Malka's home in the shtetl (town) of
Sherstagrad, between Kiev and Odessa in the Ukraine. 1913.
Cyma and Malka
They made me leave the shul. I couldn't pray for Papa
The rabbi ordered me to
leave...but I opened the siddur and started to pray. "Yis-gad-dal v'yis-kad-dash
sh'me rab-bo...." Someone must have gone to get Mrs. Taxin from her husband's shop
across the street. She came in and started to tell me what I was doing was a
shanda--"you shame the memory of your father," but I wouldn't listen. I just
prayed louder, "b'ol-mo di'v-ro kir'-u-seh..." One of the men said, "pull
her away, get her out of here!" Mrs. Taxin tried, but she's an old woman, I'm
stronger than she is. Finally, she said, "Feh! I wash my hands of you--you're a
miserable excuse for a woman!" and she left. The men gathered in the corner with the
rabbi. I couldn't hear what they said, but they were arguing
one of them went out. In
a little while he came in with the man who works in the field behind the shul.
Kostya? With the red beard? They went to get Kostya, because they can't touch you
themselves, you're a young lady. But not Kostya, it should not have been Kostya. The way
he looks at the women.
(Distraught) Kostya picked me up like I was a pile of rags and carried me outside.
When he carried me, he put his hand on my breast. They all saw that, and no one stopped
him. Some of the men spit on me, too, until Rabbi Gerson called out for them to stop. When
Kostya put me down outside, I tried to go back, but he blocked the way. And he laughed and
called out so everyone could hear, "Jewish tits are as soft as Russian
" I hate them!
No, Sweetheart, don't let them make you hate. You love your Papa, and you miss him.
Remember how much he loved you. Think about that.
Cyma and Libby's home in Sherstagrad. 1913.
The following day.
Libby and Cyma
I'm going with you. We'll both go to shul and pray for Papa. And whatever happens
will happen to both of us.
Libby, that's silly. You don't want to do this.
(Angry) I'm not silly! Or stupid! He's my father, too, and I can go to shul just like
They would eat you alive if you did. And you would let them.
I would not. And besides, we'll be together. They can't hurt us so much if we're
together, can they? Please, Simi, you're my sister, and I'm afraid, and I want to be with
you no matter what happens.
Sorry, Libby, your timing is not so good. Yesterday, I would have been proud to have
you go with me--the two Lozawick sisters standing together. Today, I don't even want to
look at you. You despise what I'm doing, but you'll do it with me because you're afraid.
My sister is a coward who wants me to hold her hand while she trembles with fear. Not
today, Libby. Not today.
That's not fair. I changed my mind. I have a right to change my mind. I thought about
it, really, I did. And I changed my mind. I want to stand with you.
What will you do when they spit on you and call you names? When your friends turn
their backs on you? When people talk about you in whispers when you pass them by? When you
go in a shop and no one will look at you or sell you eggs or flour or needle and thread?
That's what will happen, you know. We can't always be together. What will you do when
you're alone and these things happen? Will you run home looking for Cyma to hold your
hand? And if I'm no longer here? What will you do then? Throw yourself in the Voz?
I don't want to hear this.
Hear it, Libby. This is not a game you can decide you don't want to play anymore when
the fun stops.