Market day in Lubivne
Efrayim Lerner, Sefer izkor le-kehilat Luboml [Yizkor book of Luboml], Editor: Berl Kahan, Tel Aviv 1974 (H, Y, E 390 pages)
Whenever I reminisce about my hometown Libivne,
a day in the marketplace comes to mind. Libivne did not have a copyright on this image, for virtually every shtetl in Poland looked alike on that day, when peasants from the surrounding areas set out to the Jewish shtetls in order to trade. There were, however, several characteristics peculiar to each particular town, whether these had to do with personalities, merchandise, or other things. Well then, how did a market day look in Libivne?
The first thing a peasant did after arriving in town with his wagon was to unharness his horse, raise the shafts of the wagon, and turn the horse around to face the wagon, where a bunch of hay was prepared for it to chew on.
Whenever the horse began to neigh it was echoed by the lowing of the calves and the mooing of the cows; and the pigs did not wait too long to add their disgusting grunts. All these sounds flowed together into one "symphony." And into this choir the cries and the yells of the people fit right in. The noise was so great that it could make one deaf.
In the midst of all the hubbub came Itshe Driker with his sack of salt from the Russmans' wholesale store. His tiny horse was harnessed to a sort of small cart of boardsthree boards set on the four wheels and one board on each of the two sides. Itshe sat on top of it and bumped along the road paved with large stones, not sparing his little horse any whipping. If Itshe stopped whipping, the horse would stop in its tracks, for it was the kind of horse that would not move a step without a blow, as the many scars on its hide testified.
Chayim Kichele was negotiating a sale of his clay pots in his wooden store at the end of Chelm Street. The peasant was testing one of the pots for a possible crack by tapping on it. The rag-dealers spread their goods in the middle of the market. Big peasant boots for men could be seen on a small counter. For women there were shoes made of hard leather, with yellow gussets attached around the buttons. Peasants were standing around the counters of the tailors, measuring the length of trousers by holding them against their chests with one hand, and extending the other end with the other hand.
We could see Chayim-Wolf Olesker and his sons in the area that had been especially designated for trading horses and cattle. Several horses were tied to his wagon. The oldest son, Yankl, was leading a horse back and forth, while the second son, Leyzer, was urging it on with his whip.
Chayim-Wolf, a broad-shouldered, happy, good-humored man, with his face framed by a short beard, slapped the peasant on his extended palm while telling him the price; the peasant slapped him back, bargaining over the quoted price. Suddenly, Chayim-Wolf's youngest son showed up with a flask that he had pulled out of a box in the wagon. When the peasant saw the whiskey, his eyes began to shine and he slapped Wolf's palm as a sign that the matter was settledthe horse was sold.
The market day was over in the afternoon. The wagons of the peasants began to leave the town, making a little less noise than in the morning. It was also more quiet at the city gates; there were no more inquiries by the retailers, yelling in Ukrainian, "What do you have to sell?" Each tradesman was now sitting at home drawing up the total of cash on hand or, even more important, of profit.
The shtetl became quiet. The rough day of running around and hard work was at an end. Most inhabitants, especially the merchants, had earned a profit for the coming week, and they could now go to sleep in a much happier frame of mind.
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