Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


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Ruzhany - Cultural Heritage Card

Ruzhany is a settlement in Pruzhany district, Brest region of the Republic of Belarus.

Yiddish was the language of commercial law in the entire Central Europe and of course Eastern Europe. And that's why appearance of a goy in the office who would also belong to Sapegas (everybody new that family) would be a kind of a sensation. During my entire stay at his company Medzizhetskiy showed me letters from clients from all over the state with a question how the young prince goy coped with his business.

Eustachy Sapieha, Tak było: Niedemokratyczne wspomnienia Eustachego Sapiehy, Warszawa 2012
Reconstructed entrance and outbuildings of Ruzhany palace
Reconstructed entrance and outbuildings of Ruzhany palace (Author: )

Ружаны [Belorussian], רוזשינוי [Yiddish], Różana [Polish], Ruzhany [Lithuanian], Ружаны [Russian]

It is situated in a hilly area on Ruzhanka River 140 km from Brest, 38 km from the railway station Ivatsevichi, 45 km to to the north-east from Pruzhany. It is situated at the intersection of such highways as Vysokoye – Pruzhany – Ruzhany – Slonim and Ivatsevichi – Kossovo – Ruzhany – Skidel.

Geographic coordinates: 52°51′53″ N. 24°53′26″ E. (G) (O) (Я)

BELORUSSIAN VERSAILLESDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The origin of name "Ruzhany" (Rozhana, "Rzhanaya" meaning rye) is sometimes related with the word "urozhay" (meaning "harvest") which is probably related with richness of local fields. But legends don't agree with this. Legends tell us about a wise prince who was the owner of these lands. He had beautiful daughters Ru and Jeanne or Rose and Anna. And settlement Ruzhany was named after these daughters. It is also possible that their names were Ru and Pru and so two neighboring towns (Ruzany and Pruzany) were named. The only exact variant is that the name of the settlement is related with the name of Rozhanka river flowing into Zelvianka at its sharp bend.

The first written mention about Ruzhany (Razhany) belongs to 1490.

In 1552 the settlement belonged to family Tyshkevichs. Then Brukhalskiy's family became its owner. In 1598 Bartosh Brukhalskiy sold his estates Lososin and Ruzhany to the future chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lev Sapega who made the settlement his main residence. That was he who constructed a castle on a high hill in the suburbs of the settlement at the end of the 16th century. This castle was the residence of Sapega's family.

During the period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) Ruzany was a settlement of Slonim district, Novogrud voivodeship.

By the beginning of the 17th century Ruzhany was a prosperous settlement: there were over 400 yards, a brick plant, and a tile plant there. The Trinity RC Church of Dominicans and the Peter and Paul Church were built on the territory of the settlement.

Through the efforts of Sapega family Ruzhany obtained the Magdeburg Law. For session of the Magistrate a town hall was constructed. The town was given an emblem: a wreath of red roses in the silver field; in the center of this wreath there is a figure of St. Casimir (saint patron of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) with lilies and a cross in his hands.

Thanks to authoritative family of Sapega Ruzhany were often visited by crowned personalities. The first king who visited Ruzhany was Sigismund I the Old. In 1617 prince Vladislav came here when going to a military campaign. He stayed in the settlement during two days. He was accepted by the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lev Sapega. When Vladislav became the king he visited Ruzhany again in 1644. He was honorably accepted by the new owner the court marshal Casimir Lev Sapega who treated the monarch with the richest presents.

"After that the king went to the court marshal (Casimir Lev Sapega) to Ruzhany where he was accepted with a magnificent splendor and spent there 9 days. In addition to that the marshal presented the king with the following items: a golden vase valued as 2000 ducats and a Belgian carpet valued as 10,000; the queen was presented with a ring bought for 16,000 and sable fur bought for 3,000 in Moscow..."

Before the the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Vilno was conquered by troops of Alexey Mikhailovich the Vilno chapter stole relics of the St. Casimir from the Cathedral RC Church in 1655 and delivered them to palace in Ruzhany where they were kept during several years. In memory of this fact the following inscription was made on the wall in the hall where remains of the saint person were kept: "Divo Casimiro sacrum".

Lev Sapega (who first belonged to Orthodoxy, later to Calvinism and then to Catholicism) collected the richest library (3 thousand books). This heritage of books he passed to his son Casimir Lev and to his other children. And Casimir donated this collection to Vilno Jesuits.

Julian Ursyn Nemtsevich recollects this "library" with irony:

"In Ruzhany in property of the Prince at hetman Potsey's residence (and he is a well-known drunkard) I saw another "library" of cups. And according to size of these cups one could judge about nasty alcoholism of our fathers. Those were cups with volume of two and even more bottles. These cups were of various forms (cues, guns, bears). It's a pity! These immeasurable vessels were used by our fathers and grandfathers. They drank away happiness, independence and integrity of Poland: they lived in peace and we and our descendants should suffer for their laziness and idleness".


"The town suffered great devastation from troops of Confederates and the gentry during their conflicts with Sapega's house in 1698. During his campaign from Lithuania to Volyn Karl XII staid here on the 14th of April 1706 and he found out that the town and the castle were completely destroyed by Ogninskiy's confederates and foreign troops and were abandoned by the inhabitants. Wealth of successors still helped to raise the town from the decline and to decorate this majestic "detinets" again".

Geographic dictionary

Alexander Michail Sapega managed to revive Ruzhany. During 1784-1786 according to the project created by architect Yan Samuel Becker the castle was rebuilt. The architect managed to create a majestic castle and park ensemble which would later be called Polesye or Belorussian Versailles.

One should also mention a theater which was situated in the eastern building of the palace. That was so called "Opera house". The theater had a deep stage with seven plans giving an opportunity to change decorations during performances. The auditorium organized in form of a horseshoe had two-storied lodges. The theater started its work in 1765. The group working in the theater consisted of 60 persons (ballet, chapel, choir). That group also made performances during various festivities in Derechin and Zelv. It included predominantly serf and free Polish and French actors. There were various schools at the theater: ballet school, music school and singing school. Serfs' children were pupils of these schools. Repertoire of the theater: opera "The Village Wizard" by J.J.Russo; ballet "Mercy of Tite" ("La Clemenza di Tito"); music comedy "The Magic Tree"... The theater existed up to 1791.

Ruzhany castle was famous about its park which was situated from the northern side of the palace. The park was divided in a French manner for "wild" nature and had a radial-ring planning of alleys which were started at the palace. Each of the alleys ("wild promenades") started from the round lawn ended in a pavilion of round or square shape (probably of "Chinese" or "Turkish" style). The park had a bathing hut a grotto, a gardener's house, a so called "Venus' yard" and a summer theater. Ponds were an important element of the park (a branch of Zelvianka River was performed artificially). Cascade stair slopes were organized on earth mounds. The landscape zone also included a menagerie presented as a forest land with numerous throughcuts. Special premises were intended for living creatures: a poultry yard, a covered enclosure for lambs and goats, a farm.

During that period the settlement had linen manufactures, cloth and wool enterprises where smooth fabric with flowers and various patterns, satin fabrics, milling fabrics, table cloths for big tables with edge patterns and emblems as well as belts and carpets were produced. Manufacture of candle sticks, coaches and lacquered carriages was organized. Three times a week auctions were organized in Ruzhany; three times per year fairs were organized. "Cloths, silk belts, Damascus wallpapers, satins, dresses and baize, tablecloths, lighting candle sticks, coaches and carriages. These numerous "factories" caused faster a loss but people were engaged in business and the settlement was developing. Auctions were also revived (by Alexander Sapega – А.А.). In addition to former fairs three times a week he introduced additional fairs: for Russian "middle fasting", For St. Peter's the Russian and for the Spas in August».

On the 12th of September 1784 the king of Poland Stanislav August visited the renewed Ruzhany. He was accepted by the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Alexander Sapega.

Nevertheless Ruzhany was gradually losing its status of the main residence of Sapega's family. Too much money was spent for reconstruction of the castle. The estate was coming to the devastation. Even incomes of local manufactures couldn't compensate the spent funds.

Alexander Sapega leased the Ruzhany palace to a Jewish entrepreneur Mordukh (Leiba) Pines; he also sold the Ruzhany manufacture to this entrepreneur only for 1 thousand of rubles. The Saprga's residence moved to Derechin. From 1786 and up to the beginning of the 20th century a factory of silk fabric, velvet and other cloths was situated in the palace. There was also a linen factory producing table napkins, table cloths and linen. The staff of the factory consisted of 159 persons.

This story has a continuation. After more than one hundred years, during the 1920-s the territory of Ruzhany was returned to Sapega family. Here is the story told by a descendant of the great family Stakh in his book "Tak było: Niedemokratyczne wspomnienia Eustachego Sapiehy":

" In a certain moment (as well as in Novogrudok) an elder pompous Jew with a long beard came up to us, he made a bow and invited to his house with a great dignity because he had to tell our father something very important. After greetings and after a short visit to the farmstead of the RC priest we went to the pointed house. That Jew introduced himself as Pines. He treated us with tea with certain bagels and told the story of his family who had settled in Ruzhany in the beginning of the 18th family. It turned out that shortly before the November rebellion his grandfather and my great grandfather Yevstafiy concluded an agreement of sale and purchase of the Ruzhany Castle which later had been given by his grandfather for a cloth factory. Our interlocutor bent and took the original of the act of sale out of the lower drawer of the writing desk. In this act it was stated that the buyer would pay a sum which he would be able to gather during a certain period of time; but it was also stated that if anybody of Sapefa's family being a real heritor of the contractor would come back to Ruzhany the palace had to be sold to him at the same price.

— Up to date the Prince has his right for inheritance, so, the contract is valid and I have to give the property to the Prince in accordance with the agreement. I understand that currently the Prince won't accept it as far as only ruins are left but contract is the contract and I'd like to inform the Prince about this.

When I decided to practice a factory dealing in exports in Warsaw various women nodded with their heads and rumors were started that one of young Sapegas went to the left. But these rumors were in the air only up to announcement that he obtained a three-month permission to practice the company Yekhil Nakhari Medzizhetskiy. <...>

At 8 o'clock a.m. the next day I was standing at the door to the office and the first thing I noticed was a small hole in the door where a paper scroll was placed. Later I learned that that was a so called mezuzah verse from the Holy Scripture which had to be placed at the entrance to each house like the Cross on walls of Catholic houses. My first conversation with Mr. Medzizhetskiy was very funny. Before the war in Poland 90 percent of those who are now called businessmen were Jews. As for me I've never met a goy i.e. a Christian working at a Jewish company. It turned out so not really because of mutual unwillingness but probably just because of the fact that Jews having contracts in the state and abroad mainly with other Jews wanted to have coreligionist employees. Yiddish was the language of commercial law in the entire Central Europe and of course Eastern Europe. And that's why appearance of a goy in the office who would also belong to Sapegas (everybody new that family) would be a kind of a sensation. During my entire stay at his company Medzizhetskiy showed me letters from clients from all over the state with a question how the young prince goy coped with his business.

During my first meeting with Mr. Medzizhetskiy our conversation was approximately as follows:

— Does the prince understand what he does?

— Mr. Medzizhetskiy I have come here as Mr. Sapega trainee and I want to learn in the best possible way just because I want to go to Africa and I'd like to know what Poland trade with as well as how and where this trading is performed. The company is one of those few companies having contracts with so called Black Africa. Zamport and Pluto are companies interested in import of coffee and cacao which are at the same time not so active in other spheres. I can learn much more from the sir so much so that the company deals with Mozambique where I have already got a visa. In addition to that the sir has got contracts with the Far East and that gives me an opportunity to look at the world which is now unknown for me.

— Mr. Sapega, now I understand what it is about. But why does a person like the sir need it?

I was admitted for a three-month practice, obtained a cabin 3x3 meters with a plank pine table and two chairs as well as with a shelf around this cabin at the height of a height of a raised hand. Several days later I was completely deepened to the routine of working and very soon I obtained samples of items the company sold to Mozambique and to the both Rhodesias.

On my shelf I had the following items: saucepans of various size, buckets, pots, an enameled night pot, a wooden seat which are produced at uncle Adam's sawmill at Navoyova. When I said that I knew this sawmill Medzizhetskiy immediately asked:

— And does the sir possibly know the count?

— Yes, he is my uncle. I hunted there a few weeks ago.

— And the sir works at my firm!

<…> it is a scandal that Stakh works with Jews who equipped him with night pots and seats. <...>

I learned Yiddish with enthusiasm for my personal satisfaction and soon I already could write a pair of words in this language (but I used the Hebraic alphabet). It was really incorrect from grammatical and orthographic point of view but it was. I had to be able to write to somebody in Baranovichi on business. I asked the secretary to write this letter for me. But somebody of the company partners told me that I had to write this letter myself.

Mr. Sapega, the sir knows that we Jews write Polish also with mistakes but you read these writings and understand them. Does the sir think that Livshyts from Baranovichi is more stupid then you are? Write as you can and we shall see what will come out of it.

My Jewish-Hebrew language was approximately as follows: "Panie Liwszyc, Wiefiel kostet FOB Bannhoff Baranowicze ein Centnar żółty groch, Wir wollen 10 Ton. E. Sapieha."

The effect was amazing. The letter was in Baranovichy in three days. Livshyts immediately ansvered by phone; the price was agreed and the seller informed about his immediate arrival to Warsaw. That was the first and the only opportunity in his life that such a letter was written to him by a goy who was at the same time a prince. And he had to see this goy with his own goy. He told Medzizhetskiy that the letter hangs on the wall in his office as a memory.

To tell the truth I had a really cheerful time. I learned a lot in particular I learned to exist in such a completely different commercial and urban society as the Jewish society which in addition to everything spoke exclusively Yiddish. This "Polshchizna" [Yiddish] varnished in Holocaust or fell to pieces in hundreds of localities where refugees tried to escape. <> It was probably the last time when I heard this "Polshchizna" about which I talked before and which can take out a tier in people of my age, it is "Polshxhina" of all smaller settlements of our young years.

During revolution 1905-1907 workers of the cloth factory organized a strike. In 1915 Ruzhany were occupied by German troops.

In 1914 during the First World War in the result of a fire unintentionally caused by laundress the min and one of the side buildings were burnt. In 1930 the castle was partially restored but in 1944 it was destroyed again - this time it was destructed by retreating fascists who also burnt down the last small weaving factory.

In 1920-1921 an internee camp No 18 was organized in Ruzhany. Soldiers of the 3rd Don Cossacks regiment as well as ordinary citizens (from 854 to 882 persons) found their shelter in this camp. A literary magazine was published in this camp (edited by A.A. Turintsev). The camp was officially closed in the beginning of 1921 after internees were moved to Ostruv-Komorovo camp.

RUZHANY JEWSDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

"Hosts leave a visiting guest in their house without food just because he is not a Pole; hostess of XX refuse to give medicaments to Jews of her town saying: "you crucified our Christ". Jews are more ready-witted than Russians. A Jew of settlement X said to the pious lady: "Those were not we whom the Christ was crucified by! Not we! Those were Jews from Ruzhany!""

Nickolay Leskov

 A Jewish community existed in Ruzhany yet in the 16th century. According to the decree of the Lithuanian Vaad (1623) Ruzhany were included to Brest qahal district. So, a Jewish community was presented in Ruzhany yet before 1623.

Starting from 1662 in accordance with the decision of the Lithuanian vaad the Ruzhany community was never more subordinated to the Brest-Litovsk community and was presented with an independent status.

Ruzhany Jews suffered a lot during the Northern War (1700–1721) between Russia and Sweden but the community was still considered a rich one and the amount of the head tax in 1721 was 1,100 zlotys (the same as for Vilno community). In reality the situation of Jews became much worse and they were leaving Ruzhany.

At the end of the 18th century there were 769 houses, 5 small enterprises and a public specialized school in Ruzhany. In 1914 already 26 enterprises (341 workers) functioned there.

Jews were engaged in trading and handicraft. After in the first half of the 19th century six textile factories and several spinning factories were opened in Ruzhany many Jews of the town and its suburbs started to work there. Some Jewish families performed market gardening on lands they hired. In 1850 two Jewish agricultural settlements were organized not far from Ruzhany (in 1884 natives of these settlements founded Ekron settlement in Eretz Israel - now it is Mazkeret-Batya). In Ruzhany one of the first Russian groups Khovevey Zion was created, its representatives took part in Katovitsy congress in 1884. In 1904 the Jewish self-defense organization was created; it prevented pogroms in Ruzhany. In 1905–1907 various Jewish and Russian political parties became active in Ruzhany.

In the 18th - the 19th centuries Ruzhany was a center of Jewish learning. A well-known Yeshiva was organized in the town; well-known rabbis lived there; in 1855–1888 Mordekhay Gimpl Yaffe (1820–1891) was the rabbi.

In 1875 a fire occurred in Ruzhany. In the result of this fire almost the entire settlement was burnt. The fire destroyed Jewish prayerful houses and the big synagogue.

During the First World War soldiers and Cossacks of the retreating Russian Army beat and plundered Jews living in Ruzhany. At the end of 1918 after the Polish troops entered Ruzhany an organized pogrom was started in the town. Local population took part in this pogrom alongside with soldiers.

"Passing settlements – Pruzhany, Ruzhany, Slonim – were gnawed down by retreating troops as if bones. Shops had nothing except for blueprint and wood glue. "Zholnezhy vsystko zabrali",-- frightened Jewish shopkeepers complained" K. Paustovskiy. A Story of Life.

In 1921–1939 Ruzhany was a gmina center of Kossovo povet (district), Polesye voivodeship. Jews in Ruzhany dealt mainly in handicraft and trading. They sewed clothes and footwear, brought goods from Poland. The most prosperous Jews lived in stone houses in the center of the town. More than 60 shops were located there.

Polish authorities applied all possible measures for restricting Jewish trading, industry and handicrafts. Jews started to abandon Ruzhany.

During those years Ruzhany Jewish community tried to preserve Jewish education and culture. A secondary Tarbut school worked in the town. There learning was organized in Hibrew. There were also a secondary school with learning Yiddish, a private primary school and a theatrical community. Various Zionist parties were active.

After Ruzhany was included to the Soviet Union in 1939 Jewish community institutions, departments of political parties and educational establishments where learning was organized in Hebrew were closed. Many Jews, representatives of bourgeoisie, political and public activists as well as rabbis were arrested and sent to camps or to remote regions of the Soviet Union. After the Second World War started and Poland was occupied by German troops population of Rzhany significantly increased owing to great number of refugees. The number of refugees included several thousand people. Many of them were sent to internal regions of the Soviet Union but some of them staid in Ruzhany.

In the "Book of Memory – Ruzhany" published in Israel in 1957 names of streets in the settlement are given: Schlos-gas – Castle street, Vilner-gas – Vilenskaya street, Milner-gas – Melnichnaya street (it ended in a soil road leading to the neighboring settlements Lyskov and Volkovysk), Bliznaja-gas – Bliznaya street (to the north from the Market square towards Bliznaya forest), Klibaner-gas (it was probably a street parallel to Slonim highway but situated a bit lower), Kanal-gas – Channel (a street around the Castle channel), Pruzhene-gas – Pruzhanskaya street (it ended in a road leading to Pruzhany), Goshchiniets-gas – Gostinets (it started from the intersection of Pruzhanskaya street and Castle street and ended in a soil road leading to Pavlov and Kossovo), Xazer-gas – Svinnaya street (Shosseynaya street?).

RUZHANY BLOOD LIBELDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The following information is presented in Jewish Encyclopedia of Brockhous and Efron about a horrible story in Ruzhany:

"There is information about a feigned ritual matter in Ruzhany. Shortly before the Easter of 1657 a mutilated dead body of a Christian child was found in the Jewish quarter. According to the rumors that was a "victim of Jewish bloodthirstiness". Common people were ready to attack Jews but the owner of the settlement didn't admit a pogrom. He announced that subjected Jews would be committed for trial. Two and a half years passed and this matter was forgotten; it is possible that the Jews were absolved by the court. According to the author of introduction to the book "Daat Kedoschim" Jesuits didn't give Jews an opportunity to achieve court proceedings at the Royal Household and gave the matter to the Peasant court. According to another story citizens hostile to Jews because of some economic interests used absence of the owner of the settlement in September 1659 and committed a lynch law over Jews. The Legend says that on the day of Rosh-ga-Shana common people attacked praying Jews threatening to kill them. The court of citizens accused the entire qahal in performing a murder with ritual purposes and proposed Jews to sacrifice two representatives of the community. The choice fell on r. Israel b. -Shalom and r. Tobiya b. - Joseph (probably they were volunteers of this martyr feat). On the second day of Rosh-ga-Shana holiday they were executed. The son of r.Israel r. Simon described this tragic event in a wonderful selikha and in addition to that he created a nominal prayer (El Mole). Up to the present time the memory about the martyrs is venerated among Jews living in Ruzhany. Yearly on the second day of Rosh-ga-Shana a candle is lit in the synagogue for the peace of martyrs' souls. On the Judgment day the mentioned prayers are read. The folk's story informs us that the both martyrs before their execution blessed Ruzhany Jews and promised to pray the Lord that no blood libels should occur. In the local cemetery there is a stone monument to the martyrs (it was restored in 1875).

And this story has got its continuation - almost three centuries has passed but the story hasn't finished. We can read the following about it the book by O.L. Adamova-Sliozberg "The Way. The Origin of One Family Name":

"My father-in-law Ruvim Yevseyevich Zakgeim was a taciturn Jew deepened into holly books. Sometimes he was loudly arguing in Old Hebrew with some old men. Their disputes were about various interpretation of Talmud which was so important for Talmudists for a period of several thousand years. These Talmudists lived in their own peculiar world separated from everyday matters.

Once I asked:

— Why did you give your son (my husband) name Judah?

— And don't you like it?

— It is related with betrayal.

— What betrayal? What are you talking about?

— Judah betrayed the Christ and so his name is a symbol of betrayal .

— What a nonsense! Judah is a name of our Judaic nation. And why don't you like this name? I don't understand!

He magnificently rejected Christianity. There wasn't any mentioning about it in his holy books and it was too modern for him.

In 1930 my father-in-law solemnly entered my room where I was sitting at the bed of my newborn son.

— I need to talk to you. Will you circumcise the child?

I knew that the grandfather prayed the Lord that I should have a girl because he knew that a boy would remain uncircumcised and that was a real tragedy for him. For me it was difficult to deny to the old man and I decided to hide behind my husband's back.

— No, Ruvim Yevseyevich, even if I agreed to do that your son would never permit me to do that.

— If you agree we'll do that without his permission.

The grandfather instigated me to an offense. Poor! He suffered really a lot that he decided to turn against his dear son!

— No, I can't do that — I said categorically.

— But then your son won't be a Jew! Do you understand what it means?

And I didn't understand. For me it wasn't important whether my son would be a Jew or a Chinese because he was going to live under communism. I never thought that at the age of forty the fifth point would exist and that his grandfather could be calm: his grandson couldn't be named non-Jew even if he wanted that.

— Do you know the origine of our family?

The grandfather took a little leather case decorated with "Magen David" and an inscription in the Jewish language. The case contained a parchment scroll. He solemnly read an incomprehensible text in biblical Hebrew and translated it.

The contents of that manuscript were as follows.

In the seventeenth century a dead body of a Christian baby was found. Ruzhany Jewish community was accused in a ritual murder.

The influential prince this settlement belonged to announced that he would stamp the community out of existence if within three days the murdered were not presented.

During three days (during daytime and at night) the entire community prayed in the synagogue about salvation and in the morning of the fourth day two old men came to the prince and confessed to the murder.

The old men were hanged at gates of the castle.

The community compiled two charters (diplomas) and handed them to families of victims. One of these diplomas was in hands of my father-in-law. It stated that the old man (name to be spoken) wasn't a murder and that he sacrificed his life for saving the community and that in Ruzhany people would pray for his soul forever and that his family would get the name Zakgeim meaning "zerekh keidesh geim" which can be translated as "his seed is sacred". His family had to continue everlastingly and if there wasn't a boy successor then the girl would pass this family to his husband after marriage.

The grandfather read me that diploma and looked questioningly at me.

— If he is uncircumcised I won't be able to give this diploma to him and he is the heritor of our family.

I wanted to obtain this scroll very much and I felt very much sorry about the old man who really hoped that that time I wouldn't resist.

But I resisted. He left the room insulted and brought his treasure with him.

The grandfather has long been dead. During the war the scroll was lost. The last member of Zakgeim family (the son of my son) will soon be one year old. Now he learns walking. He cannot yet counterpoise and shakes standing on his plump feet. I look at him and think: so many storms have passed over the humanity since the seventeenth century when "forever and ever" the diploma was given to Zakgeim family...

One of Zakgeims, the chairman of Yaroslav town council was torn into pieces during the Wild Guard rebellion in 1918. Four representatives of this family were killed during the war. Several persons died in Auschwitz stoves.

My husband was shot dead in a Lubyanka cellar in 1936".

SECOND WORLD WAR AND THE HOLOCAUST IN RUZHANYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

From 1939 Ruzhany were a part of the Belorussian SSR. On the 15th of January 1940 it became an urban-type settlement, the center of Ruzhany district.

After the start of the Second World War Jewish population of Ruzany increased significantly by means of several thousands of refugees from Poland. Many of them were later sent to internal regions of the Soviet Union but some of them staid in Ruzhany. Jewish community institutions, departments of political parties and educational establishments where learning was organized in Hebrew were closed. Many Jews, representatives of bourgeoisie, political and public activists as well as rabbis were arrested and sent to camps or to remote regions of the Soviet Union.

On the 4th of June 1941 Ruzhany was occupied by Wehrmacht troops. An insignificant part of Jewish population managed to escape from the town. Plundering of Jews living in the town was started. In July 1941 a contribution was imposed on Jews living in Ruzhany (10 kg of gold and 20 kg of silver). Numerous restrictions were implied including an obligatory wearing a distinctive sign in form of a white bandage with inscription "Jude" on the right sleeve. On the 12th of July occupancy authorities shot dead 12 representatives of the Jewish intelligence. On the 14th of July 18 Jews were accused that they were communists.

A ghetto of an open type was organized in Ruzhany in 1942. Jewish colonists from Pavlovo and Konstantinovo were resettled there. The total number of Jews in the ghetto was 4 thousand of people. They were used for performing compulsory works (including digging ditches, clearing the debris, repairing buildings). On the 2nd of November 1942 German troops surrounded the territory of the ghetto. More than 100 persons were killed during searches in houses and lining Jews into columns. Ghetto prisoners were driven of foot to the concentration camp in Volkovysk. Those who couldn't walk (old people, invalids, children) were shot dead directly on the way. At the end of November 1942 Jews living in Ruzhany were deported to Treblinka. The entire center where ghetto was situated was burnt by Germans in 1944 during their retreat.

Local citizens tell that there were underground corridors where Jews hided during the period of German occupancy.

LANDMARK ARCHITECTUREDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

(just existing objects).

  • The Castle – the former residence of Sapega family (construction of this building was started in the 16th century);
  • The Trinity RC Church (1617, it was reconstructed in 1768, 1787 (by architect Y.S. Becker), in 1850, 1891) (RC priest Michail Voronetskiy was arrested by PCIA in 1949 and condemned to 25 years of camps; he was released in July 1956 and came back to Ruzhany parish);
  • The Petropavlovskaya (St. Peter and Paul) Church (1675, rebuilt in 1774-1778 (by architect Y.S. Becker));
  • A residential building of the former Basilian Monastery (1788);
  • St. Casimir RC Church (1792)
  • Austeria (inn) building (the second half of the 18th century);
  • The building of the former synagogue (the end of the 18th century);
  • Synagogue yard (the 18th - the 19th centuries);
  • The former synagogue (the end of the 18th - the second half of the 19th century) (str. Y. Kolasa, 6);
  • The former synagogue (the 19th century).

PLACES OF MEMORYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

In Ruzhany there is a monument on the common grave of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war where 3,000 to 4,000 of people are buried. In 1965 an obelisk was set up in commemoration of Ruzhany Jews victims of the catastrophe.

A Jewish cemetery is situated not far from Ruzhany (as of the August of 2014 it included more than 200 "matsas"). Among the discovered matsas the oldest one belongs to 1782. Writer Vladimir Soloukhin was stroke with the cemetery he saw in Ruzhany. He described this cemetery in his work "The Cup":

"And one day not far from Ruzhany settlement in Belarus when I went out of a young little pine forest I sow an extraordinary spectacle. An even spacious field was overgrown with grass which was a bit dryish and even whitish and gray. It wasn't really feather grass but just a kind of grayish grass. On a wide space numerous low pointed stones were sticking out of this grass that is out of the ground. These stones had ornamental inscriptions on them. It evident that this place was abandoned by people: they resettled or even died out. I had an impression of meeting another, unknown civilization. There were no fences, no flowers, no paths and even no mounds. Pointed stones, dry ground and grayish grass.

It also seeped that once there had been thousands of caterpillars there and finally they had turned into butterflies. They had become butterflies and had flown away. And nobody knew where they were now. Their covers remained on the ground. That was a mysterious civilization. But not so long ago the prime-minister of Israel Shimon Peres (Shimon Peres was born in Vishnevo and visited his native land; probably the matter is about Yitzhak Shamir– A.A) when visiting our country went to Ruzhany to that cemetery. Such a butterfly fluttered one day out of this place! Or maybe those were his parents. Probably the pale of settlement was situated somewhere nearby".

INTANGIBLE VALUESDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Natives and citizens of Ruzhany

Abilea Arye (Leib Neysvizhskiy, 1885, Ruzhany – 1995) – an Israel pianist and a pedagogue.

Aron Luboshytskiy (1874, Ruzhany – 1943) – a Jewish writer and poet.

Menakhem Oren (Mendel Khvoynik, 1902, Ruzhany – 1961) – a chess player.

Iyekhel Mikhael Pinnes (1843, Ruzhany – 1913, Jaffa), a publicist writer, a pedagogue, a religious Zionist activist one of ambassadors of the religious Zionism. He wrote in Hebrew. He was born in a religious Orthodox family of successful traders. He obtained his education in various yeshivas. During his young years he experienced influence of G. Yaffe (1820–91), one of leaders of Hovevey Zion, a rabbi and the head of yeshiva in Ruzhany which was mainly kept by Pinnes family. During a certain period of time he taught at this yeshiva. In 1878 Pinnes moved to Jerusalem as a representative of London M.Montefiore Fund in Eretz Israel. For his points of view and activities aimed at supporting the new Yishuv being born during that period as well as for his closeness to Rivlin (who was the secretary of Vaad Klali and managed khalukka, extremely Orthodox circles of Jerusalem Ashkenazi community headed by rabbi I.L. Diskin subjected Pinnes to herem. In 1882 jointly with Ben-Yeguda Pinnes established Tkhiyat Israel community (Revival of Israel) for the purpose of distribution of Hebrew as a common language. In 1889 Pinnes and Ben-Yeguda were among founders of Vaad Ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit – Academy of the Hebrew language. In 1893 Pinnes became the trustee of charitable organizations of Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem, a teacher of Talmud at the Jerusalem Teachers' Seminary. Pinnes took an active part in creating schools in Eretz Israel where teaching was organized in Hibrew as well as in writing and publishing textbooks and manuals. Pinnes being a thinker and publicist who created his own original style caused a significant influence on many contemporary writers and publicists. Articles and letters created by Pinnes were published in three volumes during the period of 1934–1939. Kfar Pinnes settlement created in 1933 to the north-east from Pardes-Khanna bears his name.

Louis Ribak (Louis Leon Ribak) (1902, Ruzhany – 1979) – an American painter.

Lev Sapega (1557-1633), a noble men of Lithuania, a great clerk of Lithuania — 1581, the deputy chancellor of Lithuania — 1585, the grand chancellor of Lithuania — 1589-1623, a voivode of Vilno — 1621, the grand hetman of Lithuania — 1625, the elder of Slonim, Brest, Mogilev. He was the founder of political and economic power of Sapega family.. He named himself "litvin" (a Lithuanian).

Izkhaak Shamir (Yezernitskiy, 1915, Ruzhany – 2012) – an Israel politician, the two-time prime minister of Israel who migrated to Palestina in 1935. At the end of 1941 he was arrested and was in custody at a concentration camp. On the 31st of August 1942 Shamir accompanied by Lekha member E. Giladi he escaped from the camp. At the end of July 1946 during mass persecutions performed by British authorities in response to explosion of "King David" hotel he was arrested in Tel-Aviv. He was in custody in Sudan and Eritreya. He escaped from the camp and left for France. He came back to Israel in 1948 after proclamation of an independent state. In 2001 Shamir was awarded the State Prize of Israel for his activity.

Melekh Epstein (1889, Ruzhany – 1979) – an American historian and journalist. He wrote his works in Yiddish.

RUZHANY DEMOGRAPHYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

In 1766 Ruzhany Jewish community consisted of 326 persons (154 Jews of them lived directly in Ruzany);

1847 — 1,467 Jews;

1897 — 5,016 citizens, including 3,599 Jews (71.7% );

1914 — 6,815 citizens (44 % of them were literate);

1921 — 3,622 citizens, including 2,400 Jews (66.3 %);

1939 — 3500 citizens;

the 1950-s — not more than 10 Jews;

1998 — there were no Jews registered;

2008 — 3,100 citizens.

TOURISTIC INFRASTRUCTUREDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

  • Hotels, Restaurants, cafes
  • Hotel "Ruzhanskiy" (str. Kirova, 10 А); contacts: tel./fax 8(016) 32 32 013, 8(029) 888 88 47 (mts)
  • Motel "Ruzhanskaya" (str. Lenina 1); tel.: +375 (1632) 311-89
  • Cafe "Ruzhanka" (str. 1 Maya, 1)

Author: Irina Yelenskaya