Return to Menu

Jews who lived in predominantly gentile hamlets neighboring Volozhin

By M.Porat (edited by Eilat Gordin Levitan)

Jewish peasants lived in the midst of gentiles in several hamlets and estates near Volozhin. The Yizkor Book describes some of them: Zabrezhe on page 382, Mizheyki, Goroditshtshe, Koniushtshina and Dubin on page 385, Belokorets on page 317, Youzefpol on page 386.

Jewish families labored in the fields and farmed in those locations for many years.

I remember two such families who lived all isolated from the Jewish community; Berman who resided and was employed by the rail station in Horod'k and Mrs Matke, her husband and their handsome son who dwelled in Rudnik.

I must record a few words from my own recollections of Matke and the Jewish farm in Rudnik, as it was not mentioned in the Yizkor book. Matke with her family lived in out-of-the-way Rudnik, three Km from town. We used to go there by foot; we would pass near the graveyard and then by Bialik's Mount and most of the path
would go by the shore of the Volozhinka brook.

The family lived in a spacious house. They also owned a barn and a stable. Cows, geese, poultry and horses surrounded their house. Additionally the family possessed a vast meadow and a small pine grove.

The entire student body that attended our school, guided by the teachers, would turn up in Rudnik's Grooves every spring for our traditional Lag-Baomer picnic by the bonfires. The Volozhin region's Zionist youth camps took place on Matke's Rudnik-meadow. I remember that on one occasion mother walked with my sister Sonitshka and I, for a visit with father's cousins; the beautiful Tsherne and Bloume Efron from the near by shtetl of Vishnievo. They camped in tents amongst many other young members of “HaShomer Hatzir” youth movement. They “took over” Matke’s green meadow in Rudnik.

During summer time the house would turn into a “holiday hostel”. Many of the Volozhin kids spent a few weeks in the inn. They came to breathe in some fresh air. They were sent there with their parent’s hopes that they would add a few healthy pounds, since they drank fresh milk right from the cows, and ate fresh eggs straight from the

The gentile peasants did not make any effort to spare their Jewish colleagues and neighbors’ life. Not even one of the Jews from the Volozhin vicinity hamlets survived the holocaust.

Mijeyki (hamlet)
Page 385
By Barukh Tsivony (Farberman) – Haifa

Eight families of Jewish peasants inhabited the small Mijeyki hamlet. They lived there for many generations earning their bread by toiling the land. Eight large estates owned by Polish nobles were located about 300 meters from the Jewish homes. The cultivated land belonged to the settlers, to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. The
Jews who lived there had various employments in addition farming.

The hamlet was situated on the crossroads amidst the environs settlements. Travelers who went from Volozhin to the shtetls of Rakov, Krasne and Horodok as well as ones who came from those places to Volozhin, used to stop in Mijeyki for a night rest. The hamlet's hostel belonged to Malka Kaminstein. Adjacent to the hostel stood a
spacious stable filled with horses. Mijeyki was tied to Volozhin with strong links. Not even a single shop existed in the hamlet. The inhabitants used to go in town to buy food and dressing. The relations were reciprocal. The hamlet supplied Volozhin with most of its milk, eggs and poultry for consumption. They specialized in raising
geese. It was sold to the Volozhin inhabitants, who used geese fat to fry latkes during Hanukah and to prepare Kneydlakh during Passover.

Among the hamlet's craftsmen was the well known tailor; Velvl Kaganovitsh. Velvel studied his profession in Odessa, where he met and married a midwife. She was quite “jobless” in Mijeyki. The place was not populated sufficiently to produce work for such a career.

Velvl used to sew cloths for the prominent people in the area: for the mayor, for district officials and for the affluent citizens of Volozhin. They ordered Velvl's products because he had "the golden hands"; dresses that were sewn by him were considered “masterpieces”. He has three daughters, all of them were sent to study in Vilna.
Their father spent all of his earning on the girls education. For some years he was deep in debt but the daughters attended the most excellent schools in the big city of Vilna and received the best education. He was the son of a very scholarly man. His father used to teach the hamlet children.

Another renowned artisan in Mijeyki was my father "Moyshe der Shouster" (Moyshe the Shoemaker). He reached the very advanced age of hundred and ten years! He did not ever have a sick day. He would work day and night and the word “rest” was foreign to him. He was also a scholar and was capable of leading public prayers. At
the age of eighty he lost his eyesight. Nevertheless even in blindness, he led the prayers. He knew all the prayers by heart.

Our home was small, however our father was firm in his wish to entertain guests. Many days’ poor people who came to the area, stayed with us. Father used to accommodate them by spreading straw bedding on the floor.

The principal concern of The Mijeyki Jews was their children's education. For this purpose they invited an excellent pedagogue, a Hebrew expert - the teacher Kaminstein from Bialistock. He married a Mijeyki native girl. All the hamlet children were taught Hebrew by him. The Kaminstein's were parents of four boys, all born in Mijeyki. As the boys grew up they abandoned their father's Zionist culture and were renowned in the area as devoted communists. Two of them left their natal hamlet to Russia on February 1917. The senior brother became known as a Red Army Commander during the Bolsheviks war against Poland in 1919. Some time in 1919 He came to Mijeyki with his unit, they were on their way to Warsaw. he spent some days with his father.

A Synagogue was built in the hamlet prior to World War One. The Russians destroyed it during the war, only the skeleton remained. The Synagogue was rebuilt in 1921 and became a respectable prayer house for Mijeyki inhabitants as well as for the surrounding rural community Jews.

Three Jewish families lived in Gorodishtshe, 2 Km. from our village. They used to come every Saturday to spend Sabbath and to pass the prayers in our synagogue.

In Koniushtshina village, 6 Km from Mijeyki three families settled, in Dubin only one Jew dwelled. He was a black smith. They used to sleep and pray in our hamlet during high holidays only.

During the brutal storm of the holocaust all those souls of the earth’s offspring were utterly eradicated. Not a soul survived.