there was a small soap factory operated by our neighbor Jupiter. In a small-unheated shed Jupiter produced coarse soap that he sold on an open market stand.  Rain or shine the stand was packed with piles of yellow soap.

One night the factory caught fire, and the drums of the chemicals made the extinguishing of the fire dangerous.  Soon the whole sky was painted with reddish flames, and the dark fumes covered the whole street.

I was awakened by the loud sound of a trumpet and when I looked out through the window I saw a strange spectacle.  Tomaszewski, the Head of the Volunteer Fire Department, dressed in a golden helmet rode the red and gold fire pumper, blaring the trumpet.  The funny part was that he was driving in circles.

Tomaszewski blared the trumpet with such fervor and virtuosity that the walls of Jericho would collapse. The sound of the trumpet did not cause the collapse of the walls, but scared the horses.  One scared horse was pulling to the right while the other pulled to the left. The outcome was that the pumper was running full speed around the market place, in big circles.
It was a sight to behold. Tomaszewski, riding high on the red pumper trying to control the scared beasts and the Volunteer Firemen running behind him.  The Volunteer Fire Department was a very selective and discriminating institution, and besides fighting the fires also maintained the only marching band in the county. To be accepted to the Fire Department one had to play at least one wind instrument; and in reality the Volunteers had strong lungs and were poor runners.

When the pumper and the firemen finally arrived at scene of the disaster, the building was burned down. To show off their skills and to make up for the lost time the whole fire department worked feverishly, flooding the adjacent houses.  As a result the people in were more afraid of a flood than of a fire.

From all the Jewish dishes I liked most was tshulend. You will ask what tschulend is. Tshulend was the dish that helped the Jews to preserve the Sabbath. The Christian observed Sunday, as the day of rest.  It is a day of rest from work but play and enjoyment is permitted.  A Christian can travel on a Sunday, cook, play football, or go for long walks.  A Jew can't, God forbid, do all this things.  With Jews observing the Sabbath is not so simple.  You can't cook; you can't walk even to Synagogue carrying the prayer shawl.  To survive those persuasive injunctions creative detours were necessary.

Let's take for example cooking.  Cooking of any food was considered work, so one is not allowed to cook on Saturday, but how can you observe a holiday without a hot meal?   So the Jews in Galizia invented the Tshulend.  The tshulend was a meal made by leaving a mixture of barley, chunks of meat, beans and potato to simmer in a hot oven for 24 hours.  The fat from meat penetrated the beans and browned the potatoes into a succulent delicious amorphous mass.  The tshulend had a good side effect; it provided a heartburn that lasted to the next Sabbath, and penetrated the man with the feeling of well being.

The Shtetl developed many interesting institutions that made life interesting and provided distraction and entertainment. One such institution was Tunis the matchmaker.  Mr. Tunis was the only matchmaker in Podhajce; he knew everybody and everybody knew him.   They said that Mr. Tunis with his ingenuity single-handedly changed Podhajce, from a small town into a metropolis with 10,000 inhabitants.  

Rain or shine, the matchmaker moved around the town with his big, black umbrella, the sign of his profession.  Meir the town Joker, used to tease him.  "Mr. Tunis, why don't you throw away the umbrella and marry off your own four daughters?  Charity begins at home."  The Matchmaker used to get angry, punching the air with the black umbrella like in the fencing sport.  Then he turned around, grabbed the elbow of a young passerby and said: "Joel, you are a lucky young man. Do I have a match for you.  She is nice, rich and educated girl with a secured future.  Grab Her! Listen to me, grab her."

Another intriguing institutions of the Shtetl, was Semelke with the Gule and his private army. "Semelke with the Gule” -Semelke with the Boil was a third-grade teacher, who was rejected from the Polish army.  To compensate for his rejection he developed an army of his own, an army made up from third graders.  Semelke's "army" was equipped with wooden carbines, toy sabers, and exercised diligently during intermissions.  The hapless boys presented their wooden sticks during the roll calls, while the officers saluted as reported to the army chief, Semelke.  Semelke had his laughingstock army, and nothing could be done.

Names and Dates.
The Jews in Podhajce had problems with names and dates, last names and dates of birth. Problems with names, for example my sister Luba in her first grade she was known as Luba Lehrer, in the second grade she went under the name Luba Treiser.  In the third grade she was known as Luba Kimel.  When she started the fourth grade the teacher asked her “Luba what's your name this year?"

It sounds complicated, but it really was not. Most married Jewish couples exchanged only religious wows.  They did not take a civil wedding because a civil divorce was cumbersome and expensive. When my parents were married my father's last name was Treiser, which was his mother's maiden name, and Luba carried our mother's maiden name Lehrer. When my parents legitimized their union, Luba became a Treiser.  Next year my father retroactively legitimized the marriage of his parents Luba became a Kimel.

The Jews had also troubles registering the birth of their children.  As the old joke goes when a son born to a Jew the father hesitates when to register his birth:  “Shall I register him as born a year later?  No good! He will start his schooling late. Shall register him as born a year earlier, no good, he will face the draft sooner. What is better?"

 "Why don't you register him on his real birthday?' asks his wife.

"Real birthday?" Replied the husband. "It has a fantastic idea.  Why did I think about it? "

Harsh life
Life in the Shtetl was very harsh.  It was difficult to make a living, difficult to get an education, difficult to get a job.  The youth had no future, no prospects of getting married.  In addition to the bleak economic future, Jews faced heavy taxation, chicanery of the Polish authorities, and rampant anti-Semitism.

Before World War I, Poland did not exist, all her territories were occupied by Germany, Russia, and Austria. All annexed areas were integrated economically with the main territories. After WWI Poland became independent but lost all the markets and became a strictly agricultural country in which the Polish aristocracy owned most of the land. The Polish peasants lived in dire poverty and could not support the craftsmen, artisans and small time brokers of the Shtetl.

The conditions were deplorable: limited to economic opportunities fostered high unemployment.  "Parnussy" - making a living was a source of constant worries.  The most burning issue was the lack of opportunities for young people.  For them it was impossible to get an education; even a high school diploma was unattainable.  The Jewish enrollment and state-run schools was limited to about 10 percent.  The Jews constituted 10% of the total population and the Polish authorities tried to limit the number of Jewish students in schools and universities to the same percentage.

Even the few lucky students had a difficult time.  The nearest high school was about 27 kilometers from the Shtetl.  The students had to arise at 5 o'clock in the morning, walk two kilometers to the railroad station, and take an hour's ride on the train, to be as school at 8:00 in the morning.  They came home at night, to do their homework, and prepare for the early rise next morning.

Worst or fall was the fact the education was useless for making a living.  A Jew could not to get a government position, and there was not private industry to provide employment.  I remember that our neighbor, Moses Orenstein, spent his life serving vodka or beer in his noisy smoke filled inn and saving his money and it was able to educate all his children.  His daughter Susan was an unemployed pharmacist and his son's Munio and Dudzio, were unemployed intelligentsia.  They've always dress immaculately and walked around reading books, ashamed to help their parents in serving the vodka, afraid to lose their status.  Their education was useless and even a hindrance in life.

Most of the young people were employed as tradesmen apprentices or store helpers.  A store helper worked about 70 hours a week and earned 10 zloty a month, the equivalent of two dollars.  Our neighbor's son, Srulek, held such a job for about 15 years.  It was a big store and he reached a monthly salary off 35 zloty.  At the age of a 30 he reached his peak earning powers and he couldn't even dream of getting married and starting a family.

My grandmother.
At a young age, I helped my grandmother in her store and there I had my first encounter with the poverty of the Shtetl.  My grandparents owned a big store in the center of the town.  My grandfather managed the wholesale section while grandmother was in charge of the retail part.

My grandmother, Roncia Lehrer, was an exceptional woman who loved music and whenever there was a wedding and town she went to listen to the music, clapping hands to the joyous tunes.  Despite her love of music she never owned a radio.  She rather spent her money helping the poor people.  Grandmother never cared about money.   How much money can you make selling five pieces of sugar for five Groshen or selling half a pound of salt for ten Groshen?  Whatever money she made she used to "lend" it away or rather give away to her clients.

The town was inhabited by poor people, who struggled a whole week to save money for the Sabbath dinner.  During the weekdays one could eat potatoes but on Shabbat of full feast with a boiled chicken was obligatory, for rich and poor alike.  If you don't have money, you borrow it from the rich.  Nobody would dare to refuse a loan for a festive Sabbath meal.

My grandmother had a retinue of poor market women who on Fridays borrowed a zloty or two for the Sabbath, promising to pay it back next week.  By Thursday they paid back half of the loan, so they could again borrow on Friday. The poor market women labored day and night, rain or shine, to make a living. When I was older I realized that my grandmother was really giving away the store and enjoyed doing it.

At the age of six I was a full-fledged store helper, and I managed quite well. When a client asked for five Groshen worth of sugar, I tore a piece of wrapping paper, counted five pieces of sugar, squashed the package and handed over to the customer.  Selling salt was a little more complicated.  For a 10 Groshen transaction I had to tear up a piece of wrapping paper, always laying on the counter, roll it into a cone, tighten up the end of the cone, and fill it with salt.

A Jew in Poland was constantly reminded that he is an outsider.  At school, we had every day fist fights with our Ukrainian or Polish classmates.  The Boy Scouts did not accept Jewish boys.  The streets were reverberating with the cries off Wroblewski, the one hand that invalid, selling his hate mongering paper, “Polska Bez Zydow” - Poland without Jews.
I believe that the best indicator of the harshness of life were the odd, low-income professions that blossomed in the Shtetl.  For example “The Jajecznik" - the Egg-men.  Our area exported eggs, a very perishable product. The Egg-men traveled each morning, on horse and buggies, to the outlying villages to buy fresh eggs.  It was difficult to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, rain or shine, to harness the horses and ride the squeaking buggy on dirt roads, full of mud in the summer and snow in the winter. It was a dangerous and difficult job, but they made a living.

The Ofkejferin-market woman
Only in Podhajce one could find an array of “Ofkejferin "- Chicken- Women who bought chickens from the peasants, killed them, cleaned them, removed the fat and sold pieces of chicken on the market stalls.  In the winter, they used coal ovens to keep their hands from freezing.  It was a hard life, full of sacrifice, to keep their husbands in warm houses studying the Torah. Most of the Jewish market women had learned husbands.

The Water Carrier.
The Shtetl did not have running water.  The town maintained a few hand pumps scattered over the town.  You need water you have to carry from the pump or pay Moses - the Water Carrier.  Moses charged 10 groshen for delivering two pails of fresh, crystal clear water.  It's that was Moses who cornered and maintained the water distribution system of Podhajce. With his two pails and a wooden yoke Moses delivered by the water cold clear water, rain or shine. Perrier could not deliver better tasting water.

Meir Shapse
Meir Shapse was another celebrity of the Shtetl. He was a small man, heavy set, with a white beard covering his open fly. And what a booming voice he had.  The marketplace was a center of the Shtetl and Meir was the epicenter of the marketplace. Here Meir yelled a whole day- "Ten Groshen a pound, women.  Ten Groshen a pound, women." Meir wasn't selling human flesh.  He was just advertising his cherries at the low, low price. Pavarotti could not have done a better job.

Shlomo The Balagule
In the Shtetl Shlomo an institution. Shlojme not a "gevir", as the rich men were called. He did not have an honored seat at the eastern wall of the synagogue, he wasn't called to the Torah every second Saturday, but nevertheless he was liked and even some say admired.

Shlomo owned a squeaking buggy drawn by old, beaten up horse resembling a dried California prune and earned his living as a "balagule" or a horse driver. The living he made was very precarious. For a few pennies Shlomo hired himself to deliver a sack of potatoes, a pile of wood or a bag of salt.

And although Shlomo cornered about 50% of the transportation market of the "Shtetl", his outward appearance did not indicate great success. Summer or winter, rain or shine, Shlomo was dressed in the same old, black “Kapoty” or coat, ripped in the seams and that looked like a quilt with multiple of patches. In the winter he stuffed his booths with straw to keep his feet warm. His competition tried to undermine Shlomo with the claim that his competitive edge he gained by starving his horse.

In the Shtetl, Shlomo was known for the multitude of children he sired, for his good nature and unorthodox approach to life. Some envious souls tried to say that Shlomo doesn't believe in God and although he dutifully attends the services he does not pray, as God commanded.

The truth is that each day Shlomo joyfully attended the services, but during the "Amidah" the Silent prayer when the congregation silently recited the Eighteen Blessings and asked God of forgiveness for their sins and transgressions, Shlomo was engaged in a one-sided conversation with his personal God. Shlomo was doing the talking and God listened.

"God, you know that for myself I ask little, a bowl of soup and a piece of herring and I am happy. I am grateful to you for my devoted wife Pearl, for my growing family. But...for the horse, I beg You for help. This poor creature of yours doesn't know the taste of oats, even a bail of hey is luxury. How long can he survive? What will happen to us if the horse dies? How are you going to support us?"

Shlomo was often chastised for his loose praying habits. To his critics Shlomo used to say, " Do you think that God enjoys your mindless repetition of two thousand year old prayers. He knows them by heart and is bored with them. Do you think that God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob speak only the Holy language - Hebrew? Our God speaks Yiddish also, and believe me it is a lot easier to communicate with the Blessed One in your own language".

People liked to deal with Shlomo; he never haggled for a few pennies, and always told beautiful stories about rich princesses, poor beggars and smart horses. Despite the hardships and deprivations, he never complained and his eyes always radiated like the sun on a cold winter day.

"God blessed me with full house of children and no money, Mendel the Gevir-Mendel the Richman is blessed with full coffers of money and no children. My wife nurses a new baby each year, and his wife nurses the same ulcer year after year. What is better? He used to ask half-jokingly."

Jewish Mafia
Believe it or not, Podhajce had its own Mafia, the band of porters headed by Mirocznik. The porters cornered the loading and unloading market of goods delivered to wholesale merchants.  Mirocznik set the price of 25 pennies per sack.   It was an exuberant fee that the merchant had to pay if they wanted the goods to be delivered without damages.

As the saga goes Mirocznik never paid any taxes and each time to Court Marshal visited his house to collect money he would line up the heavy Mrs. Mirocznik and all his six children, according to the age, alongside the old commode saying: "Money I don't have, but you can take my wife, my children, or the old commode.  The choice is yours."

Of course his generous offer was rejected.  Later when the Russians took over the town Mirocznik became the director of the flourmill.  When he started to steal he was sentenced to five years in prison.  The Russians did not play the Mafia games.

One of the great mysteries, that intrigued sociologist for ages, is the mystique of the Jewish survival. For two thousand years Jews survived the Diaspora, despite their weaknesses, persecutions and dispersion. Many powerful nations appeared on the historic scene, dominated the landscape for a while and vanished. Who today knows what happened to the Vikings, Goths, Visigoths, Celts, and Mayas? Take for example the Mayas, they developed a mighty civilization and suddenly they disappeared with leaving the slightest trace. Disappeared, without leaving a forwarding address.

In the 17th century, during the Uprising of Bogdan Chmielnicki about 60% of the Jews were killed in Podhajce.  Despite that, the Jews maintained their presence in Podhajce for the last 500 years. They survived the killing by the hoards of Ukrainians during the Uprising of Chmielnicki, the persecution by the Turkish Ottoman Army, the rapes and killing by the Cossacks. The Jews mastered the art of survival. How did they do it?

One of the secrets of the Jewish art of survival was creative use of religion in their adaptation to the changing technological and social conditions. All religions make an imprint on the societies. The Moslem religion, which spread through conquests, needed a multitude of devoted, fighting warriors. Polygamy elevated the status of men and enslaved the women. The society was modified to serve the religious dogma.

The Jews took an opposite tack; the religious laws were changed to preserve the dispersed group in a hostile environment. The Jews were not interested in conquests, just survival. The Jews were masters of interpretations of the religious laws, creating a set of injunction that maintained a strong cultural identity through building an invisible gulf that separated Jews from Gentiles. To keep the Jews as a separate group the rabbis came up with many injunction and prohibitions that with the time were became traditions. What is the meaning of tradition? It is a way of life of which the origin and its meaning are lost.

Let's take for the example the Dietary Laws: The innocent injunction of the Torah "Thou shall not seethe a kid in his mother's milk (Exodus 23:19.)", was developed in a complex set of dietary laws that made it impossible for a Jew to share a meal with a Gentile. In all my childhood years I don't remember even one case eating in a non-Jewish home. How can you share a meal with a Gentile when you have to have two sets of dishes, can't mix meat with dairy foods, and you after a meat dish you have to wait four hours before taking a sip of milk?

Another example is use of the skullcap. Nowhere in the Torah is there a requirement a Jew is had to cover his head, at all times. It is true that the Bedouins wandering under the mercilessly hot sun of the desert keep their head covered but for practical matters, not for religious purposes. So what is the purpose of this Jewish tradition?

The Christians, when entering the Church are required to uncover their head as a sign of respect, so to make assimilation of Jews more difficult, the rabbis came up with the injunction that a Jew has always keep his head covered. It was impossible to keep this injunction. How do you keep you head covered when you encounter a person of authority where tipping of ones hat was a necessity? The Jews came up with an ingenuous device, the double-decker hat. Under the normal hat a Jew carried a small skullcap. This trick allowed one to tip his hat and have his covered at the same time. Injunction - detour - tradition - separation.

After the tradition was established, the detour continued, the skullcap was getting smaller and smaller and now two hairpins are required to uphold the tradition and to prevent it from falling off ones head.

Observing the Sabbath. As on of the Sages of Israel remarked, it was the observance of the Sabbath that guarded Israel from assimilation. The Christian observed Sunday, as the day of rest. It is a day of rest from work but play and enjoyment is allowed. A Christian can travel on a Sunday, cook, play football, or go for long walks. A Jew can't, God forbid, do all those things. With Jews, observing the Sabbath is not so simple. You can't cook; you can't even walk even to Synagogue carrying the prayer shawl. To survive those persuasive injunctions creative detours were necessary.

Let's take for example cooking. Cooking of any food was considered work, so one is not allowed to cook on Saturday, but how can you observe a holiday without a hot meal? So the Jews invented the tshulend. The tshulend was a mixture of barley, chunks of meat, beans and potato left to simmer in a hot oven for twenty-four hours. The fat from meat penetrated the beans and browned the potatoes into a succulent delicious amorphous mass. The tshulend had a good side effect; it provided a heartburn that lasted to the next Sabbath, and penetrated the man with the feeling of well-being. In addition to the tshulend a kugel was served, it was a mixture of macaroons baked with cinnamon and raisins and honey. It was served as desert.

Another injunction or restriction dreamed up by the rabbis was an injunction against walking on Saturday and carrying weight. The Rabbis decreed that you can't walk more than 1000 feet and carrying even a handkerchief in pocket is considered work. It was an injunction impossible to keep. How can a pious Jew go to the synagogue to pray without carrying his prayer shawl? It was a Catch 22 situation until another Rabbi came up with the detour; He decreed that if the community is surrounded by a metal wire, symbolizing a fence, than the area fenced in is considered one household and one is allowed to carry a handkerchief in the pocket or carry the prayer shawl.

Even today the very orthodox communities are surrounded by an "eruv" or fence. The side effect of this detour was the creation of the self-imposed ghettos. A pious Jew could not live outside the fenced in community, without violating the Sabbath.

I believe that the important factor that helped the Jews to survive was poverty and . . . taxation. The Jews could not afford to leave the safety net, provided by their brethren. They simply could not afford the assimilation. Taxation or rather self-taxation helped to maintain this safety net.

It is an old, little known fact that a powerful Polish king granted the Jews the right to maintain separate communities with the rights for self-taxation. The taxes saved the Jews from assimilation. Many religious groups use the tithe method, but on a volunteer basis. One can pay and one can cheat a little. No Church asks for a copy of the 1040 form. With the Jews it was different, you pay as you are assessed or you are ostracized.

The community raised taxes according to its needs, paid by each member according to his means. Who determined the means? A committee, of course. Every year, at the taxation time the whole town was in an uproar. "Why is Moses will pay 300 zloty, while I have to pay 500 zloty? This is injustice that calls for heavenly intervention." Most of the time, the Heavens did not intervene and people paid through their noses, and nobody resigned from the Kehilla - the Jewish community.

What did the politicians from the Kehilla do with the collected taxes? They prudently invested them in mutual funds. But due to the fact that there was no Dreyfus Jewish Fund or Jewish In-Fidelity Fund, they invested in funds with low capitalization and high social return, like the Torah Education Fund, Orphan's Fund, Poor Girl Dowry Fund, Burial society fund, etc.

All those funds, administered by honest people of means, supported poor orphans, paid for their education, provided dowries for poor girls and loans for merchant in trouble. The Jews were their brother's keepers. This cohesiveness created a feeling of security that gave each member of the community the assurance that his family will not die of starvation.

The Jews survived millenniums in the Diaspora by developing, decentralized, local authorities that guided them in time of peril and organized their lives in time of peace. They did this by adapting the religious life. I remember that as a kid I sneaked into the Polish or Ukrainian Church, and was awed by the ambience. Everything was centralized; all the pews faced the altar, the focal point of the Church. It was difficult to talk during the services or mass. Most you could do is to watch the stained glass windows.

The religious life of the Christians was well organized and centralized. When you go to Church you listen to the priest that reports to the Bishop, who in turn reports to the Archbishops who reports to the Cardinal. It was a straight line of command. Everybody knew his place in life and everybody had to conform.

With the Jews it was different, a complete decentralization and autonomy of the religious life. First of all there were about twelve synagogues, each with a different ambience and flavor. The rabbis were teachers, servants of the community and not ministers. Next, in the synagogues people sat at tables, directed toward the center of the synagogue, toward the podium where the Torah was read, the Belamer. People were sitting on benches facing each other. The most honored and most expensive seats were the seats at the eastern wall. The benches along the eastern wall, developed into a mini country club.

What do you do during the services when the prayers, repeated a thousand times, you know by heart? You talk. You talk about business deals or family affairs. At times the noise of the conversations drowned out the prayers. At such times, the "Shames", the beadle banged his fist on the prayer book. My guess is that he was afraid of competition; God might be more interested in listening in to the creative business deals than to pay attention to the familiar, thousand years old prayers.

The Jews survived by developing a closed end society with there own symbolic royalty the Torah and the Dream of Return to Zion. I always tried to understand how did the Jewish people survive 2000 years of persecutions, without the country without the state?  The answer lays an adaptation.  The Jews mastered the art of survival through religious adaptation.

Torah - Symbolic Royalty
To survive, the Jews developed a new and national structure, adaptable to various environments, suitable for the future generations. With the passing of time, idealistic symbolism substituted the physical existence of the Temple. In place of the national structure, the priesthood, the aristocracy, the Jews placed the veneration for the Torah and the esteem for men of learning. “The Torah is a higher state than the priesthood or royalty." Ethics of Our Fathers 6:6.

Even today, it is possible to observe the veneration and honors awarded to the Torah. The Torah is a symbol of Royalty, and when the Ark is opened during the prayers; the entire congregation rises in esteem. During the services the Torah is carried about the synagogue, wearing a crown of silver and a mantle of velvet, worshipers reach out with a prayer book or prayer shawl and then kisses the spot where it touched the Torah. The Torah personifies and substitutes the Royalty, lost by the Jews 2000 years ago.

Return To Zion.
To survive the Jews had to develop a symbolic state that will substitute the loss of the Homeland, and thus the idea of Shuvat Zion was created. Jews started to idealize the past. Return to Zion - "Shuvat Zion" was incorporated into the liturgy, and became a national obsession. "W'al yedai chatoejnu gulinu m'arcejnu” (And because of our sins we were banished from our Homeland).

Each nation has some aspirations embedded into their consciousness like independence, conquest, glory, development, national honor, etc. The Jews had one goal- Shuvat Zion (Return to Zion). For or hundreds of years the Jews were living in Diaspora considered their life only temporary. They waited for the Messiah, with the dream of return run to Zion. The ideal of Shuvat Zion made them a nation of dreamers, a nation of mystics.

Martyrdom - Kiddush Hashem
In order to survive in dispersion, the Jews had to abandon their military traditions, the emphasis on heroic exploits, and learn humility, humbleness, and submission to harassments of their rulers. The idea of martyrdom helped the Jews face persecution without fighting back; it gave the individual a rationale to sacrifice his life for the community in the name of God, for the honor of Israel. The idea of martyrdom was incorporated into the liturgy.

Crusaders considered killing of the Jews the best way to prove their Christian devotion, and hatred toward the Jews was an expression of the love for Christ. German Crusaders started their long march toward the Holy Land by killing the Jews and looting of their property. In 1096, in the year of the First Crusade, many Jewish communities were massacred in the Rhineland and a beautiful prayer" Av Harachamim" (Merciful Father) was composed by the survivors.

 "May the Father of mercies who dwelled on high, in His mighty compassion, remember those loving, upright and blameless ones, the holy congregations, who laid down their lives for the sanctification of the divine name. ...May our God remember them for the good with the other righteous of the world, and avenge the blood of the people which has been shed."

The Duality of Existence.
In addition to the safety net, the Jewish religion provided many other benefits such: a higher standard of living, higher cultural life, extensive family life and joy for the children. Most Jews were poor and lived in poverty six days a week.  The Sabbath was not only the day of rest, it was a day of exaltation when a Jew led a new exulted life, resembling the life of aristocracy: The scrubbed thoroughly house was spotlessly clean, the family was dressed in the best clothing, no work. The food was delicious, and the time to spend on socializing in the synagogue or at home.  On the Sabbath even the poorest beggar felt like a King. One day in the week, the Jew lived like a King.  It was a highly beneficial duality of existence.

The beneficial effects of religion were felt also a whole week.   My grandfather, for example, had only of fourth grade education is but he was versed in the psychological and philosophical concepts, expounded in the Jewish religious writings like in the Ethics of our Fathers (The Pirkey Avot), which he often quoted verbatim. For example:

Who is a rich man? - A man that is satisfied with his lot.

Who is a respected man?  A man who respects others.

Who is a learned to men?  A man who learns from others.

Who is in an esteemed to men?  A man who holds others in a highly esteem.

Who is a strong man?  A man who conquers this temper.

How do judge a man?  By his temper, his money and the way he holds the liquor.

Religious Life.
Religious life was multifaceted.  Besides the prayers, it provided pride and fulfillment for the rich and endless source of joy for the children.

 The Shtetl had an assortment of synagogues; first was the “Alte Shil”, the old synagogue.  It was a tall structure that once served as a Turkish mosque, and had very bad acoustics.  Adjacent to the Old Shul was the Brajte Shul a more modern structure with one big Shul and two small independent synagogues. The Brajte Shul was the most prestigious synagogue attended by the richest people.  How were the synagogues supported?  Mostly by vanity.  

The Jews in the Shtetl were good businessman that discovered that people with money were looking for recognition.  "Koved" they called it.  They decided to make money for the synagogue by marketing the Koved and let the market forces determine the value of the recognition.   To be called to the Torah, especially on high holidays was a mark of recognition and on the last Saturday,  before the holidays an auction was held during the services and the highest bidder got the most  honorable "Aliyas". It is amazing that at prestigious "Mafter" could catch up to 200 zloty, more than a yearly income of 50 percent of the families of Podhajce.

It is amazing how much joy and pleasure religion provided to the Jewish children.  Each holiday, and the Jews had many holidays, had a special flavor for the children.

Passover was a joyous holiday; most of the children got new suits or new shoes and helped in baking matzos. The matzo requires making of perforations, which nowadays are machine made.  In our times the perforation were made by hand using small clock gears.  Then came the Seder with the four questions and later we drunk real wine, not the boiled syrup from dried grapes used for Saturday's.

Purim was a joyous holiday, a carnival type holiday.  Older children made themselves masks and proceeded in collecting small change.  On Purim the whole town looked like a ghost town, with many Queens Esters and Hamans hung in effigies.  A Hanukkah, the festival flights, we enjoyed the Drejdl, the potato pancakes and candle lighting ceremonies.

Even Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the day of fasting, brought lots of joy to children. Older people kept small bottles of ammonia to revive themselves and refrain from exhaustion.  So we children, also carried small bottles of ammonia, smelling each other bottles, and bragging that only our was the real McCoy.

Tish'a B'av, the lamentatious holiday that marks the destruction of the ancient Temple, was a time for mourning for the adults congregating in the synagogue.  The children, on the other hand, enjoyed collecting and throwing tickets into each other's hair. All other l Jewish holidays like Simchat Torah, Sukkoth had different flavors and brought much joy to the children.

Life Oriented by Religion
I believe in the Shtetl survived because the Jewish religion was life oriented.  It was designed to protect and support life, and individual land communal life.  L'Haim -To Life!  This was not only a toast; it was a philosophy and the reason of existence.  First of all the Jewish religion is not preoccupied with afterlife is.  The notion of Messiah, the Redeemer, is loosely defined in the Jewish religion.  Messiah is not the divine figure, but the leader who will redeem the world, and brink all the Jews, the living and dead, to the Promised Land.  The Jewish Messiah is more a mythical figure, and folklore figure, then a theological one.

The Jewish theology is free from dogma.  Shma Israel.....  The belief in a monotheistic God is the whole dogma, everything else is commentary.  The famous fable about to Rabbi Akiva, for defined Judaism as....  "Don't do unto others.  The rest is commentary" .  In addition to the Jewish religion has no vertical organization, like Bishops, Cardinals or Pope.  The Rabbis are only teachers and not priests. They serve the community and are paid by the community.

The lack of dogma, coupled with the lack of a priestly cast, lack of centralized or authority, made the Jewish religion adaptable.  Adaptable to preserve the most precious assets, the Jewish life. For the Jews, facing continuous persecutions and hatred, the preservation of Jewish life and culture was the most important issue.  This preservation of the culture was facilitated by the high almost universal literacy of the Jewish masses.  To be a Jew, one had to be able to read the Hebrew prayer books.  A Jew was required to pray for himself and to establish his own contact with God.

All those methods of survival developed during centuries, separate culture, diffused religious authorities, lack of military training, worked for 2000 years, until Hitler came but turned out to be disastrous during the Holocaust. And now this world is gone, never to be seen again.

In 1937 new startling developments took place on the world arena.  In Germany, Hitler rose to power and the persecution of the Jews started. Soon afterwards the first wave of German refugees hit the shores of Poland and the town felt deep anxieties of the approaching war.

In Poland, after the death of Marshall Pilsudski in 1935, a clique of incompetent colonels grabbed power and created a semi-fascist government, modeled on the Fascist regimes.  They started inept efforts of modernizing the backward country.

Poland created its own concentration camp - Bereza Kartuska, where Communists and members of other opposition groups, were interred without a court order.

Next the Colonels began to solve the Jewish Question. "Poland had too many Jews, 10% of the population is much too much," declared the Colonels.  Small-scale pogroms like the one in Przytyk, were organized to push the Jews toward emigration.  Soon a total ban on ritual slaying of animals was hotly debated in the Polish Parliament. The welfare of the slaughtered animals suddenly became the most important issue facing the governing clique.  The Colonels' line of thinking was simple and clear.  You deny the Jews kosher meat and they will have to leave the country.  Without kosher meat a Jew can't survive a single day.

The ruling clique accepted the dire poverty of the population but was concerned with the welfare of the slaughtered animals.  "The ritual slaughter is inhuman" cried the colonels.  In reality the opposite is true.  In ancient Rome suicide was committed by cutting the veins, causing a painless death.  The Jewish ritual slaughter of animals is based on a similar method - cutting the aorta of the animal with an extremely sharp knife. The ritual laws forbid the use a knife with a smallest nick in the steel blade.  I remember scenes when a slaughtered chicken walked a few yards trying to pick up some grain before throwing up the wings, turning the head toward the sun and peacefully collapsing.

In Poland 90% of the population owned only 10% of the land; the Polish gentry owned the other 90% of the land. The society needed was land reforms and not pogroms or anti-Semitic hysteria.  The Jews were used a scapegoats to divert the attention from the dire poverty of the population.

A few years before the war, hate spreading anti-Semitic newspapers became popular.  The most hateful was the paper "Polska bez Zydow" - Poland without Jews.  It was modeled on the Nazi paper the "Sturmer", and featured caricatures of Jews with crooked nose and blood dripping hands.  The Jews were blamed for all the ills of the societies going back 2000 years, starting with the crucifixion.  Another, well known anti-Semitic newspaper was the Kurier, edited by Father Maksimilian Kolbe, who later was canonized and became a saint.

Next, the clique called "Sanacja," or Cleaners turned their attention to the exterior looks of the towns.  Again their thinking was simple and clear.  To be prosperous a country has to look prosperous.  The Prime Minister, Slavoj Skladkowski, decreed that all that all storefronts are to be painted in a gray color, all fences whitewashed, and the outhouses painted in deep camouflaging green color.  "My green outhouse with the round opening in the door looks like a bunker. I think that the minister wants to the Germans to think that Podhajce is a fortress defended a network of green painted bunkers - a new Maginot line, joked Reb Meir, the town joker.

In one week Poland consumed more paint than in its all history.  Even the peasants had to drop the harvesting to paint the outhouses. Soon a uniform coat of paint covered all the economic ills of the country.

Having achieved a high prosperity level by painting the outhouses, the Colonels started a campaign to get colonies.  "Yes, Poland being a first rate military power deserves colonies.  England has colonies, France has colonies, and even Italy got Ethiopia.  Why not Poland?"  How do you get colonies?  Simply, by organizing rallies.  Podhajce saw its biggest political rally.  A thousand people marching around the marketplace carrying big red and white banners.  "We want colonies.  We deserve Colonies."  Chanted the Polish patriots including Bibryk, the town's fool.

A "Polish Colonial League" was organized to impress the world with the injustice done to the Polish people.  As Tomasiewicz, the half-blind town crier put it “Poland was the bulwark of Christianity for ages. We deserve colonies."  His nephew, the commander of the horse driven fire engine, agreed with him.  "We Poles are ferocious fighters. If France and England want our help in stopping fascism and communism they have to cede us some colonies."

The Polish Army was projecting an image of might.  Each officer with his hand tailored suit, shining boots and silver braids could easily walk in on any stage to play the role of a prince in Lehar's operetta.  The soldiers were tough and rugged; they did not use socks, just long green bandages called "Onuce" that were easy to wash but hard to put on.

Then the military clique started also a program of intensive armaments.  The school children had to do without lunches and contribute to the armament race.  For the collected 150 zlotys a new rifle was purchased and presented to the Polish Army.  A special Army detachment from the 55 Infantry Brigade of Brzezany was sent to accept the riffle and a big ceremony was held in the marketplace. In his acceptance speech a brave Lieutenant held up to the children the vision of a Poland a great Power with borders extending from Sea to Sea, from the Baltic to the Black Sea - "Polska od Morza do Morza".  "Yes. We Poles should rule the Ukraine, not Russia. “Echoed, Tomasiewicz the Fireman.

Poland did not get the Madagascar as a colony, but the big armaments paid off. In 1938 Poland helped Hitler to dismember Czechoslovakia and was rewarded with a small strip of Czech territory called Zaolzie.  The Polish cavalry proudly marched into Czechoslovakian territory and linked up with the German tank columns.  The Colonels made their first kill, and Bibryk had a chance to welcome the return of Zaolzie to the motherland.  Poland was on her way to become a first rate military power.

The summer of 1939 the anxiety level hit the ceiling.  Even our forlorn town felt the anxieties caused by the gathering of the dark clouds, the warlike threats of Nazi Germany.   The Jews were scared and uneasy, the romantic Poles looked toward the repeating the glory of World War II. The Ukrainians, stirred by the German emissaries, looked forward to future looting and settling the accounts with the Jews and Poles, and talked loudly about an Independent Ukraine.

A month before the outbreak of World War II the pace of life changed rapidly; a complete blackout was enforced, the windows were taped to protect them against bomb blast; cellars used for storage of cheese and pickles were converted into bomb shelters. The leisurely pace of life was interrupted with countless air raids alarms that sent people into the pickle-filled flimsy cellars.

The summer of 1939 was exceptionally beautiful and the harvest was plentiful, but everybody was talking about the war.  On such a warm sunny day the blind Town Crier started to deliver the ominous white call-up slips. Mothers of young boys fainted on his sight.

The white slip instructed them to come the next day to the City Hall with a three days supply of food.  At the City Hall a Sergeant sitting behind a small desk checked their names and they joined the group of inductees.  The group consisted mostly of peasant boys that came with their homemade wooden suitcases, tied with rough flax string.

After a while the marching group was formed, and was left standing for two hours in the hot sun, waiting for the marching band. Soon the marching band of the Volunteer Fire Department arrived playing a World War I march, glorifying the Polish Cavalry.  In front of us a group of urchins was running trying to imitate their martial pace.

Soon, the town experienced the first war   panic. The loudspeaker announced a coded message “Nadchodzi Roma" or Roma is coming.  The piercing whining of the sirens created an unbelievable havoc.  Stores were hastily shut, children cried, mothers desperately searching for their children; the town took on an appearance of a ghost town. It was ingenious code that sent people to the improvised shelters in a 200 mile radius from a single German plane.  The so-called LOP the civil defense organization, did more damage to the country that the German planes.

A week later, two German planes   did arrive to face the fire from an improvised machine gun.  A brave Polish lieutenant showed remarkable control and ingenuity.  Wanting to impress the German pilot with modern technology, he collected his platoon and ordered them to shoot in sequence to mimic a machine gun operation.  When by design or mistake the German plane left, the Lieutenant declared himself a military genius.  "My ingenuity saved Podhajce from destruction," he proudly declared.

Soon the town was flooded with the masses of the disorganized units of the Polish Army, retreating toward the Rumanian border.  The narrow streets and dirt roads were clogged with a mass of people, horse driven wagons, artillery pieces and field kitchens.

The Polish Army had a few motor vehicles, the infantry was self-propelled and the transport units used horses for drawing the supply wagons, field kitchens and artillery pieces. The higher Army echelon had their private cars, but there was a shortage of gasoline, so the inventive Polish officers used real horse-power to pull their small cars.  It was quite a sight to see a husky orderly sitting on the hood of a small car trying to steer two scared white horses. He was driving the colonel to the safety of the Rumanian border.

The day I witnessed the first execution, and it shook me to the bone. A brave lieutenant, saw a civilian wearing military boots walking in the opposite direction than the disorganized army.  Suspecting that the man is a deserter he approached him swiftly, and pulled off his hat.  Recognizing the military crew cut he pulled out his revolver and shot the hapless deserter.  I was shocked. Human life was so cheap, no court martial, no inquiry and a young life was terminated so needlessly.

A few days later when the collapse of Poland became obvious, the town's people started to supply civilian clothes to the deserters and their green uniforms and weapons were stored away in the synagogue, under the platform used for reading the Torah, the Belamer.

My father bought a pair of horses and a buggy, loaded the whole family and left for the Rumanian border, to be stuck about 10 miles from our town. The main road was clogged and congested with the retreating Polish Army units so we took some the dirt roads.  The first stop we made in a minuscule town of Wisniowczyki.

The town comprised of a Post Office, four stores and unbelievable swarms of flies.  They used to say that Wisniowczyki are the Flies Capital of the World.  There was not even a single radio in the town, no newspapers, and the people lived in complete oblivion to the war.

The appearance of refugees on the eve of the High Holidays stirred up a panic.  Jews dressed in holiday garb, black caftans and hats with the fox’s tail were congregating in the synagogue.  "You can't desecrate the holidays, wait two days, and later you will proceed," they argued.  My mother felt guilty that she left her parents behind and influenced father to wait a few days in Wisniowczyki.

 Two days later  . . . it was too late. The Russians were already on the move, the escape route was blocked and the family returned to Podhajce and soon I witnessed the entrance of the Red Army.  A horse mounted Russian disarmed the last Polish policemen, Schmidt.  For me it was a sad scene.  I felt that my childhood came to an abrupt end. I was full of apprehension and very sad.

In two short weeks Hitler conquered Poland and ceded half of it to Stalin, although for short time only.  Our town was annexed to Russia and overnight it changed drastically.  Gone were the blue uniforms of the Polish police, gone was Tomaszewski with his Volunteer Fire Department, gone was the Town Crier reading in halting voice the proclamation of the Mayor.  Even the Polish Mayor was gone.

Red became the prevailing color; red flags were fluttering in the wind, red banners were strung over the streets, the militia patrolling the streets wore red armbands.  A "Red Paradise" was swiftly established.

People were glad that they avoided the German occupation and the expectations ran high.  The poor people expected that the Communists will take away the resources from the rich and distribute them to the poor.  An equalization of the wealth.  Instead, the Russian took away from the rich and from the poor alike, and the equalization of the poverty took place.

In some respect's life improved for many people.  The establishing an extensive bureaucracy created employment; free education created a cultural boom.  Only after the Communists started to drain the meager resources of the poor society, the "Workers Paradise" turned sour.

The rubble, the Russian currency with little buying power, was declared on par with the Polish currency, the zloty, and the town was flooded with Russian soldiers on a buying spree.  A Russian soldier walked into a watchmaker store, asked for the price of watch and bought a dozen of watches.  A Russian officer that walked in to buy a piece of chocolate, walked out with a half of the store.

After a while, it dawned on the merchants that there must be a shortage of goods in Russia, and the goods sold were not replaceable.  Suddenly shortages developed.  Merchant hid the goods and a black market developed.  The Russians clamped down.  A neighbor of ours was sentenced to five years of prison for hiding ten lemons.  Stalin believed that all the economic and social problems of a society could be solved with the proper dosage of terror.

Soon the Workers Paradise featured stores with empty shelves, long bread lines and ample terror.  Stalin's was a genius in the revolutionary changing of reality.  All the problems were easily solved with changing of the meaning of words: tyranny was called democracy, servitude was called freedom, and lack of merchandise was called abundance.

At schools, teachers asked first graders to pray and ask God for candy and when the results were negative they prayed to Stalin and got the much-desired candy.  When you pray to "Batko Stalin"- Father Stalin, your wishes are coming true, the scared teachers told the trusting kids.

The dictionary changes were reinforced with a few five-year prison sentences. The Russians introduced a modular justice system.  A five-year prison sentence was the minimum base sentence, followed by ten, fifteen or twenty years.  People learned to keep their mouths shut.

The ongoing revolution was accomplished by random use pervasive terror, coupled with relentless propaganda and helped with taxation.  In an ingenious way, the Communists used taxation to change the society.  The so-called rich people were simply “Nationalized," that means that they were taken away their businesses and driven out from their houses.  The poor merchants were taxed to death and forced to abandon their evil ways of making a living by trading.  Taxation without mercy sealed the revolution.

The Communists authorities used the Polish tax records to meter out tax adjustments going back ten years.  "You cheated the Polish authorities, by underpaying taxes, the Proletarian state you can't cheat.  We are too smart." They doubled tripled and quadrupled the back taxes, and the small storekeepers went out of business.

Afterwards the Communists adjusted the religious life of the populations by putting a heavy tax burden on the churches and synagogues.  Many small synagogues closed down.

Soon, serious shortages developed and Meir the Town's Joker used to say we are going to live like on permanent holiday.  We will be dressed like for the Purim Carnival and eat like during Yom Kippur fast.  The relentless Communist propaganda declared that people in are living a happy life. I myself discovered by coincidence that there is a grain of "truth" in this statement.

When shortage developed, people started to panic buying of all goods that appeared on the empty shelves. One day I was passing in front of a store when a shipment of salt arrived. Immediately a long line of people was formed, with me at the head of the line. When I was finally admitted to the store, the salesman asked me for the bag.  "You have to bring your own bag, we don't have bags."

After a moment of hesitation I pulled down my shirt, and using the sleeves, tied a knot around the collar, and presented my improvised bag to the salesman.  Then, I watched with pride how my shirt filled up with white, crispy salt. Elated, I brought home a full shirt of salt and I was proud and happy. It looks like shortages of good and foods do create happiness.

Soon, shortages of bread developed. It was unbelievable that in the Ukraine, with is black rich soil, the breadbasket of Poland, there could be a shortage of bread.  But the shortages were real. Lines before the stores were forming from 5 o'clock in the morning.  Before going to school, I had to stand in line, to pick up a half of loaf of bread. Fortunately, my father taught me a trick that cut down my early rising to every second day.

There were two bread lines, one in front of the bakery and the other inside the store.  My trick was to get the half loaf of bread at the counter, hide it under the arm, and get back to the end of the line, to get another half a loaf of bread. Net day I could sleep longer, and I was happy.

Afterwards, Stalin increased the dosage of the senseless, unpredictable terror, through resettlements to Siberia.  At night, the victims got a knock at the door and a half an hour later they were on the way to the railroad cars with the chimneys, taking them on a thousand mile journey to Siberia.

First the Russian took all the families of the Polish officers.  Ironically they also took Jews.  One of the victims was the Fink family.  The Finks owned a small dry goods store, and hardly made a living.  One of their sons, Lonek Fink was an extremely bright young man, who without attending high educate passed all the required examines and earned a high school diploma.  Because of his education he reached the rank of a lieutenant of the reserves of the Polish Army.  He was the only Jewish officer in his brigade and the only unemployed officer of the reserve.  All this Polish counterparts held government position. Because of their son's military position the family was resettled to Siberia, where they survived the war, while their son was killed in Katyn.

At the next resettlements the Russian took all the Polish settlers who received land allotments during the agrarian reforms.  The paranoid Stalin did not trust them.   With this transport went also the father and the family of our Communist Mayor - Erde.

The father of our Mayor Moses Erde had an unusual profession for a Jew, he was a beekeeper. A few years ago he bought a parcel of land from a Polish settler.  This land deed qualified him as Polish settler, an "unreliable element,” to be frozen to death in Siberia.

Our Mayor, his son was, a Communist who served time in the Polish Concentration Camp - Bereza Kartuska.  He valiantly tried to get his family released, but to no avail.  The whole town watched how he dejectedly accompanied his father on the ride to the chimney wagons. One thing I have to say about the Russian bureaucracy, it was orderly and without imagination.  All resettlements took place only on Friday night, and if they didn't find the victims home, they were safe, no bad feelings. They could assume their regular life on Saturday morning, no questions asked.

The "resettled" people were given half an hour to pack their belongings and driven by wagon to the railroad station, to the train called “Echelon".  The train comprised of red freight cars equipped with black iron wood stoves.  The people called them "Chimney cars."

The “Chimney Cars" arrived usually on Friday afternoons and soon it became a habit for people to sneak in to the railroad station to check if the "cars with the chimneys," did arrive.  One Friday morning my father asked me to go to the railroad station to look for the chimneys.  I found them. I saw a long row of brown cars with the round metal chimneys sticking out from the small windows.  The "Echelon" the train was ready for the victims; that night we did not sleep at home.

During the third wave of resettlements, the largest of all, only Jews were taken.  After the outbreak of the war, Jews from the western part of Poland escaped the advancing German army.  Mostly men escaped, leaving behind their families. Now, they wanted to return to reunite with their wives.  In Stalin's eyes, this was a criminal offense. At night the KGB struck out and about 350,000 Jews were resettled.

Soon our term came.  Our family owned a big store located in the middle of the town, next to the marketplace.  We owned a two-story building, one of the few two-story buildings in Podhajce. The retail and wholesale store sections took up the first floor and on the second floor were our living quarters.

One day a group of Communist officials forced their way through the closed store and declared that they are the "Nationalization Committee." A neighbor, Josel Shechter, headed the group.   He assembled the whole family in the bedroom and informed us that we are being nationalized, that means that all business and personal property are taken over by the state.  Each member of the family is allowed to take two pairs of shoes; two suits, two shirts, etc.   All other personal belongings, all furniture and the store itself are nationalized and will belong from now on, to the Socialist State.

My mother broke down and started to cry.  "For twenty years we worked day and night, now we are thrown out on the street like dogs.  Why?  I ask you why?  Aren't we human beings?"

Josel Shechter was our neighbor's son and my mother's schoolmate.  He never married, and was supported by his old father. He never worked a day in all his life.  Now, he was a big shot, advising the Russians how to exploit the newly conquered territories.

My mother turned to her old schoolmate. "Josel, you know how hard we worked. We worked from 5 o'clock in the morning to 12 o'clock at night.  Are we entitled something for our labors?"

"You are bourgeois and you are being nationalized," answered stiffly Josel Shechter.  "And besides, you are slandering the Proletarian State with you insinuations of injustice done to you."

"Josel, I am asking only for my personal belongings, some dresses, underwear and stockings I wore.  That's all that I am asking for" cried my mother.

We started to collect the meager belongings, when Josel observed that my father picked up a wedding ring from the night table and put it on his finger. "Put the ring back.  You are not allowed to take any jewelry," barked Josel Shechter.

"But this is my wedding band, am I not allowed keeping my wedding band?" Objected my father.

"You didn't have it on your finger and you can't take it now. . . That's the rule."

"Josel, you know that we were married for twenty years. Your Father attended our wedding.  This is s really his wedding ring. Let him keep it," pleaded my mother.

"Nothing doing,” answered Josel, "I have to stick to my instructions. Please hurry up we still have other stops to make."

Crying, my mother pulled off her own wedding band and threw it into the drawer.  "We were married for twenty years; we don't need golden rings to prove it."

In the middle of the winter we were thrown out of our house without a place to live.  "Tough luck," commented Chairman Shechter, “for twenty years you exploited the poor people, I feel no mercy for you."  My hard working parents became exploiters and the freeloaders like Josel became the exploited workers. Another adjustment of the Communist dictionary.

Luckily, the Russian officer that took over the apartment had more heart than the Jewish neighbors.  He let us live in an unheated empty store back room, until we find a place to live.  In a few weeks the whole family left Podhajce and moved to another city - Rohatyn.

"There nobody knows us and will get rid of the stigma 'Bourgeois' that is haunting us here.” declared father.