Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
More Train Stations
On the rail line Stanislau-Stryj the next town was Bolechov where Dr. Eliezer Grippel had a sawmill. I had no business contact with him but had business contacts with the owners of a candle factory. There were several prosperous tanneries in the town. Dr. Shimon Federbush was a representative to the Polish Sejm. He was a son-in-law of one of the tannery owners. His wife died a short time after they were married.
The son-in-law of my uncle R’Shmaryahu Meltzer זל lived in this town. In this town there were a thousand Jewish families who were Chasidim, learned Torah and made their living by selling merchandise made from candle wax and wood sap.
After this town came the town of Stryj, a big town that was blessed by its natural surrounding forest. There were Jews who operated successful businesses. The Rabbi R’Arie Liebish Horovitz זצל served the town and influenced the spirit of most of the inhabitants in Torah and good deeds. After he left Stryj, he went to serve the city of Stanislau and founded the big Yeshiva “Or Torah” where several hundred boys studied. He continued until the murdering Nazis in 1942.
Stryj was blessed with the forest and wood business and there were three large sawmills. I had business contact with these mills. The biggest one was owned by R’Zelig Barak Selzmuch that was well known in the area. Near the mill he had a large estate with gardens of flowers, vegetables and fruits. There were trees along the walks. There were several houses where he and his sons lived very comfortably.
G. Pistner, was a son-in-law of a man born in Zablotov, who owned the second sawmill with his partner, David Neiderhafer, born in Bukovina. The third mill, owned by N. Munendshein, went into the foreign market. I brought them into the Eretz Israel market.
In addition to the wood business, merchants were active in the sale of hard liquor made from grain, for the entire area. 20, 000 families made a comfortable living.
After Stryj I had business connections with the town of Susnovitz which was near the forests on the Carpathian Mountains. From this sawmill I purchased 50,000 orange crates for the market in Eretz Israel. My young son Jacob was an expert in the quality of trees. Most of the workers in the sawmill were Jews. Several hundred families made their living from selling wood in addition to having summer guests.
The last station where I had business connections was Skole not far from the Hungarian border town of Alvereczna. In Skole there were about 6,000 Jewish families. The town was rich in forests that belonged to the group “Baranem-Gredel”. These were thousands who had converted. Their father, Zadok Gredel, was the first who had converted his sons to Christianity. Despite the manager of the forest being a Polish anti-Semite who hated the Jews, most of the inhabitants of the town made their living from the “Baranem”. Some of them were in business and some were clerks. I bought a large number of crates from someone I knew who was a clerk in this company. Yehuda Shtrich is now my landlord in Tel Aviv. When there was an argument between Shtrich and myself, we met with Shtrich’s friend settled. Skole was an important Jewish community with a Beit Knesset, Rabbi, etc. Summer guests came to the town for its fresh air and this added to their income. In the year 1935, I traveled from Eretz Israel to do business and to meet my son on the way to Lvov and Warsaw. I visited R’David and his wife Chani Shtrich in Lvov.They received me warmly, asking me to dine with them and sleep over. He was a good Jew זל. This visit was due to a request from their son, Yehuda.
During WWI, I spent several months in various towns in Hungary while I was in the service of the Austrian.army. I mentioned this in this diary on pp 77-78. The good deeds of our Jewish brothers in these places, their deep human feelings were not shown to the Jewish soldier, and especially not someone like me who was over fifty. An interesting event happened in 1916 in Aparis when I was in the army under the command of the Ober-Lieutenant. One Friday in February I was ordered to bring two packages of army uniforms to the Polish town of Kielce. I heard afterwards that the order was given by a Jew. The attitude toward the Jewish soldier and especially to the older one was humane. The packages were sent to the train station where the train left at 2:00 in the afternoon. It was cold and snowing when the train arrived at sunset to the station that connects Krakow-Vienna, Kashow-Aparis, Berlin and I don’t remember the other stations name.
On the way, I checked the travel documents and found there was no set time of travel for me to deliver the package in Kielce. I suddenly realized that it was Shabbat and said to myself “Why should I be on a train tomorrow and desecrate Shabbat? Better to remain where I am, travel after Shabbat and hand over the packages on Sunday.”
I left the train, checked the two packages in the storeroom and promised to pay the clerk for guarding the packages. I went to look for a place to spend Shabbat and sleep. After a few steps; I hear voices praying in a Beit Knesset. I entered and saw the place was not full, about two minyamin. Jews were dressed in Shabbat clothes, silk capotes and shtreimlach. I was dressed in army clothing, a long coat, big shoes, a belt and sword on the left side and a backpack filled with various items as well as bread, butter, cheese and other foods.
After the Shabbat prayers, I asked where there was a hotel, when someone who heard my question, came up to me. He was an important person, dressed in Shabbat clothing with sable on his kapote. He greeted me with Shalom, blessings for Shabbat and invited me to come with him and his two sons. I asked him if there was a place to eat and sleep in his house and he said that there was. In a few minutes the four of us entered a big house and a door opened to a large bright room heated by a stove. A beautifully dressed woman with her head covered, and two daughters entered from a second room. The father and the sons blessed them with warm affection and Shabbat Shalom. The table was set with covered chalot and bottles of wine and glasses. The women welcomed me with Shabbat blessings. They seated me at the set table. I asked where I could place my long coat, my sword and pack. I took out the bread and butter from the pack and put it on the table close to the chair. I always had food when I traveled in the army. The head of the house said he would not argue about food. We enjoy all the food on the table.
The head of the house filled the beautiful golden cup and blessed the wine and the holy Shabbat. He poured the wine into another cup and passed it to his wife and daughters, filled the first cup and put it by me and said, “Here is the first cup and you will not refuse.” With great pleasure I fulfilled his request.
You can compromise over something small but not over something big. One can not disobey the words of Chazal (חזל'). “Disillusion shortens man’s life” Someone gives you a glass and you must bless.
How pleasurable it is to have good wine that gives an extraordinary smell and taste. Afterwards his two sons gave the blessing and the head of the house called on us to wash our hands and we returned to our places. Here was a surprise, “הניח שחורים ומצא לבנים” (you put down something little value and you find it replaced with something valueable). In stead of the bread and butter I put on the table, I found two white chalot, “beautiful to see and good to eat”. I had no choice, I moved the bread closer and I ate with appetite. “I continue to eat what is mine because I am a partial vegetarian and I have not eaten meat for years.” The head of the house said, “There are no arguments at the table. It is not correct that milk products be on the table where meat is eaten. One does not refuse. You are my guest and you have to fulfill what חזל' says. What the head of the house determines you shall do. That is to say that when the head of the house will eat and drink his fill, the guest is invited to participate with him, etc and to say Amen. Since you are my guest you are obliged to do as I say and enjoy the feast and all that I eat outside of meat”.
They brought the first course which was a large plate of fish and for me a choice dish. I followed the orders of the head of the house and ate with appetite. The head of the house began to chant “כל מקדש” following the melody of the Admorim of Kosov-Vishnitz. His sons joined him singing with pleasant voices until “תשיעות עולמים”. I requested to speak and said: no doubt you remember what חזל' said, when the נשיא (President) R’Gamliel visited R’Yehoshua Ben Chananiah in his house. He stood in the doorway and said I know you. From the songs you sing and the way you sing them, I know that you or your honored father זל were the followers of the Admorim Kosov-Vishnitz and were inhabitants of that area. I then asked him his full name. He answered that neither he nor his father were followers of these Admorim and they do not come from that area. It is possible that his grandfather was an inhabitant of one of the towns and his name was Moshe Shatner.
He asked me my name and my family name and where I lived. I answered with great respect. When I heard that his name was Shatner I gave an expression of joy and said, we are members of the same family and R’Joseph Shatner from Kuti, the famous brilliant and open hearted man is my uncle. I am absolutely sure that the roots of Your Honor’s family Shatner is in Kuti. He listened and was interested in all the details of this family but we were in the middle of the holy Shabbat meal and songs. We would return to this matter after the meal. The festive meal continued with soup and meat which did not touch my lips and export Pilsner beer, which I enjoyed very much. After we finished all the songs, the honorable R’Moshe gave me a glass of wine to bless the meal.
R’Moshe said that now we could continue the everyday conversation. He put out green beans, sunflower seeds, nuts and full bottles of beer. Now tell me of your Uncle Joseph’s family from the town of Kuti, the name of his father, mother and all you know about them. My uncle was a bright and well known man who ran a business of woven material. His wife Krendel was the sister of my mother Devorah זל. His father was R’Mordechai and his mother Devorah זל.
She was the daughter of an educated man, R’David Stein. David’s brothers were R’Moshe, Leib, Berl and Meshulum. They were all famous people. R’Moshe Shatner lived in the village of Mikolitchin. He came there at the time of the building of the railroad in the direction of Stanislau-Karashmachi-Hungary. His daughter leased the right to sell hard liquor, wholesale and retail, in the entire province. She received it from the Austrian Government, which is now the Polish governor’s representative.
When R’Moshe heard the above names and the things they did, he said that he was certain that his grandfather whose name was Mordechai זל was born in the province of Kuti. The names that I heard of Mordechai and Devorah are proof. Grandfather R’Mordechai was there in the time of the building of the railroad from Vienna to Yassi and also had a lease to sell the remains of hard liquor. He also rented a large agricultural plot. My father R’David was partner in the business in R’Mordechai’s life and after he died. I am very happy with this information and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Now let us drink L’Chaim, eat dessert and you can go to your warm room for you must be tired. We parted as brothers.
In the warm room, I found a bed with sheets and a warm blanket. I slept eight hours plus four and really felt rested. It was not yet dawn and from the adjoining room I heard voices of R’Moshe and his two sons reading with the intonations used by us, the followers of the Admorim of Kosov. After I washed and dressed, I went to those studying a lesson in Gemorra. A Chumash was given to me, to read from where they were reading. There was a pot of coffee with milk and cookies for a light meal. At 8:00 AM we were all in the Beit Knesset. I had my own sidur and talith. R’Moshe invited me to sit next to him at the eastern wall. The worshipers came to greet me. Yesterday at the evening prayers, I was ignored. As a Cohen, I went to the bema as was my right and I was treated with respect. The reading and the prayers were with the intonations of the Admorim of Western Galicia and even more like the Admor Rabbi Naftali of Rapshitz זצל.
The second meal of Shabbat was like yesterday with all kinds of food, in addition to kigels which they called “noodle pot”. This was noodles with goose fat as well as a sweet kigel that had honey, which was very tasty. The meal lasted almost two hours and we still had time for Rashi.
I awoke from my afternoon nap and found R’Moshe and his two sons in the large room with the holy books, one with Gemorra and another with the Portion of the Week, studying different meanings. There were afternoon prayers in the Beit Knesset followed by the third meal with songs. After the evening prayers and Havdola in R’Moshe’s house, I asked him what I owed him for staying, since I had to leave shortly for Kielce. With an aggravated voice, he questioned what I meant about “paying”. In my house there is no paying for visiting. I took you in as a Mitzva of הכנסות אורחים (honoring travelers), especially a man like you with the kind of family you have and you are a Cohen. I am very happy that you came to me.
Right now you are under my roof and I will not allow you to go on your way at this hour. As חזל says: “האדם יוצא לדרכו בשעת זריחת השמש” (man goes on his way with the rising sun.) We will eat together with the whole family and tomorrow with God’s help; we will accompany you to the train which leaves at 10:00 o’clock.
(Page 221 diary)
The invitation of R’Moshe Shatner to stay in his house until the following morning and join the family and visitors in the feast of מלוה מלכה (the fourth meal of the Sabbat) came from his pure heart. The thought of spending the night in a strange town and trying to find a place to sleep was not too pleasant. I accepted his generous offer.
He asked my pardon that he had to spend an hour on business. He had a general store with wines in his house. There were already a large number of customers waiting for him to open the doors.
In the meantime I entered his house where his family and friends had gathered. At about 9:00 he closed the store, greeted his visitors with blessings and seated each one around the table which was set with all kinds of food and drink. After washing hands and saying the blessings, the first known course of the fourth meal of the Sabbath was served, which was borsht and potatoes. It was followed by meat, wine and then dessert. There was singing and R’Moshe spoke on the portion of the week, which everyone enjoyed.
R’Moshe called upon me “I know you are a Cohen and the fragrance of the Torah emanates from you. Please bless us with the words of this important blessing.” I answered: “I am not of those Cohanim that was said of them, knowledge and Torah flow easily from their lips. Whatever the head of the house requests, I will do.” Do not separate man from his friends except in differences in Halacha. There were several words that belong to that important blessing of the Cohanim. This includes all that is good and success for eternity. I explained the meanings of the blessings from the ancient Torah and the תורה שבעל פה, especially on השלום with three explanations: a) external peace, b) internal peace, c) peace according to R’Yitzchak HaAramai author of the book עקידת-יצחק that explains this important blessing. After a short talk of about 20-25 minutes, all those around the table applauded and shook my hand warmly. R’Moshe was pleased with my words. I was requested to give the blessing on the food with a glass of wine. The meal finished at about midnight. All the guests shook hands and blessed me that I reach home safely, be rid of strangers and army clothes. In my year in the wilderness, that Saturday night, the portion of the week was תרומה in the year תרעו (1916) in the house of R’Moshe Shatner in Tsavina.
Early the next morning, after the morning prayers and the light meal, I parted from the whole family with great warmth. They asked me to come again when I return from Kielce. I promised to do so. Two of the sons accompanied me to the station and helped me with the packages.
Content last updated Friday, March 15, 2013 at 06:47 PM Mountain Standard Time