Yael Chizkiyahu (Heller)



(Dedicated to my mother's memory: Civia Heller Podorovsky).


"Next summer we will travel to Kartuz Bereza".  This way my mother promised us beginning from my  early childhood. Possibly when  she promised it to me for the first time, Bereza was no longer, and all loved human being, missed and lacked her  until her death day, because they were murdered by Nazi enemy.


I knew that there was not any possibility to fulfill the promise, but I liked a lot to sit down and listen to her, when she spoke us of her town and her family. We took pictures out of the box, mom told us, and I listened and asked her. Last year of her life, when she already remained a lot of time in  bed,  we passed many hours "in Bereza", with her family and her relatives. With time, I knew many details and particularities on my mother, her childhood, her family, and in general on Bereza.


Mom's house, the house of CHAIA and YOSEF CHAIM PODOROVSKY,  was located in the heart of the town. It was a wooden house that my grandfather built with his own hands. The wooden planks were of  trees cut of the forest, and they lifted this way a bif house, with many rooms, some rented to the Municipality of Bereza and to other people.


In main room there was a big table, and in its surroundings met the family and relatives that came to visit us, some of which ...even stayed until spring. The table was covered with a velvet of wine color, and on it was set another of white cloth. In a side of the room, there was a carved piece of furniture, and on it were a couple of silver chandeliers, and other sacred decorations. In front in the corner, there was a copper samovar that was polished from time to time. The windows were covered by curtains hand knitted.  


At mom's home there was fluent water, and in the patio was a reservoir. One of the rooms was special: was used in the festivity of Sucot, and my grandfather used to live there seven days of the festivity. I also remember the bath that was leaning on four lathed paws, and the copper long faucets glowed... The house had a basement, and my grandparents stored there the best things during  summer, which  were to be used by the family and the visits, especially during winter. There  was everything: sweets, cucumbers in salt, sweet and sour cabbage, dry fruits, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables.


My maternal great-grandmother, lived with my parents in Kartuz Bereza many times, and other times traveled to United States, place of residence of her daughters that emigrated fearing the régime, because they activated in politics. This great-grandmother, my mom's grandmother,  was the midwife of the town, and she helped to be born almost all children in Bereza. Only my mother and her brother MICHL survived the Holocaust, while the rest was murdered. MICHL was the oldest brother, emigrated to Argentina in year 1927,  formed a family there and he died in April 1991.


The siblings murdered in the Holocaust were Sarah, married and with two children, the oldest a boy and a daughter MATELE. Another sister, LIBE, married, studied sewing with her mother and painting with MOISHE BERNSHTEIN and then got a diploma as dressmaker. The third sister was MAITE, teacher of Physical Training. One of the brothers was YDL; he was the pride of the family and my mother liked him a lot. In the Ghetto married RIVKA BERNSHTEIN, sister of the painter MOISHE.


The last one, the very dear youngest child, was LEIBELE, be his memory blessed. My mother CIVIA, emigrate to Israel in 1937. Here she married my father, and were born me and my sister CHAIA that takes my grandmother's name. CHAIM PODOROVSKY my grandfather, was a blacksmith. His gold hands created perfect all class of objects. For example, produced a bicycle as  a  gift for his first grandson, in the day of his "Bar Mitzva."


My grandparents CHAIA and CHAIM PODOROVSKY were religious people. Their house was open for advanced Judaism  and for universal culture. YDL studied in the Cheder of teacher  MINKOVITZ and later continued his studies in Vilna Polytechnic. My mother told that he always had in his baggage the  phylacteries bag and the Bible. She told us her pride that he finished his Engineering studies  with excellent marks.


I met uncle MICHL when he visited us only one time in Israel in year 1978, and I had a lot of satisfaction of being with him, and to listen on his wide literature and poetry knowledge , and his mastering of several languages. He told me: " All this is of house"... 


Our mother educated my sister and me  loving literature and poetry. She recited us poetry of KADIA MOLODOVKY that was born in Kartuz Bereza , also MIRIAM YELIV-SHTEKELIS's  poetries, and BIALIK's poems. Through KADIA's poetries mom walked with me and my sister CHAIA through her house and her town that loved so much 


In years ' 50 when KADIA lived in Israel, we used to visit her. The relationship between KADIA and mom began in Bereza when mom was a girl and KADIA already had 18 years. She rented a room in grandfather's house. Mom told that  grandfather used to point her with a finger and said: "you will see, she will be a poet some day". I want to highlight, to mom's pride, that the first poem I recited was "Open the doors"... 


An atmosphere of tolerance reigned in my grandfather's house. No any fanaticism. Around the table  sat down bundists, communist, Zionist, socialists, revisionists, and who not? As a Jewish rule, many times they discussed, maybe they fought verbally, but mainly there was a cultural atmosphere....


How much pain caused mom parents that their children were no longer so rigorous in the execution of the 613 precepts. I should highlight that they respected the habits of the house and the religious feeling of their parents. 


I could continue telling on house garden, the forests and the blueberries, the lake frozen during  winter, the dynamic social life, the loves and disillusions, the discussions and the search of new roads, my sister's LIBE beauty and her loving children, my grandmother's CHAIA works, virtuous woman, etc., etc. The stories on mom's  family are endless, and they will never finish for me... 


Mom died  11  Tamuz 5751 (1991). I thought for myself: she will sure find  in the world of absolute truth, all her dear beings that so much lacked her, and so much nostalgia had for them during so many years. 


Maybe this it is my comfort...