- A Found Poem
This is a found poemof what has been lost,a history from a pageof a book I do not havechronicling the livesand deaths of Jewsin seven small villagesin Russia and Poland,beginning with P,from Piaski to Piatka.Page 985.
Piaska, Poland, now Belarus,Jews present in the 16th century.Two architecturally distinctive synagogues.The population rose. . .and fell.On 2 November 1942 children and the old were takento the Jewish cemetery and murdered. The remaining1600 Jews were marched to the Wolkowysk Transit Campand soon after deported to Treblinka. [End Page 43]
Piaski, Luterskie, Lublin Poland,Jews first mentioned in 1699. Between the World WarsJews suffered from increasing anti-Semitism.Between Soviet and German rule, local Poles murdered and robbed Jews.In early 1940 a Judenrat and ghetto were established.In March 1942 3500 Jews were deported to the Belzec death campto make room for 4200 Jews from Germany, Czechoslavakia, and Kalisz(too many dates and too many places no one knows, but I am tryingto record the simple facts. . .).In September there were deportations to Belzec.In October 4000 were deported to the Sobibor death camp.The ghetto was liquidated in February 1943.The men were brought to Trawniki. All traces of them have been lost.The fate of the children and women is unknown.
Piaskovka, Kiev. In 1939 the population was 186. After their arrivalon 22 August, 1941, the Germans murdered the Jews.
Piatek, Lodz, Poland. April 1942 the inhabitants were deported to Chelmno.(I'm trying to be brief.)
Piatigorsk, Russia. Jews reached a population totaling 12,836 in 1877.Mountain Jews, called "Tats" (I didn't know there were mountain Jews) arrivedduring the civil war (1918-21) after being expelled from their villagesduring a pogrom. The Germans arrived on 9 August 1942murdering all the Jews on 19 September at Mineralnyie Vody.
Piatigory, Kiev, Ukraine (and here is where my story beginsand perhaps I should have started here).Jews numbered 138 in 1765. In 1768 the Haidamaksbeat and robbed Jews and murdered several.The Jewish population was 4383 in 1897(when my father and his parents and their parents lived there,carrying vegetables by cart from village to village, going to the cheder to study,for generations the same life) but numbered (only) 532 under the Soviets (whathappened?) in 1926. (And the answer): in 1919 the White Army troops (battling [End Page 44] the Bolsheviks) attacked the Jews (as my father had feared, leaving, in 1917,posing as the child of his aunt and uncle, years later bringing over his parents,brother and sister,who sold fruits and vegetables from small standsin the southeast Bronx). The Germans occupied Piatigory(the Yiddish name Piaterer, the name my father called his shtetl,the name of the small burial plot at the Beth David Cemeterywhere my parents, uncles, aunts, and cousinsare buried and where I visit every fall after the Jewish Holidays)on 16 July 1941. On 28 August, 17 males were murdered(my father and his father and brothers might have been amongst them).Jews were ordered to wear the Star of David (they would have, of course)and on 26 April 1942, the young and couples without children were sentto Buki labor camp. Ukrainian police murderedall the rest on 14 November 1942.(They would have been buried thereand I would not be here, writing this now).
Piatka, but it is at the end of the pageThe pages I do not have go on and on.
My nephew returned to his grandfather's shtetlwhere there are now no Jewsand sent photos of the Jewish cemetery,where the Jews are,along with page 985, from a bookfrom which I have taken the above.
I know it is not a poem. [End Page 45]
Bernice Mennis lives in the Adirondacks and has taught for twenty years in Vermont College of Union Institute & University, a progressive, student centered college. She recently completed a book Breaking Out of Prison: a guide to consciousness, compassion, and...