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A visit to Kamenka, Belarus
Memories (Summary)

(part of ver. 01)

 

Who traveled? I and Moshe, my cousin.

Mosheís main purpose of the tour was to visit his brother, whom he didnít see for 11 years, since Moshe immigrated to Israel in 1991.

My purpose was to visit Kamenka, the Shtetle where my parents came from and, perhaps even find some new evidence to be added to the story of Kamenka, which I write.

 

14.3.20002

We landed in Minsk airport around 18: 00 hour.

 

15.3.2002

Grodno is a big city (population of about 300,000); the roads are wide but there is only little traffic of vehicles and people.

 

16.3.2002

Morning. We had breakfast (Did I mention the Kartoshka in fat? Delicious) and 2-3 Vodkas and then Golda and her son came to pick us to Kamenka.

 

Kamenka (pronounced by the local people as KamenkE) lies near the road between Grodno and Shchuchin, about 40 km. from Grodno, the road is wide and it took us 35 minutes to get there.

We stopped at the church square. Golda asked for the house of Katia, her friend and we went there. Katia is 71 years old. She was a good friend with Mosheís family and with my grand mother and father. Katia said that she knew my mother, Hamche, as the Goyim called her, when they were girls.

 

Katia instructed us to the Goldberg house. I have known that the house exists since Rochelle R. visited the place and took pictures in front of the house on May 1999. The house serves today as a hospital and a clinic. My mother told me that the Russians used the house as a hospital right after the war, in 1944.

Opposite the Goldberg house, so said my mother, lived her parents (Sidranski), and there was a synagogue and a post office and the house of the Kozakowski family, my fatherís.

Katia pointed at the Sidranski house, but didnít know about the Kozakowski family house. The synagogue, she said, does not exist any more.

The name of the street was, at those times, Shchuchin Street, and indeed this road goes to Shchuchin, 16 km from Kamenka.

 

Then Katia showed us to the Jewish cemetery, she knew exactly its location. The place is completely covered by dry yellow grass. A pile of lawn indicates a grave. All the graves are covered by lawn, but some 10 black stones are apparent. Most of them are broken, and partially covered by moss and grass. We cleaned some enough to see Hebrew letters, but I couldnít read out the words. That was true until Katia showed us a head stone that stood erect and clean and clear as if it was cleaned today. Zabagonski was the name engraved in Hebrew letters at the center of the stoneÖ

Haya Yente daughter of Rí Menahem Hacohen Zabagonski, passed away in 12 Elul 5677, (30 August 1917).

I didnít see signs of newer stones, the local farm people took away many of the ďnewĒ gravestones to be used for construction.

 

We left the place but I have a strong urge to return one day to clean the cemetery and put a fence around it and memorate it in one way or anotherÖ

 

We went to the Memorial and mass grave of the Jews of Shchuchin and Rozhanka. They were murdered on May 1942. Quite close to it is the old Jewish cemetery. We didnít visit the place.

 

Then we went to Shchuchin cemetery to the graves of Mosheís parents. They passed away 10 years apart, but their graves are quite close. I said Kadish on both graves.

 

We went to the mass graveyard and Memorial of the Jews of Zheludok and Orla.

The mass grave was discovered by chance when works were done on the site and human bones were exposed. Golda evoked panic at the army authorities to stop the works at the site. They did. Later the Soviets fenced the place and built a memorial to ďthe Soviet citizensĒ that were murdered by the Nazis. The fact that only Jews were brutally murdered there was not mentioned.

Moshe and Pesia Beirech and other Zheluduk remnants from Israel, USA and Belarus took upon themselves the holly obligation to memorate their ancestors and families.

Moshe gathered the necessary money from Zheluduk remnants while Golda and her son monitored the project at the other end to get permission from the authorities, buy materials and recruit workers. Four years lasted the project. Today, a strong iron fence fences the site, a sign in Hebrew, English and Russian stating that on this place were murdered Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators replaces the Russian plate. Even a Yad Vashem icon is engraved on the memorial.

 

Moish Bairech asked me to say Kadish when we visit the place. I did.

 

The old Jewish Cemetery lies not far away, between the memorial and the line of the wooden houses of Zheluduk, surrounded by tall trees. We didnít visit the place.

 

17.03.2002

Breakfast and Vodka (did I tell you about the Latkes that Donia so deliciously prepares? And the Smetana that goes with them? I should have).

 

Golda and her son arrived and we went to the Jewish Cemetery of Grodno. A wall and an Iron Gate that was locked surround the cemetery. We guys jumped above the wall. Golda stayed behind by the car, not for longÖ The cemetery is large with trees growing; itís clean, well treated. Most of the head stones are complete. On some graves we could see signs of visits, such as dry flowers and Neshama candles from Israel.

We searched for the grave of our grand father, Shiel Sidranski. The graves are arranged by year of burial, Shiel died at the year 1965.

From the old part of the cemetery we saw Golda arriving, with a key in her hand, the key to the gate lock. There is a big farm-like house there and she got the key from the people that live there. They are most likely, the people that attend the place.

 

We located the grave. The paint of the engraved letters faded with time. We cleaned some. I said Kadish. Next time we come to Grodno weíll paint the letters.

 

We went to the Grodno Synagogue. From outside it looks neglected. An old woman opened the doors for us, after she confirmed that we are Jews. She said that she wan't allow entrance to non-Jews. She is not Jewish, but she reads the Bible every day, she said. The inside looks white painted but neglected just like the outside, as if it is under construction. There are signs of workings.

 

19.03.2002

Breakfast and Vodka. Moshe felt a little ill and had some extra Vodkas - for medicine.

At 10:00 a driver waited for us in his Lada, he is going to take us to Kamenka today. I felt that I want to visit the place again, maybe I will be lucky to get some more findings on my second visit. I didnít get enough  - I will have to visit Kamenka again. Perhaps on the next year.

After a 35 minutes ride there was a road sign saying Kamenka 4 km. on the highway, that was readable to me as the name Kamenka contains only one Crilic letter. There is another village just before Kamenka and almost connected to it.

 

 

20.03.2002

Breakfast and Vodka (didnít I forget to say something about the Kartoshka and Smetana?). We went to a tour in Grodno, in Soveitskaya St. and the pedestrian-only street.

At noon we had a farewell party (and meal and Vodka).

 

At 0200 a driver waited for us and we went to the airport. We experience a heavy snow that covered the road for about one hour of the way. And also four police inspection posts, and one interesting speed ticket.

The Topolov of Belavia took us back to Tel-Aviv, to the land of no-breakfast, no-Vodka on breakfast and lots of bombing instead.

 

Zeíev Sharon

April 18th 2002

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 Compiled by Ze'ev Sharon
First Posting by ZS Jan. 2008
Last Updated by ZS Jan 2018
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