THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY presents
The doctrine of the Gordonia youth movement was based on the beliefs of Aaron David Gordon, the founder of the group Hapoel Hatzair.
Excerpts of an interview with Gordonia member Smelka J. (Israel):
I was born into a wealthy and religious family in the year 1914. We were four brothers and two sisters. When I was just eight years old, I first learned about the Pioneer movement. I hadn't been interested in religion, and I didn't want to live the life of a religious person. I wanted a different type of life. At home I was coerced to pray and to put on tefillin, to put on phylacteries. My mother was very strict with me and insisted that I read the Bible and pray every day, and she checked with me every day to make sure I did.
There was a time when I was young when I began searching for a way to change my life, in a way that would not lead me into a religious life. This was very difficult. At home we didn't speak at all about Zionism and did not think about making Aliyah to Palestine. We had been living well; money was not lacking at home. Whomever would have no money would be miserable.
Question: What caused you to become involved with a youth movement?
Answer: We were very young and full of motivation and energy, and there was not much for us to do. We had heart about the many youth movements....and all the young people in the town wanted to be together. Also, we had nothing else to do, and for our parents it was good that we would have something to do and not disturb them.
Question: What kind of activities did you do as a group (in Gordonia)?
Answer: On Fridays, all of us would meet at a place that we had rented. There we would sing and dance, and we'd spend time together until eleven o'clock at night, because at eleven o'clock there had to be silence. God forbid we would make any noise! Also in the movement we would hear lectures from instructors who had arrived from Palestine. It was there we would learn more about Israel.
Question: In which language did you speak? Were you speaking Hebrew or what?
Answer: No, we spoke Yiddish and Polish, and the instructors from Palestine wanted to see how progressive we were.
Question: What other activities did the Gordonia group do? How many people were there in the group?
Answer: I played football with the group. We were one hundred and twenty young boys and girls.
Question: Did you do your work, your job, in a special place? Please tell me what you did during the time you were being trained?
Answer: We worked on a farm that dealt with trees--a saw mill. My role was to care for the agricultural tools. The work was very herd and the Gentiles did not want us to work there.
Was it because of the competition of the workplace, or was it
Question: Under what conditions did you work? Did you earn any salary, any money when you worked?
Answer: The food was poor--soup with potato and black bread. And we were not paid for our work. The conditions were hard, but we wanted very much to learn how to work, to be good. Before we would make Aliyah to our country (Israel), we needed to learn how to work. The Jews had been dealers, and they didn't know how to work, to work in agriculture. We wanted to arrive (prepared) at the kibbutz in Palestine, and we needed to learn the differences in tooling.
Question: What about the girls? What did they do? After all, they wouldn't saw. That's not for girls, right?
The girls worked well in the fields, and they also did well doing
needlework or stitching. They learned to cook, they washed or learned how
to milk cows, and they learned how to prepare different kinds of cheese.
They also helped the boys.
Poland eighteen hours before war erupted. When I arrived in Romania, there
appeared a Jew in the train who told me in Yiddish, "Tonight Hitler forced
his way to the Danzig." I got into the country (Israel) ?????
Interview of Smelka J. (Israel), conducted by Roni Peled, 2008.