Hgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter02.htmlgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter02.htmldelayedxzJk[OKtext/html@܌k[b.HSun, 24 Aug 2008 16:00:26 GMTMozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *zJk[ The B'nai Khaim in America
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 
   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 
   "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 
   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 
    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.  

CandleMaker Kaprov
E-Mail: CandleMaker_Kaprov@Yahoo.com

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