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Memoirs of Mordekhai (Mottel, Mark) Komisaruk

Free translation and précis of the original Yiddish, Hebrew and Russia manuscript

by Chaim Freedman

as are the endnotess

This notebook is dedicated to my only son Avraham (Shli"ta = may he live for the course of good and long years). It was begun to be written Thursday the 17th of September, 1959 year, Kozil-Orda.

So much have I already gone through over the years, that I have taken up the work of writing everything which I have living in my memory. So that the last generation will know the root of all our family. I only think for what, as this will be read by my only son alone, while the coming generations will simply not understand our language.

The first of our ancestors who I remember was my father’s father, the grandfather Pinkhas, by him there were three other brothers, of whom I only knew the great-uncle Velvel. Other brothers, that means my great-uncles with the names Yaakov and Zalmen2, I did not see. One of them was in Kovno, and the grandfather Pinkhas and the great-uncle Velvel lived in a Jewish colony in Yekaterinoslav Government, Mariupol district. The colony was called Grafskoye, or No. 7 (all 17 colonies which were situated in Yekaterinoslav Government had a number). The grandfather Pinkhas was a Shokhet and a Rabbi, and his sons, that means my uncles, father’s brothers, worked the earth like peasants and the great-uncle Velvel with his sons Berel and Meir also initially worked the land, only later did Berel opened a small store, and Meir was living by the work of the land.

When I was 6 years old I remember that they brought to grandfather Pinkhas a painted tree with branches, the tree began with the great-grandfather who was called Mendel3. From there it went to his sons Pinkhas, Velvel, Yaakov and Zalmen 4. Only in my memory remains only the grandfather Pinkhas with his four sons Shlomo Zalmen (this was my father) with his brothers Mendel, Simkha and Meir. What I am writing about is only the roots which came out from the grandfather Pinkhas with his brother Velvel. (On the tree were only male people). The grandfather Pinkhas had also 3 daughters, Ester, Reizel and Dina5. Now I will write that the uncles Mendel and Simkha lived in the colony, and Meir, I think, left the colony and settled in a village in Berdyansk District6. The village was called Andreyevka. About my father, that means Shlomo Zalmen, I remember only that in Grafskoy did he operate a grocery shop, and later only for a short time did he go to another colony with the name Mezhiretch or No. 4. There he was a Shokhet and also worked the land. Only mother did tell us that soon after the marriage was he engaged in "Feldsherei"7. He [lived] in the "Zemstvo"8, and lived not badly. Only later, when there was issued a "Ukaz"9  that no Jews could live in the Zemstvo, did he leave the profession, and was taken up with the "Shekhitah"10, for several years he was a Shokhet11 in a village Yegorovka, Berdyansk District, then in a village Andreyevka in Berdyansk District, then in a village Kirilevka in Berdyansk District, then in colony Mezhiretch No.4, as far as I recall. Only when he used to be called to a sick person, he used to go. The Feldsher skill he learned when he was on military service. In 1908 I became acquainted with two [?] with their friends, one Zalkind and the other Gorelik, they knew each other in Simferopol and they said that he knew privately to heal the sick and did not discard the profession, and my mother never once forgot tearfully how was their life.

Now I will write about all the families of each of the grandfather Pinkhas’s sons. The first was my father Shlomo Zalmen got married and took our mother who was called Mindel, she was a daughter of the grandfather Berel Vaisman from the colony Krasnoselka No.3. The grandfather Berel, the mother’s father, was also a Shokhet, and by him there were no sons, he took his eldest daughter Etl’s son for a son and he worked on the land. (The grandfather Berel and the grandmother Sarah Rivka, had only 3 daughters, the eldest was called Etl, another was Ester Miriam, and my mother Mindel, and all three daughters married Shokhtim. My mother had 8 living children, 3 sons and 5 daughters, Of these 2 [??] sons, only the eldest Khaim Sholem was married in Novogrodek, formerly Minsk Government, and had 2 small sons Gershon and Dov Berel. Alone did he die from a serious disease in the stomach. What became of his wife and children I don’t know. The other brother Meir Yitskhak Elkhanan married a woman Pasha and did have 2 girls, one Sarah Rivka and one Feigele, and he died in 1937 from an intestinal disease, and the family was evacuated to Kubansk Oblast and the Germans killed them. He served in the Tsarist army and in the First World War he was wounded in the hand (he [lost] two fingers and the left foot became atrophied, he was [incapacitated] almost all the time, he was engaged in an invalid’s cooperative until the year 1937. Our eldest sister Khaya Rokhel married for the first time a cousin Khaim of the uncle Avraham Hillel Namakshtansky, and lived for a time with her husband about one year until he died. Later she married for the second time in Stalino to an old man and she died alone from [??] jaundice. The other sister after her Paye died aged 14 from a fault [????} in Vasilkovka (about this village you will read later.)

The third sister Luba married in 1920 after the father’s death to Shmuel Zilberov and gave birth from him to one son with the name Zalmen (named after his grandfather), and the Germans killed her with the husband. And the youngest sister Ita married Moshe Shechter in Krasnoarmeisk and had by him 2 girls and a boy. In 1941 she died in childbirth, and when they were evacuating they were killed by the Germans, the husband Moshe with aunt Luba and her husband Shmuel Zilberov. There is still alive a girl Sarah who lives in Tashkent, and married a Jew and had a girls. From all the 8 children we alone live 2, that means your father Mordekhai and my sister Ester about whom I will [tell] later.

Now about the grandfather’s three sons, Mendel, he had a wife, she was called Beila. And they had 4 sons with the names Khaim Velvel, Zalmen, Yaakov Leib, and Benyomin12, and three daughters, Yokhved, Bassye and Zlate. Their eldest son Khaim Velvel died still a youth. Another son Zalmen was married to the uncle Meir’s daughter who was called Khana Reizel. The third son Yaakov Leib made a marriage from another colony Myadler and took Svidler’s daughter, the name I have forgotten. And she the wife gave birth to a son with the name Neakh.

The second son13 of grandfather Pinkhas, Simkha had a wife, she was called Khavah. They had one son who was called Pinkhas (a name from the grandfather Pinkhas) and 2 daughters, Beile and Yokhved14. Their son Pinkhas15 was with Benyomin killed by the Machnovites16 in 1920 when he was traveling with Benyomin from Stalino.

The third son of grandfather was Meir. He had children of whom I remember only17 a boy Alter and a girl Khanah Reizel who in 190818 married the uncle Mendel’s son with the name Zalmen. And they went away to Australia.

Now about the grandfather Pinkhas’s daughters, the eldest was called Ester, that is the aunt Etl who had a husband, he was called Khaim Moshe, surname Luban. They had an only boy who was called Alter; no more children could they have. (His true name was Yosef Ber, only since he was an only one so that he would live for a "Segula"19 they called him by the name Alter. They lived in a village Mikhailovka.

The second daughter was called Reizel20, her husband was called Kopel Kahan. They lived in colony Bachers.

They had sons and daughters; the time when I knew them was in 1916, they then lived in Stalino, which was previously Yuzovka. The uncle Kopel Kahan was then an expeditor, he used to transport the merchandise in the stores of various businesses, his children I remember were 2 daughters who I recall, their names were Yokhved and Bassie, the older one21who later married Benyomin, the uncle Mendel’s, and then later when the bandits in 1920 killed Benyomin who was together with Pinkhas, the uncle Simkha’s, she married in Krasnoarmeisk our sister Ita’s husband’s brother with the name Isak Shechter, and had with him children (from Benyomin she had no children22  ). The boys of aunt Reizel I cannot remember what they were called.

The third daughter of the grandfather Pinkhas was called Dina. Her husband was Avraham Hillel Namakshtansky. They lived in colony Engels, in Russian Trudoliubovka, he worked the land. They had boys with the names Khaim, Shmuel23, Pinkhas and a girl Yokhved, and more than that I have forgotten their names24; only was called Rokhel, she was the eldest. (The end of the family was in 1918 when Machno [attacked] the colony and took all the Jews into the Shule (synagogue)25 and there they shot them26 and set fire to the Shule and burned them. One girls Rokhel, who was not in the colony at that time, remained alive and went to live in Canada27.

Now I will write about all the uncles and aunts from father’s side. The uncle Mendel died in the colony and the whole family and the mother went away to Australia. The first time there used to come letters that they lived there well, almost all the children were married there. After 192028 there the letters stopped.

The uncle Simkha also died and the aunt Khava his wife moved to the city Mariupol29, later her daughter Beilka died and more I don’t know what happened to them. I have forgotten to write that the first one to die was the grandfather Pinkhas while all his sons were still alive30. The uncle Meir died before his brothers, what was with his family I cannot remember, only I think that his boy Alter was for some time by us31 and then went away to Canada32. That is the total of the uncles’ families. Now from the aunts, the aunt Ester with her husband Khaim Moshe Luban traveled in 1920 to America33 (their only son Alter traveled there earlier, and the uncle died on the way and the aunt nevertheless buried him in America (while he died not far from America) and he did not see his only son before his death. The aunt reached her son safely. I have one letter from Alter that the uncle died, and more I know nothing about them.

The aunt Reizel who earlier lived on the colony, later lived in Stalino, with her husband Kopel Kahan who was all the time in Stalino. What was the end of them I don’t know. I suppose that they died by the Germans 34. Up to here I have written the [details] about the father’s side.

Now I will write the relatives of the mother’s side. The great-grandfather Meshulum Yosef of blessed memory, was a rabbi in the colony Krasnoselka No.3. His wife, the great-grandmother with the name Ita. They had 4 sons, my grandfather Ber was in the same colony a Shokhet and 3 brothers Mendel, Yaakov and Mendel-Yitskhak (!?) and one daughter the great-aunt Mera who lived in a village Novopavlovka, Pavlograd district, and was married to Avraham Belinke, a Jew, a scholar and a good man, he was a store-keeper. The sons of the great-grandfather were firstly all workers on the land, and later took up other work. Of their children I don’t remember, except for one who was called David, the uncle Yaakov’s, and Yehudah and Yekhiel and their sister, the uncle Mendel Yitskhak’s. Their mother was called Sima. The uncle Mendel Yitskhak was once traveling in Novopavlovka and there [suddenly] died.

Now I will write about my grandfather Ber’s whose surname was Vaisman. The grandmother was called Sarah Rivka, a little Yiddene and a quick one, that means, she did everything and went in a hurry. Grandfather was a good one, I don’t remember any time when he was angry. I write so while I used to be a guest by them in a little time I learned there, so that I remember them well. The grandfather was a Jew such a wise one, I remember that they used to come to him for "Din Torah" (religious disputes to be settled). The "Khoshen Mishpat" (part of the religious law) which related to property law he knew very little, a Jew with a great forehead. His eldest son-in-law Leibe Solovei was from his eldest daughter Etl and they lived in Gulyaipolye, he was a Shokhet. His family consisted of 6 sons and one daughter. The names of the sons: Mendel-Yitskhak, Yonah, Yisrael, Dov, Zalmen and Mordekhai (I was named after another uncle Mordekhai, the grandmother Sarah Rivka’s brother.) and one sister did they have who was called Feigel-Tziporah. The uncle was a sick one , he had a long [???] and this was broken that his …………………………[line not written clearly] I will write about in detail, he went away from the world young because of sickness. The eldest son of the uncle Leib’s Solovei’s, the grandfather Ber took for a son while he had no children, that means sons, and he lived there, that means Mendel Yitskhak Solovei, was free of military service. He married and took a wife with the name Mikhlia , and lived in the same place as the grandfather Ber and worked the earth until 1916, and then the grandfather with the grandmother, that means the grandfather Ber with the grandmother Sarah Rivka died, and he went away from the colony to the city Melitopol, Tavrich Government, and there did they both, that means, my cousin Mendel Yitskhak Solovei with his wife died. From their children whom I can reckon up is the eldest Yaakov, then Mordekhai, Borukh-Meshullum Yosef, and a sister Brakhah, Rokhel. Of these there live still now Borukh and Meshullum Yosef and the sister Rokhel, and the others Yaakov, Mordekhai and Brakhah they died young, and by the uncle Leibe Solovei did also die young Zalmen, Mordekhai and one son David was hanged. The reason, that means, the reason was by them he was a bookkeeper with the famous in Gulyaipolye "Kerner" and he was paid 75 Ruble a month, he was a bridegroom by a girls from a colony Peness by a good settler a daughter. The girl was very beautiful, and there was "Tenaim"35 and they made the wedding on Shabbat Nakhamu, it was summer. At the time there was in the colony where the grandfather Bere had a neighbour Meir Kovnat who had an only son Yosef, the son Yosef wrote a letter to David Solovei’s bride, that her groom David Solovei had a lover with 2 children. The bride believed the letter and sent back the Tenaim. He, that means David did not know how to overcome the shame and he hanged himself. Later the girls made a wedding with that Yosef who sent the letter. I will write what was the end of these people, she gave birth to the first boy who had 2 humps on his backside and in the front. The second child was a blind girl and when Yosef saw the blind girls when she was born, he hanged himself and left a letter that the letter which he had sent to uncle was a lie. Only there was a great commotion by the uncle by the bride. He write a letter that religious Jews, that means believers did see by this that it was G-d’s punishment.

The girl, the uncle Leibe’s Solovei, Feigel was a bride by a rabbi’s son from colony Veslo [?? Vesalaya], he was called Mendel and his surname was Bogratshov, he was such a learned one and an only son by his parents, Feigel was such a good looking and clever one a midwife, and when it came to the wedding the father of the groom gave a dowry of 1000 rubles. The uncle knew that he had to give a sum of money, only the householders in his village talked about it that it was not nice, so when the wedding was to take place in the village there was no dowry and everything that was cooked and baked [was left] [events unclear] and the "Shidukh"36 was off. The bride fainted and the groom became ill and nothing helped him. And so Feigel went to visit as a guest in the city

Mariupol by an uncle, and after a time she was found there by Mendel the bridegroom and after a month they made a marriage. (At the time when my son was born the same Feigel was in the private maternity clinic, that means she learned midwifery by the doctor Gerbelbek who had a private clinic and when she heard the name Komisaruk, when her mother was in the same clinic she knew her, but she took another midwife, a Jewish girl named Samkhan, who had a brother in Yenakievo with a sister. What was with her further, that means with Feigel I think that in the end they settled in Moskva, he tok up a big position, they had one boy. Her brother Yonah, that means Feigel’s, he was a watchmaker, Yisrael was a manager with Kerner in Gulyaipolye, and Zalmen learned firstly in Kremenchug in Yeshivah, only he took externals, and thank G-d his brother Mordekhai , only they both died young.

From Mendel Yitskhak Solovei’s children there lived in Moskva a son Meshulum Yosef and Borukh with a sister Rokhel who made a wedding with the uncle Moshe Leib Charaikin’s son Yevek. Meshulum Yosef was in Moskva a doctor a surgeon and Borukh an engineer.

Now about the two daughters of the grandfather Bere, Ester Miriam made a marriage with uncle Moshe Leib Tzaraikin, they had 5 sons and two daughters, the eldest son David Mendel married and took for a wife the grandmother’s cousin Paye, and they went away to Canada. Another son Mikhael Simkhah settled in Rostov on Don and took a wife Mone Berman’s daughter, now he lives in Moskva in Malakhovka, of their children I know only one daughter Ester Fira who was by you my son in 1950, when I was with you in Minsk. The third son Khonye Elkhanan got married in Sinelnikov and took a daughter Rokhel Yisrael Sorkin’s and had one son Shmuel Mulya who I saw in 1910 in Yekaterinoslav. Khonya’s son took a wife a doctor and they traveled and used to cross the railway line and went to death. So he left a young widow. In 1939 the end of the parents, that means Elkhanan with his wife Rokhel who lived in Krasnoarmeisk were killed by the Germans in 1941 with great torture. When they took them in the house he stood up to those ruffians but that did not [help]. (It was said that they were the same Germans who were in 1914-1918). The uncle Moshe Leib Tzaraikin with the aunt were killed by bandits in the field when they were traveling from Novopavlovka to Krasnoarmeisk. The fourth son of the uncle Moshe Leib was called Yaakov. He served in the the First World War and changed his surname to Tzalkin. He married and took a cousin as his wife. This was Rokhel, Mendel-Yiskhak Solovei’s daughter. They lived in Moskva. They had only one son.

The fifth son was called Meshulum Yosef. In 1917 he didn’t come home one day. Bandits killed him. One daughter of uncle Moshe Leib Tzaraikin was called Paye, she made a marriage with Shmuel Zilberov, Zyama Zilberov’s father, and had by him 2 boys. One was called Bore and Yosef, they lived in Krivoi-Rog, one was an editor and one was an engineer in a metal factory. Paye died from a birth inflamation. And Shmuel Zilberov in 1920 made a marriage for the second time with my sister Luba, and she bore him one boy

Shlomo Zalmen Zyama, a name after my father. The end of them I have written earlier, in 1941 they were killed by the Germans, and since their son Zyama was in the army, he was left alive. He married a girl from Cherkas and had a boy who is called Garik and lives now in Nizhni-Togil and works as an engineer in a metal factory.

The other daughter of uncle Moshe Leib Tzaraikin was Leah. This is Liza Heller who lives now in Moskva. She had a wedding in 1910 in Vasilkovka to Yaakov Heller a son of Shmuel Heller.

During the Revolution they lived in Simferopol and later went to Moskva. They had one daughter, a doctor, she was called Sarah. Shmuel, Liza’s husband died and she lived with the daughter. When I came to Minsk on the 1st of September 1959, Liza-Leah was very sick.

Here I end my writing about the family of my mother’s side.

Now comes the third daughter of the grandfather, that is my mother, as I have earlier written she was called Mindel a derivative of a man’s name Mendel. She married my father Zalmen - Shlomo Zalmen. The biography of my parents I have written earlier. Now I will write my biography. I was born in a village Yehorovke, Berdyansk district. It I possible that I know that from there we went to a village Andreyevka in the same district. There I think we lived with a Christian who was very sick, once he went out of the house on a summer day and went and sat down on a chair. In the house stood a high [skala ?] From there they took to the creek. I think that Mama told me that the Christian used to break stones for houses, and a big stone fell on him and he broke several bones. Mama gave him a glass of tea and he said that she was a good woman. The picture remains in my memory for so long, [?????]

I was scared of falling into the creek. Father was there a Shokhet, and one Zalmen Shaye was there a butcher, I think father supplied him but father never used to check the account and mother used to say, If you didn’t have such a profession [?????} you wouldn’t have to depend on such a butcher to make a living. Of the Jews there lived in the village, I remember a family Varshavske, he was the hero of the Jews and he used to say to father, I only know that I am a Jew yet the uncircumcised ones, that means the Christians call us Zhid. More I do not know. So father made the account in the house.

Where we went from there I do not know, only I understand that we made a [change]. From there we came to colony Grafskoy, there did the grandfather Pinkhas live, the grandfather Pinkhas I remember that he always used to go around with a black scarf tied to his cheek, I don’t know the reason37 . He was an angry Jew; the Mama’s father the grandfather Berel was always a happy good man, and I loved him very much. There we were given learning, that means, I and my elder brother Khaim Sholem about whom I have written earlier. The Melamed38 was called Meir – Meir was an angry Jew and foolish. He taught us a lot of learning with out taste. He used to lament to father that I did not want to learn. And I used to say that I did not understand what he taught. I remember that I asked him what is our chest ? "kheik" [in Hebrew] "he took his hand out of his chest..". He [proclaimed] "kheik – chest". I said that I want to know what is "chest". He said "You only only know to ask questions and learning you don’t know" and all sorts of things. The brother he did not ask. I used to say to the brother what is that "kheik’, he used to answer me, But I still didn’t understood. Now I want to understand another time. I used to want immediately to understand what I learned. Now I remember we learned in "Mishpatim"39  "a kinswoman, her clothing and her needs will not be diminished". He taught ‘her needs [onah in Hebrew]" – "the time". I asked what time ? there the rebbi said "when you are bigger then will you know". I said "I want to know now, that means, immediately to understand". The rebbi gave a hit, and I got up and went away from the kheder to home. Father asked what is it, I told him and when I finished father took my hand and brought me back to Kheder, the rebbi said to father "Your Mottel does not want to learn and disturbs the other children from learning" I remember father took him out of the kheder40 and talked to him. I did not hear what, but I was still living in the kheder and when I came home I asked father to tell me what is the meaning of "onah" [Hebrew], he told me "the time for rest". I said to father "What do I need to go to kheder for ? You can teach me better, and I will understand better." He replied " a young boy has to go to kheder". Later this Meir went away and there arrived a new melamed Gershon. He taught me Gemorah, Tractate "Baba Metzia". The parents went away to the village Vasilkovka, Pavlograd district, and I remained living in the colony learning from the Gemorah melamed. I used to "eat kest41" by uncle Simkha, and the brother by the uncle Mendel. The grandfather Pinkhas used every Shabbat to hear us, and never was he satisfied. He used to say it was a waste of the fees paid for our lessons. Later I wanted to travel home and I remember that uncle Mendel harnessed his horse and a droshky and on Sukkot we came home. The village was a nice one, through the village passed a creek, it was called Volchya. The railway passed through the village, there were three roads in the village. We lived in the market [Russian phrase]. Firstly we lived in the Shule in the lower floor. Neighbours were peasants, from one side Mohelo and from the three other sides Shulho . In one road was a tailor Ivan Charny, he had a son Yozif and a boy my age Amvrasi (about him I will write when I come to the year 1905). With Amvrasi I used to play. Our second apartment was by , the third by Verishen, the fourth by Borisenken and the fifth by Zholdonev.

I remember by chance, that we were living in colony No.4 Mezhiretch, it was the eve of Yom Kippur, father sent us to colony No.3 (that was 8 versts from colony No.4) to the great-grandfather Meshullum Yosef (he was Mama’s grandfather) what he should bless us (by the Jews it was customary on the eve of Yom Kippur for the grandfathers to bless the grandchildren), he blessed the elder brother, and me he said with the words "you should want to Daven [pray], then you come back to me". The elder brother told Tate [father] what the great-grandfather said to me, Tate said to me with the words "see that even the great-grandfather knows that you don’t want to Daven42."

When we I came with my brother to Vasilkovka, the Tate learned with us., and later Tate sent the brother away to Kremenchug to learn Gemarah in a Yeshivah. At the same time learned in the Yeshiva there Zalmen the uncle Leib Solovei’s son. The Yeshivah was divided into four classes. The brother learned in the third class, and Zalmen in the fourth. Later Zalmen left the Yeshivah

When he met there with one student Broginske and that one taught him Russian. When the uncle heard what was going on he brought him home. The order of the learning was that the Yeshivah student had "eating days" by one of the householders. The brother a "Matmid" [diligent], like Bialik described in his "Hamatmid", he used to write to the Tate that while the Head of the Yeshivah was very happy with him that he gave him 3 rubles a month. I was so jealous of him that he received the money that I told the Tate that I also wanted to go to the Yeshivah. When I was 12 years old, Tate sent me to the Yeshivah in Kremenchug. I started in the second class, when the brother was then learning in the fourth class. After about a month, altogether the custom did not feel good for me. I had there in the Yeshivah a friend also called Mottel, a Shokhet’s son from the town Krukov (the town was not far from Kremenchug, one went over the bridge which passed over the railway lines and shortly after was the town. The friend was such a clever one that he said to me that if I wanted to know Russian better than I did, I should come with him to Broginski where Zalmen had studied. After two weeks the Head of the Yeshivah came to my brother and said to him that it was two weeks since I had been in the Yeshivah, and the brother asked me "Where were you all that time ?" I told him the truth and he immediately wrote to the Tate a letter in this language: "Your son Mordekhai has gone out to a "Tarbut Ra" [bad culture]". Tate came immediately to take me out of the Yeshivah and bring me home. And with this ended my Russian; more than two weeks I did not learn Russian. For a short time Tate learned with me, learning for the Bar Mitzvah, that means 13 years old. After Bar Mitzvah I said that I did not want the learn the Jewish studies which Tate learned with me, if I could not learn others. I wanted to learn to be a carpenter and I said that in "Pirkei Avot43" it states specifically "Love labour and hate the rabbinate" [as a job], while the Tate so much wanted the brother would become a Rabbi.

The Tate shouted that by them in the family there were no craftsmen (when at that time craftsmen were considered inferior) and he wouldn’t let me be a craftsmen. A boy who did not want to learn would have no learning. And I had such a desire to be a carpenter that early in the day I used to take a knife and cut timber and make noise-maker for Purim to "hit" Haman. Later after I was not learning anything, and I could not do any craft work, but I did not give up and I had nothing, even Yiddish. Then they sent me to a colony Sladkovodnaya No.8 and engaged me as an apprentice boy in a shop of a distant relative called Dombrovske Reb Benyomin with his sons Yitskhak, Berel, Yosef and Mikhael and one daughter with the name Reizel (I write in detail the names of all the sons of Reb Benyomin while they each had their values and lackings). Dombrovske taught boys carpentry for 120 rubles over 3 years, that means the first years 20 rubles, the second year 40 rubles and the third year 60 rubles with board and lodging.

Now I will write about the shop and what work a boy did there, The shop was quite a big one and it was what once […………….?] while it was quite a way from a town, and the next Shtetl Gulyaipolye (it was called a Shtetl because it was not a town in the full meaning of the word, but everything was like a town with a big factory for farm machinery and big houses like in a town). It was 45 versts away. Also in the shops was grocery, manufactured goods, drapery, [???] leather goods, [??Russian terms], iron, tailored garments, wines, many medicaments, and there was a lot of things, aside from this was a big store of timber, tools for working the earth, and a bread business where they used to buy produce to export overseas, and they used to buy for export what Dombrovski made for two hundred thousand. In the big business were two boys and 2 prikazchiks [officials] and one old Prikazchik with the name Noakh Koba (more I will write about later). There was a lot of business. There was much buying. Around the colony

There were many other colonies and a lot of German colonies who used to come and buy. The Dombrovski family had another shop in another village called Rodzainka about 10 versts away from the colony. There was Reb Benyamin with 2 sons and the remaining son was in the colony Sladkovodnaya. Immediately when I arrived there was soon a boy with the name Zalmen Kochavitch from the town Gulyaipolye


  1.  The original manuscript had no page numbers. Each double page was numbered in 2002 by Joseph Komissarouk, a grandson of Mordekhai (Mark) Komisaruk, Richmond, Virginia, USA. Page numbers have been removed to set into HTML formatting and to keep paragraphs together.

  2. Zalmen was not a brother of Pinkhas, rather was this the name of Pinkhas’s father. The eldest brother was Leib, followed by Yaakov, Pinkhas and Velvel. Leib died when Mottel was young, hence probably the confusion.

  3. Mendel was not the correct name: Pinkhas’s father was Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk. The confusion may have arisen since the latter’s father-in-law was called Menakhem Mendel (although the 1858 Revision List in Grafskoy lists the name as Leib).

  4. See note 2 above.

  5. The order of the daughters was Ester, Dina, Reizel.

  6. He uses the term Uyezd.

  7. “Feldsherei” - folk medicine.

  8. “Zemstvo” - Municipal council.

  9. “Ukaz” – government decree/law.

  10. “Shekhitah” – Kosher slaughtering.

  11. “Shokhet” – Kosher slaughterer.

  12. There were two younger brothers Pinkhas and Khaim Velvel (named after his deceased elder brother).

  13. The correct order of the sons was Shlomo Zalmen, Meir, Mendel and Simkha.

  14. Her name was not Yokhved , but Khaya Gittel (Tatiana).

  15. Pinkhas not killed but severely wounded; Benyomin was killed.

  16. The family who remained in Yuzovka (Stalino/Donetsk) did not know who was responsible for the attack, but maybe Mordekhai Komisaruk had other information. See the memoirs of Rokhel Luban and Chaim Freedman’s “Our Fathers’ Harvest”.

  17. The other children were Tziporah, Pinkhas, Yehudah Leib and Khaya Sarah.

  18. Actually in 1907.

  19. “Segula” – a good luck charm.

  20. Reizel was the third daughter by a different wife.

  21. There were eight children: Yokhved, Bassie, Leah, Moshe, Pasha, Khanah, Pinkhas and Refael.

  22. Actually Bassie did have a child born after Benyomin was killed, but the child died.

  23. Better known as Shmilik.

  24. The others were Rokhel, Velvel, Zalmen and Leibl.

  25. Actually it was only the men and youths who were assembled in a barn, not in the Shule.

  26. They were not shot, but burnt alive in the barn.

  27. Those that perished were Avraham Hillel, Shmilik, Pinkhas, Velvel and Grigory Berchansky, Rokhel’s husband. The rest and Rokhel’s daughter Khaya (Clara), settled in Canada, except for their mother Dina who died in Yuzovka in 1921.

  28. The family left for Australia in 1922, living prior to that in Yuzovka. 

  29. She and Simkha moved to Yuzovka with the Namakshtanskys and he died there.

  30. Pinkhas died in 1897.

  31. The person who lived for a time with Mottel’s family was Shlomo Zalmen, Mendel’s son, in 1896.

  32. Alter settled in Australia in 1912.

  33. The Lubans traveled in 1924 to Harbin, Manchuria, and then to Seattle, USA in 1928.

  34. They did not died under the Germans but were all evacuated to the east and Refael settled in Brazil. When the Kahans (Kagans) returned to Stalino after the war, ironically they thought that all of the family of their uncle Zalmen had perished at the hands of the Germans.

  35. “Tenaim” – engagement agreement.

  36. “Shidukh” – marriage match.

  37. This was commonly used against a toothache.

  38. “Melamed” – primary school (kheder) teacher.

  39.  “Mishpatim” – a particular Torah portion.

  40.  “Kheder” – a small class of boys who received basic instruction in reading, writing, religious texts.

  41.  “Kest” board and lodging provided by householders, usually for Yeshiva students.

  42.  See the later pages of this memoir when Mottel was elderly and lived in Kizil-Orda, his daily routine included getting up early every day to go to Shule to Daven and then at the end of the day he returned to Daven the afternoon and evening prayers.

  43.  “Pitkei Avot” – Ethics of the Fathers, part of the Mishnah.



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Research Contact: Chaim Freedman
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