Dictated By Ary
Hretzk was not a picturesque village not
a bit. As you drove into the village the first house to the
right side is where my brother Eli was born. It was the most
northerly part of the village and consequently it was very cold.
The wind blowing from the north would practically freeze up
everything around the house. Not very far away was the mill.
There were several roads converging, and on one road coming
from the village called Roseweh stood our one mill. Father used
to run it and it was when they put in machinery that Father
was killed by the machinery. He was only about 34 years old.
The very earliest thing I remember is that we were driving from
Hretzk to another village, Starobe, for a wedding my
father's younger brother was getting married. We stopped at
a Kretchma overnight and it was a very dark room that I was
to sleep in and I raised hell that there was no light. I was
so unhappy that it was dark; I made such a rumpus that I upset
the whole wedding. I remember so well that Kretchma and how
scared I was in the room without light. I was afraid of being
in a dark room I saw ghosts. But how could I remember
perhaps this thing was reinforced by their talking about
Now there is another memory that goes back probably just as
far. The house where I was born was quite remote in the village
I knew about where it was and in later years I thought
of going to see it but I never did. One thing I remember about
it is that for Succoth they would make a Succoth. Somehow or
other I had in my hand a little mirror. Where it came from I
don't know a tiny little mirror. I remember the Succoth
was fixed up and I had such a desire to put something to decorate
it, and I fixed that little mirror in a corner in the Succoth
and that gave me such satisfaction. It was only a clumsy little
corner. I stuck the little mirror in a corner of the primitive
Succoth, probably just a table and a few chairs to sit there.
At the same period, a little later we moved from
that little house to Grandfather's house. He had a big house
that he had made himself, and evidently things weren't very
good for my father and we moved in, and behind the stove there
was some space where it was hot and that is where we children
slept. When we moved I wanted to be of use in moving and I held
the lamp as we walked from one house to another. There was no
street, we had to walk through gardens, past some peasant houses
and vegetable gardens. Father walked first and Mother carried
something and I carried the lamp and I held it until we came
to Grandfather's house, so firmly they couldn't take it from
Now my uncle with the big black beard found me lying one day
in a field, fast asleep, and he picked me up and brought me
over to the house and he gave a tongue lashing to my mother
''How come you don't look after your child?" because
I had disappeared, and I would fall asleep, so he picked me
up and carried me home. Now, do I remember the fact that Uncle
was angry at my Mother and talking harshly, or do I remember
that they talked about it. I am sure I remember Uncle's big
black beard with a few gray hairs.
The house itself I remember vaguely. A log cabin, small. The
place where we lived with Grandfather had a big stove and behind
the stove there was a place fixed up for the children to sleep.
It was good and hot for them, but it was suffocating
very little ventilation only what came from the door.
There was one large room and part of it was like a separate
room with a door between and that is where they kept the cow.
They would open the door to feed the cow and milk it. There
was a sort of opening, a window without glass. The cow would
stick out her jaw and would look out if someone was there and
would moo. Especially she always recognized Father. One evening
it was dark in the fore-house, and suddenly I saw something
moving, and I became so frightened; a cold sweat broke out.
There was a living ghost in front of me, moving in space. Suddenly
Father opened the door and came in from the outside and as the
door opened I saw the cow with her mouth through the opening.
The mouth was a different color, a light yellow, while the other
part of her head was in shadow. And then I realized my ghost
was the cow.
Above the bed of my Grandfather there was a portrait of the
Czar, Alexander III a chromo. It was unusually quiet,
early in the morning. We children were sleeping in the back,
behind the big stove. All of a sudden we were awakened by a
noise, and a crowd of peasants unceremoniously walked in to
talk to Grandfather peasants followed by some women.
They stopped, all of them, to look at the chromo above Grandfather's
bed. "Oh yes," said one, "look, how it has turned
yellow. It looks deadly " and they kept peering at
the chromo. "So he's dead," said Grandfather. "Yes,
he's dead look at the color of the picture, you can see
he's dead." Then the peasants began to talk to Grandfather
about the new Czar. Shortly afterwards we heard that Nicholas
II had succeeded to the throne.
News traveled very slowly in those days. But Grandfather
would get the news somehow I don't know, how the news
traveled was a mystery. I believe there were a couple of people
in the village who got a newspaper from Moscow.
In that part of the country the language was similar to Russian,
but a patois. Now it is a White Russian. Between Ukrainian and
Polish very crude.
The higher officials in that section were Poles. My father could
speak Polish with them. There was one school in Hretzk, which
accommodated 200 children, for the entire district and one teacher
for the peasant children.