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THE MEMOIRS OF ROKHEL LUBAN

(translated from Yiddish by Chaim Freedman)

© Chaim Freedman

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

Rokhel Luban was born in 1898 in the Jewish agricultural colony called Trudoliubovka (also known to the Jews as Engels) in the government of Yekaterinoslav in the southeastern Ukraine.

She was the daughter of DINA and AVROM-HILLEL Namakshtansky and a granddaughter of Rabbi PINKHAS Komisaruk (Komesaroff), the rabbi of the nearby colony Grafskoy. Her great grandparents were amongst the original settlers who came to the region when the colonies were established in 1846.

These memoirs were completed a few years before Rokhel Luban passed away in Petah Tikvah, Israel in 1979. They were left with her daughter Clara Berchansky.

The translation of the memoirs has been divided into two sections. The first ninety pages of the original Yiddish text covers the period from the earliest years recalled by Rokhel, as well as details of the family history told to her by her mother, and concludes when she left Russia and settled in Canada in 1927.

Whilst every effort has been made to retain the style of the original Yiddish text, certain sections have not been translated literally. Rather have some sections been précised to convey the essential details. On the other hand, many important sections have been translated word for word, even at the expense of correct English, so as to convey Rokhel's exact intention.

The second section covers pages 90 -198 of the Yiddish text and includes the Canadian and Israeli periods. This section is presented as a summary of the essential events. The translator apologizes for his lack of perseverance in completing the translation but feels that it was essential to preserve the first section for posterity.

These memoirs are a unique and fascinating presentation of the life of a remarkable woman. Rokhel Luban vividly relates events which she personally experienced whilst giving the socio-historical setting. Although dealing with experiences which were common to many branches of the family, Rokhel relates mainly to events which she was involved in personally. The memoirs provide valuable material for the family history, supplementing, expanding and correcting information provided in `Our Fathers' Harvest'.

It is intended that this presentation of Rokhel Luban's memoirs will serve as an eternal memorial to her martyred husband, father and brothers, who perished in the infamous pogrom of 1918, so movingly related in this memoir.

 

R O K H E L  L U B A N - M E M O I R S - P A R T 1 .

Ed. Note(# = Explanations not included in the original text)

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bullet This is the place where I was born: 1898, ten days before Chanukah.
bullet These are the residents of our Kolonya (Trudolubovka)
bullet Abramovitch,  Itskovitch,  Rabinovitch,  Btat,  Ber,  Tsirulnikov,  Tsiporski,    Levins, Yolovs,  Tovis,  Girsh,  Golonski,  Kagan,  Namakshtansky,  Goldshmid,  Shechter, Rubin,  Kazintsov (The Feldsher -# Medical orderly),  Seifers,  Moshe Nol (The Starosta- # Mayor)
bullet There were also others who I can't remember.
bullet In our Kolonya lived about five families of Germans. They didn't bother us.

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I will write my memoirs, as much as I remember and what my mother of blessed memory used to tell me.

I was born in 1898, ten days before Chanukah (# Nov 28, 1898). We were eight children to our parents, six sons and two daughters: Khaim, Shmilik, me Rokhel, Pinkhas, Velvel, Yokhved, Zalmen and Leibl. We lived in a Jewish colony (Trudolubovka). There were seventeen colonies in Yekaterinoslav Gubernia (# government).

Mother told us that her grandfather and grandmother used to live in Kovno. In those times they used to snatch Jewish children to take them for soldiers. Many children were converted. The great-grandfather and great-grandmother took the children and came with them to the Ukraine. They built government houses for them. They gave them land to work. The land belonged to the government; they weren't allowed to sell it nor were they able to acquire more land. In the Kolonya they chose for an elder one who the regime was interested in. He used to take taxes and send them to the regime. There was a Shule. The Jews built a store where all the householders kept their produce for the next year. There was a Feldsher (# an unqualified medical orderly). We had two shops. Two brothers made soap. There was a vineyard. When there was a grape harvest we children went into the vineyard and we found especially large grapes.

When I was very young the authorities built a secular school. Half a day they learnt Russian and half Hebrew. The Russian teacher was a Jew from Andreyevka. They built for him and his family a house. The Jewish teacher was my grandfather, my father's father. The school was in our Kolonya and was built of red brick surrounded by a wall and a gate to be closed.

In our Kolonya there was one main street and a small one; we called the small one `The Hintisher Gasse' (#The Dog's Street). One person used to raise dogs and sell them. The Shule stood at the junction of the Hintisher Gasse. There were two shops, both opposite the Shule. Between the shops lived the rabbi and the Feldsher (Kozintsev).

I think that father had twelve desyatins of land. How it was divided I don't know. When grandfather had three more sons grandfather himself didn't work the land. He was a teacher in the school; he was a Shokhet and Khazan. In his young days it was hard for my father. He didn't have all the machines one needed to work the land. When my brothers grew up and they knew how, they helped. Then things were a lot easier.

We used to sow wheat, corn, oats, beans and sunflower for making oil. We had a very small house. But later we built a bigger house with a big chimney and large windows. In his young days my father was a little gentleman. My dear mother was a great housewife. She cooked, washed, sewed, and crocheted; there was nothing my mother didn't know. In my father's house there was no place to lie down. Mama was busy all the time. She made children's pants and all the clothes so that the children always had new clothes. At harvest time Mama didn't sit with crossed hands but helped with everything and don’t forget that as a housewife she had to feed the chickens and roosters and calves and everything was in order in the house.

My dear good mother! When one is young one doesn't understand the value of a mother but when one gets old and when oneself is a mother, only then do you understand how to value it.

My mother was from another Kolonya (Grafskoy), seven versts from us. My mother did not have a mother. Grandmother died when she brought my mother into the world. Grandfather was the rabbi of Grafskoy. They were seven children, four sons and three daughters. The eldest son Zalmen was a rabbi, Mendel, Ester, Meir, Simkha, my mother Dina and another sister, from one father but not one mother, Reizel.

I don't know why it was, but a rabbi could not remain without a wife. Aunt Reizel's mother had a son from her first husband. The son was not all there. He was older than Uncle Zalmen. When the time came when he was liable for conscription there was a commotion. Why? For the sake of the simpleton Zalmen would have to take his place. They decided to make a provisory divorce. The Aunt Reizel's mother was a dear wife. They indeed took uncle Zalmen to serve. He was there a Feldsher and used to heal the soldiers. He made a kosher kitchen for them. But grandfather himself already no longer lived with his wife. Aunt Reizel did not want to go away from grandfather. Aunt came every day and used to cook for him and do the washing and help with the children. All the grandfather's children belonged to their one family.

After his service, Uncle Zalmen married and had three sons and four daughters. The uncle I will never forget. He was a Mentsh and a Neshoma (# good soul). It is not possible to write enough of his goodness. Now I will give the names of my cousins, Uncle Zalmen's children: Khaim-Sholem, Mottel, Khaya-Rokhel, Meir, Luba, and the other two I can't remember. Uncle Zalmen's wife was called Mindel.

Uncle Mendel, his wife Beila: the first son Zalmen, Yaakov Leib, Yokhved, Binyomin, Basse, Zlate, Pinkhas, and Velvel.

Ester; her husband was called Khaim-Moshe. They had only one son - they had no other children. They died young. For a Segula (# lucky charm) they gave him the name of the Brisker Rov Yosef-Dov. (# Soloveitchik). They dressed him in strange clothes until he was six years old. Uncle Khaim-Moshe was an affluent man. He used to have in Mikhailovka a wholesale business for all sorts of leather.

bullet Uncle Meir lived in Andreyevka; his wife's name was -------(# Tybel).
bullet They had three daughters and three sons: Khana-Reizel, Tsipora, Alter, Pinkhas and Leibl. (# and Khayalah)
bullet Uncle Simkha, his wife Khava ---- (# Rokha) had one son Pinkhas and two daughters Khaya-Gittel and Beilka.
bullet My mother Dina, father Avraham-Hillel Namakshtansky. Mother's maiden name was Komisaruk. The children were six sons and two daughters: Khaim, Shmilik, Rokhel, Pinkhas, Velvel, Yokhved, Zalmen and Leibl.
bullet Aunt Reizel was married to Koppel Kahan. Three sons and five daughters: Yokhved, Basse, Moshe, Leaka, Pinkhas, Falka (# Rafael) Pashka, and Khanka.

I must add that Uncle Khaim-Moshe had rabbinical ordination but he didn't practice as a rabbi. His brother was the rabbi of Mikhailovka. The child was called Alter. I didn't know him other than as Alter. He was a very clever child. At three years he went to a Kheder (# elementary school) with ten year old children, learnt Khumash (# Bible) and other things. Once the teacher asked an older child a question and he didn't know the answer. A small child would know the answer, but he (# Alter) laughed. The teacher beat the child with a whip until he bled. When the child came home he said nothing. When his mother gave him a bath she discovered the terrible damage the teacher had wrought on her child. She took him by the hand to the teacher and gave him a telling off. She immediately took him to another teacher.

In Mikhailovka there was no high school. Alter wanted to learn. He bought all the books which he wanted to learn. When the time came to hold examinations he traveled to Melitopol. He answered all the questions a hundred percent. The gentile students couldn't answer them all. They awarded diplomas but told Alter that he was no good. He knew that it wasn't that he was no good but that he was a Jew. He went home broken. He wanted to jump under the train but he had pity on his parents.

They would have taken him during the First World War, even though he was an only child, but in wartime they took everyone. Aunt Ester dressed him in Prussian clothes so that he could cross the border and he got to Harbin. Alone they lived in a broken home. When there was the Revolution they arrested Uncle but many gentiles pleaded for his release. How they managed to get out to Harbin I don't know. In Harbin lived Uncle's sister. After the Revolution Alter came to America. With the parents he lost all contact. They knew nothing of him and he knew nothing of them for a very long time. He married. All this Alter told me.

Now I will return to Trudolubovka. My grandfather Rabbi Eizik Namakshtansky; grandmother Fruma. I remember her as a woman of religious standing, with a white kerchief perched on the head; always worried. Grandmother had eighteen children but they did't see the light of the world except for six children, four sons and two daughters. My father was the eldest, Avraham-Hillel, David, Sarah, Feigel, Shmilik, Shimon. My mother's name was Dina; the children's names I've already written. David had two children; his wife's name was Bassie. One of the children was a daughter Sarah and a son Moshe. Aunt Sarah married in Tokmak to Itche Levitsky and had two daughters Rokhel and Ester. Aunt Sarah was pretty; when she went by they used to look at her. But her life was short. Uncle made a fine life after Sarah's death. Grandfather and Grandmother didn't want the children to have a stepmother. They made Aunt Feigel marry Uncle Eizik. She didn't want to; she didn't love him, but her parents insisted. Uncle Shmilik married his beloved Ester and had two daughters Sarah and Feiga and Sonny. Their son lived in Toronto. Uncle Shimon was killed in the First World War. I think I haven't forgotten anyone. I hope not.

Now I will return to our dear family. One thing I can say that I was a wild one and disobedient. I, together with Pinkhas, used to make a lot of pranks, so much so that Mama used to beg us children to be quiet and let her do some work. But we were more noisy. She sat us in corners, one with a broom in the hand and the other with a poker, each facing the corner. We burst out with resounding laughter. I was tired of being in the corner and, hearing a neighbor, came out. The neighbor asked: "Rokhele, what is up?" I replied: "Grandmother died. "I always had an answer for everything.

Mama always sat with us to say `Modeh Ani' (# morning prayers) and `Benched' (# Grace After Meals) after meals with all of us and prayed with us before going to bed. She `Davened' (# prayed) three times a day by heart and fasted every `Yortzeit' (# anniversary of a death) and so G-d would help, she fasted during wartime every Monday and Thursday to thank G-d for His great kindness that her sons would not have to go to the war.

In the next house from us lived my friend Mariasha. She had sinus trouble and used to talk through her nose and was not very good looking. I used to go jumping and skipping to Mariasha. In the yard stood her mother with a young man who used to travel around to buy hard goods. When I came skipping in and asked if Mariasha was home , the man said: "What a pretty child". Mariasha's mother said: "What good is a pretty face when she is a midget". I overheard and went home and told Mama, "Mama, you have a midget for a daughter". I told what I had heard and my mother said: "Don't take any notice of what Riva said. It's only because Mariasha isn't as pretty as you."

Once, it was harvest time, when they took in the produce, I was then nine years old, or ten. I used to talk with other girls who were twelve or thirteen. We wanted to go and bathe in a creek which was one and a half versts from home. My sister wasn't yet a year old. The heavens clouded over and it was a good excuse for going to collect grass for brooms. I took the child with me as I wanted to help Mama. Heaven forbid it might rain but we could shelter in a hut where they collected the kernels of the crops. We took something for the child to eat and I lost count of the time. We wandered on further along the way to the creek. All the girls 0helped me carry the child. We came to the creek, sat the child down and gave her something to eat. We all went into the water to bathe we were very happy and cheerful. Then we went on a little way until we saw a rider, and then a second, and after the riders, a whole army of men and women.

First I recognized my brother Khaim on the first horse. The second was my father. Khaim rode up and took the child from me and said: "You will already get it." Father said nothing. When the women came, the first was my mother who ran up to me. She snatched the brooms from me and with them she gave it to me in the `soft place'. It was a great shame for me. My mother said nothing and I accepted it.

When the shepherds used to bring the cattle home from the pasture they had to be milked early in the morning. The street was grown like a green carpet. Girls and boys went out and danced and sang. I used to want to go with them. No I could not. Why? My mother used to say: "You ought to know who you are."

Grandfather Rabbi Pinkhas didn't live very long. It was a cold winter. Grandfather did not want to wake the children so they could give food and water to the horses and cows. He got up and dressed warmly. In the barn he gave them all food. But they wanted to drink. He took the bucket with a rope out to the well to draw water. It was very slippery; it was a heavy frost and in the evening when they had drawn water from the well, some spilt out. As it was a very cold night, it froze and became very slippery. It was impossible to stand properly as Grandfather lowered the bucket and filled it with water. When he pulled up the bucket, it pulled him over into the well.

He began shouting for help. They couldn't find a rope. Everyone was so confused that they couldn't think clearly. In the same house with Grandfather lived Grandfather's brother (# Velvel) and he had a shop for farmers' supplies. But there was no rope. Grandfather called from the well:" You stand in the middle of the ocean and you ask for a drop of water."

When they pulled him out of the well they quickly brought a doctor. But he was too chilled and they could not save him. Seventeen rabbis from the surroundings came to the funeral. All the children from the places where they lived, together with many householders, came to pay their respects for the father.

For my mother it was the worst. When she was born and lost her mother, Grandfather used to sit all night with the Gemorrah in his hand (# studying), swinging the cradle. My mother knew how to `Pasken' all the `Sheylahs' (# make decisions of religious law).

When the time came to go to school there were girls of the `aristocracy'. In each class they used to sit for two years. When I was attending school there were with me six boys who learnt very well. When I started I didn't understand any Russian. The teacher used to give homework and ask us later what we had understood. I used to learn and Mama used to heat the oven where we sat. I was very good in arithmetic and geography. But I was a great `crammer'.

With G-d's help it was winter and I broke the toe of my right foot. Mama used to rub it with Shmaltz (# chicken fat) and wrap the foot with rags and cover the foot with a galosh and put the other foot in a galosh. I so loved to study the geography chart on the wall. It was a very big map. I knew all the countries and all the waterways and cities. Once I took geography and sat down opposite the wall and made pranks. The children broke out laughing. The teacher didn't understand and asked: "What's this noise?" They said "Namakshtanska did it ". I looked up with such an innocent face and said: "My foot hurts so that I can't stand and I sat and learnt the chart".

I want to go back a bit. When I was five years old father was away for a while. Mama wanted to bake bread but she had no meal. It was a dark night. She went to Karl the miller. He lived four houses from us. She took from him a pud of flour. A pud is forty pounds (# about 18 kg.) and she went home. She didn't know that they had dug a cellar and in the cellar was also a hole. Mama, with the sack of flour on her shoulders went and fell in the cellar and caught her foot in the small hole and broke her foot. She cried out for help. They carried her out of the cellar and brought her home. By us, over the way, lived Reb Ber; he had a vineyard. When anyone broke a foot or a hand they used to go to him. He used to give a pull to the hand or foot and it was good. He would set the foot and bind it. But it did not succeed.

Father wanted to take her to a specialist who set bones. He came and had to break the foot again to set it in plaster. They made a hole in the end of the bed for a rope to tie to the foot and hung over the bed a big stone. In six months he would come and take off the plaster.

Mama lay in great discomfort and never once made a sound. After six months, when they took off the plaster, my mother limped till the last day of her life. She never walked straight.

Now I will go back to the school. I, with the boys, went from one class to the next. When we came to the last class, the daughters of the aristocrats finished the second year. One more year, then the exams. They gave us arithmetic. I, with the six boys soon finished. The girls weren't up to the same standard and cheated. They slandered me that I had cheated and so, in that distasteful way, I finished school.

I learnt for a while at home with the teacher, and then he suggested that I study in a gymnasium (# high school) on a scholarship. Father refused permission for me to go to Mariupol because it was "a strange town". I was disappointed with his decision. I wanted to leave the Kolonya and go to work in Chernigovka to live with father's brother, Shmilik. I wrote to him to find work for me. He replied and invited me to come. My mother was appalled: " My daughter a seamstress ! " I argued with my parents, but they finally agreed, since at least I would have my uncle to watch over me.

My father took me to Chernigovka. I went to work making clothes for the peasants and used to travel around in a wagon selling amongst the villages. It was very hard work and I had to work long hours. The Jews in Egypt didn't work so hard. I was there less than a year until I wrote home and father came to collect me.

After being home for three months, I still felt that I wanted to leave the Kolonya and to feel free. A neighbor was a tailor in Kaminka (Tsarakonstantinovka), a large town twelve versts away. So I went to work for him for a year. I learnt to make trousers, vests and jackets. They were very good to me and I spent a year there. In the town there were rich Jews. The mother of one family donated a Sefer Torah to the Shule and there was a big celebration.

My elder brother Khaim worked for Singer's Company selling new sewing machines and he invited me to Nikitovka to work. But I had not finished my year's work and my employer would not release me. Nevertheless I insisted on going, leaving my forwarding address should my employer decide to make a legal claim against me.

First I traveled home to a new house. It had large windows and was like paradise. Then I went back with father to pick up my case. But my employer would not release me and there was a court-case where it was decided that I had to pay compensation.

After the Yom Tovim (# festivals) (we were all always home then), I went to Nikitovka. There lived father's cousin Feival Savitsky. His wife was from our Kolonya, Michal Seifer and another cousin's daughter, Khana-Ester. She was from Grafskoy; her mother was a cousin Freidel Levinson. I stayed with Khana-Ester in Nikitovka. Her father, Avrom-Hillel Levinson from Grafskoy, was one of the distinguished `Baale Batim" (# householders); with wisdom, wealth, and his words were precious.

A Shidukh (# match) was made for Khana-Ester; she was not good-looking but had a lot of charm. The match was forced upon her by her father, but the family were fine people. The family name was Rogozin, his name was Solomon. Avrom-Hillel Levinson died soon after her wedding. In 1959 when I was in the U.S.S.R I visited with Khana-Ester.

I will write a little about life on the Kolonya and how we celebrated the Yom Tovim. It was a complete kingdom. They chose a prominent person as Starosta, that is the mayor. He used to collect the taxes and was responsible for everything that happened in the Kolonya. His name was Moshe Nol. When they took in the produce from the fields and made it ready, they used to pack sacks with wheat and take them to sell in Mariupol. The first money used to be taken for taxes. The next wagonloads were sold to buy foot ware and cloth to make new clothes. There was nowhere to buy readymade clothes. Then Mama became very busy making new clothes for everyone. She made new under vests and knitted socks for everyone and lots of other things, whatever one can think of, it's impossible to remember everything.

Then they needed to store produce for the next year. For this they built for everyone a warehouse where everyone stored their crops. Everyone had a stall for their produce. In winter the men had nothing to do. They used to go to Shule and sometimes they received newspapers which were passed from hand to hand. These were received from Moskva or Petersburg and were in Yiddish or Hebrew. They came home and told the news of the world.

We didn't have much but it was a calmer world than we have now when there is killing and men can fly and the whole world is like a volcano. We hadn't yet experienced what was to happen with Nikolai (# the Tsar) and with the six million Jews. Even though people saw pictures of what the American soldiers found when they liberated the concentration camps, the younger generation has forgotten and our teachers don't know how to convey the tragedies of the past. Our teachers and rabbis have become politicians. But I have recorded my dear ones, everyone by their names; they should not lie there forgotten.

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Now I will write about the Yom Tovim by my parents.

Mama made beets for Purim and I grated them. First Mama made wine and then beets. New clothes for Pesach were already made by Purim and were washed and pressed. Then Mama cleaned the whole house. She Kashered (# prepared utensils for the festival of Passover) everything on the last day before Pesach. Matzah was baked in a special house with an oven, tables for rolling the dough, rolling pins, a tin plate and a pusher, a mill for making the meal and a pitcher for bringing water.

It was someone's job to sit and watch the Matzah. The meal we always made from winter wheat. My father always bought a five pud sack of Pesach meal and Mama made Matzah meal for Kneidlach and Lekach (# sponge cake). She used a Shteisel (# mortar and pestle); Gribena (# chicken fat rendered crisp and cooked with onions) for Kneidlach and Farfel.

Mama scrubbed and Kashered all the utensils and sharpened the knives. The Kashering was done with a hot stone in boiling water. She kashered the tables with hot water and a burning stone. For ~Bedikas Khometz" father went with a candle in hand, a wooden spoon and a feather to find and take out any leftover Khometz. In the morning he sold it to a Goy.

Fish was brought from Mariupol on ice, a wagon full. Khrein (# horseraddish) was made with salt, sugar and beet root. Kharoses was made by the rabbi who gave some to each householder.

Father and my older brothers used to go to the bath while Mama washed us at home in a big bowl or a bath.

When the men came home from Shule, mother had dressed up the children and prepared for the Seder. Wine was on the table, Hagodos, candles, the ceremonial plate with the hard-boiled egg and onion in salt water. They came home from Shule; Mama had already `Benched Licht' (# lit and blessed the candles). I always sat at father's left hand so as to take the Afikoman. Leibl said the `Ma Nishtanah'. By us we said the Hagodoh by interpreting every word in Yiddish. For example: (Hebrew Characters appeared here) "We were slaves". The best thing was the wine, then the food. The neighbors came to sing `Khad Gadyah' with us. On `Khol Hamoed' (# the intermediate days of the festival) we went visiting and Mama spent her time entertaining guests who came to us.

Shavues was a joyful festival. The fields were green and everything was growing. The houses were decorated with blossoming flowers from the fields. On the first day we ate milk dishes; Mama made Blintzes. Fish was brought again from Mariupol. Father spent the whole night in Shule learning.

After Shavues was a time of very hard work, separating the chaff from the produce, harvesting potatoes, corn and cutting the hay. For a farmer there is enough work when harvest time comes.

Then came the High Holy Days: Rosh Hashonoh. When I was a child I sat in Shule with a Makhzor (# festival prayer book) in my hand even though I didn't understand a word. I thought that I was commanded and my prayers went straight to Heaven. But now I know that G-d didn't hear my prayers. He punished me for others who didn't pray to him. For Tashlich we went to the well to cast off our sins.

Then came Yom Kippur; everyone fasted. We made Kapporos, the men with roosters, the women with hens. We went to Kol Nidrei and sat the whole evening in Shule praying from the Makhzor. I loved to hear the Khazan so much. My grandfather was the Khazan in our Shule. I got up early in the morning and went straight away to the Shule. When they used to say Yizkor (# the memorial prayer for the dead during which people whose parents were alive used to go outside) I did not want to go out of the Shule. Mama used to plead with me that I should not be there when they said

After Yom Kippur, Mama used to go to the family graves to Grafskoy. When she had Yohrtseit (# the anniversary of a relative's death) she used to fast. When the First World War broke out my Mama used to fast every Monday and Thursday to thank G-d that he had prevented her children from going to war.

The morning after Yom Kippur, we began straight away to build a Sukkeh. We used to make it near the entrance to the house so mother could bring the food close by. We made a door which could be closed, windows, and covered it with branches. We did not decorate it so as to be awarded prizes. We built it to remember how our forefathers had to live in the desert. The first two days were the festival. Over Khol Hamoed we went visiting and guests came to us. It was a joyful festival. The produce had been brought in from the fields. The taxes had been paid and all sorts of new things had been bought for the family.

For the blessing of the Esrig the Shammes went from house to house with the Esrig and Lulav and everyone made the blessing. Then came Simkhes Torah. My father had bought places for himself and the brothers. On Simkhes Torah Father used to take us around to the men's Shule. The women's Shule was in a separate room with a window between them. When Father used to carry the Torah, he used to bring it to us we should kiss the Torah and say: "We have lived another year". So he used to take the Torah around the women.

My father belonged to the Khevra Kaddisha (# the burial society) and on Simkhes Torah they used to have a party. They would have a `Shnapps' and become very merry. I used to ask: "Reb Avrom-Hillel have you had a Shnapps?" He used to lay down to sleep and everything was fine.

Then came Khanukah. We unfortunately did not have a Khanukiah so we used to take a potatoe. We used to cut it, make holes and fill them with oil and wick and so it would burn. It was so nice. And the hot juicy Latkes were so good and fragrant. And what about Khanukah Gelt (# money) ? Actually it wasn't very much, but it was money.

Then came Purim. Firstly we baked Homentashen, filled with poppy seed, with raisins, with plums. We went to Shule `to kill' Haman. The children used their `Gregers'(# noisemakers) when they heard his `holy'name. In the morning we sent `Sholekh Mones'. On two trays were arranged all sorts of good things, covered with a white cloth. The children took firstly to Grandfather and Grandmother. Father and mother had sent `Sholokh Mones'. Grandmother took off the trays what the children had brought and put all sorts of her good things. And Grandfather gave a few koppecks. We felt so rich, like Rothschild. We went home happy.

Then there was the `Seudah'. We invited guests. We made roasts with a `Lokshen Kugel' with sour cucumbers, peppers. Next we drank tea with `Verenya' (# preserved fruit in thick sweet syrup) and sponge cake.

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With that I have concluded the cycle of the festivals.

Now I was ready to travel to Nikitovka. Mama was not happy that I was going away. Father took me to Tsarakonstantinovka from where I took a train. I had written Khaim when I was due and he had arranged my welcome. There lived Meir and Ada Seifer, a sister and brother. She had a sister married to our cousin Feivel Savirsky. From the station they took me to the Savirskys. It was not long before a young man came, tall and good-looking, blond. We drank tea, sat and talked. The young man paid a lot of attention to me and he arranged that in the morning he would come and take me to my employer. I was with Khana-Ester who lived two houses away from her uncle; Feivel Savirsky was her mother's brother. I was to sleep there. Her husband was at home and she had also a girl Rivelle.

Meanwhile I will describe Nikitovka Station. It was an important station. The trains from all over the country passed through it. It was a nice station, and when we used to go for a walk, we used to go to the station. Every minute a train arrived and a train left. You could see people from all over the world. There were trains which traveled five or six days before reaching Nikitovka. I was tired from my journey so Khana-Ester said that in the morning I would appreciate everything better. She treated me like a child; I was only fourteen but I looked older. I said goodnight to everyone and my future escort said he would come for me at ten o'clock.

Exactly at ten in the morning my escort arrived. His name was Grisha Abramovitch Berchansky. It was a cold day. He took me to my employer and we discussed my working conditions. Fourteen men were employed there, all gentiles. I was to work for a year and be paid for food and board. The boss was a sympathetic person. After work, my brother and his friend came to collect me. Grisha was interested to hear how the arrangements were for eating and sleeping. The early period was quite good. The Goyim behaved themselves since the boss had asked them not to drink or misbehave. But how long can a Goy refrain from drinking ? When they were drinking it was unbearable, so dirty and they were free with their hands. I told the boss and he spoke to them. It was all right for one day and in the morning, the same thing over again. I gave the boss an ultimatum: either conditions improved or I would not be able to continue working. But it was no good. I worked there for half a year and I had to leave the place. That caused more trouble. I had not completed my contract. I had to go again to the court. The court was in Nikitovka, a verst from the station. I went there with Grisha and left my address at Khana-Ester's so they could contact me when to come.

Meanwhile there was a big shop there with lots of Goyim working in it. The boss's name was Potomkin. He took me to work. But not with the Goyim; he brought everything home, machine, equipment and material. He would bring material to me and then collect the finished articles. It was a satisfactory arrangement. After about four months I received a notice to appear in court. I went with my escort and came through without having to pay a penny.

Meanwhile life was becoming very interesting. Grisha was in love with me. He behaved towards me like a good father treats his child. I didn't yet understand what was love. He never once said anything. Another year passed before he gave me a kiss. I did not speak to him for a month.

We used to go twice a week to the silent movies. Afterwards we would stand and talk or we would go for a walk in the evenings or sit at home. So I worked for weeks and months, for food and two dollars a day. When I had a free day we used to wonder. My brother Khaim and Grisha were the same age. Which would they take first to be a soldier? Grisha was such a good person and always optimistic. Once, on a Sunday when we didn't work, we all went for a walk. Khaim, Meir, Ada, Leizer, Grisha's elder brother and we went in the forest were there was a waterway. Leizer took my hand to help me cross over the stream. When Grisha saw this he was furious. It was as if he had hit me like the teacher. He said that he saw how Leizer took my hand. "Leizer is my brother and I love you". I told him he shouldn't talk so stupidly. He was jealous even if I spoke to a girl or a woman.

We didn't see each other for two days. Khana-Ester went to Solomon and begged him that he should come to see us. Eventually we were reconciled.

Then came the time when he had to stand for Priziv (# conscription). It was Sukkos time. I always traveled home for the festivals. He wrote a letter to my parents asking whether he could come for Sukkos. My parents answered that a friend of their daughter was their friend. I went back for Rosh Hashonoh. Khaim and Shmilik also came. It was the first day of Sukkos. He had not yet arrived. I felt that perhaps something had happened. He had worked late at night and then left everything for Leizer. Then he took the train to Station Tsarakonstantinovka. He had had to wait for a train to come back. He arrived at the station and took a wagon to travel to the Kolonya. When he arrived and got down he asked where the Namakshtanskys lived. So everyone knew who he was and that our guest had come.

I was so nervous from such great happiness. We all sat and ate. Then Mama told him he should go and lie down. But he could not sleep. Idel, the Klezmer's daughter (# musician) said: "What have you got that I haven't got that all the young men crawl after you ?" Grisha told my parents that he wants to make a `Tenaim' (# engagement contract) so that he could be sure that I would wait for him. Because he would not go away from us for long before the police would come for him. After Sukkos they invited the uncles and aunts to come for the Tenaim. Two wagons came with guests and we made a Tenaim.

We both traveled back and he had to make all his business arrangements. His brother Leizer would look after everything. Within a week he would have to start his service. That was at the end of 1913 and in 1914 the First World War broke out. I used to send a letter to Grisha twice a week. His unit was stationed in Zhmerinka. He wrote to me and asked me to come and visit him before they would send him to the front. At first I didn't want to go and found excuses. Then he sent a telegram I should come at once. I didn't ask my parents or my brother. I told Grisha's elder brother Solomon and he gave me his blessing.

I set off. It was winter; cold. In Kiev I had to wait for another train for three or four hours. I arrived in Zhmerinka and Grisha was so happy to see me. He took me to his friend. There I took sick and he had to call a doctor. I had to stay in bed for five days. When I was better Grisha took me to see his people and to meet his sister with whom I stayed. I was there a week and Grisha begged me to stay longer but I couldn't. It took me a whole week to get home. People looked at me and wondered what was wrong. Could I tell them that my heart was broken?

I came home and decided I must write a letter. I bought a large block of paper and sat down to write. The tears flowed from my eyes like blood. I filled the entire block of paper on both sides, writing everything which was in my bitter heart. I wished him that he would come home healthy from the war and that he would find someone who was suitable for him. I was not for him. I sent the letter. The same day I received a letter from him, a letter from the front. I answered him.

It was before Shavues when I received from him a letter from Pavlograd. He had been wounded and was lying there in a hospital. He begged me I should come there to see him. He had there his mother's brother with his wife and daughter and I could stay with them.

Khaim, my brother, had become a bridegroom to my uncle Zalmen (the rabbi)'s daughter. Khaim was traveling to his bride in Vasilkovka which was not far from Pavlograd. We decided to travel to Vasilkovka and I would go on to Pavlograd. For Shavues I would come to the uncle.

They received me so nicely at his uncle's home. The daughter was called Bronia. Grisha was very lightly wounded. He would come to the uncle and then we would travel to Vasilkovka. Grisha came early and changed into his uncle's civilian suit. Bronia traveled with us. The journey passed very nicely. Nobody asked anything or said anything.

Khaya-Rokhel had a haberdashery store and she and Khaim were to meet us at the station. Uncle said that he would go from Shule and open the store until she would return. It was already ten o'clock when Uncle came home. Grisha greeted him. He sat down and asked: "And where is my niece?" I answered: "I am the niece." But as I didn't know how to behave Uncle said: "As you are my niece you can take my hand."

Meanwhile I introduced Bronia. It was Erev Shavues. For Shavues came home uncle's second son Mottel with his wife Pola and their two boys. Pola and Mottel were Hebrew teachers. They had a class for forty children. Pola was a Lithuanian, a very nice person and very educated. They were a match from G-d; gentle, nice and learned. We all sat down at the table and ate. Pola said to Uncle: "Father-in-law, how would you interpret in the Gemorah such and such a passage?" Uncle answered in his usual way. Pola said:" And why can't you interpret it in such and such a way?" Uncle answered: "Go on with you !" Then I understood that anyone can interpret as he thinks.

After the festival we traveled home. Grisha with Bronia to Pavlograd; Khaim and I to Nikitovka. Two weeks after Grisha had written from the hospital he arrived in Nikitovka. He said: "I do not want to lay my head down for Nikolaika." What was to be done? By Solomon he could not stay; there he would soon be found. By Khana-Ester and Feival Savirsky he had to go into another room whenever anyone came. I used to go and work by day. My brother was not happy with the situation. One day he came and announced that he was writing home to my parents that the match was off. This was for me a cheek and I said:" I didn't ask you and it's not your business."

Then we rented an apartment, Khaim, Shmilik, me and Grisha; we sold things and it wasn't too bad. But I wanted to work. Grisha used to spend the whole day alone. It was no good. I received a letter from my parents that it would be good for Grisha to be on the Kolonya. At anytime they might come from the police and discover Grisha. We realized that it would be the best plan. We wrote a letter that Father should come and take him home.

I had written very little about my father. He was such a good-natured person, always with a smile. Blond with a goatee beard, just like grandfather of blessed memory, his father. My father was always ready to do a favor. My father came and took Grisha with him. Everyone was very friendly. Everyone knew that he had run away from the war. Grisha was a great smoker. Even on Shabbes he could not control himself. He used to go out of the house, go into the animal stall and stand between the horses smoking. When Father knew about it he used to do nothing. But if, Heaven Forbid, Mama was around when he was smoking, the heavens opened up.

For the festivals I came home. Before I left Nikitovka I heard that Idel the Klezmer's son had been killed in the war. It effected me so badly that I felt ill whilst I was traveling home. I was worried I would collapse on the train. Khaim had bought a ticket for a place and a sleeping compartment. I arrived at the station and Father had come for me. We traveled home. We talked about everything except about the tragedy.

My mother was full of happiness and Grisha could not contain his joy. The Sukkah was soon ready. Mother was taken up with cooking and baking. At night the men were away at Shule. We were all waiting in the Sukkah. Mama had blessed the candles. Everything was decorated. They came home from Shule and it was happy and festive. We all sat around the table in the Sukkah. As I sat I hoped that I would not feel ill. We ate the fish and mother was serving the soup. Suddenly my eyes began to dance and I gave a sudden cry. Mama dropped the bowl with the soup and she called out: "My child, what is it?" Grisha was worried. They laid me down. Mama said: "My child, early in the morning we are going to speak to the `Grandmother' Reiza.

In the morning the men were away in Shule and Mama and I went to the Grandmother Reiza. She got a fright when she saw me. Mama told her why we had come. The Grandmother Reiza took a large Taz (# traditional Russian bronze mixing dish), filled it with a little water, took a candle and lit it. Then she said to me: "My child, if you want it, to this will help. You must have faith." She held the candle over the water and said blessings. I went home and felt better. I believe! I believe! It helped a little. But later, when I felt nervous, the same peculiar feeling came over me.

An acquaintance had told my father that he knew someone who made passports. But he wanted two hundred rubles for a passport. Father told him he would have to consult the family at home. When we heard we decided that we wanted to see the man. We decided that it was in order and the man came with the passport. His name was Vladimir Yakobovitch Berman. We paid two hundred rubles, but Grisha still wasn't able to walk about in the street. It would be better to go somewhere where nobody knew him. It was decided on Genichesk in the Crimea. It was located on the Sea of Azov and the climate was good there. The town was very nice. To the sea one had to go down a hundred steps and the sand was as white as fallen snow. There it was never winter. It was a town to live and enjoy life. I went back to Nikitovka.

Grisha wrote a letter that he wanted to arrange the wedding. He wrote to my parents asking how long a man could live alone. I wrote that I was coming home. I packed everything and left Nikitovka. The wedding took place on the 20th of October 1916. I hadn't got anything ready yet. Father with Grisha went to `Number Three' (# Kolonya Number Three = Krasnoselka) to write. (# may mean to register). One could say that it was a quiet wedding. The uncles and aunts and a great-aunt from Grafskoy came. (# This must have been Feigel, the widow of Velvel Komisaruk, her grandfather's brother, since she was the only surviving member of that generation. She died in Russia in 1925). The morning after the wedding Grisha traveled back to Genichesk. I stayed home for a month and with Mama prepared all sorts of linen. Then Grisha wrote saying everything could be done in Genichesk.

Father took me to the station. When Grisha went back, Mama took his hand and made him promise that when I would be expecting, he should let me come home to my parents to give birth. I parted from Father, sat in the train and traveled. I developed a migraine. I had to get of at another station to change trains and just then I felt as if my head was bursting. I was so dizzy from the headache that I lay down on a bench in the waiting room. I couldn't open my eyes. Then I felt someone taking my hand like a little child. It was Grisha; he had come to meet me. I couldn't even speak and we arrived in Genichesk. I couldn't even take off my coat.

Grisha had rented a room; the neighbors were such fine people. There was a Jewish watchmaker and a young Christian woman. Her husband had been killed in the war. She had two children and a younger sister lived with her. Her parents were landowners with a large farm not far from Genichesk. She used to come every week bringing milk, cheese, butter and cream. She used to bring so much that she used to ask me to take some. Her sister attended a gymnasium there. My sister had finished primary school and I brought her to us to attend the gymnasium.

Meanwhile, Khaim had got married. Grisha could not go and I could not travel alone. We planned to travel home for Shavues. When Khaim heard that we were going home, he decided also to come. They lived in Nikitovka. We were soon ready to go. In Genichesk there were so many people at the station wanting to travel. We were able to get seats only at the end of the train. Grisha had a silver cigarette case which he had put in his jacket. When we were seated in our places Grisha wanted to smoke. Suddenly he made an exclamation: he hadn't got the case. We assumed someone had taken it. The cigarette case had been a present from his elder brother Solomon.

For Shavues all the children traveled home. It was very happy and festive by my parents. After the festive they would have to go home. I was pregnant with my child three months. Mama did not ask me but she asked Grisha if I would be coming home. Shmilik said:" If I had ten sisters I would travel from one to the other". He was so good and clever.

Two months later, Father came to visit us. On Friday Father came home from Shule. The table was laid. The candles were burning. Father made Kiddush and he was weeping. I had never seen my father weeping. I asked:" Tate, what's the matter with you?" He replied:" That I have lived to make Kiddush at your table I am crying from joy." For me this seemed also right. After a few days he was to go back. Previously a letter had come from Mama that she wanted me to come and have my child with her at home. I could not be left alone and tended properly in strange hands. If I would not come she was frightened that I might die. Grisha was silent. I didn't know that Father had spoken to him about when I would come home.

There were two more weeks left before I was due to have my child. Pinkhas came to take me. My sister stayed with Grisha. Grisha said farewell to  us and Father met us at the station. When the train arrived and we got off at the station. I say our wagon with a large trunk loaded on it and Father lying on the trunk sleeping. I went up to him and asked: "Reb Avrom Hillel, can you take us home?" He gave a start: "Oh, it's you children". I looked at the big trunk and asked: "What's this trunk?" My father said to me: " I was in Nikitovka and Khaim Montovitch's daughter is studying there. She is coming home for Yom Tov. It is hard for a girl to drag. She asked me to take it for her." My father one could believe.

We sat in the wagon. In Kaminka we also took on a neighbor’s daughter. We traveled and talked. Meanwhile I remembered that Father had been in Nikitovka so I asked him: "Tate, you've come from Nikitovka. How are Khaya-Rokhel and Khaim?" Father said: "To tell you the truth, I don't really know how Khaim is doing." I knew my father with his answers. It was clear to me that everything was all right.

We arrived home. Mama always cried for joy. Then my Mama was so happy. In the house everything was spotlessly clean. Soon Mama made a meal, we all sat and ate and talked cheerfully. I was tired from the journey so Mama made up a bed for me to go to sleep. Early in the morning I got up and saw father saddling the horse to travel. I asked him: "Tate, where are you going?" He replied:" To Grafskoy". I said: "Haven't you forgotten to take the trunk?" I was in the house and saw that everything was ready to travel. I saw through the window our neighbor with her three daughters coming to us. I went out again. The trunk wasn't there. "Tate, didn't you forget the trunk?"

Pinkhas came up to me, took me aside and said: "Sister, be strong. The trunk is not Montovitch's. It is our brother's, Khaim. Khaim is dead. I pushed him away and rushed to Mama. I grabbed her dress and began screaming: "How can you live if Khaim is dead?" I didn't understand why the neighbors weren't coming to us and I was screaming:" Khaim is dead!" It was like a pain in the heart but one had to gradually learn to live with it.

Khaim had come for Shavues on the train and had traveled back on a wagon to Nikitovka. He had to travel some twenty-five versts from the station and would soon be home. It was a very hot summer and the sun burnt like a hell-fire. When he came home he announced that he had a severe headache. Khaya Rokhel went with him to a doctor who examined him and found nothing. But his head got worse. His wife said to him: "Let us go to Bakhmut; there in the hospital is a great doctor Ginzberg." As they said it so they did. Doctor Ginzberg examined him and said: "Meanwhile I cannot find anything. You must lie for a week in the hospital so we can see what it is."

She took his clothes and returned to Nikitovka. He lay in the hospital. A week passed and they told her to come and bring his things as he was to go home. She came immediately and went into his room. Khaim said: "I see the same Khaya-Rokhel as before." She asked what he saw because she hardly recognised him. His whole face was swollen and his eyes protruded. She began crying out for help. Doctor Ginzberg and other doctors came when they heard her screaming. They realized that he must have an inflammation of the brain and immediately he died.

She was there all alone. She didn't know anyone. She sent a telegram to Shmilik; he was working for the war. Shmilik came quickly and went to the hospital. They told him that he must go quickly to the cemetery. Khaya-Rokhel went back to the town to the rabbi to get a Tallis to bury him in. When Shmilik arrived at the cemetery and found out what the cost was he made a big fuss. So they wanted him to leave the town. The rabbi came with Khaya-Rokhel and they calmed him down. Shmilik took Khaya-Rokhel back to Nikitovka and alone, with his bitter heart, returned to Aleksandrovsk.

Father didn't find out until after Shloshim (# thirty days after the death). He could not tell Mama. He still had to go and say Kaddish for his firstborn. It was night time. By us there were large windows and mother used to like to sit and look out the windows. They were open. Father broke a large branch from a tree. When Mama went to shut the window she saw the broken branch. Mama began screaming:" My child is dead. "She made such a noise that the whole street could hear. All the neighbors had known but who could tell such terrible news. Mama went and tore the `Paroches' (# the curtain hung before the Holy Ark in the synagogue) in the Shule. Nobody could pray over the sound of her screaming.

She sent a letter to her brother: "Brother what can you say about this?" His answer was: "G-d gives and G-d takes."

More did Shmilik have to stand. My brother had not yet had any children. The second brother had to marry the widow. If not, he had to give her `Khalitza'. This was a terrible business, an ancient custom. After the bandits, I said that at least I had my child (# after her husband was killed and therefore her brother-in-law was not obligated to her).

It was near the Yom Tovim and Shmilik came. They cut `Kriyah' (# a symbolic cutting of a garment as a sign of mourning, usually done at the funeral, but under the circumstances, delayed.) He went and lost the jacket. The next time Mama didn't notice. But when he got down from the wagon, Mama began shouting and grabbed his jacket: "You are still the stand-in for your brother's wedding".

When nobody was in the house I grabbed Shmilik that he should tell me everything. How much I heard I was crying so much. I have written in `My Dreams' how Khaim appeared in a dream when I had my child. Through that same window where father had broken the branch, I saw him standing in white linen. I told Mama my dream. "I must surely give a name after my dearest brother."

I can still see the home when we were still children. It was winter; Friday night a long time ago. Father used to lie on a wide bench near the oven with all of us children around him. And he used to tell us stories. We children used to sit with open mouths and devour every word which he told. Where did he take it all from? And he never told the same thing twice.

Now I received a letter from my husband that it was time to come home. And my daughter was a great crier. By day and by night. She never closed her mouth. Shmilik took me home. Mama made Shmaltz and stuffed necks and gave me a big package. We came home where Grisha was waiting for the child.

Grisha loved children so much. When we went out for a walk and he would see a child he would always comment what a pretty child it was. But when my child screamed a whole night, then Grisha said: "Had I known that this is how it is, I wouldn't want any children." She screamed for three months and then she was like an angel. Beautiful as the world; large blue eyes; a sweet face with blond hair. I wrote how when we went home Grisha had lost his silver cigarette case. I bought him a new one with a gold monogram.

One day in summer it was a very hot day. We lay on the carpet on the floor on a quilt with cushions and slept. My sister, the child and Grisha. We had hardly gone to sleep when there was a knock at the door. "Who is there?" "Police". Grisha answered the door. He saw outside three policemen. "Your passport". Grisha showed them his passport. They were very polite and apologized for disturbing us.

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Covers period from the Revolution until Canada

When the October Revolution came we all went out and paraded. Grisha carried Khayetchka on his shoulders and said: "I am wearing my flag." Then we decided to be worthy people (# because of the new found equality). We traveled to Verchye Dnyeprovsk where he was born to take his original passport and for me and the child to be written on the passport. Now we had everything taken care of.

I had written to Aunt Ester that when I would travel home we should stop by them. We quickly received an answer that they would be waiting for us with impatience. We didn't know how to make a date when we had written. When we came to Mikhailovka station there were a lot of wagons. When I asked them who knew the Lubans, they said: "Who doesn't know the Lubans."

When we arrived at Uncle's yard it was five o'clock in the morning. Uncle was sitting outside learning. The maidservant was milking the cows. Aunt was engaged in the house. When we arrived and Aunt saw us, she gave a shout: "Khaim-Moshe, the children are here." Aunt was a great worthy person. Uncle Zalmen was with them. Aunt had delayed him for two days that he should see the children. We did not arrive in time and Uncle Zalmen couldn't wait any longer.

Uncle was a prosperous man. He had a large yard with small houses. In one of the houses lived Uncle's brother, the rabbi of Mikhailovka. Aunt had put us in Alter's room. Everything was spotlessly clean. In all the rooms the furniture was covered in white coverings. They had heard nothing from their son. In Harbin Uncle had a sister who was very prosperous (# Her husband's name was Yaakov G. Baranov). They hoped that they had not lost him. We were with Uncle and Aunt a few days but Grisha impatiently wanted to travel on to see what he could do.

When we came home to my parents Grisha said that he wanted to travel to Nikitovka. He suffered from piles. He went to Nikitovka. It was very bad with the piles but he did not want to write to me how badly he felt. It was two weeks since I had not heard from him so I took my child and traveled to Nikitovka. I arrived at his brother Solomon and he told me that he was in hospital having had an operation for piles. The hospital was in Nikitovka village, not near the station. I took a wagon and traveled to the hospital. Grisha soon felt better. I saw the doctor and he said that in a day or two he could go home. When he was at the war he had nothing to eat and he used to pick beets in the field and potatoes and eat them raw. That caused his condition. In two days I returned and took him from the hospital. We stayed until dawn with Solomon and then traveled home.

It was not very long until Christmas. All my brothers heard that Grisha and I were coming home so they came home. The times were not very good. They used to come to see what was going on by us. Once there came a White recognizance unit. They found nothing in the Kolonya but they plundered.

Mama needed to make all the Shmaltz. She said to Shmilik that he should get on a horse and ride to Heitzur to the market to buy onions. Straight away he went to a friend, Hershel Goldshtein. Shmilik said that he wanted to take a horse. The friend didn't want to; the Goyim might take the horse. Shmilik said to his friend: "Come with me, altogether it's five versts." Good, they went and came to the market. A group of hooligans surrounded them. "What did the Whites want from you?" "By us there are no Whites left". The hooligans wanted to kill them. There were many householders and they stood between the hooligans and my brother and his friend. The householders said: "First you'll have to get through our bodies." So they did nothing. The householders took my brother with his friend and traveled halfway out of the village and stayed with Shmilik until it was all right.

Firstly Shmilik went to the Starosta Moshe Nol and told him everything. He immediately called an assembly. That was Thursday, 1918, December 21st. They quickly called everyone to the assembly. I should have said firstly that the time was very unfortunate. We first packed up all the good clothes. I had a fur coat. My husband had a nice coat. My brothers, father, Mama, we had a very large box and packed everything in it. In the yard stood a store. There we dug a type of grave to bury the box in the earth so that it could not be found.

So there everything was buried. But when Shmilik and Father came from the assembly they decided to take out the box and disperse the clothes amongst all the neighbors. We worked the whole night. Silver things and gold we buried. My husband had a revolver which he had brought from the war. He loaded the bullets and shot six times in succession, he should be rid of them. Friday in the morning I took the revolver and wrapped it in a rag. Over the road was an empty yard with trees. I sat down and with a chopper dug a sort of grave and buried the revolver, covering it with earth and with fallen leaves from the trees. I went home having done something important. If the bandits had come and found it they would have been very angry.

Everyone felt that a storm was coming. Friday and Shabbes went by in terror. Water for the horses and cattle we drew from a well. But it was no good for drinking. We used to travel to the `Balka' (# canal) halfway to Heitzur. There we used to take water for drinking and cooking. Sunday morning Father wanted to travel for good water. The wagon was soon harnessed when Father came into the house and said that the whole Kolonya was surrounded by bandits.

Mama had first sent my little brothers to go to Kheder but it did not take long for them to come home weeping. They had been stripped of their boots and coats and all the children had been sent home barefoot and naked.

All the men were called to an assembly, actually in Moshe Nol's yard. Two bandits with cocked rifles faced us. Shmilik's friend came and said: "Your coat is already missing." Shmilik said to the bandits: "Comrades, is it right like this? I work for the war and I had a coat which was taken away." One of the bandits asked:" Where was your coat taken?" Shmilik said:" At night I was with my friend and I went outside. It wasn't cold and I went home without the coat." One of the bandits said: "So you say. Go to the assembly and you will ask the elders. If you will recognize your coat you can take it back."

They needed to send the men back so they could begin their work. One gave a look at my sister and said: "She is a spy; she has black eyes!" My mother stood up, stood by my sister and said: "First you will have to kill me before you can kill her!" There were two of them. One said: "Let us take them." The second smote my husband with his `Nogaika' (# whip). He was still weak from his operation. There were shouts as Pinkhas and Velvel came.

A neighbor’s daughter had come to us in the morning and she wanted to go home. I gave her my child and I with Mama was taken quickly with them. I held Mama by the hand. They drove us to the third house from us. When we were halfway the bandits decided that without us they could carry out their `Holy Work' better. With rifles directed at us they drove us home.

Mama cried out such that the heaven would split. I thought that perhaps they will surely beat them, wanting to find out something. Maybe they were killed. Not even that news, mercifully, came. And I dragged and begged Mama she should go. He was ready to shoot. There in the third house were bandits. They were still waiting for us to be brought to them. When we were back in the house Mama tore out her hair from her head, banged her head on the wall and begged her father, the Tsaddik (# Saint) that he should take immediately her children to him alive.

The bandits meanwhile left her alone and dragged from the cup boards tablecloths and bed linen and with a sword cut them to shreds. They found our coats. They spilt so much in the course of one hour. Then a bandit in a wagon rode up and banged on the window: "Let's go now." When they left our house we went quickly to the third house where they had taken our dear ones. The neighbor from the house came with us to open the house with the key. She said:" We have nothing to go in for." Nothing could be heard from the house. The door was locked. Through the window I saw a broken head, a chopped foot, and a chopped hand.

We all went quickly to the assembly. From all the houses came the same chant. All were hurrying to the assembly. There was a shout: "They have all been burnt!"

We could not believe it. We hurried and arrived at the place: a great heap of black ashes. We screamed so much with dismay. Then came householders from Heitzur. They were maidservants who worked in the Kolonya. They broke out with a cry: "See what the bandits have done to the Jews!" Then the householders came riding in and when they saw the `Khurban' (# destruction) which had happened to us they asked everyone about his troubles. The householders didn't stop long by us; they must go quickly to rescue others. When the bandits came to the second Kolonya Peness they had only time to kill nineteen Jews when the Goyim came and said:" Get going, the Whites are coming." So they saved the remaining Jews.

In the `house of fire' of the Starosta was a `Saray'(# barn). It was a store and was very big. All the machinery for working the land was stored there, as well as hay for the horses to eat. They drove everyone inside and sealed them in. Shmilik Itskovitch made a fuss and he was shot in the yard. His dog sat day and night and wouldn't leave him.

We found from my father an `anitsha'. I will explain what that was. Most men at that time used to wear boots. In winter it was very cold so they wore socks and wrapped around their feet an `anitsha'. This was made from a flannel blanket. This meant that they were made to remove their boots and clothes and everything was taken.

We were left naked and barefoot. The first night we hid in the cemetery with the children wrapped in rags. In the morning it was still. We went home and took the wagon with a horse. The horse hadn't eaten a whole day and night. Another neighbor with her children also took a wagon and horse and we left and traveled to a German village. That day was very cloudy for us in the heart. The leaves were kicked about by the horse's feet and it couldn't pull the wagon.

We started to travel; Mama, my sister, my brother Zalmen and the youngster Leibl and me with my child. The neighbor had two little boys, one probably not yet a month old. We traveled. It was hard for the horse; the leaves were so thick.. We stopped; the horse wanted to rest a little. We went on further. We heard dogs barking. A village was not far if the dogs were barking. It was so noisy that they didn't recognize what they saw. When the dogs began barking the Germans thought it was bandits so they began shooting. When we proceeded they shot so we turned around and rode back to the Kolonya.

The horse was exhausted so we had to stop. The neighbor’s child began crying. She had no milk since she hadn't eaten for two days and the child cried. She said to my mother: "Dina, I want to lay the child down. What sort of a life is this for him ?" My mother said: "Hena ! You are a mother, what you wish for yourself, you want for the child." And Mama took a piece of bread in her mouth and chewed it until it was soft as a rag and gave it to the child. The child became silent and we went on.

When we came not far from the Kolonya we stopped the wagons. I went down to Karl the miller to ask if it was safe in the Kolonya. When he saw me coming to his house he came out and said: "Go! Go! Quickly if you don't want to be killed." Our house was the fourth from Karl's. I went on to our house and took something to eat for the children. It was silent in the street. There was not even a mad dog. I came in the middle of the street to a big old house and stopped. I went into the house. There were still five mothers with children. We left the children there and traveled to find a place for the wagon and horse. We left the wagon in one place and took the horse to another yard. We gave the horse water and a lot of hay, closed the stall and went to our new quarters.

There firstly we learnt that in the Hintisher Gasse the bandits killed all the women and children. Then the leader of the bandits gave an order to leave the women alone and children from thirteen years were to be set free. One little boy of six years old hid under the bed when the bandits came in. And he saw how the murderers slaughtered everyone. His family name was Blatt.

In our new house we blocked the window with a cushion and stood a lamp on the table. When a little child wanted to make a sound we used to close his mouth. The pogrom had been on Sunday and so we existed until Thursday. I thought that the whole world must be like this and I used to think that I surely would live and find out what sort of a world there was to see.

Thursday, early in the morning we heard that a Minyan of Jews (# the quorum of ten men required to hold prayers, in particular for the dead) had come from Kaminka (Tsarakonstantinovka) to bury the dead. We all went out and found that the horses had done their `business' on our doorstep. We went quickly and began crying about our great calamity. The Jews said: "We have left our families `Hefker' (# abandoned) and we don't know when we will get back. We hope we will find them alive.

They broke the windows where the bodies lay in the houses. The blood saturated the earth. They took a swig of whiskey to give them strength to carry out their holy work. They carried them, stiff as boards and loaded them on a Britchka (# cart). We traveled in a wagon to look at our dear ones for the last time. But they had to finish and get back. So they went from house to house. They went to the cemetery where they had taken the mound of ashes. We took Father's Tallis (# prayer shawl in which the deceased were normally buried). They had made graves; in one grave they buried the ashes. It was sufficient. Meanwhile there was a sudden shout: "The bandits are coming !" The Jews wanted to get away and asked us to hurry and help. When we returned it turned out that it was not bandits. But it was too late to finish the holy work. They were so alarmed that we should be there in the cemetery. They dug a type of wide grave and put them all in. That was it. They weren't to blame. They were men with hearts and feelings.

We didn't know what to do now. We should get away soon. Friday, very early, we took the wagon with the horse, loaded up and traveled on. As we passed our house we took from the attic a half sack of meal. We opened the stall, let out the cattle, horses and hens and gave them water to drink and to eat. We locked up the doors and set of to travel to Grafskoy to Mama's brothers. The horse, having eaten now went well. We traveled. Two versts from our Kolonya was Peness. We decided to bypass their houses when a Jew came out towards us and said: "Go on further if you want to live, if you aren't to be killed." We didn't even stop.

From Peness to Grafskoy is five versts. We drove into the Kolonya. It was like a cemetery. We drove to Uncle Mendel, Mama's elder brother. We arrived at his yard and stopped the wagon. Uncle came out of the house and said: "I can't help you with anything as my family are not here at home . I have only come to see what is happening and I am going straight back to them."

Uncle Simkha lived on the farm; it was close to Marenfeld. I didn't know how Pinkhas (# Simkha's son) saw us, but he soon saw we were there and came quickly and said: " I have just now come to see what is happening here. We are all in a German village. You must come with me." I didn't want to go but I had no alternative other than to go and stay there.

We went with Pinkhas. On the way a rider came up and stopped us to ask where we were going. I was the spokeswoman and told him where we were going, that we were traveling with our cousin to his parents in the German village. He listened and then said: "Go ahead." When we arrived we were received like important guests. They were staying with a rich German. They gave us the big room with a bed and bed coverings. The horse was taken to the stall with their horses. We stayed there three weeks until it was a bit quieter.

We went with Uncle and Aunt to Grafskoy. At dawn we went back to Engels (# = Trudolubovka) We traveled with two wagons, ours and Pinkhas'. We found two cows, hens and took wheat from the barn in our wagon and in Uncle's. We traveled all day to look for whatever we could find and we took until there was no more room. We wanted to bring for the children to eat.

The last time we came to see we locked the windows and doors for the last time. We dragged our wheat from there but had a surplus. I decided that the Goyim could have it; two thirds for them and one third for us. Neither time did Uncle travel with us. The last time we took him with us. When he came back he said: "Seeing what they have done to the houses I can imagine what they did to the people."

Zalmen my brother was my right hand. He was not yet twelve years old. An orphan becomes Barmitsvah (# confirmed) at twelve (# instead of thirteen). Frequently we used to go to our Kolonya. Once on the way a shepherd was grazing some animals. I saw that he was wearing my husband's waistcoat from the suit in which he was killed. Would that we had had the courage to take back the waistcoat. When the dead had been brought to the cemetery they went to bring more. But when the Jews were busy burying the ashes the Goyim came and took their clothes.

It was said that the authorities gave wagons to the unfortunate who were left alive in the Kolonya. They could choose where they wanted to go. Meanwhile a messenger came from my brother-in-law, Solomon, from Nikitovka. He had not known that Grisha had been amongst the victims. He wanted to bring me and my child to him. I didn't want to go but it was worthwhile if the authorities gave the opportunity to sell things for money. We decided that maybe it was a plan for me to go and see. I had no passport; Grisha had perished with all our documents. They said that at Station Rozovka there was a Commandant who issued papers. I should go and speak to him. So we went and arrived at Station Rozovka where the Commandant was supposed to be. But he wasn't there. He had gone away somewhere and they didn't know when he would be back. Said Sivirsky, the man who had accompanied me: "I have a passport. Let's go!" I had no alternative.

So we set off with the child in my arms. The wagons were packed full of people . It was evening when we arrived at Station Khatzepetovka. The train went no further as it was wartime. It was twenty more versts to Nikitovka. Everyone sat wherever they could find a place. There were military personnel everywhere. Two of them came up and accused us of being spies. They were checking everybody's passports. Savirsky wanted to find a horse and wagon to travel to Nikitovka. They checked Savirsky's passport and all was in order. Then they came to me: "Where is your passport?" I told them that I did not have a passport and told them everything that had happened to me. The one who had asked for they passport said:" How do I know if it's so. There are so many spies who can take a child with them and go around spying. You are arrested!" The other one who was with him said: "Can't you see that the lady is telling the truth! I will take her on my responsibility until the commandant comes. He took me by the hand and I felt that he was an angel from Heaven who had saved my life.

Meanwhile the child began crying. The officer asked me:" Why is she crying?" I replied: "She is hungry; I have no more milk for her." He called a soldier and sent him to bring some milk. She drank and fell asleep. The officer told me his whole biography. He had previously been an officer in the Tsarist army. When he had gone away, the Bolsheviks came and killed his wife and two children. Now he had joined the Whites (# the anti-Communists) to get revenge. When the commandant returned he was away for only five minutes before he came back joyfully. All the people were to be evacuated. The commandant was a good friend of his and a good man.

Half an hour later he came back with the commandant and introduced him to me. The commandant shook hands with me and commiserated with me for all the misfortune that had befallen me. He told me that everyone was being evacuated and they were traveling through Nikitovka. He apologized that he couldn't take us in his wagon. But we could travel in a wagon with soldiers. He made sure that they were to behave themselves and mind their language. I thanked him profusely and he said:" Stop it madam, we are men with hearts." The officer took us to a wagon full of soldiers, made room for me, my child and Savirsky and bid us a good night.

When the train entered Nikitovka and stopped in the station and I opened my eyes. We got down and the officer was there. "Was it a good journey?. Were the soldiers gentlemen?" We thanked him sincerely.

We went to Solomon's house. Four o'clock that day a Minyan of men gathered in Solomon's house so the old father could say Kaddish for his lost son. It was such a scene which one could only see in the movies. I only wished that nobody would arrive who wanted to exterminate us. Nikitovka was the center of the war.

I had not heard anything from Mama nor she from me. We stayed in Nikitovka another two months and I wanted to go home. Solomon didn't want us to travel as it was dangerous. We should wait until it was quieter. He always found excuses. But after three months I decided that I must travel. It did not help Solomon explaining what a difficult way it was with a child. But his begging did not help.

There were no regular trains for passengers. There were only wagons which brought coal from Yuzovka. I had a flannel blanket in which I wrapped the child. The train did not go all the way in to Yuzovka. We got out and asked someone to let us in to wash and eat. Then I had to walk a full verst in deep mud to Yuzovka.

In Yuzovka lived Mama's sister, the Aunt Reizel. When I dragged myself to the aunt I was more dead than alive. She took me and the child in. Then everything was fine and we were in Yuzovka for one week. It was a long way from Grafskoy. I decided to go home. Aunt and Uncle did not want to let me go but we discussed it and we couldn't stay in Yuzovka.

So I left. When I arrived home the joy was so great. Mama was so happy to see me and the child, and my happiness was likewise. I was so tired from travelling. First there was a commotion in the Kolonya. There was shooting and screaming. First Pinkhas hid in the space above the rafters. In the dining room there was an opening to the roof space. First the men hid and an obstruction was made so they would not be seen. So there was a door. We set up a table and on it laid cushions and bedding. Everything was fine. The Uncle's two girls lay down with bandaged heads on the table. My two little brothers, my mother, my sister and my child, we all slept on one couch. All of us in a large dining room. Uncle and Aunt were in another room.

We did not have to wait long before the guests arrived. Aunt answered the door. The first one who came in demanded money from Aunt. She gave him whatever she had. "No! It is not enough. Give more!" Aunt told him that she had no more; she had given him whatever she had. He hit her with the `Nogaika' (# whip) and looked at us. "Why are they lying with bound heads?" "They have a serious illness, Scarletina. They moved away and went into the second room. We heard one say to another: "We will get nothing here. They are from the Fifth Kolonya." Our Kolonya had three names: No.5, Engels, and Trudolubovka. They departed.

It was quiet in the Kolonya. Uncle Simkha lived on the farm. It was not in the center of the Kolonya. During the day, whenever we heard that bandits were coming, we would run quickly to the Plantation. It was very close to Uncle's house and we used to hide there amongst the thick trees.

We decided to go away to Yuzovka. We took a wagon and loaded up the wheat which was over and two cows. Uncle Simkha came later. We found an apartment with two rooms and place for the cows. The horse and wagon we sold straight away. It was on the eleventh street. The landlady was a widow with three married sons and a married daughter. They all lived together in the one house. They all had children and they used to play together and with Khaytshke. When the fathers came home from work, all the children used to laugh with their fathers. Once, Khaytshke asked: "Boba (# Grandmother), All children have fathers and I have not!" My mother's eyes filled with blood not with tears. What could one tell a child, that murderers came and cut short his life.

When we arrived we had no time to find pasture for the cows. We lived near the edge of town and there was a lot of green grass. My sister used to take the cows to eat there. Once she met a young man and got to talking with him. The next day, Mama went to milk the cows and they were gone. I went to the police and reported it. It took several months for them to call me to advise that they had found the thief. I went with my sister to identify him. He admitted it but told them that he had sold the cows to some people. The police wrote a letter to the authorities there advising them of the facts and to arrange to return the cows.

That night there was a loud knocking on the door. The landlady went to the door as a drunken voice demanded to be led to us. She called her sons and they said we had gone. They went away and we were so grateful that they had saved us. I went to get back the cows. There I went to the police and they came with me. We were shown the cows but they were about to give birth so we could not take them then. The police made the man sign a document to give back the cows after they had calved. a long time passed and still they weren't returned. I hired a man to come with me to get them back. I was so tired that I took the train back and he brought the cows home.

At that time there was an outbreak of Typhus. The first to worry about was Khaytshke. Mama called a doctor to her. He examined all of us and said: "All of you should be taken to the hospital except for Khaytshke." Uncle Simkha with my mother took all of us children away to the hospital. The hospital was a long way from the city and there was so much mud. Yokhved and I lay in a room. Between us lay a woman. The two little brothers lay with the men.. My dear Mama used to come every day to look through the window to see us in bed. I must say that they gave us special treatment. They used to take out temperatures and my sister's was always less than mine. But she was delirious from fever. Once doctors came and had a discussion, I don't know what they said. My head was burning and I could not stand the lights hanging from the ceiling. I covered my head with the blanket.. I remember that I had not fallen asleep. I saw my grandmother, my mother's mother whom my mother had not known; she stood in the corner near my sister's bed dressed in her shrouds and she took hold of the sash and said to me:" You, my child must live. You have a little child. I wish you to lie in your place." I took off the blanket from my eyes and said to her: "Even if in the morning my temperature is forty-two I will not die." ,

Early in the morning came the crisis. The doctors did what they could. A few days later, Mama came and brought chicken soup for us with a bone and a little meat. My sister felt better. The nurse fed her the bone with the meat and it was like a drug for her. It was better than what the doctors had given her which hadn't helped. I begged the nurse to take me to my little brothers. She took me by the hand to a door and said that they lay there. I went around amongst the beds but could not find them. The nurse took me again and I didn't recognize my brothers. The head was so swollen and they were so pale. When they saw me we all held hands and cried for joy. I had to promise them I would come again in the morning.

Mama used to bring sweet cream to the nurses to give to us. I used to sit on a bed feeding them with a spoon. One morning I was released from the hospital. Then my brothers. My sister stayed another month and nothing helped. They gave her medicine but it did not help. She was so weak that she could not sit up. One day Mama said: " What G-d wants to be so must it be." She went to the hospital with Uncle Simkha and said: "I want to take my child home." The doctors thought she was crazy. But she insisted. Mama went to an apothecary and bought berry syrup which she gave my sister to drink three times a day. It was a miracle from heaven and in a week my sister was completely better. But she was still very weak. Little by little Mama fed her and gave her juice which she made. A nurse from the hospital came to see how we were, and when she saw my sister, she was amazed.

An orphan becomes Bar Mitzvah at twelve years. Leibl used to go to the Talmud Torah. On the first street was a barbershop. It was like a palace; a lot of men worked there. I asked my brother Zalmen if he wanted to become a barber. "Yes. Why not?" I went back to the barbershop and asked the boss. His name was Bassin. We discussed it and he agreed to teach my brother the trade. In six months my brother became an expert.

After a while we moved to another apartment on Eleventh Street, on a corner near a large bridge. We had two rooms. One was a large dining room with an entrance to the outside. When my brother finished learning we bought a large mirror and a barber's chair. He worked at our place and he did very well. One customer told another because they were so pleased with his work. Then a military unit came to Yuzovka. The commandant advertised in a newspaper that they needed a barber. We wrote an application, Zalmen was accepted, and he went to work for the soldiers.

It was a time of great famine. We had the good fortune to have work in a factory. There we used to wash and peel potatoes and they were cooked in a large oven. We were able to take home leftovers and Mama made all sorts of dishes. My brother also got some oil and sugar. When the soldiers came to have haircuts they paid half in food. Then we were not hungry. Mama used to bake bread, mixing the flour with chaff. Once a neighbor who had come from our Kolonya came to us. She was swollen with hunger. She begged my mother for some bread and my mother was ashamed to admit she baked bread with chaff. She said that if she had any over she would give her. My daughter said: "Grandmother, but you just now finished baking bread!" Mama said to the woman: "I would give you some but I don't think you can eat it." The woman ate the bread and said: "It is better than sponge cake!" It was as hard as a brick.

This same Lieba had a sister in Kobilnye, a Kolonya not far from ours. Her sister had a windmill. She, her two young children and the elder of my brothers decided to travel to her sister. She left the girls in Yuzovka. They had to travel seventy versts. It was hard for satisfied people to travel, but for hungry ones it was even worse. They were not far from a village when she fell down and died. The two unfortunate youngsters had to go into the village and ask for spades to bury their mother. When the children came home and we knew all about it, it was a terrible blow. The children became so nervy from their misfortune, that they developed a twitch in the eyes. Because of this twitching there was an episode.

They sold cigarettes in the market. A policeman bought an open packet of cigarettes. He questioned one of them and they other one was so nervous that he began to twitch his eyes. They were arrested. Their sister heard about it, went to the police and they were released.

There was great inflation. Today's money became worthless in the morning. When my brother was still working and he still had clients, I used to lend to the neighbors whatever they wanted, and the rest I deposited in the bank. Once I came a minute too late, but the one who used to stand on the door opened it for me, let me in, and I was able to make the deposit. Soon Leibl became Bar Mitzvah. Again we went back to Bassin and he took him to learn.

Uncle Simkha lived in our building. I was the breadwinner of the family. I think it was once when I was in the market selling furs. I used to travel and trade and bring more furs. All furs first were mixed together in clean water. Some furs were yellow and some white. When they were kneaded in clean water, they all came out the same color.

It was harvest time. I came home from the market. Mama said: "Uncle Simkha is very ill. Let us go and see him." We went and found him lying in bed and I could see that he was not good. He motioned to me with his hand that I should sit down next to him on the bed. I sat down and talked about nothing in particular. My heart was crying out in pain, Uncle looked so bad. Uncle said: "Rokhel, you are not as faithful a niece as Yokhved" (a cousin) (# Sherr, daughter of Mendel Komisaruk). I asked him on an impulse:" Why, Uncle?" He said: "When she comes, she says `Uncle, today you look so good!' " I answered: "Uncle, if it would help, I would say it ten times!" He said: "No my child. I know how I feel and she told me nonsense."

Meanwhile, Aunt Khava was crying and moaning: "For whom do I remain?" Uncle said: " You can live without me, as you know how she (my mother # Dina) also lives, so can you." He was for us like a dear father. And I loved him more than a father. He was such a dear soul. In less than a day, Uncle passed away. May his memory be blessed. May he have a bright paradise. If there is such a thing, he had, in a kosher way, earned it.

I used to travel to Grafskoy trading. I used to buy clothes in Yuzovka and trade them there for wheat. They used to bring it from the Crimea. Once my two cousins Binyomin ( # son of Mendel) and Pinkhas (# son of Simkha) and three other men traveled. They were all going to buy horses. I parted from them in Grafskoy and they all traveled on to a gentile village to buy horses. They stayed in a hostel and asked the owner if he knew anyone who traded in horses. He knew of some people and immediately sent for them. The vendors arrived and informed them that they could take them to see the horses immediately.

They took them quite a way from the village. It was winter; very cold and a lot of snow. They stopped and told everyone to get down. They stripped them naked, stood them one next to the other with hands up, and they began to shoot one after the other. They fell on the soft white snow.

Pinkhas was the last. The bullet had entered his mouth, tore in half his tongue and shattered his teeth. He heard them say that everything was fine. He didn't move until he heard that they had gone away. He felt more dead than alive and was frightened that at any moment the men might come back. He was bleeding and had lost a lot of blood. He didn't know how long he was lying there.

Later he got to a village. He fell at the first house and knocked at the door. The householder opened the door and saw a lot of blood. Pinkhas could not talk. The householder wrapped Pinkhas in a fur, laid him on a sleigh, harnessed up a pair of good horses and began traveling. The horse flew like birds. He brought him to the hospital in Rozovka. He could not talk. They gave him paper and a pencil and he wrote.

Aunt Khava received a letter from the hospital that she should come as her son was wounded. Velvel Berel's (# son of Berel Komisaruk), Aunt and I traveled quickly to Rozovka. When I was in Grafskoy I finished my business quickly. I hired a wagon and came home. They wondered how I could go away again so soon. But for such a misfortune I could not stand idle.

When we arrived in Rozovka Pinkhas still couldn't talk. He answered all the questions in writing. I stayed with Aunt in Rozovka until we could take him home. In Rozovka we stayed with Khana-Ester's aunt. We had to stay there a long time before we could take him home.

Life slowly became a little normal. There was still fighting, but far away from us. Then the purges began. Every day we heard of someone being called to the G.P.U. (# secret police), and from there one did not return.

Mama became ill and she could not get out of bed. One night, before going to sleep, I gave her prune juice. After three spoonfuls I asked:" Mama, another spoon?" "No my child, go to sleep." I extinguished the lamp and lay down. I was not yet asleep when I heard Mama groaning. She felt so bad; she never groaned. Khayetchka always used to lie next to Mama and I didn't want to frighten her and wake her.

I woke up the children so they should light the lamp. Mama did not feel good. She moaned. The children got up quickly and lit the lamp. I stroked my dear Mama gently. She groaned and tears fell from her eyes. I tried to wake her and screamed. The tears poured and she didn't answer. I cried out: "Mama, answer me!" She groaned and the tears poured from her eyes. I told the children to call Aunt Khava. When Aunt arrived, she said: "Robber! Let her die peacefully. Don't you know how you are tormenting her?" All of us were crying.

Now we had lost the ground from under our feet. We now no longer had our mother. When I used to despair and talk about everything which had befallen us; there was no longer a G-d in the world. How could he sit and look at what had happened to all our loved ones. Mama used to sit with clasped hands and stare at me in silence. Now was the end of it all.

It was the seventh day in Adar when my Mama died. The mud was so deep we couldn't get a wagon to take Mama to her rest. So my brother went to his commandant and told him that Mama had died and we couldn't get a wagon to travel to the cemetery. The commandant came at once. The horse had to drag through the deep mud. He didn't say a word and gave a horse. Even I could not go to Mama's last visit. Only Zalmen; he said Kaddish and the Khevra Kaddisha (where Leibl learned in the Talmud Torah) arranged where Mama was to be. They laid Mama next to Uncle Simkha. When my brother came home it was already nighttime. My brother could see nothing. For a long time he became blind. We could not believe it that we were still living on without our dear Mama.

I have already written that there were purges. There came from Aleksandreya sixteen youths. They had been expelled from the university. They came to work in Yuzovka where there was a foundry to forge iron. The furnace never closed. Neither by night nor by day. The youths thought that they would work for a year and then resume their studies. How they came to be in our company I don't know. A month later two girls, Zune and Mania came. Moshe Berezinsky told us that two girls were coming and he wanted us to take them in. I protested about taking them since I had only one room. But when I came back, the girls were there already. What could I do? I offered them food but they had just eaten and they wanted to go to sleep. I had only two beds. In one slept my brothers and in the other my sister, Khayetshka and I. In the barber shop I rolled back a carpet and put down cushions and an eiderdown with blankets. Every night I hardly closed my eyes. We slept in bed and they on the floor. They got up early and didn't eat with us.

When the situation with us started to improve, I began to realize all that had happened to us. I became very nervy so I went to a doctor and told him about my whole life. He gave me an injection of iron. It didn't help at all. When I was at home I began to hit the dear children. And they kept quiet about it. So the doctor advised my to go away to a village where I could take mineral waters.

I wrote a letter to Khana-Ester's sister Feiga Kaplan. She lived in a German village a verst and a half from Rozovka (# probably Luxemburg). He was the mayor of the village there. I soon received an answer that everything was arranged. I traveled there with my child. It was an outstanding place with the rich Germans in the village. Everything was fine. Shmilik Kaplan, Feiga's husband was a communist. But a rich Communist. In the evenings we used to go for a walk to Rozovka, to a theatre or a movie. Shmilik had a voice like an opera singer. Feiga also sang so nicely that we used to go and sing.

It was in the summer months. Every day the Germans used to make me a bath with salts. When we used to go to Rozovka the German `aunt' used to sleep with Khayetshka. When I had been there a month I put on forty pounds. My sister came to bring me more money so I could stay longer. I stayed another two weeks. More than that I couldn't. I was given such a welcome by the children when I came home. They laughed so much when they saw me.

Then Zune and Mania went away for a month. I received a letter from Zune's mother that I should send Khayetchke to her. The child wanted to go. In Aleksandreya lived Grisha's sister. She had converted. She was a ballet dancer. Her husband was a doctor. Then there were no civil marriages so she converted and they were married. The parents `cut Kriah’ and sat `Shiva' for her (# as if she was dead). The family had no further contact with her nor ever even mentioned her.

Khayetshke was a child of six and since she loved Zune so much, she wanted to go. They passed over a bridge and Khayetshke put her head out of the window because she didn't feel well; so she sent me a postcard about her journey. On the third day Zune's brother took her to see her aunt. They went to a cottage where they saw a woman with a child playing in the garden. Khayetshka asked: "Does the convert live here?" The woman asked:" And what do you want with the convert?" Khayetshke said:" She is my aunt." The woman asked:" And who are you?" She replied:" I am Grisha's daughter". They received her nicely and asked her to come again. Tania had two children. Her husband was a doctor. He even had his own car. Once he went to visit a patient, taking a child with him. They had an accident and were both killed. After a month's vacation Khayetshke came back to Yuzovka.

I received a letter from Zune's mother thanking me for sending Khayetshke to her. When I was in Bakhmut visiting Solomon. I told him that Khayetshke had seen Tania. He quickly went inside the house. He put a finger to his mouth. It was then no longer the Revolution and everything was in order. But not for Solomon. I invited Tania to come to us and I wrote to Solomon that she wanted to see him. She stayed with us for a week. With Solomon, she stayed only for a day.

We had an interesting and intellectual circle. One used to read from a book and then we would discuss it. We used to make mock courts. Once my brother Leibl was the victim, Motke the thief. One of them was studying in the law faculty.

Then I began to think. In another year or two Zalmen would be taken to the army. Meanwhile my father's sister, Aunt Feiga heard about our misfortune. She was then living in Winnipeg in Canada. She wrote asking what she could do for us. I wrote that I didn't need any help from her but that I had to think of Zalmen first. In Canada they wanted farmers to come and work. Uncle knew a number of farmers who could arrange for a visa. It didn't take long and we received a visa and a ticket for the ship to Canada. Everything was arranged quickly and I went with him to Moskva. I wrote for him everything about farming, how many pud of corn could be grown on a desyatin etc. He had to learn everything because he would be examined in the Canadian embassy.

We arrived in Moskva and went to the Canadian embassy. They asked him all sorts of questions. When he answered I kept quiet. But when I saw that the question was too hard for him, I answered. The inspector said:" You know better than he does." I answered: "He was still a child in school when they made the pogrom and killed everyone." He didn't ask any more and immediately issued a visa.

I wrote telling them that we had the visa and asked them to send one also for Yokhved. When it arrived I went to Moskva again. Now both children departed. I was very heavy hearted. Now I had to find a way to earn money for our ship tickets. I took a bookkeeping course with one Aleksandrov. I began to work. Then I received a letter from Zalmen that he was ill and needed an operation. He couldn't work and needed money. I managed to get together fifty rubles from friends and took a loan from the bank. Aleksandrov approved it. I went to Uncle Koppel (# Kogan: the husband of her aunt Reizel, her mother's sister) and he wrote a letter to send the fifty rubles.

Then I received a letter from Zalmen that he needed more money. I had to go to Aleksandrov again but this time he referred me to the manager. I told him the whole story but he demanded proof that my brother was really ill. I showed him a letter from Zalmen but Aleksandrov complained that it was in Yiddish. The manager said that was all write since he was also Jewish. He read the letter and asked me:" Are you Lithuanian?" I told him that when they used to abduct little children to serve in the army, my great grandfather had come from Kovno. He immediately put his stamp on the loan.

I needed to earn enough for five ship tickets. We filled in all the necessary papers and then received notice to go to the G.P.U. They told me Leibl could go at once. I would not be able to go so soon. I decided that Leibl should go and we would come later. I sent Khayetshke to stay with Solomon in Bakhmut and I traveled with Leibl to Moskva.

My heart was torn. How could one send a child alone? But as it is said, G-d is a father. The ship company had room for him. Then we met a woman travelling with her children and I asked her to look after Leibl. So I was satisfied that he was in good hands.

I went back to Bakhmut to collect my child and went home. Meanwhile I sold everything and sat and waited for them to notify me that I could travel. Aunt Reizel's son was a great communist (# Mishe Kogan). He was married to a cousin, Khayushka, Uncle Meir's youngest daughter. She was a teacher and they had a young son. She was away teaching then in a village. He used to come and ask what was happening with my papers. We sat and talked as if he was interested in everything. I thought it was nice that my cousin was so interested and I told him everything.

I sat with my child in the house, firstly a guest of the G.P.U. They called me. When they called you, you did not usually come back. I told my child:" If I don't come back by four o'clock, you go and tell Aunt that I have been called." I went back with the messenger. I came to gate and gave my name. They opened the gate for me. I went through; the soldiers stood with rifles ready to shoot. I told my name again and the soldiers opened the door for me. I went on along a corridor until I came to another soldier. He asked my name and, when I gave it, said: "Berchansky! Come and sit here and wait for the officer." It was clear to me that everyone knew my name.

Soon the official came and greeted me. We sat for a long time and talked about various things. He said:" A lot of people want to travel. Why do you want to travel?" I said: "The earth is saturated with our blood. They have killed everyone. I am the only one left alone with my child. I have nothing more here." He said nothing more. I got up and banged the table with my fist and said:" I demand an explanation!" He said: "No you will get no explanation. It is a state secret. "He told me that I could get nowhere there. I had to arrange new papers and go to Kharkov and if that didn't help, I should go to Moskva. It was not my fault.

I went away from there weeping. I met my cousin and grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket:" You are my Angel of Death. "He went white and he said: "I will not let you get away. And if you get away I will come after you." I said: "America is a big country. You can come but not to me. I will not know you!" I left him and was so ashamed, I could not even tell Aunt.

I immediately filled in new papers. It took some time and I didn't reveal my plan to a soul. When the papers were ready I took my child to my brother-in-law and traveled to Kharkov.

I went to the foreign ministry. I told the elderly secretary that I wanted to speak to whoever was in charge of the office. The secretary refused claiming that he had to know in advance all the details. I insisted and even threatened that I would go to Moskva. In the end I showed him my papers. After examining them he told me that I would receive a passport in one month.

I returned home happy, picking up my child on the way in Bakhmut. I waited a month but to no avail. I wrote a letter which was not answered. So I took my child again to my brother-in-law and returned to Kharkov. The same old secretary was sitting there and when he saw me, he told me that my passport had been sent a week before. Then I waited for a letter from the shipping company with the details of the journey. Meanwhile I went to Grishino where Uncle Zalmen's married daughter lived. I can't remember her married name. I spent an enjoyable week there. She gave Khayetshke a gold ring before we went home.

Everything was ready packed in the evening. In the morning I told Khayetshke to make sure nothing was left in the house. We went to see Aunt Reizel and then hired a Droshky to go and take our leave from my dear Mama. We talked with Aunt but I didn't mention anything.

We went to visit my brother-in-law but he was away. So we parted from my sister-in-law and traveled to Moskva. There I became friendly with a family with an only son. I had with me six hundred dollars and it was more than one was permitted to take. I could take ninety and forty for my child. What was I to do with the rest of the money? I asked the friends if they had a lot of money with them and they said they had none. I told them the truth and asked them if they would take two hundred dollars over the border. They agreed and with the rest I bought clothes.

Khayetshke was so thin and so was I. Soon the day was approaching, thank G-d, that we would be leaving Russia. They sent us via Vilna. Khayetshke and I passed over the border safely. The woman and the son were let through but her husband was stopped. I was not so worried about the money as about the man. When the train was about to depart the son came to tell me that his father was free.

I was so happy when we got to Vilna. We stood in the shipping company office with all the passengers. From there we went to Riga for two weeks. There we received our visas for Canada. I had an accident and cut my finger. It became infected. I went to the consul with the finger bandaged. The consul talked to Khayetshke, taking her by the hand. She was so thin but pretty. She had blond-golden hair and large blue eyes with a bright face. Then he saw my finger and asked what had happened. I told a white lie that I had a splinter in it. He called a doctor who removed the bandages. The finger was covered in pus. The consul asked me if I had seen everything in Riga. I told him that I was not there to see Riga but to go to Canada. He asked me why I had to work so hard and I told him that I had to support my child. He looked at me with pity and issued the visa, wishing us to find good fortune.

When the ship arrived we traveled three days to Germany. Khayetyshke and I felt so ill we could not eat anything. We arrived in Danzig and joined up with two ladies. I don't know what they found in common with us but we went to tour the city. But we didn't buy anything. When we reached Liverpool we had to wait for a larger ship. Once Khayetshke was washing and put her golden ring down near the sink. After we had left the room she remembered the ring. But when we went back it was gone.

We were in Liverpool a long time waiting for our ship; Canadian Pacific. On this large ship we traveled six days when we encountered an iceberg. We had to all go on deck, having locked up the cabin. For a while the situation was dangerous as the iceberg approached. But the captain maneuvered the ship and we were saved. It was very pleasant on the ship. The manager of the dining room was a French Jew and he had arranged a cabin close to the dining room. We met a couple from New York and used to sit and talk with them and sometimes with the manager of the dining room.

We didn't eat very much because we felt so ill. It took sixteen days to reach Halifax where we left the ship. They examined our papers and then sent us to the doctors. Everything was fine with Khayetshke but they were very dubious about my finger. I told them that the consul in Riga had called a doctor who passed me so they agreed to let me in.

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MY DREAMS - an appendix

1.When I was a child they used to say that when the Messiah would come the Jews would be relieved of all their troubles. I am sleeping and dreaming that all the mothers with their children are by our house. Then I see that the Messiah is coming on a white horse from Marenfeld. Everyone is making exclamations. Only I believe and am numb. I cannot move from the spot. I lie down again and the Messiah on the white horse draws near. I say nothing and ask nothing. He circles me on the horse seven times and then goes on his way.

2.When my two younger brothers Pinkhas and Velvel were attending Cheder, in winter they used to sit up learning until ten o'clock at night. They had a good teacher. They learnt Bible and I used to like to hear what they learnt. They were learning Shmuel the Prophet. The teacher was supported by the householders; he was hired for a certain period. I don't know how old I was then but I think I was still very young. My bed stood next to Mama's bed by the wall. I lie asleep in a deep sleep. First I see in the corner opposite my bed a red flaming fire. And from the fire my name is being called, "Rokhel !". At first I don't answer and I am called again: "Rokhel!". I say:" I am your maidservant Rokhel." I can still see the burning flame in my eyes.

3.I have written already about everything but I want to remind again. The night before I had my child, my first departed brother Khaim came and looked in at me through the window, wearing his white linen.

4.When I heard about Rabbi Akiva I don't know. I think it was one of my father's (of blessed memory) stories which he used to tell us. It went like this:

Rabbi Akiva was sitting and learning with his students. Once he wanted to go away somewhere and he told his students that if anyone comes to ask about anything they should be told to go home and give charity and everything will be fine. When Rabbi Akiva had left, a woman came crying bitterly. She had dreamt that a beam had fallen from the ceiling. The students told her to go home and give charity and everything would be fine.

Three days later the woman came again with the same weeping. She begged them to explain why her dream had returned. One student told her: "Your husband is going to die!" When Rabbi Akiva came back he asked about everything. When the students told him, Rabbi Akiva shouted:" You've killed her husband."

I dreamt the same dream when I left Genichesk. I dreamt that in Mama's house a beam had fallen. I kept the secret to myself and didn't even tell Mama. I had a premonition of a great destruction. But it did not simply pass us by. The beam fell and annihilated everything and everyone.

5. After our great destruction, when we were still in Yuzovka, there was the episode of typhus. My child fell ill first and from her it passed to all of us; my sister, my two little brothers and myself. Once I felt so bad and three doctors were standing near me. I could not hear what they said. The naked light was hanging from the ceiling and my head was burning. I covered my head with the blanket. I remember that I could not sleep.

I see in the corner by my sister's bed standing my grandmother Khaya, Mama's mother whom she never knew since she died when she had my mother. She stands dressed in her white clothes, alone, a little one. She says:" You my child must live. You are a mother with a little child." And she took and tied the cord (of her shroud). She said:" You must carry on. I want you to stay on this earth." I trembled and threw off the blanket. I made an undertaking that even if in the morning my temperature was forty-two I would not die. And so it was; it was the crisis in my life.

7.I used to dream about Grisha all the time that he didn't want to talk to me. I suffered so much and he didn't even want to talk to me. Once I dreamed that he was somewhere in Lithuania. He loved the child so much so I decided to take her to him. But he didn't even recognize us. I stood there with a broken heart.

8.After Alter's death I dreamed that I put my hand to my mouth and all my teeth came out in my hand. I was so frightened that I could not move.

The End

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