Lunna Memoirs
by Chaim Sorin

Chaim Sorin was born in Lunna in 1885. He left Lunna in 1907. He traveled in Germany, France, Portugal and Belgium. In 1941 Chaim Sorin and his wife managed to get a visa to the US. Around 1952 Chaim Sorin wrote his memoirs about Lunna.
Note: For more information about Chaim Sorin please refer to the page Family Albums/Janowski & Sorin


LUNNA/VOLLA of Blessed Memory
by Chaim Sorin

Every time I speak of Lunna, my shtetl - I say zichronoh l'vracha. For me, she died. I don't hear from her anymore…can't see her - an iron certain hides her from me. Strangers took our homes, our gardens, our stores and all else. The murderers were there in the homes of their victim. I can't travel there to see the graves of my ancestors, relatives and friends.
The shtetl is dead for me, but memories live on me and are precious to me.
There, was a crib of my whole family and there I spent my years of youth.

The name Chaim Sorin you won't know but if I tell you that I am Chaim Avrohom Herschele [which is his father's name] from Grodno Street, all of you people from Lunna and Volla…you'll know who I am.

Our house was opposite to Moti Chezkele's house. (see note 1) Our street went from the marketplace and at the end of the street, the street split: on the right Flisadis Street from the yard, in the middle is Tsigelnis Street, and on the left you went to Grodno.
From the large market square that's four cornered with a church in the middle and stores all around, there was a street: Zorrene [Zagoryany] Street (southward) then Putstove Street Northward toward the Niemen River.
The long street, Shulhof Street, stretched from the South to the Goishe Street. This street joined the two villages of Lunna and Volla.

I am now close to seventy years old, and I spent time in this village till my Bar-Mitzvah. Then for short times between semesters (bain Hazmanim) the last I was in town was 1907 for the draft.
During this time I have traveled through many countries: Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, and in 1940 I ran away from the German cannibals to New York. Despite so many years and so many experiences, the picture of this village of ours is very clear in my memory. I know everyone there by their names and nicknames and our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and good friends Zichronam L'vracha.

The people of Lunna were called "Satin Backpacks". Why? They were poor (except a few rich ones), but they were fine people. They had good teachers for Gemarah and Chumash and Siddur – then they had teachers like Kalman, Herschel, Schmerl for Hebrew and Russian and Math. Every father, no matter how poor he was, paid tuition, bought Seforim and books for their children.
My father, zichrono l'vracah was poor and had a lot of children and made the greatest effort that all the children should learn well. This is the spirit of the shtetl.

Two of us paid back the shtetl with interest. In 1907, I helped to establish the modern Cheder (Ceder Metukan) in Lunna together with Shishatsky and Mattis (see note 2). In 1917, my brother, Shmuel helped to start the Yaakov Klotshkovsky z'l Yiddish school with emphasis on secular and Yiddish culture. There was no such thing that someone can't read or write in Lunna.

In every Cheder people leaned regardless of which school or subgroup. In the "old wall" section of town, they learned. Jews (artisans, tailors, etc.) were scholars that could give a shiur (lesson) in Moshnayos, Shas or Shulchan Oruch. I'll mention a few:
Leishike the painter, Yehoshua the baker, Moshe the baker, Moshe the miller, Herschel the flour maker, and more and more and more…

The younger people in Lunna were active with great enthusiasm in the freedom movements: Zionism, Socialism, Bundism.

Do you remember the "Belzer" (Diamond bourse) in Grodno Street? Shabbos in the evening in the first years of this 20th century?

I want to remember more people: Leon Arkin, Moti Chaim Shoskes, Michel Schnier, Shlomike, son of Moshe the shoemaker, Belke, son of Noach the Furrier, Mereh, Avrohom Itsis' son.

Whenever you find Lunna Jews, they are Oskim B'tzochai Tzibur (busy with the needs of the community) and trained to be friends with Jews and general culture. The Lunna people from the "Belze" meeting place in Grodno Street fought in New York to establish unions here:
Leon Arkin was President of all workers schools in the United States.
Goldin became a Rabbi in Rochester.
Chaim Sorin (that's me!) was the founder of the Jewish School in Portugal.

People from Lunna filled fine positions: doctors, lawyers, engineers. I am sure that in our Memorial Book of Lunna Volla, you will find many professionals. I am one of the people from Lunna who had the "yichus" to bring many Jews from Lunna to Portugal after World War I, as soon as the Polish started showing their "robbing faces" to the Jews.

I was one who started the Diamond Industry in Israel and thereby, many more Lunna Jews are effective there in Israel.

Lunna Volla is no more – the murderers killed 2000 people and only ten remained alive, but there are many who left before and they carry with love and respect in their hearts, their memory of Lunna Volla, the martyrs from our town Lunna Volla, Zichronam L'vracha.


Note 1:
Moti's Chezkel is Mordechai son of Israel Kosowski.  >back

Note 2: Feivel Mattis (b. ca. 1885 in a village, now in Ukraine), was a Hebrew teacher and a reporter in the Hebrew newspaper "Ha'Mashkif" (The Observer). He came to Lunna, married Henie nee Kosowski, daughter of Moti Chezkel. Their family lives in Israel. It is conjectured that the first name of Shishatzky was Hyman (Chaim) and that he was born in Lunna in 1887.   >back

Moshe Alperstein, whose paternal grandfather Simon Alperstein and maternal grandfather Mordechai Kosowski had lived in Lunna, recalls:

Avraham-Hirsh Sorin (Chaim Sorin's father), born around 1860, was a butcher in Lunna, and resided with his family in Grodno (Grodzienska) Street. Moshe Alperstein did not know Avraham-Hirsh but he knew his son Chaim Sorin.
In 1939 before the outbreak of WW2, Alperstein was a student at the university in Brussels, Belgium. When the war began, he could not get anymore financial support from his parents who remained in Poland. Alperstein's aunt - Henie (Kosowski) Mattis, who was born in 1887 and grew up in Lunna, was a good friend of Chaim Sorin during their youth days in Lunna. In 1940 Henie was living with her family in Israel. She wrote a letter to her old friend, Chaim Sorin, asking him to help her nephew. One day Alperstein received an invitation to come to Chaim Sorin's office in Antwerp and Mr. Sorin gave Mr. Alperstein ten pounds. In 1950 Chaim Sorin visited in Israel and Moshe Alperstein repaid him what he owed.

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Compiled by Ruth Marcus & Aliza Yonovsky Created May 2007
Updated by rLb, March 2020
Copyright © 2007 Ruth Marcus

All the photos are presented by courtesy of the families and are not allowed to be reproduced without their permission.

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