My maiden name was Hanne Granader. My father was Noah and my mother’s name was Rifke. I had five brothers and four sisters, nine of us. [See also the “Nirtcha” subsection under “Villages Around David-Horodok.”]
…My uncle sent his children to school. One became a pharmacist. That son had a drug store in Selia (?) not far from my husband’s home town (Leeteh (?), in the Province of Volyn). He got married to a girl there and opened the drugstore. Another son was an accountant. They were a very nice family, but they were all killed in the Holocaust. One of his other children, a son, went to Cuba and another son went to Israel. We met the one from Cuba. He was good-looking, like a movie star. I never saw such a good-looking man in my life. And he married a woman he never met. His father arranged it; he sent his son a girl from Russia.
While we didn’t have a luxury house in David-Horodok, we had three bedrooms, a parlor, a dining room, and a kitchen. It was a comfortable house but the Rimers, my relatives, they had a much nicer house. They always had a maid and an anyah for the children, and a cook and also a woman that did all the heavy work. They lived across the river. There was only one house across the river and it was theirs. Of course, there was also a small house where the servants lived. I used to go there because one of the boys was my age and one of the girls was my sister’s girl friend. My sister’s girl friend was saved from the Nazis and went to Montreal and I used to correspond with her. Another Rimer sister went to Buenos Aires, South America where she was a doctor. And believe it or not, she didn’t have a car, so she traveled by bus to see the patients. And she went down from the bus and a car came along and killed her. They notified me what happened to her.
My oldest sister Hashke lived in Pinsk for a long time because my brother-in-law worked in the forest and they had a beautiful home there. She married into quite a wealthy family, not from David-Horodok, and they were in the lumber business like my father. And when I walked into their house I didn’t know where to look first. They had green carpeting in the living room and it was different. We had an ordinary home. We didn’t have carpets in the house. Our floor was painted a very pale mauve and around the sides was black. It was beautiful. Our wallpaper was a pretty design and in the corners was maroon matching the floor.
I knew Bessie Eisenberg’s sister Gnesha and her husband Motle. They were friends of my oldest sister. Motle was a broughker at home. That’s what they called him in Jewish. He marked trees for cutting. When my brother-in-law needed a man, Motle worked for them. My father also employed a broughker.
We were very comfortable. We lived on Greble Street. That was the nicest section of our town. Greble Street was the only street that was paved after I left. My husband saw it when he went back in 1932. The townspeople used to walk on it and look at the houses when they didn’t have anything else to do. The Greble Bridge was destroyed when the Poles retreated in 1920 and then fixed right away because it was the main attraction for the people. The Jews used to walk on it on Saturdays, and the same thing for the Russian people on Sundays. You know the Russian people got on very nicely with the Jews. In fact, in our house we had two nice benches for sitting, on the porch. On Sundays when the Russian people came from church, and they wanted to sit down, we never objected. My mother said, “Any time they want to come in to our porch, don’t ever say anything. If they want to sit down, let them sit down.”
The Greble Street in David-Horodok
The Greble Street in David-Horodok
Our gentile maid never had a problem with us being Jewish. She stayed with us during the summer. It wasn’t like here. Here when you go on vacation, you take the children. There you left the children at home. My father and mother went by themselves and we were left with the maid. My mother was afraid that she would mix up the dishes for milk and for meat. We kept kosher. So we always had a Jewish cook, who was a poor woman. She took care of our kitchen. I met her here in the States.
When I was a little girl we had a box, a pushke, and my mother told me every Friday before lighting the candles that we must put in money to help the people who cannot afford certain things. The box was blue. [Indicated she was collecting for Israel.] We accumulated the money, and I guess my mother sent the money out to the people. The only people that did buy land was the Jewish National Fund. They were the only ones that purchased land for Israel. The money was not for the poor people in David-Horodok. For them there was a different way they were helped, but I didn’t really know how. My father was a good friend of the doctor in the town. He played a card game with the doctor called preferance and he said, “Any time that I call you I want you to take care of it.” There was a typhus epidemic that time, so whenever someone needed help, my father called up and the doctor went and took care of it. Who paid for it, I don’t know--whether it was my father helped or it was service organizations.
The first group for the Jewish National Fund ('K. K. L.' acronym in Hebrew) in David-Horodok.
There was only one telephone in the town on the shore near our river where all the ships stopped. I don't think there were any others. I think if somebody would have had it, we would have had it too. And I know that we didn’t have. We had electric lights on at our house and in the street outside. David-Horodok had electric lights outdoors only on Greble Street. I don’t know about the rest of the houses, whether they had electric lights.
There were three churches--two were Russian Orthodox and one was Polish Catholic. The Polish was named the kosol [#12 on the map]. It was on a street that ran parallel to Olshoner Street but I don’t remember the name of the street. If it wasn’t Saturday I would call up my cousin because she lived on the same street. It was more in the Raditch area on the map. There was one Russian Orthodox church on the hill and one in the marketplace.
There were certain times when the women went to the bathhouse in town. The men went whenever they wanted but there were certain times for the women. The women went every month to the mikveh. My older sisters told me. They knew more about it because they were older.
There was a fire department. They used to practice, have fire drills. Once or twice I saw them. We were small children and we used to run after. To us it was a big deal. I know one of my brothers was a volunteer. There was a big drum with water in it on a wagon, and a big horse pulled it. It’s a story, seventy-two years back. The volunteers used to parade on the main street, on Greble Street, to show the homeowners that they are protected when they are in need. The homeowners are not alone; the people’s going to help them. But I don’t remember seeing any fires.
How often did we have theater?--very, very seldom. For entertainment, the young people went to the library and walked. And I had a number of friends I was really close to, but none of them survived. They were all killed in the Holocaust like my family.
At five years old I went into cheder and I was there until I was twelve years old. Bessie Eisenberg and her sister Sophie were two of my friends in that school. In Hebrew Sophie was Shoshana, in Yiddish would be Shoshka. We used to study together on many occasions. Bessie and Sophie were pretty good students. After I got though with Hebrew school, I went into Russian school, the Gymnasium, and I was there until I finished.
Rabbi Dovidl I remember from David-Horodok. He was very frum, very religious. In fact we met his son in Montreal. I went to cheder with one of his grandchildren. When he saw a woman going on one side of the street, he would go across and walk on the other side. And he always turned around when he saw something that wasn’t according to his wish. He was a very, very religious man. He’d sit in the room (at the besmedrish) and pray and learn the Gemara and Tanakh. He was a little man; so was his daughter. She had a little store next to their house. She didn’t have a husband; she earned the money to raise her family, two daughters that I remember. One daughter went to school with us. She was very bright but very poor. That’s something you don't have to be ashamed of. I remember my mother gave me something to take for myself and I always used to share with someone who didn’t have. I always felt sorry for the people who couldn’t do for themselves.
Bessie Eisenberg’s mother Razel worked very hard; she was the one that made the living. She used to fatten geese in the winter and sell them and the schmaltz (goose fat) and griven (crisp goose skin deep-fried in schmaltz). When I came into Bessie’s house it smelled so good all the time from the griven. Razel worked very hard. She was a big woman you know. Her husband David was little but she was a big woman. She must have been strong having so many children and the house was always so clean and nice. But she worked very hard. I think it was unusual for a woman to work that hard.
I graduated 1919 from the intermediate school in David-Horodok. I have the paper from the school; it’s framed. Then I went to Pinsk to study for two years.
My brother went for four years to a Komertcheska, which was a higher school than a Gymnasium. Most of the time men used to attend a school like that. It was more of a college. That was in Getukovitch (?). Then he went to Warsaw where he was going for a while. I don’t remember what he was studying. I came back to David-Horodok in 1921 and in 1922 my brother and I left for Argentina. We couldn’t go to the United States because of quotas. When he left for South America my brother was only 21, a young boy. He was supposed to go into the army.
We went to South America--Buenos Aires, Argentina. My brother and I to that point never worked a day in our lives. So it was very hard for us to get along there because we just came out of school. It was very hard for either one of us to think about work, and we couldn’t find work to suit us. So my father sent us money and supported us from David-Horodok, which belonged at that time to Poland. That’s the way we got along. He sent us money to live on.
But then my father discovered from a man that he did business with, his son and daughter-in-law were in Buenos Aires. The son was a doctor and the daughter-in-law was a mid-wife. My father’s friend wrote to his children, “Please help the children of my friend because they were never alone before and you could be some help to them.” So what the son did, he got me a job in the hospital he was associated with, and I worked there for a while. My brother too found a job. It wasn’t suitable but he made the best of it.
Then my brother who was already in the States, in Detroit, found out about us and he sent for us and we came here, at the beginning of 1924.
To get into the United States from South America you had to be in South America five years, but we were only one year there. So what we did, we found somebody that could do some good and we paid him money in order to make us false papers that we were there five years. And that’s the way we came here.
My brother and I were never separated after I left David-Horodok. I never went anywhere without him. Whatever he told me, I did. He was to me like a god. When we came to Ellis Island, he was afraid that I’ll stick out, that they’ll question me so much, I’ll tell them I was only one year in Argentina. So he said, “You stand to the back of me but don’t say anything at all. And I’ll do the talking.” That’s the only thing I remember about Ellis Island.
One sister was left in David-Horodok because she had it too good there. She couldn’t believe the Germans would do anything because the Germans in the First World War were very nice to us. They treated us royally. And my sister and her husband probably thought it’s going to be the same thing and anyway they didn’t want to move. When the Germans came, they were hiding as much as they could, but their own maid turned them in. And that was the end of it. My sister and brother-in-law and a son and two daughters and their families. Gone.
I had one cousin there. He was an attorney. He survived because he was in the Red Army. And he said he would stay there after the war even if he has to pay with his life. He’s going to find the men that did a lot of bad things to the Jewish people in the town. And he sure did. I met him in Israel on my trip in 1954. His name was Aharon Moravtchik. He’s in this book; he helped write it. He used to write poems. He sent me quite a few sheets, you know. His family was killed in the Holocaust but he married a second time to a woman from Poland and they made aliyah to Israel. Now they’re all dead except his son from his second marriage.
When I got to New York, I really didn’t remember my older brother Jake at all because I was not even eight years old when he left. After we arrived we were staying with some relatives of ours in New York. Jake came there to pick us up but he just couldn’t say, “I’m your brother.” So he said, “Is that the girl who came from Argentina?” We told him yes. My relatives knew who he was but I didn’t know.
Then he said, “Can you tell me anything about your city?”
I said, “What would you like to know?”
“Well, do you have some relatives there? Just tell me about a few people.”
“My father’s name is so-and-so and my mother’s name is so-and-so, and I had so many sisters and so many brothers, and I have a brother in Detroit but I don’t remember him because I was a little girl when he left. And he was very young himself.”
Jake said, “Anything else?”
I said, “Well he’s gonna’ come and pick us up. He was very nice and good to us. He sent us the tickets to come.” So he started crying and said, “I’m your brother Jake.”
My brother and I thought we might stay in New York, you know we were okay with the relatives there. But Jake said, “If you don’t come with me, I‘ll never speak to you again.” So we went to Detroit, and his family took us in; they were very good to us, exceptionally good to us.
I knew what happened in David-Horodok during WWII because of one of my nephews. My sister that I lost there had five boys and one daughter. One of the boys went with us to South America in 1922. The daughter was married into a very well-to-do family, the Mishalov’s. They were well-known in the city of David-Horodok; they were among the intelligentsia. The oldest boy in the family remained in David-Horodok and became the principal of the Tarbus school, but I couldn’t understand how he came in there because he studied medicine. He became a Zionist and his wife was a dentist. That I know. His mother and my mother were cousins, too, besides his later on becoming my nephew. My nephew was killed with my niece. One brother was a doctor in Israel. My brother went to school with him, and his sister was also a medical student.
Aharon Moravtchik--the one who stayed in David-Horodok after the war to get revenge--now he is the head of the income tax in Israel. I received a letter from him. He’s trying to make a denkmore in Israel in memory of the Tarbus in David-Horodok and he also wrote a letter to someone in Detroit that his father is the one that gave the money for that Tarbus.
My uncle that was killed in Siberia sent his son in Cuba a girl from Pinsk and she took her maid along. It wasn’t a governess, it was like an anyah. So when my daughter Norma got married she went on her honeymoon to Cuba. When she came back she said, “Mother why don’t you go to Cuba for a vacation?”
I said, “I don't want to impose on people.”
She said, “You wouldn’t impose. He has a house, a maid, a man for the garden, a maid for cooking; they live very well.”
When my uncle came to Cuba he didn’t have nothing. His son became an attorney and then married the richest girl in Cuba. The daughter-in-law’s family had a furniture factory. And then they had to leave everything and come to Florida when Castro took over. His other son was a doctor and left too. So when my husband and I came to Miami, I stopped in a dry goods store and they were people from Cuba and I heard them speak Spanish. And I said, “You’re going to laugh at me.” I was in a hotel at the time; we didn’t have the apartment yet. They were still building the apartment. I said, “I have a cousin in Cuba and if I’m going to ask about him you’re going to laugh at me.” Just like somebody would ask me from Detroit if I know somebody from Chicago.
He says, “What’s his name?”
“Oh!! He’s the one that collects all the money for Israel. He’s a ganze macher. He’s everything.”
I said, “How about his children?”
He picks up the telephone and says, “You know that your father’s cousin is in here? Give me the address and I’m going to send her over.”
The doctor, his brother, and their families were in a two-room apartment. The kids slept on the floor. They just came in from Cuba. They still had money they had put in New York. But we found them in such a predicament I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cry. I had money in my purse but I didn’t want to give it to them to insult them. I didn’t know what to do. I was so excited. I knew they were wealthy; I knew they had money. I knew they sent children to the university. They were educated. So I thought, now I’ll give them a few dollars? So I said I was surprised to find them; I came unexpected. But I would like for them to buy the children toys. The children needed toys like a hole in the head. They needed more important things, so I left the money and put it under the tablecloth. Now they are very successful. The girl is married to an accountant and the son’s an attorney. They live in Florida.
My cousin from all the trouble got a heart attack and died, and his wife died too. They had to leave everything in Cuba, but the money they took because they had it in a New York bank. I didn’t want to tell them anything or ask them anything because it’s not my business. But we helped the girl because at that time she was not married and she was a young lady and I knew she wanted to get dressed well. So when we were in Florida, when we already bought our condo, I used to see the mother. They lived far; they lived on the beach. So I used to make an appointment with her and I always left some money for the girl, she should be able to buy some clothes. And the girl was gorgeous, just gorgeous. She took after her father. The mother wasn’t such a good-looking girl but she came from a very good family and her husband was a good boy and he listened to his father. He could have gotten any girl because he was good-looking and educated.
My mother’s brother had two sons. You know Bessie Kutnick--her grandfather was my mother’s brother. He was never in the States. But when he died and they had two sons, one son made up his mind to come here. But it was a small town. Bessie Kutnick had a big family there. She had five brother, and she was the only girl; she was a hard working girl. She was in our organization. She did an awful lot of work. She didn’t wait until the work was given to her. She herself was happy to volunteer--a nice person.
I was born in David-Horodok on April 15, 1903 according to my passport, although to tell you the truth, parents in Europe didn’t really know how old their children were. April 15, 1903 was the date on my passport, so it was also the date I used for my citizenship papers. My name in Europe was Nechama Eisenberg. My father was Label Eisenberg and my mother was Esther Margolin; they had nine children. I had five brothers-- Michal (Max), Isaac, Josef (Joseph), Aaron (Abraham), Yitzok (Yudice)--and three sisters--Yehude, Marel or Miriam (Mary), and Faygel (Fanny). We lived near Olpenergas [Olpene Street]. Olpenergas was a boloto street because it went on to the village of Olpene through the marshes. Boloto means “marsh”. In Europe in our shtetl, the poor people lived near the water, the rich people lived further in. We were poorer; we lived on Jerusalem Street. Next to Jerusalem Street was the river, and we could see it from the windows. The steamboats used to go near our windows. Where we were was connected to the Horin River. Our street where we lived, they also called it Mitzrian Street. It means “ Egypt” Street. And there was a lot of synagogues near there on the Shulhav [Synagogue Courtyard].
Edith Friedman’s grandmother, Sil, was my mother’s sister. She lived on a boloto street. Edith’s grandmother was a poor woman. I don’t know what she did for a living. So Edith’s mother is my mother’s niece.
My mother also had a sister Leah Karlin. She was a beautiful woman. She lived on a nice street--Olshonergas. That was also a boloto street; it went to the village of Olshon.[18a] Her husband was in America. My Aunt Leah had a beautiful home and a store that was her business. Not too many people had brick stores or brick homes, but she did. I don’t remember whether the house she lived in was a brick house but the store for sure was brick. And she lived in the house and in the front there was a door. And next door was the store. So that’s how she went from one to the other. She had everything except dry goods or dresses, a real general store. You name it and she had it. On Shabbes I went shpatsir’n [walking]. I went as far as my aunt on Olshonergas. I never got as far as the Raditch [gentile section]. That was too far for me to go; I would have gotten lost. When we got to my aunt’s, she gave us an apple or cherries, so we used to love to go to her. She had an orchard in the back yard and she had chickens.
Then there was another sister, Bayle Resnick. She used to sell geese on the market. She wasn’t as big as Razel Eisenberg [Bessie Davidson’s mother; Razel averaged the sale of twenty-five geese a week throughout the winter]. Razel was a remarkable woman; she was a business woman.
My father had four sisters and a brother: Itka, Rifke, Gnesha, Shoshka Fagel, and Meyer. Another, Fagel, died very young. My sister Fanny was named for her. I vaguely remember my Tante Itka; she died young too. David-Horodok was a small town and a poor town and everyone wanted to look for something else because there was no future over there. So Itka decided to go to America. But when she came here, it was hard for her. She died a young woman, and left two sons. And my father had another sister named Rifke and she died in Europe. Hitler killed her. Rifke was also married and had two sons. I had a book someplace with pictures. You’ll find her in the Horodoker book that they printed in Yiddish and Hebrew.
Shoshka Fagel, my father’s sister, married her cousin Avrom and came to America. Years ago first cousins married one another. Avrom was Bossel’s (Bessie Eisenberg Davidson’s) brother. He was a wonderful man, Avrom. I can only remember that he was a very handsome man, not fat. A nice shape. That’s all I can remember. And Shoshka was a beautiful woman, tall. But they couldn’t get along. I don’t know what it was. They had three wonderful children, two boys and a daughter: Velvel, Morris and Fanny. I think Fanny died a young girl. I don’t think she was married even.
When we came to America, Shoshka was here but Avrom, I think he was in California. Then she went there and they got divorced. You know how it is. It happens here; it happens there. My father was very unhappy about it. He liked Avrom very much. Avrom was a very nice fellow. My father also loved Niessen Leb [Avrom’s brother]. And Rochel [Avrom’s sister, also known as Rose] was beautiful. Rochel’s daughter Bernice [Kanovitski] lives in Israel; also Gershon [Segelman], her son. But then when Avrom and Shoshka got divorced it changed. I don’t know why.
This is what I think happened, but I don’t know. My Grandpa Beryl had a daughter died of childbirth and this Shoshka loved the widower. And my Bubbe Shaindel [Beryl’s wife] said, “As long as I’m alive you’re not gonna’ marry him.” So Shoshka probably loved him all the time, even though Avrom was a wonderful person. All Bossel’s brothers and sisters were wonderful--they had a big family, thirteen children.
My great-grandfather Gershon had a daughter, my aunt, Hiahle [Beryl’s sister]. And Gershon’s son-in-law Mayshe Yehuda [Hiahle’s husband] was a very educated, very intelligent man. Hiahle was a little woman, short, very sweet. They had a son went to Israel; I think his name was Yasu [Joseph]. In the evenings Zeydele Gershon’s house was like an inn, like a saloon or a bar. There was a man that used to carry the papers, like a mailman, and he brought the paper to my Zeydele Gershon and my father used to go there; all the relatives did. They had a lot of respect for Gershon. And they read there and told the news of the day, the news of the year, whatever. My father went Saturday night, not Friday night. Or during the week he came home late and then he’d tell my mother what had happened--what he saw, what he heard. I was a child. When the grownups got together to talk, I always used to sit in the corner and listen, like all children do. What can I tell you?
The old post office in David-Horodok
The old post office in David-Horodok
My Zeyde Beryl had a barge. He used to import and export. He took things from David-Horodok and went to Vetrioslav, Kiev, and then come back in fall. Go in spring and come back in fall.
My father was in the barge business too. My father went to Katunaslav once. At that time it was called Katunaslav; I don’t know what they call it now. He came home with the barge and hit something in the river--a heel or an iceberg, maybe a sandbar; I don’t know what you call it in English. Anyway, he hit it and the barge broke down. It sank, but not all the way. He could still stay on the top. But it wasn’t insured so when he came home he didn’t have any money. That time he was a young man, only thirty-eight years old. And he had nine children. We were four girls. My mother only had a little store, a little kromel, near the marketplace. See, in the town on the marketplace they built up a big church and then they fenced around the church. And in the back were the stores. My mother had a store there.[18b]
My father wanted to go to the border around Kiev and open up a store and when the girls got older they would work in the store. But my mother didn’t want it. She said, “Go to America. You have four daughters; dowry you don’t have for them. Who they gonna’ marry here? They’re gonna marry expressmen [longshoremen - men who load and unload the barges]. They’ll have a better future to go to America,” which was true. So my father went to America with Max, the oldest son. Then my father sent us an affidavit so we could come to America too, and we sold the house, but the war broke out and we were small children and my grandmother, my Bubbe Shaindel, she wouldn’t let us go. So we moved in with my grandfather Beryl and we stayed put.
I went to cheder as a kid for a while. First I went to Zagaradski; his cheder was like kindergarten. The kids used to bring raw eggs and Zagaradski’s wife cooked them for us and then lunch time we ate them. After kindergarten, I went higher to this rabbi. He was a relative to the Schechters. My mother couldn’t afford a cheder teacher, but she was very observant. She went to shul every Saturday, and she wanted the children to know how to daven. So I went to a man who was well-learned, just to be taught how to read Hebrew, so I could daven. Then I learned to write Yiddish. There was a man--he was a spiritual man lived on the Shulhav--and his wife was a teacher. She had a cheder and I used to go over there. She was the only daughter of the shammes. She was teaching how to write Yiddish. So I went to both the rabbi and the Yiddish teacher.
Then after I got through with her, my father wrote a letter he wants the girls to learn how to sew. They come in America they’ll get a job. I had a cousin Resnick, Beyle’s daughter; she was a dressmaker. So I went there and I learned how to sew. People came to her and brought material. And she took your measurements, and she cut the material and she showed the girls how to sew it. She used patterns that Singer used to sell--Singer machines and Singer patterns. Some sewing was by hand and some by machines. First you baste, and then you go with the machine. Three girls worked for her. She had a big table in the dining room where she used to cut the dresses, blouses, whatever you want, and then there were the machines.
The Greble Street was the nicest street in town. Anne Spielberg’s family lived on The Greble. They were rich Jews-reiche Yidden. Her father was a very nice man, her mother too. She comes from a very nice family. Saturday afternoons the boys and girls used to go shpatsir’n [walking] on the Greble. Now when I was in Europe I didn’t go with any fellas. I was just a kid. But I watched. I had an aunt that lived on the Greble and her name was Gnesha Lishitski (Label’s sister). I think everybody knew her. So I went to my aunt and sat on the porch and admired how the couples hold hands and they dress nice and they talk to one another. Gnesha was a widow. Her husband also had a barge. In fall they come home. He had a barge that had a platform on it and in the winter he went on the barge to check if everything is all right. He was a heavy-set man and he broke the platform and drowned. They never found him. Gnesha was pregnant that time. So she had a little store on the Greble. A little bit of a store and that was a livelihood - general things she sold, little things. No dry goods. Dry goods was only one woman in town; I forget the name.
Meldnik was a neighbor who lived on the end of our street by the taykh. Tyakh means river. He made some kind of a drink they call The Meldnik. Edith Friedman knows about it. The Meldnik was across the street from us. He had a nice home and a porch and Saturdays, what did people do in a shtetl? They get together and sit on the porch and gossip and talk. That was the Meldnik.
The rabbis lived in one section in the town, except the Slonimer rov. The Slonimer rov lived on The Greble. [He was independently wealthy.] I think he must have had a congregation but I don’t remember. I had five brothers but I only remember one bris. My father wanted the Slonimer rov. He came, but it was muddy. So two men walked out and carried him in the house. They didn’t want him to walk in the mud. He was well known. Everybody liked him.
The poor rabbis lived in the Shulhav. The rabbis didn’t talk to one another. There was a jealousy. I remember I took a walk to the Shulhav. I was curious, I was walking, and the rebbizin knocked on the window, “Come on Nechamele.” So I walked in, she put me up to clean the house. She gave me something to clean - I think the oven. So I cleaned it and then I went home. And she didn’t pay me.
We washed the clothes in the river. There wasn’t another place where to wash. We lived near the river. We didn’t go to the old cemetery; near there was a beach where they washed clothes. But near our house was also a beach and that was where we went. Was a big one.
The Old Cemetery in David-Horodok
When we came to America in 1920, it looked very very good to us. My father owned his own house. We were three days in America and my cousin Beryl Resnick came with the Forwarts [Jewish Daily Forward]. He said, “Nechama I got a job for you. There is a very good job here. Let’s go and get an interview.” So I said, “Fine.” They were manufacturing dresses there. So he took me and they gave me some sewing to do and they hired me. My sister too. My sister was younger than I. Twenty dollars a week. I was very glad because we came here eight children--my older brother was here already--and with my mother and father was ten people. I told my father, “Don’t worry tate, we’re gonna’ work. We’ll help you.” So he liked that.
When I told him I got a job I thought he’ll be happy. But he said, ”Where’d you get a job?” So I told him, “Beryl took me over there to the dress manufacturer’s.” And he said, “I don’t want you to go over there. I don’t want you to take that job.” I asked why. “I’ll make twenty dollars a week. That’s a lot of money.” He said, “No!! You gonna’ learn how to sew and you gonna’ marry an olleeger - that means a lazy man who leans on you. - You gonna’ sit and sew and he’s gonna’ sleep. No. I don’t want you to do that.” Years ago when your father told you that you can’t go, you did it.
So I got a job in a linen supply company. I was sewing aprons--mostly aprons but also hand napkins. You know how they wear the white uniforms. It was there I met my husband and we got married. My husband was the linen supply driver; he delivered the linen. And over there too I made good money. My sister worked there too. They’re still in business, the General Linen Supply Company. That time twenty years ago it was the same name. Harry Schumer was the boss.
The dress manufacturer where I got the job I didn’t take, was at the end of Hastings street, the very end. Hastings was a business street. I didn’t know any gentiles there so I guess it was all Jewish businesses. It was a bakery there, was everything, you name it. We lived not far from Rivard and Hastings. The job at the linen supply company was on Rivard Street on the other side, towards east and I walked there. I only spoke Yiddish, I didn’t know how to speak English and the telephone would ring and once I answered it. The person who called didn’t know what I was saying. He was asking about linen. So finally he said, “Oh that’s okay, I’ll call again.”
The business didn’t have a clock and on the corner was a factory that men used to work there. So when it blew the whistle I knew we have to go home. There were three men working there. My boss Harry Shumer was single and my husband Julius Zemmol and a Feldman. So when it came time to go home, everyone wanted to take me home. So I used to say, “Ich gehene heim mit ihm. I’ll go home with him.” That was my husband. When I came home with Julius, my father liked him very much. You know years ago the women didn’t work. But they had roomers in the house and they used to cook for them and wash and everything. So my husband had been a roomer and my father had been a roomer in the same house. So my father kind of liked it.
My husband went into business for himself before we got married. First he had a candy store on Hastings. He had a store with an open window, and the kids used to come. Before the wedding I quit the job in the linen store and helped out a little in the candy store. And the children used to be crazy about me. They would come and throw the pennies through the window and I would give them a candy; sometimes I would give them an extra candy. So they liked it.
Then my husband opened his own linen supply business called the American Linen Supply. He was in the business for forty-four years and retired and now my son’s in the business. In the beginning when my husband went in business for himself, I was doing the repair. Let’s say they were supplying like a bar. When the linen comes back, it’s torn, it needs repair. Instead of hiring a girl, I worked but not for too long. I worked until just before I gave birth to my daughter. I fell asleep at the sewing machine. So I figure, no, it’s time for me to quit. I don’t know too much about the business because my husband never came home to discuss it. And I didn’t work in the business long. I got pregnant as soon as I got married and nine months later I had my daughter.
We used to have wonderful, wonderful meetings in the David-Horodok Women’s Organization. The time goes by. My father died and my mother died and I lost five brothers and three sisters. They’re all gone. What can you do? Bessie [Davidson] lost a lot of people too.
The David-Horodok Christians, the so-called Horodtchukas, were exceptional in all of Polesye. They were, and still are, remnants of the Tatar race living among the inhabitants of David-Horodok, distinguished from their neighbors by their broad Tataric noses, their clear brown coloration and their body build. The typical mujhik [peasant] from Polesye had a mild character, was phlegmatic and pessimistic. In contrast, the Horodtchukas were far from mild; instead they were feisty and energetic. They were also more sturdily built and taller.
The narrow-mindedness and hatred the Horodtchukas had for the surrounding peasants was no less than they had for the Jews. It is interesting to note that they never married outsiders. They went on business throughout the country, but for marriage they came home to David-Horodok. Because of this, for years they did not assimilate and remained the direct descendants of the founders of David-Horodok, with Cossack-Tatar blood flowing in their veins.
Their Cossack-Tatar heritage was also noted in the way they made a living. They were not farmers and had no desire to work the land. The gardens their women worked were for personal use only. If there was any surplus, the wife sold the produce at the market, and the money belonged to her. In general the Horodtchukas, with the exception of a small number of merchants and artisans, had no stable occupation. They did everything. For the most part, their occupation depended on the season of the year.
A Gentile's House at the Town's Outskirts
They were fishermen. They were great experts in forestry. During the winter they finished wood products and in the spring they prepared and hauled the wood they had worked on during the winter in the surrounding forests to the river banks. They were experts on the water, good navigators of steamships, berlinis [a type of riverboat], and rafts which they would take from Danzig all the way down to the end of the Dnieper at Kherson.
In the last years before World War II, as the surrounding forests became smaller, they worked farther away. In David-Horodok there were special brokers who interceded between the lumber dealers and the boatmen, and they would assign the workers to the merchants.
The Horodtchukas were good builders, painters, and masons. They built ships of various sizes. They were especially good shoemakers and also skilled merchants.
Most of the Horodtchukas in spring would travel to fairs selling seeds. In summer they sold ice cream throughout the land. Autumn found them dealing in red berries, mushrooms and boots, and during the winter they were occupied at home with shoemaking. It is noteworthy that they always avoided dealing with middlemen. In shoemaking they prepared their own raw materials; in only the rarest case would they purchase their materials from the first hand. They also went to fairs throughout Poland to sell their own wares.
The same is true for the meat and wurst [sausage] business. They went to the local villages to buy meat, prepared it themselves and sold it themselves. The Horodtchukas controlled the wurst business in all the larger train stations in Poland.
This was a specific people. They wandered throughout Russia before World War I, and between the wars, throughout Poland. Nowhere did they assimilate. One could recognize them anywhere because of their unique clothing, speech, and mannerisms.
From the time David-Horodok was annexed by Czarist Russia [in 1793], the Horodtchukas enjoyed a higher social-political status than the neighboring peasants, and this enabled them to improve themselves somewhat. They were given the status of miatchonas or town citizens, along with the Jews, by Catherine the Great. Ever after they were strongly supportive of the czars and were called monarchists. The czarist policy of anti-Semitism consequently caused exceptional trouble between the Jews and the Horodtchukas.
After the 1905 Revolution a terrorist organization of armed rowdies and hooligans, called the Black Hundred, was set up throughout Russia by the highest officials of Czar Nicholas II’s government, using a 10-million ruble counter-revolutionary fund under the exclusive control of the czar. The fund was nicknamed the “Black Money.” The Black Hundred--officially known as the Union of the Russian People--instigated general rioting in the fall of 1905. The rioting was part of the conservative retaliation for a manifesto the czar had been forced to issue after months of revolutionary disturbances. The manifesto promised constitutional reforms and the establishment of a national assembly. The Black Hundred were exceptionally anti-Semitic, causing the Jews to dub the promised reforms “a constitutional charter wrapped up in pogroms.”
In David-Horodok the Black Hundred established a strong and tightly organized group which existed until 1917. On a certain Sunday, the members even attempted a pogrom. Thanks to the self-defense organization of the Jewish youth in particular and the entire Jewish population in general, and also because of the opposition of the magistrate Avtchenikov, who had business dealings with Jews, the Jews came out with only a few wounded.
Their monarchist reputation remained with the Horodtchukas even after the 1917 revolution. A portrait of the czar continued to hang in many houses. They were lukewarm to Kerensky’s uprising and were outspoken opponents of the Bolshevik revolution. At the first opportunity, they set up an armed resistance to the Red Army. At that time the Jews also helped and subsequently paid dearly for it, [as will be described in Section III.] In the district headquarters of the Bolshevik authorities, the Christian people of David-Horodok were considered a counter-revolutionary element.
During the twenty-year reign of Polish power in David-Horodok [1920-1939], the Horodtchuka economy was strengthened, but this did not drive them to assimilate. Their opposition persisted despite the fact that the Polish authorities did not allow them to open a Russian school and their children were compelled to learn in Polish schools. However, they kept their Belarusan language and Eastern Orthodox faith, and taught their children the Russian alphabet at home.
When the Bolsheviks returned to David-Horodok on September 19, 1939, they were met with the hateful looks and enmity of the Horodtchukas. With few exceptions, the Horodtchukas did not become members of the Communist party and did not take part in political life. They were very disappointed that instead of the nearby Nazi regime, the Bolsheviks had taken over.
As the Bolshevik regime once more became established and began requisitioning and nationalizing everything, the Horodtchukas’ hatred for the Communists grew, and they waited for Hitler with ever greater expectation. This was demonstrated during the election called in Western Belarus, in which David-Horodokers participated, after Belarus was taken by the Soviets from the Poles in 1939. The voters were to elect delegates to an assembly that would decide whether or not Western Belarus should join the Soviet Union as Eastern Belarus already had. Not surprisingly, with Soviet troops stationed on its territory, the assembly asked to join.
The Horodtchukas in David-Horodok threw slips of paper into the ballot boxes with the following comments written on them: “Death to the Communists and Jews,” “Down with the Bolsheviks,” and “Long live Hitler.” More than once they threatened to settle accounts with the Jews when Hitler came, and they kept their word.
At the beginning of July 1941, when the Bolsheviks retreated from David-Horodok and Hitler’s forces marched into town, the Horodtchukas were the first in all Europe to assist the Germans in undertaking an aktion. On the 17th of Av, 5701, they helped the SS murder all the men in the town. Later they helped with the murder of the women and children. During the entire German occupation, the Horodtchukas served Hitler faithfully, and they in turn enjoyed the full trust of the Nazi authorities.
When in 1944, the Red army freed David-Horodok from the murderous Nazi occupation, they found not a single living Jew in the town. They could also not find any of the town’s gentile leaders. These people had left with the retreating German army.
The Christians in the villages surrounding David-Horodok were Belarusan peasants, different from the Horodtchukas in ethnic makeup and character. Unlike the Tatars, the Belarusans were--and are--descended from the original Slavic peoples who settled the land before written history began. Before the Russian Revolution in 1917, 87% of Belarusans were peasants or town workers closely tied to the villages. By 1939 the figure had dropped to only 80%.
Throughout the centuries those who ruled these peasants changed with wars and treaties, but they never had more than an economic relationship to the peasants. The landowners were often absent, living mainly urban lives concerned with affairs of state; the Belarusans remained rural and primitive, concerned with local affairs. The peasants spoke “Belarusan”; the ruling classes spoke Polish or Russian. The landowners rarely even shared the same religion with the peasants, which widened the normal chasm between lord and serf. Indeed the peasants were called bydlo [cattle] and treated even worse. “We have found that the Russian serf is certainly better off than the Belorussian on the lands annexed from Poland,” a Russian historian remarked in the early 1800s. It is no wonder the Horodtchukas were grateful to the Czar for having escaped being categorized as “serfs.”
Until 1861 brought emancipation to the peasant serfs, a lord typically exacted 3 working days a week from each man and woman on his estates, or 15 to 22 rubles a year, a sum so vast to a serf that only 3% were able to pay it. In addition, the landlords would lease their serfs in hundreds or thousands to contractors engaged in earth moving, usually building canals or roads. The writer N. I. Turgenev noted that “the landlord took the responsibility of delivering a certain number of men for a set fee, and the only obligation of the contractor was to keep them from starving to death. Indeed, government officials supervising the public works demanded from the contractor nothing more than that these unhappy people be kept half alive.” In 1885 the peasants around Vitebsk were reported as hardly knowing what bread was. “They live on mushrooms and wild herbs and berries, with widespread illness and disease. Their poverty is unspeakable.”
What was the ethnic makeup of these peasant Belarusans? The question is highly political, because Lithuania, Poland and Russia have all made claims on Belarusan territory based on each country’s perception of who Belarusans really are--Lithuanian, Polish, or Russian. In addition, beginning in the 1860s many Belarusans have insisted on the right to have their own nation-state because they claim they are none-of-the-above. What is known is that Belarusans are Slavic and can trace their roots back to pre-historical times. In spite of being ruled almost continually by non-indigenous people, they have always constituted the majority in their traditional homeland. However, constantly being in the pathway of conquering peoples has left its mark: physical anthropologists believe Slavic blood in this area has mixed with Gothic, Tatar, Finnish, Lithuanian, Polish, Jewish, Swedish and German.
Belarusans speak Belarusan. What Belarusan is, however, is also disputed. Some call it a language, some a dialect of Russian, some a dialect of Ukrainian. Basically Russian, Belarusan includes many words of Polish and Lithuanian origin, and contains sounds that make it difficult to write in either the Cyrillic or Latin alphabets alone. However, the number of dialects within Belarus were once great and often differed as much from each other as they did from Russian, Polish or Ukrainian. Our grandparents called Belarusan “peasant language”, which merely equated the language with those who spoke it. The dialect spoken around David-Horodok belongs linguistically to the Ukrainian family, although in their way of life, customs and psychology, the Polesye peasants are closer to northern Belarusans than Ukrainians. This was important to David-Horodok Jews, because the Belarusan peasant never reached the same level of animosity toward the Jews that Ukrainian peasants did.
Surprisingly, the Belarusan peasants were not even aware of themselves as a distinct ethnic group for centuries; they never referred to themselves as “Belarusans” until the name was imposed on them by Russian and Polish scholars in the 1800s. Even the delegates from Belarus to the Russian Duma in 1906-1917 never mentioned a specific Belarusan consciousness, although Polish, Lithuanian, Armenian, Tatar and other nationals spoke freely of theirs. This lack of identity may have accounted for the lower level of anti-Semitism among Belarusans than among their Slavic neighbors, anti-Semitism often being associated with a nationalistic tendency to identify people who are not like oneself as “unworthy others.”
What did these peasants who came into town to trade with our ancestors look like? The men were thickset rather than well-built and hardly ever of more than medium stature, often giving an impression of being slightly bloated. The Belarusan conscript in czarist Russia was described as “about one inch shorter than average in European Russia. ... The face is round, the hair light colored and the small deep-set eyes are generally gray. At the age of forty or fifty, he looks like a very old man. Women are blond and look fresh and attractive when young, but they fade faster and earlier after marriage than in many other parts of Western Europe. Hard work and pitiful diet are, in general, responsible for the quick aging of the Belorussian peasant.
“Clothing is of almost primitive simplicity, and white is the most favored color. Men wear white jackets, white shirts and trousers, and white linen belts. The women wear white skirts, aprons and kerchiefs. Except for footwear there is not much difference between summer and winter garb, nor between holiday dress and work clothes. Boots are rare, bast sandals most common. Only in the style of the headgear are the people somewhat fanciful. They wear peaked caps of cloth or leather, or high felt hats with the brims turned up or without brims at all. Some wear a round cap of cloth, felt or sheepskin all year round; others, a kind of four-cornered hat ... There are no valuable necklaces, earrings or rings among the people. The only trinkets are cheap beads, artificial jet, or the simplest of copper ornaments; silver is seldom worn.”
The meal of the Belarusan peasant consisted chiefly of “milk and cottage cheese, potatoes, cabbage, beets, beans and peas in winter; pot herbs, sorrel and the like in summer.... Bread is badly baked from whole rye which in many homes still is ground by hand.” Other observers insisted that “only the fairly wealthy eat this well, and then only in a good year.” Most of the time the diet consisted of potatoes and fish.
Houses in general were primitive, crowded, and ill-ventilated by one or two tiny windows. They were built of logs, roofed with crude shingles or straw, and often had no chimney but a hole in the roof above the hearth. One observer reported that “the odor of animal and human sweat is stifling and, in summer, houses are infested with flies and cockroaches.” Kerosene and candles were luxuries, so houses were lit with burning pine splinters stuck into the wall. Not many peasants could afford even a match. It was cheaper to get fire directly from dry wood by primitive methods.
Most villages consisted of from two to ten households and were scattered throughout the forest and swamps of Polesye, often in places almost inaccessible even to the peasant wagons called kolesa or “wheels.” Actually, these wagons consisted of little more than four wooden wheels on axles set in a single crossbeam. The sides, when in use, rested on the crossbeam and were supported by vertical spikes opposite the four wheels, forming a V at the front and rear of the cart.
Things had not changed for the better by 1949, when a traveler wrote that he saw “thousands of miserable huts with small dusty windows and rotten thatch roofs, exactly as the Great Socialist Revolution had seen them twenty years before ... As before , people keep young calves in their huts, only they have fewer calves now. Men sleep on the clay stoves or on wooden benches, covering their bodies with a sheepskin coat instead of a blanket. The family eats from a common bowl, and they light an oil lamp just for the time necessary to eat their supper ... You travel [on] long muddy roads, along which no car can run in the autumn or spring ... In remote villages, people continue to live without schools, medical help or any other benefit of civilization.”
Several reasons have been suggested as to why the Belarusan peasants were in general less anti-Semitic than the Horodtchukas. First, their continued attachment to the land never conflicted with the Jewish role of middleman and artisan. Jews and Belarusans had a symbiotic relationship rather than a competitive one. Second the Jews were never identified with a hated foreign ruling class as they were in the Ukraine. Instead, both Jews and Belarusans were discriminated against by either the Polish or Russian governments. Third, the Belarusans were used to a number of ethnic minorities living among them from almost the dawn of their history, and were therefore less inclined to take offense. Lastly nationalism, which was usually accompanied by a virulent hatred of “the other,” was very late in coming to Belarus.
The above should not be taken to mean there was no anti-Semitism among the peasants, only that it was more benign. To illustrate, Minsk contains a monument erected right after WWII to the Jews who died. It has inscriptions in Yiddish and Russian and is significant because it was the only such monument in the Soviet Union. However, it would be foolish not to note that numbers of Belarusans collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews, and most did nothing to prevent it, considering it a problem between the Jews and the Germans. A few aided Jewish victims.
[18a] When we came to this country, Joe Davidson came to see us. He was from Olshon. He became Bessie Davidson’s husband.
[18b] Many women brought in a low but steady income if their husband’s wages were seasonal or insufficient to support the children.
 According to Sholom Aleichem, quoted in Sanders, Shores of Refuge, p. 143: A komertcheska, they called it, a business school, where for every Christian they were willing to take in one Jew-a quota of fifty per cent, that is. But here there was a catch. Every Jew who wanted to have his son admitted had to bring along with him a Christian boy, and if he passed the examination, this Christian, that is, and if all his fees and expenses were paid, then there was a chance! In other words you had not one headache but two.”
 The singular form is Horodtchuk.
 The Christians from the nearby village of Olypen also had a reputation, having stemmed from Lithuanian forebears, of never having assimilated with the surrounding people.
 See Dubnow, Vol. III, pp. 125-126, 135-139, and 149-152
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 17
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 31
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 8
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 87
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 18
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 18
 Vakar, Nicholas P., Belorussia, p. 19
 Funke, Phyllis Ellen, “Minsk”, Haddasah Magazine, Dec. 1996, p. 42
and the Small Print
Updated 15 Dec 2000