THE STORY OF MY LIFE
Translated from the original Hebrew by Devora Borik
Notes in [ ] are by the translator
Edited and transcribed by Leonard Robbins
I am Shimon Podbereski, a member of a very large family who was left as one
of the only remnants after the war. I would like to try to immortalize my
family story from the time I came to this world to the time of the family's
bitter end, for a remembrance throughout eternity for the remainder of the
Truly it is difficult to write memories that belong to a time of fifty years
ago and more. However, these memories of a childhood are unforgettable. They
are within me very very deep in my soul in my entity and in all of my being.
Wherever I go they are after me. They are chasing me. They are always in my
mind, the people, the localities, the neighborhood, the views where I grew
up, where I studied, where I developed my personality, where I became a man.
I was there until I came to the land of Israel, where I hoped during all my
days of youth in the Diaspora to end up. Memories from distant times in the
shtetl of Vishnevo, where I lived with family members who did not get to
reach the land of Israel, although they so wanted to make Aliyah. They were
all annihilated in 1942 with the other Jewish residents of the shtetl. That
is where my friends, boy friends and girl friends were left. Dear friends
with whom I grew up, with whom I was happy in the times of happiness, with
whom I was sad in the times of sorrow, while we were all trying to make our
lives a little less burdened.
THE STORY OF THE FAMILY
I was born on January 25, 1914 in the town of Vishnevo in Poland. (In 1914,
it was part of Russia, It became part of Poland from 1921- 1939). I was born
close to the time of the beginning of World War I. When World War I came to
our area (1915), I was still a baby. We were chased away from Vishnevo that
was on the German front at that time. Father was an oven builder and I was
always very proud of him. My family included six brothers and two sisters.
The two older brothers had left, They had gone to America together with a
family member prior to World War I. The rest stayed behind.
For days and nights, we were wandering on the roads. We drifted in
the military zone until we came to a town by the name of Stetin , we ended up
living there the entire period of the First World War and the Russian
Revolution until 1923. We went through many hardships and sufferings until we
were accepted by the Jewish community, eventually they gave us a house at the
very edge of the town next to the bathhouse. We were supposed to take care of
it (the bathhouse) and clean it.
Many years later my sister Shoshana and I went to the land of Israel.
I ended using the illegal immigration route. Therefore, I, Shimon, the
youngest in the family arrived in the land Israel as illegal immigrant and
survived. The rest of them who stayed in Europe, my beloved brothers and
sisters were annihilated together with their families.
Back to my childhood; Just as soon as the Germans entered the area were we
lived during World War I, good relations were established with the
population, and there were commercial relations too. The Germans imported
grain, meat, and jams. This brought better income to our home nevertheless we
were looking forward for the war to end so we would be able to return to our
When we returned to Vishnevo, I was nine years old, we found a town that had
only partially been rebuilt from its ruins that were caused by the wars and
the big fire of 1915. Our house was gone and until we would be able to
rebuild, we lived as tenants at the house of Nata Podbereski on the other
side of the road from where our house used to be. In the past, we had a house
and a piece of land of about 5 acres. We sold some of the land to a Polish
man who was a neighbor on one side. On the other side, we were neighbors to a
Russian family. At the beginning of the war, this man had been an officer of
the municipality. Later we lived in the house of the neighbors until we built
a rather large house by the concepts of those days. The family members, who
immigrated prior to the war to America, helped us with the financial aspect
of the rebuilding. While the war was still going on (the Soviets and the
Poles were fighting for control of the area), many refugees were moving from
one town to another. My brother and my father were looking to improve our
income. Fortunately, my father had a profession, he was building ovens and my
two older brothers helped him. My second brother who later died from typhoid
and I, grew up with two sisters, Shoshana, may she rest in peace, the mother
of Miriam, and Yonah. Teibe was the name of my second sister.
We lived close to a German family that had a fruit orchard, apples and pears.
We had a piece of land too, on which we grew vegetables. Behind the house,
there was a big barn, a place for cows. The houses in the town were all
wooden houses. The municipal buildings at that time were all in ruins because
of the wars. Until the rebuilding of the school, I studied at the house of
the Rabbi. Afterwards I continued my studying in the school that was recently
built. At the end of my formal education, I continued with my learning by
using private tutors. When I was a young lad in Vishnevo, the Zionist youth
movement, HaShomer Hatzair was established and I joined it.
THE TOWN, ITS WAY OF LIFE AND ITS VIEW
Our town was very charming and had magnificent views. The hamlet was
surrounded by forests it was nestled at the foothills, there was the Oshanke
river that flowed into the Berezina. A boulevard of birch trees took you from
the town to the train station in Bogdanova, through the picturesque villages.
We would usually be strolling in the forest during the summer days when the
lilacs were in bloom, the intoxicating scent is following me until this day.
The birch trees were beautiful and their silvery color was shimmering in the
sun. Also there were pine trees and the firs. In the wintertime, they would
be covered with snow. Pieces of snow would be hailing from them and coming
down from their branches. I recollect the enchanting forest of Skimbowski
where we would go for the camps of Lag B'Omer.
Anti-semitism was always very strong in Poland, still when we would go out
in the forests on Lag B'Omer or other Jewish occasions we felt some kind of
respect expressed from the non-Jewish people towards us. Perhaps they saw in
us the "new Jews" who were aspiring to have their own homeland. We were not
like our humble forefathers. We were the modern confident Jews. Jews who
walked in the towns' streets proudly and erectly. At list, this is the way I
During the years of 1935 to 1939, I felt a change in the political
atmosphere, a chillier attitude was shown to us by the non-Jewish population.
It was a mood saturated with concealed hatred. At this time, it did not have
yet any physical display. On the contrary, the very young non-Jewish people,
our contemporaries, befriended us. Some were having romantic feelings towards
the Jewish girls. They saw themselves as intelligent and open minded and they
would meet with us often. Truly, there was a bit of a distance between us but
they liked to dance with the Jewish girls. We had dancing balls with them.
Also there were none Jews in a band of Jewish people, the band of the
A memorable winter day in the year 1931
I woke up on a winter morning in a warmed house. The
windows were covered with a thick layer of ice that formed many patterns of
flowers on the glass. Only in my imagination, I could truly describe its
beauty. I opened the little window. The sun was shining and its light was
shining on the soft snow that had just ceased coming down. Outside, the snow
was piled up to the height of the rooftops. Here and there, you could see
people shoveling away the snow in order to be able to come out of their
homes. Some of the sidewalks were made of wood, and the minute you finished
cleaning them, they became very slippery and you had to walk very carefully
not to fall down. I walked out with a shovel in my hand and I started to
shovel when I noticed that some people were approaching. I was wearing
high-topped shiny shoes with long woolen socks. My pants were very nicely
ironed. I had just finished ironing them before I came out. My shirt was from
HaShomer Hatzair and I wore a sweater. I was very nicely shaven and I combed
my hair shortly before. My hair was very curly and it was done in layers. I
felt that I looked handsome that day. The approaching youths filled the air
with happy laughter that sounded familiar to me. As they came near I realized
that they were two girl friends, one was Batya and the other was Channa. I
asked, "what are you doing on my street?". They said that they were going to
the shoemaker to give him some shoes to be repaired. They asked me if I would
be able to join them. Of course, I agreed. The three of us walked in the soft
snow towards the house of the shoemaker. After a few minutes, we returned to
my house. I said goodbye to them and I went inside.
The house it was warm, a pleasure. It was during
the Hanukkah holiday. I took my mandolin in order to practice my Hanukkah
songs. It was about noon. At 1 we would eat lunch. My sister Yonah Teibe was
a clerk in a bank, she would come home at this time to eat, and she would
later return to work. My older sister Shoshana prepared lunch and I was
supposed to prepare some food for the cow. It was not a simple process. In
the wintertime, the cow needed hot food. You would bring into the house half
of a barrel and in the oven you would warm up rocks or iron for hot water.
Into the barrel, you would put a mixture of potatoes and water and boiling
hot rocks or iron and cover. After a few minutes, the food would be ready and
I took the food out to the cow, which is in the barn. The cow would usually
be lying down and looking very warm, but when she would smell the food she
would get up very fast and eat with a lot of appetite. While she would be
eating, my sister Shoshana would milk her, and I would keep on cleaning and
bringing hay that was in the attic on the top of the barn. This was my daily
Time was passing and it was fast becoming dark, in the wintertime, the
nightfall would come early. Now it was time to go to meet my friends in our
Ken (Hebrew for nest).[Translator's note: the place is called a "nest" which
was the name given to the locality where the members of the youth movement
would meet.] We had very important things to do. We had commitments, which
were political, cultural and social.
TIDINGS OF THE SPRING
The snow has melted. Drops of water are still coming down from the edges of
the rooftops that were covered with straw. Yes, that is what I would see
through the window. From the other side of the rooftops at about a distance
of 1 kilometer, by the village, I could see the top of a protruding tree and
on its top there was a stork. Whenever spring would come the stork would
bring the tidings of the spring. How jealous I was of you, my stork, who
could fly through to our ancient land, the land of Israel that was waiting
for us. You could go on and on, you fly away and you then come back to your
nest and your home. I would walk near the tree on a path so I can be close to
you. To see the whiteness of your body, and your very delicate feet, how you
stand straight up, and how you look around at all of your surroundings. You
are waiting for your spouse to come to mate with you and you will lay eggs in
your nest so you will have little chicks at the end of the season. The time
will come and you will have little chicks. You will be feeding them with a
lot of tenderness, you will take care of them, and you will not let anything
bad happen to them. Now the chicks grow up, the time passes and the chicks
start flying from under your wings, and you watch them very carefully so that
nothing bad will happen to them. Again, winds come and they tell you that the
time for wandering has come again. You have to keep your strength so that you
will be able to pass over the countries and lands and be able to fly back to
the place from whence you came.
Your family has become big and you need more land to sustain you. In order
not fight with your neighbors, you have to share and get along nicely hence
you will be able to live together and indeed be able to be happy with what
you have. What I wonder about is that you do came to the same place from
whence you reside.
Market day was a day that brought in a bit of noise and uproar to the very
slow and quiet life of the town. Starting very early in the morning from
three streets: Vilno, Volozhin and Kreve, a stream of people, carts and
livestock would converge to the marketplace that was in the very middle of
town. Farmers came from close by and far away villages, with their carts that
carried anything you can imagine on them. All things from agricultural
products, potatoes, chickens, eggs, butter, cheeses, sour cream, bagelach,
and different kinds of grain including; wheat, barley, oats and flax. During
the summer time, there was also fruit; apples, pears, cherries and plums.
At the set of the evening, after a noisy busy day of selling and
buying, the market place would usually turn quiet. The farmers would return
to their farms in the neighboring hamlets, most of the time they would be
drunk at that point, some would be lying down in their carts, screaming and
yelling. Sometimes they would gather at the end of the day at the pubs and
they would try just before they leave the town, to "cause some happiness" to
cause hubbub and noise and they would scream unrestrained. Many times, we had
to ask the police to come. However, until the police would arrive, the
youngsters (us) would be there with sticks in our hands. We would attempt to
disperse them although they outnumbered us. There were days that we did not
get there in time. On those days we could not manage to overcome them and
their screaming "Jews to Palestine or we will slaughter you" would be heard
over the entire town and they would scare to death the old Jews. They would
hurry to close the doors and to shut the shutters. The Jews would stand
fearfully behind closed doors, but usually with the help of the heavens, they
would finally disperse, and the quiet of the town would return. This was an
ugly component of the way of life in the shtetl-a very sad one too. It caused
us, the young people, strong feelings of shame. We accepted that it was part
of the Jewish life in the Diaspora. We did not want to have any part of it.
Added to it was the anti-Semitism that was rising in the 1930s' in Poland and
the rest of Europe. It caused the Jewish youngsters to desperately try to
leave. We used any way and by any road to go to the land of Israel-- to the
land where we would walk erect and where we would have our own state. We will
never be ashamed of our inaction again, we will never be put down, and we
will never be scared to be Jews again.
Most of the time these outbursts did not become actual pogroms, but I
remember one time when the murder of two Jews had shaken the whole town and
the area around it. It happened in 1933. One day some gentile people entered
the house of Isaac Leib the butcher, two young men from one of the
neighboring villages. They invited him to come with them to buy a cow they
owned. He and his brother-in-law got on the cart with six of them together
and they drove away. On the way these two men took axes and clobbered them to
death. Pictures of the murdered Jews lying on the cart are with me to this
day.( the picture is in the Yizkor book) The whole horrible deed shook the
town and the area around it, even the non-Jewish residents. The authorities
decided to have a public trial and they decided that one of them would be
hanged. Actually, he was hanged in the marketplace in near by, Volozhin. The
second one was sentenced to life in prison.
I was then in the Hachshara [ preparation, a "practice Kibbutz" the young
people learned farming and what life on a Kibbutz would be like, in
preparation to when they got to Israel]. I learned about the terrible deed
when I came home for vacation.
HaShomer Hatzair AND THE ZIONIST ACTIVITY IN TOWN
HaShomer Hatzair [Socialist Zionist movements] in
Vishnevo was established in 1928. Afterwards a "Beitar" movement was
established. [Right wing, the Likud of nowadays]. At the same time, another
movement "The worker of Zion" was established. The movement HaChalutz, The
Pioneers, was already in existence since the beginning of the twenties and
was established then by Chaim Abramson and his friends, but we revived it
after most of them left for Eretz Israel. Together with the establishment of
the "nest" or meeting place, started out very active and loud arguments
between us (HaShomer Hatzair who was in the main stream of Zionism) and the
Beitar group. We argued about the different Zionist ideologies in the
Diaspora and in Israel, actually Palestine at the time, about the social
activities and values and about the ways to build the land. The heads of our
nest were Isaac Kaplan and Joshua Rabinovich (later the mayor of Tel Aviv),
and for a short time Isaac Yachas. After a while the socialist league was
also established and was joined by a few older people. Elia Zusman was the
head of it. Khonon and Galeo Podbereski were very active. For a long time,
all of us--members of all the groups--would gather in the school after the
day of studies, and the happiness was great. At the end, we left this house
and we rented a room in the house of the Rabbi Mordechai Zusman.
HaShomer Hatzair indoctrinates us to have strong values (love of nature and
physical work and healthy and moral way of life). We would study history and
politics, and investigate the obstacles and issues of the land of Israel. We
ponder over international and social problems. These discussions trained us
to look deeper into issues and to have more sophisticated way of thinking.
Also we would go to camps and meet other youngsters from HaShomer Hatzair
from other places, from Lida, Grodno and even from Warsaw. We learned from
them about the lives of youngsters in the big cities. To us, the youth from a
very small shtetl, it was very very important. The movement opened for us
wider range of vision. In addition to ties with the big Jewish world, it
caused us to be interested not only in the topic of Zionism, but also in
socialists issues all over the world.
As Zionists, we collected money for the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet).
We organized bazaars. To finance the Bazaars we would go from house to house
and collect donations. For the openings of the bazaars, we would always have
a dancing ball. As part of its activities, we would perform plays that would
show the way of life in our town. A few times, we had these plays in the
house of Joseph Yevichensky, who was very generous with us. We had a drama
club and one time we presented the play " Tevye the Milkman" by Sholom
Alaichem.( fiddler on the roof) It was done by us and by the teacher who was
a very nice to us and like us was a political person. He took upon himself to
carry out this very tough job to present this play. We all know the contents
of this show. The story of the fate of the daughters. The third daughter of
Tevye falls in love with a non-Jewish man named Pietka. She does not push him
away at the end she goes with him and is not Jewish any more. The part of the
daughter of Tevye was given to Batya Rabinovich. This was a very tough and
responsible job. The part of the non-Jewish guy was given to an older guy who
was the head of our nest.
The rehearsals started. Since Batya had been chosen to be the daughter of
Tevye the Milkman who goes away and leaves her Jewish roots, we started
collecting clothes that would fit her. Everyone was in charge of his own
clothes. At this point of time, better acquaintance with my later to be girl
friend started, my beloved of the future, Batya, and I developed friendship.
This was the period of winter. Snow covered the streets and the rooftops. I
would accompany Batya to search for boots and other clothes she needed for
the play. Once as we started on our way, there was a storm and we almost
fell. I held Batya's hand so she would not fall. At that moment, I felt as if
an electrical current passing between the two of us. We were then about 15 or
16 years old.. She came close to me and we walked together hand in hand.
Clandestine flows as if explosions tingled us and given us a glimpse of life
with common hope and a joint future.
The time for the presentation of the play drew closer.
Our stares would constantly meet during rehearsals. Both of us were shy and
we did not have the courage to show each other what we had in our hearts. The
play was very successful. A lot of this was success was due to Batya who was
excellent in her part. At the end of the play we were given flowers and
refreshments. The people who came to see us were very enthusiastic and they
clapped their hands for a long time and called "Batya, Batya". Certainly, she
was very successful in her part.
Batyas' clothes fit her very nicely. The gypsy scarf that she wore
and the boots etc. I can say that in me, a growing teenager a spark was
kindled. I probably was not ready yet to have a full blown feeling of love,
but inside me, the seed of love was planted for the future. When we went to
our place of meeting after the show, and to other places, the closeness
between us grew larger and little hints appeared. She spoke for the first
time about a common future.
When Batya was ten years old, her mother passed away. Her two older sisters
were married and her older brother made Aliyah (immigrated) to Eretz Israel.
In the house, there was a father--a heavy built man, a very strong character,
who did not speak a lot and who did not know how to show any feeling of
softness to his daughter. There was an older brother and a younger sister.
The whole burden of the house fell upon Batya's shoulders. The responsibility
was great. The father and his son would go every morning with a horse and
cart to the villages to buy and sell flax, onions and pigs hair in order
sustain the family. The responsibility to arrange the house and to do
everything in the house was on Batya's shoulders, also to study and to help
the younger sister. The difficulties of life were shown in her maturity.
Batya continued with her studies and meeting with her friends while her
laughter was making your heart sing. And her black eyes were penetrating the
hearts of the young men. When she opened her mouth, her white pearl like
teeth could be seen. The more she matured, the more she turned pretty. Her
body filled out a little bit, it rounded up, but not too much however. Both
of us matured through the years and the closeness between us became greater.
By nature I was a shy man and that was something that hindered my free
behavior in company. Whenever Batya looked at me, I would blush and I would
be covered with sweat, but with the way of nature, I matured and loved to
sing and to dance and I was a sportsman.
I liked to organize our social affairs and I initiated many happenings so we
would not be bored, such as riding bicycles, which in those days were a new
thing. We got a few bicycles and taught the girls how to ride them. In the
summer time, the boys and girls on bicycles passed through the streets of the
town. During the wintertime, we hired a sleigh that was harnessed to a horse,
especially on Sabbath nights and on moonlit nights we went out on the snow
covered fields to have excursions. The snow was shining like thousands of
diamonds and we could see pieces of ice dripping from the trees. Each young
man had a girl sitting on his lap. That was how we drove singing into another
world with the feeling of happiness at being young. After an hour or two, we
would retreat. Each person would go on his own way.
On one of those trips, while Batya was sitting on my lap,
everyone decided to go back to their homes. How could we go to sleep in a
full moon night where everything was white and shiny and keeping your eyes
wide open? We were left there only the two of us. We kept on walking in the
fields. The birch trees were towering over us, the light of the snow kept us
together physically, hand in hand, and body to body and feeling of happiness
and excitement filled our hearts. I held Batya strongly and she did not
resist me. She came closer to me and hugged me. The first time our lips came
together and we felt for the first time the sweetness of kisses. This is how
we stood there, hugging and we did not even feel the dawn was approaching.
Except Batya was responsible for the family and had to get up early in the
morning.. We continued on, walking in the direction of her home while
hugging. In those early morning hours, we made many plans for the future.
For the immediate future, we decided to meet the next day at the Polish
school. We said goodbye kissing each other sweetly and with very happy
feeling that tomorrow, we would meet again.
After the success of the play in the town, we were
invited to a town about 20 kilometers away from our town to present the play
again. We experienced a period of stress, during the rehearsals and the
collection of clothes and props we needed for the play. Summer has arrived.
We hired four mares. We put everything on the wagons and in the morning, we
started on our way. We arrived at the town Aolshony.
In Aolshony we had a good friend, one of those who had invited
us to present the play. He met us and took us to the home where we were
supposed to perform the play. The play was very successful. The people
applauded very enthusiastically, especially for Batya. The people did not let
her get off the stage.
Later that night we started to go back home. This was in the middle of the
summer. The moon and the stars were clearly visible in the sky above us. We
left in two wagons with the clothes. In one wagon there was the teacher
Joshua Isaac Kauffman who had the part of Pietka in the play and in the other
of, course, Batya and I. the wagon had hay in it was hardly moving. It was a
cold night. We pressed close to each other to keep warm. At dawn we arrived
back home very tired but happy. Batya and I decided on our next rendezvous.
Since then, our encounters began to be more and more frequent. The official
gathering of the Youth movement in the meeting hall was now less frequent,
but our youth group still kept together. Our meetings from time to time were
about a project to build a Hachshara (preparation) Kibbutz. [At that time,
the youth groups would build a replica of a Kibbutz in the forests. The young
people would go to live there for long periods to practice agricultural and
communal living. They could go to Israel and live in a real Kibbutz only if
they were done with their Hachshara.]
In 1931, we were told that we would have a meeting of all the Kens (nests-
units of the youth movement) near Grodno. We started making preparations and
collecting money for the train trip
This was the first meeting for the establishment of the
Kibbutz Bago. The name Bago is an abbreviation for the three bodies that
established it, Godnovich, Grodno and Warshava (Warsaw). The distance between
them was great and on the way we passed by the town Lida where we had friends
from the same group. Some of them we knew from summer camps in which we took
part. This meeting took part of the leadership of the whole movement in
Poland. This was a meeting of acquaintance and the beginning of a social
crystallization for a Kibbutz that was about to be established. We decided on
locality where we would establish a place for preparation in the hope of a
future of going to a kibbutz in Israel. We decided on places and dates for
each one of the groups. The date for our group from Vishnevo was January,
1933. Within our group it was decided that I and Isaac Zusman would have to
do the preparation.
The situation in our house was strenuous. My mother was sick with cancer and
for the last year had been bedridden. My father was also ailing for the past
few months. My elder sister Shoshana was in charge of the house as well as
taking care of my sick father. Along with taking care of the house there was
a cow that supplied us the milk to use for making dairy products for the
family consumption and to sell to others. My other sister was a clerk in a
bank and she helped the family with additional income. I found temporary work
here and there and my earnings were used as financial assistance for the
family. My sister Taiga who was very beautiful. Sadly, she fell in love with
a young man who was not suited for her. He caused her terrible trouble. In
the end, they did get married. My father, who was already very very sick,
still managed to be at the wedding. He died a few months later. At home they
expected me to stay to say Kaddish, as was usual, but it was decided at the
youth movement that I had to go to preparations. This was my wish also. I
decided to say goodbye and to respect my youth movement commitments.
It was the end of December, the winter was
coming, it was a particularly cold that year. Many of my friends gathered in
our Ken (nest) to say their good-byes and I was very excited. A stage of my
life was ending and a new one was beginning. I did not know what was waiting
for me. It was dark. The electricity in our nest did not work. The wind was
whining and whistling as if it was telling me to get away from here fast. My
friends gave me a little booklet with notes that they wrote regarding my
travels. Everybody wished me good luck in my endeavor as I was one of the
firsts to embark upon it amongst my contemporaries. Unnoticed by me, Batya
came near me and our looks crossed as if by chance. She softly said to me,
"What will happen with us? You are going and I am staying here! I am very sad
to stay in Vishnevo." The truth is that I did not have any answer for her. We
stood there quietly for a few minutes until the friends around us caused us
to retreat. Is it really over? I felt that something was storming within me.
The wind outside became stronger and stronger and the first snow began to
fall down and cover the black soil. The treetops were shining like crystals.
The wagon driver came to check if we would take a cart or a sleigh. With the
weather outside, we decided to take a sleigh. After a short time the wagoner
returned with a sleigh. We put a closet full of clothes and personal
belongings in it. We separated from everybody with the blessings to be strong
and courageous and everybody went to his home.
Batya stayed, she wanted to converse with me, and both
of us left the room of the meeting place. Outside the wind stopped blowing
however the snow kept falling and everything around us was white. We stood on
the soft snow that was rapidly coming down. Our steps left a mark in the snow
as if it was a sign saying that we are together forever. We were quiet and we
did not know how to start the conversation. Batya broke the silence by
saying," Shimon, what will be? You are going to preparations and there you
will meet new friends and start a new life. I am staying in the town, in the
gray everyday life. When will we see each other?". We continued our journey
not noticing that we left town. The lined trees were covered with snow. No
one else was around. Only the moon and the stars were witnesses. As if just
by chance, Batya caught me by my hand and kissed me on my cheek. I returned a
warm kiss. The tension dissipated a little bit and we return home. We parted
by her house. I went back to my house.
The members of our nest who stayed in Vishnevo saw no chances to emigrate to
Israel. In the years 1935 and 1936, when I would come home for vacation, I
found that the youngsters were different than they were in my time. The most
were hardly involved. The Chalutz [the youth movement of the leftist parties]
had already dispersed and only a small number of the members, boys and girls,
kept on having any type of activity. Also there was a small group of young
men who had just finished school. At that time, the house of Joseph Menchem
Rabinowich, the father of Joshua and Chaina was used as the meeting place.
That is where we would gather and have discussions and let out our
frustrations and everything that was kept inside would come out in those
arguments. I was thinking a lot about the future of those young people, after
most of them became discouraged. It seemed that most of them had given up the
hope and the idea to emigrate and no longer saw that as a goal. I couldn't
understand it. I couldn't grasp it. What had happened here? Who is to blame?
It was clear that the gates were closed and that this is what happened and
caused the distance. Although they stayed Zionists, they looked for a basis
in a different place. There was a part of the young people who stayed
faithful to the dream, went to preparations and were about to emigrate in any
way they could. I was one of them and this was my hope. I wanted to emigrate.
Before I could fall asleep the knocking of the wagoner woke me up and he
said, "Shimon, wake up. We have to go." Outside, dawn had not yet come up. It
was dark. We could see only snow. It was sparkling. My friend Isaac Zusman
was already seated in the sleigh wrapped in a coat. I sunk into the straw,
and so we went on our journey. The distance to the city Novogudok, the place
of our preparation was about 60 kilometers. That day there was a snow storm
that covered the field with a white fur. The horse hardly made his way and he
had a hard time finding the road. From time to time we went down and helped
him. When darkness came, we saw houses on the horizon. That was a sign that
we were approaching a place of residence. Truly, in the evening we arrived at
the house where the Kibbutz was residing. The man came to the door with a
question, "Are you coming for preparation?". We answered, "Yes". We entered a
narrow dark room that was lit by a candle. We were tired and were happy that
we had arrived. We could hardly sit because of the tools that were piled
there. The young man was surprised that we knew that we needed axes and saws.
Truly, those tools were very much in demand. It was explained to us what we
were supposed to do, what were our tasks. We were hungry and tired, It was
difficult for them to find a few pieces of bread and some water for us. The
wagoner and the horse rested for a little bit and then they returned home.
The hour was late and we were absolutely tired and wretched. We began to
prepare for sleep. There were no beds yet. We took off a door, we put some
things on it we brought from home and we went into a deep sleep.
In the morning we drank a watery cup of coffee with saccharine in it. We put
the saw on our waist, the axe on our shoulder and we went out for the first
working day in our preparation. To chop and to saw wood for one of the hotels
in Novogrudok. It was a cold winter day in January, 1933. with two members I
arrived to our designated workplace. When we arrived, the owner of the house,
a lady was in shock. In front of her eyes were two young men and a young girl
who were asking to chop and saw wood. The truth was that the owner of the
house was a pretty, tall woman of about 40. She showed us the wood in the
barn and we started working. The men chopped the wood and the girl brought it
in and arranged it. I am not going to give all the details of the
difficulties of the beginning of our work in the wind and cold of the Polish
winter. Especially the difficulties that the young woman had. Who paid
attention to the difficulties when you knew that the target was important
enough in order to do everything and that made all the difficulties easier.
The time passed fast without looking at the clock.
The owner of the house, the pretty lady, showed up in the yard. In her mouth,
she had an invitation. Jewish children, in this cold you are working outside.
Please come in. The woman said please come into the house, have a cup of tea
and warm yourselves up a little bit. We thanked her for her kindness and we
told her that we had tea in our own food. We, the zealous people for work,
for any price, are not going to stop the work. We sat in the barn. We drank
from the bottle of cold tea and we shared the pieces of bread that we had. We
were in a hurry to go back to work in order to finish the amount of work that
we gave ourselves. We took off our coats and sweaters and continued as if it
were summer outside. At the end of the day we finished sawing and chopping 10
square meters of wood and to arrange them in lines in the barn with great
expertise so the piles would not fall apart. The first working day was
finished with great satisfaction. We brought the first money to by food for
our little family.
After a few days, more friends, both boys and girls arrived at our room. The
room became very narrow from keeping all of them. There were about twenty
young women and men. The local people of the nest took care of us to get an
apartment, beds and mattresses, and working places, especially sawing and
chopping wood in the houses of the parents of the nest members. I need to
mention especially Hillel Baruch who was our "father". He took care of
bringing us flour, potatoes and to get us working places. With a lot of
devotion, he took care of all our needs. Hillel had a brother, may he rest in
peace, in a Kibbutz in Israel. We were accepted in the city and many young
people came to visit us at the place of preparation. The Kibbutz had a wide
range of cultural activities. I brought a mandolin from home and my friend
learned with my help to learn to play it at the end of the day and into the
night. That is how our lives went in the preparation.
Weeks became months. Novogrudnok was one of the places. There were other
places in other towns. Because of the need to centralize all the groups in
one place, it was decided that the city of Slonim would be the central place
of all of the groups. We received the message that we were to pack up all of
our stuff and we were to go to Slonim. This was in the spring of 1934. At
that time I received a letter from my sister Shoshana, she got a certificate
to go to Israel and she ask that I should come to say goodbye. I returned to
Vishnevo after half a year of stay in the Kibbutz. Our house was now divided.
In the back, lived my brother Aryeh with his family, his wife Batya and his
three children, one daughter and two sons. In the other half, the front one,
lived my sister Taibe who married Isaac, a photographer. She worked in the
bank as a clerk. After Shoshana left for Eretz Israel, they all hoped to soon
I returned to Novogrudnok. We made preparations to move to the centralization
place in Slonim. Kibbutz Massad, that was the new name of our Kibbutz.
In Slonim, we met some old friends and the meeting was very exciting.
This was a fresh centralization of working forces and a reinforcement of our
social and cultural force.The nest in Novogrudnok and all those who helped us
there in the life of our company. Many members found there at working places
something that helped in the finance of our Kibbutz. I worked in a factory
that made shoes with rubber soles. I would be done at late nighttime, and on
the way back I was supposed to go through neighborhoods that had hoodlums and
prostitutes and even through an old graveyard. Sometimes on the way, my heart
would start pounding east from fear and only when I reached home I would
breathe easier. I wanted to mention the members of the nest of Novogradnik
who joined as members of our Kibbutz in Slonim and also others who are not
alive (he gives list of names)
We arrived in Slonim. A city where most of the inhabitants were Jewish.
Slonim was a very clean city. Forests around it with a brook that ran through
the middle of town. One side was used for a promenade and the other one was
used for bathing. The thick forests were used as substance for the many
sawmills that were in the city. Most of them were owned by Jewish people. The
workers were non-Jewish people from the areas around it. It was difficult to
get work in those sawmillls and we had battles with the Jewish owners who did
not let us be employed in these very tough jobs. Eventually we were able to
get in. The gentile workers struggle with us, and tried to get us to fail.
However, we had a lot of ambition to do the job right and to make a living.
The merchants did not give credit to the Kibbutz. Even bread we could not buy
on credit. Therefore, we had to pay back all the debts to those merchants.
Nevertheless, after a short time we overcame all the economical difficulties
and we paid back all of our debts. The apartment where we lived was too
small. We moved to a bigger apartment by the railroad station. One room was
given to the young men and the other to the young women. We put in new bunk
beds. We slept two in one bed and sometimes three. We bought a milking cow
and we used its products for our sustenance. We formed a format for our
social and cultural activities. Every meeting of the Kibbutz would be opened
with singing before the discussion of any subject that came to the table.
Our Kibbutz Massad was formed by the unity of youngsters that came from towns
in two areas, Vilnavich and Grodno and of "graduates" from Warsaw. The name
began as Bago, but our people came from the towns active in the formation of
our Kibbutz and we did not feel any inferiority to any of the people who came
from other towns or from the capital of Warsaw. As time passed, the
differences were absolutely gone and there was no reason to complain about
it. My mate for sleeping was a boy from Grodno. We slept on the top of the
bunk bed and sometimes we were so wild that we would fall to the bottom part.
He worked in one of the most tedious jobs in the sawmill. The manager was a
tough Jew and he would employ only non-Jewish people, but we were able to get
in and to even get in a few girls. I succeeded in getting a job with a
painter who also put up wallpaper.
One bright day, I received a letter from my sister Taibe and in it was a
request for me to come home fast because she was sick. When I got home, I was
happy to meet Batya. I told her about life in the Kibbutz. The meetings
between us became more and more intimate. She decided that she was going out
with me to preparation. Both of us waited for that moment. In the weeks that
I stayed at home the connection between us became stronger. On every occasion
we had we would meet. Love was blooming. We set a date for us to go out
together to preparation. She did not say anything to her family members. Her
younger sister finished her studies. The work at home that was until then on
Batya's shoulders was supposed to go to her sister. The father was against it
with all his heart and he did not want his daughter to go out to preparation.
We could not keep it a secret that the care of the house would be shifted to
her sister. The last week the father found out about his shrewd daughter.
Another obstacle was the brother who came back from Israel to the town
because of the bad conditions that existed in Israel at the time of the
immigration there. The brother was the hardest "anti-Israel" and he was
absolutely against his sister going to preparation and making emigration to
Israel. The day of leaving arrived. Batya prepared clothes and things that
she needed and she put all of them at a friend's house (The friendt is my
daughter's mother-in-law now.) The next day at early in the morning hour, we
left. We arrived in Slonim in the evening. After the meal, we arranged places
for sleeping. Batya went to the room for the girls and I went back to my old
The next morning we did not go to work. Ie got up early and I entered the
girl's room. Most of them were gone to work. Batya was lying there and
crying silently. I asked her why she was crying. Batya grabbed me by both of
my hands. We hugged. She started crying even harder. The separation from her
home was very tough on her and the fact that she had to leave everything to
her sister. I tried to calm her down. Slowly she calmed down, got dressed and
we went to eat in the mess hall. This was our first day in the Kibbutz in
Slonim. Afterward we ate, then we took a stroll around the Kibbutz in Slonim.
After our friends came back from work, they placed us on the list of workers
for the next day. Batya worked with some of the girls in the sawmill in
cleaning the remnants of the wood from the saws. The work was not easy. After
a day of hard work she would lie down to rest. After a few weeks, Batya
became used to working. She was well liked by the members of the Kibbutz. Six
months she did not receive letters from home, her father's heart finally
softened and she received the first letter from home--something that caused
another outburst of crying and guilt feelings. The relationship between Batya
and I grew stronger and when we were together without the others, we knew how
to give each other the utmost love.
After six months, the news about immigration came. The Kibbutz organization
[this is a leftist organization even to the left of the communists] announced
that the Kibbutz Massad was among the groups authorized for immigration. We
were supposed to make a list of the people who would go. After talking we
prepared a list of twenty-five members that would be going first. The leader
of the movement came and together with him we agreed on the list. I was
included in the list. Together with everybody else, I was happy that the time
had come to fulfill our wishes. All the members that made the list went home
to make the last arrangements and especially to collect money to pay for the
voyage. The Kibbutz decided on a common fund of money and I was supposed to
put in 500 Zlotys. The relationship between Batya and I was very intimate. We
kept it in a correct way and we kept abstinence, something that was very
common in the Kibbutzim in the preparation. The conditions did not let us
have full sexual relations and we had to overcome our wishes, knowing that
only in Israel would we be able to have a normal family life. There we would
have children and there we would make up for what was missing. The
conversations between us were always about the future--when we would arrive
in Israel and when we would begin to have a normal life. There were couples
that behaved in an exactly opposite way--a freer way, and were criticized by
the society around them, but we did not take an example from them.
The day came that I had to go home to make preparations for my immigration in
the future. Saying goodbye to Batya was very difficult, but the situation
made me say goodbye for a short time at least. In my home in Vishnevo I had
to help my sick sister. Her relationship with her husband was very tough and
I was supposed to be the go-between. In letters that arrived from the
commission of immigration it was announced that the immigration would begin
with the young men that were supposed to serve in the army and I was among
them. There are always those that were always more important and two or three
of them had already started on their way. Batya had stayed behind in the
Kibbutz preparation under the assumption that I would soon be in line also.
She got permission to go home for a visit. She was very happy but her family
was not. Again, we spent time together and met friends. Channa, a friend of
Batys's hosted us in her apartment. She had two rooms with a battery-operated
radio, which was the first radio in town. Batya did not invite me to her home
and I really missed it. I started planning how I would be able to visit her
in her home. "Shimonchik", as she called me, you should be patient and
everything would be alright." After a while I received an invitation to come
when it was convenient for me. Her father and her brother used to go around
to the villages to buy all sorts of merchandise. She, her younger sister who
resembled her and her stepmother were left in the house. One day when I
opened the door to her house they talked to me as "here is the bridegroom".
At first I was embarrassed, but Batya knew how to make me feel that I was her
boyfriend and my right was to feel as if I was in my own home. In time, I
became like a member of the family in her apartment. From Slonim we received
letters from the committee, and I was hoping that I would soon be on the list
I remember Batya's house and especially the dark and warm room. The entrance
to the room was dark. It was an opening without a door. Only a curtain
separated between that room and the rest of the rooms. The room did not have
any windows. Only four walls and two beds. I remember her eyes that were
black and sparkling like crystal. The warm cheeks, pink and hot. We were hand
and hand as we entered the darkened room. Outside it was cold. Everything was
covered with bluish white and very pleasant to the eyes. In the darkened room
you could feel her warmth. Hand was pressing hand. Electricity went through
all every part of my body. I start patting delicately the hot pink face. In
the dark room the lips come together and are stuck together and cannot let
go. The heat is going around in the room. As if by chance I am touching her
breasts and as if by a magnet my hands are drawn to the soft and pleasant
places. The shirt is opened and the feeling is as of a baby that already has
had sharp teeth but his thoughts(?) are not clear enough The mouth is opened
and a pleasant scream comes out, "ouch, it hurts". After all, she doesn't
want to give up this pleasant pleasure. Instinctively the nipples give in and
the baby is looking for what he has lost in the hot room. We go outside and
the eyes are blurred, the mind is not working, the thoughts are going with no
purpose, the feet are caving and the heart is very wide with happiness and
the face is beaming with happiness. We open the door and go down the stairs
with wild laughter. We are holding hands. It is cold outside, but it doesn't
have any influence. Hand in hand is sticking together, we walk, we slide, we
talk. The night outside is gorgeous, the moon, the stars and the snow is
shining like crystal. We enter a boulevard of cedars and from there the road
continues to the train station that very soon will separate the two
inseparable. However, who was thinking about it at this very pleasant time.
We are talking about this and that. In our happiness and rascals, we are
sliding and falling into the soft snow. The lips come together and there is
no word uttered or heard. We hear only the whistle from above the tree that
makes us jump. We get up, we clear the snow and we return together on the
same path. The moon comes in between the clouds, the land is covered with a
white fur. The walking becomes heavy and I am going beside her to help her
walk. She bursts out laughing, "Not have this, I have to walk" and she sticks
her hand in me and with safe steps we continue forward to the house from
whence we left, and behind the cedars the secrets are left. That is how we
departed that night as I was walking her home.
I am walking to my home It is quiet. It is silent around. There are no men.
The shutters are closed. Here and there you can see some faint light behind
the houses. I enter my home quietly. The soft bed is all white. I put on
pajamas and I fall into the cold pleasant bed, but a feeling of heat goes
through my body. An inner heat. The cat jumps and climbs up and lies down by
my feet. Slowly, slowly, I give in to the dreams. One thought is entering my
mind and is not giving me any rest,--if it is truly that our dream is to be
fulfilled, the dream we have dreamt together.
Through the window the sun starts coming up, the winter sun. It is difficult
to get out of the warm bed when you don't have a certain aim that is pushing
you to get up. A feeling of uselessness holds me--sort of an "I don't care"
thinking. What do I have to get up for. I remember the pleasant evening that
passed for us last night. Truly the road is long and hard but we need to hope
that there will be a continuation and that our beloved hope will come true
which is to emigrate to the land to give new life and the basis that we were
raised upon in the preparation. It is difficult to fight with that bitter
presence and sort of a heavy fog is covering the sky. Even worse, even the
members of the preparation know how to calculate and how to relate in a
correct way, in a equal and objective way to each one of the members without
taking into consideration subjective fights. And also the waiting for the
immigration is long and when it comes the number of people who are getting
the certificates is very limited something that makes you be careful with
every one of the certificates.
Batya's father used to greet me with a smile on his face. More that once I
was invited to lunch or dinner. Most of the time I refused. I was able to
save more than 500 Zlotys that I needed for my immigration. I took care of my
passport. I waited for the announcement of the immigration committee but no
announcement arrived. The friends who were in line behind me were already
starting to immigrate but my name was not mentioned at all.
Batya's father used to greet me with a smile on his face. More that once I
was invited to lunch or dinner. Most of the time I refused. I was able to
save more than 500 Zlotys that I needed for my immigration. I took care of my
passport. I waited for the announcement of the immigration committee but no
announcement arrived. The friends who were in line behind me were already
starting to immigrate but my name was not mentioned at all.
ONE OF THE SABBATHS
It was one of the regular shabbats in town. The parents are returning from
synagogue. They finished feeding the children and they lie down to rest.
Sleeping on Saturday is a pleasure. The young people are looking for a place
to have fun. My friends and I decided to visit the German cemetery from World
War I at a distance of 5 or 6 kilometers. It was a hot summer day. The very
beautifully kept area, lines and lines of gravestones from World War I, among
them also gravestones with Stars of David. Silence is all over the area and
brings you part of sadness. I remember my father's brother-in-law who died in
that war. His body disappeared. We waited a little bit and we started
returning home. When we arrived at Batya's house, she invited me to come in,
drink something and rest and then you will go on. I entered. In the dark room
her brother was asleep and snoring. Batya entered her room and took off her
clothes and she was naked as the day she was born. It was very hot. "Why
aren't you entering my room?", she asked from the other side of the wall. Her
bed was covered with a sheet and she rolled up the sheet in front of my eyes
and what did I see? She is lying there completely naked. inviting me to join
her. "Shimon", she said, "look at me. How do I look? See anything wrong with
my body? Maybe you will regret it?" I was shaking. Seeing her body from top
to bottom and mumbling, "you are pure, you are pure for me. I do not find
any blemish in you." As a continuation of this situation there was hugging
and kissing. In this exciting moment you have to contain yourself. In the
other room her brother is lying down. Is he still sleeping? There is no limit
to love. That is how one of the sabbaths passed for us. I returned home very
satisfied with a hope to see her in the evening.
A MEETING BY CHANCE
I am walking in the street. Outside it is cool. It is very pleasant to walk.
Pure snowflakes are falling down and are gathering in a thick layer. The
whiteness of the shiny snow makes your vision hard. At a distance in front of
me I see an image approaching with noble steps. The dress, the short coat
that she is wearing that I am so familiar with. Hair gathered in a pony tail,
shiny eyes and an arresting smile. Both of us hurry up to one another and the
sudden meeting is very pleasant to us. We stop, we hold hands and together we
change the direction of our walk to a long stroll, a very pleasant and long
stroll. The subject of our conversation as always is when we are going to
fulfill our aim and our common dream will be fulfilled. This was in the month
that I was waiting every day for the announcement of my immigration and Batya
came for a visit so we could be together and say goodbye until we could be
together in Israel.
Weeks passed and months passed but every week I received letters that include
names of friends that are about to emigrate. Every day I am surprised anew
that my name does not appear on the lists. I read together with Batya and I
ask myself every time anew, "why isn't my name appearing?". I was among the
first ones to arrive at the preparation. We were very innocent and could not
imagine a situation of deprivation in our very just society of the Kibbutz.
How am I going to react? This is certainly a depravation. All the bad words
that I know I decided to use against the secretary of the Kibbutz in Israel
that decided on my fate. Both of us, Batya and I returned to the preparation,
where I demanded restitution from the authority of the Kibbutz as to why my
name was not appearing on the list of the people who were about to emigrate.
I received a list of answers. Most of my friends were up in arms and they
demanded an answer. Everything was concealed and not clear. It was decided I
was to go to Warsaw to the Secretary of our Kibbutz in order to check for
the reason for this very sad happening.
In the cold and the snow I am hitchhiking and I arrived in Warsaw. The
secretary, to my dismay, I also got from him an evasive answer and my
explanations did not change anything. I returned to the preparation in Slonim
without a satisfactory answer. After a few weeks I received a letter from my
sister together with a draft to the Polish army. The same day a very close
friend also received a call from the army. The secretary sent it right away
to Warsaw and from there without saying anything he went to Israel. I went to
the Polish army and I served faithfully my homeland Poland. This was to be
but was for me from the Kibbutz preparation. Afterwards it was clarified to
me that a group of informers slandered me and told about me some bad things.
Maybe from being jealous and maybe for other reasons. I was left with my
passport that I prepared and with a receipt for the money that I gave without
anything being done in order to expedite my emigration.
I took into confidence a few of the members of the Kibbutz and I told them
about the theme of unrest that was done to me. I simply said that I was
cheated. There was a feeling of uprising from some of the members, but what
could they do after all? Everything was done in secrecy and without any
conference and without saying anything about what was hiding behind it. There
were rumors floating about distorted things that were told about me from
Israel without having the chance to check to see if there was any bit of
truth in them. In all that even though I was so devoted with all my heart and
with all my soul to the Kibbutz and I worked the hardest jobs that there
were. My conclusion afterwards was that in life you ought not to rely on only
a few people to make the decisions. Batya and I returned home in a very bad
mood. I waited for the date for the beginning of my service in the Polish
Here started a tragic story for me and for pretty Batya, the very capable and
devoted. The road now was closed for the fulfillment of our common dream. To
immigrate to our birthplace and to get away from the anti-Semitic Poland that
did not leave any place for the members of our movement. The meetings between
me and Batya became very complicated because of her parents being against it.
Her father told her very clearly that she could not keep on meeting with me.
Shimon will be going out to the army and you have no chances that you can
marry him. We want to arrange a marriage for you with a young man who is well
to do financially. He is a merchant. You will be able to live with him and
"have a life where you will have everything and nothing will be lacking".
There was even an arrangement to have the meeting about the marriage at the
house of Batya's older sister who was the owner of a shoe store. This
gradually was tempered by Batya's opposition. "I have a man and I will take
care of myself", said Batya. I will not come to any meeting. The immediate
reaction was a prohibition from her father to meet with me. Batya told me
with a bitter heart about the happenings in her home and about the pressure
from her family she was under. With tears in her eyes, she told me, "no
pressure will persuade me, we will continue to meet in various places and
nothing will help them".
Batya had a very big family. She had a brother that left Judaism and came
back from Israel. He pressured Batya to stop to think about emigrating to
Israel. He himself came back from there because of the bad economical
situation and the difficulties of life as a pioneer there. But it was
difficult to change Batya's conscience and character. However, also steel can
be broken. One evening in a conversation with Batya, I felt the changes in
her feelings. She told me of a new situation that evolved forces her to take
into consideration her father's condition. He is not going to make it and is
going to have a heart attack if she does not get in touch with the young man
they were talking about. The next day in a secret meeting she explained her
situation and asked of me forgiveness and said that what was between us would
Then came the moment of truth. There was a knock at the door. "Who is there?"
The door was opened and the mailman gave me sort of a little letter. "What
could it be?" I was eager to get letters. I opened the envelope and a note
fell from it on the floor. On the note there were only a few words. A few
words that cut my destiny. "You are supposed to show up at a certain date at
a certain place at a certain time". My dream has broken. I took the note that
cut my throat and I turned toward the house of my friend. Every knock on the
door was a knock on my heart. I heard Batya's soft voice. The door was
opened. In lengthy steps I walked in. My face showed probably what happened.
Not as usual I kissed her. She probably felt it. She noticed it. "What
happened Shimoncik?" she said. I handed her the note. Without saying a word,
we knew that this note was the one that would dictate the rest of our lives
and our common goals. With a hot kiss she returned me. "Shimon it will be
good. Nobody is going to separate us". I got the courage and I answered,
"Yes, but it is talking about two years. Won't changes take place in such a
long time? Who knows?".
The days that were left for the two of us were dearer that gold. We learned
how to maximize the time and to have fun with each other. We could not
satisfy ourselves. The day of drafting came. The night before the drafting
was for us like a nightmare. Both of us lie down without moving. Only the big
burning eyes said everything. "What will be, Shimon?", she asks. I could not
answer her. How could I know in such a situation how things would turn. We
departed without knowing what was awaiting us. At home everything was already
ready, the box, it was as a suitcase strapped with the necessary things. I
said goodbye to my small family that was left after the death of the parents.
I left the house. Outside, snow started coming down and everything was
covered in white. Food could not cure me and the cover of darkness wrapped me
on my way. When I arrived at the train I met some new friends that in the
next two years would be my friends in the army.
Early in the morning, when the shepherd blows the horn that he himself made
from the bark of trees. Without notes, he blows the horn in order to wake up
the people that went out to milk the cows before they go out to pasture, and
I am still in an old dream. Actors spending the night until late hours to get
up in order to make my living. I jump out of the warm bed, a bit lost. I run
fast to meet with my partners that are leaving on the road. The distance
about 5 to 6 kilometers. At night it had rained and it was still cloudy
outside. From the trees drops of water are coming down. In the sun the drops
of water are shining like drops of silver. We are hurrying up in order to get
to work. We are passing in villages. The farmers haven't awakened yet. It is
quiet around and only dogs are barking. In one house the shutters are kept
shut with locks. This village is called "the village with the locks" We enter
the town Valdo. The village was established by a German. His name was
Salinsky. Lines of caravans in white, light inside dark outside the railroad.
We are marching on a dirt road and every time we hit stones that make our
walk difficult. From the side we hear the voice of running water from a brook
nearby. We enter the forest and with difficulty we find the camp. It is quiet
around only birds are jumping and chirping and they are telling the rest of
the inhabitants of the forest that it is time to get up. Suddenly a squirrel
is coming through and thinking, "what are these people doing here so early?
Can they still see?". We are approaching our war place. The railroad is
taking us to a big hangar. There are standing huge machines that cut pieces
of wood that arrive from the forest. The machines are sawing boards. Every
amount has a different size, The trains are passing the boards around the
country and that is how workers and clerks are being kept at work.
This base is called Little America. This was in the twenties and thirties.
The German who started this sawmill gave work to hundreds of clerks that
lived in small houses. By chance in our house lived two clerks. Their job was
to pay the workers. The money would arrive in full sacks. In the house there
was a special arrangement. There was a special window and through it the
workers would receive their salary. The workers had to wait outside and if
there was a strong wind, the money would fly away and afterwards we would
find money in the rain or in the wintertime in the snow. The sawmill gave
income to hundreds of families, the town was flourishing. After a period the
forest was tens of kilometers away from the town and the German and the
clerks left. Instead of him arrived a few Jews who bought the rest of the
trees. In the meantime, I went out and I found a partner and I would go out
with him every day and make my living. I wanted to mention this special place
that is not mentioned in the book of our town. I wanted to immortalize this
place that was my place of work, and gave income to all the people of the
town. We were told that a part of a letter that was sent from Israel had to
do with my immigrating in the year 1936. On the back was another subject. It
seems that in the story of Shimon and the keeping of his immigration from the
suspicion and so forth, in the last meeting he was not taken in account in
line and his letter is kept until now unsolved. He returned a long time ago
from the army and until now we have not received from him any news and here
this minute in an unusual way, he turned to us as a member of the Kibbutz
with a request to be in touch with him in the letters of the Kibbutz and
immigration. Here we are in a bind and we do not know how to solve it. If we
are going to keep away from our mind all of the former story that is still
unclear, there is coming to him by judgement first place in immigration. But
on the other side until now it has not been proven yet the truthfulness or
the untruthfulness of the suspicion that someone in Israel brought up.
It is not clear and what therefore are we supposed to do? Give us a solution.
Give us advice. You brought us up to here. If tomorrow there is a suspicion
to bring a man the trust in him is already not full. On the other hand it is
possible that we have sinned a sin that we cannot atone for. That we have
made his life miserable when he has not done any bad thing. Now we are going
to add another sin to what we have sinned already by giving in. We decided
therefore to get in touch with you to piece together and according to this we
will decide. Answer us please right away. Also because in this matter we
cannot in the meantime we cannot answer Shimon, not bad, not good, and it
hurts us and it will hurt him as a man. Now let us finish in the meantime and
we will ask you to answer us immediately to write about everything and to
answer about the immediate real questions that we have turned to you.
This letter was found by me in 1983 and it verified the story that was put on
me and slandered me and because of it my fate was cut.
PURIFICATION OF THINGS (AT THE REQUEST OF THE DIDI AILI)
In the protocol of a discussion of the Kibbutz from the date 28 November 1936
under lot number 4:
Questions of which is written. David is reading the letter from the
immigration committee. He was bringing up for discussion about the
immigration of members. We have to take into consideration that we will
accept two or three places. He suggests that we have a queue without taking
into consideration questions about family and so forth.
We need to set the first ones and the question about the army is not present.
He suggests to have a list of four and not to enter into this a list of
Urodich [he does not say who this is]. The list is
1.Morkal, 2.Zeev 3.Hershel.
Shimon is to be taken out of the list because he wrote the secretary in the
place of working in Israel because he doesn't think to enter the Kibbutz.
Shimon is to be taken out of the list because he wrote the secretary in the
place of working in Israel because he doesn't think to enter the Kibbutz.
It was decided to leave the list as it was. Outside that Shimon was to be
taken from the list and there is an underlining to show that Morkal is to be
first in line. We explain then to Shimon P. (Podbereski) that their word was
then the center of the Kibbutz and the words were from the regular connection
with the committee of immigration in Poland.
When we had chosen every candidate to immigration, we scrutinize every one
very well. Because of the very few places that we have, while talking to the
mandate government [the British Mandate ruled the country and every
certificate was considered a very important certificate given by the British
Mandate in order to bring people from the Diaspora into Palestine].
Shimon P. asked in those days after his service part of the protocol to add a
note to the protocol and that is what we did. The note said: "I had a chance
to see in the archives things from 50 years ago and the words were terribly
distorted. I was a candidate for immigration with about 25 members of the
first group at Massad and my immigration was rejected because someone hinted
that I was not thinking of immigrating to Israel and to live on a Kibbutz.
The fact that I remained in the Kibbutz until this day proves that this was a
slander and a dirty story that someone wrote. I am surprised how a Kibbutz
authority in the preparation believed it, because they knew what the fate of
a member was whose immigration was bestowed in those days."
[Now the man from the archives adds to the protocol]: It seems to us that
this subject was closed and we are surprised that it has risen now anew. We
are repeating again David's word that were said in 1936 and they were said
with innocence and without any dirty meaning according to the instructions of
the immigration committee in Poland as it was done in those days. The letter
of the immigration committee did not arrive at the archives. In any way it
seems to us that we should go back to words of 50 years ago that were said
under different conditions and different reasons. In the name of the
archives, Shimon Mensky.
The Central Committee from Poland [a committee that collected money for
settlement in Israel]
Warsaw, 11 Shevat 5739
31 January 1939
Sir, a member, Shimon Podbereski, Visnevo
We heard from member J. Olansky about your nice action and your great help to
the institute [the money collected for the committee] in your town. We are
thanking you from the bottom of our hearts dear member and we are sending you
our thanks and our deepest appreciation of your deed. At this opportunity we
are allowing ourselves to ask you to try to get the rest of the announcements
that were not gotten for different reasons at the time of the fund-raiser. We
are sure that you will make an effort to bring the fundraiser to a very
successful end and we are looking forward to your announcements. We are the
signing here with a lot of honor and the blessing of Zion.
[The next letter is from Shimon's nephew, the son of his brother Isaac, Meer
who was in first grade]:
To Shimon, my dear Vishnever
31 May 1939
I am healthy and I am riding the bicycles of our Isaac, but he is hollering
because he is afraid I will break them. I think that when I grow up I will
buy myself a bicycle. Goodbye to everybody to the uncle Isaac and the aunt
[illegible]. Meir Podbereski.
When I was in the army the letters from Batya almost stopped according to her
request. At home, there are people watching me so that will be no connection
between us, she announced to me. In conversations with friends in the army, I
learned that some of them were going to the United States. I wrote a letter
to my uncle in the United States and asked him to send me a ticket to the
United States because I had lost all chance to immigrate to Israel.
The first year was difficult. It was difficult to change and to exchange the
years of my preparation in the Kibbutz into the society of a different
regime. I remember that I passed it relatively well. Firstly, I was the only
Jew and the treatment to me from my commanders was good. I served in cannons,
105 mm and my understanding of it was good. It has given to me honorable
treatment both from the commanders and from the soldiers. The first year I
was in the city of Liba and after my training, they put me in the place where
the central command of the unit was. I was there as a banker. The month
before Rosh Hashona, we were on maneuvers along the Lithuanian border. The
distance was about 100 kilometers from our regular place.
We stayed in the forest for about a month and our cannons were moved by
horses. It happened that one horse was sick and we had to take him to the
veterinary hospital in order to treat him. The road took us through my town
by my house in Vishnevo. They did not give me a time of return. I was
supposed to take the horse to make him well and to come back. This was a very
tough job, but a Jew finds a way and knows how to get along in life. They
gave me the right papers. I left on foot without food.
As I was passing through towns, and while I was passing by a synagogue, Jews
came by and saw that this is a Jewish soldier riding a horse carrying a rifle
and they said "where is the soldier going?" Secrets of the army you do not
give away and I asked the directions to my town and I got an explanation The
town was about 10-11 kilometers and I am continuing past forests and paths
and villages. The darkness came down and I needed to eat and to feed the
horse and to let him rest. It was late at night. The horse took me and I did
not see houses or lights and I got the suspicion that I wandered on the road,
but after a few steps I saw a dark house, probably asleep and I stopped the
horse. I got off the horse and I knocked on the door. A voice was heard,
"who's there" and the door was opened. As the view of the soldier with rifle
and a horse appeared he got scared and he let me in. I asked for food for me
and for the horse.
I rested a little bit and I continued on the paths in the adjacent forest in
the direction of my house. I passed the bridge over the river Berezina that
is mentioned in World War I. I looked tired and weathered and when I arrived
at my house, I was accepted with happiness and gayness and the next morning
all the inhabitants of the town came to see me and the horse. For a week I
rested in the house and afterwards I continued to my barracks. I showed up
before my commander and that is how my job ended.
The train moved. I was tired but I couldn't fall asleep because of so many
thoughts. I woke up only when we arrived at the station of our destination.
The passengers huddled together in order to disembark from the train. I
followed them slowly from behind.
The day of discharge had arrived. I wore my civilian clothes. This was for me
a happy day and also a sad day. I did not have any end in front of me and I
did not know how to calculate my steps. What to do? I did not have a job. The
connection of the letters from my friend was cut. I was then 24 years old and
I did not know what would be my way in the future.
After the break in the relations between Batya and I, I sat down peacefully
with my friend who was also her friend Channa. This was only for passing the
time and I did not know what was foreseen for me in the future. Channa's
parents had a store. They had a son and a daughter. The son was married and
Channa was left the only one at home. Channa was short, sympathetic, smart
and sharp and she knew how to take advantage of life according to the
possibilities like all of us only maybe a little bit more. After the break up
that I went through in my relationship with Batya, I took advantage of the
time and Channa was for me like the instead for having fun with the
differences in our outlooks for life. During one of the evenings, I sat and I
spoke to Channa. She stood and looked at me and she said, "Shimon, what a
smooth face you have".
Suddenly the door opened and who entered but Batya with the pretext that she
wanted to buy something. She joined us. We spent a short time together until
the time came for each of us to go to his home. I very innocently being
mild-mannered left to go with Batya. As we passed by her house, suddenly she
turned to me. "Shimon, let's walk around a little bit." Outside it was winter
moonless night everything was covered with soft white snow. The street was
dark with no light. To my eyes it was lit as if daylight. This time I was not
leading, she was. We turned right on a small street that led to the river.
Above the river was a wooden bridge for the passage of people. The bridge was
covered with snow and the water in the river was frozen. This time of year
the cart with horses passed over the water that was very shallow and in the
winter time they passed above the snow. We crossed the bridge carefully. Not
too far from the river there was the farm of one of the Polish men. I
remembered that here I brought the cow for copulation. Now the cow was laid
everyone was asleep and from afar we heard only dogs barking. We are walking
with no aim while the moon is looking at us from above.
We are walking not close like once but with a distance one to another. We
were thinking about the forced break on us after we were so close. So what
was the aim of the continuation? I in my special condition and with no hope
that the conditions will change and with no solution. We went away for a few
kilometers and we approached the flour mill. We are already too far away and
the time is late for Batya when she looked at her watch that I gave her once
as a present. "You are still keeping my watch and you did not get another
watch from your bridegroom?" I asked. I saw that my words insulted her. While
tears were streaming down her eyes. "This is my dearest present and I will
always keep it close in my heart" and she started running away from me, while
jumping over heaps of snow. I couldn't reach her. I heard her steps in the
snow and in my heart was a sense of disappointment. Shameful, I returned home
and my eyes did not close that night.
When I got up the next morning, after a sleepless night, I still did not get
what had happened to me the night before. The sun was shining and a faint
light penetrated the house. It was already 10 o'clock in the morning. The
noises of farmers that were arriving at work came from afar and I do not have
anything to do. I am working in the house doing easy jobs and waiting and
waiting for the mail. Maybe I will get an announcement from afar, perhaps
from Israel and perhaps from America where my relatives lived.
I went outside and from afar I saw the postman approach me. He came to me
about a piece of mail that was for me. He gave me a big envelope and he asked
me to sign that there was a large amount of money inside the envelope. In the
envelope was money and instructions what I had to do to get a visa for a trip
to the United States. There was also a letter from my brother in America,
which said that my uncle would like to adopt me as his son and he would take
care of me for everything. My uncle was rich and he was the one that bought
for me the ticket and made the connections with the shipping company. This
gave me a new spirit and a lot of hope for the future. I started making
arrangements and taking care of getting my visa. My mood became much better.
The rumors about my going to the United States got to Batya and her family.
Batya had a brother in America and that changed the reaction of the family to
Something happened that changed the order of events. I received a post card
from the immigration committee of the Kibbutz that I was included in the
queue and that I would be able to immigrate in the illegal immigration by an
uncertain date. This announcement confused me totally. On the one hand, I had
the opportunity to go to the United States and all of a sudden this
opportunity falls on me in order to fulfill my dream the dream that we dreamt
Batya and I to build our lives in Israel. Now it was possible to fulfill this
dream. On the other hand how can I lie to my uncle in the United States who
gave me the opportunity to immigrate?
After consultation with my family we decided to announce to my uncle in the
United States that now I had the opportunity to emigrate to the Holy Land
according to his way of thinking and I am thanking him for his contribution.
After a short time I received the agreement of the uncle that I could use the
money that he sent me to cover my traveling costs and that I should return
the ticket to him. I went to Warsaw in order to take care of the formal
business. I had to take out a certificate that I was not supposed to join the
army because in that year in February 1939, part of my unit in which I served
was already called up and sent to Stettin.
The departure from Batya was difficult. "You are my friend and it is coming
to me that you will give me a few minutes before departure", and with tears
coming down her eyes, she asked only one thing--to keep a connection of
letters from the road and from Israel. We departed with hugging and kissing
while tears were choking both of us. After I returned from Warsaw, my
conscience bothered me. After all, what would be Batya's future? Together we
dreamt for years to fulfill our common aim.
One day before my immigration, my friends gave me a farewell party for me and
for my friend Zimmel. The next morning at 8 o'clock, I got on a bus on the
way to Vilna after I said goodbye to my neighbors and my acquaintances while
my family was accompanying me to the train station. Batya also arrived, and
while she was pleading with me to write to her immediately on my arrival in
Israel. The whistle of the engine was heard and the train moved.
Here everything is already behind me only the waving of the hands from afar
to say goodbye. Who could fathom that this would be a departure, a farewell
FAREWELL FROM THE TOWN, THE SHTETL
This day has arrived. I remember how I said goodbye, I and Zimmel, on Sunday
the first of April, 1939, in the morning from our families, from our dear
male and female friends with whom we were bonded for years in our youth
dreams. While we were sitting on a bench in the train station in Bogdonava,
my sister said to me, "Shimonke, I hope that when you emigrate to Israel you
will pave the way for us. Who could fathom or think, who could bring to his
mind such a tragic end? Who could have foreseen the holocaust that came upon
us after two or three years? Even as Hitler's shadow has already been cast on
our skies. With a trembling heart, I am writing here a memorial to the
members of my dear family. My dear brother Leibe, his wife--his pretty and
smart wife Batya, their elder daughter Itale, and their sons, the children,
Isaac Meer, and Nathan. Dear children, how I loved them. My sister Teibe
always happy and talented with a pretty voice, her husband Isaac and last but
not least Fruma Batya, my friend the dream of our lives for many years was to
build our lives in Israel. From her, I was only left with yellow letters.
Life is running and the years are passing. I have made a family for myself in
the Kibbutz. Now, I am already a grandfather. Just as the wagon used to go to
the brook on Vilna Gas [Vilna Street] and the voice of the wooden wheels that
would make its noise around and as it departed and went away, the voice would
dissipate and be gone as if nothing had been there. That is how the memories
of the past.
I was fortunate to be among the builders and the erectors in the Kibbutz
Eilon in the Western Galilee.
VISHNEVO, MY SHTETL, MY TOWN
Vishnevo, my shtetl, my beloved. That is where I grew up and that is where I
was beloved. I loved you, your views, your rivers, and your forests. Your
green fields in the summer and the whiteness of the snow in the winter. Not
all that belonged to us, the Jews, but the best years of my young lives I
spent in you. We created something from nothing, without electricity, without
running water or pipes. After all we were brought up to be cultural people
with a broad view of the world and the ability to be acquainted with and get
used to the world around us. Until my last day whether I am awake or asleep,
you are standing in front of my eyes. I loved in the town family members that
I will never see again. They are lying scattered, who knows where--who knows
where their bones are? The elders and the young children that I loved so. My
friends and my beloved with whom we dreamed to build our lives in the land of
Israel--all of that never came true. Taibe, my dear sister, and Ariya, Leibe,
my brothers and their dear families, I left you with never a thought that I
would never see you again. When I see now the pictures, I remember again my
origins. I thank you for the privilege to see a little of the world that was
left. Thank you very much, Shimon.
A poem written by Shimon Podbereski:
My home where I grew up
I will remember the house with a song and a cheer
I will remember the house with sorrow and with song
I will remember the house where I spent my years and the dreams that we dreamt
I will remember how we spent together with my sisters, my brother, and the
I will remember how I said goodbye to each and everyone--this one to the east
and that one to the west to the other sides of the ends of the world.
Everyone looked for his way and his hope to better himself
I will remember how in the house boyfriends and girlfriends would gather and
argue about different ideas, from HaShomer Hatzair, Hachalutz, and others
and the parents were sitting and listening with a smile of love they
received with pleasure.
I will remember how we accompanied the parents on their last way and how we
were left the few and lonely
I will remember the house I left and I said goodbye to and I never knew I
would never see again because the hand of Satan annihilated them.
EN ROUTE TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL
About 800 people left Warsaw on a train to Romania. We embarked a boat with
the aim to emigrate to Israel illegally. I was one of 400 people who sailed
on the ship Atlanta, a merchant ship for carrying been. On another ship the
Colorado, 800 other illegal immigrants sailed [those who went, usually on
rickety boats to Palestine during the British administration of Palestine].
Together with me on the ship were members of other Kibbutz.
At the beginning of our sailing, the sea was quiet and pleasant. After a few
days the sea became stormy. When the water reached the deck I felt badly.
There was little food. We were already 5 or 6 days on the sea without seeing
any land. On the sixth day they announced to us that we were about to get to
our destination. The happy time has arrived. They divided us into groups and
at night we were supposed to disembark to the beach. Every group received a
task to do during the disembarkment. Suddenly we see a strong light and the
captain started running. We heard a few shots that were aimed at us. A
British ship came closer to our ship and its sailors jumped and got on our
deck. They jumped on us and started beating us. A few of them took the wheel
and we didn't know where they were going to take us. We returned to our
places. Early in the morning we saw from afar Mount Carmel and we arrived at
the port of Haifa. We were tired and exhausted after such a long voyage.
The whole day we waited and in the evening they took us off the ship. We were
taken to a detention camp where the British soldiers were guarding us.
Afterwards we were let go from the camp after a week. There was in our honor
a reception. Zimmel and I travelled to a friend in a nearby town. They
received us with great happiness and the excitement was great. We planned to
visit our relatives in Israel, I had a sister and a brother and I was
supposed to get a permit from the British authorities in order to move from
one city to the other. This is how it was done at the time of the British
Mandate. My sister was very excited and after spending a few days with her, I
wrote letters to my family and to my friend according to her request when we
I received Batya's answer with a lot of excitement. In her letter changed
drastically our relations for the better. According to her letter she stood
adamantly against her parents demand that she would marry according to their
wish. We started to search for a way to expedite her immigration to Israel. I
failed in this matter, but notwithstanding it I was hoping that things would
get arranged and Batya would succeed in immigrating. Since my immigrating in
the month of March in 1939, until September the same year things had changed.
World War II started and the connection between us was cut off.
After my immigration to Israel, even before I received from her a letter,
Batya announced to her father that she had decided to emigrate and nothing
would help her family because that was her aim. Batya was waiting for an
answer from me. At that time she started meeting with my sister to
reconciliate and naturally my sister would receive her in a nice way. After a
few months the war broke out, the Russians invaded our town and everything
changed. The whole dream went up in smoke. At the same time a friend of ours
arrived from Vilna. He was the secretary of the seminar for teachers and he
told a few of our friends that in Vilna our friends were concentrating on the
chance of immigration to Israel. Batya and a few other of her friends started
on the road to Vilna, about 100 kilometers, Here a happened a misfortune.
Batya became sick, she had high fever and she returned home. Her letter I
received after a month in which she wrote that she was very weak and with
this the connection was cut off.
At the time the Russians invaded they arranged for her to work at a distance
of 6 kilometers from the town in a lumber yard just as she worked when she
was at the preparation camp. Everyday she used to return home. When the
Germans invaded, the Russians pulled back and some of the Jews went away with
the Russians and another part ran away to the forest. Most of them stayed in
town. Batya continued to work in the same place.
The Germans concentrated the Jews on our street and the overcrowding in our
house was unbearable. On the 22nd day of October of 1942, the Germans decided
to annihilate all the Jews. Naturally the non-Jews waited for this day and
concentrated all of them on the empty lot. Batya went to work as usual. At
work she heard from the non-Jews that this was the day they were going to
annihilate all the Jews. When she heard that she started running home and the
farmers told her not to go because that day they were carrying out the
annihilation. But Batya could not not return to her family that was there and
went there to be with all her family.
A German officer approached her and said to her, "Come with me. I will save
you." and wanted to take her with him but she would not let him and slapped
him in the face and she was shot on the spot. This is the story that was told
to me by survivors that arrived after the war and that is how the tragedy
with Batya my girlfriend ended. With me stayed only pictures and yellowing
THE TRAGEDY OF MY FAMILY
At home stayed the brother Ariyeh, the daughter Itale, the son Isaac Meer and
Nathan, the sister Taibe Yonah and her husband Isaac. They did not have any
children. When I immigrated to Israel, after a while, fruit trees were
planted and bee hives were arranged and after a year we already started to
get honey. In letters I received they expressed their hope to emigrate to the
land of Israel.
To my sorrow the Germans succeeded in annihilating them first. At home we had
a dog by the name of Hitler. When the Germans got in, the non-Jews told on us
and they told them about the dog. The Germans took out Isaac, the husband of
my sister, and with horrible torture they killed him. For the rest of the
family the end was just like all of the other Jews. They were shot. At the
end of the street some of them are buried and on their graves they put a
LETTERS FROM BATYA
26 June 1939
Shimon, Shalom love to you Shimon,[This is a common greeting in Hebrew]
I received your letter for which I have waited so long. However, thank you
even if being late. You cannot even imagine with what kind of impatience I
read your letter. About everything and about your actual traveling, it was
truly very very difficult journey. Nevertheless, mainly everything has
passed alright. This time I will not write all my thoughts in my letter.
First, I am writing Air-Mail so I will not have enough room to write a lot.
Secondly, you don't want me to nag you or say things you are not interested
in. Dear Shimon I feel what you meant when you wrote, but you can understand
that it didn't make such a good impression on me. If my asking about you is
for you a headache, therefore do as you feel, do it, but if not, then I would
like to tell you about myself a little bit. At the same time that you left
Vishnevo. I will not tell you everything now because I feel a little bit of
coolness in your love, although you did show interest in me. The most
important thing Shimon is that I feel now that I miss you very very much. I
decided with all the pain to cut off. In addition, fate wanted that it would
be the fastest. Right after you left, two days later, when I washed my
undergarments, a visitor, an unwanted visitor came. A young man who was part
of a marriage arrangement. You cannot even imagine what a scandal I made at
home. the evening that he was there at home, with eyes full of tears, I sat
at a table. Naturally father made a scandal the next day when I told him that
even if he will not say that nothing will happen - I will tell him nothing
will happen between the two of us. This happened two days after you left and
I said that I wanted to emigrate to Palestine. I tell you Shimon, that since
that time I am suffering a lot at home. You cannot even imagine, but you
must see there is no other choice. I have decided to emigrate. a much based
decision. Now Shimon the most important thing is that I would love to
immigrate and even in the fastest way because it difficult for me just
sitting here at present, without any rectitude for it. Even though from all
sides, the road looks difficult and very liable. Shimon, you are giving me
advice to write to the people at the Kibbutz. Firstly, I do not know the
address, secondly, I feel that you should speak to the people of the Kibbutz
privately and ask them if they will enter me into the Kibbutz. Shimon, I
don't feel right trying the Kibbutz at the same time as I was quiet all the
time. However, if I do have to write them, after all, please write me right
away and I will write. Maybe to write to the organization of the Kibbutzim.
Maybe you should take Zimmel's advice. The main thing is that you should
answer me right away that I will know clearly what I should do. Also, write
me the details of the road. Tell me, how was your trip? Did it affect you
badly? After all, to travel under such conditions. The most important thing
Shimon, it is pity now really that I am nagging you, but I think that no
matter what, you are my good friend and it seems to me that I am your good
friend. The important thing is that you write to me about yourself, and what
you think to do. Did you go to your brother? How is he doing, and in general
about everything, and how is everybody? Now Shimon write me how to arrange
things, shall I come on a little boat....
19 July 1939
Shimonchik, Shalom love to you.
I received your letter, although I was not very punctual, for your letter I
waited even longer. I think it is not our fault but it is the airmail's
fault, because we do not know which day to mail it to receive the letter
faster. Now that I already know, right away after receiving your letter I
answer you. Your letter was on the way about 8 to 9 days, I am hoping that
the second letter I will receive faster. Shimon, Mama will not talk about
young men that you have emphasized in your letter to me. Now I am not
thinking about any other person and I am asking you that you will finish all
that altogether. If the conversation is what we want, we will be able to talk
about it after all. Moreover, maybe we will erase all of it. Because for me
it is too painful. For you now I am not sure. What it is about me? I have not
done anything about my emigration. I thought you might know something
already. I will not blame you, if not, because you are busy after all....
Yesterday I wrote a letter but I could not send it because I did not have any
free time. Today I was in Volozhin and I bought myself summer shoes. It was
wonderful. I rode on the bicycle. I feel now a little bit tired. Therefore, I
need to go to sleep. Stay in peace. Your friend who is waiting for an
immediate answer and actual and fast. Understand, I am closing the letter
now. It is late at night. Regards to everybody, especially to Zimmel. How is
he doing? Regards from Channa, Write to me which day you receive my letter.
It is interesting to know; how long does a letter take?
From Batya to Shimon EILON, MY HOME
By chance we named you Eilon. At the beginning you were named [arabic name
now used in Hebrew also meaning "winds of the house or village or place"] and
that is how this name was written on letters I received in the diaspora for a
long period of time. When I was in the diaspora I knew only that name for the
place. When I arrived at the place it truly looked like a ruins but there was
a lot of vegetation and almost nothing could go through it. When we went up
to the area and we just started to tickle you, with a hoe and a shovel, we
discovered that the roots were very deep and there was an abundance of rocks
and as we uncovered even more we discovered that there was a brown soft soil.
It was very pleasant to hold in your hands. That gave us the strength and the
satisfaction to work you and the will to dig and to connect more and more
with you for a good and a fundamental future.
This land was a gift. The field with the ruins stayed as it was. The name
changed to Eilon because many trees which are oaks were found in the area in
their natural habitat. [the name Eilon means Oak]. Therefore we started
slowly to get use to it and to feel the smell of the soil and to be absorbed
in the new surroundings, even though we were used to a different view full of
water and endless forest. And so day after day we went out with bread, half
an egg and a tomato with a hoe and a shovel on the shoulder and the hot days
and the hard work. We did not feel tired and we were stuck to this holy work
to clean and to work meter after meter of soil. After nine hours of work in
the terrible heat we retruned running for the afternoon meal, to drink a cup
of tea, to eat a piece of bread, a little bit of jam mixed with water. In the
morning, when we heard the bell, we got up fast and we went down again to the
holy work--to caress you and to rid you of those deep roots in order to
prepare you for planting. And so, day after day, we saw how the good land
that was good for planting was revealing itself in front of our eyes and that
gave us a lot of satisfaction to continue with our aim to base our lives
Years passed and we were privileged to see you, Eilon, in your flourishing
and in your beauty and this is enough for us. Friends are asking me through
all these years."You haven't written, right?" My years were dedicated to work
and creation. I don't think for a minute that I have wasted my time. I
dedicated my life to creating new life in my homeland. I took a big part in
the life of the Kibbutz--in the common life of creation and building. Only
now do I see and feel the Kibbutz's beauty, Kibbutz Eilon. As we walk, Bela
and I, we pass sidewalks, on each side of the boulevards, green and well
taken care of. There is the first scent that comes from the log that has just
been cut. Here is my part in creating those pieces of soil that years ago was
soil that I built terraces in.
Perhaps there are some people that still remember that that was where I
worked and how I held rocks in my hands, but for me it was creation. Because
you had to fit every rock in its correct place. That gave me satisfaction
that I could see the end of each line, straight or half-round according to
the geographical area. For many months, and maybe even years I sanctified to
this work and now I and my wife, when we go for a walk, and I see everything
built, everything taken care of, it gives me the will to live and to enjoy.
When we sit across from the pool and remember the day when we poured the
concrete and we worked until 1 o'clock in the morning in smoothing it until
we finished and after a few days we filled it with water. Here in the pool I
am ready to learn how to swim. In the place where I grew up there were many
rivers and a lot of water and I did not know how to swim and here in Eilon I
will learn how to swim and that is how it was. After a few weeks, I started
to work on swimming. I remember how a friend, may he rest in peace, would
teach me and he succeeded. I swam and I dove in the sea for long distances
without being afraid and with a lot of courage. Bela would wait for me to
In the first mess hall I was in charge of digging. It was not simple to dig.
We did not have a compressor. We were forced to dig and chisel with our hands
and chisels and this was not simple. I brought a group of Jewish diggers,
Kurds, we called them. The leader was one strong healthy Jew and he took care
of the work. They slept in tents. It took two months before we finished part
of the job. In the meantime, we started building and developing and this is
continuing to this day.
In my life I was involved in creating different jobs. It gave me a lot of
satisfaction to see Eilon growing. I remember that when I was in charge of
the yard of the Kibbutz and the storage area. In those days the only storage
place was made of tin and stood in front of the blacksmith's workshop. This
is where we used to get our supplies for the cows, for the kitchen crew and
for the horses barn. These were sacks of sorghum with a red stripe on them.
Every sack of sorghum weighed between 100 and 120 kilograms. We were supposed
to take them off of the truck and into the shed and to arrange them in lines
on top of steps that went up. We could take it.We had strength because we
knew that they are not hiring anybody for work. Nobody would do anything for
us. That is how we did created. That is how we built Eilon, that today is
our pearl. Here in the soil are lying friends that gave their lives to the
creation of Eilon, to the creation of new life for the children for the
grandchildren and for future generations. Take care of Eilon--of the house
that it willl not go over to foreign hands. We worked hard, we put everything
from our sweat into it. Maybe I will write in the future, if I will be lucky
enough, about the development of Eilon.
There was a period of time that we did not have any roads and we would bring
the supplies from the main road up to the house in carts that would be
harnessed to horses that could hardly carry it all the way to the shed.
For now this will be enough. I will just mention the known poem.
I will tell you, the girl
and I will also tell you, the boy
how Eilon was redeemed, acre after acre.
In the North are lying our holy ones
without skullcaps on the head
Those that took part in the building of our homeland
In building our home.
Remember them forever.
IN THE BOSOM OF THE FAMILY
To my dear wife Bela:
To my dear and devoted wife, that a common fate has taught us to live
together, and to create together a wide and nice family which is the
happiness and the riches and the satisfaction that we have enjoyed together.
I mentioned many years ago in the preparation in the Kibbutz in Slonim when
we were young, you were a young girl, delicate, red head. We didn't know then
that our fate would tie us together. You had a nice boy friend dedicated and
serious. By chance, he was also my partner, a partner that slept together
with me in bed. He was always late to get to bed. I also had a girl friend of
my own. Time passed. Our paths parted and you made immigration to Israel.
Your boy friend stayed behind in the Kibbutz in Slonim and I was drafted into
the Polish army.
You went to Israel and I and your boy friend stayed in Poland. Before World
War II broke out, I succeeded to make immigration to Israel before the war
broke out. To be absorbed and to become friends with those that already had a
chance to go before me. It worked nicely and I joined the fruitful life of
the Kibbutz. I left and said goodbye to my girl friend, my beloved and her
request was that I would make an effort and bring her to Israel and that we
would be able to fulfill our common goal, to create a family and to live
together. But reality did not allow it. The war broke out. We stayed apart. I
did not know what the day would bring. Within a short time everything turned
upside down and all our hopes were shattered. All my thoughts were only what
happened abroad with my family and with my girl friend Batya. Will our common
dream come true? The echoes that came from Poland were tragic and difficult
to believe, but in time all the rumors became true without being able to
accept or understand the vastness of the horror.
Work here on the Kibbutz continued and developed in every piece of land which
we cultivated and on which we planted trees and in every building that we
built started to get a shape of a permanent settlement and that gave me a lot
of satisfaction and made it easier on my thoughts about what happened abroad.
Only during the night terrible thoughts would come into my mind. I couldn't
share them with anyone. I struggled with the questions who would be my
devoted partner with whom I could share my thoughts and share the struggle
and the suffering in which I found myself. It wasn't easy to find a suitable
girl friend. You had a big and respectable family that would visit you from
time to time. To tell the truth, I was envious of you. I liked them. You do a
lot to consult your family. You were meeting there with friend or friends and
I was not sure if I could be the one that would disturb your parents. After
all, my attempt was successful. We build a life and grand family. I was
accepted in your family and we are living in happiness and in peace until
From me, Shimon.
[The next chapter was written by Bela Podbereski and she is writing the
story of her life. Another chapter afterwards was written by another person
in the Kibbutz and then we go back to Shimon's writing]
[Now the second chapter that was not written by Shimon. It was written by a
woman by the name of Mira Bar-on from Rosh Hanikra, another Kibbutz not far
from Eilon. This is the next chapter]
DEDICATED TO SHIMON FOR HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY
I was 12 when I first visited Kibbutz Eilon and it seems like only yesterday.
Everything seems like a dream that came true. The rocks and stones that were
put away from their place and were put in sheets like shiny waves. The houses
that are being built. Uncle on a galloping mare who is coming from the wadi.
The aunt who is wearing white and is hugging a baby of a few weeks in her
bosom. Young people, handsome and full of enthusiasm. The kibbutz seemed to
me them as the most real thing in Israel that was being built and I was full
of pride that my aunt and uncle belonged to that enterprise that I adored.
The uncle I met when he used to come to us to Jerusalem, young and fresh and
straight from Poland. The young brother of Birdie (?). On the day that the
young and handsome uncle was arriving, we would right away take out a chair
to our balcony. We knew that he liked to sit on the balcony and to look into
the yard. We did not have wonderful views like in his Kibbutz, but he
probably had the interest to look from our balcony to the yard and to see how
life was being conducted in a typical Jerusalemite yard.
There was an oven [an arabic oven that is made of clay that is built outside
in an open area. You make the Pita bread and put it flat on top of it.] There
were also shiny utensils that were brought out to dry and the children are
playing. We could look up to the second floor across from us and see the
colorful rugs that were taken out to air. The day that our uncle would come
to Jerusalem was a holiday. The balcony would be cleaned. The rabbit and the
turtles that lived there would be put in a cage and the chair was prepared
and I would look at his pretty face. Always when he would come he would tell
stories and we knew of his plans to live in a Kibbutz. We also knew that he
left Poland before the gates were closed completely. But we were not aware of
what happened truly in the war and what would happen later when the Germans
would take over half the world and would make plans for genocide.
Everything that happened afterwards in Israel, the war against the British,
the war of independence, going out to preparation did not prevent me from
visiting from time to time the Kibbutz in the Gallilee. It was at this time
that I fell in love with the view of the Gallilee and of the sea to which
beach I drove on my way to Kibbutz Eilon. Every visit to the Kibbutz was a
holiday. Always, my aunt and uncle looked young, full of energy and full of
life as I remember them from my first visit. I remember that I was afraid to
leave at night to go to the little houses that were used in the Kibbutz as
bathrooms and uncle would accompany me. I would check every corner of every
building and the Kibbutz in my eyes was part of me. When the children came my
experiences were riches. Both the houses and the children were presented to
me with a lot of pride. On my visit to their children's houses I loved to
sing to them. We were all a family of people that loved singing.
The uncle on the horse, the uncle the yard man, the uncle the builder, and
what else--always the uncle with a bright smile and a shining face receiving
us, and if there were problems, of course there were problems, but we did not
know about them. A perfect host and the guests don't have to know about the
problems. With every visit we saw how the Kibbutz was developing and growing
and how the family was growing. Every visit in Eilon until this day is a
pleasant experience. A visit to a beloved family. An we hope that this
exciting experience will be our share in life for many many years to come.
Mira Bar-on from Rosh Hanikra
[The next chapter is written again by Shimon]
IN MEMORY OF MY DEAR BROTHER
I would like to commemorate the memory of my dear brother and to commemerate
my wife's family that lived in a town in Poland with longings and aspirations
for a homeland of its own. The home was always Zionist. There were arguments
and discussions about Zionism that took place among the older brothers and
sisters and their friends. The house was always full of people, mostly in the
evenings, on Saturdays and on holidays. And I, the youngest of them all,
would listen to the conversations that were conducted with a lot of energy
and sometime with very high tones. This was a house that many of its members
came to Israel but many were not fortunate enough to arrive and found their
deaths by Hitler's Nazis.
When my brother Chaim made the trip to Israel I was a boy of 11 or 12 years
old and I was still going to school. I remember that Chaim was the son that
helped father with the income for the family. Most of the work was done in
the summer. In the winter months, Chaim would lie down at night to read and
to write. And when he went to Israel he left behind notebooks with a lot of
written material about World War I from that area and a lot of material
written to teach us about those times. Chaim came to Israel in the years
1925-1926 years when there was a lack of work in Israel. Although he had a
profession, a builder, he tried to get into a Kibbutz but he did not succeed.
He went from one place to another and finally he settled in Jerusalem and for
many years he worked in building the buildings of Jerusalem stone. He was an
excellent worker and there was not always work available there and he would
roam around looking for work. According to the times that were in those days.
After a few years he built a family with his wife Rachel in Jerusalem. There
their children were born. Their home was open to many of their acquaintances
that would come to Jerusalem. Rachel was a good-hearted woman and she invited
all of them to eat and to sleep in their home. After the war of independence,
the family moved to Tel Aviv in order to be closer to their relatives in the
area of Tel Aviv. Thre they found their place. But their difficulties in
finding an income for the fmaily and the problems with work forced them to
once again move The situation improved afterwards and Chaim was happy that he
found his place.
One bright day they followed him together with all the other workers, by
then he was already over seventy years old, he was forced to come home and he
was left with no work. This thing drove its tines in him. He started to feel
bad and every year the situation deteriorated. He was complaining about
headaches and he became uninterested--as if nothing ever interested him any
more. That is how it continued for a few years until they arrived at the
Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra to live next to their daughter. Here in the Kibbutz in
his conversations with them he seemed to be very happy. But he did not enjoy
it very long time. Rachel became sick and she passed away. A year after her
death, Chaim's condition deteriorated from day to day. His illlness started
to bother him and he was complaining about pain. In the hospital they
couldn't help him a lot. When I saw him in the hospital on Thursday, I
understood that the end was approaching and we couldn't help. We stood
helpless. You suffered, my brother, you were dedicated to your wife and you
did not depart for a long time. I will remember you my dear brother from all
my brothers. May your memory be blessed.
Because of my illness I could not go to the cemetery with the whole family.
To the graveside of my dear sister-in-law Rachel and my dear brother Chaim.
It is difficult for me to express my feelings after what we have gone through
in the last few weeks. We have had many happy occasions both in my side of
the family and also on Miriam's side of the family and Bela's side of the
family. And within those happy occasions we have sadness about the fact that
you are not with us any more. I am sure that you would have been happy
together with us.
Dear Chaim, time is passing and going by and you are not with us. Very often
I remember you with all my heart. You were so devoted to us even though our
paths went different ways, both from the point of view of distance and from
the point of view of a different life style. But your home was always open,
always warm and dedicated for everyone who would come by. Sometimes I
calculate who is left from the vast family, from the brothers and the sisters
and everyone who was connected to the family. Departing is probably natural,
not everyone lives, but the two of you went so fast. That is why a heavy
feeling has remained.
I remember in your last days when I visited you, Chaim, and before I entered
the room I recognized your voice asking for water, water. I entered and I saw
you lying down half-asleep. Your eyes were closed, and I told you, "this is
Shimon, your brother" and I gave you water. You fell asleep and I did not
know if you recognized me. I tried to help you with something. I saw in front
of me this Chiam, always organized, always clean, lying on his deathbed and I
couldn't help you a lot. After a few minutes the sister arrived. We still had
a chance to take care of your feet. I stayed there a little while longer and
afterwards I went.
Even though I saw you in your severe condition, I did not imagine that this
would be my last visit with you. It is fortunate that you had the privilege
to be buried in the Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra near the family and after all, from
time to time, we can come and remember, because many of the members of our
family did not even get to this. May their memory be blessed.
[The next chapter was also not written by Shimon. It was again written by
his niece Mira Bar-on from Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, the daughter of his brother
Chaim and his sister-in-law Rachel Podberesky.]
IN MEMORY OF FATHER AND MOTHER CHAIM AND RACHEL PODBERESKI
Father had a wide wise-man forehead. A forehead that was once pure as crystal
and was tanned in the scorching sun of the land of Israel in the hard and
difficult building work. Father was supposed to be a student of Jewish
studies. When he was young, he liked to write and to put on paper his
thoughts. From Vishnevo in Lithuania he came to the land of Israel. Long
before the great fire of World War II annihilated the Polish Jewry. His
creative strength was eroded by the difficult jobs he was compelled to do in
Israel to which he arrived, but he did it with love in order to have a roof
and a piece of bread for the family he built. A lot beyond that did not exist
in those days.
Father never complained. He accepted life as it was. He accepted that which
life gave him. Truthfulness and honesty were like a candle that was lit at
his feet all his life. Father and Mother both worked very hard. They took
care of the children. Not I and not my brother Ephraim, may he rest in peace,
ever heard a word about difficulty or regret. I always remember the bright
smile that awaited us when we returned freezing from school. We would warm up
by a kerosene heater that was lit for us and the hands of the father were
stretched out to warm our hands. The winter days in Jerusalem were especially
cold. Periodically it also snowed. The games in the snow that we played froze
the children and it was good to return to the small warm home even though it
was very poor.
Poverty then was not a shame. Most of the families had difficulty making ends
meet and they were forced to bring the piece of bread with very hard work. We
were satisfied with the little we had and were not even aware of the poverty.
We were proud to belong to a youth movement and our hearts were full of love
that our parents bestowed on us. The dedication and the love that I received
in our home is accompanying me to this day and it is a source of strength for
me in many difficult moments.
Thank you to my parents for what they were.
Mira Bar-on from Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra
[Next is the last chapter and once again Shimon is writing.]
Lucky and happy I am that I have arrived to this point. That I could have
brought up even a tiny bit of my memories from my past and from all my wide
family and to create a new generation that will be a continuation for the
coming generations.So many memories come up in my head, full of satisfaction
but also memories that it is difficult to fathom.
When I was 13, I had my bar mitzvah. We had a party for me and for my brother
Ariyeh who was about to get married to a girl from the town of Oshmiend. It
was on a Saturday as it was done in the towns in those days. I was in the
shul and I went up to the podium to read my Haftorah. After the prayers, the
guests came and they blessed us. They blessed me and my brother.
The parents were very happy and at home the happiness was full. I finished my
studies at school and they sent me to study in Vilna a big city where the
possibility of further study were greater. There were relatives there and I
lived with them. They were observant and they kept the Jewish laws. The
teacher from school was observant. That probably is where my anti-religion
feelings were created. I did not like it and I ran home.
I opened the door of my house and I found everybody asleep. Can you imagine
how my parents received me? Afterwards, I stayed home. Mom became sick with
cancer and she suffered very much. The house changed. Everything stopped. I
went out to work with father. When I used to return the house was already
different. My friends did not let me be swept away to a bad mood. A friend of
my sister's helped us a lot. This kept the house and kept a good feeling and
mood as if everything were all right.
But inside the mood was very difficult. Mother was lying in bed and was
suffering terrible pain. In order to ease her pain they used to inject her
with morphine injections and at night when pain would attack her, I would run
to call the doctor. He lived outside the town. In any weather I called him.
In the winter, in the freeze, in the snow. By the time I would arrive there,
I was breathless. The doctor was ready for every call. I knocked on the door
and we would go on the road. I helped him to carry his bag with his
paraphenalia. After the shot Mom would fall asleep and that made it easier on
her. The night somehow passed. Mom suffered over two years until her time
arrived and she got rid of the suffering. My sister Shoshana took care of her
all the time. and all of the burden was on her shoulders. I helped her as
much as I could. I matured before my time. I also had to help father in his
work. After a few years, I went out to preparation.
My sister Shoshana went to Israel in the year of 1934 and the family fell
apart. Shoshana had a family and she lived in Rehovot. Her economical
situation was not good.. Her husband was sick very often. They had a fish
store from which they made a living. From time to time I would help them to
sell fish in the store. One had to clean and to cut each fish into portions
and sometimes to make deliveries to the homes of the ladies. That is how the
I was involved in the lives of my family. From time to time I would take
some time off from the Kibbutz in order to help. My sister Shoshana had a
hard life. She worked very hard to get a piece of bread and to educate her
daughter Miriam and her sick husband. The years passed, Shoshana and her
husband got sick and passed away. They died in a matter of a few weeks
between the two of them. Both of them died of severe diseases. Here I am
bringing up their eternal memory.
End of Shimon Podbereski's book.
[He does not sign his last name the same way all the time. I would like to
wish Shimon and Bela many years of health for them and for their family.]