Chapter 25


By G. Urinsky



This time was very hard and restless[1], especially the first months, until links with the Polish central power in Warsaw settled down. Poverty was dominant. There was hardly any contact with outside world. A typhus epidemic expanded with enormous force and many died because of it. In the summer of 1919 American help began to arrive. They sent a mission that opened a free kitchen and distributed clothes to population. The American Polish Committee for Children’s Help opened children’s kitchens.


Then, the Joint Committee began its activity and the American Committee that distributed Joint help among institutions and people was founded. Through them, people from Pruzhany who were away during the occupation received help from relatives. Through Americans who helped their relatives after the war large amounts of money began to arrive. Most of the population would survive thanks to the financial help from American relatives.


The Jewish population began to recover. The rural residents of villages returned from Russia and, in spite of their poverty, were economic and business demand elements for which Jews had occupations and business. After World War I, industries that had been weak before began to be developed in Pruzhany. For example, the tobacco industry produced not only mahorke for peasants, but also low priced cigarettes. Several factories employing up to 200 Jewish workers were created. Tobacco was bought in the area near Pruzhany, and also in the Volkovysk area, where mostly Jews were the owners of cultivated tobacco plantations. However after several years this industry disappeared.


Agriculture business, that had expanded so much among the Jewish population during the German occupation, continued to increase its production. Agricultural work was very important in first years after WWI. Agricultural products were expensive. There was large amount of land that was abandoned by the owners. Jewish peasants had to fight to acquire sizable land areas and also fight to get a decent price for their agricultural products. According to statistics that were carried out in the year 1921, agricultural work among Jews is reflected in the following table[2].











Trade and agriculture

Crafts and agriculture


Before WWI







During occupation







In  1921








According to population's census for the year 1921, there were 4152 Jews and 608 families, 2449 people, declared that their livelihood was in agriculture.  The number of Jews in agriculture in 1921 was 59% of Jewish population of Pruzhany. There were 134 families who were farmers, that is 13 % of Jewish population. In the category of agriculture and trade there were 258 families, and in agriculture and crafts there were 216 families. Before World War I only 10 families were devoted exclusively to agriculture; most of the Jewish families were in trade and some in crafts.


Of the 608 families 315 had houses; 55 had orchards, 480 had fields.  With others there were 205 horses, 403 cows, 68 calves, 96 plows, 78 water wells, 8 carts, 3 mills and 16 sprenzshinvukes (?).


Some years later, after the Riga peace agreement, when most of the landowners and peasants returned and began to work on their own earth, a great part of the Jewish farmers disappeared. A small number of Jewish families that were in charge of working the land were all that remained in agriculture.


The Urban Commission was dissolved and in the summer of 1919, elections were held for the Urban Council. Since socialist political parties did not participate in this election, proprietors of houses - Jews and non Jews – there was a ballot list without a selection by political party and the listed names were elected without carrying out a competitive election. This Urban Council was in Office until 1927, at which time it was dissolved and it was decided to hold a new election. 


During 1920, the population suffered a great deal because of the Soviet-Polish war.  Military skirmishes were carried out in the city and its surroundings. Bullets fell in the city and one person was hit and died. The residents were lucky that there were no fires as a result of the shootings. Bolshevik military force occupied Pruzhany during the summer from the beginning of July until the beginning of August 1920.


During the years after World War I there was a great emigration to the United States. Since the U.S.A. imposed limitations on immigration, there was also a movement to immigrate to South American countries, especially to Argentina, and also to Cuba and Palestine.  

[1] In this sense the following is written in the Life book, "On Monday 28, Nisan, 5679 two young people that were murdered were taken to their graves on the night of Sacred Saturday The fragment of the third Bible book called Vaikrá was read for 13 days of Adar. We looked for marks on their bodies and we only found that one of them had three gold teeth in his mouth, and the second had only one gold tooth, and there was not any other marks on their bodies". In that book there are other similar references.


[2] Considering that statistical material is not precise, these statistics are fairly accurate. The Brest Joint American Committees carried out the statistics, and they have 16 articles (Pruzhany is mentioned here). They were used for Joint conference during spring 1921 in Warsaw, and for ORT World Conference in August of same year in Berlin. In both conferences, the writer of these lines presented a project to receive economic help for Jewish farmers. This help did not come. JCA and ORT granted small loans to carry out inventories.  The JCA wanted to carry out a statistical research of Jewish farmers and among others that were in Pruzhany area, according to the pattern of industrial statistics that the Joint usually carried out. A decision was taken to designate a new Director but, for different unknown reasons, it was not implemented.