Basia Must Survive

It has been 66 years since I left my birth town of Krivichi, Poland (now Belaruss). It was a shtetle, a small town, of no great distinction. Only about 50 families; a census showed little over 400 Jews lived and thrived here under difficult conditions and governments. In its more current history, Krivichi was governed by Belaruss, Tzarist Russia, Poland, Soviet Russia and by the killers of Nazi Germany. The nearest large town, 21 miles NE of town, was Vileyke. Krivich, as the Jews called it, had one synagogue, a mikve (ritual bath) where mother and I enjoyed the luxury of a hot bath every Friday and a “shochet”, a kosher religious slaughterer, a special butcher. I, Beatrice (Basia Poliskin) Sussman, was born in 1933 and I believe that I was named Basia after a maternal great grandmother. My baby brother, Avremel, was born 7 years later in 1940. My father, Sholom Poliskin, was one of four children. Brothers Morris and Harry came to the United States before the first world war, and a sister Libe lived in town with her husband and 3 children. They were killed in the Shoah. Father’s parents died when he was a young boy. Somehow he managed to establish a life on his own, became a dealer in lumber and provided a comfortable living for us. He was a respected, good and kind man. He was charitable and generous to needy to the point that mother complained that his generosity will drive them into the poor house. His work took him away on business trips often. I awaited his return home with pleasure and expectation of a gift for me. I remember a special gift was a large bouncing ball peeking through a woven net bag. Mother, Libe, was one of four daughters, Hane, Libe (mother) Haske and Basie. They were raised by my widowed grandmother, Asne Leahe Weisenholz. Only Chane and Haske and children survived. All were married with children. My cousins were often my playmates in games of hopscotch, jumping rope or jacks, which were played with small stones. My grandmother, whom I called Bobie, spoiled me with her treats, especially potato pancakes, which I love to this day. My parents married, introduced by a matchmaker, and even though their temperaments were opposite, they were a good match. Father was easy going and followed rules, while mother was full of spirit and stood her ground when necessary. She was the disciplinarian