Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Business – Wood and Lumber Industry – Family
My parents from Zablotov invited me and my wife to spend the second part of Pesach in their home. My wife and my father-in-law agreed, while there, we decided to search for a place to earn a living. I took out the dowry of 500 reuch and we came to Zablotov. My parents and family greeted us with joy and celebrated the holiday. I asked my parents what kind of business I should enter. They suggested I invest 100 reuch in the family business, work together with my brother Gershon in running the business, managing the books and the accounts. My salary would be four reuch a week plus percentage and there would be a room for us in their house. There was no time limit and the choice of the difficult future was in my hands. They obligated themselves to return the investment in full. At the beginning I was full of doubts. There were several reasons against this plan. The plan exploded before it was implemented. There was no logic or understanding that would cause me to agree. They needed additional monies to operate. The profits decreased while the debts increased and they were in trouble.
I wanted to help my parents so I accepted their proposal. I put 400 reuch into the business and started working. I worked six weeks and got 4 reuch a week which was a miserly income but I was happy with my beloved wife. After the holiday Shavuoth the blister burst and instead of grapes we got rotten fruit. I was put in charge as manager of sales and purchases and my instructions were to be followed. In reality my younger brother Gershon was in charge with the agreement of my parents who were concerned about him and not me. He angered me and my wife by what he did. My parents accepted this and the spirit of jealousy and hatred grew between us. This was not a new situation. The ways of business were strange to my innocent father. He did not understand what Gershon was doing. His attitude to me was not hot and not cold. My mother, who loved the world and my wife and me, turned away from me because of these problems. My meager source of income stopped and I was forced to look for work.
I found a man to my liking, Mr. Sandar Stempler, a son-in-law of Abraham Bloch. I had 180 reuch left and invested this amount to go into partnership in the wood business. I was soon on my way to Bukovina to arrange for the purchase of wood that would go by train to Zablotov. I bought an amount of wood in Barameta, Lukovitz and the forest of Tzudin to send to our town. The work was very hard and the profits and salary were limited and we barely made a living. We were hopeful that the business would grow and so would the salary. After several months, my partner Stempler went to live in his hometown of Kolomyea and the partnership was dissolved.
In the middle of the month of Kislev, my wife gave birth to a little girl and we called her Hinda after her mother. Edel had difficulty giving birth and was dangerously ill with temperature over 40. Her breasts were swollen and the doctors forbade her to nurse the baby. After a few days, the situation improved. My mother and the family sent my wife to her grandmother and step-mother to take care of her because they didn’t have any more strength or patience. My wife missed her parent’s house and on the 10th of Tevet we traveled to Vishnitz. The weather was freezing cold. Her father R’Jacob Menachim Gaster and her step-mother received her with love and open arms.
They called doctors for their daughter and the little girl but there was no cure for the little girl. She died three days after we arrived, despite the tears and pain. The doctor ordered Edel to remain the entire winter to which her parents and especially Grandmother Golda Lindner זל agreed and in this way she would get all the attention and care that would make her healthy again.
After the third or fourth day, I returned to Zablotov and my dismal business. I decided to leave my parents house, with their agreement, and rented an apartment with David Sperber’s wife. David was in Kolomyea. (David Sperber was the son of Abraham Leib Sperber whose wife was Eti. Abraham Leib was the father of my grandmother, Frima, and her brother David. RDK) There was a big room, a sunny kitchen and a bathroom. Several days before Pesach, I came to Vishnitz to my father-in-law’s house and found a healthy wife. With joy we celebrated Pesach with the family. After the holiday we returned to Zablotov to our new home. My parents worked to restore the previous loving relationship.
In place of my last partner, I found two new partners for the wood business, Yosef Schpiner and Peretz Zussman. My income did not improve. The disagreement among the partners increased and we decided to cancel the partnership. The business needed more money than I had. I found a wealthy partner who was Zanvil Kahane. The conditions of partnership were selling wood for heating and grains from the field. Each one would deal with his expertise. He agreed to invest the money that was necessary. The profits would be split. We each worked alone. He bought several hundred koor (a measure of weight) of corn and brought them to the warehouse for storage until the price went up. He put up a large sum of money and borrowed the rest at a high interest.
I was busy with wood, I bought; I sold and saw money from my efforts. For several months there were no buyers for the corn, the rats nibbled at the corn and the price went down. Instead of grapes there was rotten fruit. The seemingly healthy cows from the sale of corn ate the skinny cows from the sale of wood. The loss from the corn was huge while the income from the wood was small. I left this business with Zanvil with hands on my head and no money for anything.
The important Kahane knew no sympathy even though he knew I was penniless when I approached him for a minimal loan, so that I could continue in business. He and his family refused my request. Shortly, the wheel of fortune turned. Kahane fell in with partners, Yehuda Singer and Shefel Amutal, and was involved in a scandal. He lost all his wealth and was arrested.
(There is a paragraph we couldn’t understand. Dave and Ruth)
After my request to Kahane for a loan was denied, I approach my friends and relatives and got a loan to return to business.
My parents business got worse after I left them and there was a possiblility they would lose the business. It is understood that the 400 reuch I invested was never returned to me. I asked them to mortgage their house which they did at a cost of 10% a year interest.
On the 13th of Nisan 1891(יג ניסן תרנא) my wife Edel gave birth to a son with Mazal Tov, in the house of the Sperbers. This time, my mother and my sister Elka took care of my wife and didn’t leave her bedside day or night. We must remember and honor Pessie Sperber for her good works during the birth. The mother and child are healthy and well and the baby is nursing. We celebrated Pesach as usual. Pessie Sperber prepared and cooked for all of us through the holidays. Chol H’Moed Pesach חומפ my son entered Brith Abraham בברא' and I named him after my grandfather Nathan.
The Godfather was my father Aaron. The Kvaterim (honorary assistances) were R’Abraham Leib Sperber and his wife Eti, the parents of David Sperber in whose house I lived. The Mohel was R’Mordechai Shuv who arranged the Minyon. During the days of Pesach it is difficult to prepare food for the celebration. Chasidim are very careful about eating at other people’s tables. We celebrated the Brith Millah with lifting cups of wine and blessings for life.
On my birthday, the 17th day of the Omer (the days between Pesach and Shavuoth) I got up early to go to the train station where I was getting delivery of several freight cars of wood. I had to deal with them before noon and arrived home tired and hungry. I hurried to the bath house to clean myself of the week’s dirt, to perform the ritual immersion and to return home to eat lunch and taste life. In the bath house, in order to enjoy the heat and to perspire, I climbed to the highest level. On the way down to the cooler area, there was water on all the levels. On the first step I fainted and fell. After a few seconds, a visitor in town, Mendel Tzoderer found me lying on the mikvah floor. He yelled and several people came. Friends Alter Tova and Aaron Ruben took me out of the bath house. After about a half hour I regained consciousness. I returned home after several hours of rest. On Saturday, I recited the Gomel Blessing, the prayer giving thanks for delivery from disaster. This was the third time that I was saved from death. May God remember and bless the people who saved me from a certain death.
My small income from selling trees was not enough to fill our needs. A new addition to the family required income. My wife was nursing a child and she deserved nourishment of meat, milk, butter, etc. My mind was busy questioning what to do since there was no money, the business sales were limited and the town was poor. There was however a glimpse of light. I heard that R’Abraham Itzchak Shucher and his partner R’Gedalia Bittiter from Kolomyea acquired one hundred yachim of forest trees for cutting that would give several years work. Lukovitz, a town in Kolomyea, Bukovina was a place to find work. I approached Shucher and his wife, Miriam. She was the daughter of a known uncle. With her efforts she convinced her husband and his partner to give me work. I was to be the bookkeeper in charge of the accounts and I was hired with the understanding that this would be a temporary testing period for an unlimited time. The choice was theirs to fire me since I had no experience in this type of work. The little knowledge I had of this job, I learned on my own, despite my parent’s objections and with the help of my old friend R’Menachim Meyer. I was lucky that I found a profession that would help me make a good living. In the month of Iyar 1891, I left my hometown and went to Lukovitz to the company of Shucher and Bittiter. I went to the room four on the fourth floor of the house of Shalom Leufer which was near the town of Valshenitz. I found a tall, healthy, religious Jew by the name of R’Moshe Aaron Doks from Dalatin who was in charge of the business. David Wagner from Kolomyea was his temporary helper and in charge of all the bookkeeping, even though he didn’t know the profession. The work in the forest had begun several months previously. The bookkeeping and accounting was full of errors and it appeared impossible to correct.
I was a total beginner with no knowledge of how to keep the books for a business dealing with forests and wood. I saw how important it was to do this work. For the first time in my life, I saw the beauty of the trees that grew in the forest. I felt terrible and doubts were running through my mind and heart. I was sure that Shucher and Bittiter would fire me as “a man not capable of succeeding in this job”. Strong desire overcomes the fly of doubt.
One has to find belief אם תרצו איו זו אגדה (if you want it, it is possible). Several weeks, night and day, I pondered about all of this. I analyzed, wrote, erased until I reached a general understanding. I corrected the old books of Wagner. I organized the new books according to the system that I learned in the past. It was less then excellent but every thing was in the right place.
Blessed be the memory of the good and pure R’Moshe Aaron Doks, the manager of the business from the forest of Valshinitz. After several days that I worked under him, I saw his good and bad points as well as his good character. We came to love each other as brothers and helped each other as much as we could. He saved me and pulled me out of my trouble. I did not pass the test of the friend R’Moshe Aaron. The reason was that R’Abraham Itzchak Shucher was an intelligent and learned man whose profession was accounting and bookkeeping. He worked for the most famous and important company, Finkelstein and his partners, in Kolomyea. After a time, he came to check how I was working. The criticism was very harsh. He found my work full of mistakes. I agreed with his assessment. I could not translate a business letter into a foreign language. I knew only a little German, Hebrew and Yiddish. He fired me and brought in my place a more educated man that was more to his liking and was also part of his family.
Miriam, the wife of Shucher and friend Moshe Aaron came to my defense in spite of all the errors. They pointed out my loyal service and it was agreed not to fire me. I revealed my problems to R’Shucher. I told him about my feeling of inadequacy and the situation with my parents. He was touched and took pity on me and decided not to take the bread from our mouths and so I was not fired. R’Shucher together with Bittiter came to inspect my work, found errors, and poured their wrath on me. I suffered in silence. They let me stay and in time I wrote the receipts.
I had not known R’Moshe Aaron Doks (the manager of the forest) and did not hear from him. He was born in Bratshani. After he married a daughter of Dalatin, he decided to make his home there. He had a small house by the canal of the river Prut and was the father of two sons and two daughters. His source of income was selling trees. He had a connection with the Polish minister in charge of forests in the government. He was the administrator of the Dalatin district forest. This minister sold him trees at a discount so that he was able to make a comfortable living.
Because he was involved in this profession, he had wide knowledge of forest matters; the quality of trees, their various kinds, their condition and what could be done with them, and all other knowledge in this field. I didn’t know his age or education. He was a simple Jew who fulfilled the Mitzvot and was a follower of the Kosover Admorim. He was smart in politics and knew the functioning of citizen’s committees and was involved in the community of Dalatin. He dealt with Bittiter in the sale of wood and with Shucher who was born in his town, he was a fellow Kosover. They knew his trustworthiness and knowledge of forestry and hired him to run the business in Lukovitz.
R’Moshe Aaron educated me in the details of forestry that I needed to know. He sent me out to the forest to learn not just theory but practice. I was sent to the forest to watch what the workers were doing, from the felling of the tree until it was sold. Boards and boxes would be made from Beech trees. The branches were sold on the spot for heating. The other trees were cut for roofing, walls, etc. I took upon myself this difficult job. After early morning prayers, I went to the forest which was not far from where I lived. In addition to the knowledge I gained, I also learned how the trees grew. It was a pleasure to enjoy nature and the forest, the things I never saw, breathe the clean air and to listen to the songs of the birds.
Another thing I learned about this difficult job was how to help workers to climb the trees and do their job. After several days, I got a Jewish helper who was from Galicia, sent by R’Moshe Aaron. We had to keep a sharp eye on eighty to one hundred workers. Two eyes were not enough and four would not be sufficient. We also were responsible for some fifty wagons that transported the trees from the forest and prepare the billing of the merchandise.
My wages were determined, with the agreement of the owners, the same as Moshe Aaron, six reuch a week plus two percent of the workers wages as well as another six reuch a week for dealing with the wagons. Part of the wages I sent to my wife and the rest I put into savings. After six months at my new job, the employers were satisfied with my skills and my outdoor work. They also were pleased with how I kept the books and receipts. I blessed “חטוב והמטיב” (to carry out something and succeed).
The work load in the forest and in the office grew. After a hard days work, I came back exhausted, to an empty room, which bothered me. My wife did not hesitate to ask why her husband did not come home. When I came home she satisfied my hunger and thirst. Elka, the wife of Shalom Laufer, owner of the house where I worked, fed and provided for me and Moshe Aaron, with her bad bread, and her tasteless food. “The coin that was given was not sweet”. It is not easy for a working man who is not satisfied with the bread to which he is entitled, to fulfill his physical obligations, to take care of the books, etc. This work cannot be neglected for even one day. Night after night I sat with the books and did not finish. In the late hours of the night I found no rest in this narrow, airless room with a straw mattress, a small pillow and the lack of a warm blanket to cover my body. The animals were housed closed to my room and I heard the snorting of the horses, the mooing of the cows, and the croaking of the frogs from the river Sarta. There was the smell of the animals next to the window. There was no rest, since at times there were three people sleeping in this narrow room. There was nowhere to find a different room. Without any choice, a man as miserable as me had to take this situation with hope. This too shall pass. One would have to be satisfied with a good salary that provided for your wife and son.
This good man, R’Moshe Aaron, taught me the “Torah” of growing and merchandising trees and wood: their quality, the nature of trees and how they are rooted, their height, their width and their cubic measurement. Most important was to know how the trees could be used, which trees were good for heating, for outside walls, for roofs, etc. I learned, not just the theoretical, but the practical. I found it difficult to get up at sunrise every morning and go into the forest and become accustomed to oversee the workers and learn all the details concerning this work.
I willingly took on this work to improve my knowledge and learn all the rules, day by day. I had to check the amount of trees once a week, their quantity and quality. They were brought to a special field on the forest edge to be numbered and billed. This was the work of R’Doks. He was given that work because he was older and it was not easy for him to run around the forest, climb the hills and the trees. I found it a holy duty to do part of his job. This was hard physical labor during the day and at night until midnight, I wrote bills, letters and kept the books. Shucher and Bittiter were satisfied with my work.
I passed the trial and they thought I was very good in the forest as well as keeping the books. There was a change for the better in Shucher’s relationship to me.
(Page 37A is a repeat of second part of Page 36 and part of 37)
One time the river close to our house, overflowed its banks.. The roads were closed and there were no supplies. Some of us endangered our lives due to hunger. We were courageous enough to cross the river Sarta on strong horses where the water reached their necks. We barely found enough food in the village, some flour and corn and loaded the food on our backs and rode back to the forest.
To every beginning there was an end. This applied even to the town of Valshinitz. The firm of Shucher and Bittiter acquired another large forest near the town of Mihava, a few kilometers from the forest of Valshinitz. The firm decided to move me to the station town of Lukovitz. This was a place where Jews lived and there were ten houses already built by the new technology. There were stores with all kinds of merchandise, also a hotel and restaurant. This town was a train station at the junction of the two forests. The trees were brought by wagons from both forests to sell to buyers and then were loaded on to the trains. Shucher and Bittiter put me in full charge of the books and everything pertaining to shipment of the trees from the forest, to the loading on to the trains. Moshe Aaron remained in the forest of Valshinitz and was also in charge of the work and all activities of the Mihava forest. Mendel Bittiter who was a relative of R’Gedalia Bittiter and Alter Ben Abraham Itzchak Shucher were hired to be clerks under the authority of Moshe Aaron. They were also under my supervision when it came to money and accounts.
In the new place, I was more at ease and life was more pleasureable. I rented a nice apartment from R’Jacob Tzeichner, a learned man. It had a kitchen and all the necessary equipment and was opposite the train station. The train came and went from Chernovitz and Romania to Barameta, thru Hilbeke to Lukovitz three times a day. Merchants who dealt with trees came to these places.
Opposite the train station of Lukovitz, a Polish noble built a sawmill with six large machines and some smaller machines necessary for this large operation. In order to bring these beams in large quantities from the forest onto the train tracks, thousands of workers were required. They also worked on the trains and in the sawmill making a full salary.
R’Itchie Frenkel, born in Viznitz, set up a still for making hard liquor, in the neighborhood of the train station. Frenkel acquired part of the forest area of Mihava with many houses and a big forest. He built a large house for his big family. He also built a Beit Knesset for Saturday prayers and a separate one for the many people who came from the surrounding area to pray. I and the guests, who came to visit me and spend Shabbat, also went there to pray. The station area was full of people coming and going, merchants and workers. All those who established businesses near the station made a good living. Some of the stores owners even rented out rooms in their homes for visitors.
There was joy and happiness in my house. Good neighbors came from time to time to visit on Shabbat evenings and joined us at dinner. “מלוה מלכה” (the meal after the Shabbat) Important guests came and stayed by me over Shabbat and holidays. Moshe Aaron, Shucher and Bittiter came on business and stayed at my house over Shabbat. My door was open to those who were hungry and thirsty and my hand was open to those in need. My work increased as did my salary and I was happy with my lot. I now had sums of money on hand and I started my own business, buying wood for building and wood for heating. This wood, building materials, panels, roofing and cut planks, was sent to be sold by Joseph Shpiner in Zablotov.
We shared the profits, fifty/fifty, and I did well with my share. I had good, friendly and loving neighbors and my reputation was good. Those who came from Lukovitz and Mihava were provided with what they needed. Even my father-in-law R’Menachim Mendel Gaster came for a visit and didn’t leave empty handed.
At the beginning of כסלו תרנה (December 1895), I wrote my parents in Zablotov and asked my mother, Esther Devorah זל to come to visit since my wife who was due to give birth and my mother knew how to help in these situations. She came three days after I called for her. My mother, Devorah, had come to visit us from time to time, even though the trip took six hours by train from Zablotov to Lukovitz. She would stay several weeks and we enjoyed her company.
On 29 December, 1895, my wife Edel gave birth to a daughter in the house of Tzeichner. The local midwife succeeded and mother and daughter were healthy and well. My industrious mother helped. People came and celebrated the event. My daughter was called Taube, in memory of Grandmother Tova, my mother’s mother.
The business of Shucher and Bittiter came to an end in December 1895. There were no new sales and the problem of making a living began to bother me. Shucher tried with the biggest and most important firm in Chernovitz, Bukovina, to save his business. Frederick Longenhahn was the president of “Industry and Business in Bukovina” (Handelskamer President). He was the head of the biggest firm with responsibilities in several countries. He dealt with forests and trees together with the biggest and most important bank, Kredit Anshtals Wien Chernovitz. The firm of Longenhahn had a good reputation in every country and thirty clerks worked in the Chernovitz office. This firm bought a huge amount of trees for cutting. They owned a big forest in Vasilka, Maidan-Lukovitz and they bought a large amount of Beech trees to cut for heating. They bought a big area of the forest Mihava from the nobleman Raa. This was because of the business connection of A.I.Shucher with Longenhahn.
I arranged to bribe the clerks in Langenhahn’s company and at the end of 1895 was hired. My job was to be manager to all the business pertaining to wood, overseeing the work in the forest, treasurer and accountant. My salary was ninety Keter a month and a heated and well lit house to live in, as well as an office. The job came with a horse and wagon and a driver to serve me. Under my supervision I had a professional forester, Kahat Leunter, who was responsible for overseeing the daily work and to get the trees to the sawmill. The new bosses were pleased with my work and found me loyal and dependable. I handled huge sums of money each week paying out the salaries to all the forest workers, drivers and the staff. Clerks of the firm came regularly to check me and found no errors in the accounts. Even the honorable Mr. Langenhahn came several times to my home. He praised my work and talents in fulfilling my job. I earned a good living and was also able to save.
I was called home to Zablotov, by my parents, to attend the wedding of my younger brother, Gershon who was marrying, Bayla, the daughter of Isaac Nagler from the town of Petshenishin, close to Kolomyea. Despite the wonderful and warm relations that I had with my parents, this time, I did not fulfill their wish to attend the wedding. Gershon slandered me many times in front of my parents and caused me a lot of heartache. The hurt has remained and reconciliation was never attempted. I did not attend but sent a telegram of congratulations and a letter to my parents.
After my brother Gershon went to live in his father-in-law’s house in Petshenishin, our parent’s business started to fall apart. My brother Naftali, of necessity, had to come into the business. He left his house and business, a tavern, in Arshanitz, Bukovina and with his wife, Bracha, and their two sons moved in to live with our parents.
In 1896 when I came to Zablotov, I visited my brother Gershon in his in-law’s house. He received us with love and since that time there was love and peace between us.
I succeeded in Lukovitz, in the firm of Langenhahn, for several months. The firm had a contract for a number of years with the government in the area of Kolomyea, Petshenishin, and Yablonov Galicia to buy large amounts of wood for heating from these government forests. I was among those clerks who were considered dependable and loyal. Even though I was satisfied with my position here, the firm asked me to leave my work at Lukovitz and go to live in the small town of Yablonov. It was the end of the month of December, 1896, snow and sleet covered the land and it was freezing cold. My wife and two children were bundled in a winter wagon with all our possessions. We traveled the long distance through Vishnitz, Kosov to Yablonov. When we got there, the governor of the province gave us a special house of several rooms. I also got a business office on a plot of several yachim and a warehouse for the trees which were brought from the nearby forest. This area was enclosed by a high fence with several gates, entrances and exits and was not far from town, about half a kilometer but was far from Jewish neighbors.
The governor of the province was the official in charge of all the forests and several clerks worked for him. There was a big river with a small, narrow, wooden bridge over it that flowed between the forest where I lived and the town. The road to Kosov, Kolomyea was not far from our home, but was dangerous to travel at night. The relationship with the governor and his staff was for official business only.
The following morning I began my job. The firm bought trees from the forest and had them brought to the warehouse by the contractor, Yitzchak Greenberg, who rented wagons from a gentile to bring the trees to the warehouse and to store them properly. I was sent by the firm to help him. Weber, a German professional carpenter, received a certain amount of trees from me and sold them to wholesalers, who had wagons. These wholesalers went to about twenty different towns. Money had to be collected, bills made out and money sent every week to the firm. After some time I convinced the firm to accept my younger brother David to help me. His salary was twenty keters a month and he was able to live in my house.
Every morning we got up early and went into the warehouse. The wagons came drawn by one or two horses for the drivers to choose the wood to transport and sell in Kolomyea. Most of the drivers could not pay for the wood in advance. On my responsibility I gave them credit for a day or at most until the end of the week to pay. Sometimes, again on my responsibility, I even lowered the price for some of the drivers. I did whatever I could to help them.
Sometimes I performed other “mitzvot”. I would help buy horses to replace those that died, wagons for those that broke and sometimes lent money, until the end of the week. As in Bukovina, I acquired admiration and friends, especially among the followers of Kosov with whom I prayed.
I remained in written contact with a friend from youth, Shalom Meltzer, who also left Zablotov. He lived with his father-in-law, Freidlander, a rich man from Kolomyea. He moved to his own home in Borshten where he rented and operated.
I received a letter from him that informed me, that the organization “Ahavot Zion” אהבת ציון was formed in the town of Tarnov in Western Galicia. The purpose was to acquire land in Eretz Israel. Each member would get a share costing ten keter and a chance in the lottery. If fate found him a winner, he would be sent to Eretz Israel to settle the land that was bought by the organization. Anyone who bought one hundred shares had the right of Aliya without the lottery. This was on condition that he became a member of the committee. He would also be required to propagandize the Zionist idea. I answered the questionnaire and signed up as a member. The political organization was founded and the name was “Branch of Ahavot Zion-Tarnov”. I believed in the idea and went to several meetings. On the 17th of Tamuz 1896 I attended a meeting in the big Beit Knesset where I invited Mr. Leibltaubs from Kolomyea, son of the Rav of Atania, to give a speech. Shalom Meltzer and the audience were enthusiastic about the organization Love of Zion. The hall was full and some went home due to lack of room. We succeeded in our activities. In a short time, I recruited one hundred chaverim who bought shares at the cost of ten keter each that I sent to the center in Tarnov.
I became friends with a large group of people just like in Bukovina that came to visit me. In general, I was with my small family peaceful and happy and satisfied.
The overcast sky opened and a black cloud encompassed me on the day of כח אדר 1897. I received a telegram from Zablotov to come home immediately since my father was dangerously ill. I came home and was shocked to see my father Aaron in bed. His face was the face of death, his eyes were closed, his breathing labored and there was foam on his lips. His feet were cold as ice and I rubbed all his limbs but he didn’t react. I shouted with all my strength “Father, Father, wake up, wake up, I came to see you, to be received by you, to talk to you and hear what you have to say, things that you advice from your heart, I came to hear your instructions about things I was used to hear from you when I came to visit your house”. With all my yelling and shouting, my father opened his eyes and looked straight into my eyes as if he knew me well. To my sorrow, there was no voice and no answer. His eyes looked at me as if he knew me, his brain was clear and functioning and he was satisfied that he saw me in this last hour of life. He opened his mouth and it felt as if he was speaking to me as if to ask, “let me rest, come back later. My head was filled with all the things he would have told me, if he could”.
With tears on her cheeks, my mother told me that he fell a few weeks ago and never recovered. He had no appetite to eat or drink. The doctors who visited from time to time gave us little hope. Whatever they knew to help him, they did. They expected him to get stronger, God would save him and he would recover and live. To our sorrow this did not happen. Yesterday, suddenly he closed his eyes and did not open them. He couldn’t talk and tasted nothing except some medicine and drops of water.
I was angry and annoyed that I was not called home earlier. My mother answered me with a speech full of pity. Why should she upset me, when she knew that I worked for a daily salary and for strangers? She said that they would not allow me to leave. My job was not permanent at this firm in Chernovitz. Even though I knew she was right, I still begrudged what happened. In times of emergency people don’t ask questions. I would have received permission by telegram in the same way that I received the telegram from Zablotov. I would have come earlier to ask my father to write a will that would give to his family his thoughts and beliefs. It is a shame that this did not happen.
From the time I arrived, I never left his bedside for even a minute while tears ran down my cheeks. Every minute that I could, I rubbed his body and limbs that were as cold as ice. His soul was getting ready to enter the house of God. בית אל. As death approached, my mother and her children did not leave the bedside of our dying father. The soul is filled in that hour with darkness. I looked into the face of my father with a shudder of fear. There is silence around the bed and within the silence, the final breath leaves him. At eleven o’clock at night כז אדר 27 Adar-January/February 1897 his pure soul left him.
That night the entire family sat sad and broken at his bedside. My mother and siblings were exhausted from many sleepless nights and fell away. The following morning was Shabbat. My brothers and I came to the Beit Knesset of Kosov with tears and broken hearts to recite Kaddish.
My brother-in-law, Itzchak Freilich, and my brother Naftali went to the cemetery, Saturday afternoon, to find a burial place appropriate for the dead soul. Itzchak chose, Naftali approved, and they found a place with appropriate neighbors. The two of them took care of everything necessary for the burial of the dead. Close to midnight, all was in order and the funeral began. Most of the population of Zablotov came to the funeral to pay their last respects. Some of them also came to the burial place to perform the mitzvah of throwing earth on the grave. For whatever reason, I stayed in my father’s house and did not go to the burial ground. It is difficult for me to remember the reason for this. Was it because a Cohen should not go to a cemetery? Friends and neighbors who were at the funeral came back about two o’clock at night and brought food. All drank to the memory and soul of the dead. תנצב"ה May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.
My father lived until about the age of sixty-one. He was not registered in the census of the government and so we had no exact date. He was thin, his body damaged and bleary eyed in the last period. In his youth he was not made of heroic material and was educated as most of the youngsters his age in the house of Charidim in Torah and prayers. In the last part of his life, he did not stop Torah and prayer. “Torah exists for those who are totally immersed in it”. Maybe this was the reason for his weak body. My father was educated as was his generation in a Chared house, without education or knowledge to find the right way in life. Making a living was in the hands of God.
“מאן דיהיב חיי יחיב מזוני” (Manna is food from the heaven) When he was eighteen, my father married my mother, Devorah, in the year 1854. For several years, they earned their living in the house of Grandfather R’Isaac Meltzer. This was a time to study Torah and prayers.
Until he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, my father did not go through the process of טבילה, immersion in water and purification. He never took the opportunity to go from father-in-law R’Isaac’s house in Samikovitz to Zablotov to get immersed and heaven forbid, to do the mitzvah of tvilla before prayers. He found a bathing hole in the river Prut. Even when the water was freezing cold and icy, he wasn’t afraid of getting sick and didn’t worry about his weak body. My father was a brave soldier. The lion arose each night to do the work of the creator. His daily schedule: three in the morning was in the Beit Knesset, תהלים (Psalms) in a Minyan with his group, study Gomorrah until eight, short run home opposite the Beit Knesset, grab a cup or coffee or tea, go to the bathhouse for immersion, from nine to eleven prayers in the Kosov Beit Midrash, lunch, and work in the warehouse. Tired and exhausted from this hard work from the middle of the night until the afternoon, it was time to grab a short rest. He then went to find out what was happening in the business, of which he knew nothing.
When it was time for Minchah my father hurried to the Beit Knesset and lessons that came before and after. My father never came home before nine or ten at night. He never worried about earning a living, was happy with his lot, secure in himself and had others do the job for him. The days that his father-in-law R’Meltzer was alive were the happiest. After R’Meltzer and Aaron’s father, Nathan, died, my mother, Devorah, and my brothers supported him. He devoted his life to prayers and religion. תנצבה (Note: Isaac Meltzer was Abraham’s maternal grandfather and Nathan was Abraham’s paternal grandfather)
I did not leave the city or my parent’s house during the Shivah. Most of the people of the town, especially those who prayed in the Beit Midrash of Kosov, came to pray and console the mourners.
After my father זל died, my brother Naftali made the effort to operate and care for my parent’s business. I, for various reasons, allowed him to take over. My brother Gershon’s situation in Petshenishin worsened. He lost all his money and property in bad business ventures and went to America. Our younger sister Tova got married several months after father’s death to Israel Stadler ben Eliyahu from an upstanding family. After the wedding, the couple went to Aralitz close to Zablotov. David, the youngest of my brothers went to America. My mother suggested that I buy the house and the business and return to live there. To my sorrow, I could not fulfill this request for various reasons. One of the reasons was that Naftali was the oldest son (among the sisters, Gittel was the oldest) and there was no choice. Naftali got the house and the business from my parents without a price. To our sorrow my mother took the “dishes of exile” and wandered from son to daughter and daughter to son. Finally, it was decided that she would live with her daughter Elke and her husband, Itzchak Freilich. Unfortunately it was not in a large, airy room but in the kitchen that was moist and not clean. This was her lot after all her work. How sad it is for one to see this. I asked her to come and live with me but she did not want to leave Zablotov. Elka’s family loved her.
In the middle of the clouds of darkness, there is light and joy in my house. On December 24, 1897 my wife gave birth to a second son. מזל טוב We were in Yablonov (called Staptchet) where I worked in the government wood warehouse. In addition to my mother, my learned father-in-law came to celebrate the Brit Millah. There were all kinds of food and drink. My industrious mother cooked and baked all her specialties. This was an affair with thirty invited guests and many others who were not. My father-in-law was very happy that there was another male brought into the family. His sharp brilliance in Torah shone on Saturday night until midnight and at the Brit Millah until noon. My father-in-law, R’Menachim Gaster, was the Sandak (godfather), the “Quaterim” (honorary attendants) were R’Abraham Zack, the mayor of the town and his wife and the Mohel was Yehudah Zack. My new born son was named Aaron, after my recently deceased father. If my son, Aaron, will be endowed with the characteristics of the man whose name he carries, he will be blessed with Torah and Mitzvot. If he is not endowed with the Torah, will his seeds bear fruit? The future will give us solutions.
In Yablanov the firm Langenhahn’s sale of wood for heating, did not prosper because the winter was warm and there was no snow or frost in the entire area and no buyers. It was decided at the central office of the firm, to close the branch. In ח ניסן תרנה (1898) I received an order to find a wholesale buyer for the trees from Yablanov and Pisteen. I had to fire the German, Weber, as well as my younger brother, David. After the branch was closed, I moved to Kolomyea to be in charge of the wood warehouse of trees that came from Petshenishin and the area.
The wholesalers who bought the trees were Rabbi G. Hager and Aaron Rosenkrantz, etc. In order to find me a place to work and earn a living, two Jewish clerks who took care of the business and the accounts were fired and my job was to replace them.
I tried to find work for my brother Gershon who returned from America a year ago. He bought a house and land in Yablonov and lost everything.
As I wrote previously, my younger brother David was fired from the firm. In order for my brother to earn a living, I arranged that he would find a buyer who would agree to a partnership with the wholesalers. To my sorrow, after a year’s hard work we were left with a large loss of six hundred keter (Austrian Kroner). I did not know if the loss was due to negligence of the clerks, or the buyer, or the partner, or the lack of a cold winter. Because of the warm winter, the trees remained in the warehouse and were sold at a loss.
Gershon left for America once again after losing his job. I gave him a loan of five hundred keters (a sizeable sum at that time). My brother David, who had been a clerk in the warehouse, returned to our mother’s house in Zablotov. After several months, he also left for America. He did not come to me in Starchenitz to get my farewell blessing.
In this period, the Zionist idea spread among many Jews. There was a meeting that I organized on יז תמוז תרנז 1897, led by R’Leibl Tauber זל and R’Shalom Meltzer זל. I put an announcement of a meeting that established חברת אהבת ציון (Lovers of Zion) in “די וועלט” (The World), issue number 4 or a later number.
At the end of the month of Nissan 1898, I left Yablonov and went to live in Kolomyea in an apartment that was in the tree warehouse of the Langenhahn firm. This was close to the train station. My job was to receive and store the trees from the trains on a special spur which entered into the warehouse. The trees were sent by the wholesalers R’Gershon Hager and R’Aaron Rosenkrantz and their partners. The trees were sent from the government areas in Petshenishin and the quantity and quality of trees had to agree with the contract. I sold the trees according to their quality and weight at a fixed price schedule. There was a gentile named Boim to help me, who was tall and strong. The work was as hard as it was in Yablonov and most of it was finished in the morning. I didn’t make as much money as I did in Lukovitz so I bought trees on my own, sent them to my partner R’Yosef Spinner and divided the money we earned.
I found great satisfaction and personal pleasure in the short time we lived in Kolomyea.
We found close and beloved family there that we visited. I had many Zionist friends and acquaintances that were on the committee of “Chevrat Zion”. I was active and went to meetings and Zionist gatherings in many cities, Stanislav, Zlatchav, etc. In the same year, 1898, I collected 130 shekels that was equal to 13.50 Austrian Reuch which I sent to Vienna and received written confirmation from Doctor Marmarek. (Note*A shekel was payment for membership in the Zionist organization) When I lived in the town of Atania, the Colonial Bank of Palestine (national bank) was founded and I was called to Kolomyea to participate in a meeting of bank shareholders. I was permitted to take two important people from the town. One of them a Chared, R’Yacob Baidalf, a follower of the Vishnitzer Admor Rabbi Israel Hager, an upstanding man who owned a big mill and had many business connections. The second man was R’Yonah Kissler, an agent of Bank Ipatkin of Chernovitz, as well as an agent of Langenhahn. We were in close business contact with the firm. We were expensive but we went together to the shareholders’ meeting.
In addition to family and friends in Kolomyea, we had an added pleasure of being only twenty-five minutes away from our hometown of Zablotov.
The family came to us and we went to them.Our joy and pleasure was even greater when my mother was with us. There was a plan to acquire a small house and establish a wood business in Kolomyea. Two businessmen who had already invested heavily and established a wood warehouse offered me a partnership with only a small investment.
Apparently it was my fate to wander from place to place. “נע ונד תהי בארץ”. After nine months of comfortable and restful living in Kolomyea, I received a telegram from Langenhahn from Chernovitz to come immediately to their office. When I arrived, I was told by the head of the firm to immediately leave Kolomyea and resettle with my family in Starchenitz in order to take charge of the sawmill. The trees from the surrounding vast forest area, and the wood from the warehouses were sent daily to this sawmill of Langenhahn. There was a Jewish clerk who did not fulfill his job and was fired, and so there was a need for a professional and loyal person. Who was chosen, if not A. Keusch? Mr. Jahn Flander who was the head of the sawmill, waited for the firm to send a new clerk. I had to travel there at once and start to work.
I did not succeed in following all the orders of the higher authorities and Mr.Langenhahn. It was very difficult for me, as husband and father of sons, to leave a big city, to a village where the children have no school and the nearest town was two kilometers away. It was even more difficult for the family to walk in cold weather to the Beit Knesset on Shabbat. There were financial and business pressures, fate was decided and there was no turning back. I left the family for a short time. The day that I made the journey from Chernovitz to Starchenitz, I was accompanied by an important clerk named Michael Watter, who was born in Chernovitz. He was there to transfer the firm’s property to me and to instruct me in the work that had to be done.
We were met by the contractor, Meyer Reichman, who drove us by wagon to the sawmill. I was to sleep over in his house. That evening, we went to the tavern of R’Arzie Pralim and his wife Rickal who were Charidim. We were welcomed with food and drink. There were many Charidim that sat with a cup of choice wine which cost very little. We sat eating and drinking until late at night with friends, among them a gentile, Roman Malchinski, who spoke German. The contractor and his wife participated in these parties from time to time.
In the month of Tevet 1899, I went to Kolomyea to bring my family to Starchenitz. After farewells from family and friends, we left Kolomyea where most of the population was Jewish.
Jahn Flander, the owner of the estate, a Romanian noble from Bukovina, handed me the management of the sawmill. He was an anti-Semite, but not openly. “An evil lord had evil servants”. My job was to manage all the business of trees and wood that the firm Langenhahn bought from Flander. Every day on the field next to the mill, wood and trees were laid out according to size. I received them from Flander’s clerks and arranged and made the billing according to measurements. The field had high fences with locked gates with guards everywhere since the contractor; Meyer Reichman lived on the site. Special kinds of wood were sold by the firm to different customers and brought by train wagons to the train station. Contractor then loaded the wood on to the train, to send to customers. The lower grade of wood was sold every day to passing customers from the town. They came with wagons, to load wood, to bring to the various markets. Most of them went to Chernovitz, on Tuesday, the market day. The income from these sales had to be sent to the firm every week as well as all the accounting of the number of trees I received from Flander and those that were shipped. A German gentile from Chernovitz; was sent by the firm to help me. As in all aspects of business of the firm Langenhahn, the Jew was the manager and the gentile helped and checked.
There was a tall nasty gentile who worked as an assistant to Flander and had two Romanians non-Jews working for him. They spoke only Romanian which made it unpleasant. An ugly incident occurred but I was in charge and got what I demanded. Many times I went to Mr. Flander with suggestions on how to better the business and he accepted them. In bettering the business and getting the discounts, did we make the extra money? Time will tell.
I made good friends as I did in all the other places that I lived. One of them was Yonah Stein who was part of the family on my Aunt Devorah’s side. He and his family lived on the estate of Flander together with his partner R’Moshe Gotlieb. His son, Pinchas, an accountant in charge of books and sales was my neighbor. He and his wife were our good friends. Stein arranged for prayers in his house, it, the Minyon and Shabbat. The contractor, Meyer Reichman, and his family also lived in this place.
In the month of Iyar 1899, my wife Edel זל gave birth to a daughter למזל טוב. She was called Sarah Yitta after my sister, the wife of Benjamin Gold of Atania. I found out about my sister’s death a few months ago. She died at about the age of 40 and left five sons. Benjamin was well established but not a happy man. After her wedding they stayed with our parents in Zablotov. After some time they moved to the house of her father-in-law R’Mendel Gold in Atania. He was a rich man who had an oil press business in his house and his parents gave my sister honor and treated her well. There was a continuous stream of people into the house, bringing seeds to be pressed into oil and this bothered my sister and made her uncomfortable.
After a time, the father, R’Mendel Gold, got a job for his son, Benjamin, with the government road tolls collection. This was from Atania to Tishminitz, Stanislau. This road was used for wagons and live animals that paid a special toll fee. Benjamin and Sarah Yitta moved to a small house of one room and from their window they were able to watch the road where there was a barrier. Every wagon that passed had to pay. Most of the traffic was in the day time but when there was night traffic, their rest was disturbed. They earned their living at this job for six years. My brother-in-law Benjamin Dov Gold, an experienced farmer, rented a farm in the village Kribitol. His father had properties in the area of Atania that he supervised. After the marriage, the lease passed from agriculture to the small village close to Abertin. After a number of years, my sister died and was buried in the cemetery of Abertin. This cemetery was a resting place for the Keusch family of Cohanim. Grandfather R’Shlomo Zalman Hacohen was among them. My sister, Sarah Yitta, was a good woman and generous to those in need. All who were hungry and thirsty were welcomed in her house. Her sons were educated as were most children in small villages where there were no schools. Two sons died after her death in a trip to Galicia. Three sons went to America. One son died when he fell from a high story building while cleaning windows. The other two sons earned their living with other members of the family. May the memory of Sarah Yitta, daughter of Aaron and Esther Devorah, be blessed. Her husband, Benjamin Dov, took a second wife and had other sons. After a time he died. תנצב"ה
The infant baby that was born at the end of the month Iyar אייר תרנט 1899, whose name was SarahYita, came to a tragic end at the age of less than a month. The mother went into bed to nurse the baby. The baby stayed with her all night הדד בפיה (the nipple in her mouth) early the next morning when mother woke up from a deep sleep, she found the baby dead. The town doctor was called, examined the baby and found no clear reason why she died. One may assume that the baby was found with the nipple in her mouth and it is possible that the breast stopped her from breathing. Even an adult will die without air. The doctor, according to the law, was required to report this event to the court to be investigated. Because the woman was so miserable and felt such deep pain in her heart, the death certificate was given without mentioning the reason of death.
Just a necessary word to fathers, it should be absolutely forbidden to put a baby in the mother’s bed before the age of two. That same day the baby was buried in the cemetery of Strchenitz תנצב"ה. The mother suffered, cried and fasted from this tragedy for a long time. Let’s hope her cries and prayers are heard by God and she will be forgiven. Amen.
The business with Flander came to an end in Ellul אלול תרנט 1899. I was given an order by Flander to immediately vacate my apartment and leave the warehouse. I went to the firm in Chernovitz to inform them. I was given permission to rent an apartment in town, paid by the firm. Mr. Langenhahn, himself, also promised to pay me a monthly salary until they found me a place to work. In contrast to the rest of the staff, they thanked me and gave me complements on my hard work and loyalty. He emphasized that my deeds were proof that I was straight and faithful.
According to the norm of the lumber business, there could be a loss due to stealing and breakage of at least one per cent of the amount of wood. “The man who had the job before you, for a year and a half, had a large loss of 4,000 cubic meters of wood. You had an overage of 400 cubic meters. In the other places that you worked, you were outstanding in your loyalty. In Lukovitz, where you took care of the trees for heating, there was an overage of 20,000.”
I was investigated by a Jewish officer from Tarnipol. He said, “It is my pleasure to deal with the stealing by the stupid gentiles and their errors in bookkeeping and overages that I pulled out of this”. Those who steal from the thief don’t have to pay. Langenhahn fired the thief and Langenhahn learned his lesson. The Jewish worker did not end up as an employee but was rewarded. In the end, the worker, Abraham Keusch, with his industry and honesty found out all the discrepancies.
The same month I left my apartment and found another non-permanent apartment in town. Jacob Shatner came to visit me after leaving his home; the daughter of my sister Gittel, Chaya Taube came for a visit to breathe the fresh air of Bukovina. I received them with open arms and they stayed with me as long as I lived in this apartment.
At the beginning of 1900, I got an order from the firm to move with my family to Tsirish. There was a sawmill with a cutting machine called “Gattes” by a known manufacturer of lumber machinery that was leased from Abramovich who owned this extensive area. This sawmill with this machine was able to cut 3,000 trees a year. My job was to manage the business of the forest and sawmill. There was a big apartment with all the necessities ready for me. The apartment was occupied by Joseph Engel from the previous leaser, Gotlieb and Preminger, from Starchenitz. I took a temporary apartment near the sawmill from a woman, Batia Eier.
At the same time, the firm bought a large quantity of trees from Jews, Dr. A. Katz from Starchenitz and R’Nachom Ehrenstein from Chernovitz. From the forest near Davideni, the firm rented a second Gattes machine to cut wood. The trees were received from the forest from sellers, 10,000 cubic meters a year with a contract of three years. The manager of the sawmill was not Jewish. Mr. Langenhahn chose someone who had been in this profession for thirty years in one of the biggest sawmills in Bukovina. He was a cultured Polish man, named Vershavtzki. The firm chose the known contractor, Meyer Reichman, for the work dealing with the sawmill in Davideni and taking care of the drying of the planks and bringing them to the train station in Tshudin. Reichman came to live in Davideni in the same apartment as Vershavtzki.
After a month of working at both places of business, Langenhahn sent Adolph Levy; the manager of the biggest and most important sawmills, to check on the operation of the two places. He came to find out whether the people were qualified for their tasks and to report his findings to the office in Chernovitz.
(Grandfather jumps ahead in time to his relationship with Adolf Levy)
I had a good relationship with Adolph Levy, who was sent by Langenhahn, from the time he visited me at the sawmill in Tsirish. We met every Sunday, when he came to live in Chernovitz. He came from Yazashti or some other place and was the manager of a giant sawmill that had six “Gattes” machines. Under his supervision were a number of professionals that dealt with lumber. At the end of 1902 or the beginning of 1903 when I lived in Chernovitz, and was in the lumber business, I bought a piece of forest land with a quantity of tall and thick pine trees in order to cut them into high quality planks. I made a down payment and was given time to pay the balance. I had difficulty getting the license needed to cut and take the trees from the forest to a sawmill and I approached Adolph Levy with a business proposal. He was to pay the balance of the money and use his influence with the government forestry office to get the license to cut the trees.
He agreed to supply the money but getting the license was complicated and took a long time. The manager, R’Gedalia Bittiter זל of the sawmill in Atania, hired me in the meantime and I left Chernovitz and went to Atania. I requested A. Levy to buy my share of the forest or find someone he knew to buy it. He sent me A. Klein, a friend that worked for him, who bought it and I made a small profit. May his memory be blessed.
In the month of May 1900, I was given a house on the land of the sawmill in Tsirish. The house was big, with three large rooms full of light and air. All the houses belonged to this property. There was a barn for the cows and one for the horses; a chicken coop; a flower and vegetable garden; and a large balcony. My family and I were very comfortable.
At the beginning of the month, I received a letter from Langenhahn brought by A. Levy. This letter authorized Levy to “put his foot into the business”. I was told to answer all questions relating to the business. He visited all areas including all the machines and he also wanted to know about the planks and other aspects of the operation. I answered all his questions, and after a few hours, I invited him to eat lunch in my house. During lunch, he told me that he had just come from the mill in Davideni where Vershavtzki was in charge. He found many discrepancies and errors and did not understand how this man worked there for such a long period. Everything connected with my work was in order and he asked where I had worked previously and for how long. I told him that this was the first time that I ran such a mill and he came to the conclusion that only a Jew had the capabilities to handle all aspects of the work. He thanked me for the treatment and meal that he received and we parted as friends.
After a few days, I received a notice from the firm, to report to the office in Chernovitz. When I got there, I was directed to the office of Mr. Sigmund Regenshtreif who was born in Galicia in Tishminitz. He was an assimilated Jew who still had a touch of a Jew in his heart and read from the Tanach from time to time. Regenshtreif told me about Levy’s report to Langenhahn, about his visit to Davideni and his harsh criticisms of Vershavtzki, which included the operation itself and the accounting. Levy praised my work and it was all recorded.
When I entered the office of Langenhahn I was very well received. After being praised for my talents and my good work, I was given a carriage, a driver and a horse. I was also given several additional tasks; 1) to keep the books in the operation of the sawmill of Davideni as well as the income from trees and their products; 2) to take over as manager and go daily to oversee and give orders to Vershavtzki, as long as he worked there; 3) to supervise the receiving of trees from the contractor Katz and his partners. After the trees were chosen, they were brought to the mill by wagon, hundreds a day. It was hard work in Davideni, added to the work in Tsirish. I was satisfied and my salary went up but not commensurate with the increase in the amount of work.
There was an unpleasant incident. One of the contractors, R’Nachum Aaronstein, (a friend from the past) invited me to go with him to pick out a large number of trees for the mill in Davideni. I took an expert in wood measurement, Kochi Leventer, with me and we chose a total of about 1500 cubic meters of wood. The contractor, Doctor Katz, with the approval of Aaronstein sent out an inspector to remeasure the amount that was chosen. They claimed that there was 200 extra cubic meters more than what I measured, worth about 2,000 Keter. They protested to the firm and demanded an examination and new count. We recounted and I and my expert helper were wrong. I suggested a compromise ruling. “Something that is in doubt should be divided.” The firm was not ready to listen to the demand of the contractors or to my suggestion. Langenhahn decided that the original measurement should be taken.
Sunday יב שבת תרסב the 12th of Shvat 1902 my wife, Edel, gave birth to out third son in the house of Mr. Abramovitch of Tsirish. My mother, Devorah, came to help before the birth. With her ability and expertise she took care of all the arrangements for all those who came to celebrate.
The Sandak who sat in the chair of “Eliahu the Prophet” was Rabbi Shalom Hager (the son of the Admor Rabbi Mikli זצל' from Starchenitz). Of course, he did not come empty handed. One of the Quaterim (honorary assistants) was R’Pinchus Stein, a close family member, an accountant in the factory of Dr. Katz and his partners in Davideni. The mohel was R’Dov Rosenberg, the son-in-law of R’Hanoch Hendel Shechter from Zablotov. My friend R’Mordechai Leventer and his wife Hagar from Lukovitch came to celebrate. He was the father of Kochi, who was my assistant, and lived and ate in my house. The gentiles from the firm as well as the inhabitants of Tsirish, a part of Davideni, also came. The celebration lasted from before lunch until evening prayers.
My son was named Joseph, after my wife Edel’s grandfather. He was an important man who was a Chared, studied Torah, and fulfilled the Mitzvot in the town of Vishnitz. There is hope that the sons will inherit from the fathers, Amen.
In the middle of the night on the 8th of April, 1902, while I and my family were in a deep sleep in our house in Tsirish, near the mill of A. Abramovitch, I heard a loud cry yelling “fire”. We quickly awoke and saw a terrifying scene before our eyes. The house of our neighbor, Jacob Helfer, who had a still and a warehouse for hard liquor, was burning. The wind came from four directions and the fire spread. In spite of the danger, I managed to save my family, the animals, horses and the cow. The furniture, the clothing, the books and the chicken coop were all destroyed. My little children were left out in the night and there no one to save us and no apartment. “The man that sows good grain has a good head.” An angel showed up to help us. R’Shlomo Weisselberg, one of the elders in the village, with the agreement of his family, invited us to their house and gave us a small, narrow room. It was the days before Pesach and everything we needed for the holidays was burnt. We all ate together at their table.
On the following Monday we prepared the food and wine for Pesach. Shlomo’s wife and daughters helped my wife to prepare and cook in their narrow kitchen. All night we sat leaning (מסובין), in the company of their son David and their daughters Sarah and Nechama. We told the story of the exodus from Egypt according to our Haggada, until the sun rose. “ישתה וישכח רישו”. We stayed at the house of these good people until a few days before the holiday of Shavuot. Despite pleading to pay expenses for our stay, the Weisselbergs refused to take any money. They were like our father Abraham. May God remember and bless them and may all the generations that come from them succeed. Amen.
All those that worked with Abramovitch were insured for 800 “Austrian Gold” with a Polish company. Abramovitch was their agent. After a thorough investigation and efforts by Abramovitch, I succeeded in getting 470 reuch from the company.
In 1890 I took a mortgage of 500 reuch plus interest on my parent’s house in Zablotov, which was insured against fire, by the company Weiner Geselshaft.
My boss Langenhahn was an agent of that company earning 700 reuch. That summer my parents house burned to the ground. The company sent an investigator to evaluate the damage. I accompanied him to Zablotov. With the help of Mr. Langenhahn, I received 500 reuch from the insurance company. Getting these monies gave me a good feeling. My brother who had inherited the house from my parents, that was insured, also got recompense.
Vershavtzki left his job with the firm and his house, a few days before Shavuot of 1902. He had lived in this house with his family in Davideni, which was a few kilometers away from the sawmill.
When we moved into this house, we became involved in an unpleasant situation. The house we moved into in Davideni was separated by a thin wall from the next family, which was that of the contractor of the firm, Meyer Reichman. His wife, Kila, (call her Klallah, which means curse) came from a family of the “underworld”. She was a quarrelsome and nasty woman. She angered me and embittered the life of my wife and children. My father-in-law came to visit us several days after we moved into our house. He stayed for a period and suffered terribly from Mrs. Reichman. He left us earlier than he had planned. This evil woman slandered me and my family to her husband and to a clerk from the firm Langenhahn, Michael Watter. We suffered from these nasty neighbors, especially my wife who had to see her father leave before he planned.
The firm Langenhahn had established itself in the wood and tree business. Their partner was the biggest and most important bank, Optikai Chernovitz. The business did not succeed. The bank found discrepancies and money missing. As a result, they decided to close the business. They sold all the assets and the management of Langenhahn to the Medismet, Lavi, Millich, and Hanich from Chernovitz. The first thing they did was to fire all the clerks of Langenhahn. They chose as the manager an unfriendly man, the brother-in-law of the director Milich. He was Hungarian who was arrogant, assimilated and far from religion and justice. The first time he came to visit, he presented himself without saying “Shalom”. He said he came in the name of the new firm to investigate and checks all aspects of the company in Tsirish and Davideni. In spite of everything being exactly in order according to a recent inspection, he, Jacob Kahan, found faults and discrepancies. As a result, he ordered me to take on hard work in the forests and in the two mills.
Kahan came every week to criticize and yell at me in front of all the clerks and workers and anyone else present. He also did the same to the workers. At the beginning of May he came and created a scene. He measured a number of boards that I had already measured and knew to be correct. He found mistakes and attacked me in such a way that I lost my patience and my temper. I spilled my bitter anger on him and he ran from the place and returned to Chernovitz. On May 15, 1902, I received a letter from the firm that as of the 1st of July, I was fired from my job. On that day I had to leave my house with all my belongings, without delay. I did not request reprieve in canceling my job but did ask for a postponement on leaving the house. I also demanded severance pay for seven years work. But the nasty Milich and his partners denied my requests and it was impossible to get water from a stone. Seven years I worked for Langenhahn with allegiance and all my energy for the good of the business. The general rule of the forest business which should have compensated me was not yet a government law. I went to Langenhahn, who knew my good work, but had only a minor position in the firm and could not help me.
I saw with my own eyes that the wealth of the firm was built on its employees. One must be wary, in the future, of people like Langenhahn. I came into the firm empty handed and left empty handed.
Before the 1st of July, I left Davideni and found a place in the near by town of Starchenitz. I rented a small apartment from Itzchak Kleinberg opposite the house of the Admor R’Michal Hager who was born in Zablotov and knew my family. He worked as a contractor from his house. In his court he was known and loved. Now came the question for me “what do we eat”? There was no possibility of finding work in a firm.
My assets were sadly limited to 1500 Austrian Keter. Then God opened my way to earn a living. I was on my way to approach a man I knew, Rushka, Governor of the Dumenandirectzion in the province of Tzudin. He was a member of the anti-Semitic Christian Socialist party but a good man. I told him of all that happened to me at the Langenhahn firm. I explained the reasons for being fired and asked for his help. Since he was the governor, he was in charge of the government forest and trees. He had the authority to sell me amounts of trees at a price so that I could earn a profit. He sympathized with me and on the following day, a contract was made where he sold me 2,000 to 3,000 cubic meters wood for heating. Part of this amount was already at the station in Tzudin and the remainder had to be brought and loaded from the forest to the appropriate station. The cost and the terms of payment were good. I took Kochi Leventer, who was also fired from Langenhahn, as my partner because he had a certain amount of money.
Even though it seemed that I succeeded, success turned away from me. This fine man, A. Rushka, made a real effort to help me wherever possible. The tax office in Chernovitz sent me a bill to pay 800 Keter, which was a tax on the trees that I bought in Tzudin. I quickly went to Mr. Rushka to vent my anger. He could not cancel the tax but he was able to reduce it from hundreds to eighteen Keter. May his memory be blessed. We did not buy the large amount of wood due to the many expenses and the arrival of the warm summer since there was no need for heating wood. The business was unsuccessful and there were losses. We lived in Starchenitz which was far from the place of the weighing in of the wood done by gentiles. It was also far from the buyers in Chernovitz. We miscalculated and lost. I was forced to move to Chernovitz. I had to sell whatever was left of the wood to whoever would buy. I rented an apartment with two rooms and utilities from Ptchia Zilberata at 12 Kutzarmara St. The ups and downs of business and partners, continued a little while longer before we closed down.
At the end of the summer of 1902, I had a visit from Hirsch Baron who married, in Zablotov, my Uncle David Meltzer’s daughter Sarah. He had worked several years in the lumber business and I advised him to move to Chernovitz and be a partner with me in business. He took my advice and we bought a small forest in Ishesht near Tzudin. We also bought some lumber for building as well as other merchandise. We did not succeed.
My friend, Shalom Meltzer, who lived in Rahtin in Galicia, made me an offer in the spring of 1903. He was in contact with the company “Carmel” that sold wine from the vineyards of Baron Rothschild from Rishon Lezion. He would import from them all the wine for Galicia, East and West. He opened a store and basement storehouse in Lvov. Meltzer needed another clerk to travel and sell the wine in Galicia and found me to be the appropriate person. We made an agreement that I would be the agent with the usual business condition and there was a good chance to make a living. לאיש הטובע בשבולת טוב גם ראש שבולת (A drowning man has to keep his head.). The lumber business was a failure. The promises of family and friends are not one of a predator. יונה וטרך בפיה I accepted the proposal and we made an agreement. On the basis of this agreement, I bought a train ticket that allowed me to travel in all the territory of Austria and pay half the regular price on the express trains. The work began in the month of July. For a few months I traveled from town to town, everywhere in Galicia, East and West, especially to the areas that had swimming and fresh air in the Carpathian Mountains. They had need for lots of wine but I did not succeed in selling. Most of the wine merchants had restaurants and bought for long periods of time from vineyards that fulfilled their needs. The better places also found the prices too high and didn’t want to buy from Eretz Israel. Out of all the places I tried to sell the wine of Eretz Israel, one out of ten bought from me. I convinced one person, who bought a few bottles that were cheap. These wines had no world reputation, the prices were high, and people did not buy. I traveled three months back and forth, day and night, with no success and expenses had to be paid.
Shalom Meltzer and I remained firm friends. The relationship between Zvi Baron and me was not weakened by the failure of the business. My wife and I decided to live in greater Chernovitz, Bukovina. I finally found a way to make a living selling trees which had no long term future. The question stays in my head, “Is the hand of God going to shorten this future?”
In September 1903 a partner of the firm Shucher and Bittiter, from the forests of Lukovitch and Mihava, came to my house. He was sent by Gedalia Bittiter from Kolomyea and told me that he and his partner, A. Abraham Leib Sternberg from Kolomyea, bought a large amount of trees from the owner of the property, near the village and forest Miyadan close to the town of Atania. These trees were to be taken to the large sawmill in Atania, where there were six Gattis wood cutting machines, that belonged to the same company for several years. They offered me a job since they knew of my ability from the five years that I worked for them. I was to be manager of the factory for several years at a salary of l50 Keter a month plus extra benefits. There was a large house for my family with barns for the horses and the cows, as well as a vegetable garden, etc. I was to manage every aspect of the business, the finances and the accounting. There would be several clerks and workers. The partner, A. Sternberg, heard these terms and agreed to them. After consultation with my wife and family about whether to take this offer or hope for a successful business in Chernovitz, we all agreed that I take the job as head clerk in the new firm of Sternberg and Bittiter in Atania. It was decided that I would move my family at the beginning of October 1903.
The perpetual wanderer left the city of Chernovitz in Bukovina for the small town of Atania in Eastern Galicia. This was the fifteenth time of being moved from city to city, town to town, village to village. Who knows how many more moves await me in my life? I was received at the mill by A. Bittiter, an owner and the treasurer of the company, an intelligent and good man. I found there several clerks that I knew like David Wagner, Menachem Levinger, Ben Zvi Ari from Tritzi, Abraham Krisel someone I knew from Lukovitch and others. They all received me with signs of respect and satisfaction that I would be the man in charge. It was not simple to transfer this large, important organization and staff from the previous lessees, Edlersberg, his officers, Blau and Epstein from Krakow, and the brothers Rubinstein from Lvov. The physical plant was huge. There was an area of ten joch (area of one joch equals 83 yards square) surrounded by a wooden fence with metal wire. The sawmill was built according to a new plan. The length of the working area, which included six Gattis (wood cutting machines), was eighty meters and the width was about thirty meters. The machines had motors of 120 horsepower with a pressure of eight atmospheres. There were two large administration buildings with 24 rooms and all the utilities for the clerks. Outside of that there was a big house and a vegetable field of several joch for the permanent workers. A large field was for the drying and sorting of the cut lumber. A large covered area existed where the wood was loaded on to six railroad wagons, with hundreds of steel rails and other wagons that brought the wood from the mill. There were also rails to and from the railroad station. A large adjacent field was for the unloading of the lumber brought from the forest of Miyadan by wagons, about 100 each day. All this belonged to the company.
The previous lessee, Edelsberg, left the company in disarray. My first task was to set up a proper system, organize the clerks and workers, each according to his place and profession. We had to get from each of the owners what they had invested and record it in the books. I chose someone who would be the bookkeeper and arranged with the treasurer, the son-in-law of Bittiter, R’Yonah Ashkenazi, to set up account books. The monthly production of wood came to 2,500 cubic meters. It was imperative to sort the wood accurately in categories in order to bring them to the world market for sale.
This was a serious responsibility. Sternberg and Bittiter came frequestly to check. Bittiter came several times a week to check the operation, especially the flow of money coming in and out. He was a professional and was interested in overseeing the work and helping with the marketing and sales of the lumber. The ten office workers that were under my authority performed their jobs and their daily tasks.
There were several days during the week that we started work before dawn and ended at midnight. My relationship to the workers was like a commander in the army. The worker who did not fulfill his task was reproved. When there was a break, we all were together as brothers. We identified with everyone in his sorrow and his joy. At the appropriate time, I requested from Bittiter and Sternberg to raise the salaries and various benefits for everyone and I succeeded. They all considered me their friend and admired me. I became particularly fond and close to Mr. Yonah Ashkenzi, Bittiter’s son-in-law. I and my family were very happy with the move from Chernovitz to Atania. I asked my bosses to hire my sister’s son-in-law, Mr. I.L.Freifelder from Scala, to help me with the hard work in the office. I also wanted Mordechai, the son of Sholem Shatner from Kuti, to train in the lumber business. My requests were fulfilled and Freifelder, his wife and one daughter arrived and found a lovely apartment and satisfactory wages. Mordechai Shatner, aged fifteen, was accepted as an apprentice with a small salary and lived in my house. This was like an exchange for my daughter, Taube, living in Mordechai’s grandfather’s house in Kuti. I had sent Taube to study Hebrew under Jacob, brother of Shalom Shatner, who was the principal of the Hebrew school. I sent my son, Nathan, to the house of my uncle Shimshon Kahan, before I left Chernovitz. Nathan was to enter school to study Hebrew and enter the Gymnasia (high school) to study in the German language with which he was familiar. There would be payment for the upkeep and care of Nathan.
The business succeeded beyond expectations. Every month, I handed in a balance sheet. In October 1904 the yearly balance sheet was a great success and bloomed like a rose. There was a clear profit of 90,000 Keter, which was twice the investment of the partners. My reward was 700 Keter as a bonus and my salary was raised from 150 to 220 Keter a month. My friend Ashkenazi also was given a bonus. I arranged that all the office workers should be rewarded according to their position. I got additional income that was shared with Ashkenazi for each new customer. Thank God for an income that filled my needs and my savings.
My friends and neighbors from Atania came to visit me even though it was a kilometer from the factory and we visited them. On Shabbat and holidays, I attended the Beit Midrash of the Admor of Kosov. Sometimes we set up a room in the factory for Shabbat and holiday prayers. This was for the clerks and some of the neighbors. Ashkenazi and I influenced the owners on spiritual matters and Mitzvoth, giving alms and helping the poor in town. From week to week we donated wood for heating; some took the wood on their shoulders while others pulled wagons by hand. The owners gave the mayor of the town a new wagon for horses to haul heating wood. We sold wood at a discount to build a meeting hall to the Admor R’Chaim Hager. Discounts were given to customers we knew. We did not neglect our spiritual life. We studied Torah several hours a week, were involved in Zionism and bought the shekel from Keren Kayemet.
My mother lived in Zablotov and came from time to time to visit for several weeks. We asked her to stay and live with us in a special room that we set up for her, but to no avail. My learned, smart father-in-law came to visit several times. It is understood that they helped. We and the grandchildren were happy that they came. My father-in-law, R’Jacov Menachim Gaster, closed his clothing store in Vishnitz, went to live in his home town Kitov, which bordered on Vishnitz.
Abraham Shatner, the manager of the bank in Petshenitshin, the son of my Uncle Joseph Shatner of Kuti, came to visit me in the summer of 1904. He came to ask me for a loan because there was a lien, due to a debt, against all his property, his furniture and all he owned. The next day there was to be a public auction. He asked and begged me to come to the auction and lay out the money so that everything could remain in one place. When conditions improved, he would return the money with thanks. I fulfilled his request, attended the auction, and paid 400 Keter (a large sum of money). Everything I bought remained in his house to be used.
My brother-in-law, Yeshuah Schrenzel from Scala, close to the Russian Border, and his son, Yitzchak Isaac, came to see me. They lost all their money in the sponge business in Russia. They needed a certain amount of money to save what remained of their capital. I had no choice but to help them.
The volume of wood, produced in the factory of Atania, increased in the year 1905. This was due to the wood panels that were brought from the mill in Slavotka-Lasna that Sternberg and Bittiter bought from Wolf Tzimand from Lvov. The production from the two Gatris (cutting machine) was stored in the factory area in Atania. The amount of beams and panels came to 1,000s of cubic meters. It was my job to get a yearly train ticket in order to travel all over Austria to sell to the world market the products of the two factories. This was an additional task, traveling weekly outside the area. Every Sunday I traveled to the wood market in Stanislau. I was relieved from some of the office work which was given to Mr. Freifelder, who was under my supervision and I continued to be responsible for his work.
In the year תרסו יג' סיון July 6, 1906, five in the morning, my wife Rivka Edel, gave birth to my fourth son, with Mazal Tov, in the house near the factory in Atania. Mother and child were healthy and well. I asked my dear mother to come and help with the birth and with the running of the household as I did for each birth. My mother, with her experience and ability, prepared all the food and drink for the Brith. HaRav Beit Hadin from Kalush, R’Moshe Ashkenazi, the father of my friend, Yonah, was invited to come and take part in the celebration and be the Sandak. Zeide Surkis, from Aramata, (who is now a clerk in the firm) and his wife were the Quaterim (honorary assistants). The Mohel was R’Meshulam Sternhall from Atania. The Chazzan of the Admor R’Chaim Hager, R’Israel Singer, came as part of the family. They came from far to celebrate with their singing. Food and drink continued until three in the afternoon. The new born son was named David in memory of my uncle David, my father’s brother, who died in Zablotov. The name was also in memory of my wife’s uncle Berl David from Ispas Bukovina. Who will see to it that my son will be outstanding and be educated in Torah and wisdom? Amen.
In the same year I and my friend, Yonah Ashkenazi, got a travel ticket on either name to all parts of Austria. One of us traveled back and forth on the express train to distant places. I reached Hungary and several cities in Germany and made good business contacts. In the city of Düsseldorf, I sold a large amount of boxes for the arms factory.
Sternberg and Bittiter sold a large shipment of planks to the firm of Schlesinger Partners in Budapest. The conditions of the sale were that the shipment would be received in good condition. There had never had been a problem in the past to cause a court case. This shipment seemed satisfactory. Despite the contract, they sued us in the court of Budapest for a large sum to cover damages. I was sent to Budapest and after long negotiations with the lawyer, a charidi Jew, I came to a compromise that we would pay a certain sum of money even though there was no justification.
At the end of 1906, the firm, Sternberg and Bittiter, contacted Yitzchak Druckman from Vama and his partner from Bukovina and sold to Druckman 50,000 cubic meters of wood. This shipment came on rafts from the Carpathian forest of Baron Liabik from Yablonka, Slatvina. They were to be cut in the factory that had five Gatris that was on the shore of the river Bitritzi of Gorki-Stanislava. I and my friend Ashkenazi were the negotiators for this deal. Druckman promised us a certain sum of money for negotiating the deal. Sternberg and Bittiter were to pay us 10% of the profits from this deal with Druckman. I chose professional people that I knew to carry out this operation. Baruch Wacher, the son-in-law of my aunt Miriam Kahan, was one of them. He was an expert in forestry and was sent to Yablonka to choose the wood for the shipment. Everything was done under my supervision and I was obligated to check all details every day. The Druckman account did not bring success to me or the firm. Druckman had not yet paid anything and there developed a disagreement and unpleasantness with Bittiter’s son-in-law, Ashkenazi.
I decided to move to Stanislau in order to avoid unpleasant meetings, difficulties of living in Atania and traveling daily to the factory in Stanislau. The firm did not agree to pay for the apartment. I rented an apartment from Abraham Briller in the suburb of Gorky, opposite the train track, not far from the station and about a kilometer from the factory. In September 1907 having moved, I wanted to lessen the burden of work at the firm and have the freedom to begin my own business.
The partner in the firm, Sternberg, considered me loyal and gave me power of attorney to open two businesses in my house to carry out my plans. I received specific orders to visit Atania daily, to check what was happening. Sternberg was sick and spent months of the winter and summer in a health facility. When I left Atania and came back for a short visit I found that Ashkenazi had taken the opportunity to take revenge on me by firing Freifelder (my sister’s son-in-law, who I had hired). Freifelder was a capable, loyal and hard worker who kept the office running. Ashkenazi spread rumors about him, that he was not able to fulfill his job. With the expansion of the business there was a requirement for an educated person with the latest systems, with a degree from a government school. Sternberg listened to Ashkenazi and found a clever man from Chernovitz to replace Freifelder at twice the salary. Freifelder left and I found him a job with Liev Lautman from Stanislau. He would be in charge of the sales and the books of a company in Svinitch in the area of Slatvina. Lautman found him a capable and loyal worker. Freifelder succeeded in earning a good living, having a nice apartment and was able to save money.
There was a drastic drop in the business of the factory in Stanislau. After two years of hard work, there was a crisis in the business instead of the optimistic future we envisioned. The reasons were: the firm of Druckman and Partners went bankrupt; the money promised was not paid; a large quantity of the wood rotted; bringing the planks from the source to the factory was expensive; there were no buyers. The most serious reason for failure was that the firm of Sternberg and Bittiter was failing. My situation was terrible. The worst of all was that Druckman, the scoundrel, did not pay me for going to court and for the negotiations. According to the balance of the business, there were losses in the 10,000s. Since I was considered a partner for l0%, my part of the loss came to 1,000s of Keter. In reality, I had not invested any money but was entitled to 10% of the profits. So I didn’t have a real loss. There was no money demanded from me. I received my salary and got out of the business satisfied with my lot.
Going back to 1901, the year that I went to live in the village of Tsirish, there was a school for Romanian boys and girls that lived in the village. It was not customary for Jews to attend this school. I sent my son, Nathan, at the age of l0 to the house of my uncle R’Shimshon Kahan to be educated by a private teacher in his house. He was to be taught religious subjects as well as secular subjects in German. This was the language of our life in Bukovina. This was to prepare Nathan to be accepted into a German language high school. After getting good reports for a year or two, he left the house of Uncle, and went to live with someone we knew from Zablotov. I don’t remember the reason for this change. He went to the home of Moshe Greiff, a rich man who sold his properties and acquired a large house, a hotel and restaurant in Chernovitz. Greiff had two sons and promised me he would get a good teacher for them and my son. Unfortunately he brought a teacher who was a curse, since they joined the “Socialists” and neglected their studies and failed. Nathan was brought to Berl Locker, who taught the eighth form in the Serta School. He failed there; I brought him home and found him an appropriate job in the bank of “Kasvan and Ratin” later became part of the firm “Depositin-Bank”. He received a fair salary with good possibilities for advancement and a higher salary. It was a shame that my son, Nathan, neglected his studies. He was a bright boy with a sharp mind and could have been a highly educated man.
My daughter Taube’s soul desired learning. After I moved to Stanislau, I brought her home from the house of S. Shatner from Kitov and let her study in the German Gymnasia and in the Hebrew School. I hope she succeeds in her studies to become educated and intelligent. My little sons are in elementary school and in Cheder.
The bad winds blow in this disordered world of ours and bring the shadows of darkness with it. This is especially so when it touches the soul and body as in “Job”. In the month of תמוז תרסח' ׂ (1908) I heard that my sister Elka, who was older than me by two years, died in June 16, 1908 during an operation in the Baron Rothschild hospital in Vienna. She was buried in a general cemetery. She died with no recourse, without finding the money needed to save her. Was her husband to blame for not finding the money needed to save her? Her son, Mordechai, was with her in the time of danger in Vienna. All he had with him was limited money for his expenses and barely got the Rothschild Hospital to open their doors for his mother. They did not approach anyone for help, not even me, where there is no doubt I would have given anything to save her. She lived only 44 years, too little. She was sad, angry and in pain, poor and lacking. In our parent’s house, she did not have luck when she reached the age of maturity. A marriage was arranged that was inappropriate and not to her liking until it disintegrated. She was married to Itzchak Freilich, from my mother’s family who was a goldsmith and watchmaker. They lived in a small town and he did not prosper. They had many sons and life was very difficult. She found no rest, day or night, under the burden of children, house and education. When you are choking, you suffer and go into yourself and you see your hopeless life. In the last period of her life, there was a small light of pleasure that shone on them. Their two sons, Mordechai and Nathan, grew and were educated in Torah and work. They managed to acquire a small house of their own. For the first time, there was hope that filled the hearts of mother and father. Both Mordechai and Nathan learned their father’s profession of goldsmith and watchmaker and they succeeded. The horror that ruined the dreams of my beautiful sister arrived. She suffered terrible pains and the doctors advised them to bring her to the hospital in Lvov or Vienna. She was admitted to the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna and after many examinations, the doctors came to the conclusion that she had cancer. They advised an operation and she died. She was only 44 and a wonderful woman and all her life, she performed charitable deeds. תנצבה
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More clouds appeared and rained down tears on my sister Elka’s זל death. There was a new tragedy. On טז' באב תרסח' 1908, I received a telegram from Zablotov, to come immediately as my mother was fatally ill. That same afternoon I arrived in Zablotov to find my mother dying in the house of my brother-in-law, Itzchak Freilich. The family told me of the sad situation that occurred. In the morning she went shopping for Shabbat. On the way home, she fell and cried “Oh my, I fell asleep”. The doctor from the city was called to examine her. He said “it was a kiss of death” which meant she had a stroke. She was physically strong but it was only a question of a day or two. On the 18th of the month at the hour of eleven in the evening, her pure soul left her body.
Freilich chose a grave site in the women’s area of the family. We came to the burial society to discuss price and location of the grave, and the purification of the body, as was customary in a small town in Galicia. They demanded a high price. After long negotiations and arguments I paid 140 Keter. The funeral was twelve o’clock at night and most of the people of the town were there. This time I participated in the funeral and was near the fence of the cemetery. A Cohen was not allowed to be on a cemetery. The bright moon shone and from the light I saw it all from a distance. The body was lowered into the grave and hands threw earth on the grave. All who came were blessed. Among those that were there were R’Shlomo Blaustein, Mendel Zeichner, and Itzchak Freilich. The grave was filled with earth. This is the way of all men, even the proudest of us ends in the ground and has earth thrown on him.
My mother, Esther Devorah, זל lived to the age of 72. As a young girl, she lived with her well to do parents. Several years after her marriage, she continued to live her life with pleasure and comfort. She and her husband R’Aaron Keusch made a living, and lived in the house of her parents. Her parents had their children educated, arranged suitable marriages and found reasonable occupations for them. After Devorah’s rich parents died and the partial inheritance that she received disappeared, she was left without a penny. She went to live in the house of her father-in-law R’Nathan Keusch זל .They opened a store selling candles and oil to earn a living. Her husband, R’Aaron, spent most of his day studying and she did not disturb him in his holy work. She was the “captain” of that big ship, mother of four sons and four daughters. She operated the store, worried about her children’s education, made marriage matches and found a reasonable future for them.
After the death of her father-in-law R’Nathan זל, she did not inherit the house or business which she ran with the help of her two sons. When my father, R’Aaron זל died Devorah left the house and wandered from son to daughter. She ended up with her daughter Elka, and her life was bitter and difficult especially after the death of her daughter Elka. All her life she was an upstanding woman who was fair in her relationship with friends and had a blessed memory. May we forever remember the day she died מנחם אב תרסח' ונצבח' Amen.
Before I started work in the sawmill of Stanislau, I chose a professional man to be in charge of the wood production, the machines and the property. I knew the man from the time that I worked at the firm Langenhahn. The man, Baron Vinkler, had worked in the big mill of Baron Popper. I presented him to Sternberg and Bittiter and they agreed to my choice. He and his family moved into an apartment of the firm and he got a full salary and made a living. He had been unemployed and I was happy to do this good deed. The honeymoon was good but did not last and he became my enemy. He spoke against me and told the owners of bad things I did not do. ”Lies have no legs.” לשקר אין רגלים Muna Yaar, one of my loyal workers, came to my house one Saturday night and woke me. He told that Vinkler and his helper, the inspector and guard of the gate, took out of the mill two wagons filled with first class planks. Muna found out where they unloaded this merchandise and came to tell me.
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We had to try to prevent them from taking the stolen goods out of the area. Immediately that morning I gave Muna instructions to go to the police officer that I knew from Atania. Muna Yaar and the police officer came and after investigation found that Vinker and his helper had stolen the planks in order to sell them. Vinker was the main thief. He and his partner ran away to America. After the discovery of the theft; all the books were under the supervision of Vinkler’s assistant, Hirsch Prince, were checked. There were forgeries and large sums of the income disappeared and had been taken by Vinkler and Prince. This money was never found.
Since these people had run away to America, we were missing two workers and it was my job to fill the vacancies. It was my job according to the demands of Sternberg, to visit Atania periodically to see what was happening. I got a yearly railroad pass, including the fast train, to travel Stanislau, Lvov, and Krakow. Of course, I fulfilled the job.
After Succoth, 1909, Shalom Meltzer, who lived in Rahtin, came to visit me in Stanislau and stayed the night. From his appearance, I knew he was sick. He told me that he had spent several days in Chernovitz. His brother, Isaac, who lived in Chernovitz, had called him for help, due to the debts he incurred, when he went bankrupt. He was arrested and was in jail. Shalom’s strenuous efforts to get him out of jail, pay the large debts (he had previously paid large debts), affected his weak heart and he felt that he was dying. When he returned to his home, he took to his bed; the doctors were called, and advised that he be taken to the Lazarus Hospital in Lvov. There he was under the care of specialists that found no cure for his illness. After some time in the hospital, the family decided to move him to a hospital in Vienna to find the best doctor to save him. With effort, they got to the known Professor Niesser, who was the doctor of Kaiser Franz Yoseph. After examinations of a few days, they found he had a problem with his kidney, a problem that had, as yet, no solution. The white blood cells normally destroy the infection. Here the rapid increase of the white blood cells was destroying the body. (*leukemia) After several weeks, he died in the middle of his life. His brother, Joseph, who had accompanied him to Vienna, buried him and said Kaddish. Shalom Meltzer, a Cohen, was a devoted Zionist before Benjamin Herzl’s book “Altneuland” was published. He took part in the first Mizrachi Convention in 1904, in St. Petersburg and was one of the founders of “Ahavat Zion” in Tarnov. He was an elected representative to the second Zionist Congress in Basel. There was no Zionist meeting that he didn’t attend. He was the first to contact the wine business of Mizrachi-Carmel in Eretz Israel to bring wine to the market of Galicia. He connected with a company to buy a large amount of this wine. He opened a store and warehouse in Lvov and ran the business. After he ran the store two or three years he lost several thousand Keter. He was a sympathetic and warm man who found jobs for many members of the family. He hired Jacob Shatner as bookkeeper for the wine business. Shalom was highly respected and loved in the town. He was a member of both the city and the community committees. He founded the first school to study Hebrew in Galicia. He succeeded in having the community to back the school with a thousand Keter a year. With all his good work, he died alone without the last respect due him in Vienna, on ז' טבת תרסט 1909. May his memory be blessed. תנצבה'
The angel of death laid his hands on our family. The heart is still bleeding and the eyes are crying over the deaths of my sister Elka, my mother, Shalom Meltzer זל. Now the angel of death takes a new victim; this time fate takes my wife, Rivka Edel זל. A few days after Pessach 1909, my wife Edel had severe, internal pains, was frightened and went to her regular doctor, a Polish doctor, Dr. Kravetski. He found nothing seriously wrong and advised her to eat more, drink beer, put on weight and come back in a few weeks. He would give her a suggestion to travel to where there was clean air and swim.
Her situation worsened after a few days. We were very worried and called a known specialist, Dr. Manshevski. He came to the same conclusion as the other doctor and he also ordered her to eat and drink more. Her condition worsened and we called two other experts who came to the conclusion that she had Diphtheria, a dangerous disease. The two first doctors were internal specialists and did not know what disease she had. They didn’t check her properly and made a tragic mistake. The other doctors opened her throat and put in a pipe to help her breath. They hinted that this was a deadly disease even though they continued to try and save her. On Sunday, I learned that there was a specialist of this disease in town and I hastened to get him. Dr. Mondschein, a Jewish doctor, came on Monday morning. He looked in her throat and said that she was dying. She would have been saved by doctors who knew this disease. I blame the stupid doctors who did not come up for trial. There was no hope of saving her. She died in sorrow and in pain and choked to death. When she heard Dr. Mondschein express that there was no hope, she raised herself, hugged me around the neck with both arms and showered me with warm kisses from her mouth to my mouth and my forehead. There was no word uttered from her mouth. I wept with her arms around me and her kisses on my mouth. Her hugs and kisses were full of the sorrow of leaving the young goslings. She was sitting and crying without a sound, hugging and kissing everyone until her strength failed and she fell helpless on the bed. Her soul was preparing itself to die. Silently, silently she was dying. At that moment, her sister, Bracha, wife of Elimelach Schecter from Bratchin, went over to the bed and screamed with a loud voice. She was too late. In a few minutes Edel’s pure soul left her body. It was twelve thirty in the afternoon יב' אייר תרסט ותנצבה' (12 Iyar 1909). Did the prediction of Dr. Mondschein really occur? Who is smart enough to contradict his final judgment? All the doctors were sure of their own diagnosis. They said, “that this dangerous disease” and was beyond their knowledge. Who knows if it was cancer, heart, or an inherited disease that poisoned her body? It took me many years to overcome these tragedies: my wife’s mother Hinda, mother’s older sister, her brother, a man who died very young. I had a fear of an inherited disease. After much crying and bitter goodbyes, there was something that had to be done and there was no one to take my place. That was the most difficult tasks of them all, to bury the dead. After completing the formal procedures, I came to the community committee with a request. (Chevra Kadisha) “Give me a grave and I will bury my dead.” I approached a member I knew from business, Joseph Zelig Rubinstein. He tried to find me a choice of graves that were not too expensive. I didn’t know many people in Stanislau, but after several months I was a member of the community. They did me a service in this my bitter hour. The dead are standing in front of you. There are not many demands in burying the dead except giving a deposit. (* note-- this paragraph refers to his mother’s death, which was a few months earlier.)
The people of Zablotov, the city of my birth, the home of my father and many generations with the good deeds of my family, acted like they were in Sodom. This was especially true of my friends, neighbors, Chaim Zimmel Singer, Nette Walzer and a friend of my youth, Chaim Tau. The community committee to bury the dead was all out to skin the living. They knew the horrible situation of my mother’s death and knew the unfortunate position of my family. With this situation why did they take such an exaggerated sum from me of 150 Keter just for the land? The people in Stanislau took no money for the land and anything connected with the burial of the dead except twenty five Keter for the clothing and the burial shroud. After I finished all the details, I hoped I would bury the dead that same night. The dead were buried in Stanislau. The night came, it was dark and the shadows did not diminish the fear in our hearts. We lay in our beds crying and moaning. Sleep did not touch our eyes.
The darkness was filled with the fear of the dead lying on the ground. The source of our tears has evaporated; my children and I have no more strength to cry. The following morning, the sky filled with clouds and drops of rain fell together with the tears from our eyes over the terrible tragedy. I ran to find if the burial arrangements had been completed and my anger knew no bounds when I found they had just begun. It did not help that I pleaded to hurry and finish the preparations. At four in the afternoon, the visitors came to my house and the funeral began. The rain continued to fall, a good sign for the dead. Not too many people came to the funeral, some neighbors and friends. It might be because of the rain, or it was too far to travel, or we were strangers in a new location. Who knows? Women came to give the dead their last respects. Among them was the neighbor, wife of Moshe Sharvitz, her sister Brache and my daughter Taube. They all came to the grave site. I waited behind the gate until they returned. They complained that Mr. Joseph Zelig Rubinstein did not fulfill his promise to choose a good site. When they lowered the body into the grave there was water in the lower part of the grave. I thought that water in the grave was a good sign and the choice was a good one. Rivka Edel זל lived about forty years. She did not have a happy life. When she was very young, her mother, sister and brother died. Her father, Yacob Menachim, Chared and learned, decided he would not live without a wife, despite the fact that he had two daughters who were already under the chuppah. Soon after the death of Rivka Edel’s mother, he brought in a third wife into the house of Grandmother Golda Lindner. He didn’t bring a nice woman. She brought pain and sorrow to grandmother, grandchildren and all the family. In spite of the new wife’s behavior, Edel, her sister and brothers did not complain to their father, who had brought them an ill treating step-mother. Actually, she was cruel. This was painful to Grandmother Lindner, who was a sensitive woman with a big heart and to her son, Meshulam Simchah Lindner, who lived in her house. Edel kept the honor of her father and her strong love for him. She suffered and carried the burden of caring for the house. Afterwards she had to go daily to help him in the store. She found happiness and pleasure from the time she was engaged to me and married on כב טבת תרמט (1889). When we lived with my parents in Zablotov, she suffered somewhat because I didn’t succeed in business, the income was limited and the housework was difficult. She took care of the young children without help and suffered the loss of two small daughters without knowing the reason. When the income was good, there was help with the hard housework and she took care of the children, with great love and devotion. She endowed them with an open, searching spirit. Too much love also causes problems. I found the education and the care not completely to my liking. She was a religious and modest woman and fulfilled the traditional simple good deeds. Edel’s mother was Hinda, the daughter of Joseph and Golda Lindner from Vishnitz. They were important people in the town. The mother was modest and had a pure heart. The daughter was like her mother. My wife, Rivka Edel, was like “Mother Sarah”. Her house was open to the poor for food drink and sleep and clothing when it was needed. This was often more than we could afford and I did not always agree with this generosity. Edel always backed her father even when business was bad and he became a contractor. Grandmother Golda went to Jerusalem and helped everyone financially. Every man and woman got money from her, even those who did not deserve to get it. Golda had endless patience for those in need and gave without criticism. I remember Edel in her youth and her pure and innocent love full of pity and forgiveness like in the eyes of God. Here they were, just women and Rivka Edel was one of them. May my wife Rivka Edel, the daughter of Yacob Menachim from Kitove be remembered forever.
After the mourning period for my wife Edel זל, I asked my sister Gittel from Scala, to come to help with the household for several weeks. She was a teacher in charge of a young girl’s school for cooking, baking and organizing their skills. After my sister returned home, I was once again left with family problems. I hired a Jewish girl to help in a situation that was strange to her. May God think well of my sister Gittel and the good deeds that she performed and may the days of her life be long.
In June 1909, I was given a month’s vacation from the firm in order to go to the Carpathian Mountains for fresh air. This would be for medical reasons, for the infection I had in my throat. Dr. Mondschein prescribed a vacation to strengthen my body that had been broken and betrayed me. I chose these mountains because I had family there. Taube the daughter of Leah, the wife of Ephraim Zand from the town of Rospiebol lived near the city of Kimpolong. On the way I visited my sister Taube and her husband Israel Shtadler in the town of Grapana, Bukovina close to the town of Sarta. I was in their house for several days and was received with love. I spent three weeks in the house of Ephraim Zand.. The man Zand was a Chared and most of his business was dealing with cows and sheep. He bought large areas of land that was worth a lot of money. The cereal was made of corn (mamelige) (*note-when we visited Grandfather in 1956, at the age of 90, he was making himself mamelige and was a vegetarian). We had lamb soup in the middle of the week. On Shabbat we made Chalot of bran. All this rich food was not to my taste, I was satisfied with milk products and cereal. The clear air, the smell of the pine trees, bathing in the fresh and mineral waters of the mountain streams worked to make me feel better. I paid for my stay, whatever they asked. They would not take money for the room and bed. They had an only daughter who was educated in the village. Three of their four sons were taught by an old man who had no training and gave them only a little Chumash and Rashi. From there I went to the city of Darna-Vatra where I took the mineral waters and stayed eight days.
My brother-in-law, Yehoshua Schrenzel and my sister Gittel hinted that I become engaged and marry their virgin daughter, Hinda. If the truth be told, I knew the young girl was good and seemly, and I heartily agreed.
I wanted to hear that she agreed to this arrangement. In Alul I came to Scala and spoke to the young girl. She did not refuse my proposal but asked for eight days to reply. In that period of time, she did not fulfill her promise and I turned my back on her. Despite the urging of her parents, her brother-in-law, Freifelder, and my sister, Taube, that I take her under my wing, I did not request her hand again.
In September, 1909, I was sent by the firm to Germany on business. I spent several days in Berlin, Breslau, Halle, Kassel, Magdeburg, Hanover, etc. That same summer I went to Budapest, Hungary. There I met Rosenwasser, the firm’s representative in Budapest. He took me to several museums and I enjoyed seeing statues and pictures from the past. In the zoo I saw all kinds of living animals. I saw a dead whale that was six meters long and a meter wide. The day I came to Budapest, a French pilot came in his airplane. There was an appointed place about eight kilometers from the center of the city, to see this amazing event. According to the police there were half a million men, women and children waiting and watching. Thousands of automobiles and horse riders came. The pilot, Balarata, got on the plane and flew around the field for a half hour. It was unbelievable. The crowd cheered and clapped to honor this event. From there, I went to Vienna to see the beautiful capital of the Kaiser Franz Joseph. In Budapest, I sold a large amount of wood to the firm Lord and Partners. I also settled a dispute with Peer Schlesinger.
I found no peace and no rest from the day that my wife Edel זל' died. I and my children suffered and I was neither here nor there On the days that I did business, I was back and forth Stanislau, Atania, was exhausted from my traveling, my pain and sorrow still fresh and I arrived at home depressed. There was no rest, no proper food, no proper order in the house and no care and education for the children. My daughter Taube was in charge of the household. She was very young to take on this responsibility and it was a heavy burden on her shoulders, a house of two rooms and facilities, care of five children, cooking and baking. Should I get help?
Friends and family said it was not good for a man to be alone and to be without a wife, etc. There were suggestions that I didn’t accept. It is difficult to adjust to the lose of what one had in a first marriage.. The second time it is not the same. Here God provided for me a Shiduch that was acceptable. Mr. Schmirl Rice, someone close to the family from Stanislau, proposed a Shiduch with his sister-in-law, Chaya, daughter of Yacob Meltzer from Haradanka. She was the widow of Ben Zion Schreyer from Bratshani. She had a small house and a general store in Bratshani. Her brother R’Feibush was a friend of mine. He was a learned man who lived with his sister. He was involved in trying to make this Shiduch. I came to the town of Bratshani to see for myself. This was after my friends and family requested that I do so. We found that we liked one another. After she agreed that she would close her store and come to live with me, we decided to make an engagement contract.
On Saturday night, November 13, 1909, we got married in her brother Feibush’s house in Bratshani. I. L. Freifelder and his wife Chaya Taube came that evening from Vishnitz to be by my side. Shmuel and his wife Lipsha Schbaritz, good neighbors, came from the bride’s side. The Rabbi, Pinchas Horovitz, a prominent town’s person, organized the blessings. It was not an elaborate feast. There were rolls and herring. After the meal, we received the words of the seven blessings from the Rabbi שבע דנחמתא. The Shadchan (marriage broker), my new brother-in-law took part in the wedding and collected his fee in arranging the marriage. He left Bratshani to return to Stanislau and Freifelder and his wife also returned to their house.
I brought my new wife to my home on 54 Shapazinski Street, on that sad night. The children cried, moaned and wailed for many hours because of their new mother. Did I find the right one with this new wife? Will she fill the place of their mother זל and do as she would have done in educating, directing in Torah, good ways and fulfilling their needs with mother’s love? Only time will tell.
In May 1910 we moved to Balvedar Street in the house of Leib Carpin. It was a very nice airy house with three rooms and all the facilities and a garden. The problem was that in the winter there was not enough wood to heat and the price was very expensive, 640 Keter a year to be paid quarterly.
In June 1910, Abraham Leib Sternberg, a partner in the firm, died after a long, fatal illness that lasted many months. Business of the factory, Atania-Oslavotka-Lesni, began to decline and break apart. There were arguments and fights between the widow of Sternberg and her sons and the other partner, Bittiter. The contract between the owner of the land and Bittiter Atania came to an end and was not renewed. Sternberg’s widow had the responsibility to close down and sell the Atania business. She also owed me salary and separation pay for seven years. This came to 5000 Keter.
The dissolving of the company continued for several months. I had to collect 50,000 Keter from Bittiter for the property owned by the business. I had several heated disagreements with Bittiter and our relationship ended. The liquidation was difficult. Every day I traveled from dawn until late evening. Instead of my regular job of merchandising, I was busy with all the records and accounts, even at home late at night. After a number of months, I was able give a balanced account with full details. I went to Widow Sternberg to collect my 5000 Keter that was promised me for liquidating the Atania business. After I knocked on her door for several months without response, I sued her in the government court in Kolomyea. A day before the trial, her oldest son, Dr.Feibush, a future lawyer, tried to make a settlement. After several days I agreed to the sum of 1200 Keter for the following reasons; most important was that I had seven years of good pay and some savings, I was promised business contacts and Sternberg treated me right and paid me for my faithful work.
On November 31, 1910 כח תשרי תרע' at one o’clock in the afternoon, my wife Chaya gave birth to our son, Mazal Tov. The brith was celebrated like the marriage, without joy and happiness. The Sandak was a neighbor, R. Leib Kleter. The Quaterim, the honorary guests were neighbors, Gertner and his wife. I named the baby, Jacob, after my deceased father-in-law, Jacob.
Yacob Meltzer was an honest man and a Chared. I knew him well and visited him several times in my youth. It would be desirable that this grandchild, that carried his name, be educated in Torah, to be a loyal Jew to his religion, his people and country Amen.
At the beginning of 1911, when Sternberg’s business in Atania was dissolved, I officially left my job as the head of the sawmill in Atania. Bittiter continued to lease the sawmill and buy wood from the Rubenstein brothers. Bittiter’s son-in-law, Ashkenazi, became the head of the business and several of the previous clerks found a place of work. The relationship between me and Bittiter returned to what it was. At that time, I began looking for an appropriate business for myself, among the people I knew in Bukovina. I bought products from the sawmill owned by the firm of Meyer Gotlieb and Zeev Weiner from Zadava. This mill had two Gatris machines that worked by water power day and night. They turned out 3000 cubic meters of wood and planks. I sent Mordechai Shatner, the son of Shalom from Kuti, to this mill. He had worked under my supervision for several years in Atania. I also sent my son, Aaron, to accompany him. This business required a large investment and I approached the Widow Sternberg, who agreed to invest, on condition that her young son, Zunni, would be a fifty-fifty partner. Of course, I agreed and the business began to develop. I and my partner came every week to inspect the work. I sold most of the wood to Galicia and part to Bukovina. By the end of the year, we sold everything and succeeded in making a nice profit that was split between me and the son of Sternberg. Since the son was not on the level of his father זל the partnership was dissolved. Basically the firm Gotlieb and Weiner did not agree to sell us future products of the mill. At the time, Sternberg bought a forest of pine trees in province of Chernovitz and chose M. Shatner as his clerk in the forest.
After the ending of the Sternberg partnership, at the beginning of 1912, I bought 200 train loads, about 5000 cubic meters, of cut wood for boxes. I bought it on credit from the firm Sigmund Picar of the town of Pasharita at the train station of Hilibanka-Kimplong-Darna-Warsaw.
Most of the wood of various measurements and sizes were sent to Germany. In order to cover the cost of this business I went to get credit from the Deposition Bank where I knew the manager from Ratihin. I could receive credit of 80% on each shipment but with the help of my friend Gertner, I received 100% credit and so the payments for the credit were easy. I hoped to find a good income for my hard but satisfactory work. I sent my son Aaron to supervise and learn this part of the business. Twice a month, I came to check up on the business and to inform the firm of orders and shipments. We received signs of satisfaction from A. Picar and Sons and received Eshel אשל' (Room and Board) from them.
On March 17, 1912, there was a terrible tragedy when my brother-in-law Feibush Meltzer’s oldest son was found dead in the river in Stanislau. According to the investigation, he committed suicide. It is a shame that this gentle branch was cut off at the age of seventeen. He was a young man who was studying in the Polish Gymnasia where he was an outstanding student and received excellent marks. After secular studies, he would go to the Beit Hamidrash and study a page of Gemorrah. Why did a young, educated, intelligent boy choose death over life? What foolish whim or spirit passed over him? The secret would be buried with him together with his excellent marks. Various hypotheses: perhaps his gentile friends and teachers made his life bitter and he couldn’t take it; perhaps the many arguments and criticisms from his father at each meeting; he spent most of his nights reading forbidden literature and perhaps that poisoned his soul and spirit. There were rumors about a complication with the widow Schwabel, the teacher of foreign languages. Did she betray him with a promise of love? תנצבה'.
My son Nathan worked in the Deposition Bank in Stanislau. The manager Ratihin and the management were satisfied with his work. In March 1912, there was a very unpleasant incident. Nathan was lying in bed, when an informer came to the door to take him to the police. When he arrived at the station, there was a warrant to arrest him and they put him in jail.
When I heard the news, I ran to find out what happened and was informed that the Poali Zion organization had demonstrated last night demanding that the stores close at seven in the evening allowing the workers and helpers to go out on strike. At the store of Kapel Rodil there was a fight and hands were raised and the display window was broken. Since Nathan was the leader of the group, there was no doubt that he was in charge of the demonstration and ultimately responsible. I protested and brought a witness that Nathan was in his bed all afternoon until the informer came to the house. My efforts to get help from the city administration were to no avail. The manager Ratihin did not lift a finger to help. He sat in jail together with eleven other chaverim for fourteen days until an order came down direct from the Justice Minister of Vienna to unconditionally free all of them. The Poali Zion party with an effort managed to influence the ministers to cancel the entire incident.
This situation damaged my son Nathan in the eyes of the manager Ratihin and after several days he was fired from the bank. A damaged “Cohen” makes his work worthless. My efforts and the efforts of our friends were not able to save his job even if he had not participated in the demonstration. Anyone who was connected to communists was unwanted.
It is understandable that after losing his position at the bank, he was depressed. Even though he had no money, he decided to leave the city and the country and go to Vienna to look for work. Several days later he received a letter with 600 Keter in it, without the name of the sender. He discovered that the money came from the party and friends who wanted to help their comrade. Nathan immediately found suitable work, perhaps with the help of his comrades. He was a secretary and salesman for a company selling socks, got a good salary and they were pleased with him.
After some time, he brought his younger brother Aaron to Vienna and found him a job with a watch salesman. When I went to Vienna and saw that my son Aaron was not making a good living, I took him home and then sent him to Pasharita where I had bought a large amount of wood for crates.
While I was in Vienna, I took my son on a tour to see the wonders of the city. We went to the House of Parliament on the day that the leaders of the Socialists, Victor Adler, Fershtaper, and Maseruck gave exciting, long speeches that attacked the government and the ministers for destroying the country.
At the end of 1912 there was a serious destabilization in the business world. Many of my customers went bankrupt: Zeidman from Lvov lost about 5000 Keter, Ertzer from Haradenka 1500 Keter, my partner Zadava-Sternberg and I divided our losses. Fear of an Austrian-Russian-Serbian war caused confusion in the world of business. Many merchants went bankrupt and the bank cut back on giving credit. They also refused to discount “due bills”. At that time I asked for help from three sources. 1) From my wife Chaya who had a1200 Keter deposit from the house in Bratashani. I suggested that I would give her 10% interest on the money; 2) I approached my brother-in-law, my first wife’s brother, Moshe Leib Meltzer from Snatyn, who was a well to do merchant. I asked him to sign as a guarantor in the bank; 3) I approached my brother Gershon in New York to repay me the 500 Keter that I loaned him in 1907 when he was in distress and needed the money to go to America. All three refused my request, in spite of them knowing of my difficulties. Gershon refused me and was angry and added fuel to the fire.
Freifelder, who was like a brother to me, will be remembered and blessed. He went out to help because he knew the sword was at my throat. He had no cash. He gave his two policies from Generale and Trieste to the Mortgage Bank branch in Lvov in order to get credit of 2200 Keter. He loaned me this money at 8% interest without any writen proof. I received 1800 Keter on the basis of those two pieces of paper that made it possible for me not to go bankrupt. Business was resumed and grew. May Freifelder’s name be blessed. I will never forget his extraordinary generosity.
In this year I bought a yearly train ticket to four destinations; Stanislau, Lvov, Krakow and Vienna. Most days I traveled back and forth. From the year 1904 until 1914, I had a yearly ticket even though I spent most my days in the office and the mill. We bought these tickets for the distant business travel to Germany, Hungary and Austria.
In May 1913, I once again changed apartments. I came from the apartment of Leib Karpin on Malveder St. to the apartment of Herzl Gras, 10 Sisana Valla St. It was a new apartment on the first floor, two rooms with all the facilities, near the road and the rent was 500 Keter.
In March 1914, I called my son Nathan to come to Stanislau to be tested for the army. There were three tests to be taken at one time. I did everything necessary and possible so he would not serve in the army. When he came, we immediately went to Zablotov, where he was born, to sign him up for those taking the test in Snatyn area. Hifsher, an acquaintance, the secretary of the city, wrote a letter of protocol and signed it as the head of the city. “Let it be known that the young man, Nathan Keusch, came of his own free will from Vienna to fulfill his duty as a citizen and requests that he be permitted to take the tests.” The letter was sent to Minister Hauptmann in Snatyn hoping to get permission to take the tests in a few days.
While we were celebrating Purim evening, an armed policeman appeared and seized Nathan. He was brought to the police station and from there to jail with thieves and criminals. We did not know why he was arrested. Perhaps someone had informed on him that he had not gone into the army. He had not appeared for service for two years. The reason may have been that the papers were sent from Zablotov, the minister from Snatyn got orders to arrest him. He was jailed for twelve days. I tried with all my energy to release him and was able to reduce the sentence by one third to four days and had to put up 1000 Keter as bail. He was released until after the court judgment and then he would take the army tests.
The investigation lasted two months. Two witnesses were called from Zablotov and a representative of the firm from Vienna. They confirmed my son’s innocence. He got out clean and I got back my 1000 Keter bail money. In July, he went to Kolomyea to take the tests for the army. Despite paying a bribe of 1300 Keter to release him from the army, he did not escape. He was told to appear a second time before the highest ministers and they determined he should be examined. I was given back part of the bribe money. He had to appear when called, either in Kolomyea or Chernovitz for the test. He stayed at my house, waiting for the call, but the World War started and he was not called.
Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 08:10 PM Mountain Standard Time