A BLIND WATER CARRIER
Growing up, a child of holocaust survivors, I occasionally heard stories about the war - "der milchooma" and of life in pre war Poland. These stories were fragmentary and often took the form of a fable or mythological tale. One "character" I learned about was the 'Blind Water Carrier of Kozienice". He was my father's neighbor - #20 Brovarno, my patriarchal home situated at # 26. There were several water carriers serving the nearly 5,000 Jewish residents of this central Polish town situated on the Vistula River. Shmai, it seems was the most beloved. Through his work, the townspeople supported him and his family - his wife Latta, and children Bayla, Moshe, Pinchas and Etta. Despite being blind, he was able, with the help of his children, to deliver water to residents using a simple wooden yoke and two galvanized steel pails. My father recalls that Shmai was always upbeat, engaging and hard working. I somehow recall that as my father would reach the end of story about Shmai, the words grew stiller, the pauses longer. He never told me about what happened to the Debiowski family.
When my father passed away in 1997 these stories and others were taken to the grave. What more could I learn? Fortuitous events, together with the growth of the internet and the fall of the Iron Curtain, have allowed me to able to begin to piece together my family's history. With the discovery of new images, documents, and actual visits to the very places in question, I have begun to feel the burden of memory - all the more difficult, that like Shmai, I carry the yoke without the clarity of vision. Memory, is so much like water. A fundamental necessity of life, it is heavy, ephemeral in character, and so hard to describe. Too much of it, and one can drown. It is my generation, and those after us, that have become the blind water carriers.
Shmai, his wife Latta, and their four children were violently driven, together with nearly 8000 Jews from the town and surrounding area, to the Kozienice train station on September 27, 1942. It was there, I subsequently learned, that my grandfather, Israel, for whom I was named, delivered water to the beleaguered souls as the train waited hours in the hot sun prior to departing for the small village to the northeast - Treblinka. This website and accompanying blog, where small bits of memory are revealed, re-ignited, rekindled, are dedicated to all those who lived and perished. To their villages, towns and cities. To the life that once was.
To the blind water carrier of Kozienice, his daughter Bayla and the countless others
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