Memoirs of Yakov Kopelansky z'l

Yakov Kopelansky, a retired welder and supervisor in a tank factory, was born and raised in Uzpaliai, survived the Holocaust, then life in Lithuania under Soviet rule.  He and his wife lived in Israel for many years.  He has written his memories of life in Uzpaliai both before and during World War II.

Gloria Berkenstat Freund graciously translated Yakov’s memoirs from Yiddish to English.  

     It is impossible to write everything about the former shtetlekh [small towns] that were annihilated, about Jewish treasures. My memory is prompted by my heart to remember so much and I need to describe what I have not described in my published book, Was and Is No Longer. As others, I will begin with my birthplace, Ushpol [Uzpaliai] that to those in the Jewish Lithuanian shtetlekh brought to mind Psalm readers and the Psalm nigunim [melodies] that came down from the times of King David. And what kindness embellished shtetl life remembering the deceased with a pinch of snuff and with a page of Gemara [Talmud] and by taking a bite of a bagel and studying a page of Gemara together with others. There were many among the "stall Jews" [Translator’s note: Jews who had stalls in the market] who knew, and told tales from dear ancient grandfathers about their grandfathers. The adult generation, we students from the Jewish Folks-Shul and kheder youngsters would listen with open mouths and write everything in our books. I will tell everything about all of the events and they were not all bubbe-mayses [fairy tales]. Nicknames were a custom in the shtetlekh, and the nickname was a way to embellish daily life with great humor. Even the shtetlekh had nicknames, for example, Ushpol (greedy), Viszuner (whipper), Szwader (ghosts), Aloker [Alka] (moon). What happened is [reflected] in the nicknames. As Jews would meet at the market they would greet each other; the shtetl nicknames would ring with a type of humor. Here, I will particularly underline that "Me ligt in dr’erd un me bakt beigl" was very often said [Translator’s note: Literally, We lay in the earth and we bake bagels – We are dead and buried]. This, too, was the day-to-day talk. I will only recall from where these words came: in the shtetlekh, a custom was introduced that the deceased would be remembered with bagels. It thus remained in daily speech.
     Who were the Psalm readers? They were simple Jews. However, as I remember, you could not confuse them with a page of the Gemara and its commentary by Rashi. Every shabbos after Minkhah [the afternoon prayer], they would read Psalms. It was a long time until Ma’ariv [the evening prayers] and some even remained until after havdalah [the closing Sabbath prayer] studying a page of Gemara. There were two houses of prayer in the shtetl. The misnagdim [orthodox opponents of the Hasidim] would pray in the synagogue. In the other, everyone would wear the same clothing, some without the long curly peyes [sidelocks], without tsitses [fringes] hanging out. Longer, curly peyes were also worn; others would only clip their beard. Arbakonfes [top undergarment with 4 sets of fringes worn by pious men] were worn, but with the tsitses tucked inside of the undergarment. Psalm readers, in the beis midrash, in minyonim [prayer groups of 10 men stood along the tables near the ovens. 
     Everyone sat down as one family and there were no differences. I will begin with the beis midrash of the misnagdim. There was the Psalm reader Moshe Britaniski… He was a tanner. However, he would sing with a special nigun [melody]. I would say there was delicateness. The second was Berl. I do not precisely remember his surname. His nickname was Kwitz. He was not a healthy person; his friends would not let him get tired. He was capable of reciting well. Abraham Kotler (Avremkis) was a butcher and was our bel-tefilah [cantor or person who prays at the lectern]. Even Lithuanians would come to hear him. He was not as capable of reciting Psalms well. Welwel Katz (der geler bord [the blond beard]) was a driver (a balel agole Hebrew/Yiddish for wagon driver]); he was also our bel-tefilah. However he was not capable of reciting Psalms. He had a black beard. Several blond hairs appeared in his beard, so he became der geler [the blond one] in the shtetl. Borukh Lit was well-to-do. He would daven [pray] nicely. However, he was not capable of reciting the Psalms so well. Meir-Yitzhak Shapiro was the richest Jew in the shtetl. Elihennoch Fisher (Eljakos) was the gabay (sexton) in the synagogue. He had a bakery and would bake matzohs for Passover. Berl Segal (der fuks [the fox]) was well-to-do and blessed with six daughters and could read well. Kalman Wolowitz (a soldier in Nicholas’s army) served for 18 years in the military. He was a tailor (der flinker soldat [the agile soldier]). Most everyone belonged to the military generation. 
     The young rarely came to read Psalms. However they would come to hear a page of Gemara, how one interpreted it and who does the best with a grobn finger [Translator’s note: Fat finger – pointing with a thumb, a gesture used in Talmudic discussions; i.e. who was giving the best interpretation.] and whose tobacco smelled the strongest. The kheder boys would take part and [as a result of what they learned] it was easier to study in kheder. The older one, Haim-Itshe (der hoze [the hare]) was fat. However, Haim the fisherman (der shpringer [the jumper]) had a good knowledge of the Gemara. Zalman Wolowitz (der ein oig [the one with one eye]) was a glazer and would paint the wagons and the sleds. He would clean and, thereby, embellish the shtetl and the area surrounding it. Mendl-Leib Ewin, the tinsmith, was very learned in Rashi. A daughter of Abraham Katz (di opgebrente bak [the burned cheek]) left for Palestine at the beginning of the thirties to build the future Jewish land. She lived in Kibbutz Emir. [There was] Bentshe Korb, the peddler. Reb Yudl, the oldest Jew in the shtetl, would repeat what he had heard from his grandfather and from his great grandfather. He would be listened to with open mouths. I will repeat that he lived with a friend who was named Itshe (the Smalewitsher Rabbi), who lived near the Swadeser mountain, so they were called the Smalewitsher because it was sandy. And in Lithuanian "sand" is "smelys" so he remained the "sandy" rabbi. He had a fine beard. He was the bath attendant at the bathhouse, a partner of Shaya-Leib Tsibil and they both were members of the khevra kadishe [burial society]. They would repair the graves, the fences, despite the fact that the graves had stood for hundreds of years. They were there and were taken care of from generation to generation. They would bring stones and near the fences there was a pit where they would burn the stones. It would become wafne (lime), the city’s cement. 
     Right at the start of the war in 1941, the Lithuanians murdered Jews from the shtetl and threw them in the lime pit. Shaya-Leib was the shamas [sexton] in the synagogue and was the Torah reader and the headstone maker. We children would come to his home to play with his kid goats. His wife, the Bubba [grandmother] Ruchl would receive us very kindly and be happy that we played with the goats and it was a joy for everyone. Michel Berkal, was not poor. Yonah Segal would trade fine horses. Yudl Kopelanski was a shoemaker. Dovid Eidelman was a watchmaker and had a large dry goods store. Moshe Eidelman lived off his small piece of earth. Shimeon Shlosberg was the leikhter furman [wagon driver who carried people rather than heavy goods] and worked his small piece of land. My father, Ishy Kopelanski [and our family], then lived in Ushpol and we had a leather business with a tannery. Shlomoh Udelman (Ilyatski’s son) would trade horses. Shlomoh Shlasberg was old; he would trade fine horses. Chaim-Yankl Kaganowitz was a bit of a shoe repairman. We would call him der latutnik [the patcher] in the shtetl. He had golden hands and was a very joyful person, with much humor. He would make the shtetl joyous and he could read a page of Gemara. With an instructive use of logic, he did it better than anyone else. Yudl Shwirski, the malamed [teacher] in the kheder [religious elementary school,] would only listen, prompt, correct others. 
     Everyone would spend pleasant shabbosim [Shabbats] sitting at a long table. At such a table, wisdom would be heard with respect, without lofty words. Everyone could express themselves. At such tables the big questions for the shtetl would be settled. For instance, a new bath needed to be built and the bath belonged to the shtetl. And such a question was a painless one. It was decided without any fuss. A new mikvah [ritual bath] was built at that time, larger and higher with a tin roof with a steam room. We would steam our bones and we built an oven where we would disinfect [clothing]. It was necessary to buy land to enlarge the cemetery and we bought extra land and paid the Litvak Rameyk three times as much as it was worth so that he would sell it. There were again problems. The stone fences had to be made longer and it was necessary to make sure the mikvah was warm in the winter. Not everyone in the small shtiblekh [small Hasidic prayer houses] had the means with which to buy wood. There were orphans and half orphans [Translator’s note: a person with one living parent] and the government did not help. The shtetele took care that the rabbis did not have to take even a small role in the affair. Here I will underline that everyone was required to pay various taxes to the government. The shtetlekh lived their regular Jewish life with its deep roots all through the years in spite of going through the struggles of daily life.
     We must not omit the minyon; here the Hasidim prayed, where Moshe the blacksmith was the main reader. He was very learned, knowledgeable in Gemara. Zisman Wolowitz was well-to-do and helped a lot. He was the gabay and the bel-koyre [Torah reader]. His daughter emigrated to Palestine in the thirties to build the future Jewish land. Yankl Birger was well-to-do. His brother, Moshe Birger, was the baker in the shtetl, had a business and farmed. Motl Metz was the forest [or wood] merchant in the shtetl. Israel Shreier was well-to-do; his son, Asher, emigrated to Palestine in 1937 and he was stabbed to death by the Arabs at his Kibbutz Amir. Josef Shlekhter (Yoshka Pandre [pejorative reference to Jesus and by extension to Catholics]) was a very hard worker; he would sell flax and cultivate his land. Yekl Aron (Irmetzke) was a butcher. Yankl Shlekhter (di lapetes [the shovels, probably a reference to his having large hands]) was also a butcher. Shlomoh Dutsh was Shlekhter’s partner. Eltchik Klas (the card player) was also a butcher. Moshe Paktrowitz was a builder. Moshe Numan was a shopkeeper. Abraham Musil was a wagon driver. Israel Kurtzer (the Atzunisker [from Aytsyuntsy/Eiciunai]) would trade living cows with Josel (the tall one). Hertzl Weisberg was a trade worker. Hershl Shlasber was an old, sick man. Moshe Turner was a turner in the shtetl. And those who I have not mentioned, I beg their pardon. However, they live in those remembered. Dozens of years have passed and I forget. Here, I will say with my whole heart that there was brotherhood, much humor and not a little education at both tables. The adult generation was forged at such tables and took to their heart pride in their heritage.
      We cannot omit the Lithuanians’ and the Russians’ day of Sunday. How many drunkards would lie about in the streets, many with split open heads? Tomatoes would fly in abundance…It was worse with the Russians, there were many cases where there would be stabbings or heads would be split by small weights. Not one Sunday would pass without such occurrences…We were an example; our culture was higher. I will begin to repeat what I wrote in my memoirs, what our dear little grandfathers described and repeated from what their grandfathers described…from the times of the French war in 1812. A battle took place around Bariai, as it was then called. Now it is called Ushpol. Bairai remains as a sort of village and it burned. Many houses became ruins. The stones remained from the church on a sort of elevation with a walled in cross and there was a well. During the summer, we would go strolling on the worn out pathways near the Sventoji River and go to the spot – it was called Krakul (Krakulas in Lithuanian) and drink well water. This was a very holy spot for the Lithuanians and the Jewish cemetery – a half of it, broken - remains on the other side of the river. It was started after Napoleon’s departure. A new church was built on the other side of the river. It took several years. There were those who would speak of lasting rumors. One, an old Lithuanian, Shvilas, would often say that his grandfather built the church. Only Catholics built it; it took three years to build. We children would very much like to listen [to the stories]. For us it would seem like children’s stories and Reb Yudl would tell the same [stories] and still more [about] where the church stands and where the market was every Tuesday. On the other side of the river is a bridge (Patiltu in Lithuanian). The river flows through the middle of the shtetl and divides it. Because of the sound of the name, instead of Bairai, it was named Ushpol and thus it remained. As I have already explained, despite the fact that the surrounding villages were part of Bairai, many Jews lived in them and were involved in flourishing businesses.
     Uzhumishki [Uzumiskiai] was only a half-Jewish village in which the Jews were involved in flourishing businesses… There was a mountain near Krakul. It was called the Nafaliant Mountain. The name is from the past. The young Jews would go up and spend time on the mountain on Lag B’Omer, describing historical events, singing, dancing and trading colored eggs. The Jews applied a strong hand to rebuilding the burnt shtetl and it developed, despite the fact that at that time there were fewer Jews because many had already left their birthplaces. The Jews built three synagogues. For us children, we could not yet understand all of the past events. In the later years, a church was built with a court planted with roses. The landowner of the court was a Russian. His family was Ferekop. Not far from the shtetl on Salaker Way before the village of Padz that was a Russian [village] from before our time. Ferekop’s parents, and grandfathers, they were the owners of the area. A mill was built that is still standing with an inscription 1864. It played a very important role in shtetl life. Various grains were ground, various boards were cut and a sort of fabric was produced from wool from which people would sew winter clothes. And it would light the shtetl. Many people made a living [from the mill].
     The Jews survived various disturbances. The Lithuanians and the Jews were intertwined because both the Lithuanians and the Jews were oppressed and carried out a struggle for a just life. However, the Jews suffered more; they suffered from Cossacks. In 1905, disturbances broke out in Russia. And who was guilty? The Jews! At that time, the slaves of a landowner set his house on fire. It burned down. The half wild Cossacks began a rampage immediately and set fire to a synagogue and it burned down, as well as Jewish houses. The shtetlekh were submerged in feathers which the wild Cossack bandits had let out of the pillows. They destroyed many houses, beat Jews with their whips. However, the Lithuanians hid and defended many Jews. At that time, Czarist Russia called for the Lithuanians to make pogroms on the Jews as had happened in Russia…
     A [woman] writer stepped forth, G. Petkewisheita… and said that we Lithuanians have ourselves suffered so much, while the Jews exaggerate their suffering, they humiliate us… particularly [they say] that until now they have suffered even more than we, they fight more intensively than we do… No, we Lithuanians cannot pollute ourselves with the Jewish serpents or other inhabitants of our land. If religion or language divides us, the same problems unite us. The trouble affects each group differently, and in a different manner, but we must remember that we were ruled by the old regime... But let us love, love one another. Life passed with the same problems. The suffering of the shtetl healed. The synagogue remained standing where it was, as an omen. It was fenced in and was a holy place for all of the residents. The khupah [marriage canopy] would be placed near the fence and the moon was honored there. People began to leave the shtetl for various countries. However, they did not lose their heritage. Various events would take place around Passover. The holiday would be disrupted with stones thrown through windows; Jews take gentile blood for Passover; a stigma on the Jews.
     Who was responsible that in the First World War the Russian military suffered defeat after defeat in the battles against the Germans? The Jews! Because the Jews sold to the Germans and hid gold in the cemetery and waited for the Germans. This provoked the infuriated Cossacks, withdrawing from battles, running through the cities, breaking everything that they would find, with a great many murders. They carried out a pogrom in Anikst [Anykshchiai], murdering 16 Jews. The government fiercely began to drive out the Jews from settled areas, far into Russia. However, many remained. In this case, Lithuanians hid many Jews in the villages. Those who were not well hidden would pay dearly. My father, Itche, was not well hidden. A Cossack found him in the garden and beat him with a whip. He remained a cripple and could not walk without a cane. And he was not the only one who remained crippled, and how many violent acts did the women survive? As the Russians retreated, the Germans entered. They showed themselves to be good to the Jews. A war is a war. Certainly, it had an impact on the residents… The Germans built a military hospital for soldiers in the shtetl. There was a Jew among the doctors. The doctors helped the population as much as was possible. The Jewish doctor distinguished himself more. Various epidemics would flare up at that time. In time, many inhabitants were carried away, even the Jewish doctor. The building has a Lithuanian name (Spitalos [hospital]) to this day. The doctor remained in the shtetl after the war and died several years later, as I told you. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery, near the fence, because in spite of the fact that in life he saved and helped the sick, he was not a practicing Jew. In those days, there were such hardened Jews, and his name was not even written [on a headstone]. The grass would be cleared from around his grave. 
     The First World War ended and Lithuania received its independence. Over 4,000 Jews entered the Lithuanian military; over 600 Jews voluntarily went to fight for independent Lithuania. With the coming of Lithuanian independence, the Jews received all rights, in every respect, but not ownership of the land. [It can be said that] the Jews had autonomy rather than ownership of the land. Before the First World War, 165 families lived in the shtetl. They began to build Lithuania and many Jews entered the government and Sejm, and in other cities, they were chosen as mayors. The Jews worked hard at building the country and it kept blossoming. The Jews showed more joy at the coming of independence than the Lithuanians. The Lithuanian government divided land among those who were landowners’ slaves. The landowners only had the right to possession of forty hectares [a hectare equals almost 2.5 acres]. Many landowners began to sell land and buildings. Shpranckowitz bought the mill in the shtetl. Six Jews in Vyszun [Vyžuonos] bought the square. The government in Ushpol rebuilt the stables as a folks-shul [secular school]. The Jewish folks-shul and the Luthianian gymnazie [secondary school] were located in the building for several years. At first, it was not so easy after the war; many people died of various diseases. Many left the shtetl for various countries and for Palestine, such as the two Shlanimski brothers and Moshe-Leib Sher. They perished in the annihilation of the pogrom of 1928 carried out by the Arabs. It is fitting here to underline that Jews began to leave the surrounding villages and to gravitate to the shtetl. The villages began to fall apart. With the help of the government, people built workshops [in the areas] where they received land. Every Jew did not receive free land, as was promised to everyone who voluntarily fought for independence.
     The young adult Lithuanians became nationalists. It was felt when Hitler came to power in the thirties and his roots spread and found soil [in which to grow]; we felt it and, after a year, we felt it still more. In the last years before the Second World War many joined as Hitler’s supporters and stated their opinions openly. Before the Second World War, 100 Jewish families lived in the shtetl. There would be gossip about the situation, what is happening in the world at the time and talk about the conditions. There were various opinions. There were those who said that Hitler would break heads; others would say that we will hide among the Lithuanian, as in the First World War and during various disturbances. On Shabbos afternoons, the Jews would stroll and they would lean on the handrails of the bridge and enter into conversations. There was no lack of expert advice during a brotherly talk. The adult young people were cultivated; there was no shortage of Jewish newspapers, despite the fact that this was not a large shtetl. There was a Jewish library. The library was maintained by Tzipala Loifer, the sock-knitter. There was no lack of books. 
     Here I will indicate how to discover the places, how everything the old women would tell and retell about the past is all true. In the middle of 1930’s a Christian entered the Jewish folks-shul and told Dovid Anteshilski, the teacher, that in the village of Bairai a Christian dug a hole in the ground and struck several skeletons. We went with the folks-shul to look, because the students were interested. Later, we learned that the place was a French military [cemetery], not a large [Jewish] cemetery. We happened to be in Saratov during the Second World War and looked for the place where the Yeshiva and the young Yeshiva students were burned on Galegar Street, which I still remember is number 41 and about which there are still rumors in the shtetl. And the teacher, Reb Abraham Rit, would tell his students that with another [person] he succeeded in jumping out through a second story window. The Yiddish folks-shul taught a love of nature. On Lag b’Omer [Translator’s note: minor holiday celebrated with picnics and bonfires; it falls on the 18th of Iyar (usually in May), and commemorates the day, in about 130 B.C.E., on which the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying during a plague] we would go to the Vyszun forests with the folks-shul and the teacher Aneshilski [Translator’s note; his name is spelled differently above] in the lead and dig up small trees and the teachers would remind us that the Jews had lived on the land and there were also forests. Bees would circle around; we students would be busy catching various butterflies, lizards and certain little snakes and the teacher would tell us about everything, ignoring the fact that many students had swollen cheeks or hands from the stings of the bees, from their kisses. We would plant the small trees near the Jewish folks-shul instead of on Tu B’Shvat [Translator’s note: the new year for trees – the Jewish Arbor Day], because [on Tu B’Shvat] the earth would be frozen. On Tu B’Shvat we would replant the flower pots. We would prepare summer soil. This is how we would pass the holidays in the shtetl of Usphol.
     We do not lose our roots, despite the fact that many of our people have lost [their connection] to their roots. However, our history and rich tradition make us proud of our heritage. My visit to Lithuania in 1993 was very important to me, although it was very distressing and quite painful. After several dozen years, I had again come to the yearly memorial service in Resha [Riese] near Utyana [Utena] to introduce twenty Jews to the several hundred residents of the area. Among the Jews were two men who came from England – David Sadur, an educated man in the area of computers from London University, and Benjamin from Oxford. They both came to search for their roots in the soil which their great grandfathers left years ago. They looked for a person who could tell them about the Jews who had lived here. We met and I was happy to help them. We drove over the uninhabited obliterated shtetlekh. David’s family came from Salak [Salakas]; Benjamin’s from Volkomir [Ukmergė]. 
     A sad picture appeared before our eyes when we traveled through the destroyed shtetlekh, where we encountered individual orphaned houses, a memory of former Jewish shtetl life. The first shtetl we stopped in was Taragin [Tauragnai], a shtetl that was known for its proverbs. We visited the cemetery. We saw a terrible picture of destruction and abandonment. A large numbers of headstones were broken, thrown around; the graves were dug up by robbers, who like wild animals, searched for gold among the recklessly thrown and uncovered bones. Benjamin grabbed his head in pain and alarm, but he immediately recovered. They earnestly, calmly and cold bloodedly considered the situation; we must show the world and they recorded it with a video camera. Later, when they returned to England, they sent me a copy of the video film. Later, we visited Utyana. I described for them how the city looked before the war, that a thousand fine Jews had lived here. There were seven synagogues, a yeshiva, a pro-gymnazie [Translator’s note: school that prepares students to enter the gymnazie], a Jewish folks-shul [secular school] and a Hebrew school in the city. There was a strong Zionist movement here. Many halutzim [pioneers] went on hakshore [Translator’s note: agricultural training to prepare for emigration to Palestine]. Yiddish songs echoed in the streets and alleys. My two young acquaintances listened to my descriptions with great interest and tears appeared in their eyes. We traveled to the cemetery and, again, saw the same picture of wantonness, as by the worst animals: broken, wrecked. We traveled to my birthplace, Ushpol, and we saw another terrible sight. The kolkoz [collective farm] built a building where food for the pigs was prepared on the new part of the cemetery on the spot where the Lithuanians had murdered the Jews immediately during the first days of the war and had used the headstones for a stable. I explained to them how cheerful the shtetele was, how many Jews lived there. They grasped everything with the same tears. Everything was recorded by the video camera. 
     From Ushpol, we went to Vyszun. They saw more surviving Jewish houses. Over 60 Jewish families lived here. I explained that each Jewish shtetl had lived its own independent life, with all of its traditions. We went to the cemetery and saw the terrible scene on the cemetery of the stables that had been built – one for pigs using the headstones – there were only a few half broken headstones. We read the names on the headstones. It was a terrible picture. From there we traveled to the Lithuanian (mohilnik [graveyard]) cemetery, where shtetl and murdered Jews are buried. The cantor and shoykhet [religious slaughterer], Yisroel Yankl Fiker, said Psalms that wrenched the heart at the three pits to which the murdered were driven. We explained to several Lithuanians and they themselves wept. At Sychany [Sicioniai], Rabbi Zalman Melcer told them that God would pay them for everything. Their children would be ashamed of them. We visited several more places around the shtetl and in the shtetl
     From there, we traveled to Zielonka [Žalioji], where the murdered Jews are buried, among them my father. We looked for three mass graves in Sventupia. My hand is unable to describe the savagery and cruelty of the butchers. I will remember a small episode, just one from the many thousand cases that was related. A small girl, Pesala Shneider, was her name, put on her Shabbos clothes because Shabbos fell on that day. She hugged her mother and said in Lithuanian, "They will not see any tears from me," and calmly went to her death. From there we traveled to Resha near Utyana, where the aktsie [Translator’s note: German word, usually used to described selections and deportations] took place, and they again saw the twelve long mass graves. With tears in his eyes, David said a few words. These are the images they saw. Despite everything, they were not cut off from their roots; just the opposite, they were bound more strongly to them. David and Benjamin saw all of the sad stories I outlined with tears in their eyes. After a while, we parted and they returned home. After their visit, things changed. Bloody wounds were opened. Despite the fact that it was very painful, it was also very useful. The stables and the buildings were taken down from the cemetery. The disposal of cattle [at the cemetery] was forbidden. The wild grasses were pulled out at the cemetery. The headstones at the Ushpol Cemetery that had remained thrown around were re-erected. Care was taken of the area in which they remained. Here I will emphasize that the local Russians helped greatly in the destruction of the Jewish cemeteries during the reign of the Communists of the second Inquisitor Stalin. A memorial was erected in Sventupia on which is written in Yiddish that here lie the Vyszun Jews murdered by the Germans and there collaborators.
     After their visit, Linda Cantor and her father came from America to look for their roots, where their great grandfathers and grandmothers left the shtetlekh in about 1886. The grandfather’s ancestry descends from Ushpol; the grandmother’s from Kupishok; both mentioned shtetlekh played an important role in Jewish life. They came in 1995, even though many years had passed [since their ancestors lived here] because one cherishes one’s roots. Despite such great assimilation, there is in America a distinct Ushpoler community that sticks together as one. In Ushpol, they met Gena. Despite the fact that her mother converted, she considers herself a Jew. They saw everything that remained. Certainly, no one told them that the Lithuanians murderously tore out the Jews’ deep roots. Here, I will particularly emphasize that in the past the Lithuanians defended the Jews, hiding them during various disturbances. However, during the Second World War, of all the people who took part in murder, the Lithuanians excelled. They stand first.

 Yankl-Leib Kopelanski, Nes Ziona, 2003

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