czwartek, 24 stycznia 2019

These places in front of my eyes. Pre-war Ostrowiec (1/3)

Jack Borenstein talks:

You know something. Not that I don't want to know about Poland. I am still thinking about it. But the main thing is, whatever you want to find out from me, I can tell you. I am ready to answer you any question you will ask me. If I can answer it—I will.

First Memories: Home
My earliest memory? When I was a child, about 3-4 years old, we lived on a hill close to the river near the Church and near Górzysta. It was just an ordinary small brick house. Within walking distance was the mikveh and the Shul.

2013. The hill, Ostrowiec

I had one brother and 2 sisters. I was the second oldest. The oldest one was a sister: Perla Rosa. Then came me. Then another sister Faiga Tova and the youngest child, my brother Hersh Hillel. Who was my favourite? I can't really say. I got along with them all.

When I was older, I remember living at Górzysta 13, Górzysta trzynaście (Jack spells it in perfect Polish). We used to go to the lake, the market was close, too. I can see these places in front of my eyes.

2018. Górzysta 13

My Schools - Cheder, Mizrahi, Public School
When I was a child, I started my first school when I was 3 years old. It was a cheder. You went first of all for the lessons to the teacher in a house. In a Cheder, there was a Jewish teacher, and there were a few pupils, and the lessons were in the Rabbi’s house. They taught Jewish history there.

Later they built a Mizrachi school in Iłżecka street—it must be still there—and that's where I went for a couple years in the afternoons after I went to public school. Mizrahi school was different than the Cheder which was in a private house. It was really like a real school.

I walked to school by myself as a child, I was 7 years old. We had to walk down, it was quite far to go. Then you got to where the hospital was. You make a left turn, you go down the river. It was one floor rented in an apartment building, and the school was there.

I remember that we used to go to the public school there. You went down from the Młyńska street, at the back from our house. And if you go there on the right, there was a fire station. Then we had to go right to Zakłady Ostrowieckie. There was a big public school, the only public school I used to go. The class where I learnt, was in a rented building on the same street where the hospital was. I remember they sold bicycles in that building.

I never had any problems in the public school. Not that I was the best student, you know. But the school was ok. It was really 6 days a week, but Saturdays the Jewish people didn't go. And when you came on Monday, you had to know about what they learned on Saturday. So you had to find somebody, a friend, a Gentile, who would tell you what the lessons were. I don't remember though any names.

As for vacation—I used to have an uncle in Stopnica. My mother's brother lived there. And I used to go there in the summer as a child.

What friends did I have? Most of them were from the Mizrachi school. No Gentile friends, really.

There was no time to make friends. First you went to public school, let's say it was from eight am to four pm, and after the school, you had to go the Jewish school, then to Mizrachi. So you hardly had any time to have friends, unless you had friends from school. It's not that we didn't mix with others. It was just convenient to play with the closest neighbours.

At Górzysta street, where we lived, were mostly Jewish people. All my friends were Jewish. Those who lived downtown [at the lower part of the town] had more Polish friends, than those who lived where we lived.

My Homes in Ostrowiec 
It was common that three families would live in one house, or even in one room. I had an uncle, Shlomo Hirshman, who had seven children and they had only one room.

Before my father built a big house on Górzysta 13, we used to live in a house on the opposite side of the street. The house on Górzysta 13 was a big house, so it took a long time to build it. Each brick used to be carried by hand; so the higher you went, the more you had to carry. I remember they said: it will never get built.

There was a custom that before you start to build a building, you put a coin, and you cover it with a stone. So when they started to build the house, they made a hole for the foundations of the house. I remember they carried me down, and I put the coin underneath the stone. I must have been 7 years old.

Górzysta 13
The house had three floors and a basement and was built in the 30s. My father built it for our family and also for my mother’s sister, who was single and also to rent out. Every floor had four rooms, at the basement was the soda factory (which actually was the ground floor facing Mlynska street). We lived on the main floor on Górzysta 13, and there were 3 rooms: a kitchen, dining room/bedroom and a big bedroom. There was also another room that was a candy store, where my aunt managed it.

The Soda Water Factory—Our Family Business
What did my father do for a living? He made soft drinks (pop), soda water, lemonade, to drink. In the basement at the building at Górzysta street, there was our factory in the 30s. I was 8 or 10 years old and I helped out as much as I could. I worked downstairs; I washed the bottles. It used to be glass bottles, we didn't throw away anything like nowadays. So they took the bottles back, and I helped in washing, rinsing bottles, preparing them for the filling machines. You put the bottle to the machine and machine filled it. That's what I used to do, and I liked it better than school.

Did I like drinking lemonade? Oh, I really liked it! The main flavors were orange and lemonade. I used to take my friends on Saturdays, I had the key, so I took them to the factory and give them a drink. Everybody was happy. It was like to go out. A bottle of lemonade used to be about 10 groschy.

But most of it, what we used to sell, was large containers of soda water. It was soda water filled in a steel cylinder syphon for stores and restaurants that would sell by the glass. We used to deliver it to the stores. We had one or two guys; they carried it by hand.

Pre-war Jewish Occupations
Were Jewish people working in Zakłady Ostrowieckie during the good times? No, until the war started, they didn't hire any Jews, most likely because of anti-Semitism. No Jews worked there, that's all I know.

The only professions Jewish people had, were mainly tailors, shoemakers, stuff like that. And most of them had little stores. That was the trade for the Jewish people. There were a few doctors and dentists. In those times though, if you needed a tooth pulled, you could go to a barber.

But the stores were not like nowadays. They were really small. Jews used to also peddle with a horse and wagon. They used to drive around outside the city to sell stuff. That's how they made a living. It wasn't easy to make a living, though.

Jewish people, most of them, lived close and around the marketplace: the Rynek. The market days were on Mondays and Thursdays. The farmers from the surrounding area used to arrive by horse and wagon and sell chickens, vegetables, food, clothing, etc.

I remember the synagogue, it was really big. And it wasn't too far from us.  You would go up the hill to the synagogue.

But our family didn't go to the big synagogue everyday. During the week I went to school. My father wasn't that religious, and I was too young to go. I was still a child – when the war broke out I was only 15 years old – so I used to go always with my father. I know that the big synagogue was burned down and there is nothing left.

Instead of going to the big synagogue, we went on Saturdays and holidays to pray in a private home near the marketplace.

2017. The place where the synagogue once was

Jewish Polish Relations
I was a child when the war broke out but the church wasn't far away from our home. When there was some kind of Christian holiday, everybody was scared to pass by the church. You know the Poles, some of them didn't like Jews. It might have been because of the priests. I wasn't in the church, but we knew that.

Another thing is that before the war there was a campaign against Jewish stores. They put up signs not to buy in Jewish stores.

2013. Passage by the church


Interview with Ostrowiec Survivor Jack Borenstein. Conducted and transcribed by Monika Pastuszko. Part 1 of 3
See introduction >>>

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