Friday, January 04, 2008

Walking the Length of a Name


My mother just told me this: my grandfather used to say that the town he came from, Krakanova in Lithuania, was so small that if you began to say its name as you walked into town, you'd have walked out of town before you'd finished.



My grandfather, Percy Zelikow (Pesach Zelikowitz originally) also marvelled, when he first met my son Ryan, that he'd known six generations of his family. He had known his grandfather and he had met his great-grandson. That's a birth date range from 1860something to 1993.

My grandfather left the town in his late teens in the late 1920s for South Africa. He always felt deeply bitter about the treatment of the Jews of Lithuania.

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From Shtetl Research: Krekenova by James Gross:

(Krakanova, Krakenovo, Krakinava, Krakinova)population 300
Approximately 18 miles from Kedaniai & Panevezys on the Neviazha River
Map coordinates are: 55 33'/24 06'


Krekenova, Lithuania is located on the Neviasza River. It is 30 kilometers from Kedainiai, Lithuania and Panevezys, Lithuania. Before WWI there were 300 Jewish families. During the war (1915) they were expelled to central Russia and the town was burned down. After the war (1921) there were 150 families living there. In 1939 there were 60 families.

The Jews earned their living in the linen trade. There were also a few artisans. Two large flour mills were owned by Jews and the towns marketing days were Monday and Thursday. The town had a synagogue, study house (Beit Midrash), a small synagogue (kloiz), and a large yeshiva that was founded and headed by Rabbi Moshe Cheskin. The Tarbut school had some 170 students. There was also a 2000 volume library. There were charitable institutions and social welfare was provided to the needy. Its youth organizations were Maccabi,Hehalutz Hatzair, and Hashomer Hatzair.

The town was noted for its scholors. Many of its leading figues had rabbinic ordination, but they did not earn their living from their rabbinic training. In the study house (Beit Midrash) the study of torah continued uninterrupted day and night.

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My grandfather, pictured reading above, maintained a deep love of reading, books, and study all of his life, despite having no formal academic training. He studied as an ornate metalworker. His father was a blacksmith. My family recently donated many of his extensive collection of Yiddish books to a university Jewish studies collection in Ottawa.

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