David Giora: Gora and Yavkowitz families


In memory of or community, Siedlcewhich was destroyed by Nazi Germany and its allies.

In memory of all the family members who have perished without leaving a remnant: Gora family and Yavkowitz family, and my grandmother’s sister Pearl Gora and Applebaum Leah’s family (nee Shostak), her husband, Berl, and their nine children and in memory of all members of my too-short a childhood – may God revenge their blood. May these words be the guiding light for future generations.

When I come to describe my own CV and some of the community life in the city of Shedlice ib Poland, which was eradicated to the ground, I must first of all admit some things. Despite my good memory, I cannot describe with 100 percent certainty all events, especially if it has to do with names of people.

The initial period is early childhood, of course, and what is engraved in my memory must have seemed then very different then the way it looks today. Therefore, with all my heart I tried to stick to the main points and not create unnecessary illusions.

The very fact that I had delayed so much and had not begun recording my memories before has prevented me from questioning and asking others about events that had happened to me, personally, or to my relatives. Those who passed away took their secrets with them to the grave and a lot of details remain a mystery to me.

On the positive side – since my Hebrew has improved without recognition the written outcome is much cleared and understandable, and this is my only consolation.

Our forefathers did not record their history and, for the most part, if someone knew his family, it could have been up to the fourth generation at most.

I, gathering all information and detail that I could, managed to trace five generations of my family, and I also have photographs, which is invaluable nowadays. We must understand that in the communities from which our families came, they lived a life of wanderings and deportations, and during these deportations they chose to save the holy books and not the history of family life.

And so, since I am the one who has been privileged to remain alive and write down some facts that may help future generations trace their past, this will be my only consolation.

Therefore, I thank the Creator for granting me this right, and I hope that future generations will not stand the tests of life as the generations that preceded me, and I personally, until the day I set foot on the soil of the homeland.

Since early childhood I had a longing to know everything about my family. My questions were directed at my grandfather, Shmuel, and my grandmother, Haya Lea, who were the parents of my late mother, Rachel. Other people sometimes spoke of events that occurred in the past, and all these stories engraved themselves in my memory.

When I sit to write down these details today (and there are certainly many), I hereby confess that my heart does not want to write history, but a chapter in my personal life and the happenings around me.

These things will be an eternal memory and my mother’s and father’s late families who perished and were destroyed from the face of the earth by the Nazi enemy and their collaborators during the terrible Holocaust that occurred in the Europe between 1939-1945.

Future generations that will follow, will certainly feel proud (although I do not ask for any reward for raising these things in writing), because they, too, will have clear evidence of the origins of the extended family.

I thank the Almighty for being fortunate enough to see the re-establishment of the State of Israel and be the last generation of slavery and the first for redemption.

I’m trying my best to tell facts accurately. Draw portraits and other describe personalities which I have encountered during the course of my life, outside the State of Israel. My hope is that future generations will continue the chain, and that will be my reward.

Fyenkne Street

I wrote in the title the name of our street, as it was called for many years. The truth is that a few years before the outbreak of World War II, it was renamed the Pulaskiego Street, but all referred to it by its former name.

The meaning of “Fyenkne” is “beautiful”, but the street was far from pretty and whoever determined the name to begin with had no idea what it will look like later.

All my childhood years has passed in this street, in Poland, the city of Siedlce, and we stayed at this street at No. 42, with Icze Fiatr. One can say with absolute certainty that almost all of my mother’s family lived on this street and its surroundings.

Opposite us was house No. 77. The house and the Oficina in the yard belonged to a family nicknamed “Di Stalmacas” (the barrel makers). My grandfather, Samuel Ibkobitz, and my grandmother, Chaya Lea, lived in the house in the yard. Underneath them lived my grandfather’s nephew, Simha Nos (Simha with the nose). Above the grandfather’s house lived, in the past, Uncle Eli and aunt Taama, followd by Aunt Binya and her husband Leybatse, and on the same floor lived Simha’s brother – Itche Nos (Itzhak with the nose). In the distant past – the parents of my grandmother, Lea Chaya, lived in this house – Ephraim and Esther Goldberg.

At no. 73 lived my grandfather’s brother, Abraham, who was known in his special profession as a shroud maker. I regarded Abraham as a walking encyclopedia and he knew most of our city’s history.

At no. 64 lived Binye Dua, my mother’s, Rachel, older sister, and her whole family. You could actually this was like a second home for me.  My grandfather’s younger brother, Ephraim, lived on Sbiintoiinskh Street, across from the city jail, but the yard he lived in bordered with Fyenkne Street.

So far I have told a little about my mother’s relatives who lived around us, but I completely forgot that Rabbi Avraham did not live alone, but at Frimaat’s, whose husband Judah (by all Aidala) was a tailor as well. In the eastern part of the street, beyond the clock tower, dwelled Moshe Hersch and his family (the son of Abraham) and his wife Hanna, and they were the parents of Leizer (Eliezer) my cousin Esther’s (who was Binya’s daughter) husband.

My father’s family was also fairly represented in this street. First of all, my grandmother Perl’s sister, Leah, and her husband Berl Aflboiim and their families lived in a quite spacious apartment is Oficina (the formerly lived on 11 Listofd -novembr street, formerly named Okopowa Street). If we take into consideration that Aunt Leah had nine children, most of whom were already married, they were also a respected tribe on this street. Thei son, Yankel, and his family lived two houses away from them, and in the apartment in which Yankel lived he also earned a living with dignity. He, too, was a respectable woman’s tailor, and a sign announcing it was on the balcony of his apartment.

The son, Yasel (Joseph), lived nearby, and he was a furrier. (Later he moved to the city of Kalisz in western Poland). In house no. 73, in the courtyard, lived a cousin of my grandfather Abraham,  Berl Lokobski, Tz’ifa’s wife and their informally adopted son, Mendel. In the same yard lived my grandfather Abraham’s younger brother – Shalom Gora and his family.

Our street stretched from east to west and was less than one kilometer long, but mostly it was purely Jewish. The word “density” cannot describe the conditions we lived in – in one room you could sometimes find three generations clustered on top of each other.

When someone referred to Fyenkne Street he would always add the words ( ” פארן שטאט זייגער ” – ” Before the town clock “) meaning the eastern side of the street, or on the other side. This is proof enough that the eastern part of the street, stretching from Floriinskh Street to the Kilinskigo street junction, was narrower and older, although it also had plenty of lawns and trees.

In contrast, the western side, which was “ours”, was broader, actually an avenue. On the side my grandfather Shmuel lived was a narrow lawn, and on our side a double lawn, with ornamental trees planted and a wide path with benches in the middle. The entire street was paved with rough stones like most of the city streets. Trenches on either side of the street drained the clean sewage that flowed from the courtyards and the rain water.

On the street’s eastern side was the square. A small garden next to the old municipal clock tower, the “Iatzak”, a statue carrying Earth on its back. In popular parlance it was called “Iatzak mit di Bomba (Iatzak with the bomb). Once the City Hall was here, and now this was the municipal library and perhaps the urban municipal museum in miniature.

Right next to it stood the community center where many Yiddish plays were held.

Sometimes I would envy those who lived on the other side of the street, because the house numbers almost reached one hundred. Our side, however, had areas confiscated, such as the famous Square and the city clock tower, and took many numbers. Thus on our side, the street ended at most with number 75.

The eastern side was very densely built, because in the past, the first houses were built without planning and only later, when the few houses became a real street, they were joined by the planned houses, and the ones inside won from the no-man’s land and anyone who wanted to add some extra to the existing house did so without permission, they asked no one, therefore, whoever entered such a courtyard, called by the people(Gasala) saw a mass of ruins close together, so it is understood that if you did not see, you could at least hear what was happening in his apartment Of the neighbor.

During the summer months, the Square was crowded with people, mostly Jews, or rather Jewish mothers with their children. There wasn’t much space, but being in an almost purely Jewish environment added a special touch. The pretzels and pancakes vendors were milling about here and there looking for shoppers for their groceries.

On our side at the end of the street stood the closed market (Hela) which was open two days a week: on Tuesday and Friday.

Even on our side there wasn’t a yard without an Oficina, but the yards were bigger, simply because the street was wider (remember, that between the east side of the street and Filsodskiiko Street, lay Quzhou Street, where I studied with Rabbi Asher).

As big as the yard was, it housed the lavatory and storage of garbage. So when one came into the courtyard, one was greeted by the smell of home stink.

Aunt Binye and Family’s Escape

When I tell the story of Aunt Binye and family’s escape, I cannot tell one story.  At first I dedicate a few words to the euphoria that began in September 1939.

As I have mentioned in my story about the bombing, my grandfather, Shmuel, and my aunt, Binye’s, houses were burned in the bombings, so they had nowhere to turn upon their return to the village, and Esterr- their oldest daughter, obtained a small dwelling place for them nearby.

The first one to escape was Leizer. And why was he first? For a simple reason: Leizer was a communist, and after proving his “heroism” during the brief period in which Soviet forces were in our town, he had only one choice – to escape with them during the evacuation of the city. Where did he run? Nobody knew.

Second in line was uncle Liibtzh, my aunt Binye’s husband. Usually, uncle Liibtzh was mostly employed by the Zaiontz family, a branch of which lived in Brisk, which was the destination of all my uncles produce. With no means for living the only option left was to find refuge in Brisk, where my uncle was invited to by an employer. He found a small cubicle with a local family and began to work, but this time at a much lower rank than he was used to at his house in Siedlce.

Esther, my cousin who lived the tragedy of the seamstress Rachel in 1920 (see the story of the seamstress Rachel), did not want to remain in the same situation, and she had only one choice – to wander and look for living. It was an unbridled boldness to take a one-and-a-half-year-old baby and some property, and to cross borders and risk a certain death.

The road to Brisk was not an easy one. The distance to the river Bug was approximately forty kilometers. For the most part there were carts, leading the escapees to the village near the river Bug and at night, after bribing the local gentiles, they would transfer the fugitives to the other bank of the Bug and leave them alone in a field in complete darkness.

Through Drogotzin, Esther reached Brisk with the girl, Haya’le, and found her father working, as I have already mentioned, for the Hzaiontzim. Here she learned that her husband Leizer was in Russia, or more accurately – in the city of Mozyr in Bialorosih.

Upon seeing Esther, Uncle Liibtzh had one wish only – to bring the rest of the family from Siedlce.

Esther, a young mother at the time, could not leave the baby alone in a foreign city. The woman at whose house uncle Liibtzh stayed volunteered to take care of Haya’le, and Esther – equipped with two hundred Zloti from her father – turned back to Siedlce. This was the second time that Esther had stolen the German border to Siedlce.

The hardships of the war brought with them diseases and especially typhus. Cousin Velvel was the first to become ill with typhoid fever, and the disease was disastrous. In addition to him was Grandpa Shmuel, who was already seventy-seven years old.

Another problem was that Uncle Liibtzh has requested a new head for the sewing machine. This was not an easy task! Carrying the heavy head of the sewing machine in treacherous roads was difficult – had to steal across the border with seven people: aunt Binye, the cousins Sarah, Henya, Velvel, David, grandfather Samuel and Esther “the smuggler”).

Upon arriving in Brisk they turned directly to uncle Liibtzh’s workplace. Barely one or two additional people could be accommodated in the small room where he lived, but nine people – no way! The landlady where Uncle Liibtzh lived, or rather – her husband, found a temporary solution: a nearby warehouse into which they stuffed some straw and everyone found a temporary resting place. This was the third time that Esther smuggled the Soviet and German border, and the last time!

Written by David Giora.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.