Purim in Ozarow, Poland
"The festival of Purim
coincided with the end of the severe cold. Under the effect of the reborn
sun, the snow accumulated all winter began to melt little by little. This
caused our village, tucked into the space between a hill to the north and
a stream to the south, to be crossed by sudden floods. The waves became so
big that to cross the Main Street it was necessary to quickly lay down
big stones and planks in the middle of the road as an improvised bridge.
The carters would help you in getting from one side to the other. You
might have thought you were in Venice!
This lasted for more than a week, during which we lived with our feet in
water, but in spite of everything the situation had several good aspects.
Thus, with the aid of the flows, we were able to get rid of the straw
mattresses and other rubbish which had accumulated at the backs of the
courtyards during the winter. Using heavy rocks to weigh them down, we
immersed bread boards and rolling pins to clean them better for the coming
of Passover. So in crossing our village, the water accomplished a kind of
WAKSMAN AND HIS COLLEAGUES
Zangvil Waksman, front
center, photographed with his colleagues
in a Polish army shoe repair detail during the First World War.
We can't speak of the joys of Purim in Ozarow without
recalling the name of the great Waksman family, or the 'Nosyks', as everyone
nicknamed them. They lived in the Teherkask neighbourhood, between
Wysoka Street and the western edge of town, where they worked as
Occasionally, they also worked as pavers, and it's thanks to the 'Nosyks' that we
had squares and lanes that were more or less passable in our
village. But their fame was mostly due to their being a widely
admired group of singers and dancers. And at Purim everyone vied for
loved their Yiddish narrations, mixed with pungent Polish and
Russian expressions, and their clothes turned inside out for the
occasion, their gaudy coloured masks and their songs which everyone
took up in chorus.
Purim was synonymous with a traditional religious holiday, a joyous
atmosphere and popular celebration. Bands of children went about
distributing gifts to their parents and in-laws, to friends, to rabbis,
to the synagogue custodian .... Then came the reading of the Megilah of
Queen Esther and in particular the chapters where the praises of the
beauty of the Queen were sung, and we remembered Ahasuerus and Mordechai.
And what a tumult the children's noisemakers made to drown out the name of
the wicked Haman!
All that vanished,
like the melting snow flowing through the alleys..."
and written excerpts from "Memories of
A Little Jewish Town That Was" by Hillel Adler. Translated by William