A story by Zofia Sarzyńska
A story told by Zofia Sarzyńska (2003)
The Oral History Programme, The "Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre" Centre
Jews in Kazimierz Dolny
The centre of Kazimierz was wholly Jewish. The arcades "U Radka" where Jewish, and the entire section was Jewish, and a length of the Lubelska street was Jewish, on both sides. The market square was entirely Jewish. Trade was mostly a Jewish thing. The entire market square was Jewish, just trade. There were also tailors, shoemakers, Jews too, but mostly trade was their thing. There were also Jews working in transportation, they made a living taking people across Wisła. In general they also liked fish, so they caught some, too. Across Wisła not only Jews, but also Doraczyńscy would sail with their boats. There was little competition that they would have against one another. Doraczyńscy had a lot of presence in Kazimierz, so they kept sailing these boats. When someone wanted to go by boat to Janowiec, they would hire a Jew or a Doraczyński, and on they'd go. Of course, there were ships too, but who was the owner, I don't know. Be it Jewish or Polish, they were there and that's what important. You could go from Kazimierz to Warsaw on such a ship. And it would be much cheaper this way, too. Jews worked wherever you could earn a couple grosze. They also bought bottles. Every Jew had two, three goats each. The Krzyżowa mountain was bare, because they all were pastured there. The Jews were really hardworking. A Jewish woman took four milk cans and went around villages, buying milk. On the doorframe of a barn she put score of how much milk she bought, and she carried the cans around. She did the rounds early in the morning, so that she could start selling it to vacationers at eight o'clock. There were also such ones that would carry water around. There was a porter, Kozynawa. He would take, as they packaged flour or sugar in such great sacks, and so he had a length of rope and carried them around. And a lot of that, too. And he kept singing. He sang in Polish. He was really strong. And I don't know, if his name was like that – Kozynawa? And he kept singing. He carried these things and kept singing. Kept singing loud. Usually about love. Maybe he was betrayed, or something, that he would sing on and on about it. But if he ever had had any family, I don't know. But he had to live somewhere. It's just that he looked well, because if he carried so much, then he had to eat enough, too. There weren't many restaurants in Kazimierz, just a kind of soda places. They sold candy, beer, ice cream, soda water of all kinds was popular, too. These were some kind of balloons with juice, a Jew made them. And this soda water was very trendy. It was with juice, so it made it more expensive. Where these is an orchard these days, back then one handsome Jew had his soda place. But that one was more proper, with tables, so that when you got ice cream you could sit there, instead of going back to the street or somewhere. It was a smidge more elegant. There was Barszcz – a Jew – he was a field doctor, really knew what he was doing. And he would come for every summon. Barszcz would come. The first hairdresser in Kazimierz was a Jew – and he worked for men and women both. And there were many craftsmen. The pharmacist was a Jew – Lichcon was his name. His son and daughter are still alive. At first all they had was a small drugstore, on the way to the monastery, in a tenement house. Later on they bought that one square, before the war, and the pharmacy was built. He was very kind, always gave advice, and all. He was two children. Olek was the older one, and Hanka was the younger. But they apparently felt something was coming, because all the children every Sunday morning were on the playing field, they had to come, and the teacher took them to the monastery, to the church. And Jews never said a thing. After the war they came here. They had Hanusia, their cook. So they came for her, took her with them. She was sick already. They took her with her bed. They were in Łódź, but allegedly they went abroad later on. There was also a certain Langleben, who wanted to be a pilot. He lived across the street from the synagogue, there was a building there, and upstairs the rabbi lived, downstairs this Langleben fellow. He wasn't big, and wanted to be a pilot, so he volunteered. Many Jews did not want to join the military. Religion didn't let them. They all resisted. What they wouldn't do... they would break their own fingers, starved themselves, they would even brew a tobacco tea and drink it, all just so they would be unfit for the military. Everyone laughed, because of how small he was, and he wanted to be a pilot, nothing, only a pilot. And they didn't accept him in the force. Another one always told that he didn't want to go to war, and so he pretended to be deaf. When he was going downstairs once, they pushed a barrel after him. "I knew I'd be hurt, but be it so, I'm not getting myself conscripted!" Back then you went for two years. And he didn't. He kept pretending to be deaf. The rabbi lived here, like Langleben. And where the synagogue stands, there used to be a tall building, too. Downstairs Langleben had a shop, and some others too, and here was a big balcony, and the rabbi's family lived there. He had three daughters, but no sons. I went to school with the youngest one. She, I won't forget it, when she tried to teach how to bow, there was an uproar. But she attended school normally. Lichcon and the parson played cards, but the rabbi didn't. The synagogue had been where there was a cinema afterwards. It was a large hall, and people prayed there. There were windows, you could see everything. And they prayed there near the street. Everyday they had to go there, the Jews. Jewish women didn't, only men had to go to the synagogue. And for everyone to see. There was an altar in the centre, and it was more Eastward, and they put a sort of a sheet only with black stripes, on their heads, and would sway like this. The interior was painted white. Where there is a kindergarten now, there used to be a house of Farensztajnowie. They had a sort of a guesthouse in the summer, the Farenszstajnowie had. Every daughter needed a dowry. Farensztajnowie was a very proper family. Where now there is this Saint Anna centre and the garden, back then a Jew used to live, he lent people money, with interest. You gave him a bill, and he took a certain percentage off of it, and that's how he made a living. In Bochotnica there was a huge mill, owned by Frydowie, a Jewish family. It was their family mill. There were three of those Frydowie, three brothers. One dealt with grain purchase. And this Szlama would bring in the grain. The other watched over the mill, and the third sold the flour. After the Sabbath, on Saturday, you could put an order for it, and he brought to everyone the flour they ordered, be it wheat or rye. He had all the variations. After the market, on Tuesday or Friday he would come. "Good morning. I'm here to the money". "Oh, Mr. Fryd! "I don't have it today". "Goodbye, then". He wasn't insistent like: Give me money for what you bought from me! He'd come on the next Friday. It was a very big mill, the one in Bochotnica. Now there's a sawmill there.
On Tuesdays and Fridays there were fairs organised in Kazimierz. On Tuesdays there was a big one, on Fridays a smaller one. There were bunches of shoes, and everyone could try them on. And there were clothes, suits, pots, all the things, spread across the entire fair. When someone tried something on, a Jew would say: "Nice, nice!" And it was the best thing. One friend, a widow, married her farm–hand, much younger than she was, and came to the fair to buy him a suit. And he says: "Buy him this, buy it. He's a good lad, buy it for him". All while it was her husband the Jew was talking about. Everyone laughed like there was no tomorrow. He says: "Buy it for him, because he's a good lad, buy it" and would tap him, and try things on, and all. He would make all the corrections as needed, in the spot, everything. They were really resourceful. A Jew didn't eat if he didn't earn it. He would go around very late, but if he didn't earn a thing, he wouldn't eat a thing. Usually in Kazimierz Jews weren't very rich, but were kind regardless. The shops were open until six o'clock, you couldn't trade after six. But if you opened the shop door after six, they would let you in still, and if a cop caught you you, he'd write a report. So they gave presents to policemen, on Christmas and Easter. Where I lived, I had a policeman as a neighbour. The Jews wouldn't sometimes know where he lives, so they'd come to us. And my brother was always up for jokes, he shouted: "You can leave it here". And the gifts were for the policemen. On Sunday you couldn't trade, if a policeman caught you... But you could run the soda shops. I mean, like ice cream, cookies, candies. That you could, but not a grocery, shoe or textile stores. One such textile store belonged to Lubowa. "Mrs. Lubowa, I wanted some fabric for a dress". "Here you go". "But I don't have the money!" "That's fine, you'll pay when you can, no problem". There was the only textile store in Kazimierz. And she had beautiful things there.