(Editor's Note: This colony was known
to the Jews as Peness and was located two versts from Trudoliubovka and
five versts from Grafskoy. There lived the Gordon family, related to the
Pogorelskys, and through them to the Komisaruks).
Pages 241-247 `Nechaevka'
by Moshe Avigal (Beigel)
"My colony, like the rest of the colonies in the Governments of
Yekaterinoslav and Kherson, exists no more. But it is engraved deeply in
my memory. Nechaevka was one of the agricultural colonies in
Yekaterinoslav Government, and not one of the larger of them. There were
in all about fifty households stretching around both sides of one street.
The houses, large houses of plaster of one story and thatched roof; the
yards were large, about a half desyatin, were narrow and long, reaching to
the fields which surrounded the colony. Aside from the dwelling (and
sometimes two houses opposite each other on both sides of the entrance if
the families were large), which one would find in the front of the yard,
behind the house was a cowshed, horse stable, a small chicken coop and a
shed for a cart, plough, grinding wheels and other primitive implements.
"In some yards were planted fruit trees and vegetable patches. The rest
of the yard served to grow grain, corn and melons. The comparatively wide
street was covered in summer with dust and in winter, deep mud which one
could not cross without high boots. Along the length of the street, close
to the houses, were narrow paths covered here and there with wooden planks
to tread on during the rainy season.
"It is superfluous to tell that there was no lavatory in our house and
certainly there were no baths. One's needs were done outside, at the end
of the yard in the open, in a sort of channel, which separated the yards
from the fields. We used to bathe (in the summer) in a small, shallow
pool, which was used also for the horses.
"In the center of the colony in a small yard stood a small synagogue,
built of dark red baked bricks. Opposite was a new building, the
government school. Attached to the school was a large yard, a whole
desyatin, which was supposed to be used for cultivation of vegetables and
fruit by the students with the guidance of the teachers. But in practice
the farmers worked here in turn to earn taxes due to the government to pay
"In my memory the colony remains as a gray mass which only in spring
and summer appeared patches of green. So I saw it whenever I returned home
in a primitive wagon without springs seated on boards for a distance of
20-25 kilometers from the adjacent railway station at Tsarakonstantinovka.
The wagon traveled along an un-surfaced dirt road with wild bushes on
either side covering the flat plain as far as the eye could see.
"Like all the colonies in our district Nechaevka was entirely
agricultural. All the families (about 50) worked the land with their own
hands. Thus we all bore in our passports the title `worker of the land'.
There was nobody who did not work his land, he, his wife and children.
Even the sole shopkeeper and the Shokhet, the Starosta (# headman) and the
Melamed, all worked, except for the rabbi and the government teacher.
"I do not recall if there was amongst us, in all seventeen colonies of
Yekaterinoslav Government, more than a Minyan (#ten) of Zionists.
"If the sowing and ploughing was carried out by the colonists
themselves, the harvest required hired help from the neighboring villages.
At that season the colony was full of non-Jews from the village Heitsur.
At times the youth from both groups had fun together but despite this I
never heard of one single case of a serious relationship between a Jewish
youth with a Christian girl.
"Amongst us dwelt one Christian family which had remained, like in many
other colonies, from the time of the founding of the colonies. The second
generation of Germans spoke fluent Yiddish and acted like us in every
respect except religion, although they had no place of worship. The only
distinguishing factors were that they did not intermarry with the Jews and
served as `Shabat Goyim' for the elderly people and bought the Khametz on
"Grain crops were the main agricultural endeavor, wheat, barley, and
some corn. Orchards were almost non-existent, at least in our colony.
There were only a few trees in the yards. About 1909 the Jewish
Colonization Association (ICA) financed the development of fruit trees, in
the main grapevines. Also sheep were not raised by us, nor bees until the
beginning of ICA's activities. On the other hand in every yard was a
chicken coop near or part of the cowshed. During the day the chickens
wandered freely in the yard and the young children would play in the
chicken coop whilst their parents and brothers and sisters worked.
"I do not remember ever seeing a dog in our colony throughout my
childhood nor when I returned after several years as a teacher in the
government school and in the neighboring colony Grafskoy. Whilst there
were no dogs in either of these two colonies, I well remember the many
cats of varied colors and sizes which were tolerated and welcomed in every
room since they were the sole cure for the many mice.
"Our ancestors, the founders of the colonies came from Kovno Government
in Lithuania, most of them from the city of Shavli where they were
shopkeepers and craftsmen. The elders who were youngsters when their
parents came from that far-off place, told of the hardships of the long
journey and of the early years of difficult work to build houses, dig
wells, and their introduction to agriculture by the German farmers who
often related to them like Pharoah's taskmasters. They suffered many
hardships until they learnt, including drought and disease until they
succeeded in the second and third generation.
"The elders told how they drove off with clubs and pitchforks the
peasants of the district who rose up in great numbers against them during
the pogroms of the eighties. In the pogroms of 1905the colonies were not
affected at all probably due to the recollection of how the Jews resisted
in the earlier period.
"All the colonists knew to read and write Yiddish, a chapter in the
weekly portion, many with Rashi's commentary. There were those who knew a
little of `Ein Yaakov' and could write a letter in `The Holy Tongue'. It
was taken for granted that the traditions were acceptable to all and many
could study `ShulkhanArukh'. A few amongst us knew a chapter of `Mishnayot'
and something of `Gemarah' and some who even read a little of the Haskalah
literature. Isolated ones could read or write in Russian or speak a
garbled sentence which was half Russian and half Ukrainian. The colonists
did not need the national language other than in special circumstances
such as to give directions to the hired help at harvest time or for
selling produce in the cities, a function usually carried out by Jewish
intermediaries who lived in the cities.
"With the establishment of the government elementary school the
knowledge of Russian improved amongst the younger generation. With the
awakening of the freedom movements in Russia from 1905 onwards, political
groups were formed amongst the youth including Socialists and some
Zionists. At times they would gather to hear lectures or read literature."