26 – Brzeziny, my little town



Fira Melamedzon spent in Brzeziny near Lodz first six years of her life. She learnt Polish here as she had known only Russian before. Also, she had a big, branchy family and many friends in Brzeziny and she visited them often in later years. There are around 200-300 photographs of Brzeziny Jews and their Polish friends. In this part we place a bunch of Fira’s memories of Brzeziny, mainly of her Polish acquaintances, and several dozens of photographs of local Jews, in the town or visiting leisure villages like Szymaniczki and Tworzyjanki.

 It was comfortable to travel from Poznan to Brzeziny. You took a train in Poznan and went to Lodz. Then you went to Baluty and took a bus to Brzeziny. It was a piece of cake for me. When I got off a bus I was happy. I thought and felt, „I am here again. I am walking along the street, feeling every cobble-stone under my shoes, and every step brings me closer to beloved people”. I loved this little town much more than any big city, and now I remember it much warmer than big cities. People knew one another, each house and family’s story. This knowledge made people live together.

Though Brzeziny was a small town, there were many houses along the streets. Most of them were two-stored, high-ground tenement houses with sidewalks and cobblestone roads running along them. The heart of the town was the Market Square. I remember two pharmacies located there. One belonged to a Polish man, the second  to the Jew named Abramowicz. Sw. Anny Street started at the Abramowicz’s pharmacy.

 We had a lovely mayor in Brzeziny, Mr Niedzwiedz. In my first class of coeducational school I was sitting at one desk with his son, Waclaw. He was a boy of my age, maybe slightly older. We liked each other very much. I met him after many years, when I came as an adult maid to some party in Poznan. Then, he gave me his photo with a dedication, „To Fira, the nicest out of the nicest friends, Waclaw”.

Wacek had two elder brothers, blonde-haired Cezary and dark-haired Ryszard. When we were in the first class, Ryszard was already in the seventh, maybe eighth class and he had a Jewish girlfriend named Malgosia. After graduating gymnasium, Ryszard left for Warsaw to study law and Malgosia followed him. Their relationship lasted until he came back, as a lawyer, to Brzeziny but they never got married. This was because he was threatened by some Polish people that they would not use his office’s service. During the last years before the war Polish people of Brzeziny changed dramatically. They got poisoned from anti-Semitism. In the past, they didn’t mind Polish-Jewish couples so much. Now, they sent warnings of a boycott. I don’t know how they did it but finally Ryszard left Malgosia.

Other Poles we made friends with were the Smulskis, Waclaw and his wife. Mummy had known them since her maiden times. When we came from Russia, Waclaw Smulski was a director of the Healthcare Fund and their friendship revived. Mummy visited them quite often. Mrs Smulski practiced singing and Mummy accompanied her on the piano. The Smulskis were so close friends that when Mummy was helping Daddy in Poznan, and it was time to pay for my school, I was allowed to go to Mr Smulski’s office and ask him for a needed amount of money. My Mummy payed it back after she came back from Poznan. Mr Smulski was elected the president of Tomaszow Mazowiecki in 1928, if I’m not mistaken. He left but we were in touch with his family, even after the war. He became then a director of some cooperation in Lodz, but the factory burnt down and the communist authority accused him of sabotage.

In summer I went with relatives from Brzeziny to a village for a few-day holiday. Brzeziny people often went to nearby Szymaniaczki instead of spending their holidays at the other end of Poland. They rented a room  in a village house and spend there a few weeks. The village was located in the middle of a forest, on a big glade. The air was unusual there. Women with children spent the whole days there and their husbands joined them after work and rested, just like in Puszczykowo near Poznan.

I make a list of my closest relatives in Brzeziny to keep them in memory. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, were Frida and Chaim Ber Dymant. They had seven children:

1.Aaron, who died at the age of 18;

2. Izaak, who married Iza from Lodz; they had children, Rozyczka and Romek.

3. a daughter, whose name I don’t remember; she died at the age of 16;

4. Natan, who married Pola from Leczyca and died in 1929; They had two sons, Jerzy, born in 1923 and Kuba, born in 1926;

5. Rachela, my mother;

6. Maks, who lived in Russia, came back after the revolution and died of consumption;

7. Lea (Lili), who married Jonas Lew; they had no children.

My grandfather’s brother, Meir Dymant, had a bigger family. He lived with his wife (I don’t remember her name, I only know that her maiden name was Tuszynska) in his own tenement house in Brzeziny. I was so close with this family branch as with my first uncles, aunts and cousins. Meir and his wife had six children:

  1. Herman, who married Anna and had three children, Natan, Bronia (she married Adolf Szerc and lived in Warsaw) and Sonia;
  2. Sara, who married Zahar Melamedzon, my Daddy’s brother; they had three children, Osii, Zygmunt and Pola;
  3. Feliks, who married Lotka; they had two daughters, Rita (she married Stas Warhaft) and Lenka (she married Lutek Klingbail); Lenka’s 2-year-old son was killed by Germans, but she survived the war and gave birth to another son;
  4. Aaron, who married Sala, nee Bercholtz; they had two sons;
  5. Zelig, who married Dunia; they had one son, Abraham;

Regina, whose husband’s name I don’t remember; they had a daughter, Celina.