Gorodok, Ukraine

"Greiding", “Grayding” “Graydung”, “Graydunk” (Yiddish),  (Hebrew) הורודוק

Horodok” [Ukr] Городок ,Gorodok” [Rus] , "Gorodok-Proskurovskiy” [Rus], “Gródek” [Pol]

Region: Podolia

Lat: 49°10’ N, Long: 26°34' E






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Compiled by Marc Goldberger and Steven Schreiber

Updated: February 2015

Copyright © 2013 Marc Goldberger and Steven Schreiber


Town Life


What was the town like?


Physical features


D. Schreiber’s memoirs mention Kernitzke’s lumber yard, a sugar beet factory several miles from the town, Tronski’s Orchard (Tronski was a rich Polish landowner),  a statue of Peter the Great in front of City Hall and a Greek Catholic Church.


There were 2 synagogues one very big one and one small one.  There was also a Jewish cemetery on the small hill in the city. According to a recent visit to the cemetery by Krystyna  Dudzińska, a research assistant at Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Warsaw, many tombstones (matzevas) still exist. A further description of the cemetery is provided by Jewish Heritage of Ukraine as follows: “The town contains a  Jewish cemetery, where there are hundreds of tombstones from XVIII-XIX centuries. The cemetery is located on the round hill above the town, and overgrown with thick bushes. A significant number of grave stelae have carved decorations, similar in style to the decor of the Jewish cemetery in Satanov. The town had a wooden synagogue, a typical example of Podolsk wooden synagogues of the XVIII century, which was burned in 1939”.


The village had a public library, the history of which is described here.


Surrounding the town were huge wheat fields. From the memoirs: “We fed our cow with, among other things, beet pulp from the beet-sugar factory which was several miles from the city. Every so often I would go to the beet-sugar factory with the peasant whom mother sent for a load of the beet pulp. On one such trip, late in August, we passed through huge wheat fields. The wheat was tall, ripe, heavy with seeds, and reddish and orange in color. I got off the wagon and asked the peasant to go on without me, and to pick me up on the way back. I climbed up on a little hill where there was a huge tree and sat under it watching the wheat waving to and fro as the wind blew it in various directions. I had read about ocean waves, but I had never seen any. ‘This is what ocean waves must be like’ ”.


The Smotrych River flows by Gorodok. As described in Wikipedia the Smotrych River is “A left-bank tributary of the Dniester River that flows southward for 168 km through Khmelnytskyi  oblast …With a width of 10–15 m (40 m at its widest point), the river is particularly notable for its tall banks, which give it a ravine like appearance. It is used for water supply, irrigation, and fishing. A small hydroelectric station is situated on it, as well as the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi and the town of Gorodok (Khmelnytskyi oblast).”





In 1897 the Jewish population was about 3,200 (37%) out of a total of roughly 8600 residents.  According to D. Schreiber’s memoirs the “town proper” contained mostly Jews. In any case Jews made up a substantial part of the town’s population. Surrounding the town were mostly Ukrainian and Polish peasants.


Relations between Jews and non-Jews based on Schreiber’s memoirs could be described, overall, as amicable. His mother spoke better Ukrainian than his father so she had a closer relationship with the peasant population who made up a considerable number of the clients in his father’s law practice. “A good portion of my father’s practice consisted of ‘partitioning’ of real estate among the children of deceased peasant farmers. Litigation usually arose because the land could not always be divided into equal geometrical parts without running the risk of some children having the poorest land and some the best. When my father failed to get them to agree to an equitable division, it was necessary to file a petition in the court praying for such a division.”


 “My mother was a housewife, but without her aid, father’s peasant clients would have owed him much more than they did. She managed to get father’s fees paid in commodities (fruits, vegetables, eggs, chickens, a calf or a cow). Most of the peasants knew my mother’s terms and before talking to my father about a case they would come to the kitchen with a sack of potatoes, apples or onions for my mother as a down payment for father. In the fall, the peasants, knowing my mother wanted cabbage for sauerkraut, would bring barrelfuls of cabbage heads and help her cut them, salt them, and otherwise prepare them for storage in the barn for winter.”


The story of the stolen shoes as described in the memoirs of D. Schreiber illustrates an encounter between Jews and Gentiles that appears to be one of neighbors on good terms working out a problem with their children. The two chapters relating the incident “Abraham and Isaac” and “The Shoes were Found”.


Another chapter describes warm encounters between the woodcutters, D. Schreiber and his mother. See “The Woodcutters”.


However, there could also be a dark side to the relationship between the Jews and Gentiles as shown in the following story from his memoirs, “I Was Horsewhipped”.


Additionally, the Czarist system of anti-Semitic laws and regulations was always in place. D. Schreiber’s father was a lawyer but his “… rights to practice law were not the same as those of lawyers who took the Christian oath. The chief limitation was on the number of cases he could try in a year before the several courts. This meant sharing his fees with Christian lawyers a good many times. Occasionally, a Christian lawyer would return the favor by soliciting my father’s help in a difficult case.”


Another problem for the Schreiber family was that some family members were engaged in the anti-Czarist activities, which put them at odds with the authorities and ultimately led to the family’s decision to immigrate to America.


Jewish children were not allowed to attend the schools of Gentile children. In the case of D. Schreiber, he received his education in basic subjects at home. “In our home, we learned Russian- we learned geography, literature, history, geometry, arithmetic, algebra – everything that was taught in schools. My father first taught the oldest brother Hyman, and Hyman taught my brother Jake and me.”




What were living conditions like?


The memoirs describe the home. It was very basic and had certain rural features such as a garden in the front yard, a cow in the back yard and chickens in the attic. Wood fire was used for heating and cooking. Water was drawn from the river and was used for household purposes and for drinking.   Here are some chapters from the memoirs describing the home and the various activities of daily life that went with it:


·        Our House

·        Cooking and Baking Facilities

·        Baking Bread for the Week

·        Heating Facilities

·        The Water Carrier

·        Laundry and Bathing (excerpts from chapters)



What was Gorodok like in the 1930’s?


A very informative picture of Gorodok and the Soviet Union during the 1930’s, World War II and its immediate aftermath can be found in A Red Boyhood: Growing up Under Stalin by Anatole Konstantin. This is a moving story of a boy that begins with the arrest and execution of his father in 1938 by Stalin’s secret police. When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union he flees with his mother and younger brother to Central Asia. After the war he finds his way to the American sector in Germany and later emigrates to the U.S. The book is available through Amazon Books. 


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