As etched in my mind in 1940
Translated by Meir Bulman
2. The road to Vilne
3. The avenues
4. The path to Bartnovsa Forest
5. Men's swim area
6. The river
7. The flourmill
8. Women's swim area
9. The hill
10. Swine St.*
11. The cemetery
12. The Rabbi's home
13. The bathhouse
14. Vilne Street
15. Eyshisok Street
16. The marketplace
17. The bathhouse street
18. The church
20. Rabbi Yosselovitsh
21. The Horse Market
22. Mass grave for Vilne Jews
23. The Christian cemetery
24. The movie theater
25. Train St.
26. Harminishok St.
27. Lida St.
28. The Electricity Mill
30. The Forest (Smuk)
31. The train station
32. Yitzach Olkenitski yard
33. The Synagogue
*Tr. Note: partially legible, inferred from text at p.26
Translated by Emma Karabelnik
The Book of Voronova is being published now, 25 years after the end of the nightmare which brought our nation's extermination followed by the purification of the world of the Nazi damage. This book is a symbol of the eternity of the nation of Israel, a tool to pass the torch from generation to generation, to continue to tell the story, and to prolong the chain.
The book's editorial committee stepped away from the quotidian, dedicating nights and vacations to the publication, seeing it as their privilege to bring to life the voices of their generation, and thus creating a memory and a monument to the martyrs buried in scattered mass graves without a gravestone and without a name.
We accepted the duty placed upon us by the Voronova Olim Community, and we did our best to accomplish the mission and to justify their trust. We know that no human is free from mistakes, and probably we also erred in our actions, our inter-relations, or the contents, but we hope that every member of the community can understand that any such inaccuracies or omissions were neither malicious nor deliberate. Those who act make mistakes, the fact and the outcome of the deed is greater than those small inaccuracies, and we hope to be forgiven.
And now to the contents of the book and its format:
We imagined our book as the last diary of the Voronova Community, whose Jews entered the history books in a most tragic way, and we, the survivors, must write down this history, the life and the annihilation.
We imagined our book as a testament to a most horrible crime committed by the world, which stood by while our blood spilled and did nothing for us; we, the survivors, must testify to and document the details of the crime for the sake of future generations and in order to bring this crime to the court of history.
We imagined our book as a monument to our dear ones, the victims of the terrible crimes, who have no gravestones or obituaries; we, their descendants, must raise a monument for them which to preserve their memories and their spirit.
And this is the format of the book: Community Diary, Monument, Historical Account, and Petition for Justice to all nations.
While writing the chapters about Voronova's history we discovered the town to have been under siege for all of its existence a tale of closure and fortification. The physical enclosure brought upon us by the enemy, and the spiritual fortifications which the Jewish Community took upon itself to keep and preserve under any circumstances and at any price.
During its long wanderings our nation has always made an effort to detach itself from everyday realities in the Diaspora and to attach instead to the abstract idea of a distant homeland in Zion, thus developing an amazing ability to adapt to almost any condition by creating a magical circle in which to preserve the spirit and legacy of the forefathers, in which the outer world has no control or say. The town of Voronova was created in this spirit: a fortress for people to abstain from present-life worrying by remaining in a state of constant longing for a glorious former kingdom, while anticipating the glorious future which would one day come as a direct continuation of this past.
For this reason we dedicated a whole chapter to the history of the town's spirituality, its institutions for the education of younger generations, its community life, and its special events. In this chapter one may discover the marvelous organizational skills of our nation, which succeeds in creating a community life under any conditions and circumstances, in order to maintain a harmonic and organized society-- with no need for a higher authority.
In this town, like in other Jewish towns, one finds several outstanding personalities standing out in their willingness to act publicly to preserve Community life, as well as idealists whose activity becomes their entire world while they live in anticipation and hope. That's why we saw a need to describe some of these persons, as much as our memory allowed us. In this way we preserve the memory of these people and of their positive values which should be passed on as a legacy to our new young nation, out of a feeling their examples will be needed in the future.
We allowed people to write their personal memories and experiences, thus revealing Voronova as a cultivator of warmth and heartiness, as well revealing the writers as individuals of ideals and vision, whose souls are torn between their love for the homeland where they were born and the homeland they long for now. The fact that they are drawn to their homeland and yet they ARE here, remembering their hometown and their old parents, proves that there was a conflict in their hearts which they succeeded in overcoming.
While writing the town's history for the last time, we had to recount its last days and those of its martyrs. These stories became chapters of blood and tears told by individuals who were victims of those awful atrocities chapters of indescribable human suffering and human challenge. These chapters are additional live-evidence of the atrocities brought upon the Jewish nation, their detailed truth become a bill of indictment to the indifferent world which now walks on blood, an accusation against people who are deeply obliged to us. We won't be calm or rest until this obligation is fully fulfilled by the insurance of a future for our nation in its homeland.
From these chapters we learn extraordinary life stories of individuals who stuck to each other at every opportunity in order to gain strength and preserve their Judaism. Voronova was lucky to be surrounded by vast forests where Jews succeeding to escape from the ghettos found shelter. Their stories describe desperate suffering, depression, and humiliation, and also great moments of heroism and revenge which make this book special: it's not another depressing book of like sheep to slaughter. It's about finding the last remnants of heroism and human spirit in the fight for dignity and existence conducted by self-appointed heroes who fought our enemies, and from the floors of their dugouts in the forests took revenge for Jewish lives on murderers of all nationalities.
We didn't limit the number of pages in the book for these forest chapters, and compared to other chapters in the book we took special pride in them. It concerns not only the people of Voronova but all those Jews who saved what was left of our national dignity. This book is different from other distressing literature describing Jewish suffering, because it contains heroism and revenge. In these chapters of heroism we being to disprove the disgraceful image of weakness sometimes painted over our nation in Galuth. No nation has withstood what we withstood, what the people of Voronova withstood. As editors of this book, we take great pride in this.
There are additional chapters in the book which may look out of place and too lighthearted for this book of sorrow, but at second glance they glimmer like gemstones or shining crystals describing our virtues. During the long years of Jewish ideological and tragic history, we developed unique qualities such as being satisfied with little, lowering one's head in public while remaining proud on the inside, being able to mock everyday worries, being able to belittle external cares while taking seriously matters of the soul, and other human characteristics deeply engraved by our nation's past and had to be described in our book.
We tried not to be tendentious and not to edit history when choosing the materials. We told everything. We wanted to show Voronova as it was great in its smallness and rare in its events. Such are the chapters on Rabbinical conflicts, neighbors' relations, petty quarrels and their causes. All combined together to create a spectacular picture of their lives, small lives with great vision of their national legacy, showing a great, if flawed, humanity.
The last chapter is dedicated to names, according to our national custom. As it is known, our nation was the first to make graves for their dead and to honor them with a stone and a name. In ancient times, when other nations buried their dead in family yards without any sign or name, our nation chose to designate a special area for all the deceased, thus recognizing the holiness of every single individual, emphasizing that there all are equal and together, but also that each one has his own name to be remembered forever.
Our book is a gravestone for those who were buried anonymously, for our loved ones who were buried alive where slaughtered with no headstone or name on their grave. The headstones engraved with names, as written on the pages of this book, are a great victory over those who tried to wipe out our names from the surface of the Earth. While our murderers' ashes are scattered by the winds and dispersed on the earth, the names of their victims are now written on the pages of this book to be remembered forever.
We wrote the names of our loved-ones in alphabetical order, to emphasize their, and our, togetherness. The common tragedy united us into one. The alphabetical list is available to and searchable by everyone. From A to Z they all belong to us, and from time to time we'll look and find them.
Dear friends and relatives we present you this book with a feeling of consummation in the task of saving our dear ones from their anonymity.
We feel that as People of the Book, in this tome we have established an eternal monument to our dear-ones, a monument that no winds can wipe of its inscriptions, and no human filth can ever pollute. It is a solid monument bringing the memory of the dead to us, to our homes, to our cities, and to the countries where we live.
We hope that you'll make a place of honor for this book, that you'll look at it from time to time when your heart feels like remembering our special town and our holy martyrs, and that it may interest your children for generations to come.
May the memory of our martyrs stay forever in our hearts.
Final remark: This book also includes chapters on Big Soletchnik, our neighboring town, whose memory would be lost forever without our help to its last survivors. We have helped the people from Soletchnik to establish a monument for their martyrs, and it's our pleasure and satisfaction to take this initiative and willingness to assist them. And thus Soletchnik will not be lost.
All the above said about the Voronova book is true for Soletchnik, and though there are fewer chapters, the story is full and complete and that's why it's a great achievement.
Standing from right to left: H. Klei, G. Kamenetski, K. Rothbart-Levine, Z. Dukshtulski, M. Kaplan
Seated from right to left: E. Taibl-Katz, Y. Poz-Puziriski, N. Tsur-Shapira, M. Shamir-Shmerkovitsh, S. Aviel-Shmerkovitsh
Translated by Emma Karabelnik
During work on the Voronova book I had a feeling of excitement. For the first time I was able to add the word 'heroism' to the word 'shoah'. It is not a typical book. Besides being a monument to a lost community, to the town and its residents so dear to us all, this book became a symbol of dignity for the Jewish people who succeeded, in spite of those horrible conditions created by Nazism, in keeping the will to live, to escape to the forests, to fight the oppressors, and to survive.
To our knowledge, there is no other nation in history who has been able to withstand such conditions. Many other nations have surrendered to fate, been assimilated, and offered their necks under less cruel and oppressive conditions, only to perish.
Therefore, the people of Voronova, and others like them who escaped to the forests, took upon themselves the mission of preserving Judaism, because they didn't want to persist only as individuals. Their desire to survive was in the name of Am Israel Chai, to return to the Motherland, to destroy the enemy, and to oppose physical violence with the powers of spirit and will.
We gained this power from the Book, the Bible, its continuity throughout generations. The books of Maccabim, Hashmonaim, and others as well, taught us to live for the sake of the idea of a Nation of the Book and of the human spirit. The Voronova book will teach succeeding generations to live in their homeland, to be cautious about leaving the homeland again, thereby putting us in danger of persecution, and to view the main goal of life as the nurturing of the Jewish nation after proving its heroism in the forests of Lida and Voronova.
The aspiration of all humanity is for the victory of the forces of heroism, and the spirit of the Book, over the forces of rape, aggression and cruelty; the heroism put to the test during the Holocaust gives such hope to all of humanity.
Therefore we must cherish those who created the book of Voronova, who sacrificed their nights and free time to establish a monument for your loved ones, and at the same time contributed tales of human heroism to the national literature.
Blessed be the members of the editorial committee: Yehoshua Shomroni OBM, who devoted his last days to this book, aware of his shortness of time, and may they live long, Meir Shamir Shmerkovitsh and Shlomo Aviel. Shlomo (Ed. Note: Aviel) Shmerkovich who put all his enthusiasm into this book and added his own impressions, and Meir Shamir who took over where others had failed, succeeding in the mission due to his energy and devotion. [He] took care of every small detail, from collecting money for publication, to collecting materials from people all over the country, and he served the Voronova Olim Association in creating a meaningful monument for your loved ones.
The fact that a monument has been raised for our dear parents, beloved brothers, childhood friends, and others who don't have a gravestone or gravemarker, and the fact that this book of testimony exists is thanks to them, and we should all be grateful to them.
As Editor, I take this opportunity to thank the Book Committee, who left behind their day-to-day cares and dedicated their nights and efforts to the cause. Their participation in the creation of the book added a public value to the work, and as members of the Voronova Association they honored that organization.
Translated by Emma Karabelnik
For some reason these photos were not printed next to their articles as they were in other sections.
Image of My Town 20
A Town of Blue and White 169
HaShomer HaTsair 199
A Town with a Marketplace
and Neighborhoods 173
Illustrative Curiosities 190
A Town of Unsettled Youth 177
Profile of a Town 25
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