** Webmaster Note:
translation was generously provided by Diane Moore. We
have presented it here exactly as it was
translated. Shmuel focused on a visit back to Vladimirets just
after World War I, when Zionism was on the rise and Vladimirets
was beginning to show signs of modern life. Some of the people
he mentions have pictures in the family photo album.
It happened in the year of the Bolshevik revolution.
I was far away from Vladimirets, my home town. I
had been a prisoner of the Austrians. My heart
drew me home, and I found no peace; I decided to sneak
across the border and return to Vladimirets. I
wandered from shtetl to shtetl until I reached my goal.
So I was nearing the spring where all the young folks
used to gather on Sabbath afternoons to drink the cold
living water. And I saw the mountain opposite,
where young men climbed and showed their strength and
skill. A wonderful feeling went through me -- I
had really come home, to my own shtetl.
Nothing had changed; the same woods as before,, the same
paths and fields. The windmill hadn't changed
either; it stood on its hill as before. But as I
entered the town and met my friends and acquaintances, I
realized how great the change was, that had come about.
People were not at all the same, and especially the
young people. I found change and progress
everywhere. When I left the town, life there had
been just as in previous generations. People then
saw religion and tradition as the most important things,
and they were far away from what is called modern
society and modern culture.
When a Chassidic rabbi came to the shtetl, then it
seemed to go out of its skin. Then Chasidim from
all the surrounding Jewish communities gathered, and
together with the Vladimirets Chasidim, they would dance
and sing in the streets. In those years the youth,
generally, were absorbed in synagogue business --
absorbed in a sweet melody, in a Talmudic debate;
whereas now, in the last years of World War I,
everything had a whole new face.
When the news of the Balfour Declaration penetrated the
shtetl, the youth were galvanized. A
Zionist organization was founded, people started
collecting books to set up a library, there was
excitement and eagerness to be doing things, but no
clear plan, and leaders and means of carrying out the
deeds were lacking.
But now, returning to the shtetl, I saw that all was
different. The library was already a substantial
reality. I found an institution called
[literally "supporting the fallen"];
one must remember that the needy were never far to seek.
If I'm not mistaken, Velvel Fridman was the first
chairman of the organization. In one of the later
meetings, I was picked for this function.
The shtetl had no authority figure. First the
Bolsheviks came in, troops from Dombrovitz. Then
the Bolsheviks went out and Petlura's people (Ukrainian
nationalists) came in. After a while, again the
Bolsheviks. Their staff stayed on the Krasitskys'
The first thing they did was call a big meeting to
choose a local council, from all the nationalities.
As I was in the Zionist Youth, they seemed to think I
was a big revolutionary, so I was chosen for the
council, without my knowledge.
I remember an episode that shows how danger hovered over
the Jews of Vladimirets when power changed hands.
As soon as Berel Muchnik and I became comrades on the
council, we were both targets for several goyim, Jew
haters, who boasted that they'd change the government in
the town by hanging Berel and me from the telephone
poles.To throw some fear into the goyim, and show them a
strong hand, Berel went and arrested three of them
the surgeon, and squire's gardener, and the young clerk
Taras. The three were held for trial.
One fine morning Rabbi Shlomo , of blessed memory,
came to me, with
Reb Ben-Zion Fridman, and begged with tears in their
eyes that I should see to rescuing the goyim for fear of
what might happen. I took on the task. A city
official, a Jew called Grintshenk, a butcher's son, was
like a brother to me and he promised me that he
would do everything to free the prisoners. And so
it was done. At the time of the trial, Grintshenk
handled the defense and worked it so the goyim were
I will mention another episode: the Bolsheviks used to
requisition flour from the peasants in the surrounding
villages. Some of them were saboteurs who put sand
in the flour. The staff would give out the flour
to some Jewish families, who were to bake bread for the
soldiers. It happened that the flour mixed with sand was
handed over to the excellent Jew, the scholar and
teacher Velvel Burak, and suspicion fell on him.
He was arrested and taken to prison, and thanks to an
intervention from the Council, we succeeded in rescuing
Velvel from a certain death.
When the Bolsheviks left the shtetl, I too had to be
uprooted from the town of my birth, and when I returned
after a year, I found great changes. The young
people were organized into various groups and movements,
and social life was very effervescent.
Our town was generally marked by a special spirit; its
Jews were mostly content with their lot, their
livelihoods were not troubled; people had their
standing jokes, they fastened nicknames on whole
families, and all with cheerful faces and good spirits.
Everyone got used to the nicknames until they became
Vladimirets Jews wanted their children educated, so we
decided to establish a school in the town. First
we succeeded in raising funds for my best friend, Shlomo
Sender Volok, an intellectual young man. To him
was added a teacher called Gurvitz, and the two of them
started the school, quartered in the brewery building.
It was a modern school with benches and discipline,
bells and recess. There, according to the new
system, Hebrew was taught in Hebrew.
At the same time we organized the Hatzair-Zion party.
Sender was a good teacher and also a gifted orator.
Fate would have it that Sender, the best friend of my
youth, should go to Eretz-Israel and return home to
perish in the Shoah.
We chose a committee to raise funds for Palestine. We
set up a drama club, and we were really good in
that area. People could depend on seeing gifted
actors: Chava Garmarnik, Chava Gurzik, Zelda
Teitelboim, Pesakh Tsherniak, and others.
Our library surpassed all expectations. Thousands
of books were collected there.
The main question was how to accommodate in one school
the hundreds of children who had started their education
in the cheders. We were burdened with the work.
We had no expandable building. We arranged in four
houses a "culture
school", with good teachers, under the direction of the
seminarians Dumnitz and Margolin. I, as school
secretary, had to take out a certification for the
school from the province of Sarna, and I have the
certificate to this day.
I will pause here on a few of the dear and kind Jews who
have remained engraved in my memory: first our old rabbi, R.
Yitzkhak Elihu, his memory for a blessing. A tall man
with a big white beard, a Jew of stately appearance, a
distinguished scholar. His wisdom was so well known
that many from our area would come to him to ask advice and
receive his blessing. He made his living selling
kerosene, candles, and passover wine -- that was his
concession. Also there remained to him three sons and
some daughters. Benjamin, the oldest son, was ordained
a rabbi, but he turned to commerce. Shlomo, the second
son, took his place as rabbi. Shlomo was a person of
high culture, who knew languages and was a good orator.
He was our pride, but he was not in agreement with us, the
younger generation, and he thought the modern school was a
mistake. Later he changed his opinion -- witness the
picture of the laying of the school's cornerstone, which
shows him participating in the ceremony. The third
son, Pinchas, was completely unlike his brothers; he became
a teacher. Michael, the Rabbi's son-in-law, was a
Talmud scholar and a man who was satisfied with little.
I had the honor many times to say a lesson for him in
Very few of the remaining landsleit
recall Khanien, the rich man, a handsome Jew with an
aristocratic appearance. His son Gedaliah was a maskil,
always well-dressed and clean, who often spoke Hebrew.
Khanien's house was a house of wise counsel. His best
friend was Shlomo, of blessed memory. The two of them
used to play chess and sing a Gemara tune. Khanien's
son-in-law, Yakov-Asher Appelboim, was a thoughtful,
absorbed man, always floating in far worlds, with a book in
his hand; a great man of his word. The second son-in-law,
Moshe Eisenberg, was a learned man, a great merchant,
respectable and modest in his ways. In his great house
you always felt at home. His son Velvel was a modest
lad, very cordial. His brother Yakov was much stricter
than he, but he too was a good brother to everyone.
Pinchas-David Gurzik was a Talmud scholar and a great
merchant; his house was always full of people. His
only son, Joseph, had learned a lot of Talmud, and dressed
like an aristocrat; he sinned by reading Yiddish in secret.
Zelig Tsherniak, a Talmud scholar, a chazan and a baal-kore,
had looked into many holy books. In his house it
always hummed like a beehive, from the many young
people who used to gather there. His son Nathan
Tsherniak was a noble-minded young man and a true Zionist.
Goldberg was always thinking deeply on universal
matters; his wife, an eshet-chayil [woman
of worth/valor], was the breadwinner, while he was
immersed in his books. Shlomo occasionally wrote poems
in Hebrew and Yiddish. Active and sociable, he would get up
on the bima and preach to the congregation. Finally he
became a teacher. It's worthwhile to mention his
brother Yitzkhak, a shoemaker, a dear mentsh; his two-room
house was a hotel for poor people who came into town.
They would have breakfast with him and he would give them
food for the road. In shul he read Mishnah, and at
home he played the fiddle. He had an eastern seat in
the Stoliner shul.
I will remember here also my father
Khanokh, may he rest in peace. He used to sit and
study by a little oil lamp. His favorite tractate was
Bava-Batra. Integrity and modesty were his qualities.
I've been told that at the time of his funeral the
townspeople closed all the shops. I myself was not in
Vladimirets at that time.
Finally I will emphasize that the several hundred Jewish
families from our town were made up of honest and dear
people, hardworking and full of Torah and respect for
others, who were murdered in 1942 by the bloodthirsty Nazi