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Description of the town of Komjat and life there, prior to WWII

The Komjat of our ancestors was made up of two small villages, located at the base of the Carpathian Mountains. The smaller part was called Magyar Komjath or Kumnyata and the larger of the two was Nagy Komjat.  They were also referred to as Little Komjat and Big Komjat. Both were found along the main road that traversed the land in an east to westerly direction.  Little Komyat was closer to the woods, in the western area, and big Komjat was up the steep hill.  The closest train station was in the town of Komlos or Shalank.

More Jewish people lived in Big or Nagy Komjat than Magyar Komjath.

The synagogue and the cheder were in Big Komjat, about 1/4 mile west of the main part of town. The Jewish cemetery was in Little Komjat, almost a mile from the center of Big Komjat. Everything left or West of the cemetery was in Little Komjat, everything to the East was in Big Komjat.  The Town Hall and school were situated across from the Russian Orthodox Church. The church was a very large stone structure, and the priest, John (Janos) Rabar, was very kind to the Jewish people.  Traveling further east on the main road in Komjat one would come upon the tavern owned by the Gelb family.  The tavern was located just before the Mill. The distance from the area of the Mill on the East to the woods on the west is about 3 miles.



The River and Mill in Velikiye Komyaty


The mill is located on Voloshyna Street, though the streets did not have names before the Holocaust. It was the only structure in Komjat to have electricity. The force of the water that flowed down the Borzhava River, referred to as the Rika, was much stronger than it is today and was powerful enough to turn the Mills wheel.


There were synagogues in Big Komjat and in Little Komjat. The one in Big Komjat was located in a small courtyard. in which several families lived,- the Deutsch family and Berko the tailor. Within this courtyard one found the synagogue, the cheder or school and the home of the Rabbi or Shochet.  People owned their own pews that were made of wood. The ceilings in the synagogue were very low. The ark was very simple. The synagogue and cheder in Little Komjat was in people's homes.


Most of the homes had roofs of straw; few families were fortunate to have tile roofs. The floors of many of the homes were actually the ground on which the homes were constructed. They had thick walls. The outside of the homes was white washed. Every home had a grape arbor. Grapes grew very well in the soil of Komjat. This is still true today. Fruit trees such as plums and apples were plentiful. Behind each home was a long track of farmland. There were rows of corn, potatoes, squash, barley, wheat, alfalfa and sugar beets. Often, sunflowers were planted around the perimeter of the property to provide both a natural fence and a source of food. Water was obtained through a well, and the bathroom was an outhouse, both were located behind the home. This same situation existed in 1998 when I visited Velikiye Komyaty.


Harry Dunai, born Israel Zachariah Deutsch, describes his family’s farm in Komjat in his memoir Surviving in Silence: A Deaf Boy in the Holocaust, written by his daughter Eleanor C. Dunai. Harry recalls how efficiently the farms were run and nothing was wasted. “The farm was our livelihood. It gave us our food and also provided the necessary provisions to sell in the general store, including the harvested goods, various tools and textiles”. The Sunflowers that provided privacy around the home also produced the seeds, which were sent to the mill along with the squash seeds and were pressed into pancake shapes. This pressing process created the oil later used for cooking. The pancakes were broken up, mixed with water and fed to the animals. Leftover vegetables were also given to the animals. Cornhusks were used to stuff mattresses and placed on the floor of the barn for the animals to sleep on. When the husks were soiled, they were swept up, placed in compost bins and used as fertilizer the next season. Besides producing milk and dairy products, one cow also hauled crops from the field. Lambs supplied wool used for making fabrics or for stuffing. Chicken, geese and roosters produced eggs and were slaughtered for their meat. Their feathers were used for stuffing pillows and blankets. The geese were a natural security system. The cats rid the home of rodents.


The “Rabbi” or shoychet who was certified to slaughter animals came to the farm. If he found that, according to the rules of Kashrut, it was forbidden to eat the animal, it was sold at the market.


All neighbors, whether Jewish or not, were helpful to one another. During every Sabbath, a Greek Orthodox neighbor would come to the Deutsch home to perform any necessary duties that the family could not do on Shabbat because they were considered work. Lighting candles was one of these chores. Girls in the family did not receive religious training but were taught how to keep Kosher and to observe the holidays. Boys were taught how to pray.

Life changed dramatically on April 16, 1944

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