First Wolochisker Benevolent Association

The First Wolochisker Benevolent Association was the landsmanshaft for Volochisk, and had several large burial plots at Montefiore Cemetery. You can find a link of all of the burials here.

This is the program from the 50th Anniversary of the First Wolochisker Benevolent Association celebration, kindly supplied by Fern Gutman and translated from Yiddish by Beate Schützmann-Krebs and revised and edited by Jeremy Grant. The translation is below:

Volochisk, our old hometown!

For the 50th jubilee

Sisters and brothers!

Today is the great “yontev“ (holiday) for which waited for 50 years!

Each of us wished to live to celebrate the 50th birthday of our “society”; especially all those who worked tirelessly and sacrificed their time and energy to make the “First Volochisker”  fine and great so that it might serve the membership in the best possible way. And so we consider ourselves truly fortunate to have lived to witness this, and to have the honor of being with you and celebrating this great “holiday”.

Many of our sisters and brothers who may not be native Volochiskers or have never been to Volochisk cannot imagine what Volochisk meant to us. In Volochisk we were born and spent our youths!  It is worthwhile to write a few words about Volochisk: the Volochisk that we remember from before the First World War!!!

Our town Volochisk – located in Ukraine, by the former Austrian (Galician) border on the river Zbrutsh, which separated the “Russian” side from the “Austrian” side; though very few people in our town called the river by the name “Zbrutsh”! The river was divided into two parts and had two names, the “Broyer” (lit. Brewer) River and the “Mill” River.

In the middle, there was the wooden bridge — the “Lock” (Zastovkes) — and the “barrier” (regatke), on which one walked or drove across the border to Podvolochisk; the first river was the Broyer River and the second the Mill River.

In the middle, the mill and  the bathing place (kupalnye), in which only the town bigwigs had the privilege to  bathe. The others were only worthy of peering through the slats.

From the “Mill river” branched off a narrow water belt, called the “Rika” [Russian word for “river”]. It divided Russia from Austria for very long stretches!

Where the “Rika” began, on its bank, stood the three “bote-medroshim” (houses of prayer), the large “synagogue” with its small shuls; the “beys-hamedrosh” (house of study) and the “kloyz” (prayer hall).

In the time of the “Russo-Japanese War”, 1904-1905, when they began to mobilize the “zapas” (the reserve), Akhinu Bney Yisroel (Our Brothers the Children of Israel) came to Volochisk to get to safety and make it across the border. Every night hundreds of reservists got across the border through the “Rika”…and people who wanted to earn something “on the side” made a good business out of it…

Volochisk was well-known near and far for its border; just as Ukraine was known as a “food pantry”, or as they say here, “the food-basket”. All kinds of foods were exported abroad, and almost all the export went through Volochisk: there was a beautiful railway station; three trains arrived and departed every day from Volochisk station. And on the wagons of the mail train-and the courier you could see  written up “Odessa-Volochisk” and “Kiev-Volochisk”.

Trains used to cross the “iron bridge” to Podvolochisk.  The Austrian trains too came over to Volochisk station, where they made connections with the Russian trains.

People from all over Russia, who were on business trips or wanted to go to the “Kurorte” (health resorts with warm baths), passed through Volochisk using government passes.

Various food products, such as all kinds of “tvues” (cereals), eggs, poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and so on), fish and shellfish (all living) arrived by train or car from near and far; involved in the process were: pickers, shippers, exporters, agents, brokers and buyers. There were granaries, magazines, egg stores and advance lenders who gave money to those traders and buyers who went over the villages and bought: eggs, chickens, ducks, geese, a calf, some flax or a sack of grain and anything else that was available. And they made an honest living.

All these goods were sold in Austria and Germany; the Volochisk merchants crossed the border every day with a pass to Podvolochisk, where there was a “berze” (exchange). The goods were sold, then exported using carts through the customs house; the egg traders had customers (shippers) all over Ukraine to whom they sent the eggs by train in boxes of 25 “shok” (120 dozen) eggs to a box.

And from the nearby places the eggs used to be received by horse and cart and packed onto the wagons with wood chips. They counted the eggs out into small cartons, they candled them (“oysgeklert”) and packed them into boxes, and sent them over to Austria.

Almost half the town was involved in the egg trade. The workers were engaged in cleaning the wood chips, opening up the boxes, closing up the boxes, packing, candling, counting and so on. And all the workers were formed into a “cooperative” (shutfes) and at the end of the week the wages were divided up according to a system. (And these very egg “candlers” and packers were the founders of our noble “society” when they came to America at the beginning of the century).

Volochisk was an intelligent town, and although there were no “yeshivas” (Jewish colleges) or high schools, there were nevertheless very learned people, and world famous people from the surrounding cities and towns were envious of the Volochisk townsfolk, who had the right and the opportunity to go across the border to Podvolochisk, which was a beautiful town with various large stores with all kinds of fine goods, so that one could buy clothes in the latest Viennese fashion, and cheaper than in Volochisk.

Volochisk was also a beautiful city; a “shosey” (causeway) stretched from the railway station down into the town to the “tamozshne” (customs house). It was four versts (over 2.5 miles) long, and on both sides of the “shosey” were trees; it was a great pleasure to walk there in the summertime, when the trees dressed themselves in green leaves!

All this is far in the past… Volochisk no longer exists… The Nazi murderers  during the Second World War killed hundreds of innocent souls. Honor their memory! 

What remains is a common grave by the “Semenivke” (the crooked “path”), on the way to the station.

According to an earlier letter of landsman Yitzchok Kumetz, the common grave was grassed over and a monument was erected with the help of the Odessa-Volochisk landsleit and the government. In that period 1946-1947, negotiations were held:  we, the “society”, were supposed to reimburse the cost of the monument, but unfortunately it proved impossible to transmit the money!!! 

There is a lot left to write about our Volochisk, but unfortunately there is not enough space.

I wish all sisters and brothers health and happiness for many years to come.


Sam Trugman

More First Wolochisker Benevolent Association resources:

YIVO has records from the First Wolochisker Benevolent Association, the Volochisk landsmanshaft, but the records are not online.

Museum of Family History has a page about the First Wolochisker Benevolent Association section at Montefiore Cemetery with photos of the monuments with names.

For more on researching your Volochisk roots, see Volochisk Jewish Genealogy.

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