Little City/Shtetl

Poem written by Naftali Shafir - November 1957
Translated by Brian Kruman

Forever, you stand before my eyes. Jagielnica, my little city, a nice little city. There, over in the far away Polish diaspora, I see you before my eyes, and you will be forever in my memory.

Today I am separated from my family. 21 Years ago, the final separation from my mother. She was standing at the train station with broken hands, and sobbing terribly, “My son, I will never see you again”.

That prediction was fulfilled. After the Second World War, of my entire family that remained in Jagielnica, not a soul survived.

Most of the people from the shtetl were sent to the gas chambers, they burned for God's sanctification.

From Jagielnica, the shtetl, only a few survived. The last ones scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Oh, how I wish it would have been just a nightmare, and that I would wake from my sleep. Then to my happiness, I'd realize that this all had been a bad dream.

Our despair was as big as the ocean. Oh, the little shtetl was alone. She had so many people, but became a widow. The widow, with her children, were exterminated, and they are gone.

I wish to erect a monument to my shtetl, to draw the city map, describing her past and her people to the best of my ability.

Once upon a time there was a little shtetl, in it only one sidewalk – glorifying the center of the city. The center of the shtetl was built in a square in shape. In that square, there were many stores, selling different merchandise, organized by sections. I'll start with the section that is closest to my heart, my family. Our livelihood came from the sale of flour and bran that was sold to the bakers and the townspeople. In the square there were three flour stores, my Uncle Berish's store, my Uncle Nissan's store, and our store. All provided a honorable livelihood with no jealousy between the three stores.

In the long house, there were two flour stores, ours and Uncle Berish's. And this house belonged to my grandfather Naftali Kruman, who willed it to his three sons – Hirsh, Koppel, and Berish.

Behind our store lived Uncle Abramtze Kruman, his wife Frida, Saltze their daughter, Leib and Yankale, their sons.

And behind Uncle Hirshky, there was the butcher, Lipa Zimmerman.

Walking along, I see the house where Uncle Nissan and Aunt Frimma lived with their daughters Rosa and Etka Geller.

On the other side lived Chaim Geller and his children: Yuki, Anshel, Zalman, Chitzi, Sara, and Lipa. And Sheindel and Leib Meizer with their son-in-law, Israel Helled, lived together next door.

Nussi Koter, the carpenter, had his store nearby.

Also nearby was the Rabbi's home, the quiet, the humble Rabbi Nussi. His supporters were Zionists, and Agudat Israel was his opponent. I remember the stubborn arguments between these two factions. May they all rest in peace with the holy Saints.

Next door to the Rabbi's house stood the house of Montzi Iddel and his shop along the square.

Every morning at dawn, the women peddlers would sit down on the step and take out their baskets full of merchandise, offering to the housewives, chickens, eggs, onions, and cabbage. There was commotion and noise – lots of bargaining!

I remember tall Moshe Yohre, who was always trying to earn money. And I remember Leah Dov, the sister of Ampel the peddler, who was always fighting with the goyim. She would examine a chicken and say, “This chicken is not worth more than two Zeubim.” The Goyim replied, “So, give it back to me.” But courageous Leah Dov never let go of the chicken.

Also shopping was Prevah, the wife of the cantor, Moshe Melech. Prevah was a manly, courageous lady - everyone was afraid of her. She beat her husband publicly and looked fierce and angry. When she shopped, she looked for fresh but cheap merchandise.

During this time when the farmers' wives were selling their merchandise, the farmers were in the square parking their wagons. Inside the wagons were ducks, geese, potatoes, cherries, and before Pesach, mattress straw. The Jews went from wagon to wagon sampling everything but buying nothing. This happened every morning.

In the next row was the house of old Lubik, our neighbor. Oh, my beloved house, destroyed. I'll never forget it, or my beloved mother's voice which I'll never hear again. Her letters are kept with me, filled with love and concern for a beloved son, who left to a new land to build a new life.

My mother, mother, I never made you ashamed of me. I built a house, established a family, but never you merit to see it. Yisgadal v'yitkadash sh'may rabah.

My dear mother Rachel Bat Koppel, may your soul rest in paradise together with the nation's Saints.

I will always remember Yudel Raucher, my stepfather, a humble man who showed sacrifice and devotion to refugees from Germany.

I'll never forget my brother Ephraim, and my sisters, Gitale and Leibe, whom I truly loved. Their lives' wicks were extinguished in the middle. Their lives' wicks were extinguished before their time.

After Lubik's house was the grain merchant's, then the furrier's house, then Itzi Leib Tabor and Yankel the Smith's homes. At the row's end was Shmulik Kruman, the owner of the restaurant.

I want to spend time talking about him since he is also family. In Shmulik Kruman's house they made Kiddush on Rosh Hashanah every year. After the Russian Revolution, during the time of the Bolsheviks, it was forbidden to sell anything publicly. Whoever was caught doing this was executed.

A drunk goy was caught and sent to jail. Rather than giving him a punishment, they gave him an incentive so that they could find out where he had purchased the wine, as selling anything was forbidden. Since this goy had been angry with Shmulik, he led the police to Shmulik's restaurant. The police arrested Shmulik and took him to the city of Czortkov. The court gave him the death sentence.

Everyone in the shtetl tried with all their means to bribe the officials to try to get Shmulik released. Finally, the goy admitted that he had fabricated the story. Shmulik was released. This all happened on Rosh Hashanah. This is why they made Kiddush every Rosh Hashanah.

The third row, the biggest one, there was Binkel Yossis the merchant. Behind him was Feibush Groynemes the teacher, Shalom Aspice Beklois the Cantor, Yaakov Mordechaie the egg merchant, Yosef Finkelman the lumber storage owner, and behind Yossi Finkelman was Chaim Feibishish and Doptzi Geller, the butchers and cattle merchants.

Doptzi's house stays in my mind. There, I spent a lot of time during my childhood and adolescence. This three-room house was always filled with people. Every evening the butchers were together.

The long winter nights were very cold outside, but it was cozy and warm inside Doptzi's house. We listened to music and partied. There were three musicians in my shtetl: Nina, Pessach, and me – Naftali. Nina played the first violin, Pessach played the second violin, and me, the mandolin. The melodies would flow, both Chassidic and folk music. Everyone listened with pleasure.

With heightened spirits, people sang along. Doptzi Geller, the head of the family, always sat at the head of the table. Next to him, Uncle Abramtze Geller and my Aunt Frida – Frida was my mom's sister.

Now I'm going to talk about Abramtze. I will tell a special story about him. In those days, in every village, the mail carrier was a special man. He brought mail to the village, money, letters, and regular mail. Every day the mail carrier would pass by with his horse on his way to Lashkovitz's house and then on to see his friend Vassilkovsky. Vassilkovsky was a servant in Sokol's house. From time to time, he invited the mail carrier to a meal.

One time when the mail carrier was carrying a lot of money, Vassilkovsky plotted to kill him and steal the money. Vassilkovsky prepared a big feast and poured lots of wine. Suddenly, he took a hammer and struck the mailman on his head. The mailman, wounded, fell bleeding. Half the shtetl heard his cries and Vassilkovsky ran to Sokol's house to hide there.

Meanwhile, all the people from the shtetl gathered. A policeman arrived. Everyone just stood there, but no one dared to go into Sokol's house to get the culprit. But my Uncle Abramtze entered alone, and he captured the culprit and brought him out.

In the shtetl you would see also my uncles Wolf and Mendel Itzik, their wives Antzi and Pessy. Pessy was my grandfather's sister. Also you'd see Chaim Geller and Kamiel Rook. Also there was Shikali Shmuel Vebrez, Shmuli Krook, Chaim Hirsh, Shmuel and Mukki Vanshel, my friends, and many others that I have forgotten.

Pessia, the Rabbi's wife - she so beautifully managed her home. But poor Bluma the elder, knitting, with a mouth that never closed. In this house was also Nechama's shop. Nechama was very popular, she was a doctor but had no diploma. She would write prescriptions that Mr. Price the pharmacist would accept.

Behind Doptzi the butcher's house lived the Gogishes – Isaak Gogish the grocer, and Vicky Gogish the merchant.

In the cellar was the workshop of Chaim the Smith,
The fabric stores belonging to the Briller family, Lifsha & Brutzi,
Binyamin Herzog's store - Binyamin was also a performer,
Yona Fishbach, Shai Hershel the glassmaker,
Neta Katz the leather merchant,
Muki Kamilas and his sister Yehudit,
Muki became blind in a gas explosion, but this did not prevent him from producing the best quality soda. Never was there such an expert.

Now we come to:

Hirsch's store and Issac's stores that sold tobacco and soda,
Chaykli's grocery store,
Yitzchak Toibus' lumber yard,
Shlomo Shapira's fabric store,
Then the house of Uncle Leibish the carpenter
Across from Uncle Leibish was the house of Note Hutrar, the head of the community. It was a two-story house situated along the sidewalks, the pride of our little shtetl.
Now the fourth row of the square: Weinstock's tavern, Mendel Axelwad's store, next to it, the store of Muki Lederman the tailor.

On the second floor, the Weinstock family's fabric store – Leah, Taiber, Muki, and Goldi.
Then Aram Pedder the grocer, the Weisglass family: Koppel, their sons, Buzi, Chaya, and Alia, then Mottel Dolliner the ironsmith.

In the courtyard lived my uncle Wolf, and Aunt Antzi, with their children Shmuel and Shlomo.

The owner of the only inn in our shtetl was Yaakov Hornick. His house brings back memories of Simchas and weddings, and two famous cooks, Chaya and Gendel, who prepared all the food.

A Wedding in the Shtetl

They prepared the rooms and the stage with mirrors for the bride, and the floors were oiled in order to prepare for dancing. By evening Yaakov Hornick's inn became a loud party. The bride, in her snow-white gown, sat very anxiously on the stage. The Klezmers performed beautiful melodies for all types of dances. Everyone was happy at the party.

On the other side of the room, the groom, the Rabbi and all the others waited for the special moment to come. First the groom covers the bride's sad face with the veil. Meyer the Klezmer approaches and starts to perform a sad song – “Cry bride, cry bride”. Avraham plays the flute mournfully, and Simcha Wein, plays the bass in a sad Klezmer way.

Meyer's song, with its heart-breaking melody, brings tears to the eyes of the ladies. Suddenly the sad melody changes into a very happy song bringing Mazel Tov and blessings to the Hazan, to the Kalla, and to the Chupa. Then came a delicious meal of golden soup and a special speech was given. Then everyone presented their gifts to the bride and groom. Dancing resumed until dawn.

The Shtetl

After Yaakov Hornick's inn came the home of Leizer the scribe and his wife Dvora, the shtetl's midwife.

Next comes Feibush the tobacco merchant, then Zeidel Reinman – one of the founders of the Jewish school and also its principal.

In the courtyard, the Shapiro family lived. At the end of the row was Israel Moshe the furrier, who only sold the best furs.

In the middle of the square, there was a lone house, and it was the Magistrate's building. On the first floor there were stores and bakeries. On the second floor were the municipal offices. The bakery belonged to Leibe and Issac Hirsh. Next to the bakery was the flower shop belonging to my Uncle Nissan, and the butcher shop of Uncle Abramtz and nephews Abramtze and Anshul. Also there were other stores but I cannot remember them.

Next to the Magistrate were two more stores – one belonging to Zutzki the Pole, and the other to Chaim Geller the butcher. Around the square were houses.

Let's go to the church and church street, and I'll tell you who lived in that area. I'll start with my Uncle Leibish's house.

Uncle Leibish was a carpenter. His house was the home to Aunt Aki and their children Moshe, Melech, Chitzee, Russi, and son-in-law Moshe Axelrod.

Shimshon Bilgray the watchmaker lived nearby, as did Asher Schwartz the Tailor and clothier.

Now we arrive at the spiritual center of our town - The Jewish school and its institutions where the children learned. In one of the sections of the building was the Youth Movement Gordonia. I will talk a bit about this movement.

I had the honor to be one of the founders of the Youth Movement Gordonia. In the beginning, it was a soccer club where all the kids played regardless of status, religion, or upbringing. But with time, different opinions and outlooks about our language, Hebrew and Yiddish, arose. Eventually, everyone left the soccer club and established Gordonia.

Some of the founders of the movement are no longer alive. I still envision them in front of my eyes:

Lazar Ramraz, Shimshon Doliner, Meshulam Rosenberg, Nussi Moser, Hirsh Goldig, Melich Finkelman, Leitik Hershog, and Gitzia Kruman. There are some members of the Gordonia that now live in Israel, others were killed in the war.

The Jewish school housed three rooms where the teachers lived. And then there was a two-story house where the other institutions were located: Chai, Kolture, and Friend. Each had different ideologies and language differences. The Kolture club had a Hebrew library, and the Friend club had a Yiddish library. Israel Reisenberg was the librarian for the Hebrew culture at Kolture Club, and Shmuel Huter was the librarian for the Yiddish culture at Friend Club.

The Bundists needed the Yiddish club but soon became the minority. They left Friend and established the Michael Weitz club, but in time the clubs and the two libraries merged to become one. The main librarian was Lazar Ramraz, who took care of publishing the Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish newspapers.

Some evenings the club had shows and dances. Most every night, though, the members sat at the table, reading the papers or playing chess. In one corner sat Lipa Zummerman and Moshe Schwartzbard. Chaim Leibhart told jokes with Zishe Kruman listening, and Tuvia Herzog watching and laughing. Yona Fishbach was also there.

In the club, there were many more: Abba Darshar, Rubal Yitzchak, Melech Schwartzbard, Lazar Blumenthal, Yitzach Shapiro, Goldig Yoshua, Meyer, Yossil and Shmuel Pershel, three brothers. These were very special people; they had great teachers who inspired them to learn. The school had only two rooms – one downstairs and one upstairs.

A few teachers I want to mention:

Eliezer Halitchur - A cheerful person who tried to make others happy, too. Eliezer always mentioned the sages in his lectures.
Ungar Asher - The teacher who came from the Yeshiva And Teacher Verhafting – Such a scholar – to him, we owe a lot!
In another building there were three institutions: The credit bank, the Gimilut Chassidim, and the Yad Charutzim. The credit bank helped the needy. Rav Nussi, the city's Rabbi, was its leader and founder. On his committee were:
Berish Kruman
Shmulik Kruman
Chaim Geller
Harman Price
Reuvan Fishback
Brutzi Briller
The Gimilut Chassidam lent larger amounts of money. Mr. Price the pharmacist was its chairman. The committee was made up of:
Brutzi Briller
Fishel Brook
Lipa Zummerman
Reuven Fishbach

Chaim Geller
Zishe Kruman

The Yad Charutzim was an institution run by the business professionals, founded three years ago. The members were very dedicated to Yad Charutzim. Its three main principles were mutual help to whoever was in need, placement for sleeping arrangements for those homeless, and providing means for the sick and needy. Its founders were Fishel Weinstock, Moshe Fishback, and Leibe Moser. In the basement of this building, Moshe Sfirer and his son Yosef owned the wood which they stored there. The wood was used for heat. Also in the basement, in the front apartment, Shmaria and his family lived.

Another institution in the shtetl was the Shomar Hatzair movement, which had a major impact on youth education. It was started because one of the religious parents could not agree with the way their children were being educated. The Shomar Hatzair's founders are no longer with us: Chantzi Dresher, Moser Avraham, Leib Oxhorn, Michael Rosenberg, but there are other members still alive.

Across was the building of Baruch Hirsh. Across from Barush Hirsh's building was my Uncle Reuvan Fishbach's house, who went through Nazi hell. He survived and is now in Israel with his family. In my uncle's house also lived Moshe Houzner, the grain merchant.

Across from my Uncle Reuvan's house was his father Moshe's house. Reuvan's father Moshe and his mother Sara lived there with their sons Shmuel, Meyer, Nathan, and Hirsh. Lipa Zummerman's family also lived there, and so did Grandma Sheindel. Next door was Bubbe's daughter Chaitzi, and Shalom, her husband.

Nearby was the house of Fishel Goldik, Feibish Berenbaum, and Shia Barbi

At the end of the row lived Hogie Holtzberg

On the hill was Yudel Stern's house, then the homes of Meyer Stern, Camile, Moshe, Rachel, and Nechama.

Turn to the right and you go into an alley. First house belonged to Shia Shekner and his mother Sara Lubiks.

Then comes a small shop belonging to Abassina, next is the leather merchant Israel Hendell - his wife was Lassia - and his kids were Dvorah and Chaim. Going down the alley is Hirsh Heller's textile business, Pessi Yenti the knitter, Shimanco and Shia Hershel the glassmaker, and my Rabbi and teacher, Rav Tartar the learned.

Across the way lived Chaim and Rachel Bitterman's family; the neighbors were all friends.

Then came my house that I mentioned before.

After my house lived Chaim Avraham the shoemaker, and on the second floor lived Avraham Beer, an elderly furrier and apple merchant.

Across on the hill lived Moshe Meizel the Baal Koreh, the one who reads Torah, a very learned man.

The next houses were Alter Filkenflik, Issac Oxhorn, Melech Yagar and his family, Chona Vagashal, Tubiani and Leibik Hoizner the grain merchant, Moshe Melech the Cantor, and Itzi Oxhorn a cattle merchant.

Then the home of Morchaim Leib the wagoneer, and Meyer Shmuel the Hebrew butcher.

Next was, Yosef Blumenthal the baker, and Nari Passis a famous baker, Meyer Reich the textile merchant, and another butcher, Eli Bartal.

Now I will tell you about the Prayer Hall of Chortkov, which in Hebrew is called a "kloiz”. This was a gathering place not only for prayers, but also for memories and meditation. When drafted into the army, there was an old custom in the shtetl that one month prior to recruitment, the recruitee wasn't allowed to sleep at night. In the kloiz they'd all gather each night, listening to the Klezmer Band. They'd go from one wealthy house to another wealthy house, with the musician's playing, trying to collect money for drinks.

If there was any misers who didn't want to pay, they would not threaten him. But in the morning, mischievous things would befall him, such as when he would like to leave his home, he couldn't open his door because it might be barricaded with wagons, or they would tar his windows shut. More than once, the misers called the police to complain. The police chased them, but didn't enter the Kloiz because immediately, all the candles would be extinguished and the police didn't want to search in the dark. Once the police left, the music restarted.

On the day of recruitment, the draftee went to the army office and if he was released from army service, he was very happy.

After the kloiz, it was the house of Yosef Bidar, and then the small Weisenizer kloiz, then Prima Golding's, with Shmuel Israel's in the last row.

Now we enter a narrow alley where the traders lived. The first house belonged to Chona the shoemaker. Across from Chona were three tailors: Luzer Tayne, Chaim Vabarli and Pinchas the tailor. Shuel Park and Shalom Avasyki had houses next. Roni, Toni, and Ampel were laborers and Moshe Ephraim was a water carrier, they all lived in rundown homes.

Down the hill was the house of Silky. Next to the river was the Mikvah and also by the river lived the Hagodner family, and Balbali the happy painter, and Koni Yehuda, who was a wise man.

We pass by a few gardens of the goyim. We're coming to Connel the Ukrainian, who was a nice man. Because of him, the big shul in the city was not destroyed, and he gave the Sefer Torah to my uncle, who took it to Austria.

Then we come to Avramtzi Anshul my relative, and Hirsh Birgenfeld, Hirsh Stoffi, and Avi Nina my friend. Towards the large Beit Hakinessett, our F1shul, a tall lofty building. In its corridor, there was a room called Shulakil. This was the traders' shul. And inside the shul was a tall ladder that reached the ceiling. The poor and the simple people prayed there.

Across the shul was the Bet Hamidrash. Eli the Shochet and all my family – Uncle Nissan and Uncle Berish – were the gabayim, the treasurers.

Across from the Bet Hamidrash lived Yona Alai the carpenter.

Next to him was Azriel our precious Jewish teacher, then Altartzi Weisman, Shlomo Cook, Chaim Shoel the horse merchant, Zeide Geller my grandfather, Leibik Moser the ladies' tailor, Kehat Moser, Malka Atilis, Yiddel the baker, Meyer Corki, Mordechai Hirsh, Zumer the merchant, Nachman Broiner the grain merchant, Chaim Yankel the carpenter, Shmuel Leib-Kopnick the Shamas, the writer Moshe Klar, Asher Kovetshar's house was next, then Lieba Klopp's store, Nissa Chalat's house, Shia Drashner's house, Velvali the wagon owner, Chaia Sluveis, Zindel Ramraz and her son-in law Chaim Raganboigen, Meyer Kotter, Shlomi the baker, Miriam Chaya Mechiles, Barali the tailor and Tzavabik the tailor.

On the second floor was Dugi Kruman, Zelig Dunker the furrier, Makeli the Baal Koreh – the one who read the Torah – Makeli was a beverage merchant.

Across was Chaim Miller, Leah Dov, and Chaim Brokis the cattle merchant

(Back to the church)

Across from the church was the post office, a Polish church, the school, and a Ukrainian church, the house of Moshe Shapiro, Price the Pharmacist, Israel Meir, where wagoneers met.

The main road led from Chortkov to Zaleschiki. The wealthy people did not want the main road to pass through the shtetl because it would disturb their sleep. If you had to travel to Chortkov, you had to go the station next to Israel Meier's, the wagon owner.

The wagon owners were always kibbutzing while waiting for customers. They were: Antel the wagon owner, a short man, young Yankel Pupik, Mordechaie Lev, and Kahat the old wagon owner.

After Israel Meier's wagon station was Anshel Blum the beverage man. Then Yossef Finkelman's, and then Issac Herzog, who was in the wood storage business.

Going down the road lived Melech Freud, who had a beautiful garden. He was one of the founders of the Jewish school.

After Melech's home was Efraim Kushner's business.

Next to him lived Fishel Book and his wife Nachi, their sons Moni and Moshe, and their daughters Frida and Saltzi.

Then was Yakli Shmil Vaybarz, and then a house were I went to very often, my Uncle Mendel Itzhak cousin Dugi Freshel and Aunt Pessia's.

Aunt Pessia was my father's sister. Dugi, Yossel, and Shmuel were their sons. Their daughters were Yehudit and Chaitzi.

Near the bridge, there were a few families: Leibish Kotchma, Leib Koshorn, and Chaim Raganboygen, my uncle.

Crossing the bridge, up the mountain, we reach the suburb of Nagorzanka. Up there, all the Jewish families lived by the road.

First was the Doyer family who owned a tavern, then Helitzer the old man, Yudel Raganboygen's store, Moshe Shnitzer, Nachum Rubal, who had a wood storage business. In front of him was his son Shabsa, who had a beverage business.
Now we reach the tobacco factory in the shtetl; this helped the economy. The wagons were loaded with tobacco leaves. The farmers bought and paid for their purchases, and the Jews prepared the merchandise for the buyers. The bars were filled with people. Non-Jewish farmers came to celebrate the end of the gathering with drinking parties. Among all the factory workers was only one Jew: My Uncle Reuven Fishbach. He was very patient and courageous; he could withstand a lot of pressure. Except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he worked on all the Jewish holidays and Shabbat. He was respected by the factory workers.

There was a clock tower. The bells rang three times a day. They started very loud and strong, but slowly, faded away. The bells announced the beginning of the workday in the morning, the afternoon, and the end of the workday.

Next to the factory lived the family of Yossef Risenberg the grain merchant, and also the owner of the grocery. He was very religious. On the days of Awe, he passed by the Ark with his children Leah, Meshulam, Israel, and Michael and only Avraham Hirsh, my friend – may he live a long life – was a survivor.

Then Zummerman family, and Malshekovitz; across from their home, Mendel Rubell, the hero, with his big garden

Next to it, a building of factory clerks, the Leibhart family, Bartzi Remler, and Azriel Bulgari with alcohol beverages.

And, for the end, as I explained in the beginning, my purpose was to describe my shtetl, its buildings and community as best as I could.

Forever, you stand before my eyes, Jagielnica, my little shtetl - a small, nice shtetl, but now you no longer exist.

November 1957
Naftali Shafir

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