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Chapter 2 Knyazhe - Uman - The Pogrom Here, then, lie the origins of the B'nai Khaim - in backward 19th century Russia. We shall follow them to America where, in the first quarter of the 20th century, 93 of them, remnants of a Revolutionary upheaval, came to find a new home. Here they would found new families and strike roots in a new soil. But before we follow them into this new world we must make two additional observations about the old. Now all the B'nai Khaim that came to America were born or raised in Yustingrad. A number of the "Sokolievker" B'nai Khaim had married into other towns and cities and reared their children there. In some, like Knyazhe, life was very much the same as in Yustingrad. In others, like Uman, they were exposed to an advanced culture compared with that of Yustingrad. Then, too, my description of "the soil" in Chapter 1 virtually ended with the 19th century. In the next two decades, the people of Russia went through revolutionary convulsions which destroyed the remnants of Russian feudalism and a nascent capitalism all at once. Russia experienced a rapid rise in industry and commerce and a prolonged depression: humiliating defeats in two wars and a moral decadence between; three revolutions; devastating counterrevolutions; a bloody civil war; famine, pestilence and pogroms of increasing ferocity. The Jews of Tsarist Russia had known pogroms before. Repeatedly, over the years, Jews were made the scapegoats for the misery of the peasants, with more and more pogroms as the peasant grew more and more rebellious. Now a "White Army" organized pogroms as a tactic in a counterrevolution. If in the past, pogroms were sporadic, local looting raids, now there was planned, deliberate nation - wide torture, rape and murder - the White Terror. "Ours was the only block left of what once was Yustingrad," writes a B'nai Khaim from Brooklyn. "They had not burned it because it stood too close to the peasants' haystacks. When the bandits came this time there were 12 of us living in that block. When they left. there were five of us. They did not complete the slaughter because they fled when their sentry shouted, 'The Reds are coming!' " The soil from which the B'nai Khaim were to set off on their trek to America was now soaked with their blood. Most of the non-"Sokolievker" B'nai Khaim who migrated to America were born or raised in Knyazhe or Uman. Knyazhe, some 16 miles almost due west of Yustingrad, was a village of about 350 families, between 35 and 40 of whom were Jewish (1). At one time it must have been the domain of a feudal lord of princely title: the official name, Knyazhe-Krenitsa, means the Prince's Well, or Spring. At the time of our story the village and the surrounding forests belonged to a graf-a count- who had it declared a town so that Jews would be permitted to live there. He needed them to supervise the business of his estate. At the turn of the century three of the Jewish families living in Knyazhe were B'nai Khaim, and the head of one of these served the graf as arendar- as the general manager of the estate. The arendar's father managed the inn owned by the grat The arendar was also the leaseholder of the pond, the flour mill and the pasture lands. As one of his daughters, now living in California, tells it: " . . . the river abounded with fish, the rights to which were' Father's, and its waters operated the mill, the rights to which the graf also gave to Father." The town's beer cellar also belonged to him. He was the "rich Jew" of Knyazhe. Other members of the innkeeper's family were the rent collectors, managers and bookkeepers of the grafs and of other landlords' nearby forest and lumber businesses. These B'nai Khaim performed the services for the graf and neighboring landlords which Jews had so commonly performed for feudal lords throughout the centuries, thereby often incurring the hatred of the exploited peasants. The massacres in the Khmelnitzky insurrection, and many subsequent pogroms, were the cruel manifestations of this hatred against the sometime not unwilling tools of greedy landlords. Much of the anti-Semitism still lingering in the Ukraine today is an echo of these earlier grievances. There were several other "rich" Jews in Knyazhe besides the arendar: those were the owners of the general store and the hardware store, and three or four jobbers in farm produce. The arendar acted, however, with ,the authority of the graf and commanded privileges not granted to others in Knyazhe, Jews or gentiles. The communal bathhouse which was open for Jews on Fridays and for the peasants on Saturdays was heated especially for the arendar's family on Thursdays. His was the power to dispense favors and to arbitrate squabbles in the synagogue as well as in the market place. He was the influence in town. His family was also the most "cultured"- his children learned to read and write Russian! The arendar was the first "Knyazher" to subscribe to a newspaper- a Jewish weekly from Poland, in 1907 or 1908. All this gave his family "airs" and a certain disdain toward others in town - the disdain which the affluent affect towards the poor, the literate toward the illiterate, and, in the case of ghetto Jews, of those who could speak Russian toward the ones who could speak only Yiddish or goyish - the latter, the language of the market place in the Ukraine. Some of his family later affected these airs in America. "What makes you think I am interested in the B'nai Khaim," a young second-generation offspring countered when I telephoned her to introduce myself and explain the project. The third of the B'nai Khaim families of Knyazhe were poor working people. The father, who in his spare time was a glazier, earned three rubles a week working for the arendar as miller and as night - watchman to shoo off poachers. The mother, the direct B'nai Khaim, and their two teenage daughters worked at home as seamstresses (2). Later the family also sold piecegoods on market days. All the rest of the "Knyazher" Jews were either handicraftsmen or shopless traders who bought from the peasants small quantities of grain, eggs, poultry which they sold to jobbers and wholesalers in Knyazhe or in nearby Lukoshovka and elsewhere. Knazhe was as primitive a shtetl as was Yustingrad, if not more so, since here the peasantry still lived in semi - feudal state (3). There was no doctor in town, not even a feldsher, until about 1910 when a young pharmacist came to town and served as feldsher, dentist and pharmacist, all-in-one, for about two years. He pulled teeth, made diagnoses, prescribed medicine and filled the prescriptions in his pharmacy. There was no post office, telephone, or telegraph service in Knyazhe. The nearest railroad station was 12 miles away. Public sanitation was unknown. Infant mortality was high. The arendar's wife bore 12 children and buried five in infancy. "The town was unhygienic, filthy. Infectious disease was rampant," writes a Knyazher B'nai Khaim who left that town before World War I at age 17 and is now a practicing physician in Cleveland. "The people had to wage a constant war against body lice, fleas, flies, bedbugs, and vermin," he goes on. "Roundworm was a common affliction. Drinking water was hauled from a well dug at the lowest level of the town. This well received excrement washed down by the rains. Tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, smallpox, like all other contagious diseases were endemic. "Food and clothing were of the meagerest, as was true of any shtetl. A garment was worn until it could not be patched anymore. Except on the Sabbath and holidays, the food was coarse bread, potatoes, cabbage soup, onions, garlic, salt herring, occasionally dried fish; rarely meat. In summer there would be fresh fruit and vegetables-in winter, pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut. "Religious rituals were strictly observed as passed down from generation to generation. The women would make sure that upon emerging from the communal bathhouse where they had been declared kosher (cleansed) upon their ritual immersion in the mikvah, they would encounter a kosher being before coming upon a pig or a goy and thus become unclean again. As a precaution, one or two young Jewish lads would be stationed at the exit where they would be the first these women would encounter. "Living quarters were generally confined to a one - room adobe hut 25 feet - 30 feet long by 12 feet - 15 feet wide. The Dutch oven would occupy about a quarter of the space, but you could sleep on it and on the protruding ledge. The remaining space served as the family living room, dining room and bedroom. On cold winter nights the young calf would share the warmth inside; in spring the newly - hatched chicks would live with us. Occasionally, there would be a guest sleeping in. The melamed (Hebrew teacher), often a stranger in town, would be accommodated during the two weeks per season required of each family whose children attended his kheder." Uman (4) was something else again. By any standard of the time, it was a center of culture. It had a population of about 45,000, a large proportion Jewish. It was the "Big City" in the area between Kiev and Odessa. It was a county seat and the trading center for towns and villages many miles around. Here Russian was spoken. Uman had a seven-year elementary public school with a capacity for 300 pupils; two gymnasia, one for boys and one for girls; a music conservatory; a theater for visiting troupes; a reading and lending library (you paid a small membership fee); a small park in which a brass band played on summer evenings; and a large wooded area, the Sofievka, for nature lovers. This park had a national reputation (it still has) for its natural as well as cultivated beauty. Most of the city was destroyed by the Nazis, but the Sofievka was miraculously spared. The streets of Uman were cobblestone. Many buildings were two to four stories high, built of brick, and slate or tin - roofed. The town had no sewer system but, for the most part, especially in the "New City," privies were private and enclosed. Most of the homes had running water. Several doctors and two or three hospitals served the town and surrounding villages. There were dentists and feldshers in Uman, trained midwives, and lawyers. Electricity illuminated the window displays of the bigger stores and was used for lighting in the homes of the affluent. Pipes for illuminating gas were being laid at the time (1905 - 06) when I was leaving to "go to America." The city had a police department and a fire department, a telegraph office, a telephone exchange, and a branch of the State Bank; a post office and even a stockbrokerage. Some three miles from town, a railroad station was served by a spur from a main line 20 miles away. Although essentially a trading center, Uman possessed considerable small industry-a couple of iron foundries, steam-driven flour mills, some woodworking shops, a garment-making establishment and smaller tailoring shops, several bakeries and softdrink bottling factories. There was no strictly Jewish ghetto in Uman at that time, although the orthodox and the poorer Jews congregated in the "Old City." Here were located the Jewish hospital, the Jewish cemetery, and the orthodox synagogues. The more affluent and the more "enlightened" Jews lived in the "New City." Here was located what we in America call the "conservative" synagogue where female worshippers sit together with their males, whereas in the strictly orthodox shule female worshippers are partitioned off in a separate chamber. A Talmud Torah, a free school maintained by the Jewish community for the instruction of Jewish boys (I don't remember about girls) gave courses in basic Hebrew and Russian and in both parochial and secular subjects. The home for the indigent as well as for itinerant poor was maintained next to the "Tolner" shule (orthodox) in the "Old City." An outdoor privy stood between the two buildings. Most of the Uman Jews, the B'nai Khaim among them, were merchants, brokers, agents, go - betweens, "fixers," and big and little shopkeepers. A Jew owned the big drygoods store; his son-in-law operated a fancy haberdashery catering to army officers and other elites of the city and surroundings. Differences in wealth, of course, created an aristocracy among the Jews as among the gentiles. The Jewish aristocracy was distinguished from the rest of the Jews of Uman by the extent of the secular education of their children. A son and daughter of a Knyazhe - Uman B'nai Khaim attended gymnasia. One Uman B'nai Khaim daughter attended a "progymnasia" (a prep school). A son attended an agricultural institute. All of them received tutored instruction in school subjects at home - "home education," it was called. Secular education in those years inevitably meant also the absorption of the new, radical social and political ideas that were then penetrating Russia. Many Uman Jews were "Kadety" - Social Democrats-and/or ZionIsts. Clandestinely, youth - Jews and gentiles - read Marx's Das Kapital and Lenin's journal, Iskra. (In the library one could read the reactionary and anti - Semitic Novoe Vremya and the staid Kievlyanin.) Throwaway leaflets and "manifestoes" told of a drive to organize labor into unions; of factory strikes and of peasant riots. Demands for a constitutional monarchy to replace the Tsarist autocracy were discussed openly; calls for a socialist revolution, in secret. Young men and women caught in - or even only suspected of engaging in - these "subversive activities" were imprisoned or sent off to Siberia. Youth was aglow with revolutionary fervor. The upsurge in commerce and industry gave rise to a freethinking Russian bourgeoisie, questioning and repudiating subservience to traditional political authority. An ebullient spirit like that of the bourgeoisie of the French Revolution pervaded the people. The brass band always ended its park concerts by playing the Marseillaise after the Russian God Save the Tsar! This was always received with applause. The people were caught up in a glow of expectation of historic change. Among the younger set and the affluent, this spirit spilled over into dissipation. Young ladies read salacious romances; young men talked of free love. They made the polka, the valse, the mazurka lascivious, and danced an especially orgiastic version of the minuet. One would not be surprised to hear of a housemaid in the home of a young couple giving birth to a child within a few days of her mistress so that the servant could wet-nurse her master's legitimate offspring. The servant's infant was placed in a foundling home. Then came the war with Germany and the Bolshevik Revolution and spoiled the fun. At first, war with Germany stimulated great expectations of business prosperity. Speculation was rife. "Business was quite good," writes our Brooklyn B'nai Khaim, "when the war broke out. Everybody waited for the war to end so there would be a market in which to spend the money." But the war did not end that way. It ended in the Revolution which shattered the roseate dreams. For our arendar the outbreak of the war meant a rent in his family fortunes. The "Knyazher" peasants blamed the war and especially war requisitions on the Jews in general and on the arendar in particular. Life for his family became unsafe in Knyazhe. In 1915 they moved to Uman where they lived until 1918. "Father was still wealthy," writes his California daughter, but it lasted only one year beyond the Revolution. "After the Revolution, Father lost everything he had possessed - the mill, real estate in various cities." Then came the pogroms, and the family managed to get away to Odessa. But "having been a capitalist, Father could not get a job." When the Bolsheviks abolished the grafs they had no need for arendars. "Starvation and sickness spread over the land, and our family was no exception. " For the "Sokolievker" peasants, the fall of the Tsar was an unmitigated calamity: How would they live without a Tsar Protector? For the "Sokolievker" Jews, the Revolution was a bewildering mystery. "We were asked to carry flags and shout 'Hurrah for Liberty'!" writes our ,Brooklyn B'nai Khaim, "but few of us knew what the slogan meant. . . did not know that we had been slaves to the Tsar." Before they could fathom that mystery, the Counterrevolution had begun and the White Army was looting, raping and murdering Jews. "We ran and ran like a squirrel in a wheel, and that lasted two years until we finally got over into Rumania." By then, however, nothing was left of Yustingrad, and only a few of its Jews remained alive. In August, 1918, a counterrevolutionary band lined up 138 Jews, from age 15 up, including the 88-year-old "Sokolievker" Rabbi, on the road to Konella and shot them dead, all but one. Mortally wounded and left for dead, this boy crawled back two miles to tell of the horror before he, too, died. "How could you! We paid all the ransom you asked for," the father of one of the slain boys began upbraiding a White Guardist. "How could you murder these innocent boys, you son of a bitch!" . . . . The Guardist thrust his bayonet into the man's groin. The man died on the way to Uman where they rushed him to get medical aid. "Several days I hid in the chimney when I heard the bandits coming," my sister now living in Buffalo recalls with horror. "Didn't know where the children were. Stopped thinking of them. . . . " "There I was, burning up with typhoid fever," one of my nieces recalls. "My husband goes out for fresh water; perhaps bring medicine. He does not come back. Don't know how many days. Our baby lies next to me. Dead. Unattended. No fire in the oven. . . . " "You would not understand if I told you a thousand times," wept one of the reunited wives in Buffalo in the early 1920's. She had been separated from her husband ten years - ten years of hope, despair, pogroms.... "You cannot imagine the horrors," she continued. "One has to live through them to feel them. One of the pogroms took place on Yom Kippur. Everybody was in shule- praying; fasting. Suddenly, the bandits fall upon the shule and proceed raping the women in front of their crazed husbands and horrified children. My father, 70 years old and pious as any man in Sokolievka, (5) ran about raving, screaming, 'If this can happen to us, here, on this Holiest of Holy Days, then there is no God in Heaven; then I don't believe in a God!' Threw his talis in the dust and himself on the bayonet of a beast." In Uman: "My mother lived through three pogroms," writes a Los Angeles B'nai Khaim woman. "Hid in a dark attic; days with no food; 30 other adults and 17 children. Through darkness saw gleaming bayonets. When day comes see stores broken in; broken windows; puddles of blood; dead bodies; a wagonfull of corpses being carted away. . . . " "My husband and I still scream in our sleep. I always seem to run; can't find no escape. . . . " It took them from two to three years to escape, into Rumania mostly. There, many found shelter in refugee camps - in Kishinev, in Jassi, in Bucharest - set up by Jews of other lands: by the Alliance Francaise Israelites; the British Jewish Rescue Committee; the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. In anguish the B'nai Khaim, along with thousands of other homeless Jews, wait until word comes that husbands, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins had been located in New Yark, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago. These send money and steamship tickets to carry them to America. In America they will replant the B'nai Khaim Tree. Notes to Chapter 2 (1) This is as I recall it from visits there as a teenager in 1903-05, and as I have recently gathered from personal interviews and correspondence with Knyazher B'nai Khaim in Cleveland, Buffalo, Washington, and Los Angeles. (2) One of these girls and a younger brother used to pay the arendar three kopeks an issue for the copy of the newspaper after his family was through with it. (3) For the life of the peasant in Russia at this time see, for example, M. Olgin: The Soul of the Russian Revolution; in particular, Chapter III. Henry Holt & Co., 1917. (4) This is from my recollections as a student there from 1902 to 1906 (age 14 to 18) and from personal interviews and correspondence with relatives now in America. (5) There is a poignancy in this remark, "my father. . . pious as any man in Sokolievka," which will be lost on the reader unless explained. This man was not a "Sokolievker" by birth and although his name was Kaprov, he was not a Kaprov - born. He had been a "Nickolayevsky soldat," a soldier in the cantonment army of Tsar Nickolas I where he had served 25 years beginning at the age of eight. By the time he was discharged he had lost all trace of his family. Wandering in search of them he stumbled into Yustingrad. Here he was adopted by the community, named Kaprov, given a wife, a hut in which to raise a family and a shack in which to sell axle grease for a living. (Zeide Khaim's youngest son, who was of about the same age, also sold axle grease.) My sister knew all this. I remember the man only as selling axle grease and as wearing the peaked cap of a Nikolaevsky soldat. However, I knew his family intimately. My brother married one of his daughters, and his only son was a pal of mine.