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Vladimir Shraga
For pictures go to the site: http://shtetle.co.il/Shtetls/drua/drua2_eng.html
from; http://shtetle.co.il/Shtetls/drua/drua_eng.html

It is on the edge of Belarus. Across the river are Latvian fields
covered with snow. Druya. It used to be a town and now it is a border

At the entrance to the village one can see a bus intersection, which
used to be the central square. There are two two-storey houses which
are left from that period – downstairs there used to be shops, which
belonged to Jews, the owners lived on the second floor. Today these
houses are both abandoned, standing like two old friends. The
authorities are planning to demolish them.

In the afternoon more and more people gather at the intersection –
they are waiting to buy hens, which will be brought soon. I see a
middle-aged woman and we start taking about the old days. “More than
half of the population here used to be Jewish”, - says Mrs. Klenovski,
- “They were engaged in trade, while some of them were craftsmen or
farmers. The town was very clean; streets were cobbled. What do we
have now? Just dust carried around by the wind.”

She recalled the old days. “Druya was close to Drissensky
(Verkhnedvinsky) region, which belonged to the Soviet Union. So, here,
on this side of the Dvina River people were celebrating a holiday –
they were dressed in festive clothes, dance and sang. Across the river
there was a commune and women were plowing land, trying not to look at
the opposite bank. In 1939 the Red Army arrived in Druya. Many of my
relatives were exiled to Siberia. We had a neighbor, a woman, who was
ecstatic when the Soviet Army came – she took out a red headscarf,
tied it to a long stick and ran around yelling: “The right power has
come!” Later she went insane from the life, which was brought about by
“the right power”.

Soon we received another wound: the war. I remember the first bombing
at the beginning of the war. My mom and I were walking in a field and
abruptly stopped by awful noise. We saw planes and falling bombs. And
we were in that huge field with no place to hide. Running was
pointless. We just flopped into a furrow, I lay as close to my mother
as I could. So we lay until the bombing was over.”

Old people from Druya remember all the epochs which the 20th century
holds. We can only imagine what kind of memories is kept by the
ancient stones of the Jewish cemetery in Druya. Matseivas (tombstones)
– some of them are 200 or 300 years old – stick out of the ground,
climb a small hill, press themselves against pines, as if trying to be
close to something that is still alive. The old stones are surrounded
with a new fence, set up by the people who originated from Druya.
After the war almost no one was left to be buried in the Jewish

“The Jews were shot here, hear the Druika”, - recollects Mrs.
Klenovski. – “It was a horrible sight. There was a machine gunner on
the bridge. Many Jews were brought from neighboring villages. Everyone
was taken to the river, even babies. The air all around the town was
permeated with gunpowder smell. Then, since there was not enough space
here, the bodies were transported to the cemetery and buried. The
ground was moving for three days that followed and the water in the
Druika was red. Very few were lucky to save themselves.” Those, who
did escape, left this place soon after the war. Today there is a
memorial on the sight of the execution, only broken bricks can be seen
at the spot where the synagogue was once located. Nothing else reminds
us that it used to be a Jewish town.

If a stranger, a mere traveler, takes a look at the village, they will
not be able to discern the drama, which took place in its streets.
Time erases everything. A traveler would look at puddles and see only
intricate reflections in the water. He would see the main street
climbing up the hill and a Catholic church somewhere in the distance.
It hangs mysteriously over tiny houses like a ghost. Then one can see
a horse, lazily dragging a carriage. This is real: the church and the
horse – they do exist. The church has been here for 350 years. It
contains some special silence.

The past of Druya as a town makes a tremendous contrast with its
present as a village. Perhaps, due to this contrast the place still
somehow retains its spirit of a shtetl… If Jews lived here today, they
would still be on their horse carriages, queue for hens in the square
and talk about the past. It would be a quiet life. But something has
broken, something has gone wrong if the stone houses have become
decrepit, if the main square has become a bus intersection, if there
is no one to read a remembering prayer on the hill of the Jewish